Monday, 30 November 2015

Lots of Birds on St Andrew's Day

Lovely weather today for St Andrew's Day so we walked through Inverleith Park, stopping to admire the water rail, which like last winter has decided to stop here for the colder months. It's less willing to pose for photos this year though (click on the photo for a larger view and you should be able to see the water rail!).

We then went into the Botanic Gardens where the wildlife was much more willing to pose for photos.

The grey squirrels are just adorable, they come running up to you and then pose

And this robin was incredibly friendly, it hopped literally up to our feet

We even got quite close to a bullfinch! There were lots of bullfinches around today (as there were the other day up Corstorphine Hill). Normally at this time of year when the finches and tits are flocking together, it's normal to see a few bullfinches mixed in with lots of other finches and tits, but never before have either of us seen such large flocks that are almost entirely made up of bullfinches! Only one in the photo though!

Some nice fungi too

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Scotland's Climate March in Photos

Today, thousands (official estimates state 7,000) of people gathered in Edinburgh for Scotland's Climate March, to let world leaders know how much people carte about climate change ahead of the UN Climate Talks in Paris to discuss climate change.

The route started in the Meadows

passed through George IV Bridge

and down the Mound

to gather in Princes Street Gardens

ending up at the bandstand,

where there was music and speakers and increasingly heavy rain drove some people away before things actually came to an end.

People had been encouraged to wear their brightest colours and there were lots of colourful hats and even colourful wellies

A gorilla joined in

and a teddy bear waved us on from the sidelines

Lots of charities were there, several wildlife groups including the Woodland Trust

People were marching because they are aware of the devastation that uncontrolled climate change would cause to wildlife and natural habitats, to coastal communities, to health and welfare and to people's abilities to make a living.

Let's hope that the world's leaders are listening.

Friday, 27 November 2015

In the pink

I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for his lunchtime walk round Corstorphine Hill today (his office is just next to the hill, I'm most envious!). We got caught in the rain, but saw lots of interesting things to keep us happy, including these beautiful pink fungi, I'm not sure what species they are, perhaps Amethyst Deceiver or Lilac Bell Cap?

We were delighted to see a mixed flock of tits and finches, quiet a common sight at this time of year, when these small birds gather together in feeding flocks. We were particularly happy to see several bullfinches, the males with their bright pink chests, the females more sober in colour. There were also goldfinches, great tits and blue tits.

On the other side of the hill, two buzzards were chasing each other. One of them flew directly in front of us, quite an impressive sight!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Furry friends at Gorgie Farm

Gorgie City Farm is a lovely place to visit, a little oasis in the city and a great place for children and young people to learn about farming and the outdoors. They've been doing some rearranging recently, for example the old duck pond has been remodelled into a nice playground for the goats, who seem to be happier than ever, as well as very cute

Meanwhile the ducks have been relocated to the other end of the farm, but this one seems to be a bit confused and is hiding in the herb garden

The guinea pigs in the Pet Lodge seem to be fluffier and cuter than ever, though very difficult to capture on camera as they run around so much and photos need to be taken either through the windows or through wire mesh

The farm doesn't seem to have their own rabbits at the moment (all my old favourites, from the time when I was based at the farm, have long since passed over the Rainbow Bridge). However, the farm offers boarding facilities for rabbits whose owners are on holiday, and there are some beauties there at the moment

Updated to add: Gorgie Farm just let me know via Twitter that the bunnies above are the farm rabbits, Thumper and Sunshine! 

I liked this scene of the sheep and pigeons all enjoying each others' company

The pigs were having fun too

And I was very impressed by this wall of ferns (the long glossy fronds are harts tongue and the other fern is maidenhair spleenwort)

Plus the Gorgie Farm Cafe offers a great lunchtime menu!

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

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

James Bowen was a street musician, recently moved into sheltered housing after being homeless, when he met a stray ginger tom cat who he called Bob.

This is the story of how James takes Bob in and looks after him and how in turn Bob helps James in his desire to sort out his life.

James takes Bob along when he plays his guitar near the underground stations and notices that he earns more money when Bob's around! People just love the ginger cat and he becomes a very popular figure in the areas of London where the two of them travel.

This book offers telling insights into James' difficult life as a street musician, how he is harrassed and disrespected as well as incidents when strangers offer kindnesses to him (and more frequently to Bob). It is also a wonderful tale about the bond between a man and his cat and offers several insights into cat behaviour too. (Did you know that cat saliva contains a natural deoderant and that cats lick themselves partly to disguise their scent to make it harder for predators to find them?).

A wonderful, moving book.

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen published by Hodder.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

a miniature forest

I love to look closely at moss and lichens, specially when they're growing together like this (on the sea wall at Musselburgh). They look like miniature forests.

Wonderful birds too, but too distant to capture on film! Specially nice to get great views of a kingfisher at the mouth if the River Esk and a greenshank and a short eared owl on the Lagoons.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Underwater leaves and lovely fungi

I love looking at the underwater leaf islands that form in the Water of Leith and the associated mill lades at this time of year. This is in the lade above Redhall Mill

One of the things I do in Colinton Dell is pick litter. Today there hadn't been much litter until I saw an abandoned firepit some distance away from the path, surrounded with plastic waste and half burnt cigarettes. I cleared everything up with my litter picker then i noticed this lovely display of hairy stereum on one of the fallen trees (a naturally fallen tree i hasten to add, not something that the smokers were responsible for)

So one of the benefits of having to pick litter can be that it takes you away from the main track where you might find surprising treasures!

Friday, 20 November 2015

felt chopstick bags

I've now added the first two felt chopstick bags to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, it's been interesting to make these out of felt instead of the cotton or satin I've used for previous chopstick bags, partly as I've really enjoyed using blanket stitch again. Both are made from remnants of felt and other fabrics and fasten with vintage buttons.

 this black one decorated with floral fabric is here.
while this blue one decorated with a lacy fabric is here.

Both fit chopsticks 22.5cm / 9 inches long (standard size) though the black one is slightly longer.

A chopstick bag like this is an ideal way to carry around a pair of re-usable chopsticks so you can avoid having to use the disposable ones that are the usual cutlery choice in many Chinese restaurants. (Many disposable chopsticks are made from the products of forest destruction, though to be fair some are made from waste wood from the construction industry). There's a slightly odd article here about how taking your own chopsticks can help save the environment, which gives you some idea of the scale of the problems caused by disposable chopsticks.

Thursday, 19 November 2015


birds fall silent
as leaves begin to fall
from the trees
an emoji is chosen 
as word of the year.

as ever, the red text contains hyperlinks that take you to another webpage where you can find out more

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

A date for your diary

Anyone who knows much about birds, knows that many of them spend different parts of the year in different places, often at opposing sides of the world from each other. As the climate chnages, many birds returning to the UK to breed are now finding that they are out of synch with the food they need to bring up their young, as plants bloom earlier and insects start coming out earlier. 

So if you're a birdwatcher, or indeed a naturalist of any type, you really should be concerned about climate change. (There's a good article on the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) blog about the connections between birds and climate change and another on their news pages here.)

And if you're concerned about climate change (whether because of its effects on the natural world or because of the increase in extreme weather events or the increase in sea levels and the resulting increases in displacement of human populations and spread in waterborne diseases) then you should be aware that the
the United Nations will hold a climate summit in Paris in December, where political leaders from across the world are expected to agree to commitments:

* to avoid the worst affects of climate change,
* safeguard wildlife and
* provide money for developing countries to help them adapt.

The weekend before these negotiations, people across the world are taking to the streets to call for politicians at the Paris summit to agree on ambitious commitments to prevent runaway climate change.

Scotland's Climate March, happening in Edinburgh on 28 November (setting off from the Meadows at 12.30), is organised by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS), a coalition of Scottish organisations from many different sectors campaigning together on climate change. You can sign up to the march on Facebook. By attending the march, you will:

* stand up for people affected by rising global temperatures
* deomnstrate the level of public concern around climate change and
* demand that world leaders agree an ambitious deal.

By reducing carobon emissions we can work towards a low carbon society, which will create green jobs, improve our transport and food systems and protect our wildlife, land, air and water.

Scotland needs to show its colours on this issue, so wear your brightest colours and join this weekend of global action. 

You can also join craft workshops to make banners or musical instruments from upycled materials to take along to the march. Find out more here.

(And remember, if you need to travel some distance to your nearest climate march, please reduce your carbon footprint by cycling, using public transport (rail or bus) or car-sharing)

Monday, 16 November 2015

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

In Malaya, Yun Ling's desire to build a memorial for her sister, killed at the hand of the Japanese during their occupation of Malaya, leads her to become an apprentice to Aritomo, once the gardener to the Japanese Emperor.

The main narrative starts with Yun Ling, now suffering from a degenerative disease that is destroying her memory, moving back to Yugiri, the garden she helped to create and looking back over her life. This is the start of a moving exploration of history, memory and forgiveness and the healing power of gardening.:

" 'The garden has to reach inside you. It should change your heart, sadden it, uplift it. It has to make you appreciate the impermanence of everything in life,' Isay 'That point in time just as the last leaf is about to drop, as the remaining petal is about to fall, that moment captures everything beautiful and sorrowful about life.' "

This is a beautiful book, but towards the end I felt it left too many avenues unexplored - the exact relationship between Yun Ling and Aritomo for example and his exact role during the Occupation. The vagueness around some issues fitted very well with Yun Ling's failing memory, but as a reader I often wanted to know more. I also felt that towards the end the large tatto that Aritomo gave Yun Ling took on more of a role than I felt it deserved.

Still a very worthwile read for anyone interested in Asian history or in the therapeutic value of gardening.

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng published by Canongate.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Fungi and hibernating ladybirds

We were delighted to find some very good exampes of earth star fungi in the 'Hidden Meadow' in Colinton Dell today.

They're always impressive to see!

We were also very happy to see the orange ladybirds gathering together to hibernate in the fence posts as they often do. The odd thing is I've never seen this type of ladybird except when it's gathering like this.

We also saw a juvenile grey heron, thanks Crafty Green Boyfriend for this photo

and finally, we watched this cute grey squirrel in a yew tree in Colinton village, again it was Crafty Green Boyfriend who took the photo