Friday 30 September 2016


in between showers -
jay's wing flashes blue
as it flies past

Thursday 29 September 2016

You've Been Trumped

 For some reason, it seemed a good idea to share this film review again....

You've Been Trumped is a documentary film about Donald Trump's project to build 'the world's best golf course' on an area of rare sand-dunes which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Aberdeenshire. It's a very well made documentary that is at once heartbreaking, inspiring and entertaining. There is beautiful footage of the dune system as it used to be, a vibrant, beautiful areaof wilderness that not only was wonderful for wildlife (hence the SSSI designation, which issuppposed to offer protection against development) but also was a popular place for local people to walk. The film also shows the bulldozers ploughing roughshod over the land, destroying the ecosystem, which can never be restored, due to its uniquely fragile nature. The resulting golf course is one that local people are unlikely to be able to afford to play on, even if they were to want to. (Interestingly, some American golfers who were interviewed in this film as they played on the golf course at St Andrews said that they would not be interested in playing on Trump's course, and they are the target audience).

The film focuses on how local people are being affected by the development - the construction has caused locals to lose their water supply for weeks, has demanded that they pay for fencing and has built sandbanks round their houses to hide them from view of the rich Americans who will be playing on the golf course. A number of local families had been threatened with compulsory purchase orders on their homes, though Trump did back down on this after a demonstration.

The local police are shown to very definitely be on the side of Trump, they harrassed and arrested the film makers and took the side of Trump in every conflict with the local people.

The film also shows some of the positives that rose out of the whole debacle including some excellent arts projects, including these photos by Alicia Bruce.

I've followed the development of this golf course over the years (this link takes you to all the posts I've written that mention the subject). I am still shocked as to how a Scottish Government that claims to support local democracy, be concerned for the environment and be working for an independent Scotland can overturn local decisions (the Aberdeenshire council originally refused planning permission for the course) and basically sell Scotland's natural assets to the highest bidder to create a golf course (as if Scotland doesn't have enough of those already) that will be marketed to rich foreigners.

The You've Been Trumped website is here and their facebook page is here.
The Tripping up Trump campaign has a website here.

Some cinemas have refused to screen this film, claiming lack of audience interest (Trump has been putting out propoganda saying the film isn't worth seeing and there's no audience for it). If your local cinema claims that there is no interest in seeing You've Been Trumped, prove them wrong and ask them to screen it.

Edited to add: there is also a follow up film, A Dangerous Game, which both updates the story of Trump's golf-course in Aberdeenshire but also looks more widely at environmentally damaging  golf courses. I reviewed A Dangerous Game here.

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

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Ivy is a feast for insects at this time of year!


Yesterday I made my weekly patrol of Colinton Dell alongside the Water of Leith. It was a mild but changeable day - the wind blew, it drizzled rain, the sun shone, typical Scottish weather really!

A lot of the ivy is in bloom now (not all of it, different bushes bloom at slightly different times, so in a park like Spylaw Park, where I took these photos, the various ivy plants will bloom one after each other in what almost could be described as a wave).

The hoverflies and wasps love the ivy, this is an Eristalis sp hoverfly on an ivy flower so you can see the detail of the flower in bloom, the other flowers round the central one will bloom in the next week or so.

This patch of ivy had attracted just a few hoverflies and bees but over 50 common wasps, which may have been eating some of the hoverflies (scroll down in this post, to see another lovely patch of ivy where we watched wasps killing and eating hoverflies).

As ivy is so important for pollinating insects at this time of year, when many other flowers are no longer blooming, it's really important not to cut your ivy back until it has finished flowering. Ivy doesn't damage trees as much as people think it does and not only attracts lots of insects but is a home for many birds in the springtime.

In another part of the Dells, I was delighted to find this hoverfly Leucozona glaucia (the larger, slightly bluer hoverfly in the photo, seen with two Syrphus sp hoverflies). It seems to be quite an uncommon species for Edinburgh, though we saw plenty of them on our recent holiday in Dumfries.

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Greenmatch announces it's Environmental Awards for 2016!


Greenmatch, the green energy company has announced it's Environmental Awards for 2016. The awards go to individuals and organisations that Greenmatch believe are making a positive contribution to the environmental discussion.

The awards have been made in three categories:

Environmental Bloggers
Environmental Initiatives and
Environmental Sites.

I'm delighted to have been included in the list of Environmental Bloggers!

You can view the complete lists here.

Monday 26 September 2016

Two modern classics about evolution

The Diversity of Life by E O Wilson

The Diversity of Life is a classic of evolutionary literature from the renowned biologist Edward O Wilson. The first section of the book concentrates on ways in which life on earth has diversified to fit into all the niches that the planet offers. Wilson (no relation by the way!) looks at how small creatures are able to take advantage of tiny differences in soil or vegetation and thus diversify into a greater number of species than larger creatures. He cites lots of examples, but the one that will always stick in my mind is the species of rainforest ant (Wilson is a specialist in ant biology and ecology) which has a specialised species of mite that lives on the ants' feet. The ants don't let this bother them and in fact use the mites as 'shoes' and walk on them!

The second part of the book focuses on the human impact on life on earth and is both depressing in its cataloguing of the damage we're doing and already out of date (the book dates from 1992). This section isn't without hope, Wilson outlines numerous ways in which we can help to halt or at least lessen the biodiversity crisis, but it's still a slower read than the first section, which is so full of fascinating insights into the beauty of the natural world.

The Diversity of Life by Edward O Wilson published by Penguin (1992)

After Man by Dougal Dixon

Dougal Dixon is a widely respected expert on dinosaurs but he also casts his eyes into the future! This book from 1981 is a classic in speculative evolution.

After Man is a beautiful large format book that looks at possible ways that life on earth may evolve after humankind becomes extinct. It starts by discussing elements of how evolution works alongside how the landmasses of the earth may rearrange themselves in the future. The main body of the book looks at the earth 50 million years into the future, continent by continent and habitat by habitat exploring the animals that may one day be here to replace us.

It's a timely read, as many scientists now consider the earth to be in the midst of the sixth extinction, an extinction event largely (though not entirely) driven by humankind's encroachment on and destruction of wildlands. It's also a fascinating theoretical look at how evolution could work in the future, there are some wonderfully weird animals in here, all of them beautifully illustrated and described in detail, both in terms of appearance and also how they might behave and what current animals they might replace.

A fascinating book for anyone interested in evolutionary zoology or in invented animals!

After Man: A Zoology of the Future by Dougal Dixon published by Granada (1981).

There's an interesting article on the BBC website here that explores some of the ideas from After Man. 

Sunday 25 September 2016

Roseburn to Stockbridge along the Water of Leith

It's World Rivers Day today, so what better than to share photos from yesterday's walk along the Water of Leith from Roseburn to Stockbridge. This is a pretty, wooded stretch of the walkway. Here are some photos

harts tongue fern, showing clearly the spores lined up on the underside of the fronds

this part of the walkway is closed off as there's been a major landslide and the hillside and path are very unstable (most people ignore the fact that it's closed off however and clamber over the fencing).

I love seeing ferns hidden away in the cracks of stone walls - this is a young harts tongue and maidenhair spleenwort (the one with divided fronds).

here's a woodlouse emerging from its old exoskeleton, not something you see very often!

We'd forgotten it was Doors Open Day, but were very glad it was when we got to St Bernard's Well! We got the chance to get very close to Hygeia (the Greek Goddess of health - who gave her name to hygiene). For photos of the inside of the well, please visit my Shapeshifting Green blog!

Here's a view from the foot of Hygeia, looking out over the river

After we had left the well, we continued out walk along the path in the photo above. Just before we got to Stockbridge (our destination for lunch) we can across this wonderful patch of ivy

It was alive with hoverflies and a few wasps and bees! There were hundreds of Syrphus sp hoverflies

hundreds of Eristalis hoverflies

and a few Myathropa florea hoverflies

I've never seen so many hoverflies in one place before!

We saw two wasp attacks on hoverflies (thanks to Crafty Green Boyfriend for this photo!)

which gave quite a dramatic ending to our walk!

Friday 23 September 2016

The scent of roses in Autumn

We came across this rose in Corstorphine today, it smelt as beautiful as it looks

On Corstorphine Hill itself, the acorns are forming

And outside the hotel on the main road, the bunnies are, as ever, eating the grass

We also saw a roe deer on the hill, this is very unusual, both of us thought that deer never came onto Corstorphine Hill, as the hill, though offering good habitat for the deer, seems too isolated for them to move easily to and from other green areas. I didn't try to capture the deer on film, I didn't want to disturb it!

Thursday 22 September 2016

Parks and Trees and the Future of Green Spaces in the UK

Parks are wonderful greenspaces, particularly in built up areas, spaces where plants grow, animals can find homes and people can have fun, play and relax!

The Communities and Local Government Select Committee is holding an inquiry into the future of open spaces in the UK and wants people to take part in their survey. By taking part, you can influence the recommendations they make to the Government.

‘Public parks’ in the UK are country parks, smaller ‘pocket’ parks, woodland areas and open green spaces which are cared for by the local authority. At the moment they are not considered to be statutory services, despite all the evidence that shows how vital green spaces are for physical and mental health and wellbeing. This means that in these days of austerity, parks are likely to be at the receiving end of funding cuts in the local authority's budgets. 

Many parks in the UK have Friends Groups who help to manage the park and provide volunteers to carry out conservation tasks and citizen science projects, these groups however should act as an additional resource that complements the work that the council does rather than been seen as candidates to take over the work of the council. 

Community ownership can work in some cases, if the council sees fit to sell off green-spaces. However, this won't always work and councils shouldn't use the expectation of community buy out as an excuse for selling off the parks. 

The Rethinking Parks report contains some interesting ideas for creating sustainable futures for our parks, you can download it here

The Woodland Trust's report Trees or Turf? demonstrates that planting trees in public green-spaces can be a more economic approach then maintaining lawns.You can read the trust's thoughts on the consultation itself here.

If you live in the UK, the Communities and Local Government Select Committee wants to know your views on parks, you can let them know here. The closing date for responses is 30 September. 

Meanwhile if you live in Edinburgh, the local authority is carrying out its own survey on the future of the city's greenspaces, you can take part in this survey here. The closing date for this one is 21 October. 

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

Wednesday 21 September 2016


young grey heron
struggles to swallow
the flat fish -
how long it takes to perfect
the skills of adulthood

Tuesday 20 September 2016

How to be Wild by Simon Barnes

This is a brilliant book! Journalling his experiences of nature over the course of a year, Simon Barnes shares his enthusiasm for and knowledge of nature in a totally engaging style. There is no pomposity and no overly self conscious poetic phrasing that tends to creep into so much of nature writing these days. Just unabashed enthusiasm!

He talks about birdsong, his favourite wildlife places, his favourite moments sharing nature with other people, his views on the future for conservation, how, even if you are already a keen naturalist, there is always something new to find in nature, why it is good to learn the names of species (even though at the same time it's okay not to be able to name everything you see) and many other topics. His enthusiasm (yes that word again) is contagious and will inspire readers to get out into nature and enjoy it.

I could quote almost any paragraph from this book, but I chose this excerpt about my favourite bird:

'Now they were back and the sky was full of them, scything and sickling and showing us triumphantly and precariously that the globe was still working. The swifts, the longed for birds, were now back in numbers, and their cheery screaming had become a part of daily life once again: as if nothing could possibly go wrong ever again: as if the darkness of winter could never come again: as if nothing could trouble a wild-loving human's heart could ever again be a part of the world and the way we live in it.' 

Read this book!

How to be Wild by Simon Barnes published by Short Books (2007)

Monday 19 September 2016

A Bank Holiday walk by the river

Today is a public holiday in Edinburgh (though not in most other places) so Crafty Green Boyfriend joined me for my weekly patrol of Colinton Dell along the Water of Leith.

The light was beautiful and the Dells looked lovely

The first autumn tints are showing in the first falling leaves

The bees are getting tired now

but the hoverflies will still be happy for another couple of month, this is a footballer hoverfly (Helophilus sp)

Hoverflies are flies that mimic other species, usually bees or wasps. There are about 250 species of hoverfly in the UK. The footballer hoverflies are some of the most common and some of the most distinctive.

Saturday 17 September 2016

Haddington to East Linton along the River Tyne

It's another beautiful day today and we took the bus to Haddington in East Lothian to try out the riverside walk along the Tyne to East Linton. A juvenile grey heron greeted us near the bridge as we started the walk

The walk starts here

and passes through areas of farmland

where it is quite open and the sheep need to gather under the trees to escape the heat

and areas of shady woodland, where it is much cooler

The river banks are lined with trees, specially willows

We saw lots of buzzards, flying high on the thermals, none of them close enough to capture on camera, several grey herons and a group of ten goosanders, which kept flying up and down the river. There were also several large white butterflies and several speckled woods too, thanks to Crafty Green Boyfriend for this photo

Also plenty of hoverflies, including this Eristalis sp (photographed with a funny little moth, that I feel I should know the name of, but can't remember, feel free to remind me in the comments, if you know its name!)

The route also passes by the ruins of Hailes Castle

and then to East Linton to catch a bus back to Edinburgh.

It's a lovely walk, quite manageable at 6 miles and with a good part of it being shaded by trees to avoid heat exhaustion on a hot day. 

Friday 16 September 2016

Hoverflies enjoying the last of the summer

It's a lovely sunny day today. As I often do on a Friday, I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for a walk round Corstorphine Hill. We stopped at a rose bush on the way to admire the hoverflies, there were several Syrphus sp

a couple of Eristalis sp, including this Eristalis pertinax

and a Helophilus sp (often referred to as the sun fly as it likes sunshine, also known as the footballer because of its patterning)

We enjoyed the view from the hill across Edinburgh

and the dappled light in the woodland on the hill

Thursday 15 September 2016

Scottish Climate Week 16 - 23 September 2016

Climate Week (16-23 September 2016), starting tomorrow, is designed to inspire action on climate change at home and at work.

It offers an opportunity to engage with friends, colleagues and others in discussion on the topic and to inspire people into reducing emissions and adapting to a changing climate.

You can find some useful and inspiring resources for this, the first Climate Week in Scotland here.

The State of Nature

The State of Nature reports for the UK have just been published and overall the news is not good. Scotland and indeed the UK as a whole are ranked in the lowest fifth of the world in terms of biodiversity intactness, which basically means how secure the future is for our wildlife.

There are many reasons why wildlife is facing so many challenges these days, habitat destruction and climate change being right at the top of the list. Habitats are being destroyed to make way for housing, sports developments, and mineral and fuel extraction while climate is changing quicker than most species are able to adapt and move themselves to more suitable areas.

The reports are full of statistics such as:

Over the long term, 44% of bird species declined and 56% increased. Among these, 30% showed
strong or moderate declines, 39% showed little change, and 31% showed strong or moderate increases.
Over the short term, 54% of bird species declined and 46% increased. Among these, 49% showed strong
or moderate decreases, 24% showed little change and 27% showed strong or moderate increases.

So although many species are declining some are increasing (such as red kites, which we enjoyed seeing on our recent holiday in Dumfries).  The overall picture however is one of steady decline in many species, a steady deterioration in the landscapes and wildlife around us. Which is tragic news for nature and for those of us who love nature.

The report highlights some of the ways in which we can help wildlife, though for example wildlife friendly farming practices and offers overviews of the state of various wildlife habitats (eg woodland and marine habitats). We need to offer a lot more help to nature if it is to thrive, but I do think that in many areas of the world there is the desire to do this - for example in Edinburgh the Living Landscape Project has recently planted wildflower meadows in the cities parks which are great for pollinators (you can see my blog post about these wildflower meadows here). (On the other hand Edinburgh is planning to expand to a huge extent in the near future, destroying large areas of farmland, including (probably) the fields at Cammo which I've blogged about here).

The State of Nature Report is essential, but sobering, reading for anyone concerned with the state of nature in the UK.

You can read the full State of Nature Scotland report here and the UK report here.

Wednesday 14 September 2016


constant drizzle -
a friend cancels our meal out
yet again

Tuesday 13 September 2016

A hint of Autumn

It's the hottest September day for 50 years here in Scotland but the colours of the landscape are already turning towards Autumn. Here are two photos from along the John Muir Way in Musselburgh

and the whitebeam berries are ripening in the wooded area by the Lagoons

There are still a few hoverflies around, like this Syrphus sp

and the dominant male mute swan (with the uplifted wings) was keeping the flock under control

Monday 12 September 2016

Recycle Week 12 - 18 September

Reducing the amount you throw away is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment, it means less goes to landfills.

If you recycle things then you reduce the amount of raw materials that are harvested to make things.

It's even better of course if you are able to re-use items, upcycle them into something else or even to cut down on the amount you use in the first place! However, if you can't reuse or reduce then recycling is definitely the way to go!

Some things are easy to recycle, most areas of Edinburgh, for example, are well served with recycling facilities for paper, packaging, glass and food wastes (though the way these items are collected varies from area to area, which can be confusing). Other items are more difficult - what do you do with old videos for example? I had thought of pulling out the tape and using it as yarn until i read somewhere that it's actually toxic if you handle it! I have yet to find a recycling directory that has any good ideas for video tapes (if you have any ideas please let me know in the comments section. Bearing in mind that I have no intention of building a table like structure using old video tapes!).

For many things though, the Recycle Now  directory of how to recycle a whole load of things looks fairly comprehensive!

Of course, recycling is something we should all do all year round, not just during Recycle Week, but it's good to have this chance to highlight the importance of recycling!

What is your top tip for recycling?

Saturday 10 September 2016

Catching Dreams

I always like to try a new craft and recently I bought two dream-catcher kits which I found in a second hand shop. I haven't yet used the kits as they are both for large dream-catchers and I thought I would try some small dream-catchers first. As I like to re-use materials for crafting, I've gathered together a lot of bangles that have come in the bags of broken / unsaleable jewellery that I like to buy from 2nd hand shops. I also decided that to start with, I'd make dream-catchers using ready-made centres, rather than doing all the weaving myself, so I cut segments from this fabric which was much the worse for wear.
 The almost circular segments are the perfect size for using in bangle sized dreamcatchers. Here's the first one I made

which is now hanging in our bedroom, ready to catch all those bad dreams that hang around (though actually I rarely have bad dreams). As well as the bangle and the fabric, I used ribbons, thick wool and twine along with beads.

I've also made this series of three shiny, purple and pink dreamcatchers

None of them are perfect, I'm still very new at this and I can't actually yet guarantee they filter out all the bad dreams, but they are pretty! Sometime soon I'll do a giveaway for these three dream-catchers and perhaps the next few I make so keep an eye out on my forthcoming blog posts! 

Friday 9 September 2016

Perceptions by Gary Beck

I published several of Gary Beck's poems on Bolts of Silk, my (now discontinued) poetry journal.

Perceptions is Beck's second volume of poetry this year. Like Resonance (which I reviewed a few months ago, but I've copied and pasted the review into this post below) this book is full of issue based poems, dealing with topics that too many poets ignore, including the USA's place in the world, unemployment, Middle East politics, the information age, child soldiers, war, terrorism and environmental issues.

This is a long book containing lots of poems, most of which are heavy and serious, though some are very short. There are occasional beautiful lines such as “We do not sing the fraying dream”
from Anthem but much of the language is ordinary, prosaic even

It's easier to deny
harmful effects
of global warming
than to lose profits
saving the ocean.

from Denial is cheaper

This certainly has the advantage that these poems are never obscure, you immediately know what the poem is about (and that's not always true in poetry) but it does make the collection relentlessly depressing to read all at once.  I'd definitely recommend this as a book to dip into for those moments when you feel the need to be reminded that poetry can deal with issues or when you're seeking a creative response to a world issue. 

Perceptions by Gary Beck is available here


My review of Resonance by Gary Beck (previously posted here)

This collection of poetry opens with an extract from the poet's essay 'The Evolution of Poetry' in which he states:
'I found myself more concerned with the message than with the 'poetic' quality of poetry.' 
which later, he follows up with:
'the guardians of the gates of poetry should allow examination of the problems of the world, with direct communication, in order to extend the diminishing influence of poetry on our times.'
As expected then, this is a book of pared back poetry, shorn of ornament, direct and prosaic and dealing with issues including war, drugs, animal rights and the future of the human race. There are also some poems of lost love and unsuccessful romantic relationships. Rhymes are relatively rare, though when used, are generally effective:
'...who will haul away my ashes
if the whole world crashes?'
from Radiation Rhapsody
and this from Sequoias
I walk a lonely path past dying trees
their limbs outstretched in supplicating pleas.
I must admit though, particularly now, when so many things feel grim and depressing, that sometimes when I read poetry like this
We have read about the politics, passively
that bring endless armaments construction.
We should heal the world of raging madness
(and for all I admire Beck's engagement with issues and agree with his rejection of self-obsessed poetry) I long for the healing balm of lyric poetry and there are poets out there who combine lyricism and concern for issues. It doesn't need to be one or the other. In fact just as sugar coating can make a medicine easier to take, the right amount of lyricism can help make the message easier to absorb.

Resonance by Gary Beck is available here
So these are books to read if you are concerned about issues, though you may want to read them in small doses, to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed by all the issues that our world faces.

Thursday 8 September 2016

Last blog post from our holiday in Dumfries!

We visited several other places on our recent holiday in Dumfries. Here are some of our photos - first from Struan Loch

Next from Otter Ponds on the Blackwater of Dee

where the only otter we saw was this one

and Clatteringshaws Loch

which has a lovely visitor centre with a coffee shop that looks over several bird feeders (though for some reason I have no photos of that!) and this lovely bug hotel

On the woodland walk near Clatteringshaws there were lots of insects. including this wonderful display of wasps and hoverflies

which includes Leucozona glaucia (new to me but we saw several on this trip) (this individual below was photographed somewhere else than the plant above.)

We also visited Caerlaverock Nature Reserve - the weather had become overcast

 and very windy - this tall grass was swirling around wildly
We had tea and cakes under this tree near the Caerlaverock Castle Coffee Shop

We stayed there even as it started to rain as we were engrossed in watching the swallows (over 50) that were sitting in the tree and flying round. In the UK, we're more used to seeing our swallows sitting on telegraph wires as they gather before migrating back to Africa but where there are no telegraph lines they use trees (as they must have done in the days before telegraph poles). Crafty Green Boyfriend  captured some of the swallows on camera

And finally we couldn't resist making friends with this cat who we met in Dumfries

So we had a wonderful holiday and I hope you've enjoyed seeing some of our photos!