Monday, 21 June 2021

National Insect Week

 National Insect Week, the last week of June, is a chance to celebrate the diversity of insects! 

Here in Edinburgh, it hasn't been a particularly good year for larger insects so far as the weather hasn't been ideal for most species. Plus the fact that climate change, habitat destruction and pollution are all having a long term negative impact on insect numbers in this country (and around the world). 

Insects are vital to life! Without bees and other insect pollinators we would have far fewer food crops or garden flowers. And although some species of insects are pests (including mosquitoes) some insects are the best solution to insect pests (ladybirds eat aphids). 

Insects are also beautiful, particularly butterflies and moths, the photo below shows a speckled wood butterfly

As regular readers of this blog may have noticed, I'm particularly interested in hoverflies. There are 250 species of hoverflies in the UK and many of them are beautifully patterned like this Eupeoides corollae 

If you want to help insects, then if you have a garden, let part of it grow wild with plants such as buttercups and clover. Pollinating insects love these flowers, like this tree bumblebee on white clover 

Alternatively you can plant wildflower mixed seeds (but make sure the mix includes only native flowers) or plant nectar rich garden flowers. You can also make 'insect hotels' which offer various places for different species of insects to set up home. There's a good article about making a bug hotel on the Woodland Trust website

For Insect Week and 30 Days Wild.

Sunday, 20 June 2021

Wonderful Colours in the Botanic Gardens

 Yesterday we had a lovely trip to Edinburgh's beautiful Botanic Gardens. When we arrived (after a rainy walk through Inverleith Park, which I blogged about here) we visited the Hidden Beauty of Seeds and Fruits exhibition, which showcases the photography of Levon Biss. The plants featured in the exhibition are all from the Botanic gardens' own herbarium collection. The exhibition runs until the end of September and is well worth seeing. 

We then wandered round the gardens. The azaleas and rhododendrons are mostly past their best now, but some of them are still beautiful. 

We met these mallards at the pond, it's nice to see the female showing the bright blue flash (the speculum) in her wing which distinguishes her from other brown female ducks.

Colours of Nature for 30 Days Wild.

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Cygnets in the Rain

We set off this morning to walk to Edinburgh's  Botanic Gardens, after booking our free tickets online (which is what you need to do in these pandemic times). We thought there might be a light shower, but instead found ourselves in the middle of a downpour while walking through Inverleith Park. The adult swans seemed to be happy enough, but the cygnets looked very bedraggled! 

Luckily there's an amazing exhibition on at the Botanics at the moment which we browsed until the rain stopped. 

Tomorrow, I'll  share photos of the beautiful azaleas and rhododendrons that are still in bloom in the Botanics. 

Enjoying nature in the rain for 30 Days Wild.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

A Close Look at Nettles for 30 Days Wild

It's very easy to take nettles for granted, they grow profusely in areas we often refer to as waste ground, they sting and they don't have pretty flowers. But they are really useful for wildlife, many butterflies lay their eggs on nettles for example. Also nettles have culinary and medicinal uses, you can make tea from the leaves and deliberately stinging yourself with nettles can apparently ease arthritis (though I've never met anyone who has been brave enough to try this cure!).

So I was looking closely at some nettles today! 

Several nettle tag moths were flying around, this small moth is usually to be seen on nettles. 

Some of the nettles i was looking at had patches of nettle rust fungus. Almost every species of plant has its own species of rust fungus, though all these fungi look very similar to our eyes. 

What have you been looking closely at in nature? 

For 30 Days Wild.


Tuesday, 15 June 2021

haiku for 30 Days Wild

hearing goldcrests -
I'm not old

haiku for 30 Days Wild

(goldcrests have a very high pitched song, which you can't hear if your hearing is fading)

Monday, 14 June 2021

Tree Following June Update

For Tree Following this year I'm following one of the several wonderful old silver birch trees on North Merchiston Cemetery in Edinburgh. Crafty Green Boyfriend and I started walking round this cemetery (and the nearby Dalry Cemetery) every day for our #DailyExercise during the first UK lockdown last year. And we're still doing the same walk regularly. 

 I realise I'm a little late with this update! Part of the reason is that I've been very busy. 

The birch tree looks beautiful at the moment, fully in leaf and very green

But all is not well, which is another part of the reason this post is late, I was so upset to see that the blue tits' nest box has been damaged - the entrance hole which was so neat and round has been broken into and enlarged and the chicks are no longer in there

This is almost certainly the work of the great spotted woodpeckers, which are also nesting in the cemetery. Last year the great spotted woodpecker chick became a bit of a local celebrity 

and there is every sign that the woodpeckers are nesting in the same tree again this year (the youngsters haven't yet appeared but there is a lot of noise inside the tree trunk!).

So, I like great spotted woodpeckers and I know they need to eat, and I know that they sometimes eat blue tits, but why did they need to eat our blue tits?

For Tree Following

For 30 Days Wild

Friday, 11 June 2021

Explore a Cemetery for 30 Days Wild

 Since the first lockdown was announced over a year ago now, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I have really discovered the local cemeteries as wildlife havens. There's a huge variety of birds, insects and mammals in both Dalry Cemetery and North Merchiston Cemetery, not to mention the trees, wild flowers and fungi. 

I took these photos earlier today in North Merchiston Cemetery

Since lockdown, Friends Groups have sprung up to help look after the cemeteries in Edinburgh (though several of the Friends groups predate lockdown). Joining one of these friends groups is a great way of helping to protect these vital green spaces.

Do you have a favourite local cemetery to wander round?

Thursday, 10 June 2021

The West Lothian coast of the Firth of Forth

Today we took a trip into West Lothian. We had lunch in the open air section of the Rouken Glen Garden Centre. After lunch we wandered along the path through the allotments, where lots of the pretty orange hawkweed (which is often called fox and cubs) grows 

 We then went up to Blackness Castle, which is only open if you have booked in advance. 


However we were only interested in walking around along the shore 


and up the hill.

It was very windy, which judging from the shape of the hawthorn tree below, is the usual type of weather for the area. 

 There were quite a few swallows and house martins flying around, which is always nice to see but I don't even try to capture them on film as they're so speedy!

 For 30DaysWild.

Monday, 7 June 2021

Buttercups for 30 Days Wild

 The buttercups are beautifully in bloom at the moment, here are some photos from earlier today in Colinton and Craiglockart Dells

(in the photo above, you can also see comfrey, which is covered in bees at the moment, which is lovely, as there seem to be fewer bees than usual this year, probably partly due to the strange weather, but also partly due to overall insect declines)

For 30DaysWild.

Sunday, 6 June 2021

Watching insects for 30 Days Wild

 Insects are fascinating as well as vital elements of the ecosystem! Many insects are food for birds, mammals and spiders. many are also beautiful or interesting to watch. 

This is a click beetle (Athous haemorrhoidalis) which I found in North Merchiston Cemetery. These beetles make an audible click if you disturb them! 

And this is a species of mayfly which I photographed in Saughton Park. Mayflies are river flies, which are emerging at the moment in large numbers, including from the Water of Leith, which runs through Saughton Park. 

What insects have you been seeing recently? 

For 30 Days Wild.


On another topic, I've just added some more earrings to my Crafty Green Poet Etsy store, you can see them here.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Tracking Mammals for 30 Days Wild

 I was excited to find this badger footprint in a local area 

Nearby we also found some fur - white downy fur and some more sturdy fur. Each strand of the sturdy fur was black at one end and white at the other, typical for a badger (and didn't come out in my photos!). We also found entrances to a badger sett. 

It was amazing to find this badger sett, so close to where we live and in an unexpected place! I'm not going to give details of where it is as I don't want to inadvertently encourage disturbance of the sett.

Friday, 4 June 2021

Walking Meetings for 30 Days Wild

 One of the things I have loved discovering during lockdown restrictions are walking meetings! Over the past year or so,  I've often met up with colleagues to go for a socially distanced walk through local green-spaces while we discuss things. It's a much better way to meet than the traditional format of sitting in an airless office or the pandemic alternative of staring at each other through a video conference. 

If you're not able to walk far or comfortably then walking meetings are out of the question. They're also not an ideal option for people with hearing problems, as if you've got more than two people in the meeting it can be difficult to enable lip reading throughout the walk. Of course when the weather is nice you can gather together for a socially distanced meeting on park benches or similar, but this hasn't been ideal during our cold Spring this year.

I find that being out in nature helps me think as does the actual movement of walking. Though the act of walking does make taking notes tricky so you need to record things if you want an accurate record of any decisions.

As I often lead guided walks, walking will (hopefully) remain part of my working life well into the future, but I hope that walking meetings will specifically continue to be part of the mix too.  

It's a lovely sunny morning just now and I'm off very soon for another walking meeting! 


Thursday, 3 June 2021

Photographing Nature for 30 Days Wild

 30 Days Wild encourages people to engage with nature and wildlife in some way every day in June. If you join up on the website, then you'll be given a list of suggested activities to ensure you keep exploring nature over the whole of the month. I'm just posting my own ideas each day as I go along!

Today I had a walk around Silverknowes. I'll be bringing a birdwatching group next week but I haven't visited for a while due to lockdown restrictions and then being busy so i thought I'd have a wander along before meeting a friend in the area. 

The fields of the Lauriston Farm here are due to be transformed into a local agroecology project (though there is some concern from some birdwatchers that the project will actually damage the area for certain species of wading birds that winter here, while undoubtedly improving the area for other species). You can find out about this project here. The project seems very keen to survey what wildlife there is in the area and are keen for people to send in their wildlife records so if you have any recent records from the area, do send them in to the project, using this page on their website

I made a note of the birds I saw, including swallows, pied wagtails and whitethroats, all these records will be sent to the project. At the same time I took the chance to take some photos. 

The farmland is looking lovely at the moment, everything is so green and the hawthorn hedges are in bloom. 

On the water, herring gulls were trying their best to ride the waves

though the water looks calmer in this photo below 

I was particularly interested in this beautiful hawthorn tree 

The air is scented with the sweet cicely that grows in profusion here 

There's a lovely variety of habitats in this area, including a small patch of woodland, which looked particularly beautiful when the haar (sea mist) lifted and the sun came out.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Go on a Guided Walk for 30 Days Wild

30 Days Wild encourages people to engage with nature and wildlife in some way every day in June. 

This morning I lead a birdwatching walk around Corstorphine Hill, one of Edinburgh's many hills. (I didn't take any photos today so this is a photo from a couple of years ago).

In normal times, I regularly lead guided walks, but the pandemic put a stop to them entirely for a while and Edinburgh Council is only just allowing them again, with smaller groups to allow for social distancing. 

Everyone who is coming along to the current walks is just delighted to be able to get out in groups again to meet new people and learn about nature. We've seen some great birds over the past few weeks including blackcap, buzzard, whitethroat and goldcrest, with today's highlight being a great spotted woodpecker that wandered about in a tree right in front of us. It's also been lovely to listen to all the birdsong.

The City of Edinburgh Council is currently putting together its adult education programme of guided walks and outdoor classes for the next term. The details will eventually be available here. Many conservation organisations also offer guided walks either as a regular programme or as part of a larger event.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Volunteering for 30 Days Wild

Every June the Wildlife Trusts in the UK encourage people to sign up for 30 Days Wild and engage with nature and wildlife in some way every day of the month. 

This week is also Volunteers Week in the UK. This week celebrates the contributions volunteers make to society and encourages people to consider getting involved in volunteering. 

Many conservation organisations rely on volunteers to help them. Volunteers may take part in habitat restoration, tree planting, litter picking, wildlife recording or a whole host of other activities that help the environment. 

I've been volunteering for many years for the Water of Leith Conservation Trust, the charity that looks after one of Edinburgh's rivers. Most weeks, I walk through the Dells, picking litter, recording wildlife, recording how people are using the area, noting down problems such as fly tipping, vandalism or pollution incidents and chatting to people (and their dogs). 

It's great to be involved in looking after such a beautiful place. 

I also enjoy watching the seasons change, the hawthorns are beautifully in bloom at the moment

and lots of birds are singing, recently I've heard whitethroats in a small open area off the main path, it's quite unusual to hear these warblers in the Dells, hopefully they will stay to breed this year. 

If you volunteer, feel free to share your stories in the comments!