Wednesday 28 December 2022

Festive Fungi

 We had a lovely walk in Craiglockart and Colinton Dells alongside the Water of Leith today. It was raining for much of our walk, but that didn't stop us! We saw a good number of fungi, some of which appear in the photos below.

Oyster mushrooms (above and below)
Below is Hairy Stereum

The two photos below both, I think, show Yellow Brain Fungus, but please correct me if you know I'm wrong! Notice the wee aphids on the fungus in the second photo.

 In the photo below, we have Purple Jellydisc

and below we have Jelly Ear Fungus

I have no idea what the fungus in the two photos below is, very strange looking, if you recognise it. I'd be very interested to know what it is! 

Friday 23 December 2022

Thursday 22 December 2022

Nature in North Merchiston Cemetery

 I had a wee wander with a friend around North Merchiston Cemetery yesterday. We were mostly looking for ladybirds and fungi. 

We found some ladybirds hibernating on gravestones, including this Harlequin.

We also found this Common Shiny Woodlouse (Oniscus asellus) which on closer examination turned out to be dead.

We also found a fair amount of fungi, including lots of Coral Spot.

We also found some fungi on fallen holly leaves, which we thought was Holly Speckle Fungus.

And this fungus, which is White Brain Fungus (Exidia thuretiana).

 This odd looking yellow growth isn't a fungus, but a slime mould, possibly Eggshell slime mould (sorry for the poor quality of the photo!)

As I was leaving the cemetery, I saw a Grey Wagtail! These aren't uncommon birds, but this was the first I've ever seen in the cemetery and it's unusual to see them so far from water! I tried to get a photo, but the wagtail was very busy, rushing around, and my photos didn't turn out. A Grey Squirrel did however pose for a photo.

If you're in the UK, remember that 12 Days Wild starts on Christmas Day! Get out and about and enjoy the winter wildlife! I'll certainly be taking part, though probably won't be blogging about it every day!

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Zoobiquity by Barbara Natterson Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers


Subtitled What Animals Can Teach us About Being Human, this book examines how we are more like animals than we usually like to think and how acknowledging these similarities could help our health and wellbeing. 

Barbara Natterson Horowitz is a cardiologist and psychiatrist and has worked with veterinary surgeons and researchers to examine the health and behavioural issues that humans share with various animal species. Working with science writer Kathryn Bowers, she outlines how we could benefit from looking at humans with a veterinarian's eye. 

The book ranges over a wide variety of topics, including heart attacks in wild animals, prehistoric evidence of cancer, animals that self-harm and sexually transmitted diseases in koalas.  It gives fascinating insights into both animal health and human health and highlights how physicians and veterinarians could benefit from working more closely together. 

Particularly timely is the section on pandemics, which focuses on Bird Flu, West Nile virus and other infectious diseases that had started to become serious before COVID hit (this book was published in 2012). We certainly need to ensure that veterinarians and doctors work closely together in the future to prevent / mitigate the effects of whichever disease is going to emerge as the next pandemic. 

Zoobiquity by Barbara Natterson Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers published (2012) by Ebury Publishing

Tuesday 20 December 2022

Biodiversity COP 15

Biodiversity COP15 has just finished and governments have adopted the Kunming-Montreal Agreement. This is great news, but is only the start!

In many ways, all the COPs are just talking shops, and it's confusing that the Climate Change COP and the Biodiversity COP happened this year close together, but are numbered so differently. Climate Change COP26 happened earlier this year in Glasgow, Biodiversity COP15 has just ended in Montreal.

So, a quick definition: the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, or COP15, was the recent meeting in which the nations of the world came together to discuss the world's biodiversity. You can read about the history and background to the Biodiversity COPs on the website of the Natural History Museum, here.

The Kunming Montreal Agreement commits the world to ending and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030. It aims to conserve at least 30% of land, freshwater habitats and ocean globally, while respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Obviously, words aren't enough! All the commitments to conservation and protection is just empty rhetoric if not followed by concrete actions. And concrete actions can't happen without money, so it's good that governments committed to eliminate subsidies harmful to nature, and to substantially increase the level of financial resources available for nature conservation from all sources by 2030. Beyond funding though, countries across the world will need to draw up plans for how they are going to conserve 30% of their territory and reverse biodiversity loss by 203.

So this is a great start, but action is needed to make these grand ideas into reality, and action needs to start now.


The Guardian Newspaper's Comment on COP15.

The Guardian Newspaper's Summary of What Was Agreed at COP15

BBC Report on COP15

Five key Takeaways from COP15 (BBC website).

World Wide Fund for Nature's Press Release about the Kunming Montreal Agreement.

The full set of documents relating to COP15.

Saturday 17 December 2022

More Fieldfares

 I blogged on Thursday about our local flock of Fieldfares. Today, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I went for a walk around town to see how many Fieldfares we could see and to try to get some photos of these beautiful winter thrushes. 

We found a flock just near where we live, in some trees behind the buildings on a tiny side street.

In the same street we saw a Grey Wagtail! Pied Wagtails are common to see around built up areas, but the more colourful Grey Wagtail tends to stay by water, particularly rivers, so we were pleasantly surprised to see this

Near our flat, in the opposite direction, I'd seen a large flock of Fieldfares on some rowan trees yesterday but hadn't caught them on camera. Today, we were disappointed to see that all the berries had disappeared from the rowans and only one Fieldfare was left! But Crafty Green Boyfriend did manage to get this photo

Fieldfares are very beautiful birds and it's amazing (and unusual in Edinburgh) to see so many of them!

Thursday 15 December 2022


Fieldfares are one of the winter thrushes that visit the UK every year. Although I see one or two most years, they're rarely as easy to find as their smaller cousins the Redwings

A few years ago, a flock of about 50 Fieldfares appeared in our street on Boxing Day and spent the day flying around between the trees in the back-green areas. Then they disappeared! 

Until now! For a couple of days, a flock of Fieldfares is spending a lot of time roosting in exactly the same tree as they roosted in all those years ago. 

The tree in question is in the back-green across the road, so we can't go and get a closer look. Crafty Green Boyfriend took some photos yesterday to give an impression.

They're still here this morning. They're lovely birds to watch as they occasionally all take off and fly around then settle back down. I'm guessing that the tree they're roosting in gives them a reasonable view over the neighbourhood. They'll be feeding on the rowan trees that are nearby.

Monday 12 December 2022

Coming Soon - Twelve Days Wild

Winter wildlife is just waiting to be explored! 

Twelve Days Wild is the festive nature challenge from The Wildlife Trusts. Similar to the longer standing 30 Days Wild, the project encourages us to do one wild thing a day during the 12 Days of Christmas (25th December to the 5th January).

You could choose to use the time to help nature (like feeding the birds) or explore ways to connect to the natural world (like walking off your Christmas dinner in the woods.)

It's freezing here in Edinburgh! The frosted fallen leaves are beautiful.

Sunday 11 December 2022

Weekend Walk

 It snowed in Edinburgh overnight on Friday, so yesterday we woke to a white world! We went for a local walk through the park and the cemeteries, which were looking beautiful in the snow. 

First we walked through Dalry - Gorgie Community Park 

where a snow person had been built in the children's play area

The first cemetery we walked through is Dalry Cemetery

which also has a snow person, this one a tiny one (possibly actually a snow bunny) sitting on a wall.

We then walked into North Merchiston Cemetery.

which has lovely views over to the nearby St Michael's Church.

Someone has also built a snow person in this cemetery

A flock of Redwings was flying around the cemetery while we were walking round, but only one posed for Crafty Green Boyfriend's camera.

The ladybirds were easier to photograph as they're hibernating and staying still! The photo below shows 2 spot ladybirds, a pine ladybird and a Harlequin.

In places, freshly fallen Sycamore leaves were lying in the snow, looking very pretty

I also took some photos of the cherry tree that I've been studying for Tree Following this year. You can see my latest Tree Following update here.

Saturday 10 December 2022

Tree Following December Update

For Tree Following this year, I've chosen a magnificent old cherry tree in North Merchiston Cemetery in Edinburgh. Crafty Green Boyfriend and I started walking round this cemetery every day for our #DailyExercise during the first UK lockdown last year. And we're still doing the same walk regularly, though not quite as often. I also sometimes pop into the cemetery after doing my weekly patrol along the Water of Leith.

By mid November the cherry tree in North Merchiston Cemetery was bare of leaves.

but looking carefully, there were already signs of new life, look at these buds! 

Further on in November, the tree is very bare indeed

but the ivy still looks beautifully green
and looking closely, you can see that some of the ivy was still in bloom and some has matured into berries.

 Ladybirds often hibernate on gravestones, so late November I checked under this gravestone under the cherry tree and found these ladybirds. Although these look like different species, they are actually two colour forms of the common Two Spot ladybird - the standard form (red with black spots) and the sexpustulata form (black with red spots). These ladybirds will have spent the summer in the cherry tree and then fallen on to the gravestone to find a cosy hibernation spot.

Earlier today, the tree was covered in snow

as was the ivy surrounding the tree

Back in 2014, I followed a larch tree in Craiglockart Dell for Tree Following. I still see this tree regularly when I'm carrying out my volunteer patrols of the Dells for the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. I took this photo near the end of November, the larch looks beautiful in its autumnal yellow. (Larches are the only conifers that lose their needles over the winter.)

Friday 9 December 2022

Edinburgh Community Bookshop

Edinburgh Community Bookshop recently opened in Leith. Unlike most charity bookshops, this one supports a different local charity every month. You can read about the selected charities here

Today I visited the shop for the first time since it opened (I have previously donated books) and browsed the impressive selection on the shelves. I also had a cup of green tea and a vegan chocolate biscuit! 

It's a lovely shop, a good addition to the selection of second hand bookshops in the city and probably the only one with a cafe! 

Currently, the shop is not accepting donations as it has been overwhelmed with donations so far! You can check out this page to find out when the shop might next be accepting donations!

Thursday 1 December 2022

Local Greenspaces - Part 2: Gorgie City Farm

 I did originally intend to include photos from Gorgie City Farm in yesterday's blogpost, but got distracted, so here are the photos now! 

Gorgie City Farm has been around for as long as I've been in Edinburgh, but has been under the management of LOVE Gorgie Farm for the past few years after the original management went under. 

The new management have brought in some new animals, including these alpacas

and these Vallois black faced sheep

Olive, a duck who used to live on the farm, who famously once met Queen Elizabeth II (read more about her in this blogpost) now has a grave marker 

In memory of Olive, a loving duck, who spent her days putting a smile on the faces of everyone she met including royalty.
and a path named after her 

A sign saying Olive's Walk, Edinburgh, EH11

The trees of North Merchiston Cemetery are visible above the top wall of the farm

We ended our trip with a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the cafe and were amused by this notice outside the cafe:

A chalkboard with the message Unaccompanied Children will be given a double espresso and a free kitten