Thursday 28 March 2019

First Butterfly of the year!

It's lovely to get a day off together midweek and today Crafty Green Boyfriend and I took a walk along the Union Canal.

We saw our first butterfly of the year (well strictly speaking third, the second having flown past us at great speed a fewminutes earlier and the first having fluttered by in the centre of town a few days ago!). Our first photographable butterfly then, this lovely peacock

We also saw our first photographable hoverfly of the year, I'm waiting to hear back from UK Hoverfly Facebook group to identify this species. Edited to add: confirmed as a
a female Melangyna lasiophthalma.

and this interesting looking bee, which we think is an early mining bee (waiting for confirmation on that id from Edinburgh Natural History Society).

It was a lovely sunny day and we enjoyed the masses of coltsfoot growing along the canal bank

and the masses of ivy fruit

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Crafty Green Leafy Bunting update

I blogged a few days ago about the call out from Granton Walled Garden for people to make leafy  bunting for an event at the garden.

I've been working on a piece of leaf bunting myself over the last few days and this is my completed piece, made entirely from upcycled rescued fabric, the lightweight fabric has been sewn onto a heavier fabric. It even curls up a little at the edges like a real leaf!

There's still time to make your own leaf, they need to be handed in to North Edinburgh Arts ( 15a Pennywell Court) by 26 April.

Monday 25 March 2019

The Green Imperative by Victor Papanek

The Green Imperative: Ecology and Ethics in Design and Architecture

This is a useful and insightful book for anyone interested in making design more ecofriendly and at the same time more human friendly (ie design that takes people's real needs into account instead of becoming obsessed with aesthetics for the sake of aesthetics). Papanek looks at designs for buildings and machines with an eye to using ecofriendly materials and ways of extending the lifestyle of items. He looks at designs made by various peoples across the world including a fascinating chapter on Inuit design (he spent a lot of time with Inuit people).

It's a book that fits neatly at the point between text book and creative non-fiction, being written in an engaging, accessible style and lavishly illustrated, while being creatively useful and informative. Ideal reading for anyone who designs things from architects to jewellery makers.

It feels like a very timely book.

Depressingly it was actually published in 1995 and this is the second time I've read it. Why are we so slow at doing the obvious? Why are so many new objects destructive of the environment in the way they are made, their short lifespan and the amount of waste that they produce?

The Green Imperative by Victor Papanek published by  Thames and Hudson.

Victor Papanek died in 1998 but his work lives on in the Victor Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna, which 'seeks to advance the understanding of design from the perspective of social responsibility. It supports design as an innovative and creative practice with the potential to transform societies and enhance human well-being. Inspired by Papanek and his collaborators’ critical and cross-cultural approach to design culture the Foundation furthers an inclusive and socially-informed approach to contemporary design'.

Sunday 24 March 2019

Great Crested Grebes and other Sights at Linlithgow Loch

Every year at around this time, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I visit Linlithgow Loch (a short train journey away from Edinburgh) to hopefully see great crested grebes performing their wonderful courtship dance.

In 2013 we had great luck seeing the grebes dancing in early March (see this blog post).

So how did we fare yesterday?

Well, when we arrived at the loch we were greeted by this friendly coot, showing off its feet, which are beautifully lobed (unlike the feet of ducks, geese and swans which are webbed)

Several male tufted ducks were swimming round, showing off their tufts

and fairly early on in our walk we had the first reasonably close view of a great crested grebe

but when we got to the reed bed where the grebe courtship dances mostly seem to take place we saw that the birds were already building nests! We watched this pair for a while and were quite impressed by the size of the sticks (or reeds?) that they were moving around (if you click on the photo to enlarge it you may be able to see that the grebe on the right is carrying a very long stick in its beak)

I've never seen grebes building their nests before so this was very interesting! And further round the loch we saw this pair of great crested grebes performing a half hearted courtship dance

It was also very interesting to see these small fish (sticklebacks? minnows? I don't know my fish very well)

They were swimming around quite freely but every time a bird approached the fish all dashed into the safety of the nearby reeds, which was fascinating to watch.

There were a lot of lesser celandines in bloom around the loch, including this field

And just near the end of the walk we saw lots of mole hills

signs that this little creature is busily tunnelling near the loch.

Friday 22 March 2019

Crafty Green Leafy Bunting for Granton Walled Gardens

The Friends of Granton Castle Walled Garden are inviting people to contribute fabric leaves to be used in a piece of nature inspired community bunting to be displayed at their Celebration Event at the garden on 4 May.

They're particularly interested in bunting made from upcycled materials and that somehow reflects the garden itself by for example including embroidery that references the gardens colourful history or prints of leaves that can be found in the garden. You can find out more about this project and download the template for the bunting here.

Completed leaves need to be handed in by Friday 26 April to allow time for the bunting to be strung together before the Celebration Event on 4 May.You can hand in your leaves at the front desk at North Edinburgh Arts, 15a Pennywell Court or take it along to one of the Granton Walled Garden creative events or garden open days (the first Saturday of each month from 12noon to 2pm) and hand to a member of the Granton Castle Walled Garden team.

I've started sorting my fabric stash to find some fabrics to make a leaf with.

I'm looking for fabric with leafy designs of about the right size to fit the template (basically A4) with other smaller pieces for decoration. I'll post my completed leaf once I've made it!

Granton Walled Garden is fairly well hidden in Granton, you can find a map here.

Thursday 21 March 2019

International Day of Forests

Yesterday was International Sparrow Day, World Frog Day and International Day of Happiness, today is International Day of Forests and World Poetry Day!

Woodlands and forests are wonderful habitats for a range of wildlife and offer beautiful, peaceful places for people to wander round. Even a relatively small area of woodland can bring lovely encounters with nature - today I visited Musselburgh and in the small stand of trees near the bird hides (that overlook the lagoons) - I heard my first chiffchaff of the year here as well as seeing chaffinches and goldfinches. Later in the year this area is one of the best places near Edinburgh to see speckled wood butterflies.The male willow trees were delightfully in bloom today too

I love woodlands so much that I volunteer for two woodland organisations! As a volunteer for Water of Leith Conservation Trust, I patrol the wooded Dells along the Water of Leith once a week, picking litter, recording wildlife, noting how many people are out enjoying the area and recording any pollution or vandalism. It's a beautiful place and one I always enjoy visiting.

I also volunteer for Woodland Trust, mostly as a campaigner but I've also lead guided walks round the Dells for groups of people connected with the trust.

I also write poetry inspired by trees, including Corstorphine Sycamore about one of the iconic trees of Edinburgh.

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Happy World Frog Day

Apparently it's World Frog Day today though I can't seem to find a website for it!

Many species of frogs face difficulties in the wild, including

Loss of habitat – we often build on areas where frogs live, or fill in the ponds where they breed
Pollution – chemical pollution of ponds and lakes can be a big problem
Disease – there are a couple of really worrying diseases effecting frogs and other amphibians, you can find out more here

One of the easiest ways to help frogs (if you have a garden) is to build a pond. Crafty Green Boyfriend's Mum has two frog ponds in her garden. This is the larger one and is currently home to about 12 adult frogs and a lot of spawn

You can read more about the pond and see more photos of the frogs in this post from February.

Last night just on cue, the first tadpoles appeared in the pond! So I recorded these on the Woodland Trust's Nature's Calendar website.

If you want to learn more about frogs and how you can help them, the Froglife website is a great place to start!

Today is also International Day of Happiness and seeing frogs always makes me happy!

Tuesday 19 March 2019

Moths Matter

Butterfly Conservation (the UK charity for both butterflies and moths) has just launched the Moths Matter campaign. The campaign aims to get people interested in moths, which are often overlooked next to their more well known butterfly relatives.

However moths are well worth learning about and they're not all small, dull coloured night time creatures. Many moths in fact are beautiful day flying insects. Here are just some of the moths I've seen in the past few years

 cinnabar moth, Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, June 2018

silver carpet moth (I think!), Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, June 2018

 narrow bordered 5 spot burnet moth, Musselburgh, July 2016

brimstone moth, Colinton Tunnel, Water of Leith walkway, Edinburgh, June 2013 

This is just a very small selection of moths in and around Edinburgh. but it gives a sense of the variety of patterns and colours you can find in these lovely insects.It's not just the adults either! Some moth caterpillars are very easily spotted like these cinnabar moths on Arthur's Seat in August 2016

and Caroline Gill has written a very interesting post about leaf mining moth larvae on her Wild and Wonderful blog here

The Moths Matter campaign will show how moths are important pollinators, why they are key parts of the food chain and how they are sometimes even more beautiful that butterflies.
Like butterflies, the UK’s moths are in trouble with many once common species struggling in the face of habitat loss and climate change.

Every month over the next year, the Moths Matter campaign will focus on a different theme, from spotting springtime caterpillars, planting a garden to attract night-flying visitors, to searching for Hawk-moths in hedgerows. There will be online moth quizzes and downloadable ID guides to help you get to grips with our most striking species. Blogs and video posts will help you learn more about moths and find out how Butterfly Conservation is working to protect moths across the UK.

Monday 18 March 2019

Larch Trees in Bloom again

At this time of year I always look carefully at my favourite larch tree in Craiglockart Dell along the Water of Leith (this is the larch I 'followed' for Tree Following back in 2014). The reason I look so carefully at the tree at this time of year is to see if the flowers are out yet. Last week they weren't out and the buds were barely recognisable as such. Today though I was delighted to see that several flowers are already out and I was able to capture photos of some of the flowers at an earler stage of their development than ever before!

Here is a very young larch flower

this one below is I think slightly further along

and these are at their best already

This photo below, though out of focus) gives you some idea of how many flowers are in this tree so far

As part of Tree Following in 2014 I put together this post showing the development of the larch flower into a cone, which was something that before then, I'd never noticed before. It's well worth looking very carefully at any larch trees you pass, though not all of them have this many flowers!

The larch isn't the only tree in bloom at the moment, the hornbeam catkins are at their best

As many readers of this blog know I love trees and so I am very concerned to read articles like this one (Why are all the trees gone?), about the possibility of thousands or even millions of our trees being destroyed to allow for the development of 5G mobile phone networks and to all for the roll out of self driving vehicles. For me I'd much rather have trees than extra smart mobile phones and buses that don't have drivers.

Edited to add: It's worth pointing out that the academic paper linked to from the 'Why are all the trees gone?' article (linked above) mentions masts at shorter than tree height being a problem for the 5G signal. It then goes on to suggest masts need to be much taller, it doesn't suggest cutting down the trees. Which of course doesn't mean that councils won't cut trees down for 5G. The actual paper is here  and the section about trees is section 3.1. I'm going to write to all my political representatives (councillors, MSPs, MP) to see if any of them can give clarity of the future of trees in Edinburgh once 5G is introduced. The more people contact their political representatives the more they will realise people see this as an issue.

Saturday 16 March 2019

Redwings and Willow Catkins in the Snow

It's been snowing all morning! Crafty Green Boyfriend and I braved the slush and mud along the Water of Leith Walkway up to Saughton Park.

Saughton is an old British word (from the Brythonic I think rather than Gaelic) that means willow and the pussy willows just outside the park were looking beautiful today

We were delighted to see inside the park that a flock of redwings and starlings had taken up residence on the football pitch, flying between the grass and the trees. Crafty Green Boyfriend managed to get these photos of some of the birds

The redwings will soon be returning to Scandanavia to breed. 

The snow has now turned to sleet and we're drinking coffee to warm ourselves up!

Friday 15 March 2019

Nuthatch and Kestrel on Corstorphine HIll

Today has been a day of everchanging weather. When I got on the bus to go to meet Crafty Green Boyfriend for a lunchtime walk round Corstorphine HIll it was sunny, by the time I got off the bus it was hailstoning! Luckily the sun soon came back out again and we could enjoy most of our walk under beautiful blue skies but by the time we got off the hill it was hailing again.

There were lots of birds around today including this nuthatch that was very happy to eat the mixed grains and seeds that we put down in the walls at the Rest and Be Thankful at the top of the hill path.

Nuthatches have only recently moved into Scotland from England. It's always so lovely to see them and you can quite regularly see them now on Corstorphine Hill or other wooded areas of the city.

On the other side of the hill we were delighted to see this beautiful kestrel hunting.

Thanks Crafty Green Boyfriend for the photos.

Thursday 14 March 2019

Isle of May - an illustrated talk by David Steel

David Steel is the warden of the Isle of May bird reserve in the Firth of Forth, not far from Edinburgh. Today he gave an excellent illustrated talk about the island at the National Library of Scotland as part of their excellent series of regular talks.

He talked first about some of the human history of the island, including a monastery and Scotland's oldest lighthouse, The Beacon, built in 1636 which still stands on the highest point of the island though it was replaced in 1816 by a new lighthouse.

He then talked about the island's birds, which include large numbers of breeding arctic terns, puffins, guillemots and razorbills, eider, and kittiwakes and shags. Plus one pair of manx shearwaters, which have bred on the island for a number of years despite most of their number breeding on the west coast of Scotland. David regaled us with stories about the lives of the birds including the guillemots and razorbills chicks throwing themselves over 100feet from their cliff top nests into the water to join their waiting fathers and the puffin chicks leaving home in the middle of the night and walking down the paths to the sea.

Most of these seabird species are thriving on the Isle of May (which they're not generally doing in other places around the UK and in fact across the world). Sadly though even here the kittiwakes and arctic terns aren't doing so well. The kittiwakes are struggling specifically because the sand eels that they eat are moving further down the ocean as the seawater becomes warmer. This isn't too much of a problem for diving birds such as puffins, guillemots and razorbills but is a problem for a surface feeding species such as the kittiwake.

The island is open almost daily (weather dependant) from May until 30th September, it is free to land once you pay the boat fare and you can have up to three hours exploring the island. For boat information and sailing times check out the websites shown below.

Boat Operators (you can book on line)

May Princess (sails from Anstruther):
Osprey Rib (sails from Anstruther):
Seabird Rib (sails from North Berwick):

Monday 11 March 2019

Of Apes and Poetry

A new population of orang utan was discovered in 2007 in the Batang Toru area in Sumatra and these apes were recognised as a new species in 2017 and called the Tapanuli orang utan.

So what do the authorities decide to do? Immediately declare the new species home a nature reserve? No, they decide to flood the area, home not only to the only 800 Tapanuli orang utans known to exist, but also to tigers and other rare animals. For the sake of producing electricity in an area that apparently already has an over abundance of electricity generation.

Thanks to Poetry 24 for publishing my poem about this today, which you can read here.

I've also written a letter on this topic for the Letters to the Earth project - they're accepting letters on ecological issues until 22 March so you've still got time to send something in. Letters will be read out in April as part of a large scale reading. You can find out more here.

If you want to find out more about the Tapanuli orang utan and the threats to its future, you can follow the links below:

World's rarest orang utan under threat (Guardian)

Damming Evidence (report from SOS Orang Utans)

You can find out about the SOS campaign to cancel the dam here.

Sunday 10 March 2019

Border - a film review


Tina (Eva Melander) works for the Swedish customs office, using her extremely well developed sense of smell to sniff out contraband. She has a facial disfigurement and feels like an outcast from human society. She lives in the countryside and has a very close relationship with nature, wandering barefoot round the forests, knowing when deer are about to cross the road in front of her and making friends with foxes.

One day at work, a strange man, Vore (Eero Millinoff) walks through customs, and Tina asks to inspect his bag which turns out to be full of maggots.

Tina and Vore become close and discover that they have a lot in common including a closeness to nature. Things take a turn for the worse though as Tina finds out Vore's secrets.

This is a compelling film about being an outsider bringing in Scandanavian folklore in what can be read as a commentary  on Sweden's past experiments in eugenics.

Border is showing at Filmhouse in Edinburgh until Thursday 14 March.

Friday 8 March 2019

A Walk round Corstorphine HIll and a Missing Cat

I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend today lunchtime for a walk round Corstorphine HIll. It was dull and drizzly, very muddy underfoot and quite chilly. Perfect March weather for Scotland!

The jelly ear fungi were looking wonderful

and the wild garlic is looking very green as it starts to grow through last years dead leaves

At the bus stop we were sad to see this poster

It's always sad when a cat goes missing but this is particularly sad for us as we've met Pepper (and his sister Ivy). He's a beautiful, friendly and trusting cat, often to be found wandering round Corstorphine Hill. We think someone might have 'rescued' him thinking he's lost (as we almost did when we first met him!). If you've seen him please phone 07960900965. We hope he's found soon.

My blogpost for International Women's Day is on my Shapeshifting Green blog here.

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Otter Country by Miriam Darlington


Otters have made a comeback across the UK since hunting stopped and our waterways have become clean enough for them to thrive and often outcompete the introduced American mink which severely disrupts our riverine wildlife when it gets the chance. There are otters along the Water of Leith in Edinburgh, which I've been lucky enough to see on occasion. So I was eager to read this book when I found it.

Subtitled 'In Search of the Wild Otter' this book follows Darlington around the British Isles as she looks for otters, examines the places where they live and assesses their fortunes.

Unfortunately Darlington is one of those nature writers who seems to think that her reactions to the natural world are more important than the natural world itself. The book often feels like it should be classified as memoir rather than natural history. This may be of course a reaction to the fact that very few otters turn up in the book. They're elusive creatures and in fact their absence in the book needn't be a problem, after all Peter Matthiessen didn't encounter a snow leopard at all in his masterpiece The Snow Leopard. It's just that I feel I've seen more otters in the wild than Darlington has.....

It is a beautifully written book, without becoming self conciously overly poetic as can sometimes seem to be the fashion in nature writing. There are also some wonderful insights into otter life:

'Ash trees are most popular with otters because their roots form a complicated system of shelter below ground, and are often right by or even overhanging the water, so that the otter can slip subtly in or out. An otter may also sleep on a rocky ledgeor tucked away in the reeds. To enter the water they prefer to use points where there is cover - branches or undergrowth - to increase stealth and invisibility.They are good climbers and will sometimes climb up into the hidden shelter of a pollarded willow to sleep. During the day, people, dogs or cattle may walk past unaware that an otter is curled up right above their heads, fast asleep.'

Otter Country by Miriam Darlington, illustrated by Kelly Dyson published by Granta Books (2012)

Tuesday 5 March 2019

The Making of a Beaded Lanyard

I often post my finished beaded lanyards on this blog as I post them in my Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop. I thought it might be interesting to share more about how I transform broken jewellery into these lanyards (without giving away any secrets and, please note, this isn't a tutorial!). Here is a necklace that came in a stash from a friend

It's very very long and some of the beads are broken

so I removed the broken beads

 and refashioned the remaining beads into two lanyards using lanyard attachments from old lanyards from an office that's rebranding and getting rid of its old lanyards

which are slightly different to each other and which can now be found in the Crafty Green Etsy shop - here and here.