Monday 31 July 2017

From Dragonflies to Sparrowhawks

As part of my voluntary work with Water of Leith Conservation trust, I did my weekly patrol of Colinton and Craiglockart Dells along the Water of Leith this morning. Sparrowhawk chicks were fledging in or very near Spylaw Park and their calls cound be heard through the whole of the top part of the Dells! They really are raucous! I saw one of the youngsters in the top of a tree, but it was too far away to get a photo.

Meanwhile at ground level in the park the woldflower meadow is looking wonderful

There were a good number of bees and hoverflies in here too.

It was right at the other end of the Dells though where I was able to take photos of this pellucid hoverfly (Volucella pelucens)

Also around the same spot a large dragonfly kept flying past me! It didn't come close enough for me to even guess at what species it was, but it was lovely to see it buzzing around, it's a rare sight in the Dells.

Sunday 30 July 2017

Beecraigs Country Park

Today Crafty Green Boyfriend and I joined his brother and their mother on a trip to Beecraigs Country Park in West Lothian. This was the first time we had visited this park.

It's a lovely place with a reservoir

plenty of woodlands

an Animal Attraction, that includes red deer, cattle and sheep

and wonderful views over to the Firth of Forth and Edinburgh (away in the distance)

There's plenty to see including damselflies that were too speedy to be captured on film and hoverflies, like this Sericomyia silentis

The reservoir was started in 1913 and despite having a sometimes difficult history supplied water to the local area until 1972, since when it has been a fishing reservoir and the centrepiece of the country park.

Several grey wagtails were flying round catching insects near this stony bank of the reservoir, it looked like there were two familes feeding their young, though the birds were too quick to be caught on camera

One of the highlights was seeing goldcrests (the smallest British bird) feeding their young! Hopefully Crafty Green Boyfriend has some photos of those on his camera and I'll be able to share those in the next few days!

Saturday 29 July 2017

A Lovely Walk in the Hermitage

We had a lovely walk today through the Hermitage of Braid, along the Braid Burn

and past Blackford Hill

There were quite a few insects out and about enjoying the sunshine, particularly outside the Ranger's House. Crafty Green Boyfriend took several photos including this lovely marmalade hoverfly

We saw several birds too, including this song thrush

and this buzzard

There were several buzzards in fact, calling to each other in the sky.

Friday 28 July 2017

Today on the Hill

As I often do on a Friday I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for a lunchtime walk round Corstorphine Hill. There was plenty to see today, including these - at this stage it might not be obvious what it is

but once it has developed a bit it will look like this

it's a stinkhorn fungus! These smelly fungi really attract the flies as you can see from the photos. I haven't seen them up the hill before and these ones didn't smell as bad as the previous ones I've discovered.

I was delighted to be able to capture some of the insect life on camera, including this lovely pellucid hoverfly (Volucella pellucens), one of the most appealing and easily recognised of the 250 species of hoverfly in the UK

I was very happy that this antler moth stayed still for a photo, it has lovely, distinctive markings (which made it easy to identify compared to many small moths!). There were also plenty of those little red soldier beetles on the ragwort too. 

and this common carder bee seemed very happy on this thistle just outside the zoo fences

At this time of the year many plants are coming into seeds, many of the seed pods and such like are as attractive as the flowers (though rarely as colourful). The seed heads of the red campion are always one of my favourites, they look like miniature pepper pots,

Thursday 27 July 2017

Gorgie City Farm

Gorgie City Farm is just down the road from where we live, a perfect place to visit for a quick walk amongst the animals. The goats were greeting visitors

while the resident rabbit sat and waited for people's admiration

The sheep were busy eating

the beautiful new sheep hut was empty today, but no doubt is being enjoyed as a shelter in the rain and at night

The hens were very excited, digging worms from the floor of their shed

while the wild birds have lovely birdboxes like this one

and the bees enjoy the nectar

in the various wildflower patches

The farm is involved with Scotland the Bread, which brings together plant breeders, farmers, millers, bakers, nutritionists and citizens to produce nutritious grain, mill it close to home and use it to make wholesome, slowly-fermented bread. The organisation works with scientists to research heritage Scottish and Nordic wheats to find nutrient-rich varieties that do well in local conditions. They aim to stimulate a market for the improved grains by building capacity in community-scale, artisan bread making. Scotland the Bread has helped the farm to set up a small wheat field, which when it is harvested will be used in homemade bread to be sold in the farm cafe.

Talking of the cafe, it's lovely to see that it's now been reopened and is looking better than ever, with it's whitewashed walls, animal themed tablecloths and farm themed bunting.

The carrot cake is delicious too, probably the best carrot cake I've tasted!

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Crafty Update

I recently made this lanyard from beads from my stash, threaded onto repurposed (unused) fishing wire and using a lanyard attachment from an out of date lanyard.

It's now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop here.

Meanwhile, I had an idea that may or may not be practical and useful. I put some pot pourri into some old socks, tied up the socks and am putting them in my shoes to deoderise them. This may or may not work as well as deoderising insoles but it's worth a try in the meantime. I often find pot pourri on sale in second hand shops, so this is a cheap and easy idea.

You can see another use I've found for old socks here.

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Fungi and Snails

We tend to associate fungi with autumn but there are fungi showing themselves all year! There are certainly plenty to find in the Dells alongside the Water of Leith. I was particularly struck with these three though I don't know the species, but it makes a nice image (I've asked for identification help from Edinburgh Natural History Society on Facebook, but if you can help, please leave a comment below)

The toadstool below is some sort of Amanita, probably Amanita rubescens, related to the fly agaric

The damp weather is definitely good for the fungi and for the snails as well! I liked finding this little snail hiding on the underside of a fern frond, nestling in among the spores

and these two are starting to do what they need to do to produce the next generation of snails

Toads like damp weather too and I'm delighted that my poem Toad's Adventures has been posted as part of the first elegant hops of the Telling Toads poetry project! You can read the first elegant hops here on the Creeping Toad blog.

Monday 24 July 2017

Sunshine at Silverknowes

I had to go to the dentist today but afterwards I had time to walk down to the Firth of Forth at Silverknowes.

It's nice to see that some of the grassland has been allowed to run a little wild so there are quite a few flowers around which you can get more of an idea of in the photo below. 

I saw a few butterflies too, including two meadow browns, so I've added these into the Big Butterfly Count which is going on at the moment.

When I approached the bus stop, I stopped by this rose bush to take in the lovely delicate scents of its flowers and to admire the number of bees that were buzzing round! There were honey bees, common carder bumble bees and buff tailed bumble bees.

Friday 21 July 2017

Plenty to see even on a Dull Day

As I often do on a Friday, I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for a wander round Corstorphine HIll this lunchtime. It was dull and muggy, but there was plenty to see. Fungi for example! These earth balls are looking very impressive

and this below is another impressive fungus, though I don't what it is. If anyone can help with identifying it, please leave a note in the comments! The pretty pink flowers are pink purslane

We were pleased to see this handsome wasp, though again, not something we could identify to species level

and this red legged shield bug was very happy to pose for photos

We were most impressed however by the raspberries, which continue to ripen - we filled a wee tub with them, some of which we'll eat and some of which we'll pass to Crafty Green Boyfriend's Mum to make jam.

Thursday 20 July 2017

Two Classic Speculative Novels about Islands

I've recently read two classic novels about alternative realities centred on life on islands.

The first was Glapagos by Kurt Vonnegut, which imagines a group of people becoming shipwrecked on one of Galapagos Islands who then become the ancestors for all the human beings left on the earth a million years from now. The blurb on the back cover of the book implied that it was set a million years in the future, so part of me was disappointed that, though narrated from a point a million years in the future, it's actually set in the present day (or rather the 1980s when it was written). That aside though it is a fascinating insight into the vagaries of evolution and the way our actions can influence the future. I do want to know more though about how life would be for the furry and flippered humans of the far future......

The second was Island by Aldous Huxley.  Will Farnaby, a cynical journalist is shipwrecked on the fictional island of Pala. He had been in league with the people who had wanted to drill for oil on the island but is won over by it's utopian lifestyle and intriguing mix of Buddhist and pantheistic spirituality. Although the premise is fascinating, I found the book tedious, as it reads almost entirely as two dimensional characters talking about philosophy at each other and utopias are, by definition, much less interesting than dystopias, in fictional terms at least. It is however worth reading to the end as the ending is excellent.

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Swifts everywhere!

This summer, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I are taking part in a survey of swifts in Edinburgh. I recently attended a training session (which I blogged about here) and since then Crafty Green Boyfriend and I have made three slow walks round our designated survey area to look for low flying groups of swifts and then nesting sites. We've both been keeping an eye out too for swifts wherever we go in town (more so than usual I mean, we're both always watching out for swifts at this time of year!)

Swifts only visit Scotland for just over three months in the year (May to August) and spend the rest of the year flying down to Africa and then round and round Africa before coming back to the same nest site. They only land when they're nesting, when the young leave the nest they remain airborne for three or four years before they make their first nest! Swifts are declining in the UK for a number of reasons but one is the lack of nest sites - they nest in holes in walls and under roofs and these days these holes are often blocked up when buildings are renovated. The City of Edinburgh Council (and some other councils in the UK) advise that swift bricks be used in new buildings over a certain height (a swift brick is a brick that is hollow inside and includes an entrance hole so that the swifts can enter the nest) but they can't enforce this.

Our first two survey walks weren't very successful, despite the fact that on most days we see swifts flying round our street (which is part of our survey area). Our last walk on Monday evening was more successful and we ewre able in fact to identify a nest site!

Today I spent some time wandering round the Meadows area of town and saw more swifts than I've seen for a long time! There were two groups of about 30 swifts in two different areas of the Meadows (though, given how quickly swifts can fly these may have been the same 30 birds). Then I also saw ten swifts above Fountainbridge Library. I'm going to add these sightings to my overall survey report.

If you're in Edinburgh and you know where swifts are nesting, please feel free to add your sightings to the comments (I'm only at this stage interested in probably nest sites, not if you see high flying groups of swifts). If you're taking part in the survey yourself then of course you don't need to let me know where you've seen nest sites, though there's nothing to stop you commenting about them anyway!

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Do you have a favourite tree?

Trees are wonderful, they are beautiful to look at and they offer homes to wildlife and shade on a hot day like today.

European Tree of the Year has been running for four years now as a way of celebrating the most iconic trees across the continent.  It is a way of drawing attention to trees that have played important roles in history or that are threatened by development (you can read here about a tree that is threatened with destruction as it stands in the way of the controversial high speed railway line that would link London to the north of England).

Nominations are open to any living tree in the UK with a story to tell and any individual, group or organisation can enter a tree until midnight on Sunday 30 July. You can nominate your tree here.

From these nominations, judges will create shortlists for each nation (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland). Then the public will vote for the winners in each country. This year we will be selecting just one tree from this public vote to represent the UK in Europe in 2018.

Sadly even a winning tree is not guaranteed protection. Shockingly Sheffield City Council in Yorkshire seems to be on a mission to rid the city of trees! It is intent on removing street trees, including a beautiful avenue of lime trees and an old elm tree that is resistant to Dutch elm disease and home to rare white letter hairstreak butterflies. There is huge opposition to the council's moves, but they seem to be ploughing on regardless. You can sign a petition to save the butterfly hosting elm here

Do you have a favourite tree? Feel free to write about it in the comments section and if you're in the UK, remember to nominate it for Tree of the Year before the end of the month!

Monday 17 July 2017

Time to Count Butterflies!

The Big Butterfly Count is now underway in the UK! It's an opportunity to get outdoors and look for these beautiful insects and at the same time help conservationists assess how the butterflies are faring!

Today was a lovely day for a walk through Colinton and Craiglockart Dells for my weekly patrol of the Water of Leith there. I kept my eyes open for butterflies and saw one red admiral, two small whites and this lovely comma:

This was my first comma of the year and was very obliging in terms of allowing me to take photos.

I was also delighted to see this Myathropa florea hoverfly, click on the photo to enlarge it to see the full detail of the patterning

As many readers of this blog will know, I've been increasingly interested in hoverflies in the last couple of years and have learned to recognise several species. The Myathropa florea is one that I could recognise when I saw it today but I needed to look it up to remember it's name. However when I saw the hoverfly below I immediately rhought 'oh it's a Syrphus sp!'

I sent both photos off to the UK Hoverflies Group on Facebook only to be told that this is not a Syrphus sp, but a Epistrophe grossulariae. I've made this mistake before and have asked for expert clarification on how to tell the difference! Hoverflies are beautiful insects and many of them are relatively easy to find and identify with some degree of confidence but there's still a fair amount of room for confusion! 

Have you seen any interesting insects recently? 

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

Saturday 15 July 2017

All that glitters....

I don't wear nail varnish at all and so I was initially surprised when Crafty Green Boyfriend's Mum gave me a set of three nail varnishes that she had picked up at the end of a jumble sale. But when she told me she thought I could use them as paint, then I immediately starting thinking.....

The glitterly nail varnish has proven to be the most useful! As some readers of this blog may remember, I buy bags of unsellable and broken jewellery from local second hand shops to recreate into items to sell in my Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop. Some items are just slightly shabby and a coat of glittery nail varnish is just enough to smarten them up! Take this large ring and metallic bangle, I've no 'before' photos but this is how they look after the nail varnishing

The problem is though I'm not sure what to do with them now - I've not created anything new with them so I can't sell them as handmade, I wouldn't wear them myself and I'm not sure they're vintage so I can't sell them in my Crafty Green Magpie vintage and supplies shop..... I also have no idea how well the nail varnish will last!