Sunday, 28 February 2016

Saturday, 27 February 2016


Every year, at about this time, we take a trip to Cammo Country Park to view the snowdrops in the walled garden.

The garden is full of these lovely flowers

They even grow around the airborne roots of this fallen tree

Cammo Country Park is a lovely place (though very muddy in places!). It has lovely views over to the iconic old water tower, these days used as a nest site for a colony of jackdaws

The many beautiful trees around the park have yet to come into leaf and looked dramatic against today's wonderful skies

The fields around the country park are beautiful too, and well known for their populations of declining birds species. We were totally delighted today to see a flock of around 20 tree sparrows in the hedges around one of the field, along with reed bunting and greenfinch. Thanks to Crafty Green Boyfriend for these photos:

(male reed bunting)

tree sparrow 

Sadly the threat of potential housing development still hangs over these fields (you can read more about this here).

Friday, 26 February 2016

some feeding habits of birds

This is a sight I see a lot at Musselburgh. The black headed gull in the photo (with it's summer plumage just starting to grow back in) is keeping an eye on the pair of mallards and will rush to their side if he spies any small piece of food that the mallard dislodges but doesn't eat itself. I've also seen gulls following waders such as redshank to do exactly the same thing, relying on the other birds to find their food! This is an example of commensalism, where one organism (the gull) benefits from another (the mallard) without actually affecting the second in any way.

Later on my walk, a song thrush flew across my path, snail in beak and landed by a stone, where it pounded the snail's shell to pieces then ate the snail! Song thrushes are well known for this feeding behaviour, but it can be tricky to actually see (specially these days as the song thrush is declining in numbers). It is more likely that you may on occasion find a stone (the thrush's anvil stone) surrounded by scattered snail shells and if you do, you may want to hang around (at a discreet distance) for a while to see if the thrush returns.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

A World Without Water

A World Without Water is a vividly illustrated, rhyming short story for young children, outlining how the world would change if there was no water.

It focuses on aspects of the world that matter to children that risk being lost if suddenly there was no water:

There'd be no way to hide from the summer's burning, scorching sun
No more water pistol fights, well that's not so much fun!  

But it's not just a doom laden trip through a world without water. The middle part of the book focuses on what even children can do to help save water, with a number of practical tips:

It isn't hard to make a habit of taking shorter showers
You can take the water that you saved and use it on the flowers

The book continues with some facts about water, told in verse. At the end there are a couple of exercises inviting young readers to write and draw about water conservation. 

This is an engaging book to get youngsters interested in the issue of water conservation. The practical tips mean that it relates to them on a day to day basis and encourages them to see how they can play their part.

A World Without Water by Christopher Holley, illustrated by Frank Cassuto

Stop Press: The author recently announced a giveaway of this book on Goodreads! You can find out more and enter, here

Edited to add: I also recently reviewed two other books by Christopher Holley on my Shapeshifting Green blog, you can read the reviews by following the links below:

Chumbalina the Plump Princess.

The Moustache Fairy
Disclaimer, I was sent free e-copies of these books to review.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Different Perspectives on plants in the Dells

It was a beautifully sunny day today, still chilly but full of birdsong in Colinton Dell as I did my weekly voluntary patrol round the area, picking litter and noting wildlife (and saying hello to all my doggie friends and their owners!).

The first crocuses are out and I got as close as I could to ground level to get this photo

My favourite clump of snowdrops is also fully in bloom just now, this grows on an ivy covered bank so I don't need to crouch down so low to get the photo!

Moving my eyes from the undergrowth and looking up, there are so many wonderful trees around, including these majestic Scots pines

I also enjoy looking really close at the details of nature, this is a wonderful ash tree, covered in lichens and with a wonderful little clump of moss!

Today's photo of a grey heron didn't work quite so well, though in real life this was a great view, and I watched the heron for a while as it waited patiently for a fish, then walked around and eventually flew off over my head.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Importance of Urban Trees

Trees are vital to urban streetscapes, bringing life and shade to the area, making it more pleasant for people to live in and offering habitats for wildlife even in the centre of towns.

Recently I was sad to see the beautiful alder trees chopped down outside a demolished building in Edinburgh. When I first knew the building was to be demolished I had just assumed that the developers would leave the trees (they often do after all, when individual buildings are demolished). It was so sad to see the stumps, where once the lovely trees grew, their branches often full of birds. (I'll do a blog specifically on Edinburgh's trees quite soon!)

On a larger scale, the Yorkshire town of Sheffield has been in the news lately for the widespread destruction of its trees by the local council. Local people have got together to save what remain of the local trees, but the extent of the destruction seems excessive, even if there are genuine safety issues around individual trees (disease and old age are genuine concerns for many urban trees). All this in a city whose own local council claim is 'Sheffield's trees and woodlands are an important feature of our landscape, making our city one of the greenest in Europe'.

It's not all bad news though. This article from the Telegraph newspaper extols the virtues of urban trees and outlines some interesting projects in London. In Barnet, local tree officer, Andy Tipping instigated the planting of an avenue of 90 dawn redwood trees along a stretch of the busy Edgware Road. It is just one of 40 potential tree-planting sites identified in the area. Meanwhile in Hackney,  residents become Tree Champions and instigate tree planting in their own streets by canvassing the opinions of their neighbours. After planting, volunteers are appointed as tree carers.

Further afield, Madrid in Spain is planting new trees everywhere, turning vacant ground into mini-parks and covering walls and roofs with plants. 

 Trees offer a full range of benefits to urban areas (sorry about  the formatting of the section below)

- they reduce 'heat island effect' of urban areas
- Their shade cools streets and buildings in summer
  • - They help reduce wind speeds
  • - By providing food and shelter for wildlife they help increase biodiversity

    - Reduce effects of flooding by slowing the rate at which rainfall reaches the ground

    - Help improve polluted ground
    A recent study in Wales has quantified the benefits trees can provide to urban areas, you can find out more here
    As they help us and the environment in so many ways, urban trees should definitely be encouraged and looked after. 
    As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other pages where you can find out more. 

    Monday, 22 February 2016

    Treasures and Inspirations

    As many of you know, I recently set up a second shop on Etsy.

    Crafty Green Magpie sells all sorts of things that I have found along the way, vintage items and craft supplies and I'll eventually be adding sea pottery and sea glass in there too! This means that my original Etsy shop Crafty Green Poet can now just focus on selling handmade items, mostly chopstick bags and jewellery.

    One of the aspects of Etsy that I really like is the Treasury feature, where you can put together a collection of 16 items from across Etsy, usually based on a theme or a colour (or often both). This can be an engrossing and enjoyable task, but after my first enthusiasm for creating treasuries, I began to wonder whether they were actually worth the time spent on choosing the items to include.

    Having opened Crafty Green Magpie though, I've rediscovered my love of making treasuries! For anyone selling supplies on Etsy, a Treasury is a great marketing tool if you put together collections of items made using some of the supplies you sell! The people whose items you feature become aware of the fact that you sell some of the supplies they use, but in a more general sense, people just browsing through treasuries may think "oh, all these wonderful crafts featuring buttons, I want to do some button art myself, oh look, the curator of this treasury sells buttons!"

    As well as the blue button craft treasury I had great fun putting together this red dinosaur treasury (there is after all a dinosaur in the Crafty Green Magpie shop!)

    In addition to the marketing a treasury can directly do for a supplies shop on Etsy, it's also good for generally making yourself known in the marketplace and is a great way to support other crafters. The two treasuries mentioned in this post are both made up entirely of articles made in the UK, as a way of promoting UK crafters in a marketplace which can often seen dominated by US sellers.

    I'm looking forward to making more treasuries - my ideas so far include treasuries featuring: upcycled jewellery, crafts using IT circuit-boards, crafts using bottle tops and assemblage crafts using found items.

    Meanwhile, one of the pairs of earrings in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop has been included in this green themed Treasury, thanks to Tabs, from the RosyRetro Shop

    Sunday, 21 February 2016

    The Survivalist

    The Survivalist is an unnamed man, eking a living in the wilds of Ireland, after some unspecified apocalypse has destroyed society.

    He surrounds his garden plot with the graves of anyone who tries to invade his territory and steals anything he finds on the bodies (including a seemingly endless supply of cigarettes.)

    One day, two women, Kathryn and her daughter Milja stumble upon the survivalist's home. Initially he is very suspicious and they are only interested in trading seeds and other items. Slowly though a relationship builds, though everything remains tense, the survivalist ready to overreact to anything.

    The film very effectively uses quiet everyday action to move the plot on and its minimalist dialogue is both believable and essential to both plot and character development, making the viewer engage with three characters who are not particularly likeable. (Too often in my experience arty films that use very little dialogue end up leaving the viewer entirely uncaring about the characters).

    This low budget film is tense and atmospheric, though it doesn't add much to ideas around what post-apocalyptic life might be like. 

    I think this film has come to the end of its runs in Edinburgh cinemas.

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

    Saturday, 20 February 2016

    Hide in the Shadows

    It was a beautiful sunny day when I visited Musselburgh on Monday. Perfect for shadows in the bird hide! I like the way alders (the trees behind the hide in the photo) look at this time of year, their catkins and cones both out before the leaves.They love growing by water, so the area round the hides at Musselburgh Lagoons is perfect for them.

     and here's the view over the lagoons and across to Fife, most of the birds are right at the far end, to the left of the edge of the photo. There were lots of teal (performing their beautiful and entertaining courtship dance) and wigeon that day and a couple of shelducks and shovelers. Also curlews and oystercatchers.

    You can see more photos from the day here.

    For Shadow Shot Sunday. 

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

    Friday, 19 February 2016

    The Secret Life of Fungi

    I saw this fungus on a fallen tree in Colinton Dell (where much of the dead wood is allowed to lie, offering great places for fungi and lower plants to grow and invertebrates to hide away!). It's very noticeable with its large brown toadstools.

    But less noticeable is the network of dark thread like structures you can see in the photo above. This is the mycelium and is present all the time, even when the toadstools have died back. The toadstool is the fruiting body and in many species is only present for a short period of time, until it has shed its spores at which point it dies back. The mycelium on the other hand, endures! Many fallen trees are full of mycelia.

    I'm not sure what species this fungus is, perhaps velvet shank or brown stew fungus. If anyone can recognise it from these photos, please let me know in the comments!

    Thursday, 18 February 2016

    Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    National Nest Box Week

    Every year in the UK, 14th -21 February is National Nest Box Week. Gardeners and bird-lovers across the country are encouraged to put up nest boxes for their feathered friends! If you already have nest boxes, now is a good time to clean them ready for their new occupants this breeding season (if you didn't already clean them at the end of the last breeding season).

    The British Bird Lovers website has a comprehensive section on bird boxes, which you can browse here. While the RSPB has a useful article, with links here.

    Once you've fitted a nest box, you can join in the British Trust for Ornithology's Nest Box Challenge. This encourages people to monitor which birds use their nest boxes and how successful they are. Monitoring should of course be done without disturbing the birds, either by fitting a small camera into the nest box before putting it up or by limiting observations to watching the birds coming and going. You should not open the nest box up during the breeding season.

    If you enjoy watching birds visiting your garden then it makes great sense to offer them an easy home. They will reward you with entertainment and many species will also help keep down the number of insect pests in your garden.

    Monday, 15 February 2016

    Skylarksong on a cold day

    It was very cold today along the John Muir Walkway near Musselburgh. That didn't however stop the skylarks from singing, such a wonderful song and a real promise that Spring is not far off now!

    The sky was beautifully blue and the distant Pentland Hills covered in snow, here they are seen from the Musselburgh Boating Pond

     and here from the John Muir Walkway

    As a birdwatcher, it's tempting to think of the sea wall here as just something to look over to see the birds (today's highlights included six velvet scoters and a long tailed duck) but it is also home to mosses and lichens. I'm just starting to learn to identify some lichens and mosses to species level (so please correct me if you know I'm wrong!) but Caloplaca flavascens is one of my favourite lichens just because of its amazing colour.

    It's very common on walls, specially near the coast. Below it's growing with two mosses including capillary thread moss (the moss with the tall thread like growths)

    Sunday, 14 February 2016

    A Snowy Walk

    It snowed a lot yesterday and we got caught in the middle of it as we walked round Arthur's Seat! Here's a wonderful snowy view of Salisbury Crags

    We had wonderful views of a pair of kestrels being mobbed by carrion crows. The crows were trying to drive the kestrels away - perhaps they were competing for the same nest site? (The kestrels seemed to be taking residence in a nice sheltered space in among some rocks). I tried to photograph the birds but with no success, but this is the area where the drama was happening

    This robin was much more amenable to having its photo taken - in fact we suspect it was looking for a food handout, though we had nothing to give to it

    It's very wet and muddy everywhere at the moment!

    So we avoided the unofficial path through the greenery, in both directions of our walk, which meant we got some slightly different views that we don't usually see when we take the unofficial path (Salisbury Crags again!)

    Arthur's Seat is a wonderful place for a walk and it's very close to the centre of Edinburgh, which means there are plenty of nearby cafes, pubs and restaurants to choose from for a warming meal and drink after a wintry walk! 

    On the way home we met this cat.....

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

    Saturday, 13 February 2016

    A Cat Reflects....

    We had a lovely walk on a snowy Arthur's Seat today and I'll share several photos from the walk here tomorrow. But for now, here, for Weekend Reflections is a photo of a lovely cat we met as we walked home

    Thursday, 11 February 2016

    Refashioning an old necklace

    The latest bag of 'broken jewellery' that I bought from a 2nd hand shop included a copper necklace, that was really lovely but included embroidered elements that were very badly unravelling. So I took the whole thing apart, combined it with beads from my stash and made this long bookmark, suitable for a coffee table book

     This bookmark is now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, you can see it here.
    I also made two pairs of these earrings, using elements of the same necklace along with beads from my stash and brand new nickel free silver earring hooks. The earrings hang about 5cm / 2 inches long.

    These earrings are in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop here.

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

    Wednesday, 10 February 2016

    A perfect winter's day with spring on the way soon!

    Bright blue skies

     cold, with a touch of frost

    deep shadows

    Sunlight highlighting the spores on the underside of this hart's tongue fern

    growing by the river, which is flowing high today 

    Chaffinches, dunnocks, robins and song thrushes singing' bullfinches chasing each other through the branches and wild garlic leaves growing! 

    A beautiful winter's day in the woods! 

    Tuesday, 9 February 2016

    The effects of flooding on our waterways

    We've had a lot of flooding in the UK this winter, some areas have been devastated, in some cases more than once as they've been affected by several storms.

    Waterways, both rivers and canals, and the people and wildlife that use them and live near them are affected badly by flooding.

    The Canal and River Trust is currently rebuilding the damaged waterways and has collected stories of how people and the environment have been affected by the floods.

    Kingfisher perched on branch
    Image: Kingfisher (taken with permission from the Canal and River Trust website) 

    One of the problems that flooding causes for waterways is that the flood waters bring pollution and litter into the waterway. This makes life much more difficult for all the wildlife that use the waterways. For example, kingfishers and herons are unable to fish when the water is too churned up or too dirty. Kingfishers and dippers will find that the flooding has washed away some of their traditional nest sites. This happens regularly, I've seen dippers lose their nests along the Water of Leith, even when the water is only slightly higher than normal. It's going to be much worse this breeding season in areas of the country where flood waters have been very high.

    You can read more about the effects of flooding on waterway wildlife in this article on the Canal and River Trust website.

    Very often nature can be part of the solution. Tree planting in particular can help to minimise flooding as trees suck up water through their roots and help to bind the soil together, preventing landslides.  Treesponsibility, a climate action group plants around 10,000 trees a year across the Calder Valley. You can find out more about their work on the Cabal and River Trust website here.

    Monday, 8 February 2016

    Voodoo Shop by Ruth Padel

    I recently re-read Voodoo Shop by Ruth Padel and thought I'd re-post my original review which I posted here almost 9 years ago! My favourite poem in the collection back then, remains my favourite poem today!


    I had heard Ruth Padel read at the Edinburgh Book festival and at the Scottish Poetry Library. I always enjoy her readings and really looked forward to at last reading one of her collections cover to cover. She has a keen environmental awareness, yet her poetry never feels like a lecture, in fact is often very sensual. She obviously loves words and knows how to use them to best effect. She is a passionate and engaging performer of her own work, more so than most literary poets - naturally some of this is lost when her poems are read from a book. In fact some of her poems (for example Writing to Onegin) can seem too wordy on the page, whereas her performance makes them into vivid drama. My favourite poem in this collection is CASABLANCA AND THE CHILDREN OF STORM, a long poem about loneliness and the storm petrel, a small seabird. The last part of this poem is haunting:

    But somewhere in another galaxy,
    Some parallel universe,

    We’ll still be what we were.
    St Peter’s birds,

    Doing the impossible, walking on sea,
    The outriders of storm.

    Off course maybe; blown,
    Fragile, but together. Drawn

    To their one and only mate
    By magnetism, a cry

    You recognise in the dark above all others
    And by faith.

    It’s a poetry collection I’d recommend, but more, I’d recommend going along to hear Ruth Padel read if you ever get the chance.

    Voodoo Shop by Ruth Padel published by Chatto

    As ever, red text contains hyperlinks where you can find out more

    Saturday, 6 February 2016

    Hibernations and Signs of Spring

    These common snails have found a nice place to hibernate in Colinton Dell

    while the orange ladybirds are still huddling together in their fence posts

    Meanwhile all around there are signs of Spring, from these snowdrops

    and these hazel catkins

     if you look carefully in the photo below, you can also see the tiny red female flowers
    We were also happy to see the earth star fungi are still out, this one shows the star structure very well

    Friday, 5 February 2016


    With Valentine's Day approaching, The Climate Coalition (made up of several UK charities, including Oxfam and the Woodland Trust, are once again campaigning to #showthelove for all that we love that might be destroyed by climate change.

    Part of the campaign is to make and wear green hearts to raise awareness. I still wear the heart sent to me last year by World Wildlife Fund, it was made by Annette in Guildford, who loves 'the planet'. It's now permanently pinned to my coat....

    If you want inspiration to make your own green heart to wear, then you can see a whole selection that people have made in this gallery. And if you're in Hertfordshire, you may want to join the Woodland Trust in their "Show the Love Craft Session" at Heartwood Forest on 13 February.

    The Climate Coalition have also produced this little film for Valentine's Day to help spread the message that the world is worth loving and protecting.

    The Climate Coalition is the UK’s largest group of people dedicated to action on climate change and limiting its impact on the world’s poorest communities.

    For The Love Of... is the Climate Coalition's campaign to protect the things we love from being impacted by climate change. Climate change potentially could change everything we know, from the food we can grow, the wildlife around us and the very shape of the land we live on. 

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

    Thursday, 4 February 2016

    Jewellery and Treasury

    I've been making lots of earrings recently, they're easy to make and there's lots of inspiring materials in the 'broken jewellery bags' I buy for making crafts. Plus they sell reasonably well in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop. This is the latest pair I've made - using flat circular beads from a bracelet and black beads from my stash. Plus of course brand new nickel free silver earring hooks.

    dangle earrings, brown, olive green and black beaded dangle earrings, ecofriendly

    These earrings are now in my Etsy shop, you can see them here.


    I'm delighted that recently three of the items from the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop have been featured in four separate treasuries. (For those of you unfamiliar with Etsy, a Terasury is a slection of items made by various Etsy sellers, often on a particular theme).

    This chopstick bag featured in this Treasury and these earrings featured in this Treasury, while this bracelet featured in this Treasury and these earrings featured in this Treasury!

    Meanwhile I put together a new Treasury myself. As my new Etsy shop, Crafty Green Magpie sells supplies, I'm planning to put together a number of Treasuries featuring crafts that use the types of supplies I sell! First up is "All Buttoned up in Blue!" which features crafts by UK sellers that all incorporate buttons and all are mostly blue in colour.