Sunday 30 August 2020

Walking the Pentland Hills

 Yesterday, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I took a lovely walk through the Pentland Hills to the south of Edinburgh. The sky was dull most of the time but it stayed dry, which was nice given how much rain we've had recently. 

We started our walk at Balerno and walked round the boardwalk at Red Moss, a peat bog.

The site is managed by Scottish Wildlife Trust, who make sure that the birch woodland that grows at the edge of the area doesn't encroach into the central part of the bog. 

Managing the trees in this way ensures that the valuable peatland ecology is preserved. Red Moss is a very impressive (though relatively small) peat bog, largely covered with heather

and home to peatland wildlife including the bog hoverfly (Sericomyia silentis)

We then walked further into the Pentlands and enjoyed the scenery. 


  Lots of beautiful lichens grow in this area

We were entertained by these sheep who had found a broken branch that they were using as a scratching post

and we were disappointed not to see any rabbits at this warren 


Thanks to Gorgie Dalry Community Council who recently published my article about discovering local wildlife during lockdown. You can read the article here.


Tuesday 25 August 2020

Furry Purry Bean Cat at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

 Edinburgh International Book Festival has been moved entirely online this year in response to the COVID_19 pandemic. You can browse the list of events here

At the weekend, I tuned in to the excellent Magical Moggies session with author Philip Ardagh and illustrator Rob Biddulph. The session featured the lovely Furry Purry Bean Cat, who stars in the series of children's books 'The Nine Lives of Furry Purry Bean Cat' in which she becomes in turn a library cat, a railway cat, a witch's cat and other versions of herself. 

The first part of the session featured Philip Ardagh talking about the real live cat who inspired Furry Purry Bean cat and reading from her adventures as a Railway Cat and the second part featured Rob Biddulph giving a tutorial on how to draw your very own Furry Purry Bean Cat! So here is my version:

You can view this event here, it will be online for some time, though I think it may be only for a few days until the end of the festival. Also, you may only be able to view it from certain geographic locations, again, I'm not sure about the details there. 

Most (all?) of the events at the book festival this year are free. You can buy copies of the featured books in the Edinburgh International Book Festival bookshop.

Monday 24 August 2020

Calton Hill

 We've got a few days off so are spending time in greenspaces around Edinburgh. Today we visited Calton Hill - along with Arthur's Seat and Castle Rock, one of Edinburgh's hills formed from ancient (now extinct) volcanoes. It has a really interesting history (that you can read about here) and is most famous for its follies, unfinished monuments and other interesting buildings, which are always photogenic. 

Above: National Monument with the Nelson Monument to the right.

Above: National Monument with the City Observatory to the right.

National Monument above and City Observatory below.

Above: Nelson Monument.

The hill also offers wonderful views across Edinburgh and to Arthur's Seat

You can read about our weekend wander round Arthur's Seat in this blogpost.

Sunday 23 August 2020

Around Arthur's Seat

 Yesterday Crafty Green Boyfriend and I had a lovely walk round Arthur's Seat. 


 The thistles are seeding and thistledown is flying everywhere 

Near this patch of thistles we saw a stonechat, I think the first we've ever seen here (though I've seen them at Musselburgh and on Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh). Thanks to Crafty Green Boyfriend for this photo

It was lovely to see this meadow brown butterfly

this family of mute swans on Dunsapie Loch 

the beautiful view of Duddingston Loch (with harebells still in bloom in the foreground)

and a good few hoverflies including this footballer hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus)

Tuesday 18 August 2020

After the Rain

 It's been raining a lot here for the past few days and today, although it wasn't raining when we went for our walk through the local cemeteries, the ground was still very wet. 

This is great for fungi of course and this toadstool really caught our eye, I think it's a type of fairy parosol fungus

I also really like the way the pineapple weed is starting to grow through the mat of white clover leaves. The flowers of pineapple weed look like miniature pineapples and smell of pineapple too! 

Monday 17 August 2020

Birds in the Rain

 I set off this morning to patrol the Dells along the Water of Leith. At that point the weather was dull but dry but it started raining almost as soon as I got along the river and became torrential later! 

Poor light and rain mean there are no photos but I had some lovely wildlife encounters. 

There's a particular tree that I always check on as a grey heron often stands in it, today there wasn't a heron but there was a sparrowhawk, keeping its eye on the surrounding trees.

Further upstream I was delighted to see a family of nuthatches. Nuthatches have only relatively recently colonised Scotland. having spread northwards from England (as the climate has changed) so it still feels really special to see them, particularly a family with youngsters!

Sunday 16 August 2020

Along the River Almond and Beyond

Yesterday, we got a bus to Cramond Brig and walked along the River Almond to Cramond Village and then along the foreshore to Silverknowes to get another bus home. 

 We were delighted to see that the Shetland ponies still live near Cramond Brig


It was lovely to walk along the river again, it's been a long time since we were there due to lockdown restrictions 


 Three herons had gathered here (can you see them all in the photo above?). Crafty Green Boyfriend managed to get closer to another heron further upstream

We had lunch in the beer garden at Cramond Inn, it's nice to be able to eat outdoors, though there was a little bit of a chill breeze. 

We then continued our walk along the Cramond - Silverknowes foreshore, which was quite crowded but still a nice walk.There were lots of birds on the mudflats, including oystercatchers, bar tailed godwits, redshanks and curlew but we had to wait until we passed the golf course before we got close enough to photograph anything nicely. Here's a pair of rooks from the golf course.

for Nature Notes.


Meanwhile I'm delighted that my poem Petrified has been published on the Nine Muses Poetry site, you can read it here

And very happy that my haiku written in response to the latest prompt in the Haiku Foundation's Haiku Dialogue was featured in the commentary, which you can read here.


Thursday 13 August 2020

Bears - a brief history by Bernd Brunner (translated by Lori Lantz)


This short book, packed with historical illustrations and photos, is a brief history of bears and their relationships with humans. 

The book starts with a brief look at the different species of bears alive in the world then looks at different aspects of our relationships with them going back to how stone age humans may have interacted with the cave bear. 

Brunner examines how humans have interacted with bears, from hunting through shamanism to domestication, cuddly toys and circus performances. He doesn't shy away from describing how cruel humans have been to bears, even while exploring all the things that draw us to bears, their faces and their ability to stand up on two legs. There are many fascinating facts in this book and it's well worth reading by anyone interested in bears, though the reader should be aware before reading, that humans don't come out of this well and it's an uncomfortable read at times.

The book was originally written in German (and is beautifully translated) and to some extent focuses on the findings of German scientists and zoos, while giving a good overview of the relationship between humans and bears across the world. 

Bears a brief history by Bernd Brunner, translated by Lori Lantz, published by Yale University Press.

Tuesday 11 August 2020

The Wet Weather is Great for Fungi!

 We noticed this magnificent fungus today in our walk round the local cemeteries. It looks like turkey tail fungus but I've never seen sucn a magnificent specimen before, so I wonder if in fact it's something else? 


The Woodland Trust yesterday posted an article I wrote about our local cemeteries, you can read it here.

Monday 10 August 2020

Notes from the Cemeteries

 Even as lockdown has eased here in Scotland, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I have continued to take our #DailyExercise in the local cemeteries, most weekdays at least! 

We noticed several fungi had emerged over the weekend 

These look like large edible field mushrooms, but best leave them alone as they may be a similar looking inedible species.

There were only a few hoverflies around today, but this Syrphus sp chose to pose nicely in the greater bindweed flower

Notice the brambles (blackberries) ripening in the background! 

North Merchiston Cemetery today was dominated by the sparrowhawks and magpies. The nesting pair of sparrowhawks seem to be arguing with the local magpies and the four birds were chasing each other around screeching loudly! Crafty Green Boyfriend managed to get this photo of one of the sparrowhawks 

For Nature Notes.

Sunday 9 August 2020

Sunshine in the Dells

 Yesterday was hot and sunny so Crafty Green Boyfriend and I escaped to Colinton and Craiglockart dells, along the Water of Leith. Mostly passing through shady woodland this is a lovely walk for a hot day. I also took the opportunity to do a river patrol as a volunteer for the Water of Leith Conservation Trust

The river is surprisingly low at the moment, given how much rain we've had recently, you'd expect it to be higher. 

The rosebay willow herb is in full bloom at the moment

We were lucky enough to see a few butterflies, including this peacock 

and there were lots of birds around in the Hidden Orchard Meadow near Redhall Gardens, including this goldcrest, the smallest bird in the UK (smaller even than the wren)

Friday 7 August 2020

Tree Following Update - Horse Chestnut

For Tree Following this year I've selected a beautiful horse chestnut tree in one of the cemeteries on our #DailyExercise route.You can see my earlier blogposts about this tree here, here , here and here.

My chosen tree is close to the perimeter wall of the cemetery and has clearly grown up since the graves were made

It has two numbers on it, which are used by Edinburgh Council to record the tree and details about it (for example if it becomes ill or damaged and needs remedial work) though I don't know why it has two numbers rather than just one...

Looking up into the tree, it still looks lovely and green

but many of the leaves are starting to turn or are damaged by insects nibbling at them

 another sign of the changing seasons is that the conkers are already very large and spiky

and some have already fallen from the tree

I have tried to pay attention to insects and animals living on or near the tree, but there hasn't been a huge amount of activity, or at least not many creatures stopping to allow themselves to be photographed! In the middle of July, this male blackbird was busily gathering food under the shade of the tree

The rest of the cemetery is full of beatiful trees and areas of open grassland. Nesting birds include sparrowhawks and great spotted woodpeckers and I've seen a stoat here once! it's also a great place for insects!