Wednesday 29 June 2022

Nature at Inch Park

After an enforced break to the programme (due to COVID) I was back at Inch Park yesterday, leading a nature walk. These walks offer people a chance to get to know the wildlife of the park, learning to identify species of plant, insects and birds. At the same time, the information collected will go towards making a resource for Inch House Community Centre to use as a basis for future nature based activities in the park. (I'll be leading another series of nature walks in the park in the Autumn). 

Yesterday's observations included: 

The Lime (Linden) trees are starting to come into flower 

When fully in bloom (which should be in a week or two), Line trees smell amazing! 
Most of the Lime trees look very healthy, but the leaves of one tree were covered with galls formed by Lime Gall Mites (Eriophyes tiliae). The mites release chemicals that cause the galls to grow.  The photo below isn't great as the wind was blowing quite hard and the leaves wouldn't stay still. 

We also found galls on a Walnut tree, these are caused by the Walnut Leaf Mite (
Aceria erinea). 
Near the entrance to the park is a lovely wildflower bed, that is currently blooming beautifully, though I didn't take any photos of the whole flowerbed as we were too busy identifying plants and insects. I did however, take a photo of the borage, which is such a lovely colour 

We all stopped to take photos of the Knapweeds that were growing alongside a path, they're such impressive flowers

For 30 Days Wild.

Monday 27 June 2022

Sunday 26 June 2022

North Merchiston Cemetery

 We're taking things easy after having the COVID so, today we walked round North Merchiston Cemetery (which was part of our Daily Exercise walk back in lockdown). 

The cemetery has recently been mown, in quite an eccentric way, with the wide open grassy areas, where there are no gravestones, mown very short

while vegetation is still growing very high around the gravestones. I have to admit, I like the vegetation growing high, but this is a cemetery and lots of people object to tall vegetation around gravestones, while no-one would object to the open grassy areas being allowed to grow a little wild, specially if paths were mown through them. 

Last year I found a common spotted orchid in the cemetery for the first time, and I was very happy to find that this year it's still there, having escaped the mowing. In fact there are two, but I wasn't able to get them both in the same photo

The buttercups still look lovely where they've not been removed by the mowing

and this Meadow Brown butterfly was quite happy on the long vegetation 

and this Speckled Wood butterfly was basking in the sunshine 

(Remember, Big Butterfly Count takes place in the UK between 15 July and 7 August. Find out how to take part here.)

Several spiders had gathered together on this gravestone, they all had their egg sacs with them

In previous years, a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers have nested in this tree

but it looks like they've not nested this year, as the chick would at least be making a lot of noise by now, if not starting to show its face, as it did about this time last year 

Perhaps they've found a different tree! In the past couple of years, some people have been spending long periods gathered too close to the tree to watch the youngster, which may have been putting off the parents. (The above photo was taken with a zoom!).

Friday 24 June 2022

Revisiting Newington Cemetery


Now that I'm out of COVID isolation, I'm back to my work of surveying the wildlife of all the cemeteries in Edinburgh that are managed by the city council. Today I returned to Newington Cemetery, one of the cemeteries that is particularly rich in wildlife.  

 It's nice to see that areas of the cemetery are allowed to grow wild - this area of white clover for instance is popular with a number of species of bee

The north part of the cemetery is a beautiful area of woodland, currently being enjoyed by several speckled wood butterflies, which were often chasing each other as they defended their territories (or their favourite sunbathing spot!)

There were also a few Pellucid Hoverflies (Volucella pellucens) which like to hover in the sunshine though this one did pose nicely for a photo

Thursday 23 June 2022

Angle Shades Moth

 I was delighted when Crafty Green Boyfriend's Mum pointed out this moth to me in her garden. Thanks to Edinburgh Natural History Society's Facebook group, I've found out that it's an Angle Shades, isn't it lovely?

Wednesday 22 June 2022

Insect Week in Dalry

 So having been indoors isolating after catching COVID, I can now get out and about again (Crafty Green Boyfriend has been able to get out for a few days longer than me as he caught the virus and got rid of it before me.) Aware that we shouldn't overdo things in the first week or so after getting rid of the virus, we walked round Dalry Community Park, which is just round the corner from where we live. 

It's a long, thin park, with much of its space given over to play areas, including a large sandy area that has inadvertently become a lovely flower meadow. 

As it is Insect Week, we took time to wander through the grass, looking for pollinating insects. We saw a number of Eupeoides sp hoverflies 

and several bumble bees including this Common Carder enjoying the white clover

By the edge of the path, we found this ladybird larva, which I think is the larva of the 7 spot ladybird

which will grow up to look like this 


There were quite a few bumblebees and hoverflies enjoying this bush, including this buff / white tailed bumblebee

We then had a rest before walking into Dalry Cemetery. The bramble bushes in the cemetery were buzzing with bees and hoverflies, including this Pellucid Hoverfly (Volucella pellucens)

and this Footballer Hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus)

It was lovely to see several speckled wood butterflies in the cemetery

Insect Week is a chance to celebrate insects and learn more about these fascinating invertebrates. You can find out more on the Insect Week website.

For 30 Days Wild,  Insect Week and Nature Notes.  

Monday 20 June 2022

The Natural Navigator by Tristan Gooley

The Natural Navigator

In this beautifully produced book, Tristan Gooley blends natural science, folklore and history to introduce the skills needed to navigate using nature's own sign-posts, from the appearance of a puddle to the angle of the sun.

This book will help you understand why some trees grow the way they do and how they can help you find your way in the countryside. You'll learn how to find North and how natural signs can be used to navigate anywhere, from the open ocean to the heart of a city. 

The book details how to navigate using signs on land, at sea and in the sky (including the moon, the sun and the stars). It's a very useful resource if you want to become more at home in the wild and more adept at relying on your senses (rather than technology) to find your way. 

The Natural Navigator by Tristan Gooley published (2010) by Virgin Books.  

You can read my earlier review of Gooley's book 'How to Read Water' here.



Saturday 18 June 2022

Birdwatching from the Window During COVID

 So, we've been confined to the flat for several days now, due to having the COVID. Luckily, although we live in a very built up part of Edinburgh, we have plenty of birds to watch from our window. 

The lesser black backed gulls across the road are raising a chick, who is now a bundle of fluff that likes to run around on the flat top roof; 

A group of starlings recently suddenly appeared on the chimneys opposite us, sat there for a while, then disappeared; 

We watched a pair of woodpigeons sitting on a chimney pot, billing and cooing and then they mated and soon after that flew off; 

Collared doves often perform their display flights for us to admire

and of course the swifts fly around, though fewer than there used to be, which is very sad, they're declining rapidly across the UK. We're still hoping that they may decide to nest in our recently installed nestbox. 

What birds can you see from your window?

Friday 17 June 2022

a haiku for 30 Days Wild

I took these photos before COVID hit our household and am only now back to blogging at all. We're both feeling a wee bit better, but both still definitely have the COVID. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery, as we're both missing getting outside. Though at least we have the lesser black backed gull 
 chick across the road to entertain us!

bumblebees buzz
the white clover -
scent of honey 

haiku for 30 Days Wild

Monday 13 June 2022

COVID and Black Backed Gulls

 So the COVID has finally caught up with us. Crafty Green Boyfriend caught it on a crowded train coming home from a business meeting, and now I have it too. A 'mild' case for both of us so far (i.e. it feels like a mild flu) but we will be staying at home until it's over. At least we have the lesser black backed gull family across the road to keep us entertained. 

The lesser black backed gulls have nested at that same spot for years now and it's always entertaining to watch the chicks as they develop. There seems to only be one chick this year and it has already dropped from the nest down to the flat roof below the chimney and is trotting around quite happily with the parents keeping their eyes on it. 

And of course we have swifts to watch too, as they nest locally, though fewer than we used to.

Saturday 11 June 2022

The Great Warming by Brian Fagan

 The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations

Subtitled 'Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilisations' this is Fagan's analysis of the Medieval Warm Period, the time from the tenth to the fifteenth century when the earth experienced a rise in global temperature and how this climatic change affected societies across the world.  These centuries of amiable weather allowed European countries in particular to flourish and were followed by six centuries of much more unsettled weather (see my review of Fagan's Little Ice Age here). 

The book shows how a climate that brought better harvests to many European countries, at the same time brought prolonged and devastating drought to many other parts of the world. The increased temperatures lead to cultural developments such as new strategies for storing water and the development of more drought tolerant cereals, but that wasn't enough to prevent the devastation in Africa and other parts of the world. 

Fagan looks in some detail at various parts of the world and how they were affected by the Medieval Warm Period, from details such as fine grape harvests in England, and how great storms in the Netherlands lead to the formation of the Zuider Zee bay to the effect that climatic changes had on the Mongol empire under Genghis Khan.

Alongside the social history of the period, Fagan explains some of the scientific methods used to study historic and pre-historic climates.

 The Great Warming is well worth reading for the interesting way it pulls together histories from various countries together to consider the global impact of climate change. The reader is then encouraged to consider our current climatic changes in the light of what has gone before. 

The Great Warming by Brian Fagan, published (2008) by Bloomsbury.


Friday 10 June 2022

North Merchiston Cemetery

I went for a lovely lunchtime walk round North Merchiston Cemetery today. I was happy to notice a good number of bumblebees enjoying the White Clover, including this Buff Tailed (or white tailed?) Bumblebee

 the clover had a delicious scent of honey. 

The bees were also enjoying the flowers of the Fox and Cubs 

and the dog roses are beautifully in bloom 

The lighting went wrong in the photo below, but I quite like the effect

Exploring a local green-space for 30 Days Wild and Nature Notes.

Thursday 9 June 2022

Tree Bumblebees and Blackbirdsong

 It is fairly obvious these days that insects are declining quite dramatically. You can walk through long grass and where once tiny moths and flies would flutter out around your feet, now there is likely to be nothing. Many flowers are disturbingly lacking any insect visitors. The decline is real and genuinely worrying, but there are still places where you can see lots of bumblebees. 

In the past few days, I have seen good numbers of various species of bumblebees in clumps of bush vetch and comfrey. Today in Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother's garden, a good number of tree bumblebees were gathered on the rhododendron bushes (there's a nest of tree bumblebees near one of the trees in her garden). The tree bumblebee is a relative newcomer to the UK, it arrived by itself (rather than being introduced) and is a pretty looking bee, as you can see from these two that were on the rhododendron today

Meanwhile up on the top of a tree, a blackbird sang almost continuously.

Garden Wildlife for 30 Days Wild

Wednesday 8 June 2022

Tree Following June 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 (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. 

The tree was magnificently in bloom at the time of my last update (which you can read here). By the end of May however, it had lost all its blooms, though it is still magnificent. 

You can see St Michael's Church through the branches 

and there's a nice array of flowering plants at the foot of the tree, including this cow parsley

For Tree Following and 30 Days Wild.