Wednesday 31 May 2023

Evening Walk

 I met a friend for an evening walk yesterday and while waiting for her to arrive, I took these photos of the trees around Polworth Parish Church and the Union Canal

The Whitebeam trees are looking beautiful


There were even a few bumblebees buzzing in this tree (so far I've not seen many bees this year, so it was encouraging to see these, though, I can't identify which species it is from the photo!) 

It was a beautiful warm evening and we sat for a while in the middle of Harrison Park, surrounded by a very lively flock of House Sparrows, one of which was enjoying a dust bath underneath a tree. Sorry, I have no photos or videos of the sparrows.

Monday 29 May 2023

Everything's in Bloom but Where are the Insects?

The white flowering trees are in full bloom across Edinburgh at the moment and looking wonderful. These include Hawthorn



and Holly 

But where are the insects that should be busily feeding on these blooms? Given that it's generally colder than England and Wales, Scotland never has the number of insects that are traditionally seen down south, but this year there are very few indeed. Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable decline in many insects, but this year, the decrease in insect life is starkly obvious to anyone who pays attention. 

This patch of comfrey, alongside the Water of Leith, was buzzing with several species of bee this morning (Buff Tailed Bumblebees, Common Carders, Early Bumblebees, Tree Bumblebees and Honey Bees.)

but apart from that spot, and decent numbers of Seven Spot Ladybirds in a few places, there are very few insects about at the moment. I've seen a handful of Orange Tip butterflies, a small number of Speckled Wood butterflies, the occasional hoverfly and little else. 

I've seen people across the UK reporting similar observations on social media. This is a very worrying trend, not only for the insects themselves but for the birds and other animals that feed on them and for the insect pollinated crops we rely on for food. 

The insect conservation charity, Buglife, are looking for people in the UK to get involved in their Bugs Matter survey. You can find out more about all their surveys, past and present, here. And Buglife are running a 'No Insectinction' campaign to raise awareness of the plight of insects.

Are you seeing many insects in your part of the world? 

Sunday 28 May 2023

Arthur's Seat

 We had a lovely walk round Edinburgh's Arthur's Seat yesterday. The whole area is in bloom with Cow Parsley at the moment, which looks beautiful

Plenty of other plants are in bloom too, including Bloody Cranesbill

and Ox Eye Daisies 

We were delighted to see this family of Mute Swans on Dunsapie Loch 

and a closer look into the water reveals plenty of tadpoles, probably toad tadpoles

The Mute Swans aren't the only birds to have families at the moment, the Ravens do too!

Ravens have a very distinctive diamond shaped tail when in flight

Friday 26 May 2023

A Siege of Bitterns by Steve Burrows

Inspector Domenic Jejeune is a Canadian detective living in Norfolk, one of England's prime birdwatching areas. As a keen birder himself he'd rather be out there with his binoculars than chasing after murderers. 

This novel, by Steve Burrows (a Brit living in Canada) investigates the murder of a prominent environmentalist and digs into the issues around the decline in certain wading birds in the area. The narrative is embedded in the world of serious birders, particularly the competitive race to reach 400 bird species seen in Norfolk. It's an engaging read, which delves into ecological and other issues. However, the main character doesn't seem developed enough to carry the seven books in the Birder Murder series (this is the first). Although I did like the way that Jejeune used the observation skills developed through birding to help him solve the crimes.

It's a good read for anyone who likes birdwatching and enjoys a good mystery. 

A Siege of Bitterns by Steve Burrows published by Dundurn.

Wednesday 24 May 2023

Mayfly Time

 heat haze

swallows laze

across the lake
to catch mayfly

for the mayfly
iridescent in the sun
this languid day

is eternity 


previously published in Plum Tree Tavern 

Tuesday 23 May 2023

Buttercups, Hawthorns and a New Tool Library for Edinburgh

 I did my regular litter picking and wildlife recording patrol in the Dells along the Water of Leith today. There was a lot of birdsong, it's particularly nice to hear Willow Warblers, which, years ago, when I started doing the patrols were never heard around here, now I'm hearing them every time I'm in the Dells, in two different places. Notable sightings included a group of five or six Long Tailed Tits, almost certainly a newly fledged family. Plus a Grey Heron and a Carrion Crow engaged in some sort of noisy squabble. 

The Hawthorn Trees are at their best at the moment, they look beautiful 

The marshy field is full of buttercups at the moment 

Later in the year, there will hopefully be good numbers of Lesser Spotted Orchids here. I fairly often see Roe Deer here too, one year a mother deer regularly left her fawn in the long grass in this field. 

Just further upstream from this field is Spylaw Park, where on Friday a new hub will open for Edinburgh Tool Library. They will be based in the (currently mostly unused) community shed in the park and will open on Fridays (for tool collection) and Mondays (for returning tools). You can find out more here

Meanwhile, at home, our cactus is starting to bloom

Sunday 21 May 2023

Blackford Pond and Hermitage of Braid


Yesterday we had a lovely walk to Blackford Pond and through the Hermitage of Braid. The Yellow Flag Irises are starting to come into bloom around the pond

On the pond itself, we were delighted to see that two pairs of Mallards have young, this mother was looking after ten ducklings

the photo below shows four of them in close up

It was also particularly nice to see this Dabchick feeding its youngster (edited to add: I just found out from Twitter that a week ago there were four chicks, three chicks and the other parent have disappeared from the pond, probably predated by a gull or a mink, predation is a normal part of nature of course, but still sad to see these lovely birds disappear from the pond)

The Mute Swans have a nest, but are still sitting on eggs, though taking it in turns to swim around

 We were surprised to see this Stock Dove, a species that is often overlooked, due to its superficial resemblance to the much more common (and larger) Woodpigeon 

We also saw this Alder Fly

and this handsome leaf beetle 

I had heard that rats had been eliminated from the pond, but that's obviously no longer true and people have been putting large amounts of bird food on the ground, which only attracts the rats.

In the area around the pond, we saw lots of wildflowers, the photo below shows Red Campion, Green Alkanet, Garlic Mustard, Cleavers and Nettles

We passed through Midmar Paddock on the way to the Hermitage of Braid itself. The paddock is still sadly threatened with being built on. It has this iconic group of trees in the middle

and views over to Blackford Hill

The paddock is also full of flowers at the moment, includingWood Avens (aka Herb Bennet)

Greater Stitchwort

and Germander Speedwell

There were a lot of Seven Spot Ladybirds in the Paddock, including this one which was exploring the Sunburst lichen (Xanthoria parietina) on a fallen branch

We then walked through the Hermitage of Braid, which is particularly beautiful at this time of year

It was lovely to see a few Orange Tip butterflies - this male even stopped to allow Crafty Green Boyfriend to take a photo!
On a nearby road, we saw these Nomada Cuckoo bees hanging around outside the nest holes of some mason bees, the cuckoo bees will eventually invade the nest and lay their eggs in there.

for Nature Notes.