Saturday 31 October 2015

Lady of the Loch by Helen Armitage

Lady is the oldest and best known osprey in Britain and is considered an ambassador for this species that once had disappeared from the country but has resurged in population since reintroducing itself in the 1950s.

This book records a year in Lady's life, the year of 2010 which was worthy of being made into a soap opera. That year lady's long term partner had not returned to Loch of the Lowes (Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve) where they had nested together for several years. Instead Lady paired up with a young, inexperienced bird, Laird, who at first seemed to be a liability, failing to fish and being obsessed with piling extra large branches onto the nest. He finally proved himself as a good mate when he started to bring fish in regularly and even took over all the parenting duties when Lady fell ill. She was so ill for a while that many observers feared she would die, but she recovered and successfully set off on her migration to Africa. (Lady continued to breed at Loch of the Lowes until 2014, she didn't return this year and a new female has taken her place.)

Alongside telling Lady's story this book looks at the wider picture of Loch of the Lowes - outlining some of the many other amazing species of birds and other animals that live there), outlines the tale of how the osprey population has recovered in this country,  and investigates some of the many pressures on ospreys and other birds, including illegal hunting and egg collecting.

Lady of the Loch by Helen Armitage published by Constable 

You may also be interested in A Life of Ospreys by Roy Dennis, which I reviewed here.

Friday 30 October 2015

Birding in the rain

It's been dull all day and raining on and off. Not perhaps the ideal day to go birdwatching, but a lot of interesting birds have been reported in and around Edinburgh and the coast recently, so off  I went to Musselburgh.

The fields and trees look wonderful in their autumn colours against the grey skies

It was warm enough that I didn't mind getting wet, the actual problem with the rain was the way it reduced visibility, my binoculars were totally saturated!

I did see some great birds, lots of lapwings on the Lagoons, a kestrel hunting over the grass and a few velvet scoters on the Firth of Forth. But if that Lapland bunting reported from this area a few days ago, was still around, I totally missed it....


As many readers may know, I lead beginners' birdwatching walks for Edinburgh Council Adult Education Programme. The next term starts 10am Mon 22nd February 2016.  Then a series if early summer evening birdwatching classes, Tuesday evenings  for 5 weeks from 19th April 2016.

Next term I'm also teaching a Tuesday morning (10am) Winter Wildlife Class for 8 weeks from 19th January 2016.

Booking for these classes will open on 9 December. 

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Autumn leaves brighten up a dull day

It's a dull day today, but the autumn colours are wonderful in Colinton Dell, along the Water of Leith.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Plans for the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop

I made another beaded id badge lanyard recently, using beads from a necklace that needed to be restrung plus some larger beads from my stash of upcyclable beads.

It's now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, you can see it here.

Edited to add: I also just made these earrings using beads from jewellery that needed to be restrung

These are also in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, you can see them here

I'm hoping to be able to get up to 100 items in the shop in the near future. One hundred items is apparently the magic number at which an Etsy shop suddenly becomes more successful. (Though admittedly, my shop is actually already much more successful than I originally had ever expected it to be!).

I'm also planning on setting up a second Etsy shop to sell vintage and supplies (including sea pottery / sea glass). I used to have these items in my main shop (and in fact there still are a few supplies etc in there) but separating them out will give the shops more cliarity. So, watch this space!

Monday 26 October 2015

Saturday 24 October 2015

Robins and fallen leaves

It was cloudy but fairly warm as we walked along the Innocent Railway near Arthur's Seat today.

The fallen leaves are beautiful

and there are still lots of leaves on many of the trees, the cherry trees looking particularly beautiful

There were lots of birds around today, a kestrel swooped past us, chased by jackdaws and there seemed to be chaffinches everywhere, chasing each other and calling out 'pink, pink'.

Only one bird generally sings at this time of year though and that's the robin. Both make and female sing at this time of the year, each defending their own territory. This one posed quite nicely for a photo

and I wrote a haiku about robins in autumn which you can read in yesterday's blog post.

Friday 23 October 2015

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Meetings with Remarkable Trees by Thomas Pakenham

This is a beautiful book, made up of portraits in prose and photos of 6o individual trees (or groups of trees) from around the UK, selected by the author for their strong personalities. Most of these trees are very old and very large, all of them have interesting histories.

The trees include:

Kett's Oak at Wymondham, Norfolk under which rebel peasants, under the leadership of Robert Kett, gathered in 1549 to demand an end to the enclosure of common land.

The gingko at Kew Gardens. This individual tree dates to 1762 but gingkos have been around for 60 million years.

A yew tree in Crowhurst, Surrey which has a door buit into it and which early in the 19th Century was fitted out as a room with table and chairs!

And many other wonderful individuals, showing just how fascinating trees can be!

This book was apparently also adapted into a radio and television series. 

Meetings with Remarkable Trees by Thomas Pakenham, published by Cassell Paparbacks

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Hoverflies and other insects love ivy!

Another beautiful day today for my weekly litter-picking, wildlife-observing patrol of Colinton Dell along the Water of Leith. The autumnal colours are wonderful.

Ivy is an evergreen, and a plant that many people don't like as it can seem to strangle trees, smother ground growing plants and damage buildings. Apparently the effect on trees isn't as bad as some people think and there are also benefits to ivy. In the spring it offers a safe nesting site for many birds and at this time of year, it flowers, offering a good source of food for insects including bees, wasps and hoverflies that don't have many food plants around just now.

The ivy in Spylaw Park was today covered in common wasps, honey bees and at least four species of hoverflies! This hoverfly (the same insect in both photos, I'm pretty sure!) is an Eristalis species, E. pertinax I think. (UK Hoverflies Facebook group has just cofirmed that both these photos show Eristalis pertinax)

Hoverflies are amazing insects that I've become very much more aware of in the past 18 months. There are over 200 species in the UK, offering a challenge for anyone who wants to learn about them. I think they're very beautiful insects and I like the fact that it is relatively easy to identify some species (even if only to say 'that's probably an Eristalis pertinax') but as you learn more you find more difficult species to identify.

Monday 19 October 2015

New in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop

I've been making a few things recently!

Inspired by the film Suffragette, I made these two beaded lanyards, so you can wear the feminist colours to work! The beads all come from old necklaces that needed to be restrung, so i refashioned them all! These are both in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop:

This lanyard is here,

and this one is here.

I think I have enough beads to make another lanyard with all three colours in it.

Explanation of the feminist colours: Mrs Pankhurst, leader of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), adopted three colours for the Suffragette movement: White for purity in public and private life, Purple for dignity, self-reverence and self-respect and Green for hope and new life.

I also recently added these Christmas tree decorations, upcycled from earrings:

You can find them in my shop here.

Saturday 17 October 2015

From Saughton Park to Roseburn Park along the Water of Leith

After the early morning haar (see mist) lifted, we were treated to wonderful blue skies and sunshine, though with a definite autumnal chill to the air. We started today's walk at Saughton Park, one of several parks that line the Water of Leith

There were wonderful spiders webs everywhere

The autumn colours are beautiful this year, and most trees still have a lot of their leaves, as Edinburgh hasn't been as windy as normal so far this autumn

We walked along the river to Roseburn Park

where we were astonished by the number of shield bugs we saw (how many can you find in the photo below? Click on it for a bigger view!)

most if not all of which were hawthorn shield bugs, despite being seen on whitebeam.

We liked the new ganes tables that have been set up in Roseburn Park, it would have been a lovely day for an outdoor game of chess if we'd had our chess set with us! You can see my photo of the table here

Thursday 15 October 2015

Conditioned Response by Gary Beck

Conditioned Response is Gary Beck's 11th published chapbook. This 100 page book of poetry focuses on contemporary issues such as drug use, terrorism, overpopulation and pollution. These poems are balanced by those about nature, including the weather.

The language is straightforward and tends toward the prosaic - indeed it is difficult to be lyrical about war and similar issues of import in today's society.

The narrator in Northern Mariners thinks back on his family's relationship with the frozen northern oceans and muses:

"I will be the first
not to fear the ice,
thanks to global warming."

Amongst the nature poems I was most struck by the story in Brief Freedom, which focuses on the relationship between Mr Fozzy Pate, a pet finch and the wild finches living nearby

"One spring morning
wild finches sang nearby
and Mr fuzzy pate
burst into joyous song".

This is a serious book dealing with serious issues, which makes it perhaps a bit unusual among contemporary poetry, much of which tends to shy away from issues.

Conditioned Response by Gary Beck is available here.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Every leaf is a jewel

Our wonderful autumnal sunshine continues, making every leaf a glowing jewel

Musselburgh Lagoons were covered in over 200 lapwings, their backs and wings glimmering beautifully in the light, though too far away to photograph. I also loved watchng the teals, the beautiful emerald colour hidden in their wings showing itself every so often as they shifted position on the water.

The only birds that got close enough for photos were these mute swahs

I was delighted and surprised to see a lot of hoverflies on the last of the flowers that have been so wonderful along the John Nuir Walkway this year. So delighted in fact that none of my photos are much good, but here's a Syrphus sp. either S. ribesii or S. vitripennis (You need a better view of the legs to be sure of the species!!!)

and this I think is an Eristalis tenax

Tuesday 13 October 2015

The lovely weather continues

Today I went to the exhibition of the proposed development on the site of the current Blue Goose pub and the opposite shore of the Water of Leith. The plans are very clearly laid out and the developers were there today and seemed to take on board people's concerns. The exhibition will continue tomorrow and Thursday, though the developers won't be there to answer questions. 

My concerns centre on the development of the Blue Goose site (the site on the other side of the river is currently derelict and ugly and needs to be developed though there may be issues round the aesthetics of what is being proposed). The Blue Goose is a thriving pub with the best beer garden in Edinburgh, much more of a community asset than yet another block of student flats would be. If the two sites are covered in student flats then that would hugely increase littering and potentially other anti-social behaviour along that area of the Water of Leith walkway as students would use the walkway as a short cut to get to Napier University. The height of the buildings next to the walkway would make the walkway very dark, and as the council won't put up lighting along the walkway (to retain its rural feel and because there are bats there) then people might start to feel unsafe and not use the walkway for recreation. Also the flats would have very little natural light as the opposite side of the walkway is dense with trees (and long may it remain so). 

After the exhibition, I walked along the Gorgie stretch of the river. It was wonderfully sunny, the trees looking quite autumnal

I was delighted to see a red admiral butterfly, which unlike yesterday's, actually posed nicely for photos

Monday 12 October 2015

The beauty of ancient woodland and a date for your diary

As many readers of this blog know, I regularly volunteer with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. Colinton Dell, the area which I help to look after is a beautiful area of woodland, defined as ancient woodland as it has been continuously wooded since 1750 (this is the Scottish date for ancient woodland, the date is different in England and Wales). This doesn't mean that the whole area is made up of native woodland dating back that far, in fact a lot of hornbeams (non-native to Scotland but native to the south of England) were planted when the area was full of mills (the hornbeam wood is very hard, ideal for construction of mill parts). However this has been mostly woodland since 1750 and the areas where the mills once stood have mostly been reclaimed by nature.

A beautiful autumn day like today is one of the best times to appreciate the beauty of ancient woodland:

The bridge over the Water of Leith at Colinton Weir

a bench on the Water of Leith Walkway above Colinton Weir

the underside of a harts tongue fern showing the spores

fallen fruit from a lime (linden) tree

contrasting autumnal colours by the bridge in Colinton Village

fallen leaves on a mossy wall by the river

an ivy flower - this ivy bush was in fact covered with insects - a few hoverflies, common wasps and a red admiral butterfly, none of which allowed me to take photos!

a yet to be identified fungus growing in the grassy area near the old Bogs Mill.

Recent research has shown that Scotland's ancient woodlands are generally not in great condition, so the Woodland Trust has set up a campaign to save them. You can see their infographic that highlights the problems here and you can read more about the background to the campaign and how to get involved here.

Woodland is not only a beautiful place to spend time and a valuable habitat for wildlife, but it also offers solutions to the problems caused by climate change, including flood management and reducing the temperature of urban areas. Climate change is also the biggest long term threat to ancient woodland. Therefore the Woodland Trust is joining the People's March for the Climate on 28 November (Edinburgh and Cardiff) and 29 November (London and Belfast). You can find out more and add your name to the list here.

Thursday 8 October 2015

Wrong headed road building

Roads are essential to connect communities and enable us to travel from place to place. However they need to be sited sensitively to avoid destroying wildlife rich areas. Here are just three road building plans that to me seem wrong headed:

A motorway across the Gwent levels in south Wales - read Julian Hoffman's beautiful article about the nature of the Gwent levels to understand exactly why this place should remain an area of natural beauty and not be destroyed for the sake of a motorway. After reading that article, please consider joining the campaign against the building of this unnecessary motorway.

The Goyt valley near Stockport in the north of England is threatened with the building of a bypass - this would destroy areas of historical interest as well as areas of greenbelt land. At the same time there would be no guarantee that it would reduce traffic congestion, in fact as is often the case it would likely increase traffic related problems.

One of the ways we could help save the last 100 remaining Sumatran rhinos is by ending all proposals to build roads in their remaining habitat.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Autumn beauty in the Dells

Autumn is very definitely here now. It was a lovely day for my weekly voluntary work in the Dells along the Water of Leith. The autumn colours are beautiful, as in this photo of Spylaw Park seen from the Water of Leith Walkway

and here just upstream of the Blue Goose pub 

(The Blue Goose is a thriving pub with the best beer garden in Edinburgh but is threatened with demolition to be replaced with yet another block of student flats. If you're in Edinburgh and don't want to lose this pub then please consider going to the planners' exhibition at Water of Leith Visitor Centre on Tuesday from 1-6.30 pm to lodge your concerns).

Some areas in the Dells are already carpeted with fallen leaves, these ash leaves are particularly photogenic

and this jelly antler fungus growing in a conifer stump is beautiful