Friday 31 May 2019

Creag Meagaidh

Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve covers nearly 4,000 hectares in the districts of Badenoch and Strathspey and Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands. Creag Meagaidh itself is a complex massif, with numerous mountain tops. An extensive high summit plateau is edged by a dramatic series of ice-carved corries and gullies.

Crafty Green Boyfriend and I visited this beautiful place on our first full day of our Highland holiday. The reserve starts in relatively low land with highland cattle

and pretty wooded trails

We walked up very steep slopes (thankfully there's a bench strategically placed midway up the steepest slope)

the walk has some stunning views across the mountains

and the path leads into a wonderful landscape

where the natural forests are regenerating after deer numbers have been controlled.

The lichens round here are wonderful

and we saw green tiger beetle

and burying beetle

and a hoverfly (Sericomyia silentis - sometimes known as the bog hoverfly, though other species are known by that English name too)

and a few other insects, though in general we hoped to see more insects than we did.

We didn't scale any of the peaks but just enjoyed the beautiful scenery and nature. On the way back down we took time to site and watch the siskins and redpolls at the bird feeder

it was interesting to watch the interactions between the two species, they always seem to me to be very similar birds except for the colour scheme (siskin being quite yellow and redpoll being quite pink with a red head) but these redpolls seemed quite aggressive to the siskins.

Thursday 30 May 2019

Spean Bridge and Killiechonate Woods

We've just returned from a wonderful trip up into the Scottish Highlands where we were surrounded by mountains, waterfalls and bluebells and a good few species of birds and insects (though missing out on some of the inconic species of the area and disappointed and saddened by how many insects there were overall. So many shrubs and herbs in bloom and so few bees.....

As someone who gets vertigo I always like this quote from the poet Nan Shepherd “to aim for the highest point is not the only way to climb a mountain” which is my philosphy entirely.

We stayed in Spean Bridge, a village in the Great Glen. It is famous for being the place where commandos trained for World War 2 and features a Commando museum and memorial. It is also home to Highland Soap Company which stock a lovely range of locally made organic soaps and toiletries.

Spean Bridge is also the centre of a lovely network of paths through the Killiechonate Woods which provided us with beautiful walks every evening of our stay. Here are some views of the woodlands

On our last walk in these woods, we came across these dung beetles - the photos aren't great but it was fascinating to watch them....

 So Spean Bridge is a great centre for a holiday in the Great Glen. I'll post photos of our days trips over the next couple of days.

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Interpreting the Waggle Dance

 tree bumble bee

An old beekeeper told me
about the Waggle Dance -
the shaking and stepping moves
bees make to map out
where honey can be found.

dance longer - the honey is further
dance head up - fly towards the sun

The old beekeeper told me
different species of bees
can learn each others dances
but, he said
they're all getting tired

as each year they need to dance for longer.

An old poem originally posted in June 2008 for the Storytelling theme for the now defunct Read Write Poem. 

Reposted now as it was recently World Bee Day.

Find out more about the UK's bees at the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust

Meanwhile over on my Shapeshifting Green blog I've also reposted an old poem, you can read it here.  

I've illustrated the poem with a tree bumble bee as I don't have any good recent photos of honey bees, but bumble bees also do a form of waggle dance 

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Beacons - stories for our not so distant future

 Beacons by Gregory Norminton

Edited by Gregory Normington this is a collection of short stories about possible futures, focussing, unsurprisingly on worlds changed and challenged by climate change. Contributors include Joanne Harris, Janice Galloway and A L Kennedy and there is a good variety in the stories, though I did find the overall mood to be depressing, despite Normington's claim in his introduction that this wouldn't be the case.

The stories cover topics including floating housing, life on other planets and the weather. Most of them are written in conventional short story format, though a few break free of this. One is The Possession of Lachlan Lubanach by Nick Hates which is in the form of a comic strip, What is Left to See? by James Miller, which is written largely in the form of online chat, full of hashtags etc. The other is my favourite piece The Great Consumer by Adam Marek which is in the form of a script featuring various well known travellers between dimensions in conversation. So we have the Doctor from Doctor Who, Ted from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Marty from Back to the Future, Neo from the Matrix and Randall who I'm guessing is from Randall and Hopkirk deceased though I'm not convinced on this. The dialogue is very entertaining, specially if you know the character (and may be less so if you don't know the characters), I particularly liked this exchange:

TED: Most excellent time machine, dude.

DOCTOR: Thanks, I like yours too. Very .....compact. Is it bigger on the inside?

TED: Unfortunately not. It can be most impractical for transporting personages of historical significance. 

Can these time travellers prevent runaway climate change?

This is a thought provoking collection of stories for contemplating our possible responses to climate change. All author royalties from the publication go to Stop Climate Chaos Coalition.

Beacons edited by Gregory Normington published by One World Publications (2013).

Monday 20 May 2019

Bee Happy - It's World Bee Day

20 May has been designated by the United Nations as World Bee Day, a day to celebrate the wonderful creatures that bees are and the contribution they make to our lives through pollinating food plants and to draw attention to the problems they face.

20 May was chosen for World Bee Day as it coincides with the birthday of Anton Janša, who in the 18th century pioneered modern beekeeping techniques in his native Slovenia and praised the bees for their ability to work so hard, while needing so little attention.

Today has been dull and humid, not the best weather for seeing bees but this patch of shrubbery in Gardners Crescent Gardens did, on closer inspection reveal quite a few bees

The bees were trying their best to keep close to the vegetation and were really tricky to take photos of, but here's an early bumblebee

 and moving closer in you can see the bands of orange and yellow on this species
 there were several tree bumblebees too, a new species to the UK, but not an invasive

These are both very handsome species as well as doing their bit to pollinate wild and garden flowers.
There were also some common carder bees too, but I wasn't able to catch them on camera today.

Have you seen any bees today?

You can find links to some useful resources for World Bee Day here and advice on how to help bees in Scotland from Scottish Wildlife Trust here.

Friday 17 May 2019

New Series of Walks

Today I was walking around the Stockbridge area of Edinburgh looking for routes to use in a forthcoming series of walks I'm going to run for the Outlook Project (City of Edinburgh's adult education project for people with mental health problems).

The walks will be a series of nature walks intended to inspire people to write about nature. All will set out from Stockbridge Library which limits possibilities! However I have got four routes in mind and today was really to get an idea for timings.

The library is located very close to the Water of Leith


so that makes for two very easy walks - one upriver and one down river. The library is also closer than I expected to Inverleith Park and the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens so that's two more walks.

How far we walk depends on the weather and everyone's inclinations, but there will probably also be the opportunity to just sit and observe before writing, as I did for a while in Invereith Park

 There will certainly be plenty to see to inspire writing including birds like this nesting mute swan

and details such as these lichens

The Outlook Project courses are only open to people who are signed up to Outlook (I think you need to be referred) and currently there isn't a webpage devoted to the project.

Thursday 16 May 2019

Finding Green Hairstreak Butterflies in the Pentlands

The beautiful weather continued today, perfect for finding butterflies. Crafty Green Boyfriend and I had both signed up for a day surveying the green hairstreak butterfly in the Bonaly area of the Pentland Hills Regional Park.

It's a beautiful area to walk round with some lovely gentle walks as well as the higher hills

We joined a small group of people surveying a relatively small area to find green hairstreaks, which are not found in many areas around Edinburgh. This area of Bonaly is one of the local strongholds for the species and we were told we hoped to find 20 here.

The first half of our survey area, where in fact more hairstreaks were expected to be found, only held four which was disappointing.

But then we moved into the second area, where lots of blaeberry (the green hairstreak's favourite food)

 grew in a valley bounded by rocky hills.

We spread out across the valley

and were delighted to see between everyone in the group at least 23 individuals (allowing for double counting) and in fact there were probably more than that as Crafty Green Boyfriend and I saw three or four more when we continued walking a short way to the reservoir after the survey was over.

Here are some of the photos I took of these delightful little (and they really are very little!) butterflies

We were particularly pleased to see these two doing their bit to ensure a new generation of green hairstreaks

We were also delighted to see several small copper butterflies

So it was a very successful survey and a lovely way to spend an afternoon. You can find out about and book places on forthcoming events in the Pentland Hills Park here.

After the survey we walked back into Bonaly to catch the bus and stopped off here

to see the alpacas

for Nature Notes.

Wednesday 15 May 2019

Do You Have a Favourite Tree?

Like many people I love walking through the woods and seeing trees and the insects, birds and mammals that live in and around them. It would however be very difficult to choose a favourite, so many of them are so special for different reasons.

But choosing a favourite tree is what the Woodland Trust is currently asking us to do!

It's time to nominate your favourite tree for the Tree of the Year contest.

Your favourite tree may be the most beautiful tree in your local area or the oldest inhabitant of your hometown, a founding figure in your region’s identity, a natural monument in the nation’s story or a tree that is under a particular threat from development.

Nominations are open to any living tree in the UK that has a story to tell. Anyone can nominate a tree and the contest closes on 19 July, so time to get your thinking cap on!

You can find out more and nominate a tree here

Here are just a few of my favourite trees in Edinburgh

 Craiglockart Dell 

Midmar Paddock

Dalkeith Country Park 

Do you have a favourite tree?