Thursday 30 April 2015

Cherry blossom

The cherry trees are wonderful at the moment

I particularly like the (relatively rare) trees that have both pink and white blossom, like this one we saw in Dalkeith Country Park yesterday

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Dalkeith Country Park in bloom

We both had a midweek day off today and went to Dalkeith Country park. It's most notable for its oak woodland, this isn't just ancient woodland, but amazing, ancient trees, that have lived through many hardships and still survive

Dalkeith Country Park is also famous for its bluebells. We were slightly too early for the main display of these wonderful flowers but quite a lot of them were out

The flower that stole the show though was the dog violet, which was everywhere! I've never seen so many violets, they were carpetting the ground in places.

There were also a couple of clumps of cowslips

and also the wild strawberries were in flower (surely earlier than normal?)

We were delighted also to have lovely views of a nuthatch, a treecreeper and a great spotted woodpecker, none of which were kind enough to pose for the camera!

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Wood sorrel and ash flowers

The ash trees in Colinton Dell are blooming just now

and the wood sorrel is looking lovely too, specially this area, where it's growing in amongst moss on an old wall.

Wood sorrel is one of the plants that indicates ancient woodland, again showing that Colinton Dell has been woodland at least since 1750. This doesn't mean of course that all the trees are that old! In fact very few of the individual trees are likely to be that old. Colinton Dell was for many years a place of great industry as there used to be several paper mills along the Water of Leith. Most of these have become entirely derelict and many are now woodland again.

Monday 27 April 2015

Blackleach Country Park

I spent the weekend with my parents down near Bolton and we had a lovely trip to Blackleach Country Park.

The cowslips were at their best

and there were plenty of butterflies about, including this peacock

Thursday 23 April 2015

Torrs Warren

Still catching up from our trip to Dumfries!

Torrs Warren is a Site of Special Scientific Interest not far from Logan Botanic Gardens so we popped in, after our trip to Logan. Despite its name there were no rabbits (or even evidence of rabbits) to be seen. Nor did we find any of the amphibians that Crafty Green Boyfriend thought we would. In fact we hardly found any pools for amphibians to live in.

What we did find though was a beautiful piece of dune woodland, with a wonderful atmosphere.

We also found, but didn't get the chance to photograph (as it moved too fast) the weird looking red headed carrion beetle (Oiceoptoma thoracicum).

Torrs Warren is on Ministry of Defence land and so is not all accessible to the general public and at certain times (during military training) is closed to the public.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Sea pottery rings

As you may know, I love sea pottery and sea glass and I have a small collection of pieces from across Scotland. Given I'm unlikley to use it all myself, some is on sale in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop.

I've long thought that some of the pieces would make beautiful rings and the other day I bought some ring bases from the local bead supply shop. This photo shows just some of the sea pottery pieces alongside the ring bases...

The first ring turned out quite nicely

and once I'd sorted out a few details I quickly made a few more

several of which are now on sale in the jewellery section of the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop.

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

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Mabie Forest

Still catching up with our trip to Dumfries and Galloway!

At first we though, maybe we chose the wrong day to go to Mabie Forest. It was the middle of the school holidays and it's a recreational area with mountain bike tracks, so when we arrived it all felt a bit overcrowded and busy. But we soon lost ourselves along one of the quiet footpaths

We met some toads in the pond, who obviously had Spring on their minds!

I really liked seeing the empty beech nut cases against a background of wild garlic

Monday 20 April 2015

Birdsong and blooms

Colinton Dell was full of the joys of Spring this morning. Everywhere is vibrant with wild garlic

which is just starting to come into flower

in some places unfortunately few flowered leek, which is invasive, is starting to compete with the wild garlic

I find the flowers of few flowered leek to be fascinatingly odd

A possible way to prevent few flowered leek from taking over is to pick it and eat it (though taking care to wash the plant carefully) while leaving the wild garlic.

The first blue bells are in flower now

as are the wood anemones, there's just this one patch of them in Colinton dell, but the patch does seem to be extending

The larch trees are starting to flower too, such lovely flowers, you may remember last year I studied the development of the larch flower as it became a cone. This is the flower today

The birds were singing loudly, specially the wrens. I love atching wrens sing, they put so much energy into their song that their whole body vibrates. Our smallest bird and one of our loudest birdsongs!

For Nature Notes

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

Sunday 19 April 2015

A Little Chaos - film review

This is a story of a woman in a man's world, a man's world that happens to be the gardens of Versailles which are being created for King Louis XIV (played in the film by Alan Rickman who also directed it). One of the gardeners is Sabine de Barras (played by Kate Winslet) who stirs things up quite considerably, not only by being a woman and not of noble birth but by having ideas about gardening that are diametrically opposing to the courtly obsession with order.

I'm not sure the story is entirely authentic. Winslet's character is convincing in herself, with her passion for her work, her unconventionality and her commitment to defying authority. On the other hand is she too modern for the time and setting? Would such a feisty feminist have even been taken on by the French court to manage and work in the gardens?

Louis XIV's court is made to look ridiculous, but then I have a suspicion that it probably was ridiculous.

It's a beautifully shot film with excellent performances and many entertaining scenes and telling moments. It's amazing to see the great gardens rise up against the odds, particularly Sabine's impressive project of a water garden with hidden orchestra, even though I prefer my gardens smaller and more subtle and the ecologist in me hated to see the natural landscape so changed out of recognititon.

A Little Chaos is showing at Edinburgh Filmhouse until 23 April 

Saturday 18 April 2015

Rhododendrons in full bloom

It's a beautiful sunny day today and I had read on twitter a couple of days ago that the rhododendrons were reaching their peak at Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Gardens. So we wandered down there today and indeed the rhododendrons were beautiful. Here's just a selection

We were also delighted to discover the far more subtle flowers of the Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi)

(for comparison you can see my post following European larch flower development here)

It wasn't just the flowers we were interested in today of course. Plenty of birds were nesting

this mute swan was sleeping happily on the nest just by the boardwalk on Inverleith Pond in Inverleith Park across the road from the Botanic gardens.

This coot was building under close supervision from a mallard, also on Inverleith Pond.

This moorhen was nesting quite near the edge of the main pond in the Botanic Gardens. She was sitting on three chicks one of which climbed out of the nest while we watched to join its siblings which were being fed by the other parent (thanks Crafty Green Boyfriend for this last photo)

Edinburgh Botanics has a sister garden in Logan, near Stranraer. You can read about our recent visit to those gardens here

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

Friday 17 April 2015

This Good Box 2

I was delighted today to receive my second parcel from This Good Box, an ethical subscription service in the UK. The parcel was part of their trial to find out what people think of their service before their official launch in Spring 2015. You can read what i thought iof the first preview parcel here.

Today's parcel has a Spring theme and came appropriately brightly wrapped in a yellow gift bag.

It contains:

a fair-trade pineapple and cashew bar from Tropical Wholefoods, which will go well with my coffee next time I'm birdwatching from the hides at Musselburgh Lagoons. Tropical Wholefoods have a great selection of snack bars and other tasty things.

a beeswax candle from Filberts of Dorset - brilliantly reading my mind as Crafty Green Boyfriend and I yesterday pledged to in future only buy beeswax or soya candles. (Last time The Good Box read my mind by sending me lip balm just as i was about to buy some more).

A seed ball full of bee friendly wildflower seeds from Seed Balls. As we don't have a real garden ourselves, I'm going to pass this on to someone I think will really appreciate it.

a fairtrade strawberry felt broock from Amica Accessories, who have a lovely range of stock (though they only have dogs in their felt animal section!)

And finally a selection of stickers with positive messages.....

So thanks again to The Good Box and I look forward to enjoying and sharing all the goodies.

Thursday 16 April 2015

Green Shield Bugs in the Glorious Gorse

Crafty Green Boyfriend and I had a lunchtime walk round Corstorphine Hill today. What a beautiful spring day, the gorse looks amazing

and when we looked deeply into the coconut scented bushes we saw lots of wonderful things including our first honey bees of the year

and lots of common green shieldbugs! I have a particular fondness for shield bugs and they're usually very elusive, so it was really nice to see them all today.

There are several species of shieldbug in the UK and they all go through several stages of development, looking very different at each stage. You can find out more on the British Bugs website.

It was also lovely to see the ash tree flowers opening up

and to hear a green woodpecker laughing in the trees, though we didn't see it at all.

I still have more photos from our trip to Dumfries and Galloway and I may share more of them in the next few days....

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Logan Botanical Gardens

Logan Botanic Gardens is one of the regional gardens of the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens. It's near Stranraer which is still quite far from Dumfries but we finally decided that we had to visit. After a long but lovely drive through beautiful scenery we arrived at the gardens. Due to its warm climate (caused by its proximity to the Gulf Stream) Logan specialises in tropical plants and the glorious sunshine set them all off perfectly.

The garden also specialises in plants from Australia and Tasmania, including this eucalyptus, with it's wonderful bark

and this amazing prehistoric Wollemi pine tree, which dates back 90 million years. It was discovered in 1994 and there are only a few left in the wild, in the Wollemi National Park in New South Wales, Australia.

also lots of ferns around 

there were lots of hoverflies around, I think theseare Parasyrphus punctulatus (I'm trying to learn hoverfly identification, but a lot of them are very tricky)

It was great to see the garden has made some nice bug hotels for the hoverflies and other invertebrates

Birds also live in the gardens of course. Pheasants seemed to be everywhere

and we sat by the pond for a while, watching a blue tit as it flew into and out of one of these palm trees  carrying food for its young

The pond unfortunately wasn't looking at its best as it's sprung a major leak and the gardens are looking for £30k to repair it.

The gardens have a lovely cafe with an outdoor seating area. Defintely recommended!

And finally this beautiful slate vase