Tuesday 30 September 2014

Corstorphine Hill

It was a lovely morning to take a group round Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh. Apart from walks along the Water of Leith, this was the first time I'd lead a general nature walk rather than a birdwatching walk. We found plenty to keep us interested from the spider webs draped over hedges, some of them with rather large spiders in them, to amazing fungi, lots of hoverflies, late blooming flowers and evidence of rabbits (though no actual rabbits).

The stars of the show though were the birds. We saw four buzzards, probably a family group, circling over the hill, calling to each other, we also had an excellent view of a treecreeper and most excitingly a brilliant view of a nuthatch. Nuthatches are slowly moving into Scotland from the north of England and Corstorphine Hill is one of only two places in Edinburgh where they are likely to be seen (the other place is the birdfeeder outside the Rangers House in Hermitage of Braid). 'Our' nuthatch was perched facing down the tree trunk and pecking very loudly on the tree trunk to move pieces of bark to get at the insects underneath.

Meanwhile I've just added another chopstick bag to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop

Monday 29 September 2014

Saturday 27 September 2014

Spiders on Arthurs Seat

Lovely weather today, sunny and warm - perfect for enjoying a wander round Arthur's Seat.

Also perfect weather for spiders. Here's a flower spider of some sort, waiting on the yarrow flowers to catch a small beetle or fly.

And here is a golden orb spider hunting a fly, the photo isn't properly in focus, but the spider still looks impressive.

and here is the spider, in slightly better focus after she'd caught and eaten the fly

Friday 26 September 2014

The Silver Darlings by Neil M Gunn

This is a novel set in a fishing village in northern Scotland. It follows the fishermen as they go out to catch the herring (the silver darlings of the title), seeing this new industry as a way to escape the brutal effects of the Highland Clearances. It also follows the story of Finn from his early childhood to his marriage.

There are lots of long slow scenes in the novel, many of them set on the boats as they battle with wild weather and uncertain fishing conditions. Also a long section about the effects of a devastating sickness (referred to as the plague) that rages through the community.

Early in the book a whole chapter is devoted to Finn's early encounter with a butterfly, which is beautiful and touching as it explores the development of his relationship with nature

"As he rounded the hazel treea butterfly rose from his feet. ...... It settled and slowly, without looking at it(except out of the very corner of his eye)he moved towards it, but not directly. He got within a few feet, but then could not restrain himself from rushing. The butterfly rose and danced on through the air, down the burnside."

As you may guess though, given that a whole chapter is devoted to the encounter, it doesn't remain an idyllic scene and Finn learns his first lesson about living alongside nature.

The book is beautifully written, full of the rhythms of the language of north eastern Scotland. Also a great deal of insight into the relationships between the various characters. It's a coming of age novel, not just in terms of Finn as an individual but for the communities that are developing the new industry of herring fishing as a way to secure themselves a brighter future.

The Silver Darlings by Neil M Gunn published by Faber

Thursday 25 September 2014

Uncommon Goods

It's always nice to discover a new source of ethical and attractive gifts, specially at this time of the year when many of us are starting to wonder what to buy our loved ones for Christmas.

So I was delighted to discover Uncommon Goods, a Brooklyn based, online retailer that features unique designs and hand-crafted gifts that are environmentally friendly and socially responsible in their production. The lowest paid workers in the business are paid at 50% above minimum wage, about half the products are handmade (you can see the handmade range here) and about a third include upcycled materials.You can read the company's mission statement here, which outlines their ethical aims.

The website is easy to navigate and there are gifts for everyone - for example you can check out the range of gifts for women here. You can browse a selection of personalised gifts here. You can also search specifically for recycled products, handmade products and those that are made in the USA (particularly useful if you are based in the USA and want to limit the carbon footprint of your purchase).

There's a lovely touch too in that when you click on an individual item, along with details of the product, in most cases you can find out more about the people who made it.

I was very impressed by the range of unusual items on the site, for example click here to see Zen cat sculptures for your garden  or here for stackable lunch boxes, which are not only a great way to carry a packed lunch, but also can be used to avoid plastic and other packaging when purchasing lunch.

However, I think my favourite product is the Butterfly Puddler, which you can purchase here. What a lovely way to attract butterflies to your garden! Its shallow well of recycled glass holds sand or rock salt along with a teaspoon of water. The water evaporates and butterflies are attracted to the minerals left behind.

Overall Uncommon Goods is a great place to find unusual, ethical gifts to suit all ages and interests.

Disclaimer - this is a sponsored post. 

Wednesday 24 September 2014

latest key rings

I added beads to some old key ring connectors and these are the results:

All the beads and keyring connectors are upcycled from the stash of second hand beads that I've been collecting over the past year or so. I used a new earring pin to make the fairy keyring.

Both these keyrings are now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop.You can find the pink and white keying here and the musical keyring here.

I've also just added another chopstick bag to the shop, you can see it here.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Monday 22 September 2014

World Rhino Day

While I lived in Malawi, I took a trip to nearby Zimbabwe and visited among other places, the wonderful Matopos National Park. One of the many amazing things we saw there was a rhino that came very close to our truck. Sadly its horn had been surgically removed to protect it from poachers, so it wasn't fully itself, but it was still a magnificent creature and back then there seemed to be a real sense of hope that by surgically removing their horns, rhinos could be saved. Unfortunately poaching has continued, and has in fact increased in recent years. Some rhinos who have had their horns surgically removed have then been killed for the small bit of horn that still remains.

It is tragic that humans seem intent on hunting magnificent creatures such as rhinos, elephants and the big cats to an inevitable extinction.

Wearing a t-shirt is never enough in these sorts of cases, but just as going on a protest march can be, it can be a way of spreading the message.

World Rhino Day is 22 September.

Sunday 21 September 2014

People's Climate March, Edinburgh

Today was the sort of unseasonably warm, still and sunny day that might have residents of Edinburgh tempted to believe that global warming might be a good thing..... However climate change is already leading to increased extreme weather events and has the potential to disrupt many aspects of life as we know it. So, on this, the weekend before the UN climate change summit in New York City on 23 September, people have been gathering across the world as part of the People's Climate March. Here are photos from the Edinburgh march earlier today.

It was great to see so many people marching to raise awareness of climate change, many people had brought along their families and their dogs, some people were singing, some were playing hand-bells, some were dancing (and some dancing with hula hoops!). Some people were dressed as polar bears (and must have been feeling the heat in their costumes, just as the real polar bears are feeling the heat as the arctic ice melts round them). I hope that, now the Scottish Referendum for Independence is over, we will see people using their newly activated political engagement in campaigning on climate change and other issues.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Herons and Hoverflies

We had a lovely walk along the River Almond at Cramond this morning. We were very happy that this grey heron groomed itself in front of us.

We were also happy to see loads of wasps and hoverflies gathered round this patch of ivy. I just caught this one hoverfly (Sericomyia silentis) on camera.

Just a reminder that tomorrow is the People's Climate March with events happening across the globe. You can find out what's happening local to you here and how to get involved here, but if your local area doesn't feature on that site, then a quick internet search will probably find something closer to you.

Wednesday 17 September 2014

People's Climate March

This month, heads of state are going to New York City for a historic summit on climate change. To co-incide with this people across the world will be joining the People's Climate March.

The March calls for Action, Not Words. We need to take action NOW to create a world safe from the risks and ravages of climate change.

There are marches taking place across the world, you can find the one closest to you on this map

Marches in Scotland are happening in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling and Inverness. (There may be others too!). 

And if there's one thing we can predict about how Scotland will look after the results of tomorrow's independence referendum, it's that we'll still be facing climate change!

Tuesday 16 September 2014


 Autumn is definitely here! The rosebay willow herb is beautiful in its reddening foliage and draped in spiders webs too, though the webs didn't come out in the photo you can see the spider under a leaf on the right hand side of the stem...

 raindrops on elderberries
and toadstools, anyone recognise which species this is?

Monday 15 September 2014

Saturday 13 September 2014

Tree following

Earlier this week I noticed that the elder bush near the larch I'm studying for Tree Following is well berried. (Click on the photo for a bigger version)

The larch cones are maturing nicely, but the photo I took wasn't in focus, so hopefully another photo next week. 

Further up the Water of Leith, I saw a tawny owl sitting on a bush in the middle of a field while about twenty small birds (mostly blue tits) were mobbing it. The owl ignored all the other birds and just sat there! Far too far away to take photos sadly!

Friday 12 September 2014

beaded lanyard

I have quite a few lanyard clips to recycle and thought that it would be nice to make some beaded lanyards, which are a stylish way to wear an id badge! I was happy to find that I had enough of these white and burgundy beads to make a lanyard, but I may need to go browsing in some second hand shops to find more beads that fit together in appropriately smart but appealing designs.

This lanyard is now in the CraftyGreenPoet Etsy shop.

I also just added some more beaded earrings made from the repurposed vintage beads that feature in this post.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Thursday 11 September 2014

The moon

The moon was amazing last night (it had been too cloudy the night before to see the actual harvest moon). Crafty Green Boyfriend took these photos, this first one shows just how orange the moon was

and this second photo went wrong but is quite lovely in an impressionistic sort of way

Wednesday 10 September 2014

The Last Wolf by Jim Crumley

Wolves became extinct in Scotland around 1743. This book explores the legends about how they may have finally disappeared from our landscape and proposes that for the Highlands to return to their natural state wolves need to be re-introduced.

The tone is often polemical and sometimes sentimental. The real power though comes from the author's observations about how wolves changed the landscape and ecosystems for the better when they were re-introduced into Yellowstone.

For example, the elk herds (the wolves main prey species) in Yellowstone have become way of wolves and so no longer linger in the same place for so long, meaning that they no longer tend to eat the vegetation so much, creating a more diverse and attractive landscape covered in bush and scrub and allowing trees more chance to grow to maturity. For this reason, the author describes wolves as the painters of landscapes.

According to this book, there is ample room in the Highlands of Scotland for between one and three packs of wolves. They would keep down the number of red deer and help the ancient Caledonian forest to regenerate. There would almost certainly be strenuous opposition from farmers, game keepers and a fair proportion of the general public.

Oddly when I was walking by the Water of Leith earlier this week, I saw two separate large dogs, that from a distance looked like wolves, trotting along by the river. Wolves wouldn't be introduced to the Water of Leith, it's too urban an area, but the sight made me imagine the wolves rightfully back in the Scottish Highlands.

The Last Wolf by Jim Crumley published by Birlinn.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Scotland's Environment

On 18 September the people of Scotland will vote in a referendum on the question "should Scotland become an independent country?". At the moment indications are that the vote will be very close and although some polls show Yes marginally in the lead, others show No marginally in the lead. This is not a general election to choose which political party will lead our Government for the next five years, this is a vote to determine our political future. If there is a Yes vote, Scotland becomes an independent country forever (at least effectively so, anything could happen a hundred or so years into the future).

So what are the possible implications for Scotland's environment? There's a reasonably good article here, from Chris Smout, though it misses out a few things (including Natura, the European nature conservation network).

Some conservation organisations are setting out their questions that they want answers to, whichever way the referendum goes, here are 5 questions from the Mountaineering Council. Friends of the Earth have written on this issue too and recently held an event on Reinventing the Economy and have produced a report on how a smaller, greener banking system could be of benefit to Scotland, whether as part of the UK or as an independent country.

The Scottish Green Party is campaigning for independence and you can read their thoughts on how independence would be good for the environment here. (Unfortunately the Scottish Green Party are very definitely still a minority party and it may be debateable how much they would be able to influence what would happen in an independent Scotland). 

Of course we can't see into the future,. so it is useful to see how the current devolved Scottish Government performs on environmental issues, because in an independent Scotland, at least to start with, the new government will effectively be a continuation of the current devolved government:

The Scottish Government has put into place ambitious and impressive targets for reducing carbon emissions. However, targets are meaningless unless they're met and this June, as reported in the Herald newspaper, Scotland failed to meet its climate targets for the third year in a row.

The Scottish Government has set itself a target of 80% of electricity to be provided by renewable energy sources by 2020.  However meeting that target has been described as challenging by the Scotsman newspaper, largely due to the global economic situation. These renewables targets also may seem to sit somewhat awkwardly alongside the development of strategies to maximise the revenues that Scotland can extract from its oil resources.

The Scottish Government wants, if there is a Yes vote, to remove Trident, the nuclear deterrent, from Scottish soils. This would possibly force the rest of the UK to rethink whether it wants to keep Trident (a victory from an environmental point of view) or it just ends up putting it somewhere else in the UK, which would not really be a victory for the environment in the largest sense. 

But can we trust the protection of our natural landscapes and wildlife areas to the Government that overturned local opposition to Donald Trump's plans for a golf course that trashed a rare and valuable dune system that was a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest)? (To find out more about this, please watch You've Been Trumped and the follow up A Dangerous Game. It is interesting that while even Donald Trump agreed to be interviewed for the second film, Alex Salmond the Scottish First Minister and the face of the pro-Independence movement refused to speak to film makers).

So how about the UK Government at Westminster? Certainly they have entirely failed in their commitment to be the greenest government ever.

However if we stay part of the UK, we have the ability to effect change for the whole of the UK. It seems almost impossible at times, but we can write to our MPs, we can join campaigning organisations, we have a voice.  Many environmental problems are bigger than individual countries (though destruction of wildlife areas often happens on a local level, requiring local solutions that are affected by national guidelines and policies). If Scotland leaves the UK, theoretically we can build a better system for ourselves but would be unable to influence what happens in the rest of the UK. And surely if you care about wildlife and the wider environment in Scotland you care about wildlife and the wider environment in the rest of the UK?

Also there is the cost of nation building to be considered. Resources, money and planning will all be concentrated on building a new nation should Scotland decide to become independent and that would divert those resources from urgent environmental issues. Can we actually afford to both build a new nation and protect the environment in a truly meaningful way, in a world that is globally beset by financial and environmental problems?

Of course there are lots of other issues to consider when casting your vote on 18 September, but if I covered everything then I'd be blogging non-stop until it would be time for me to cast my vote. It looks like turnout for the referendum will be over 80%, we need as many people as possible to vote so that the result is truly democratic.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that tale you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Monday 8 September 2014

Wader Watch and other sightings

Birdwatching magazine was promoting waderwatch for today, the idea being to go to your local wetland or coastal area to watch waders (this being their time of migration and the best time of year to see passage migrants) and to report back. The event officially took place between 7-10am but I hadn't realised this until well past 8am so I did my waderwatch at Musselburgh between 9 and 11.30. The tide was quite far out, which isn't idea for seeing waders but I actually saw good numbers.

The most spectacular site was seeing hundreds of oystercatchers floying overhead as the tide started to come in and chased them from the shore to the Lagoons. On the Lagoons there were also about 100 curlews, a few bar tailed godwits, two snipe, at least 8 ruff, a small number of dunlin and a few redshanks. Other than waders the birds on the Lagoons included several gadwall, three shelduck, two grey herons, a few teal, two or three pied wagtails and the occasional swallow flying over. There were good numbers of eiders and velvet scoters on the river Forth.

I was amused to see this black headed gull (winter plumage) and mallard. The gullwas following the mallard and catching small items of prey that were stirred up by the mallard. Nearby another gull was doing exactly the same thing. I've seen gulls doing the same with curlews too. it's an easy way to get a meal I imagine!

It wasn't just about birds today either, I was pleased to be able to capture this pretty but slightly frayed moth (I think it's a lunar yellow underwing, but feel free to correnct me if I'm wrong).

I was also very happy to get a photo of these two ladybirds, the red one is a seven spot ladybird and the yellow one is a 14-spot

Friday 5 September 2014

Birds in the mist

It was beautifully atmospheric when I was last at Musselburgh earlier in the week.

 the mute swans glided over the satin smooth River Esk
 while out on the Firth of Forth, the eider ducks covered the water, which stretched into the distance where water, land and sky all blurred into one at the horizon (only the water appears in this shot)

The sow thistles are seeding

this red tailed bumble bee had seen better days, I moved it from the path, but didn't have any sugar water to feed it to revive it....

The Lagoons were full of birds, hundreds of oystercatchers and curlews with a good number of other birds including several ruffs, a curlew sandpiper and a family of snipe crouched down in the waterside undergrowth. All too far away for photos unlike this roe deer

and finally as I walked back to Musselburgh, I had the best ever view of a kingfisher, which flew across the river Esk over the weir and then upstream to perch in a bush, where it looked like a family of grey wagtails were harrassing it a bit, and so the kingfisher eventually flew off.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more. 

Thursday 4 September 2014

Craighouse gets the green light


I've blogged before about the ongoing battle to find an appropriate development plan for the historic Craighouse site in Edinburgh. The site was for a long time the Thomas Clouston clinic, part of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital and then was used by Napier University but they then sold it after it became unsuitable for their purposes.

So this is a site that includes historic buildings as well as woodland and open green spaces. The site needs to be developed in some way to preserve the buildings and I don't think anyone would disagree with that. The question has always been how the site should be developed. Three development plans have been put forward for residential use of the site, the first two were rejected and there was a lot of public opposition from across the city to the latest development proposal.

Recently a community lead alternative development plan had been put forward, but perhaps it was put together too late, it certainly seems to have been entirely ignored in last night's council meeting which gave the go ahead for the latest official planning proposal for excessive new build housing on the green areas of the site. The council claims that 80% of the land will be left as green space, accessible to the public. The problem with statements like that is that they can turn out to be nothing but empty promises.

So the Edinburgh City Council has ignored local opinion and planning guidelines and passed a development proposal that will damage one of the city's historic sites.

The people of Edinburgh are getting so fed up with poor decisions about the architecture and green spaces of the city that they've put together a petition to express no confidence in the city planning department. You can sign the petition by clicking on the link.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more. 

Wednesday 3 September 2014

yew berries, shaggy parasols and a large slug

I took these photos on Monday in Colinton Dell, by the Water of Leith. You can see my photos of the river taken that day here.

Yew berries are looking lovely at the moment, but they're poisonous so don't touch!

There are some very large shaggy parasol toadstools in the hidden meadow near Redhall Gardens

and nearby this large slug, which despite its colour is in fact a black slug (sometimes referred to as the large red slug and black slug to indivate its colour variations! Scientific name Arion ater)

I like the silhouettes of the umbellifers against the cloudy sky

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Water of Leith

Rabbits' Guy commented recently asking for more photos of the Water of Leith, I assume he means of the river itself, as I post photos from Colinton Dell regularly. So yesterday I took some river pics for Rabbits Guy.

All these were taken around Colinton weir. You can see that autumn is already starting to show in the leaves!

Monday 1 September 2014

Pigeon by Barbara Allen

100 years ago today, the passenger pigeon became extinct

Pigeon is a beautifully produced, gorgeously illustrated and fascinating book on pigeons and doves.

It looks at the varieties of domesticated pigeons and how they have been used in sport, for food and in delivering messages, including the vital roles they played in wartime.

The book also looks at how pigeons and doves have been portrayed in art and literature and how, despite being essentially the same group of birds, doves are portrayed as symbols of love, peave and fidelity while pigeons are often referred to as 'rats with wings' and treated as vermin.

Pigeons are amongst the most intelligent of birds, being one of the few species of animals (and apparently the only group of birds) that can recognise their own reflection in a mirror.

A whole chapter is devoted to the many species of pigeons that have become extinct, most notable the dodo and the passenger pigeon (which was once the most numerous bird on the planet).

R W Shufelt, who carried out the autopsy on Martha, the last passenger pigeon to die in captivity, said:

"In due course, the day will come when practically all the world's avifauna will have become utterly extinct..... Such a fate is coming to pass now, with far greater rapidity than most people realise".

Sadly, current population trends in many bird species in the UK and beyond seem to suggest that his prophecy will be proved correct.

Pigeon by Barbara Allen part of the Animal Series published by Reaktion Books. The Animal Series also includes Rabbit. (I suspect many readers of this blog may want to add that to their list of books to read!)

100 years ago today, the passenger pigeon becane extinct. Don't let the turtle dove go the same way

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.