Tuesday 26 October 2021

Two Wooded Cemeteries in Edinburgh

 I'm continuing my wildlife survey of all Edinburgh Council's cemeteries. My survey results and reports will feed into the new management plans that need to be put together for the cemeteries by the end of the financial year. 

Yesterday, I blogged about two of Edinburgh's less well known historical cemeteries. Today I'm blogging about two of our city's wooded cemeteries. 

Warriston Cemetery is probably the largest cemetery in Edinburgh and in parts is very overgrown (though the eternally enthusiastic Friends Group seem determined to cut the vegetation back further than it needs to be). It is a fascinating place to explore (and risk getting lost in!). I made my third visit there last week as part of my survey and here are some photos from that trip:

Warriston is well known for its wildlife, including good numbers of ladybirds. The ladybirds are starting to hibernate just now and can sometimes be found congregating on the gravestones, like these orange ladybirds

and these pine ladybirds 

The photo below shows a Harlequin ladybird (an invasive species here in the UK and one that occurs in a variety of patterns) and a pine ladybird, which gives you an idea of the size difference! 

Later in the week, I visited Newington Cemetery, which I had previously only seen from the bus. It's a lovely, wooded graveyard, with one part specifically managed for wildlife.

and a magnificent horse chestnut tree in the centre, which was looking stunning in the autumnal  sunlight (the tree behind the chestnut is a Scots pine)

I enjoyed walking round Newington Cemetery so much that I took Crafty Green Boyfriend there on Saturday. We were fascinated by this garden orb spider who was guarding her egg sac

Monday 25 October 2021

Two Historic Cemeteries in Edinburgh

 I'm continuing my wildlife surveys of the cemeteries owned by Edinburgh Council (and falling a little behind in blogging about them!). I've recently visited two small historic cemeteries outside the centre of town. The first of these was Corstorphine Parish cemetery, which is most famous for the Corstorphine sycamore that stands at its gate. 

This tree is one of only a very few individuals of a rare subspecies of sycamore known as the Corstorphine sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus corstorphinensis). It does not produce seeds and can only be propagated from cuttings. It's a descendent of the original Corstorphine sycamore that stood near the doocot (dovecot) in Corstorphine village, which was lost in a storm in 1998. My poem Corstorphine Sycamore (which you can read here) tells a tale of the history attached to this tree. 

Corstorphine Parish Kirkyard is a nicely kept historical graveyard with some nice trees.

with a lovely splash of autumn colour from the fallen leaves of a Virginia creeper. 

and a spooky touch from the lace weaver spiders (as a Facebook friend said, it looks like a wee ghost!

Today I visited Dalmeny Kirkyard, which is in the village of Dalmeny to the north west of Edinburgh. Dalmeny Kirk dates back to the 12th Century and is a beautiful building 

there are some wonderful old gravestones in this cemetery, including this one 

Many of the gravestones are covered in mosses and lichens, the more I looked, the more fascinating lichens I found, including this one, which I can't identify

and this beautiful array of Xanthoria parietina on a fallen twig 

Tuesday 19 October 2021

The Dragonfly Diaries by Ruary Mackenzie Dodds

 The Dragonfly Diaries: The Unlikely Story of Europe's First Dragonfly Sanctuary

  This is the inspiring and fascinating story of how the author created Europe's first dragonfly sanctuary. Outlining the challenges of creating suitable habitat and renovating buildings to become a museum and visitor centre, along with the changing fortunes of the whole enterprise this is an engrossing read. 

The focus is often more on the challenges of creating the sanctuary rather than on the dragonflies themselves and the diary format may not be the most useful for everyone. However, it is well worth reading if you are at all interested in nature conservation and there are plenty of detailed observations of nature alongside the detailed outlines of building ponds. 

The author has been a great ambassador for dragonflies and the dragonfly sanctuary in its various incarnations has been a vital part of conservation in the UK.

 The Dragonfly Diaries by Ruary MacKenzie Dodds published by Saraband (2014)

Monday 18 October 2021

Saughton Cemetery

 I'm continuing my wildlife surveys of Edinburgh's cemeteries. On Friday I visited Saughton Cemetery alongside the Water of Leith.

This is a lovely cemetery, with plenty of mature trees.

It was very cold on Friday and the cemetery felt very autumnal

Some of the trees are rich in lichens like this Xanthoria parietina (can you see the red spider mite in the middle of the lichen there?

and there are plenty of fungi in the grass, including this yellow waxcap

As is the case in most cemeteries that have good numbers of mature trees, there were plenty of ladybirds including these orange ladybirds that seem to have found a nice spot for their winter hibernation

Today I was further along the Water of Leith, carrying out my weekly patrol of Craiglockart and Colinton Dells where the hornbeam trees are looking at their autumnal best

Tuesday 12 October 2021

How to Read Water by Tristan Gooley

How to Read Water: Clues & Patterns from Puddles to the Sea

 Subtitled Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea, this is a fascinating guide to how to read and understand water in the landscape from Tristan Gooley, who is known as the Natural Navigator.

The book includes tips on how to find water by observing which plants are growing in the area, and the movement of animals and insects; tips on how to interpret how water moves in rivers or the sea and ideas that help the reader to observe signs in water, There are also a good number of practical experiments that you can carry out (often by observing how the liquid behaves in a cup of tea, which suits me given how many cups of tea I drink!) I was struck by how much of the content I already knew, but wasn't quite aware that I knew. 

In terms of content, there was probably too much of a focus on yachting for me, given that I'm not likely to take up yachting. My real issue with the book though is that much of it is very oddly written. I can enjoy a quirky style of writing, but there was quite a lot about Gooley's writing here that just struck me as very peculiar, especially in the first few chapters. 

Overall though, this is a very interesting book and well worth reading if you're interested in being able to interpret landscape. 

I bought this copy second-hand, and it looks as though a previous reader had dropped it into the bath, which is appropriate, perhaps. 

How to read Water by Tristan Gooley, published (2016) by Sceptre.

Monday 11 October 2021

Colourful Snails and more at Craigmillar Castle Cemetery

Craigmillar Castle Park Cemetery is located on ground that used to be part of the grounds of Craigmillar Castle. It has wonderful views to Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags

I was surveying the wildlife in this cemetery today as part of the survey I'm currently doing of all the council owned cemeteries in Edinburgh. 

There are some lovely lichens on the trees, including this Xanthoria parietina (the yellow-orange lichen in the photo below)

There were also snails in many of the trees, possibly getting ready to hibernate for the winter. Most of them were, I think, banded snails (Cepaea nemoralis) which is a very varied species as the photos below show

Apparently the cemetery has a problem with rabbits eating the floral tributes that people lieave on the graves

but this feline visitor reportedly loves hunting rabbits, so probably keeps the problem within reasonable limits 

While I was in the cemetery, carrion crows were busy mobbing both a sparrowhawk and a buzzard. Plus a couple of skeins of pink footed geese flew overhead on their winter migration.


Saturday 9 October 2021

Tree Following October 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, though currently I'm spending time visiting other cemeteries as I'm doing wildlife surveys there for the City of Edinburgh Cemeteries department. 

The birch tree has started to change colour as autumn progresses

and already, fallen leaves are starting to carpet the surrounding grass. 

Soon the whole tree will be yellow, the silver birch is one of my favourite autumn trees.

Friday 8 October 2021

The Calton Cemeteries - Old and New

 I'm continuing my wildlife surveys in all the council owned cemeteries in Edinburgh. The latest cemeteries have been the Calton Cemeteries. 

Old Calton Cemetery is a historical cemetery that has been sadly neglected, many of the mausoleums are literally falling apart. Even more sad to see, is that the only wildlife that really seems to thrive here is the buddleia which is responsible for damaging the mausoleums. Buddleia is a lovely plant for butterflies and other insects, but once it starts growing over stonework it can cause chaos, as it is obviously doing in this cemetery. 

There are some lovely monuments here, including the monument to the philosopher David Hume (in the background of the photo below) and the monument to Scottish and American soldiers (in the foreground)

Also, if you look closely, you can find some very pretty ferns, including this common polypody

and if you're patient you may be able to see the wren come out from its hiding place behind this gravestone

I really hope that the council will invest in repairing the structures around the Old Calton Cemetery, as it is a popular site for people to visit (there was a constant flow of visitors while I was doing my survey yesterday). At the same time, I'll be suggesting in my survey report, that any restoration work, allows some gaps to remain in structures so that the wrens and other creatures can still make their home here! 

Today I visited New Calton Cemetery which is just further along the road from Old Calton. On the walk from the old to the new, I got lovely views over Canongate Cemetery, which I surveyed last week - see this post).

As you walk down the tree lined path to the cemetery, you get a lovely view of the monument to Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns

New Calton Cemetery offered people who chose to be buried here 'a Tomb with a View' and the views across to Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags are stunning

This cemetery feels as though it's much better looked after than Old Calton cemetery. There are plenty of invertebrates around, including several Harlequin ladybirds (an invasive species that seems to love Edinburgh's cemeteries)

There are also good numbers of spiders, which all seem to try to hide as soon as they become aware of your presence

Monday 4 October 2021

Mortonhall Cemetery and Crematorium Grounds

 I'm continuing my wildlife surveys of the cemeteries of Edinburgh. Today, I visited Mortonhall Cemetery and the grounds of the neighbouring Mortonhall Crematorium. 

I've visited these grounds before for funerals and remember from then that the grassland here was a rich site for fungi, and that is still the case. 

I'm still in the process of identifying the lichens and fungi I found here and Facebook is down, which normally isn't a problem, but the Facebook Fungi and Lichen groups are very useful aids to identification!

The fungi here include this jelly ear fungus 

and this, which I think is a meadow waxcap ()

The grassland is also full of this lichen, Peltigera hymenina, which is indicative of good quality, undisturbed grassland

Most of the lichens in this site though are found on trees. Unlike in Edinburgh's city centre cemeteries where most lichens are stunted due to air pollution, here the lichens grow luxuriously on the tree trunks and on wooden benches like this brownish camouflage lichen (Melanelixia sp) and the yellow lichen Xanthoria sp.)

The sunshine brought out the late hoverflies. like this Footballer (Helophilus penndulus

and the hoverflies in turn brought out loads of common wasps, which were crowding around the ivy. 

The most unusual thing I found was this clump of what seems to be eggs - perhaps snail eggs or slug eggs?

There were plenty of birds around, but only this sleepy looking magpie wanted to have its photo taken 

This cemetery has a woodland walk 


which contains birdboxes and a hedgehog house 

It's a very interesting cemetery to walk round and full of nature. I'm slightly concerned though that as the surrounding areas become more built up then the increase in air pollution will mean that the wonderful lichens here start to deteriorate.

For Nature Notes.