Monday 31 August 2015

Hoverflies from Peebles and Calder Wood

As I said in my earlier post about our trip to Peebles, going through my photos brought up even more species of hoverflies than I had at first suspected! Here they are, as discovered in just one small area. All species identified (or id confirmed) by UK Hoverfly Group.

Episyrphus batteatus
 Meliscaeva cinctella
 Scaeva selenitica (probably)
Syrphus species 

Eristalis horticola (as photographed by Crafty Green Boyfriend) 

We also saw some interesting hoverflies in our recent trip to Calder Wood, in West Lothian, these have also been identified by the UK Hoverfly Group.

Eristalis pertinax (probably)

 Epistrophe grossulariae
 Episyrphus balteatus
 Cheilosia illustrata

Hoverflies often mimic bees and wasps. There are over 200 species of hoverflies found in the UK.Some of the species are very distinctive when you 'get your eye in' others are very similar and tricky to identify. I think they're very beautiful insects though and I really enjoy finding out more about them.


There are still a few places on my Tuesday evening adult education creative writing workshop at Tynecastle High, starting 22 September.Details here.

Saturday 29 August 2015

Calder Wood

We had a lovely walk round Calder Wood in West Lothian today. It's a beautiful area of mixed woodland

with some wonderful individual trees

Some impressive fungi too, these are blewits

this is the remains of a stinkhorn that had been eaten by fungus gnats

this a turkey tail

and these we don't know, but we liked the green colour

Lots of luzula sylvestris in the undergrowth too, lovely to see

There were lots of hoverflies and other insects around too, I still need to try to identify everything though!

Friday 28 August 2015

More from Peebles

Just a couple more things from Peebles.

We saw very few rabbits on our trip, but we saw lots of evidence of them, including several entrances to warrens, including this one

We also liked this display of planters, made from upcycled tyres (tyres are incredibly non-biodegradable, so its always good to see them being put to another use once they're no longer safe to drive with).

I'm also still sorting through my photos of hoverflies from the trip, looks like there's a lot of species there (some of which I've identified (using this page) and some of which I've asked the UK Hoverflies Facebook Page to identify) so I may well include them all in a separate blog post in a few days time!

Thursday 27 August 2015

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

This is the perfect book to read when you've just got a cat and in fact I read it immediately after we adopted Treacle, but having been asked to review other books, I've had to delay this review.

The Guest Cat is the story of what happens when a neighbour's cat starts visiting writer Takashi Hiraide and his wife, Michiyo Kawano. The couple become more and more drawn to the lovely visitor but are always aware that it isn't theirs. There's an intriguing little scene, which sheds light on Japanese social conventions as much as on any human and cat intereaction, where Hiraide apologises to the neighbour for spending so much time with the cat (in secret no less!).

The book is full of lovely (often whimsical) observations of feline behaviour, here, the writer finds another family of cats:

'... one of the kittens (always the same one) would position herself between the planters in a location where she would not get in the way of people entering or leaving - she would sit there politely, paws tucked in front. The remaining three including the father cat would stay hidden in the shadow of the azaleas. 

How their roles had been decided I did not know, but it seems as though the idea was for the best looking of the cats to attract the residents attention. Thinking she was cute, they would leave scraps....'

As well as an endearing tale of how a couple make friends with a cat, this is a story that gives interesting insights into Japanese culture and society and the changing face of Tokyo, as developers knock down historical buildings to create new housing.

Definitely a book worth reading for anyone who loves cats or who is interested in Japan. 

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide published by New Directions  

Wednesday 26 August 2015

A couple of days in Peebles

We're just back from a couple of days in Peebles, in the Scottish Borders, one of our favourite places for a short break. It's nice that it's so close, we don't have a long tiring journey and we have more time for walking round the beautiful area.

We stayed at the lovely Venlaw Farm Bed and Breakfast, where you can birdwatch from the breakfast room (spotted flycatchers being the highlight this trip! Spotted flycatchers are sadly declining alarmingly in the UK, but I've seen more this year than any previous year.) Also from the window we saw many other species of wildlife including mistle thrushes, roe deer a nuthatch and lots of swallows.

In the evenings we sat on the verandah and watched the pipistrelle bats flying round the building. We were joined on the verandah by Meg the farm collie dog and Frosty one of the farm cats.

The sunsets were beautiful

We enjoyed walking along the River Tweed

We also went on a new walk! Last time we stayed at the Venlaw Farm B&B we had done a shorter version of this walk, but we decided to do the long version this time. The walk passes through farmland, moorland and woodland offering wonderful views

Lots of amazing fungi in the woodlands

and beautiful wildflowers including harebells, both the traditional blue

and the much more unusual white

We were totally delighted by the variety of insect life, including a fewcommon blue butterflies, here's a female

There were lots of wasps and hoverflies around, wonderful to see! This is a particularly beautiful hoverfly, which I've yet to identify.

and this is the most interesting of the wasps that we managed to get a photo of, again we haven't identified it to species level

Saturday 22 August 2015

Arthur's Seat

The water lilies by the old Scottish Widows office near Arthurs Seat are lovely just now

and the carp are looking beautiful too

It's distinctly late summer on Arthurs Seat itself

and the common carder bees are enjoying the last of the vipers bugloss flowers

We enjoyed watching three kestrels hovering above the hill, but no photos of these.

Friday 21 August 2015

Elsewhere - A Journal of Place

I was delighted to have the opportunity to review this first issue of the beautifully produced Elsewhere : A Journal of Place.

This issue contains artwork, essays, notes and reviews capturing the essences of different places all over the world.

In Stories from the Shore, Paul Scraton travels to Loch Fyne Scotland in search of stories and herring, discovering along the way abandoned townships and traces of training sites for the 2nd World War.

Later in the journal, Scraton appears again with A Land on the Edge, reflecting on how 18th Century drainage schemes and the fighting of the 2nd World War have left lasting imprints on Oderbruch in Germany, on the border with Poland. 

Over that border and into Poland, Paul Sullivan's photo essay, Lost in Nowa Huta explores one of only two preplanned socialist cities in the world, which was gifted to Poland by the Soviet Union in 1949. 

Julian Hoffman explores an often overlooked areaof wetland in Prespa, Greece in his essay A line of wild surprise, outlining encounters with sparrowhawks, bearded reedlings, fox cubs and a wildcat:

The wildcat neared the edge of the field, reaching a shallow gulley clotted with reeds. Its tail swayed above the snow as it stopped to sniff the icy air. It read my scent riding in on the wind and turned slowly towards me.  

A lesson in how to never take a patch of wildland for granted.

I was tempted to say that these essays were too short, to quote Marcel Krueger in hs review of Off the Map: some of these places in here are so fascinating they warrant a more detailed look. However, although that is very definitely true, I also felt that the length of the pieces here was well judged to give just that evocative flavour, to instil in the reader the wanting to know more.

I look forward to reading more from this journal. The next issue covers places as diverse as Dresden, Germany; Orkney, Scotland and Mumbai, India.

You can find out more about Elsewhere from their website.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this publication.

Thursday 20 August 2015

Cramond to Queensferry

The walk from Cramond Brig through Dalmeny Estate to South Queensferry is one that needs a sunny day, so that you can enjoy the butterflies, which are one of the top features of this area. So this year hasn't offered many approrpiate days for this trip! As Crafty Green Boyfriend has a few days off work and it was sunny today, we decided that today was the day for this walk.

It passes through a lovely variety of landscapes, including farm fields, woodland

and plenty of wildflowers

 plus the beach

The rock in the photo above is Eagle Rock, so called because of a roughly carved eagle (thought to date from Roman times) on the rock. The carving is above the plaque in the photo below.

The walk ends at the iconic Forth Rail Bridge

As hoped we saw lots of butterflies, including two commas

plus a peacock, plenty of white butterflies and a  few meadow browns. We also saw lots of bees of various species and hoverflies too, including marmalade hoverflies and several syrphus ribesii, like the one below (click on the image for a larger view)

 We also saw lots of common wasps and found this nest, if you look carefully you can see a wasp on the edge of the entrance waiting to leave - the wasps were whizzing around in reality, but it was very difficult to capture one on camera!


Wednesday 19 August 2015

Bees and waterbirds

Although the afternoon and evening have been dull and rainy today, this morning was beautiful. Lots of bees enjoying the sunshine on the Hypericum bushes in Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Gardens

buff tailed / white tailed bee 

honey bee 

Lovely to see the waterbirds enjoying the sunshine too - here's a moorhen in the Chinese Garden pond 

 The pond is covered in waterlilies at the moment

 and you get a lovely shady view from the little pagoda 

In the main pond, the mallard ducklings are growing up quickly

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Snails and a bunny

Even after last week's  snail identification course, I'm not sure I feel confident about identifying more than a couple of species of snails, but I thought today I would at least take photos of some of the snails I've seen in Colinton Dell and possibly identify them later.

So here they are, very abundant and very pretty hiding in the foliage

And here's a pretty young bunny feeding at the top of Spylaw Park in Colinton Village

Bookings are now open for the classes I lead for the Edinburgh Council adult education programme:

I lead beginners' birdwatching walks for Edinburgh Council Adult Education Programme. The next term will start on Monday 28 September, at 10-12. You can find out more and book here.

Starting 22 September, I'll be teaching a ten week Wednesday evening (7.00pm - 9.00pm) writers' workshop, designed for people who have already done a beginners' class in creative writing, at Tynecastle High. You can find out more and book here.

I'm also teaching a ten week Wednesday evening (6.30 - 8.30) creative writing class starting 16  September at Leith Academy.You can find out more and book here.