Sunday 31 July 2022

Cramond Brig to South Queensferry

Yesterday we decided to take the lovely long walk from Cramond Brig to South Queensferry, wandering through the Dalmeny Estate. The walk passes through farmland 



and along the shore of the Firth of Forth

 with views of Cramond Island 

and this lovely small stream

with its resident family of Mallard ducks 

It's a walk for a sunny day, as that brings out the butterflies, and we certainly weren't disappointed on that score yesterday! 

As soon as we started the walk, we saw this beautiful Peacock butterfly, along with several Small Whites on a Buddleia bush 

We also saw this Small Copper, one of my favourite butterflies, it's so small and vivid

and this Wall Butterfly, 

which has a particularly beautiful underwing, which I've never really had a chance to look at closely before


I've recorded these butterflies for Big Butterfly Count, which continues until 7 August. So, if you're in the UK, you still have time to join in!

We also saw a good variety of hoverflies, including this Pellucid Hoverfly (Volucella pellucens)

This Batman Hoverfly (Myathropa florea)

and this hoverfly (Leucozonia glaucia, which as far as I know doesn't have a common name) seen below with several Common Red Soldier Beetles

It's a lovely summer walk, but yesterday it felt almost like autumn at times, in many parts of the woodland so many leaves have fallen from the drought stressed trees

It's raining today, which should help, but we have had mostly a very dry summer so far and we definitely need more rain.

Thursday 28 July 2022

Earth Overshoot Day

Today is Earth Overshoot Day. This is the day in the year when human demand for natural resources and services exceeds what the planet can regenerate in that year. So for the rest of the year, we are effectively overshooting our natural support systems. Earth Overshoot Day has fallen earlier and earlier in the year over the past 50 years, as the world's population increases, and we consume more and more.

Every year, Earth Overshoot Day is hosted and calculated by Global Footprint Network. This international research organization provides decision-makers with tools that are designed to help us to operate within Earth’s ecological limits.

Find out more about Earth Overshoot Day

There are many existing technologies and ideas that could help us to turn things around. You can read about a large selection of these approaches here

One way of reducing the amount of raw materials we use is to make our economy more circular, with repairable products designed to last as long as possible, made of materials that can be safely reused or recycled. The Scottish Government is currently looking into how to develop a circular economy in this country. You can find out more about these plans here, and if you are in Scotland, you're invited to respond to the Scottish Government's consultation.

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Craig the Cat Gives another Guided Tour of Craigmillar Cemetery

 I'm continuing my work surveying the wildlife in the 43 cemeteries managed by Edinburgh Council. Yesterday, I surveyed Mortonhall Cemetery and the grounds of the Crematorium, but doe to issues with my camera memory, I don't have any photos of that visit! (You can see photos from my previous visits to this cemetery here and here.)

Today, I revisited Craigmillar Castle Cemetery, the newest cemetery in Edinburgh. As last time (see this post), I was given something of a guided tour by Craig the Cat.

 Craig is a very capable tour guide 


but does need to have regular rests

This cemetery has wonderful views over to the Pentlands at one side 

and Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags at the other 

There is a lovely flower bed planted with a range of flowers that are enjoyed by pollinating insects, including mayweed  and common poppy

though there weren't many insects there when I stopped by (possibly because the flowerbed was in the shade at the time, though the recent declines in insect populations have been very obvious).

The ornamental chives and Lambs' Ears at the other end of the cemetery were being visited by a good number of bees, including this Buff Tailed Bumblebee

I saw a few butterflies, including a Comma, a Small Skipper, a Small Tortoiseshell and a few Meadow Browns. None of them stopped for their photo (but you can click on the links to find out more about each species). I've entered all my butterfly records into the Big Butterfly Count, which runs until 7 August.

Monday 25 July 2022


lightning above
the Mediterranean -
scent of jasmine


previously published on Breadcrumbs 

Sunday 24 July 2022

Both Sides of the Firth of Forth

 A couple of days ago, I visited a friend in Dalgety Bay, on the other side of the Firth of Forth to the north of Edinburgh. We went for a lovely walk along the coast

and passing through part of Bathing House Woods which is managed by Dalgety Bay Community Woodlands.  It's a lovely place to explore!

Yesterday, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I walked through the fields at Silverknowes, where the Edinburgh Agroecology Project are developing the Lauriston Farm area

The area has been divided into sections, one for ecologically aware agriculture, one for woodland and one for open grassland. At the moment, the woodland is made up of long grass and newly planted trees (disappointingly encased in plastic tubing and possibly too many trees for this area, which used to be a haven for wintering wading birds). We were delighted to see good numbers of Swallows and House Martins (which have always come to this area in summer, but neither of us have ever seen so many here). Crafty Green Boyfriend took lots of photos of the swallows, plenty of youngsters around - you can see an adult feeding a youngster in the third photo below

There were also plenty of butterflies, including several Meadow Browns 

and a couple of Small Skippers (if you look carefully in the photo below, you may also see a Cinnabar Moth caterpillar in amongst the ragwort stems) 

We also found this beautifully patterned bug, Grypocoris stysi, click on the photo below to enlarge it

There were some lovely plants too, including this Jack Go To Bed by Noon (also known as Goat's Beard)

 The fields are now so much richer in wildlife than they were at this time of year before the project started last year.  I do, however, still wonder about how the wintering waders will fare in future years in this area, particularly as so many suitable wintering grounds are being built on across the country. 

We also walked down to the foreshore of Silverknowes and enjoyed views of Cramond Island 

I'm recording the plants we found for the Big Meadow Search (which runs until the end of August) and the butterflies we saw for Big Butterfly Count (which runs until 7 August).

Monday 18 July 2022

Revisiting Warriston Cemetery

 We've been warned over the past week or so that a heatwave was on its way, and now it has hit! I left home early to try to fit in as much as possible of today's wildlife survey as I could before the temperature got unbearable. I also chose Warriston Cemetery which has large areas of woodland (part of it is in fact a Local Nature Reserve), making much of it a cool place to survey.

The sunshine brought the butterflies out, including this Red Admiral 

and this Comma 

I've added all today's butterfly records to the Big Butterfly Count, though their website doesn't seem to be as user-friendly as it used to be. Has anyone else noticed that?  

I was delighted to see a lot of fledglings that had obviously only recently left their nests. The most amusing was a family of young blue tits that had gathered near a stream and were diving in to drink and bathe. Open water is such a vital resource for wildlife in overly hot weather like this. 

We're experiencing record breaking temperatures in the UK (and across Europe) at the moment. This is not 'a nice summer' as many people seem to put it. It's climate change. In the UK, we're not equipped to deal with temperatures like this! If you're going out today or tomorrow, wear a hat, cover up, walk in the shade when you can and drink lots of water. And think about joining a campaign to address climate change.

Sunday 17 July 2022

Terra by Richard Hamblyn

 Terra by Richard Hamblyn

 Subtitled Tales of the Earth - Four Events that Changed the World, this is an excellent, informative book that looks at earth science through the prism of four historical natural disasters. The four are the 1755 earthquake that hit Lisbon, the toxic fog that blanketed Europe in 1783 (linked to the eruption of an Icelandic volcano), the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa and the 1946 Hawaiian tsunami. 

Each individual disaster is explored using scientific reports and first person accounts from survivors. In each case, the author then demonstrates how the specific event forwarded the science in the field and looks at policy decisions that can make disasters worse (such as removal of coral reefs or mangroves that can both protect coastlines against storm surges).

The Lisbon earthquake established the protocols of international humanitarian response and lead to the development of the science of seismology (and the construction of the first earthquake proof buildings).

Benjamin Franklin had been thinking about the possibility of global climate change since 1760 and his presence in Europe in 1783 (as US commissioner to the court of France) enabled him to investigate whether the toxic air of  that year had a direct link to the excessively cold winter of 1783-84. This work lead to the beginning of the serious study of climate change, which of course has only become more important in recent years. 

The eruption of Krakatoa was the first natural disaster to happen in times when it could relatively rapidly become global news. Study of the blast lead to significant advances in vulcanology and meteorology- the studies of its global after effects lead to better understanding of the workings of the upper stratosphere. In addition, the recolonisation of Krakatoa by small animals lead to vital understandings about ecological recovery: 

"This question, which is still known as the Krakatoa problem, goes right to the heart of understanding the dynamics of ecological recovery: how exactly do ecosystems restore themselves after major calamities...? Does life only ever return from outside .... or are there any particularly hardy species ... that can withstand the stresses of a paroxysmal blast?"

The book was published around the time of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and includes observations on the effectiveness of the Pacific Tsunami Warning System (that had been put in place in the wake of the 1946 Hawaiian tsunami).

The book ends with some thoughts on how best to mitigate the effects of future major natural disasters - having the right technology can only work if combined with public education and policies to prevent disaster including better town planning and conservation of natural elements that buffer against storm surges. 

This is a fascinating and very readable book for anyone interested in natural disasters and the development of science. 

Terra by Richard Hamblyn published (2009) by Picador


Saturday 16 July 2022

The Innocent Railway


The Innocent railway that runs below Arthur's Seat is one of Edinburgh's paths that used to be a railway line. We walked along today and in fact, for the first ever time, it felt more like a cyclepath, being totally dominated by cyclists. I'm all for shared use paths, but cyclists really need to be rspectful and considerate of the people walking along the path (and those who push prams or are in wheelchairs). At the same time of course, walkers need to be aware of cyclists. Today too many cyclists were roaring along at top speed, riding two abreast even when passing pedestrians and barely a one used their bell). So our walk didn't feel quite like the pleasant stroll we had anticipated. 

However, we were very happy to see lots of Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on the Ragwort plants

We also saw this Small Skipper Butterfly 

and this Meadow Brown Butterfly 

I'll be including these sightings in my contribution to The Big Butterfly Count, which started yesterday. 

We also saw this strange thing, which we haven't identified as yet, so if anyone can help with that, let me know!