Saturday 30 September 2017

Autumn Sunshine by the Loch

We had a lovely trip to Dr Neil's Garden today. It was the first time we had visited this year! It's a lovely garden hidden away beyond the church garden in Duddingston Village. To get there you first go through the church garden, which has lovely views over Duddingston Loch across to Bawsinch Nature Reserve.

We then walked into Dr Neil's Garden, which is a lovely place, full of trees like this weeping willow

 and with great views of Duddingston Loch
 and Arthur's Seat
 There are quite a few birds on this part of the loch
including several little grebes (dabchicks)

There were some wasps and bees around, including this sleepy looking queen bumblebee

Yew trees have traditionally been planted in churchyards to ward off evil spirits and they look lovely at this time of the year (but remember, they're poisonous!).

After lunch in Duddingston Village, we walked along the road between the loch and Arthur's Seat back into town. We were absolutely delighted to see this otter,who swam around hunting for a while

and it was nice to see that the mute swan family had successfully raised four cygnets

The clouds started to roll in as we walked past Arthur's Seat

and it was raining by the time we got home!

Friday 29 September 2017

buzzard on Corstorphine HIll

buzzard rises
into the blue sky -
crows give chase 

Corstorphine Hill, this lunchtime

and thanks to Literary Corstorphine for including me in this article about local poets.

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Stars for National Poetry Day

It's National Poetry Day in the UK tomorrow! Here I'm reposting a poem I first posted for National Poetry Day 2012. It was first published in the Ghazal Pages Astronomy Issue.I haven't written any ghazals lately so this is partly a reminder to myself that I should write more of them!


Starry Skies

This woodland clearing dances with bright stars
the sky above full of glistening stars.

The city night glowing strangely orange
no room found now for the twinkling stars.

Sparks rise from the bonfire into the sky
to find their place with the glittering stars.

Trees in the park are draped with fairy lights
that mirror the sky full of shining stars.

Gazing at the astronomy photo
the poet is lost in inspiring stars. 

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

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Happy Red Squirrel Week

red squirrel in Dumfrie-shire, taken by Crafty Green Boyfriend. This squirrel isn't typical as it has lost half of one of its ears

Red squirrels the slim, cute squirrels beloved of Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin andother stories have long been out-competed by the heavier grey squirrels that were originally introduced from the USA. The grey squirrels threaten the reds through outcompeting them and also be passing on a squirrel pox disease that affects the reds badly but that the greys are immune to.

In many parts of Scotland, the red squirrels still hold their own, but in Edinburgh we only have grey squirrels. In the absence of reds, the greys are appealing animals to have in parks and gardens, though they can be a menace eating all the seed from birdfeeders.

However in areas where there are both red and grey squirrels conservation measures are in place (or being put in place) to conserve the native reds and keep out the greys. These may include establishing buffer areas around the  red squirrel strongholds with control of grey squirrels, ongoing monitoring, helping landowners to improve habitat for squirrels, involving local schools and communities and using forest planning to maximise the value of forests for squirrels. Also the recovery of the pine martin (a woodland predator related to stoats) can help red squirrels to recover in number as the larger grey squirrel can't run away from the pine martin quickly enough and is more likely to be eaten than the speedier reds!

There's a really interesting article (with some very cute photos!) about red squirrels on the BBC website here

The Wildlife Trusts hold Red Squirrel Week every year to raise awareness of the lovely red squirrel. You can find out more here.

Monday 25 September 2017

Recycling - It's Worth It! National Recycle Week

25th September – 1st October is Recycle Week as run by Recycle Now.

This year’s theme ‘Recycling – It’s Worth It’, aims to demonstrate the benefits of recycling all kinds of  items by showing what can happen to the things after you've put them in the recycling!

If you've ever wondered what happens to your recycling then you can find out more here.

You can find a very helpful guide on what to do with unwanted items here. The tips include not only how to recycle items (in the UK) but how you can re-use them to extend their lives and tips on what sort of thigs are suitable to donate to second hand shops.

Meanwhile  you can read here about how to reduce waste.

And here is a list of events happening round the UK.

Do you have any top tips on recycling? Feel free to share them in the comments section!

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

Saturday 23 September 2017

The kingfisher wasn't so keen to stop for a photo .....

We had a lovelywalk round Blackford Pond and the Hermitage of Braid this morning. The mute swans were happy to be photographed, the kingfisher less so....... It's the first time we've ever seen a kingfisher at Blackford Pond!

Lots of fungi about too, including this lovely display

Friday 22 September 2017

The Little Ice Age by Brian Fagan

 The Little Ice Age by Brian M. Fagan

Subtitled 'How Climate Made History 1300 - 1850', this book charts how the mostly cold and often unpredictable climate affected human history, particularly in Europe, over the period often known as the Little Ice Age. Covering events including The French Revolution, The Bubonic Plagues and the Irish Potato Famine, the author outlines how years of cold and wet springs and summers made harvests more unreliable and how the resulting food shortages affected people's lives.

It is interesting to see how much the climate changed over these years and how incredibly unpredictable it often was, a good year might be followed by several poor years and then by a relatively stable period of a few years. It makes you realise that the changeability of the current climate is historically normal - the climate has always changed. However, it is very clear, just by looking at some of the graphs alone, that the current rising temeratures and extreme weather events (think Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria) are well beyond normal and to large extent are a result of human activities.

It's a fascinating book and an important one for understanding our climate:

"..we can be certain that such minor 'ice ages' occured many times earlier in the Holocene, even if we still lack the tools to identify them. We would logically expect another such episode to descend on earth in the natural, and cyclical, order of climate change, were it not for increasingly compelling evidence that humans have altered the climatic equation irrevocably through their promiscuous use of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution. We may be in the process of creating an entirely new era in global climate, which makes an understanding of the Little Ice Age a scientific priority."

The Little Ice Age by Brian Fagan published by Basic Books.  

Updated to add: If you're interested in this topic, you may be interested in this article by Dagomar Degroot on the Aeon website

Thursday 21 September 2017

Beach Lovers Come Forth!

This afternoon, after a writing class at the Ripple Project, a couple of us went along to Bijou Bistro, a local cafe to take part in an Edinburgh Shoreline community interview, run by Streamline Research. We were given free tea and coffee and scones with locally made jam and asked lots of questions about our hopes and visions for the future of the Edinburgh shoreline from South Queensferry to Portobello. We talked about our hopes for nature conservation, renewable energy, natural flood defences and a future free from heavy industry and fossil fuel extraction. We also talked about the potential of the shore and the communities along its length to be places for recreation, entertainment and community cohesiveness. It was a very interesting interview (and the refreshments were great too!).

Streamline are looking for more people to take part, so if you live or work in the coastal communities of Edinburgh (South Queensferry, Dalmeny, Cramond, Silverknowes, Granton, Newhaven, Leith, Craigentinny or Portobello) and are interested in the future of the shore, then contact them to find out more!

Update on the Swift Survey


As some of you may remember I took part in this year's swift survey, carried out in Edinburgh by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). These lovely birds have been declining drastically over the last few years and the survey is part of a programme to determine how we can help swifts recover in Edinburgh. You can read my earlier posts about the survey here, here and here.

Last night, the RSPB held a follow up event, where they shared some of the results from the survey and laid out plans for what might happen next. Not everyone who signed up for the survey has yet returned their results so the discussions were based on incomplete data. Twenty seven screaming parties of swifts were seen across Edinburgh (screaming parties are groups of swifts that gather together to fly low over the roofs, usually near their nest sites and are a good indication of breeding colonies.)

Nine nest sites were identified in total (including one that Crafty Green Boyfriend and I found very close to our own flat!). This may not sound like many, but swifts prefer to live in the backgreens behind buildings and so often their nests are only seen by the people who live round that backgreen, as you can only generally access the backgreens through the buildings. We were actually delighted to indentify our nest site, as we had always thought that all our local swifts nested in the backgreen across the road (apart from one pair that nested in our own backgreen).

In the future, the RSPB will carry out more detailed surveys of the areas where they now know that swifts currently nest. They will also work with the local council to ensure as many swift bricks (nest boxes that can be built into a building during construction) are fitted to new build homes and offices. They also hope that Edinburgh can become a future swift city (following on from the model of Oxford).

It was great to catch up on the progress of the project and it was also a very sociable evening and a chance to chat about my favourite bird with other people who share my interest!

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Sea Pottery Jewellery in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop

I've been recently going through my collection of sea pottery and choosing pieces to make brooches! The back of the pottery shard needs to be flat enough and big enough to be able to fit a metal brooch clasp on it, but other than that I'm looking for nice, striking looking shards. These are some of the brooches I've made recently

I've added them to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop where they sit alongside my sea pottery rings in a new Sea Pottery Jewellery section of the shop!

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to new web pages where you can find out more.

Tuesday 19 September 2017

White Rhino, Matobo

to deter poachers
it was magnificent

as odd and ancient
as the primeval rocks
of the Matobo.

Wide mouthed and grey white
it watched us
as we watched it

through lenses
taking photos that fade
with the years

as the rhinos
become memories.

First posted for World Rhino Day 2012. World Rhino Day happens every year on 22 September.   

You can read about the work of the World Wildlife Fund to help rhinos here

* rhinos have sometimes had their horns surgically removed to deter poachers. However, this is a stressful operation for the rhinos and not necessarily effective as poachers will kill rhinos for very small amounts of horn, particularly as the animals become rarer and rarer.  

As ever, red text contains hyper-links that take you to other websites where you can find out more.

Monday 18 September 2017

Hiding Snails and Oak Galls

It was a bank holiday here today so Crafty Green Boyfriend joined me for my walk along the Water of Leith in Colinton andCraiglockart Dells. It wasa lovely autumnal morning, with the leaves starting to turn

 We were fascinated by the oak trees, some of which had oak apples (a type of gall caused by a parasite)

and some had this different type of gall

and this tree also had leaf scale insects on the underside of the leaves, it looks like quite a bad infestation

Meanwhile, we noticed lots of snails hiding away, in bindweed flowers 

and under raspberry leaves

and there were quite a few hoverflies around, including this footballer hoverfly (also known as a sun fly)

Saturday 16 September 2017

Acorns and a lovely surprise on Corstorphine HIll

As I often do on a Friday, I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for a wander round Corstorphine Hill yesterday lunchtime.

The acorns are looking lovely on the oak trees just now

but the most wonderful thing was to see two spotted flycatchers! These birds are really declining in the UK and are very rarely seen in Edinburgh. We knew that they had been seen on Corstorphine Hill in the past, but didn't think they were still around. We don't know whether these birds had been on the hill all summer and we'd just missed them (but their behaviour is so distinctive that it seems unlikely that we would overlook them all summer) or whether they were just passing through on their migration to warmer climates. It was lovely to see them flying from their perches and back again, though like Thursday's bats they were too speedy and slightly too far away to get photos of them. There were lots of other birds around too, but the spotted flycatchers were definitely the stars of the show!

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

Friday 15 September 2017

Bats in the Park

Yesterday evening, Crafty Green Boyfriend, his brother and their mother joined over 100 other people in Harrison Park for a bat walk! Luckily the weather was lovely, a warm evening with not too much wind.

Organised by Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust, the evening started with a talk about bats from Graeme Wilson from The Wildlife Information Centre. As dusk deepened, the bat detectors were handed out and we wandered round the park to find bats!

There were actually quite a few bats around, mostly soprano pipistrelles, but they were impossible to catch on camera as they're so small and move so fast!

So we quickly gave up on the photos and just enjoyed watching the bats flying round between  the trees and listening to them via the bat detectors. A bat detector makes bats' high pitched echolocation calls audible to humans - and because different bat species hunt different prey and are different sizes, they make different calls which can help identify them.

It was great to see so many children enjoying the event, some of them had dressed up as batman or batwoman or were wearing bat masks. Some of them also knew quite a lot about bats, as they demonstrated during Graeme's interactive talk!

Thursday 14 September 2017

Wednesday 13 September 2017

The Great British Beach Clean

Marine wildlife is under threat from the waste and litter that finds its way into our seas - every year hundreds of birds, turtles and marine mammals accidentally eat or become entangled in litter. This article from Oceana  describes how baby albatrosses suffer from a diet of plastic trash while this article from the BBC offers an overview of the plastic pollution issue.This video from ITV Anglia gives a sobering idea of the amount of plastic that finds its way into the oceans.

We can all play a part in turning the tide on marine litter!

Every year, the Marine Conservation Society organises the Great British Beach Clean. This year it takes part between the 15 - 18 September. You can find out more here and find your local event here.

This year, for the first time, many of the plastics collected at clean up events will be sorted and recycled, giving them a second life as new products. Rigid plastic and cigarette stubs that are collected will be made into shampoo bottles and advertising boards with TerraCycle.

It's also important to avoid waste and litter reaching the sea in the first place! Don't flush anything other than human waste and toilet paper down the drains! In Edinburgh, you can (as I do)  volunteer with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust to (among other things) collect litter from the river and walkway to prevent it reaching the sea.

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

Tuesday 12 September 2017

An Autumn of Butterflies!

Butterfly Conservation have been saying for weeks that we might be in for a great autumn for butterflies, following a mediocre summer (though when we were in Dumfries and Galloway recently we saw more butterflies than we've ever seen anywhere ever, see for example this post).

Earlier this month, Butterfly Conservation said, and I quote from this article: 'We may be poised for an impressive autumnal emergence of species such as Comma, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood in the coming weeks'. 

Well yesterday I was lucky to get very close views of a red admiral in Spylaw Park and today it was the turn of the speckled woods. There were at least four of these lovely butterflies flying around the trees alongside Musselburgh Lagoons, though there may have been six altogether, chasing each other. Only two agreed to be photographed

So all I need now are the commas, which have been remarkably elusive all this year, despite moving into Scotland from further south over the past few years.

Monday 11 September 2017

Red Admirals, Earth Stars and a Wood Mouse too shy to be photographed

Knowing how terrible the weather is in some places at the moment, I was particularly keen to make the most of today's glorious weather here in Edinburgh. I made my weekly patrol of the Dells along the Water of Leith today.

A beautiful moon hung in the wonderful blue sky

nearby a grey heron was resting in a tree (I know herons nest in trees, but they always look somehow wrong standing in among the branches like this...)

There were earth stars everywhere - these lovely looking fungi seem to be spreading across Edinburgh

Also spiders webs everywhere, this conifer bush in Colinton Village particularly caught my eye

while the wildflower meadow in Spylaw Park still looks stunning in the sunshine

and is still attracting reasonable numbers of bees and hoverflies and this lovely red admiral which was happy to pose for photos

I also saw a tiny wood mouse, that ran under a plant and stayed there shivering, it looked a little ill and I didn't want to disturb it by taking a photo.

Sunday 10 September 2017

Late Summer in the Park

Yesterday we visited Figgate Park, which is well known for its wildflower meadows and views of Arthur's Seat

and it's pond, which used to be a great place to see unusual ducks - including shoveler and gadwall (see this post) and a mandarin (see this post). Yesterday the pond was almost empty apart from these mallards

and moorhens, including this youngster, which was making a lot of noise

Though we did for the first time ever in the park, see a dragonfly!

There were plenty of birds in the trees, including this pair of stock doves, which looked to be nest building - taking sticks into this hole in the tree (some species of pigeons and doves can nest at any time of year). Sorry the light isn't very good in the photo, but you can click on it for a better view

The pollinators were enjoying the late summer flowers and the sunshine, like this footballer hoverfly (Helophilus sp)

this Syrphus sp hoverfly

and this common carder bee

and this speckled wood butterfly (iy may be tricky to spot, but you can click on the photo for a closer view)

The wildflowers are at their best just now, so it's a great time to visit

and the rowan berries are ripening beautifully, promising a wonderful autumn for the birds that like to eat them