Saturday 30 December 2017

Feed the Birds!

We had a lovely walk this morning at Cammo, walking through the fields by the old water tower

where we saw a roe deer

Sadly Edinburgh City Council is planning on building houses on some of these fields (you can see my previous posts about that here).

We then walked into Cammo Country Park. We had some bird food with us and scattered most of it round some fallen trunks where several birds had already gathered. We then stood and watched for a few minutes while the birds came in to feed, the blue tits

the great tits

the robins (posing beautifully for next year's Christmas card!)

and the nuthatches (can you see how many seeds its got in its beak?)

Here's advice on feeding birds on the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) website.

Friday 29 December 2017

It's Cold at Cramond

 It's cold out at Cramond today!
But plenty of birds around, including this carrion crow

this grey heron

several turnstones

and a few ringed plovers

Thursday 28 December 2017

Mountain the Movie

Mountain is an exploration of the human relationship with mountains, with beautiful cinematography set to a soundtrack of orchestral music played by the Australian Chamber Orchestra. The text is written by well known naturewriter Robert MacFarlane and narrated by Willem Defoe.

I loved the beautiful scenery in the film but felt that it was flawed in a number of ways. The narrative was very simplistic, there were too many scenes of vertigo inducing extreme mountain sports (rock climbing, paragliding, extrme ski-ing) and not enough wildlife.

It looked like a film to extol the beauty of nature so why so few shots of wildlife and so much of an obsession with extreme mountaineering? And, if at it purports to be, it's supposed a film about the human relationship with mountains why, when showing scenes of people queueing to ascend Everest was there not even a mention of the mountains of rubbish left on the mountain every year?

It's a film to watch and enjoy and not analyse too deeply and certainly don't expect anything of great insight.

Mountain is showing at Edinburgh Filmhouse until Sunday 31 December.

Wednesday 27 December 2017

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

 a winter's day in Colinton and Craiglockart Dells along the Water of Leith.

  snow caught in umbellifer inflorescences

teasels in the snow 
 wintry mosses
roe deer on the hill

Saturday 23 December 2017

Winter on Calton Hill

Calton Hill is more or less in the middle of Edinburgh and so is an ideal place for a nice walk before doing some last minute Christmas shopping. It's famous for its various follies

 and for it's views of Arthur's Seat

(You can browse my other posts about Calton Hill here).

Friday 22 December 2017

Jane - a film review

Film director Brett Morgen tells the story of Jane Goodall, a woman whose chimpanzee research challenged the male-dominated scientific consensus of her time and changed our ways of thinking about primates. The film draws from over 100 hours of never-before-seen footage from the National Geographic archives, mostly shot by Goodall's then husband Hugo van Lawick.

The film follows Goodall in her early career, when she set out to study chimpanzees in Gombe without any scientific training. She had been taken on byLouis Leakey who specifically wanted someone who didn't have academic preconceptions about primates. 

We see how patience and diligence helped Goodall to become accepted by the chimpanzees which allowed her to study aspects of their lives never seen before - such as their ability to make simple tools, their caring relationships with their families and their warfare when provoked. There are some wonderful clips of chimps stealing food, playing together and grooming each other.

It's a fascinating film for anyone interested in Goodall and her ground breaking research with chimpanzees. 

Jane is showing at Edinburgh Filmhouse until Sunday 24 December.

Oh Christmas Tree!

We took delivery of our Christmas tree today. You may remember a few weeks ago that we chose this tree from several options in Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother's garden

So now it's in the corner of our living room and has been decorated

The decorations are an eclectic mix of gifts, ornaments I've had since I was a teenager and broken jewellery! Odd or slightly damaged earrings make wonderful baubles and unwanted shiny necklaces make wonderful alternatives to tinsel!
After Christmas we'll give the tree back to Crafty Green Boyfriend's Mum and we may well get the same tree back for next year!

Here's an interesting article from the Woodland Trust about choosing an environmentally friendly tree.

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Trophy Film Review

A sobering, and often difficult to watch, documentary, Trophy examines the interconnectedness of industrial scale big-game hunting, breeding, and wildlife conservation in the U.S. and Africa to show the complex consequences of treating animals as commodities. Interviewing animal breeders, hunt organisers, ecologists and wildlife rangers, the film asks such important questions as:

As Africa’s most iconic animals continue to disappear, can the controversial practices of hunting and breeding actually help to increase the populations?

Can assigning economic value to an animal help to conserve it?

What gives humans the right to own animals and to decide whether they live or die?

And is there any real future for a “natural” world in our rapidly developing, capitalist world? 

The film is given a 15 certificate for its release in the UK with 'strong language' being given as the reason for this certificate, overlooking the scenes of hunting and animal corpses that would surely make any caring parent want to keep their children away from the film. Scenes that make the film difficult to watch for anyone who cares about animals and the future of biodiversity on this planet.

However it is worth watching precisely because it asks difficult questions and forces the viewer to see things from an angle they may not want to consider.

One focus of the film is on large scale farming of rhinos for their horn, which can be harvested every couple of years giving the rhinos a long life, though whether a truly happy is life is as debateable as whether free range cattle or chickens lead a happy life, or more so as rhinos are still wild creatures whereas cattle and chickens are domesticated. But is it better to have plenty of rhinos living in large fenced off reserves where they are farmed and protected from poaching, or to allow their numbers to decline to zero as it looks like they otherwise will inevitably do?

Hunting is also brought in as away of conserving nature. Allowing wealthy foreigners to pay large sums of money to shoot trophy animals brings in money that can then conserve the wider populations of these animals and the habitats they live in. I can see the logic in this and according to the film there are parts of South Africa that now have larger populations of some wild animals because they are being bred for hunting. However it is horrible to think that this is what we have come to as a society and it is appalling to watch some rich American who thinks that God put animals on the earth so he could shoot them killing a lion. And it's heartbreaking to watch the slow death of a slaughtered elephant or to witness a baby rhino running around crying after it's mother has been killed.

Trophy will screen at Edinburgh Filmhouse on Thursday 21 December

Tuesday 19 December 2017

ValleyMist Lipbalm

About a year ago, I was asked to review a lipbalm from Valley Mist - this was very good timing as my current lip balm had almost run out, and though I'm minimalist about toiletries, a good lip balm is essential! (You can read my original review here).

A year on and Valley Mist  now have a shop on Etsy, which is where I recently bought another  8.5g tube of their Restore lipbalm. The packaging is lovely, made from cardboard and decorated with pretty, natural images.

Most impressively the tube itself is made from recycled card, which is a pleasing change from the ubiquitous plastic. It's sobering to read on their website that Valley Mist were unable to find this type of cardboard packaging in the UK and were forced to ship it in from abroad. Surely in this day and age, UK manufacturers should be producing things like this!

The lipbalm itself is made in the UK and the ingredients are all pure and natural

Cocoa Seed Butter
Organic Sunflower Seed Oil
Organic Beeswax
Mango Seed Butter

with the following essential oils:


I've been using this lip balm for a year now, and it is easy to apply, smells lovely and is the best lipbalm I've used!

In my original review, Iwondered  how well the packaging lasts. I had a slight suspicion that the cardboard might wear a bit before I finish the tube, though it is certainly sturdy enough at the moment. A year on though and the tube is still as sturdy as ever. But after use the packaging is biodegradable, you can even watch videos about the progress of a tube biodegrading - see the Valley Mist Facebook page!

For every 8.5g tube of lipbalm, Valley Mist donate 8.5% of the profits to environmental charities. So this product is good for you and is good for the environment both in terms of reducing waste and in supporting charities.

Saturday 16 December 2017

Winter Robins

It's very wintry today! Lovely to see the snow speckled Pentland Hills from Arthur's Seat

We met a couple of friendly robins

Well they were friendly to us, but less friendly to each other, as they were shouting at each other and chasing each other, robins (both make and female) defend territories through the winter! One of the robins took time out from defending its territory to pose nicely for its portrait

Friday 15 December 2017

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail

 Eucalyptus by Murray Bail

In a remote part of New South Wales, a farmer called Holland promises his daughter Ellen's hand in marriage to  the man who can name the hundreds of species of eucalyptus trees that he has planted on his land. What follows is a fascinating meditation on the various species of eucalyptus (and I for one had no idea there were so many!) and on Ellen's state of mind as she watches various men come along and try to win her by pursuing a test set purely by her father.

Bail's writing is reminiscent of the late, great Patrick White (Australian winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize for literature) though without the seemingly wilful incomprehensibility that White sometimes injected into his work. So many lovely sentences and phrases here, some of which are intriguing:

'Anyway, don't you think the compliant pine is associated with numbers, geometry, the majority while the eucalypt stands apart, solitary, essentially undemocratic?'

The reader feels a great deal of sympathy for Ellen in this modern day fairy tale and hopes that somehow she will eventually have some say in her romantic future. The reader is likely to find Holland's attitude to his daughter's future inexplicable, which may undermine the enjoyment of the novel for some.

(In real life therefore, it's great to know that Australia, in a commitment to relationship equality, has just become the 25th country to recognise same sex marriage).

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail, published by Penguin

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

Thursday 14 December 2017

Female Mallard

Brown feathers glow
subtle beauty in low
winter light.

Plump on the pond
she ruffles her feathers to display
sudden blue iridescence.

Fluff, shake, tuck
blue under wing –
just another brown duck.

Previously published on Nature Writing and in my poetry pamphlet Unthinkable Skies.  

Photo by Crafty Green Boyfriend.

I also today posted a poem on my Shapeshifting Green blog. You can read it here.

Wednesday 13 December 2017

A Frozen Pond and a Rushing River

Yesterday we had a lovely lunchtime wander around Blackford Pond and part of the Hermitage of Braid. The pond was frozen

 mallards and a black headed gull on the ice
 moorhen showing off its funny feet
female mallard preening 

We also walked along part of the Braid Burn, where we had brilliant views of a couple of dippers

Thanks Crafty Green Boyfriend for these lovely photos!

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Wintry Walkden Wildlife

Crafty Green Boyfriend and I spent the weekend with my Dad in Walkden, Greater Manchester. As well as having a nice time with my Dad, we enjoyed a couple of lovely winter walks. We went to the local park

where we saw plenty of birds, including redwing and nuthatches. We also heard a tawny owl when walking close to the park at dusk!

We also had a walk at Blackleach Country Park near Walkden Town Centre. We had a lovely walk in a blizzard!

We were very happy to see lots of ducks and geese on the pond

As well as lots of tufted ducks and Canada geese, we were delighted to see at least four gadwall, one male shoveler and a great crested grebe!

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Bugged by David MacNeal

Bugged: The Insects Who Rule the World and the People Obsessed with Them

Subititled The Insects that Rule the World and the People Obsessed with Them, Bugged is a  fascinating look at the world of entomology (the study of insects). It outlines the history of  the human relationship with insects, going back to the first cave painting of an insect. The book then looks in more detail at topics such as pest control, epidemics of diseases carried by insects, social insects, insect sex and insects as food with a whole chapter devoted to the history of the human relationship with the insect that is most important to us, the honey bee.

The book considers such vital questions as:

how can we effectively control insect pests in an environmentally friendly way?
can we save the honey bee from the many threats that face it?
is insect food the food of the future?

The author travelled a lot for this book, including undertaking a tour in Japan, trying to eat as many insect based foods as possible (which turned out to be quite a challenge!) and a trip to Greece to find the most delicious honey in the world.

It concentrates more on people than on the insects themselves, and though in parts it is quite technical, it relies more on anecdotes and human interest. Ths isn't a criticism, it's just to say that if you're looking for a totally serious scientific study of insects this may not be the book for you! On the other hand, with its mass of fascinating facts it's a perfect book to get you interested in insects.

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Weather Forecasting

When her divorce came through
she spent hours browsing old photos
as if they could tell her secrets.

She stares at one of her and her brothers
playing in the snowy garden
when they were very young.

She and her husband used to laugh at this photo,
at her strange flowery anorak and how
there would never be winters like that again.

Two heavy winters later
she realises we can never know
the future ice and snow.

Previously published on Verse Wrights

Yesterday, over on my Shapeshifting Green blog, I posted another poem 'Influential Poets' that had originally been published on VerseWrights. You can read it here.

Monday 4 December 2017

Nuthatches, ladybirds and funnel web spiders!

Another lovely sunny winters day, ideal for a walk round Colinton and Craiglockart Dells along the Water of Leith. Plenty to see too, starting with a group of four nuthatches! Nuthatches have only recently started to colonise Scotland from England and it's always lovely to see them. Crafty Green Boyfriend has worked extra hours recently and so was able to take time off to join me today and managed to photograph one of the nuthatches - click on the photos for a better view

We were also delighted to find some orange ladybirds, already snuggled together for their hibernation. This is a common winter sight along this particular fence in the Dells!

(If you're interested in finding out more about ladybirds and other beetles of the British woodlands then you may like the new issue of the Woodland Trust's Wood Wide magazine, which is all about 'Beguiling Beetles' you can download it here.)

There's a particular tree in the Dells which is covered in spiders webs, I had always noticed these webs but for some reason never thought to look closer. Today though, Crafty Green Boyfriend noticed that they are funnel webs, built by a species of funnel web spider

Each web as you can see includes a hole at the front. The spider builds the web and then hides in it and leaps out through the hole to catch unsuspecting insects!