Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Exploring Inch Park

 Yesterday I led the second in my series of walks round Inch Park, aiming to catalogue as much of the wildlife there as possible. The course is introducing people to the variety of nature found in the park and also to the concept of wildlife recording. We're creating a resource for Inch House that they can use, or add to, in future activities and will be sharing our sightings with The Wildlife Information Centre for Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Yesterday we spent the class alongside the Braid Burn that flows through part of the park. The burn is currently surrounded by flowers in full bloom, like the red campion in the photo below

There were several species of birds alongside the river (You may be able to see a male mallard in the photo above, if you click on it to enlarge it!). Goldfinches and swallows were the most numerous, while the blackbird entertained us with his song and a blackcap played hide and seek in the foliage. 

We also saw some interesting insects including this soldier beetle (which the Facebook Beetles of Britain and Ireland Group tells me is Cantharis nigricans)


 and this click beetle (which the same group tells me is Athous haemorrhoidalis) 

It's amazing what you can find in a suburban park if you walk slowly and look closely! 

It looks likely that I'll be running a similar course again in the Autumn! Watch this space! 

**

We're coming up to June, which in the UK means 30 Days Wild! This is The Wildlife Trusts' annual challenge to do one wild thing a day throughout the month of June. You can find out more and sign up here.

Nesting Season at Currie Cemetery!

 I'm continuing my wildlife surveys of Edinburgh's council managed cemeteries. Yesterday I travelled to Currie Kirkyard and Cemetery, which is almost in the countryside alongside the upper reaches of the Water of Leith


 Yesterday was my second survey of this cemetery, you can read about my first survey of this site here.

The kirkyard is very pretty, with several trees, while the newer cemetery extension offers wonderful views across to the new Forth Road Bridge and Fife. 

The weather was very mixed this morning, ranging from bright sunshine to torrential rain! However, that didn't seem to deter the birds! I watched house sparrows and starlings visiting their nests under the eaves of nearby buildings, a robin feeding its young and a blackbird filling its beak with earthworms to take home to the nest. Chaffinches were everywhere, singing loudly and continuously. 

Sadly, there didn't seem to be a great number of insects around. 

Flowers were in bloom though from daisies

to the sweetly scented lilac bush

and if you look carefully at all the green growth, there are a good number of mosses here, including the Juniper Haircap 

and this, which I think is a Common Pincushion Moss, with a lichen growing through it 

and lots of my favourite liverwort, Marchantia polymorpha, here is a female plant

and here's the male 










Monday, 23 May 2022

Tree Following - May update

 For Tree Following this year, I've chosen a magnificent old cherry tree in North Merchiston Cemetery in Edinburgh (you can see it in the photo above, just to the left of the church building). 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 not quite as often. 

I set this post up for early May and then entirely forgot to post it. Oops! But, better late than never! 

In late April, the tree looked resplendent





For more beautiful cherry trees in bloom around Edinburgh see the posts below: 

Cherry Blossoms in Edinburgh's Meadows and Grange Cemetery.

Cherry blossoms in the grounds of Lauriston Castle

For Tree Following and Nature Notes.


Sunday, 22 May 2022

Damsels at the Pond!

 I had read on Twitter, that someone had seen damselflies at Blackford Pond last week so Crafty Green Boyfriend and I went down there yesterday to see if we could find any. I didn't hold out much hope to be honest, thinking that these lovely insects might be few in number and hiding in the waterside vegetation. 

Thankfully, I was wrong! We saw at least twenty damselflies of at least two species and Crafty Green Boyfriend even got some photos of them! 

Most of the damselflies we saw were mostly dark with bright blue tails, we think these were all common blue tailed damselflies:

 

There was a smaller number of very blue damselflies, which I'm pretty sure were Common Blue Damselflies (Edited to add, I've since been told they're Azure Damselflies)


We enjoyed watching the damselflies and the various waterbirds  - the mute swans are still on their nest, and we saw the head of one cygnet! You're not supposed to take photos of nesting birds, so I don't have any to share. I can however, share a photo of the yellow flag irises that are currently in bloom

and we saw this caddis fly on the path 

 We then walked past Midmar Paddock 

 

The paddock is sadly threatened with development, it seems that a planning application for a care home and housing is about to be submitted. If you live in Edinburgh and want to protest this development, please follow Friends of Midmar Paddock on Facebook and Twitter to find out what you can do. 

Greater stitchwort was blooming in profusion

and we were delighted to see this green longhorn moth 

 

 We then walked into the Hermitage of Braid and walked along the Braid Burn

We noticed these weird looking cup fungi, if anyone can identify them to species level, we'd be most interested to know what they are! 

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Wall Butterfly!

Despite the weather forecast a few days ago predicting clouds all week, we've had some lovely sunny weather over the past few days.

This morning I visited Portobello Cemetery, continuing my wildlife surveys of Edinburgh's council managed cemeteries. This is a large cemetery with lots of interesting plants, including Star of Bethlehem 

lots of Germander Speedwell 

a few flowers of lesser stitchwort


 and lots of Marchantia polymorpha (a liverwort) that looks like a miniature forest

There weren't as many pollinating insects around as you would hope to see at this time of year, but I was delighted to see a pair of Wall Butterflies - the first time I've ever seen this pretty species 






Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Inch Park in the Haar

Today was the first session of my nature walks around Inch Park. This class is notable for being one of the first classes to be run at Inch House, since it has re-established itself as a centre for adult education after many years. It's also the first time I've done nature walks that focus on the same location over a period of time rather than visiting a different site every week during a course.

I woke to a thick haar (sea mist) this morning, but by the time I got to the bus stop, it was bright and sunny! However, once the bus got to the centre of Edinburgh (which is closer to the coast), we were back in a thick haar which was very much around at Inch Park

The first half of the class took place indoors, to introduce people to the course etc and by the time we got outside for the walk, everything had cleared up, and it was bright sunshine again! 

The course will introduce people to the variety of nature found in Inch Park and also to the concept of wildlife recording. We'll be creating a resource for Inch House that they can use, or add to, in future activities and will be sharing our sightings with The Wildlife Information Centre, which collates wildlife sightings for Edinburgh and the Lothians.

We found a lot of plants in just a small area, which proved that it's good to pay close attention! I really like the way some of the dandelions look now that they have lost their seeds.




Monday, 16 May 2022

The Science of Plants - Book review

This beautifully produced book is a fascinating tour of botanical knowledge for beginners, gardeners and experienced plant lovers alike. The book is organised in chapters focussing on different parts of a plant and their functions (eg roots, flowers etc). Each chapter is concisely written in small sections, using individual plant species as case studies to explore a wide variety of aspects of plant adaptations and lifestyles. The text is supported by beautiful photographs and illustrations, including clear diagrams to show the parts of a plant, the different types of leaves and flowers and important processes that take place in the plant,  such as pollination. The focus is on flowering plants, but also considers conifers, ferns and mosses.

This botanical compendium covers all you need to know about how plants work from photosynthesis to pollination, and is full of fascinating snippets of information such as:

how Lambs Ears can protect themselves against drought;

why the flowers of Mophead Hydrangeas vary in colour so much; 

how some spring bulbs can move within the soil; 

how horsetails deter herbivores from eating them; 

how mangroves survive in salt water environments; 

why Quaking Aspens are able to regrow even after forest fires; 

how the Sacred Lotus keeps itself clean; 

how the leaves of the Giant Water Lily stay afloat; 

how some flowers are able to close at night;

why chestnuts aren't really nuts; 

why dandelions are so successful;

 the role mosses can play in ecosystem regeneration.

The book also showcases artistic responses to plants, including paintings by artists including Vincent van Gogh and Albrecht Durer. There are brief articles on the history of Herbals; the Arts and Craft Movement (featuring the artist William Morris), Chinese and Japanese art and pioneering female botanists. 

A comprehensive glossary completes this useful and fascinating volume.

Much more than an attractive coffee table book, this is a beautiful and fascinating read for anyone interested in plants. Even though I have a Botany degree, I learned new information from this book.

 

The Science of Plants: Inside Their Secret World by  Professor Alexandre Antonelli, published by DK, in association with Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book in return for an honest review. 

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Butterflies in the Gorse at Hillend

 Crafty Green Boyfriend and I went to Hillend today. This is the site of Edinburgh's ski slope in the Pentland Hills, but we weren't there for the ski-ing! We had a lovely walk through the hills, which are currently covered in blooming gorse. 



We walked part of the 'Capital Views Trail' which gives beautiful views of Edinburgh, including this view of Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags.

The hills are home to a number of livestock, including Highland cattle

goats 

and horses 

In terms of wildlife, we saw one rabbit 

this vole tunnel 

Lots of birds were singing, mostly whitethroats, willow warblers and chiffchaffs

But the highlights were the butterflies! Probably attracted by the warm sunshine, decent numbers of several white species were flying around, including green veined white (on the left on the photo below) and orange tip (on the right)

Here's another male orange tip

and here's a female orange tip (she doesn't have the orange tips, but can be recognised by the distinctive patterning on her underwing) 

We also saw this peacock butterfly 

a couple of small coppers that refused to stop for a photo, and best of all, three or four green hairstreaks! 


Back in 2019, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I took part in a survey of green hairstreaks in the Bonaly area of the Pentlands. That was the first time I'd ever seen this beautiful little butterfly and in the Edinburgh area, it is considered to be very much restricted to a small section of the Pentlands around Bonaly. But, a couple of weeks ago, on a walking meeting with a colleague, we saw a green hairstreak near Torphin and today Crafty Green Boyfriend and I saw these ones near Hillend! It seems like they may be extending their range in the Pentlands at least!


For Nature Notes.