Sunday, 31 January 2010


waiting at dusk
for the train to leave -
song thrush sings.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

High Tide at North Berwick

We had a wonderful day at North Berwick today, a small seaside town just a short (though slow!) train ride out of Edinburgh. The tide was very high and quite dramatic when we arrived, looking quite spectacular in the winter sunlight. Out at sea there were rafts of eider ducks that appeared and disappeared with the swell of the sea. As the tide went out a bit, wading birds gathered on the small bit of beach - redshanks, oystercatchers, turnstones, sanderlings and dunlin (I have to admit here that my wader id skills aren't perfect so I may be wrong about the dunlin!). Also two male goldeneye ducks were riding the waves like surfers. North Berwick is most famous for its gannets, but they're not around at this time of year, we'll need to wait for summer to see them, when the famous Bass Rock will become white from the sheer number of birds.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Drinking Water

I found this post recently - the video gives a very clear picture of the sheer amount of plastic water bottles we drink our way through and also the never ending cycle of buying and discarding plastic bottles. the video is in Italian, but is very visual and has nice music, so you can feel able to watch it even if you don't understand Italian.

After watching it, I was struck by the thought that in our office at work, no-one drinks bottled water. We don't have a water cooler. We all drink tap water from glasses, or in some cases fill reused bottles up from the tap.....

I recently bought a reusable bottle which I take with me on train journeys etc. Train stations used to be the only place I ever bought bottled water. Now I never do. What about you?

If you want to really think about plastic and how to reduce the amount you use, visit Beth at Fake Plastic Fish.

Thinking Green Thursday

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Information Officer Support Blog

Nothing to do with anything crafty, green or poetical but:

This is a new blog I'm co-authoring through my job. I'm a member of the Information Officer Support Group which is a network of people working in information, communications and marketing in central Scotland. The blog is intended as a place to share ideas and resources. We have forthcoming articles planned on how to search the hidden internet and how to evaluate information work. If you're involved in that area of work you may want to follow the blog and join in the discussions:

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


skeleton trees
on the railway embankment -
a cloud of crows

previously published in Blithe Spirit, the journal of the British Haiku Society

Monday, 25 January 2010

Review - Taste of Dreams - Vanora Bennett

Vanora Bennett is a journalist and has worked a lot in Russia. This wonderful book is a travelogue following her obsession with Russia and caviar. Bennett is a generous and gifted writer and this book is a vivid portrayal of a country going through social upheaval. At the same time she outlines the cultural and natural history of caviar and the sturgeon, charting the effects of smuggling and overfishing on the sturgeon's populations in and around the Caspian Sea. Far from being heavy and worthy though the book is marvellously alive and often very funny, and as such is a much more effective tool in awakening people's awareness of the issues. Caviar? No thanks!

Taste of Dreams on Vanora Bennett's website


I walked my usual route along the Water of Leith today. The weather was quite mild though dull and slightly damp. Although all the paths are pasable, some require that you walk in the mud at the side to avoid the remaining ice that is surprisingly thick in some places. In most places though the snow and ice have melted and the fungi certainly seem to like that! They gave a distincult autumnal feel to the area.

There was a heron fishing in the river, a pair of goosanders and several dippers (or lots of sightings of one very energetic bird!). The trees were full of long tailed tits, calling softly and fluttering in the branches.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

From Earring to necklace

I promised last week that I would post a photo of the necklace I recently made. Well here it is! The pendant is a broken earring, to which I've attached a small silver hoop from a broken bracelet. I may eventually hang the pendant from a silver chain, but i quite like it like this.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Gorgie City Farm

We visited Gorgie City Farm today to see the two lambs that were born last week. They are adorable, sitting in the corner smilig at all the visitors. A combination of poor light and empty camera batteries meant we didn't get any decent photos, so these are last year's lambs (later in the year).

While we were at the farm we popped in to visit the rabbits. It was lovely to see Driftwood sitting quietly with Louie and Lily. Normally these three don't get on but it seems they've finally integrated. We even saw Driftwood lick Louie's nose at one point. Ebony the newest rabbit on the farm though was in a cage by himself, he hasn't integrated yet.

Gorgie City Farm has recently relaunched its membership scheme and animal sponsorship scheme. You can read more on their website here. We're sponsoring Driftwood again this year....

Friday, 22 January 2010


We were at the Golden Hour on Wednesday evening, a wonderful mix of poetry and music, cartoons and stories that takes place in the back room of Edinburgh's Forest cafe, probably the most alternative venue in the city. If you have ever been to the Forest cafe you may have notice the huge and beautiful murals featuring Laika the dog that the Russians sent into space on 3 November 1957. She was sent to certain death, Sputnik 2 was never intended to be retrieved.

I always think that Laika's story is one of the emblematic stories of human disregard for non-human life, another being the fate of the passenger pigeon as mentioned by Howard in his comment on yesterday's post.

Co-incidentally Laika appears in Haruki Murakami's wonderful novel Sputnik Sweetheart, which I just finished reading:

Ever since that day, Sumire's private name for Miu was Sputnik Sweetheart. She loved the sound of it. it made her think of Laika the dog. The man-made satellite streaking soundlessly across the black of outer space. The dark lustrous eyes of the dog gazing out of the tiny window. In the infinite loneliness of space, what could Laika possibly be looking at?

I've just written a review of Sputnik Sweetheart on my Over Forty Shades blog, you can read it here.

There's a heartbreaking poem about Laika here.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Find a Hill

Climb to the wide open summit
Stretch out........ your arms
the touch of spirit wings.

Quieten your mind
the calls of ghost flocks
flying past.

Birds too beautiful for this world.
Invisible now.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

snowdrops (haiku)

snow drops
from the trees -

previously published in Haiku Scotland 21

Monday, 18 January 2010

UN Year of Biodiversity

2010 is the UN International Year of Biodiversity. The year aims to celebrate the diversity of life on the planet and to draw attention to the importance of biodiversity and how we can preserve it.

I feel that at the moment, there is so much effort put into trying to reduce carbon footprints that sometimes biodiversity loses out (think of industrial sized windfarms being built on peat bogs, think rainforest being destroyed to plant biofuels) so I particularly welcome the UN International Year of Biodiversity.

I find it extremely sad to hear people explicitly talking about a need to give up preserving biodiversity to save humans. I know that species come and species go but we're facing a possible mass extinction event that would be largely due to the actions of humans. Biodiversity helps to sustain the planet as a liveable home for humans so we need to preserve biodiversity. On top of that, I can't imagine being happy in a world without the great variety of birds, animals and plants that we still have.

(If you're in the UK, you can find out more about what's going on locally on this website. You can sign up to do your bit to preserve biodiversity here.)

Sunday, 17 January 2010

What to do when you've eaten all the biscuits....

the giftbox of biscuits becomes a useful storage box for craft materials.
All the materials here are either from nature, used items waiting to be reporposed or items that are halfway made and include a stash of broken jewellery and other miscellaneous items my sister gave me. I've already made a necklace out of a broken earing and will post that probably in a week's time. I also have a box full of fabric scraps and a small box full of buttons.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Climate Change and Behavioural Change

I was at the Evaluation Support Scotland conference on Wednesday. Despite being involved in organising it, I was able to attend several sessions including the workshop facilitated by the Climate Challenge Fund. There were some very interesting discussions not only about how to evaluate projects that aim to change people's environmental behaviours but also how to encourage people to change their behaviour.

Some projects take a Weight Watchers type approach to helping people reduce their addiction to carbon. People set themselves targets on carbon reduction and then meet to talk about how well they've done in meeting their targets.

Other projects focus more on activities such as gardening, encouraging people to work together on a project. My experience in this is that when the ground needs to be cleared to make gardens, people are very keen to work together. However often once the gardens are up and running many people are more likely to work on their own garden and be less interested in communal activities.

Another approach is to stress the additional benefits of greener activities such as the health and cost saving benefits of walking or cycling rather than using the car.

What motivates you to cut your carbon footprint?

Thursday, 14 January 2010

snowfall -
the fat squirrel poses
for raisins

this previously appeared on Winter Haiku 2009/10. You can see all my haiku posted to that site here.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Icicles along the River Almond

I promised yesterday that I would post photos of the amazing icicles along the River Almond, so here they are! Click on the top photo to get a closer look at the icicles across the river.
Things are actually thawing now so these icicles probably won't last much longer, though more snow is forecast for the coming weeks.
I've got a short story up at the Clarity of Night Silhouette competition, you can read it here. While you're over there you may want to read some of the other entries as well, there are some excellent pieces.....

Monday, 11 January 2010

Snow and ice on the River Almond

On Saturday we caught a bus to Cramond. The light was wonderful on the estuary where the River Almond meets the River Forth. There were lots of birds, including swans, dabchicks, mallards, tufted ducks, goldeneye, red breasted mergansers, lapwing and ringed plovers. (Click on the birds names to find out more about them!).

After a hot drink in the cafe we walked upriver into an amazing winter wonderland. The river is partially frozen (though this isn't ice you can walk on at all!). There was a very large group of mallards who looked as though they were enjoying slalom-ing between the icy rocks. The riverbanks were covered in icicles, which were so magnificent they deserve a post to themselves, so come back tomorrow to see them!

Things are thawing now, though more snow is forecast!

Friday, 8 January 2010

Frozen Canal

Large parts of the Union Canal are frozen solid enough to walk on and cycle on. Official advice is don't walk on it, but there are places where it is very thickly iced and you can walk on it safely as long as you keep away from under the bridges where the ice thins. There's something surreal about walking down the middle of what should be a flowing canal! It was heartening to see too that we're not the only people leaving food out for the birds, there were scatterings of seeds and other goodies along the edges of paths, on walls etc as well as some well stocked bird feeding stations in gardens. We saw a bullfinch, a redwing, a fieldfare, lots of house sparrows (the canal is one of the Edinburgh strongholds for this species, which is declining rapidly across the country), blue tits, robins and blackbirds, Also some forlorn looking swans, mallards and moorhens (see photos below, both taken by Crafty Green Boyfriend). One of the moorhens was bizarrely sitting in a tree!

Wintry Reflections

The weather is still cold and snowy here, very beautiful! Here are a couple of reflections that show some of the beauty of a wintry Edinburgh! I took the first photo along the Water of Leith on Monday.
Crafty Green Boyfriend took this second shot in Princes Street Gardens on Christmas Day.
No reflections along the Union Canal, which is frozen solid - hopefully some photos of that tomorrow!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Imagining Seals by Susanna Roxman

This is a lovely collection of poetry full of seals, scenes from Edinburgh, myths and self portraits. it's the birds that are my favourites though, from Waxwings, Dundee:

The soft whistling came first
as if they dared me to emerge,
and there they sat, along branches and ledges,
twenty attentive dusky pink peaches.

I'm still waiting for waxwings to appear in Ednburgh this year, and there won't be many berries for them to eat, as the thrushes have eaten them all. I did see some wild geese flying over the nearby roofs recently and am reminded of this by this extract from Wild Geese, Scania:

Later, above the city, they move back
in great broken contexts, noise
following shortly, such unerring flair
for perfection, how to pierce the setting sun.

The writing is beautiful and sure footed with a good understanding of line break and rhythm.

Imagining Seals by Susanna Roxman, published by Dionysia Press.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Flight Paths

Once I had a tree house here
in the branches, ivy covered
next door the blue tits' mossy home
full of scruffy chicks.

Hidden in my tree-top den
I watched the squirrels, fed the birds
and read the Enid Blyton books
my mother never liked.

As a child I always thought
this place would never disappear -
next door's blue tits always there
with gaping mouths to feed.

Now I cannot find the place
among the piles of sawn down trees,
hand painted hoardings shout at me:
Danger Men at Work.

They're cutting down the woods,
the ivy, branches and the nests.
The worried blue tits scream in fear
now they have no home.

When the work is all complete
this will be runway number two -
tourist flights will leave from here
where once the blue tits flew.

(this is an old poem I found when I was digging around in my poetry box over the Christmas holiday, I've never had a tree house in reality, for those who might wonder!

Remember to feed the birds, they need all the help they can get in this freezing weather!)

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Scrabble bag

I mentioned a few days ago that I had worked on a craft project over the holidays. Well here it is, a scrabble bag for my parents, whose scrabble set is so old it came without a bag for the letters. I made it from scrap material. The letters were much easier to embroider than I thought they would be!

Talking of scrap material, I found a few sets of fabric samples (in perfect condition) left out with the rubbish the other day and I took them, they'll come in useful for some small fabric crafts I'm sure!

Monday, 4 January 2010

It really is this cold....

We have an extra Bank Holiday for New Year in Scotland so Crafty Green Boyfriend and I went off along the Water of Leith again. Ankle deep snow as it was two weeks ago and only patches of ice, which made for mostly comfortable walking. There weren't as many birds around as last week, but we enjoyed watching this dunnock (above) feeding on the seedheads of nettle.

There were some magnificent icicles by the weir at Colinton.
Above the weir there were three goosanders, two males one of which seemed to be trying his best to impress the one female. A dipper and a mallard swam around close by, unimpressed by the displays. The photo just shows the two male goosanders.

All photos taken by Crafty Green Boyfriend. I've cropped the bird photos to make the birds more visible.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Winter thrushes and other birds

I said yesterday that I would update you on the birds we had seen over Christmas. On Christmas Day morning, I noticed a lot of big thrushes sitting in a tree in a neighbouring backgreen and flying over our roof. We then went out into our backgreen and found over 50 fieldfares sitting in the trees and flying back and forth. I've never seen so many anywhere, and in Edinburgh I've felt lucky to see any at all, as they're not really an urban bird. Later that morning we wandered over to Princes Street Gardens, which were full of redwings (see photos, taken by Crafty green Boyfriend, the building in the photos is Edinburgh Castle, click on them to see a bigger view). These are another thrush species and I've often seen them in Edinburgh parks, but never this many - there were hundreds, flying across the gardens, landing in rowan trees and stripping them of their berries (they did a good job as you can tell from the first photo!).
We also saw a very large flock of long tailed tits along the Water of Leith. They're a beautiful bird, that I've seen in much bigger numbers in the last couple of years than I used to. As we stood still to watch them, they fluttered towards us, chattering away under their breath....

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Snowy Start to the New Year

It's snowing again! I've never seen so much snow over such a long period of time! The photo is from our walk along the Water of Leith on Monday, wonderful birdwatching as ever, though I'll post about holiday birdwatching tomorrow!

Hope everyone had an enjoyable break, whether you were celebrating Christmas or not. We had a lovely time, lots of snowy walks and I've worked on a lot of poems and a craft project. I hope to finish the craft project very soon and share it here.
Best wishes for 2010, let's hope its a good one!