Thursday 27 June 2024

An Unexpected Guest

 Soon after we came home from our break in Dumfries, we had a visitor who soon made herself at home

We have no idea who she belongs to, no-one in our building has claimed her, and we've taken her to the vet who found that she hasn't been microchipped (probably because she's so young, the vet estimates she's only three months old). We're going to produce some posters and distribute them in the local area, hoping that the real owner can claim her. 

So, watch this space. Meanwhile, the next post on my Substack blog will look at the environmental impact of cats and dogs. It will be published at 8.15 on Wednesday morning.

Wednesday 26 June 2024

Wood of Cree

Wood of Cree is a lovely RSPB reserve, close enough to Dumfries for us to visit on many of our holidays in the area. The main part of the reserve is made up of beautiful woodland with a small stream running through it

The trees themselves are mostly relatively young as the whole woodland was clear felled during the First World War, but the woodland has since regenerated, so it qualifies as ancient woodland. There is a wealth of plant life here, including Blechnum ferns (Blechnum spicant)


 and other interesting things such as this Scrambled Egg slime-mould (Fuligo septica)

Outside the main woodland, there is an upland area that is currently scrubland and near the car park for the reserve there is a lovely lochan (small loch) which apparently is a favourite spot for otters, though we've never seen any here

Information notices around the reserve give details of wildlife that can be found here, including pine martens. We didn't see or hear any of the Wood Warblers or Pied Flycatchers that the reserve is renowned for, neither did we see any Red Squirrels. Nor did we see any Pine Martens but did find this poo (next to a 50p piece for scale), which we think may be from a pine marten - if you can confirm our thought, let me know in the comments.

You can read more about our holiday in Dumfries and Galloway by following these links: 

Enjoying Wildlife in Dumfries and Galloway (on my Substack blog)

and on this blog 

Wildlife at Caerlaverock.

Walking the Grounds at Drumlanrig Castle

Grey Heron on the River Nith.

Tuesday 25 June 2024

Wildlife at Caerlaverock WWT Reserve

One of our favourite places to visit in Dumfries and Galloway is the WWT Caerlaverock Reserve

The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust has reserves across the UK, all of which are best known as centres for migratory wildfowl, such as geese and swans, but all are havens for a wide range of wildlife. 

Caerlaverock is a vast area of wetland habitats, along with wildflower meadows and wildlife gardens, all dotted with bird hides and observation towers giving visitors great views across the reserve. 


Caerlaverock is most popular in winter, when the migrating geese and swans visit, but it is just as wonderful in summer, when the dragonflies and damselflies are seen in abundance across the reserve. In 2013, we were lucky enough to visit during what must have been a mass emergence of dragonflies, as they were everywhere in vast numbers (see this post). This year, there weren't such huge numbers, but still we were impressed by what we saw, including this mating pair of Common Blue Damselflies 

The wildlife garden area has several specially made homes for solitary bees, which are well-used - how many bees can you see in the photo below? 

We saw a lot of Latticed Heath Moths around the reserve 

The reserve is full of birds, of course. We saw plenty of Swallows, some of which were nesting in some of the bird hides and round the observation towers, so we got very good views

We also saw a family of Linnets with the parents diligently feeding their chicks, several Stonechats, two families of Mute Swans, three Teal (teal are more usually winter ducks, so it was slightly unexpected to see them), Lapwings, and had our best ever views of Sedge Warblers (though sadly the photos didn't turn out well enough to share!), we also saw Reed Warbler, Reed Buntings, Tree Sparrows and House Sparrows (both species of sparrow together at a feeding station, which is unusual in my experience), Pied Wagtails 

 Although we didn't see Song Thrushes, we know they are around as we found this anvil where the thrushes smash snail shells before eating the contents

We spent all day on the reserve and could easily have spent longer there, but had to leave when it closed. 

Monday 24 June 2024

Walking the Grounds of Drumlanrig Castle

 Our first trip while we were in Dumfries and Galloway was to Drumlanrig Castle, where we walked round the beautiful wooded castle grounds. 

The castle itself is a lovely building and has House Martins and Swallows nesting in it, many of which were flying around the castle and car park when we were there. 


Drumlanrig Castle and car park 


There are some lovely pools around the estate,

which attract a good number of Dragonflies and Damselflies, including Large Red Damselflies 

and Common Blue Damselflies 

Thee's also a lovely stream that flows through the estate

All in all it's a lovely place for a walk and one we have visited many times.

Sunday 23 June 2024

Grey Heron on the River Nith

We're now back from a lovely few days in Dumfries and Galloway. I'll post more soon, but just for now, here are some photos of the River Nith in the town of Dumfries and a Grey Heron who was kind enough to pose for photos. 

Sunday 16 June 2024

Along the Union Canal

Yesterday was the Edinburgh Canal Festival, which takes place every year at sites along the Union Canal. So we walked along the canal for a while and visited the festival itself. 

Parts of the towpath are lined with a variety of flowering plants, including Dog Roses, which are in full bloom just now 

all these flowers attract insects, though nowhere near as many as in previous years (the decline of insect populations has been chillingly evident over the past couple of years). We were pleased to find this Double Orange Spot moth 

and these hoverflies - a Melangyna sp on the left and a Eupeoides sp on the right.  

Plus this beetle, which I think is a species of Donacia (possibly Donacia simplex?) if you know for certain that I'm wrong, please feel free to tell me so in the comments!

We also popped into the community garden in Harrison Park

where a good number of bees were busy amongst all the flowers.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Lunchtime Walk round Saughton Park

We're having a sort of staycation week at the moment. I'm working part of the week, Crafty Green Boyfriend is off work all week and when we're together we're decorating and taking local walks. Today at lunchtime, we walked round Saughton Park, where many of the flowers are at their best. 

These poppies (below) are particularly pretty at the moment.

There were quite a lot of Honey Bees around, more than any other species in fact. All the common species of bumblebee (Buff Tailed Bumblebee, White Tailed Bumblebee, Tree Bumblebee, Common Carder and Early Bumblebee) were present in the park, though in very small numbers compared to the Honey Bees. Honey Bees are known to compete with other species of bees and other pollinating insects, and so can sometimes be a problem for biodiversity, regardless of the pollination services they provide. 

I talk a wee bit about insects in my second post over on my new Substack blog. You can read the post here. Some people have been asking about my Substack. Yes, it's another blog, but it isn't just repeating what I post here! I'm using Substack to post longer article style blog posts, once a week, that expand on the types of topics and issues that I write about here. You can read the posts, either by following the links that I share here or on social media, or by subscribing. Currently, subscription is entirely free and most (if not all) the content will always be free, but I will eventually introduce the option of paid subscriptions. However, rather than putting some content behind a paywall, I will probably be using paid subscriptions as an option purely for people who choose to support my work. This is a model that works for a fair number of the substacks that I read, and also works well for various other publications.

Monday 10 June 2024

Searching for Butterflies on Corstorphine Hill

 I'm involved with butterfly surveying again this year. As well as my second year surveying the rewilding fields at Lauriston Farm, this year I'm also surveying a transect on Corstorphine Hill. Today was my first survey walk on Corstorphine Hill. The weather wasn't actually good enough, so my survey won't be actually valid (but according to the weather forecast, today had the best chance of good enough weather). 

I saw only two butterflies, both Speckled Woods, in the lovely Walled Garden on the hill. (The butterflies aren't in the photo!).

I did see a good variety of hoverflies though, including this lovely Lucazona lucorum

and this Pellucid Hoverfly (Volucella pellucens) 

There's a lovely selection of flowers in the Walled Garden, which on a sunnier day would (hopefully!) attract a good number of butterflies. It was interesting to see this Cuckoo Spit in amongst the flowers of the Viper's Bugloss

Cuckoo Spit is a frothy substance produced by the young of froghopper bugs. 

In a corner of the Walled Garden is this Bug Hotel, which offers hones to all sorts of insects. 

The rest of the survey transect passes through woodland glades and open areas where wildflower meadows are being established

It was very nice to see several orchids in the grass. Mostly Common Spotted Orchids, but some may have been Marsh Orchids. 

I'm also talking about insects and climate in this week's post on my Substack. You can read it here:

Sunday 9 June 2024

Drama at Figgate Park

 We had a lovely walk round Edinburgh's Figgate Park yesterday. The main feature of the park is the Figgate Pond, which is home to a number of water birds including Mute Swans, Mallards and Canada geese, all of which have bred there this year. As all the parent birds are keen to protect their offspring from attacks from predators, they can sometimes become quite aggressive.

We were watching the Canada Goose family, with their five appealing goslings

when suddenly one of the parents rushed away, followed by all the goslings

It didn't take long to find out what had caused this, as a Mute Swan had decided to chase the other adult Canada Goose

This chase went on for quite a long time, though oddly, at one time the swan chased the goose towards the swan's own nest on the island in the middle of the pond! 

The Mute Swans only had one cygnet. 

It seems likely that there would have been more cygnets to start with, so this family may feel a particular pressure to guard their remaining offspring. 

There were a number of mallards on the pond, including this family with small ducklings.


We were delighted to see several damselflies, though mostly further away from the water than we would have expected to find them! There were at least two species, the Blue Tailed Damselfly 

and Common Blue Damselfly (I think! If anyone disagrees and thinks its actually an Azure Damselfly, please let me know in the comments!)

There were a good number of Speckled Wood butterflies flying around.

We saw a few hoverflies, though not as many as we might have hoped. It was particularly nice to get such a good view of this Footballer Hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus)