Thursday 31 October 2019

Harrison Park and Union Canal

We live very close to Harrison Park and the canal is just the other side of the park, which offers a pretty route avoiding the roads. As a pedestrian you need to be careful of the cyclists (some of whom speed along at great speed and many of which haven't yet worked out how to use the bells on their bikes) but generally it's a lovely walk. The autumn colours are beautiful along there just now

The ivy is in bloom too, which often attracts late pollinators at this time of year

but despite the sunshine we saw only one bumble bee and no hoverflies at all, though there were several common wasps (which had probably eaten all the hoverflies weeks ago).

Wednesday 30 October 2019

A Tale of Two Gardens in Princes Street

East Princes Street Gardens is currently covered in scaffolding and other monstrosities as it becomes a unsightly Xmas market - see this post from a few days ago for photos, I can't face visiting again at the moment and I know from Twitter that it all looks far worse now. There is nothing wrong with a Christmas market in principle and in fact years ago I used to enjoy evening trips to the Edinburgh Christmas market when it was small and cosy and sold mulled wine in reusable mugs. However this one is just too big and the extra stalls will probably all be selling the same as the existing stalls. I recently read that the stalls selling Scottish crafts (which were the most interesting part of the Market) will no longer be there at all. The other problem is of course that part of Edinburgh's only city centre park is being covered over with unsightly construction works that will then become a group of sheds. Meaning that we can't enjoy it as an open green space and probably having a knock on effect on the landscaping, trees, plants and wildlife.

Shockingly there is no planning permission for this! Underbelly (the private entertainments company that seems to be taking over Edinburgh) were told they needed to apply for permission but never did. However, even after significant public outcry, the council has just said that Underbelly can go ahead anyway without planning permission. Which also means without insurance, without Health and Safety arrangements, without licensing agreements for the food and drink stalls and probably without a whole load of other necessary stuff. What's going to happen if part of the construction collapses during the Xmas market? Are the police going to turn a blind eye to the fact that some of the stalls in the market will be operating illegally? 

If you live or work in Edinburgh, please consider:

sharing your thoughts and images of this 'preparation for Xmas' on social media
contacting your local councillors directly, not just on social media, phone them, email them, write them an old fashioned letter, attend their surgeries in their office (You can find the contact details of your local councillors here);
contacting Edinburgh's Xmas and Underbelly,
contacting National Galleries of Scotland (who own part of this area).

Edinburgh Council will be embarking on a full consultation on what they should do for the winter festivals in future years. So if you live or work in Edinburgh, keep an eye out for the consultation and make sure you respond. 

West Princes Street Gardens has its own share of problems since being effectively taken over by The Quaich Project (a company that is going to replace the existing bandstand with a contemporary events venue). I blogged in the summer about the issues around West Princes Street Gardens being shut to the public while private ticketed events take place at the bandstand, with the knock on effect that has on pedestrian, at least for the moment, is open to people to walk through (and Oktoberfest seems as though it will only take up a small area of the park). The park is also closed over Christmas in the run up to preparing for Edinburgh's ever expanding Hogmanay, which is very disappointing for those of us who used to enjoy a Christmas Day walk through the gardens. 

The Quaich project are consulting on the future of West Princes Street Gardens. The consultation runs from 4 November to 1 December and you can find out more here.

Today however was a day when the gardens were open and it was nice to see lots of people enjoying the sunshine. Lovely autumnal trees and iconic views of Edinburgh castle too.

 We should be able to enjoy our city centre green spaces every day.

Tuesday 29 October 2019

Ladybirds starting to Hibernate!

For a few years now I've always kept an eye out for orange ladybirds gathering on fence posts in Colinton Dell to overwinter together. You can see some of the earliest photos in this blog post.

Today I noticed the first orange ladybirds of the season gathering

and a ladybird larva (I think this is also an orange ladybird)

It will be interesting to see how many orange ladybirds in total gather on these and other fenceposts in the area over the winter. It will also be interesting to see whether they are joined by any other of the several species of ladybirds that are found in this country!

The autumn colours continue to be beautiful

and it continues to be a good year for fungi, this is a new crop of fungi I haven't noticed before, again I've not yet identified it, though I intend to to so

Autumnwatch starts on the BBC tonight!

Monday 28 October 2019

A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson

Dave Goulson has been obsessed with wildlife since his childhood dabbling in taxidermy. He is now a well respected academic with research interests in bumblebees and founder member of the charity the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

This book covers a lot of ground about UK bumblebees but is centred on the author's attempts to bring the short haired bumblebee back to the UK. This bumblebee was once found across the south of England but dwindled until it was only surviving in Kent. It became extinct in the UK in 1988 and the only descendents of those Kent bees are now found in the wilds of New Zealand, where a few queen bees were shipped over in the nineteenth century. The story of the attempted reintroduction of this species into the UK is a catalogue of scientific and practical problems but has had a positive impact on the amount of wildflower meadowland and the populations of a number of scarce bee species in the area  (you can read about the project here).

The book also covers a history of the human relationship with bumblebees, the biology and ecology of these fascinating insects and how we can help conserve them. A chapter is devoted to the author's recreation of wildflower meadows on an arable farm in France and another is devoted to bumblebee sniffer dogs, recruited to find bumblebee nests so that they can be studied and conserved. 

This is a fascinating book for anyone interested in insect ecology. It is full of interesting scientific facts but written in a very accessible and often humourous style. You may well look more closely at the next bumblebees you see! 

A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson published by Johnathan Cape (2013) 

Friday 25 October 2019

Children of the Sea (film review)


I'm not normally a big fan of anime films, I find they tend to be overlong for the story they're telling and lacking substance. However, Children of the Sea (which screened last night as part of Scotland Loves Anime) appealed to me because of its story about ocean ecology.

When Ruka was younger, she saw a ghost in the water at the aquarium where her father works. As a teenager escaping from problems at school, she feels drawn back to the aquarium and Umi and Sora, brothers who were raised by dugongs.

The three teenagers feel a connection to strange phenomena that have been affecting the world's marine life, including a comet falling into the sea and ocean animals gathering in Japan. They meet marine biologists and get caught up in some sort of sea festival. There isn't any real storyline about saving the oceans, though there is a fair bit of talk about how the oceans are connected to outer space in a sort of Gaia type awareness.

So in some senses I would say that this film for me, is overlong for the story it's telling and lacking in real substance. On the other hand it is an incredibly beautiful film, the latter 20 minutes or so particularly which take us on a voyage through oceans and galaxies. Just sit back and enjoy the most beautiful animated images ever seen.

Children of the Sea screened as part of the Scotland Loves Anime festival at Edinburgh Filmhouse.

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Autumn Colours and a Mural

Craiglockart and Colinton Dells are looking beautifully autumnal at the moment

and it continues to be a wonderful year for fungi

I have to admit I haven't looked these ones up yet so i can't give them names!

I was delighted to see further additions to the mural that is slowly covering the walls of the Colinton Tunnel (once a railway tunnel, now part of the Water of Leith Walkway), there are so many characters in this scene,

 I particularly like the rabbit sitting neat the front of the train

ou can find out more about the Colinton Tunnel Project here.

Tuesday 22 October 2019

What are our City's Parks for?

To most of us, the answers to this question are many but clear- our city's green spaces are places where people can relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature and where nature itself can have a chance to thrive.

However Edinburgh City Council seems not to grasp these basic ideas.

I've blogged about the commercial takeover of West Princes Street Gardens previously in March 2018, December 2018 and August 2019. This part of the gardens is regularly closed to the public so that private ticketed events can be held.

Meanwhile in East Princes Street Gardens there was a furore recently when over 50 mature trees were destroyed to make way for a gentler slope to allow disabled access to the National Galleries of Scotland. Now disabled access is obviously very important but it seems very unlikely that all those trees needed to be killed to make a disabled access possible. And the trees that have been planted now the access is completed are feeble things and seem to be dying.

This is how East Princes Street looks today

Now I may be wrong, but one first impression is, er what's happened to the much heralded disabled access? It seems to go down into the gardens from Princes Street, but it looks as though the scaffolding has been built over the path that tkaes wheelchairs to the galleries. But I may be missing something.

What is the scaffolding for anyway, you may ask? It's so that the council can extend Edinburgh's Xmas Market! In this day and age of increasing environmental awareness, you would think that the council in charge of a capital city would know better than to build a tacky temporary structure over it's best known green space. But this is Edinburgh we're talking about. I haven't visited Edinburgh Xmas Market for a couple of years since they made the bizarre decision to no longer allow the stalls to sell hot drinks in reusable mugs. And for years before that the only reason I ever visited was to get a delicious Ameretto Hot Chocolate in a good sturdy German mug that I then returned to the stall to be washed and reused. To my eyes all the stalls have sold the same selection of stuff every year since the beginning of Christmas markets. It seems incredibly unlikely that the extended market is going to be offering anything other than more of the same, and even if it was going to be offering a wonderful array of artisanal Scottish products it wouldn't be worth damaging the gardens in this way.

If you live or work in Edinburgh, please consider:

sharing your thoughts and images of this 'preparation for Xmas' on social media
contacting your local councillors directly, not just on social media, phone them, email them, write them an old fashioned letter, attend their surgeries in their office (You can find the contact details of your local councillors here);
contacting Edinburgh's Xmas;
contacting National Galleries of Scotland (who own part of this area).

I have already had one reply from onwe of my councillors who says:

[Edinburgh Council are] embarking on a full consultation on what we should be doing for the winter festivals in future years. The present contract comes to an end in two years and it seems to me that this is the time to ask Edinburgh residents if what is happening just now is what they want. Your views are clear I will make sure that they are passed on but I would urge you also to keep an eye out for the consultation.

Monday 21 October 2019

Towards a Dictionary of Archaic Terms 2100AD

rainforest (n) dense forest found in tropical areas of heavy rainfall.
(New Collins Concise English Dictionary 1982)

Dense is easy – thick and heavy.

Forest? - even the oldest of us here admit
we struggle to remember expanses of trees
(rare tall, woody plants, once common).

Tropical then was the small area
hot as everywhere is now.

Heavy rainfall? – we who barely know rain
can only dream of heavy.

Remaining documents of forests
contain solidly green photos, strange names
and archaic terms we no longer understand:

We have a long task ahead.


Originally posted in March 2007 for the now defunct Poetry Thursday. 

This poem was translated into Spanish by Eugenia Andino, you can read the translation here.

I'm delighted to have a poem in the 2nd issue of the Manchester based Re-side. You can read the publication here

Sunday 20 October 2019

The Nature of Autumn by Jim Crumley


Jim Crumley is a prolific author of natural history books (you can read my review of The Nature of Winter here).

This book is a meditation on what autumn means to the author, it doesn't try to give an overview of autumn or look in any detail about the specific events of autumn in the UK. Rather Crumley spends September to November taking the reader round the hills, lochs and coasts of Scotland and observing nature.

There are some wonderful pieces of description here. He recounts with detail wildlife encounters such as an encounter with a hunting sparrowhawk; a moment when he was surrounded by a flock of long tailed tits, and an entertaining argument between a herring gull and two ravens over a piece of fish:

'one of (the ravens) moved towards the gulls tail in a series of small, sideways hops, a few furtive steps at a time, carefully out of range. The gull was disconcerted, curved its body towards its tail and snapped at the raven. In the two seconds that manoeuver occupied, the first raven darted in, speared a mouthful of fish and jumped backwards.'

The encounter ended with the gull being totally defeated and the ravens winning most of the fish.

Crumley offers some useful insights into how to watch nature and how to best approach writing about nature. He tends too often to mention other books he has written, but is generally an interesting writer and readers will find themselves enjoying the atmosphere of the season.

The Nature of Autumn by Jim Crumley, published by Saraband (2016)

Friday 18 October 2019

All the colours of fungi

It is proving to be a particularly fine fungi season up Corstorphine Hill this year, traditionally the best place in Edinburgh for fungi and excelling itself in this mild and damp autumn that we're having.

Particularly nice to see these orange peel fungi

and this brightly coloured fungus, the photo's terrible but I'm sharing it as it's such an unusual colour - I thought it was an aniseed funnel cap but have been told via Edinburgh Fungi group on Facebook that it's Stropharia caerulea (blue roundhead) 

It's a great season for earth stars and here are two fine specimens from the hill

Finally some honey fungus growing on an ash tree. Honey fungus will grow on vulnerable trees and kill them and it may be that the ash tree has ash dieback disease aalready and so was in a weakened state for the honey fungus to take advantage?

Thursday 17 October 2019

Let Nature Sing

European robin, photo by Crafty Green Boyfriend

autumn robinsong -
the leaves a little redder 
than yesterday 

The robin is one of the few birds that sing at this time of year. Both male and female robins hold territories and both sing all through the winter. In the breeding season, like other birds, it's only the males that really sing thouh both males and females call to keep in touch with other birds around them.

Today the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds are asking people to join in their 'Let Nature Sing' campaign to help them to bring bird song to five million people. They want bird song to be heard everywhere, from workplaces to living rooms, for people to enjoy and to send a message to people in power we want birdsong to always be heard around us. Find out more here.

Pilton Community Health Project always has birdsong playing in its offices, as it relaxes staff and clients. Is your workplace taking part in Let Nature Sing?

If your workplace tales part and plays birdsong in your office then remember, it's even better to get outside at lunchtime and enjoy nature itself! 

What's your favourite birdsong?

Wednesday 16 October 2019

More amazing things seen on the fence....

Last week, I shared in this post, the insects that, along with Sarah from Edinburgh Natural History Society, I found on the perimeter fence of Saughton Park, alongside Water of Leith.

Well yesterday, we had another good look at the fence and these are some of the insects we found (thanks to Sarah for some of the identifications here)

a caddis fly 

light brown apple moth 

ten spot ladybird 

pine ladybird 

larch ladybird 

Harlequin ladybird

Quite amazing what you can find on a fence when you look closely!

We also saw lots of pine ladybirds on some of the trees inside Saughton Park, but none of my photos of these turned out.

Tuesday 15 October 2019

New Items in Crafty Green Poet Etsy store

I recently made these two beaded lanyards from damaged necklaces, taking out the damaged pieces and adding items from my stash. Both are now listed in the Crafty Green Etsy shop.

 this can be found in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy store here.

and this one can be found here.

These lanyards offer an appealing and original way of displaying the ID badge you may need for your workplace.

I also just added this beaded curtain tie back to the Etsy shop too. It can be fastened in two ways, either by putting the open ends over a hook by the side of the window

or by opening one of the loops and attaching it to the other to tie round a thicker curtain

Although I usually sell curtain tie backs in pairs, there is only one tie-back of this design. This tie back is available in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop here.

Monday 14 October 2019

Hornbeams and Herons in Autumn Sunshine

It's beautiful out there today, sunny and still with a wee chill in the air, a perfect autumn day for a walk through the Dells along the Water of Leith.

This is the time of year when the hornbeam trees are at their best, specially when the sun is shining on them

Hornbeams, so called because of their hard wood, aren't native to Scotland, naturally they're only found in the UK in the south of England. They were planted in the Dells back in the days when the river was lined by water mills producing products from bank notes to linoleum. The wood of the hornbeams was used in the construction of mill wheels and other working parts.

The autumn colours are spreading throughout the Dells

I was taken by surprise by this grey heron as it took off from a bridge very close behind me and then landed in the river for me to take this photo. The water is pretty high at the moment as it's been raining a lot

the sky today is pretty clear though there were some clouds earlier on,

these clouds don't seem to be promising rain but we've had a fair amount of unexpected rain recently.