Thursday 29 June 2023

Fabric Owls

 A few months ago, I bought a kit for making stuffed fabric owls from a second hand shop. I wasn't happy with the first one I made as the wings didn't work, and so it hasn't got any wings! This one I've kept for myself!

I then adapted the design of the wings, substituting plain felt for the stuffed fabric wing that's suggested in the pattern. 

The fabric I've used in the owls includes some from my own existing stash, as well as the fabric that was included in the kit. I'm giving this owl to a friend for her birthday.

This owl is also a birthday gift, for another friend.

And this owl is a gift for someone else! 

As is this one! 

And this one 

This owl bears a bit of a resemblance to the owl mascot of a certain language learning website

and has made it across the Atlantic Ocean to Canada to a fellow learner of Scottish Gaelic! 

Do you have a favourite? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday 28 June 2023

Lunchtime Walk round Blackford Pond

It was raining for most of the day today (though the sun is shining just now!). I had a lovely lunchtime walk with a friend around Blackford Pond. 


 The Mallard ducklings are growing up fast, they're almost adults now! They're still sticking together though and keeping close to their mother. 

Monday 26 June 2023

Sunday 25 June 2023

Weekend Walk around Corstorphine Hill


We had a lovely walk around Corstorphine Hill yesterday. It's a lovely place to walk though rather steep in places. Edinburgh Council recently constructed a new path over part of the hill. 

Many people (including us) question the need for the path (as for most of it's length it doesn't make the climb any less steep and by smoothing things out, only makes it easier for cyclists to rush downhill at great speed, thus increasing the risk of collisions with walkers. But to make matters worse, the path is already, after only a couple of weeks, beginning to deteriorate really badly

Plus, it has damaged the areas where solitary bees have nested for many years. There are also steps that seem to be quite shoddy in their construction 

But complaining about the new path aside, we had a lovely walk. The Common Spotted Orchids are coming into bloom (though not yet anywhere near as many as there have been in previous years, perhaps more will bloom in the next week or so)

We were also pleased to see a good selection of insects, though, again, not as many as in previous years. Highlights included this Speckled Wood Butterfly 

Several hoverflies, including this Marmalade Hoverfly posing in a buttercup

and this Leucozonia laternaria, a new species for us! 

There were lots of young birds calling for food and fluttering around. We were particularly interested to see this adult Blue Tit feeding a young Great Tit! Great Tits are known to sometimes lay eggs in Blue Tit nests. I'm not sure what happens to the young Great Tit once it grows up!


Meanwhile, back at home, the Lesser Black Backed Gulls that are nesting across the road from us have got one chick, which is currently at the stage of running around on the flat area between the roofs. There was a bit of drama earlier today when the parent gulls needed to chase away a couple of Magpies that were getting too close to the chick. 

The chick is already exercising its wings

Friday 23 June 2023

Silverknowes Woodland Walk and Lauriston Agroecology Project

The Silverknowes Community Woodland has been in existence for a while, but although I've often passed it, I've never before walked through it. The paths I followed yesterday look to be a fairly new development. There's an area of wildflower meadow with mown paths

In this area, there are plants such as Ox Eye Daisies and Tufted Vetch

The path then enters the woodland area 

then an area of open grass, with some sections fenced off for rewildling 

 and comes out the other end to a view over the Silverknowes Golf Course

and then I came to Lauriston Farm Agroecology Project, where I will be doing regular butterfly surveys for the Butterfly Conservation Trust over the next three months. 

The fields here are being developed as an agroecology project (now in its third year, I think). Some areas are being used for community growing, some are being left to become wildflower meadows and some are being planted with trees. There is a garden area too 

The butterfly surveys are intended to demonstrate how the agroecology project is improving the area for wildlife. You can read my wildlife observations of the project from last year here and from 2021 here.  Today's butterflies included a good number of Ringlets, a few Meadow Browns, a Red Admiral and a few Speckled Woods. A Reed Bunting was singing in a hedge, Jackdaws were chasing a Buzzard up above and a lot of Swifts were flying high in the sky.

 For Nature Notes.

Thursday 22 June 2023

Nature in North Merchiston Cemetery

 Fox and Cubs is so called because the mature flowers ('foxes') are usually seen alongside buds ('cubs'). it's a very pretty flower and is currently in bloom in some of the grassy areas of North Merchiston Cemetery

I wrote in a recent post, about how important grasslands are, not only for wildlife but also as they offer natural solutions to the climate crisis. Their value for wildlife is easier to show in photos, of course! 

White Clover is also in bloom in the cemetery at the moment 

offering vital food for bees and other pollinating insects. The other day when I walked round the cemetery, there were actually a few bees around, but only this one Buff Tailled Bumblebee allowed me to get a photo. 

This Speckled Wood Butterfly was much happier to pose for photos 

Wednesday 21 June 2023

Jewels by Victoria Finlay


 In this book, Victoria Finlay sets out to explore the history and culture of a variety of jewels, examining, in order of hardness: amber, jet, pearl, opal, peridot, emerald, sapphire, ruby and diamond. 

It's a fascinating, well written book, full of amazing facts, my favourite of which is the dinosaur skeleton that was found in Australia, whose bones had all become opals!

I was disappointed in how little it dealt with the environmental impact of mining for gems, gashes in the landscape are mentioned a couple of times, a polluted river is referred to on one occasion. The author isn't that much more detailed on the negative social impacts of mining. Though these few sentences very succinctly sum up a lot of the injustices around mining: 

"It was typical of a colonial government that they should sell the rights in an industry they had never seen to a company that had no experience, without anyone even knowing how the traditional ownership of the land worked."

The chapter on pearls is the only one to go into any detail on the ecological issues. Freshwater pearls (which come from mussels, not oysters) were once found in every river in the Scottish Highlands, but there are now as few as five colonies in the whole of Scotland, due to over fishing through the centuries and the habit of careless fishers in cutting open every freshwater mussel in their search for pearls, whereas an experienced fisher can tell which mussels are likely to contain pearls without opening them up. In addition, this chapter details the cruelty of the making of cultured pearls (a piece of polished shell is forced into the oysters' gonads so that they are forced to produce pearls as a response to the injury). 

That aside, it is worth reading and of course not every reader is looking specifically for a discussion of the environmental impact of gem mining. However, this is a major issue of concern, and it seems odd that so little is said about it in this book. For an introduction to the environmental issues around gem mining, it is worth checking out the Gemstones and Sustainable Development Knowledge Hub, though as this seems to be funded by the diamond industry it may not be as hard hitting as it could be.

 Jewels by Victoria Finlay published (2005) by Hodder. 


Meanwhile, I've been adding vintage watches to my Crafty Green Magpie shop on Etsy. Mostly, these are watches that would need to be repaired or could be taken apart and used in craft projects. You can see them here.

Tuesday 20 June 2023

The value of Grasslands


 Recently, there has been a call to plant more trees in our local area. (Which is much needed, given how many trees, (including the whole of Sauchiebank Woods) have been destroyed to make a new cycle-path.)

There has been less than subtle pressure from some quarters that the North Merchiston Cemetery Friends Group should plant loads of trees in the grassland areas of the cemetery. 

This ignores the fact that semi-natural grassland, such as found in the cemetery, is a fairly rare habitat, particularly in our local area. These types of grasslands support a range of plants and fungi that would be lost if the area were to be turned into woodland, Common Spotted Orchid and Parrot Waxcap fungi to name just two. The more common species found in the cemetery grassland, such as the White Clover pictured above, support a range of insects and birds, contributing to the rich biodiversity of the cemetery. 

Grassland butterflies across Europe declined 36% in the decade 2010-2020 (see this article). This inderlines the importance of species rich grasslands for insect biodiversity. 

The biodiversity crisis we're living through is as urgent as the climate crisis, but too often all attention gets paid to the latter. However, research shows that grasslands are themselves valuable as a potential natural solution to climate change: 

"Species-rich grasslands are huge carbon stores and when managed carefully they lock in carbon and boost biodiversity. 

Grasslands have a huge potential for locking up carbon, not only due to the plants we can see on the surface, but also due to the relationships between the plants, fungi, bacteria and many other species which help enrich the soil with carbon."

This quote comes from the Wildlife Trusts' website, you can read the whole article here

So, grasslands and woodlands are both valuable habitats and just as we shouldn't be destroying woodlands to build cycle-paths, nor should we be converting species rich grasslands to woodlands.

For Nature Notes.

Monday 19 June 2023

Mersehead RSPB Reserve

Our holiday in Dumfries and Galloway continued with a visit to the Mersehead RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) reserve. It's a working farm that is managed with wildlife in mind. Livestock include this fine herd of Belted Galloway cattle

It's always a beautiful reserve to visit. The visitor is greeted by a beautiful array of flowers that should offer a banquet for pollinating insects, though there weren't very many pollinating insects the day we visited

There are paths all around the reserve, offering lovely views of the surrounding countryside

and the coastline 


There are lots of bird hides around the reserve, allowing great views of the flocks of geese that gather here in winter.

and decorated with beautiful artworks showing some of the species you can see here 

Summer lacks the magnificent large flocks of wintering birds but there's still plenty to see! We were entertained by this Rook family at their nest

We also saw Linnets, Goldfinches, Stonechats and Tree Sparrows and heard lots of Skylarks.  

We were delighted to see this Emperor Dragonfly, 

 and entertained by these Rabbits who seemed to be racing across the grass

The reserve also has a wildlife garden that includes demonstrations of ideas for how to help nature in your own garden, including this Rubble Retreat, which is full of cosy little hideaways for insects, reptiles and amphibians

and this Bug Hotel

Mersehead is a lovely place to visit at any time of year. Though it is particularly spectacular in winter when the large flocks of geese come in.