Wednesday, 29 July 2015

A wee insect finds a cosy spot to rest

Look carefully in this thistle flower and you'll see a beautiful Grypocoris stysi.(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)
I took this photo while we were picking raspberries at lunchtime in our favourite raspberry picking place. The weather was beautiful and the raspberry bushes and brambles were full of bees, red soldier beetles and other insects.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Another beaded lanyard

I made this beaded lanyard from my stash of beads, a re-sued lanyard connector and new jewellery wire and fittings. I added it to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop a while ago and somehow seem to have overlooked blogging about it.

It's in red, white and blue, which of course are the patriotic colours for a number of nations, but I have to say I think it probably will have the greatest appeal in the USA, as there seems specifically to be a market in patriotic lanyards there, which is certainly something that doesn't seem very likely to be the case in the UK.....

I'm hoping to make another one similar in design, but don't have quite enough beads as yet!

You can see this one in my Etsy shop here.

Monday, 27 July 2015



Gulls divebomb each other,
squabble over perching rights
on chimney pots,
throw back their heads
in raucous chorus,
rip rubbish sacks to shreds,
steal chicks from nests
and eat them on the roofs
then launch into the sky
to soar on thermals,
sharp white wings
against the blue.

At this time of the year, gulls become very protective of their fledgeling young. From our flat we can hear their raucous calls for much of the day and they often chase each other and squabble over food. This is actually quite entertaining, though our neighbours who put up a birdfeeder on their third floor windowsill, soon took it back in again when they found their windowsill a gathering point for the local gulls.

This year, the behaviour of gulls has caused an outcry at national level. There are tales of dogs being killed, a tortoise been killed (and a rabbit being traumatised after witnessing the attack). Calls for culling are repeated across the country and David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister is calling for a big conversation about gulls

For a while the media unthinkingly jumped on this bandwagon, without thinking that a) this is natural behaviour, gulls are only protecting their young and their increased activity only happens for a couple of weeks, b) humans, by providing attractive feeding opportunities, such as overflowing bins in the streets, landfill sites full of rich food pickings, foolish people who feed bread straight to the gulls, are causing gulls to increasingly come into towns, where they become perceived as nuisances. 

Luckily, there have been some articles in defence of gulls:

One of the things that people forget is that gulls are declining in their natural, coastal environments just as they are increasing in more urban areas. As noted above, we're effectively responsible for deciding that they prefer living in towns, where the food is easy. Plus we seem to have forgotten that nature isn't always 'nice' and peaceful' but it is also red in tooth and claw. 

Of course I feel sympathy for the people who have lost pets to gulls, or who have been threatened themselves, but to put it into context, how many people are attacked by pet dogs every year? (Actually I've lost the number, but it's a lot lot more than are attacked by gulls). 

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Escape from the Orchard of Wheels by Chris Crittenden

 Displaying Escape_from_the_Orch_Cover_for_Kindlejpg copy.jpeg

When I edited the online poetry journal, Bolts of Silk I was always delighted whenever Chris Crittenden sent me poems to be considered (you can read his poems on Bolts of Silk here).

So I was very happy to recently be asked to review Chris's latest poetry collection Escape from the Orchard. Right in the first poem Whisked Leaves, I was struck, by this very vivid image

then a lion’s mane
dissolving a hind,

and in the same poem, another vivid image, along, this time with a great rhyme

lava blustery,
dancing into lust,

A lot of Crittenden's poems are embedded in the natural world. As a birdwatcher myself, I could really relate to Birdwatchers, with its humour and striking imagery

soon we are blurry again,
cautious within Van Gogh fields,
hunkering like sandhill cranes
over snaky ground. 

There are plenty of birds too in these poems, including Owl

smudge of silence
and mahogany, alert
in onyx, vizier
in a skein of boughs,

and the wonderful description of Hermit Thrush Song 

whose notes are nothing less
and not a sound more
than the cadence
of dusk.

I feel I can hear this bird's song, even though it's a species I've never heard.

There are frequent flashes of humour, like this description of bluebottles from Siesta

their buzz seems to laugh
from a wink of philosophy,

and is gone.

This sense of humour balances the serious, even gloomy nature of other poems covering topics including advertising (Cereal Box Parade) and gutting fish (Gut Knife). Other topics include the wealth of life (specifically ants) to be found in a brownfield site (Not so Vacant Lot) life as seen from the point of view of other species (Thoughts of a Fly and Bat Thoughts), and the writing process (Writing). This is a varied collection that however centres on a profound understanding of the human relationship with the natural world, both the alienation many of us feel these days and the realisation of our real relationship with the creatures with whom we share this planet:

why should i be
its nemesis,
the claw in the gloom
that swipes? why must i
exist to thwart
its hallelujah?

from Annoying Fly  

Escape from the Orchard of Wheels by Chris Crittenden is published by Medulla Review Publishing

Friday, 24 July 2015

Sunny Lunchtime!

It was sunny today when I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for a lunchtime wander round Corstorphine HIll (which is conveniently across the road from his office!). We picked quite a few raspberries, which his Mum (who we unexpectedly met on the hill, also picking raspberries!) will make into jam.

There were lots of butterflies around, enjoying the sun - we saw ten meadow browns, a few ringlets, a small tortoiseshell and a red admiral, all of which we will record for the Big Butterfly Count.

We also saw a lot of honeybees injoying the rosebay willowherb, there must be a hive somewhere nearby, as it's very unusual, speically these days to see so many honey bees all in one place! There were also lots of bumble bees about, which is more of a common sight, lovely to hear them buzzing away as they gather nectar and pollen.

None of these insects were happy to be photographed apart from this small tortoiseshell, who allowed me to take quite a few photos, though none of them are particularly good

These caterpillars were happy to be photographed (look carefully and you can see the caterpillars inside the 'web'). Thanks to Edinburgh Natural History Society Facebook Group, I think these are parsnip moths.

This wood mouse was happy to be photographed, though I suspect that was because it isn't very well

This smashed snail shell on a rock is probably a song thrush's anvil, where the bird will smash up snails and eat them.

The air was full of the sounds of summer too, grasshoppers in the grass and the gorse bushes were popping in the heat, as the seed heads opened explosively to let the seeds out

 The red campion seed heads are ripening too, if you look carefully you might be able to see the tiny seeds on the front seedhead in the photo below

The puff ball fungi are up.

We were very happy to see a couple of young rabbits in their traditional place in front of the hotel on Corstorphine Road, next to the zoo, (and just next to the bus stop!) only one stayed round to be photographed though

Three swallows were flying round here too, they seem to be nesting in the abandoned building across the road from the hotel. I don't think the bunny noticed them though!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Help Save Europe's Nature!

wildflowers along the John Muir Walkway, Musselburgh

You may have noticed the Nature Alert campaign on social media. This is a vital campaign, run jointly by a large number of environmental organisations, to prevent the European Union (EU) from watering down the vital directives that protect our wildlife and countryside. We need these directives particularly these days when the UK government seems not to care for or understand anything about the environment (just yesterday for example, the UK government overturned the ban on neonicitinoids, the bee--killing pesticides).

The EU Birds Directive adopted in the 1970s, and the Habitats Directive adopted in the 1990s are currently subject to the European Commission’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance programme (REFIT), which aims to simplify EU law and reduce costs.  European leaders are considering rolling back decades of progress by revising (read weakening) the Directives in the belief that weaker protection for wildlife would be good for business. In reality, this would be bad for business, and a disaster for wildlife.

Before this campaign, many people in the UK are unaware of these directives or Natura 2000, which is a great shame, it is at one and the same time the most important legislation protecting sites important for wildlife conservation in the UK and, arguably, the best thing about the European Union (EU).

Nature isn't only valuable for its own sake, it's vital in helping the world function - providing us with drinking water, irrigation and pollination for our food crops. Spending time in nature is increasingly being shown to be good for our physical and mental health. So nature is vital and neccessary and we should be strengthening the laws that protect it, not dismantling them.

Conservation organisations in the UK and across Europe are asking the general public to demonstrate their support for these vital pieces of legislation. You can find out more and sign up on the Woodland Trust website.

But remember, today is your last chance to make your voice heard!

Water of Leith at Colinton Dell, Edinburgh

More about Natura 2000

Natura 2000 is an EU-wide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992 Habitats Directive. These areas include nature reserves and privately owned areas. The directives require member States to take measures designed to maintain or restore certain natural habitats and wild species at a favourable conservation status. The emphasis is on ensuring that the areas are managed in an ecologically sustainable manner.
Natura 2000 aims to assure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. It is comprised of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) designated by Member States under the Habitats Directive, and also incorporates Special Protection Areas (SPAs) which they designate under the 1979 Birds Directive. SPAs requires Member States to take sufficient measures (legal minefield) to preserve sufficient diversity of habitats for all species of wild birds naturally occurring within the territories.

Natura 2000 also fulfils a European Community obligation under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

early bumblebee on knapweed

Earlier versions of this blog post appeared here and here.

 Thanks to Crafty Green Boyfriend for input into this blogpost! 

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

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Bees Buzzing in the Beautiful Blooms

The wildflowers in the verges along the John Muir Way continue to be particularly beautiful this year

and the bees love them! The verge is literally buzzing with bees! This little brightly coloured bee is an early bumblebee, so called because it emerges earlier than the other species of bumblebees

Bees are so vital to keep flowers pollinated. They are in decline in many places due to habitat destruction and the effects of pesticides. The UK Government is thinking of overturning the current ban on neonicotinoids, one of the pesticide types known to damage bees. If you are in the UK and haven't already signed the petition to ask the government to keep this ban, you can sign it here

And a bonus photo of a male reed bunting. Two of these handsome birds were singing at each other over the grassland.