Saturday, 23 May 2015

Scotland's Big Nature festival

Crafty Green Boyfriend and I went to Scotland's Big Nature Festival in Musselburgh today. The weather was perfect for this kind of event, sunny and warm, though with a breeze coming in from the sea.

The route was signposted well for cyclists

though we walked from Musselburgh along the John Muir Walkway, one of my favourite birdwatching walks.

There's lots to do and see at the Festival, including tthe lovely Wild About East Lothian Tent

which is East Lothian in miniature, including all the main wildlife habitats found in the country, along with interactive activities, and lots of information about wildlife and the problems it faces.

The packed programme offered something for everyone. Our first stop was the Scotland's Larder tent for a demonstration from Anna Canning of Flora Medica of how to make pesto from wild greens, in this case ground elder, nettle and sticky willy (goosegrass).

After the demonstration we sampled the pesto, which was delicious. It's also a great way to use ground elder if it's a problem weed in your garden.

Next we went to the bird ringing demonstration, where we watched bird ringers from the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) ringing a beautiful male reed bunting. The bird is having his wing measured in the photo below.

We also went to a very interesting short talk from Ben Darvill (also of the BTO) about swallows, martins and swifts in the UK. Swifts are my favourite birds and this year so far I've seen about ten of them flying above our flat. In this talk, Ben outlined how all these birds are declining in the southern parts of the UK but doing relatively well in Scotland. He packed a lot into the 20 minute slot but it would have been nice to have had longer! However that would have meant fewer talks in the programme, so there needs to be a balance!

We enjoyed browsing the various stalls and were particularly impressed by the beautiful pencil-drawn art works of Fran Knowles. We were also struck by Gill Hatcher's lovely little book, Bunny behind the Moon, about a young bunny called Wonder, who finds out that her extra large ears are picking up messages from the bunny behind the moon.

We bought lunch from the Whitmuir Organics food truck, which was delicious, but slightly messy to eat! We also enjoyed a couple of real ales from the Orkney Brewery. It's good to see the Scottish Nature Festival offering ethically produced food and drink from Scotland.

Before and after the festival, we enjoyed listening to the spring birdsong as we walked between the venue and Musselburgh, including reed buntings, skylarks, willow warbler and whitethroats. The grassy areas were full of speedwells and vetches bursting into flower (photos tomorrow) and we found this beautiful little creature

So all in all we had a wonderful time! More tomorrow, I hope.

Thanks to the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) for giving me a free pass to the festival!

Friday, 22 May 2015

A brief history of rhinos

Today is the International Day for Biodiversity. A chance to celebrate the diversity of life on earth, to understand what that diversity contributes to our lives and to focus on the need to reserve and conserve our wild plants and animals and the places where they live. I've been thinking particularly about rhinos. 

Thirty million years ago, the world was home to giant rhinoceroses, which weighed up to 5 tonnes, making them the largest land mammal that has ever lived. Since then, many species of rhinos have come and gone, including wooly rhinos that thrived during the Ice Ages.

Today, there are five species, most of which are becoming rarer all the time, due to pressures from poaching.

In Africa, the southern white rhino fell to 100 animals in South Africa in the 1960s and conservation efforts raised the population to 20, 000 by 2008. Since then though, poaching has lead the population to fall again. Botswana is seen as the only country that is safe for rhinos. The country's KhamaRhino Sancutary hasn't had a single rhino poached in 24 years. In great contrast to South Africa, where in 2013, a rhino was poached on average every eight hours.

The outlook is even bleaker for the northern subspecies of the white rhino. There are only five left in the wild, the one male has its own personal 24 hour armed guard and has had his horn removed to deter poachers.

The other African species, the black rhino is critically endangered. In the 1960s when there were only 100 white rhinos in Africa, there were 120, 000 black rhinos. This population was reduced by paoching to 2 000 in 2000, though conservation efforts had increased this to 4000 by 2008. This number has since been reduced by a new, more organised and extreme wave of poaching. Having said that, in Kenya there were 381 black rhinos in 1987 and in 2015 there are 640, not a huge number but the population trend isn't all downwards, though  three of the subspecies of black rhino are already extinct.

The Sumatran rhino, the smallest species, and the only one that is hairy, is critically endangered, threatened by poaching and the loss of the secluded shrub areas it needs to give birth in.

The Javan rhino may be down to 40 individuals, all found in a tiny area in Java.

News is slightly better for the Indian rhino. It is doing particularly well in Nepal, which over the past year has seen no poaching of wild animals. The rhinos suffered from poaching that became rampant during the civil war which ended in 2008. Since then their numbers have increased. In 2015 there are 645 individual rhinos in Nepal, compared to 534 in 2011.Bumbers of Indian rhinos in Assam have increased from 200 in the 1900s to 2,544 in 2014.

References: (click on the links to read the articles)

The Story of Rhinos and how they conquered the world.

Rhino Coservation in Botswana.

Botswana's Rhino Sanctuary leading the fight against ivory poaching .

Critically endangered black rhinos re-introduced to native habitat (Kenya).

National Rhino Count 2015 (Nepal).

Wikipedia entry for Indian rhinoceros.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Fabric storage bag

The large carrier bag that I had been using to store all my fabric supplies finally fell apart recently and I made this one to replace it. I used two fabrics, they're the same type of fabric but different patterns. The fabric came from a friend when we were clearing out her Mum's house.

I decided not to make it a reversible bag so the blue fabric will always be on the outside and the brown  fabric lining inside as well as making the 'drawstring' tie. I'm quite pleased with the way it looks and it turned out more roomy than I expected. It's certainly a neat way of storing (some of) my crafting supplies!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Musselburgh Lagoons from a different angle

When I walk around the John Muir Way and Musselburgh Lagoons, I usually keep to the coastal path, to get better views of the sea birds. That path also gives excellent views of many of the birds (such as skylarks, reed buntings and wheatears) that make the scrubby grassland their home.

However it's also nice to walk up into the grassland, keeping to the paths to avoid accidentally damaging the nests or young of ground nesting birds. (I wish more dog owners would pay attention to the signs asking them to keep their dogs properly under control in this area).

This area is part of what used to be ash pits from Cockenzie power station that have been allowed to return to nature, with a little help from sensitive wildlife management, tree planting and the creation of the Lagoons which host large numbers of wading birds, particularly in August and September when the passage migrants stop over on their routes.

Now Cockenzie Power station has been decommissioned and the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) is going to convert the ash piles in this photo into an extension of the nature reserve (the ash is the grey hill in the foreground, the darker, green and gorse-yellow hill in the background is iconic Edinburgh landmark Arthur's Seat)

That project will take years to complete and is still only in the planning stages.

A more immediate project from the RSPB is Scotland's Big Nature Festival, to take place here this weekend. The site is already filling up with tents....

The festival has an exciting programme of talks and events (which you can see here). If you want to find a greener way to travel to the festival, details are here. We'll be there, probably travelling by bus to Musselburgh and then walking along the John Muir Walkway.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Green Book Club

I was delighted to discover Green Book Club - the new, ethical online bookshop for readers in the UK.

Green Book Club was set up after the very similar outlet Green Metropolis was discontinued.

I found Green Metropolis to be a great way of passing on relatively unusual books to someone who wanted them (and to make a bit of money at the same time).I often read quite unusual, non-mainstream books, that if donated to a generalist second hand shop might sit on the shelves for months and then be sent to landfill. (I was quite traumatised the day I saw a truck outside one of our local second hand shops being filled with unsold books for the dump). Though having said that I have always given most of my books (those that I don't want to read again or keep for reference!) to one of Oxfam's dedicated second hand bookshops - knowing that people will specifically go to Oxfam book shops in search of unusual books.

Most books on the Green Book Club cost £3.75 (including postage) and the seller gets £3.00 for each sale (to cover postage and a little profit). Heavier books cost slightly more to cover the increased postage costs. Sellers can choose to offer books at a lower price if they wish.

5p from every sale goes towards the work of the Woodland Trust, who do vital work looking after woodland sites across the UK.

Although the site is still very new, it already offers a good range of books in a variety of genres and that choice will only increase as more people join the site to sell their books.

The new club operates in most ways exactly as Green Metropolis did, though with the addition of a members' discussion forum.

So I've already listed my first books on the Green Book Club and hope that it will be a successful venture, helping people to find the books they want while helping the environment a bit too!

Edited to add: I've now sold my first book on Green Book Club! 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Spring in bloom

The weather is very mixed at the moment. It's been raining so far for much of the day. But that doesn't stop the trees and plants from looking their best. The ramsons (wild garlic) are at their best in parts of Colinton Dell at the minute.

And the wych elms are wonderful at the moment

Plus this large fungus suddenly appeared and has already been nibbled

No sign of the spotted flycatchers today (though heavy rain probably isn't the best weather for catching flies!). I hope they decide to settle in the Dells this year. Though even if they're just passing through that's more than I'm aware of them having done for many years!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

River Almond at Cramond

Very changeable weather today, but we still enjoyed our walk along the River Almond at Cramond. There were lots of swallows with some house martins and swifts flying around, some low over the river, some above the trees. A wonderful summery sight!

We also saw this grey heron, basking in the sunlight as it patiently waited for lunch

And the cute Shetland ponies (and magpie!) in their field at the end of the walk