Wednesday, 22 September 2021

On a Knife Edge - Poems from Suffolk Poetry Society

 On a          Knife Edge cover

 This slim volume of poetry by members of Suffolk Poetry Society, aims to highlight the crisis faced by nature in the UK. It was inspired by the theme of the Lettering Arts Trust exhibition  On a Knife Edge which runs until 7th November at the Lettering Arts Centre, Snape Malting, Snape.

The poems here cover a variety of topics under the broad heading of concern for nature, including well observed descriptions of the natural world, meditations on the human relationship with nature, pleas to look after nature before it's too late and even, in Roger West's prose poem Secheresse, seasonaility of food:

 in the supermarket seasons gathered together corralled and tethered under thermostatic control.

Given that Suffolk is a coastal county of England, the sea features in several of these poems. In Sea Change 1950, Christina Buckton describes a woman's relationship with a tidal rockpool:

She is dreaming how the rockpool
opens inward
how she slides through its doorway
to a place where waves dance 

while in Where Has the Water Gone, Sue Wallace-Shaddad muses on the damage done to our oceans by oil pollution: 

A curl of water attempts
but fails to escape
the kaleidoscopic quilt
smothering the shore. 

and Richard Whiting, in Balearic Shearwater, bemoans the fact that most people wouldn't recognise individual species of seabirds:

......................................If they saw you
it would be a dark shape low over the sea
to be called a gull if anything at all.
Indifference is the mother of decay. 

It could all feel pretty hopeless (and that would be understandable, as we are living through a major crisis in terms of losing large parts of the natural world) but these poems are saved from that doom and gloom by their lyricism. There are also individual poems that encourage readers to look after nature. White Clover in the Lawn by Margaret Seymour starts with a beautiful description of clover 'appear(ing) overnight like a sudden hailstorm' and ends with a plea to 'Gentle gardeners (to) skimp on mowing.'

Caroline Gill (whose recent collection Driftwood by Starlight I reviewed here) has three poems in this anthology including  Lines on a Linnet:

Your avian lexicon is closed to me
but when you sing I feel the joy

until the music fades. 

This is an important anthology for our current times, with a good range of poetic responses to the crisis we're living through. 

On a Knife Edge published by Suffolk Poetry Society (2021)

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Autumnal Flowers

 We're continuing to have beautiful warm weather, which is unseasonable and worrying from a climate change point of view, but very pleasant. It also makes guided walks easier and more enjoyable!

Yesterday I had arrived very early for a guided walk i was to lead around Edinburgh's wonderfully iconic Arthur's Seat. So I took the time to wander round the wildflower meadows near the Scottish Parliament building. 

The building itself has always been a bit controversial, from the high cost of building it, to the nondescript appearance, but it looks nice when viewed from the other side of the wildflower area

There are quite a few flowers still in bloom

which offer a feast for late season insects including this Volucella pellucens hoverfly 

our birdwatching walk went well too, with highlights including a sparrowhawk.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Roses at Saughton Park

 We had a brief walk round Saughton Park this lunchtime and enjoyed the roses! Some of them are in full glorious bloom, many are fading and some are still only in bud. Here are just a few of them

It's particularly lovely when there are a few roses together at different stages of blooming

We also saw this magnificent leopard slug! 

Monday, 13 September 2021

Birds Art Life Death by Kyo Maclear

 Birds Art Life Death by Kyo Maclear

 Subtitled 'the art of noticing the small and significant' this is a beautiful meditation on birds, music, creativity, reading and the art of observation. Maclear shares her experiences of a year of birdwatching walks with a guy she refers to only as 'the musician'. 

At the beginning of the book, Maclear's father has just suffered two strokes, which changed both their lives in significant ways. She turns to birding as a way of coping with the grief and stress of her changed world. She learns to identify birds but also learns how to pay attention not just to birds but everything else around her. 

Along the way, she recommends nature books, lists famous people who were also birdwatchers, shares thoughts about how to help her children develop an interest in birds, and comments on our often dysfunctional relationship with nature:

'Some of us may kill birds with guns or oil spills but most of us kill them with our lumbering ignorant love - invading their habitats in bouts of nature appreciation.....'

and later in the book she gives an example of this specific issue when she notices a crowd of people gathered round a well camouflaged screech owl in a tree, keeping it from sleep with a barrage of flash photography. The musician, a keen photographer, didn't take a photo on this occasion. 

The book ends with some advice on how to birdwatch including: 

'Birding is more than an activity, it's a disposition. Keep your mind and ears and eyes open to beauty. Look for birds in unprecious places, beside fast food restaurants and in mall parking lots.'

The book is short and easy to read, moving and inspiring. It is also beautifully designed, illustrated by the author and with photos from  Jack Breakfast (aka the musician). 

Birds Art Life Death by Kyo Maclear, with photos by Jack Breakfast, published (2017) by 4th Estate.




Saturday, 11 September 2021

Photos from around Hermitage of Braid

 On Wednesday I lead two guided bird walks round Blackford Pond and into the Hermitage of Braid. It was an unseasonably hot day, and I was glad of the numerous trees around that offered shade. 

Normally when I'm leading walks I don't have time to take photos, but that day I had a whole lunch hour to sit by the pond, watch the birds and take photos. There were three sets of young moorhens - two tiny chicks, that looked like balls of black fluff, two slightly older ones and a group of four adolescents, about the size of adults but still brown in plumage that were chasing each other all around, which was very entertaining to watch but impossible to catch on camera! An adult moorhen did approach close enough for a photo 

The mute swans were easier to photograph with their very impressive brood of eight cygnets that have all reached adult size. 

This adult was keen to be photographed  

Today, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I walked around the other end of the Hermitage of Braid, going up onto the fields where we rarely venture (and I was inspired with a new route for future birdwatching walks!). 

There were some late hoverflies around, like this footballer hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus) (Click on the photo for a closer look).

There were good numbers of nettle tag moths, though most of them were resting on plants other than nettle!

The ivy is starting to bloom, which will provide good feeding for pollinators in the next month or so

Thanks to Crafty Green Boyfriend for the last three photos in this post.

For Nature Notes.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Early Autumn Hoverflies

Well after a few days of ridiculously hot weather (the hottest September days ever recorded in Scotland) it's now cooled down and is raining. 

The hoverflies and bees certainly enjoyed the recent unseasonably hot weather.  I saw very few hoverflies over the summer, but I've seen good numbers over recent weeks. The other day, Crafty Green Boyfriend took his annual volunteering day and joined me for my weekly patrol of the Dells along the Water of Leith.

We saw a very good selection of hoverflies, and he took some excellent photos, including these photos of two of my favourite hoverflies: 

Leucozonia glaucia 

 The batman hoverfly (Myathropa florea)

We'll be seeing fewer and fewer hoverflies and bees for the rest of this year as the weather gets colder, but hopefully we'll see good numbers again next year.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Tree Following - September Update

For Tree Following this year I'm following one of the several wonderful old silver birch trees in 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.  

Looking from this angle, the birch tree almost disappears in amongst the surrounding greenery 

but close up there's always a wealth of detail to notice!

On 25 August I noticed several little spiders webs in the branches - they don't come out well in photos, unfortunately, but if you click on the photo below, it will enlarge the image

 Looking up into the canopy of the tree, I noticed the first yellow leaves

But the yellow leaves belong to the nearby lime (linden) tree that overhangs this silver birch! The birch leaves, though fading, hadn't yet turned yellow by the end of August! By 2 September, though, the birch leaves were starting to turn 

There's a very pretty gravestone just under the tree, which I hadn't yet taken a photo of:

 There are lots of beautiful gravestones in the cemetery. I recently posted photos of some of the many Celtic crosses in the cemetery over on my Shapeshifting Green blog, you can see them here.

The Friends of North Merchiston Cemetery are now on Twitter! You can follow @FofNMC here

For Tree Following

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Second Hand September

Recently there has been a lot of publicity about the negative environmental impact of the fashion industry (for example, here is just one article).  Many people buy new clothes every season, which causes problems including pollution (from the production processes and from microfibres being shed from synthetic fabrics during the wash) and waste (from clothing thrown away after being worn for only one season or even one event or one selfie). 

One of the best ways to reduce your fashion footprint is to shop second hand where you can. (This is easy in Edinburgh, a city with many excellent second hand shops, but can be trickier in some places and was  more difficult during lockdown with all the second hand shops being closed, though it is possible to buy second hand clothes online). 

I buy all my clothes second hand (apart from underwear and some footwear). I used to always buy shoes new until I found that shoe shops were no longer stocking shoes I liked, so now I buy second hand shoes, except for my hiking boots which I always buy new. 

The great thing about browsing second hand shops is that you never know what you're going to find! I've found smart business jackets, hippy style skirts, casual long sleeved t-shirts and goth glamour in the over 30 years I've been shopping second hand. Here's the outfit I posted recently for my Pollution is Pants post back in April

Second Hand September is all about celebrating second hand clothing! Can you commit, for the whole month, to buying only second hand clothes online or in your local second hand shop? And don't forget to donate your pre-loved items! Find out more about Second Hand September here.

Finally, here are some other ways to reduce the impact of your own clothing. Here are just a few:

  • Avoid fabrics with a high environmental footprint, such as non-organic cotton, leather and synthetic fibres

  • Choose organic cotton and other natural fabrics that are produced without toxic chemicals

  • Choose brands that are taking steps to reduce their environmental impact

  • Wash your clothes less often and only at 30 degrees

  • Buy less, choose well and make it last



Sunday, 5 September 2021

Early Autumn in Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens

 Yesterday, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I had a lovely visit to Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens. ((You now no longer need to book a ticket to visit the gardens, as the booking system put in place during lockdown has been removed. Though given the high rates of infection across Scotland at the moment, i wouldn't be entirely surprised to see it put back into place in the near future). 

We made friends with this lively grey squirrel

who was feeding on the sunflower seeds that we scattered 

but then suddenly another squirrel arrived, along with two carrion crows 

and our squirrel ran away 

The pictorial meadows (which I first blogged about a month ago, here) are still looking beautiful, with a different selection of flowers in bloom compared to a month ago

and though it's been a poor year for hoverflies overall, there were plenty of hoverflies amongst these flowers, including this batman hoverfly (Myathropa florea)

Plenty of flowers are still in bloom around the gardens too, not just in the pictorial meadows, including autumn crocuses 

and these lovely yellow flowers, some sort of large daisy, but I didn't check what species they were!


Friday, 3 September 2021

Rosebay Willow Herb Goes to seed

 I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for a lunchtime walk round Corstorphine HIll today. The rosebay willow herb is almost all gone to seed now. There's the occasional flower still in bloom

 but mostly there are fields of seed pods

which in some areas are thick with white seeds

and even the spiders webs are full of seeds

I recently blogged (here) about the oak tree on the hill that is covered in galls. We were looking closely at this tree toady and noticed this acorn which is in the process of being turned into a gall by the gall wasp

Finally, it hasn't been a great year for hoverflies this year, so we were particularly pleased to see this Baccha elongata (sorry for the poor photo quality, but it was in the middle of a bramble patch!)