Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Fungi and Snails

We tend to associate fungi with autumn but there are fungi showing themselves all year! There are certainly plenty to find in the Dells alongside the Water of Leith. I was particularly struck with these three though I don't know the species, but it makes a nice image (I've asked for identification help from Edinburgh Natural History Society on Facebook, but if you can help, please leave a comment below)

The toadstool below is some sort of Amanita, probably Amanita rubescens, related to the fly agaric

The damp weather is definitely good for the fungi and for the snails as well! I liked finding this little snail hiding on the underside of a fern frond, nestling in among the spores

and these two are starting to do what they need to do to produce the next generation of snails

Toads like damp weather too and I'm delighted that my poem Toad's Adventures has been posted as part of the first elegant hops of the Telling Toads poetry project! You can read the first elegant hops here on the Creeping Toad blog.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Sunshine at Silverknowes

I had to go to the dentist today but afterwards I had time to walk down to the Firth of Forth at Silverknowes.

It's nice to see that some of the grassland has been allowed to run a little wild so there are quite a few flowers around which you can get more of an idea of in the photo below. 

I saw a few butterflies too, including two meadow browns, so I've added these into the Big Butterfly Count which is going on at the moment.

When I approached the bus stop, I stopped by this rose bush to take in the lovely delicate scents of its flowers and to admire the number of bees that were buzzing round! There were honey bees, common carder bumble bees and buff tailed bumble bees.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Plenty to see even on a Dull Day

As I often do on a Friday, I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for a wander round Corstorphine HIll this lunchtime. It was dull and muggy, but there was plenty to see. Fungi for example! These earth balls are looking very impressive

and this below is another impressive fungus, though I don't what it is. If anyone can help with identifying it, please leave a note in the comments! The pretty pink flowers are pink purslane

We were pleased to see this handsome wasp, though again, not something we could identify to species level

and this red legged shield bug was very happy to pose for photos

We were most impressed however by the raspberries, which continue to ripen - we filled a wee tub with them, some of which we'll eat and some of which we'll pass to Crafty Green Boyfriend's Mum to make jam.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Two Classic Speculative Novels about Islands

I've recently read two classic novels about alternative realities centred on life on islands.

The first was Glapagos by Kurt Vonnegut, which imagines a group of people becoming shipwrecked on one of Galapagos Islands who then become the ancestors for all the human beings left on the earth a million years from now. The blurb on the back cover of the book implied that it was set a million years in the future, so part of me was disappointed that, though narrated from a point a million years in the future, it's actually set in the present day (or rather the 1980s when it was written). That aside though it is a fascinating insight into the vagaries of evolution and the way our actions can influence the future. I do want to know more though about how life would be for the furry and flippered humans of the far future......

The second was Island by Aldous Huxley.  Will Farnaby, a cynical journalist is shipwrecked on the fictional island of Pala. He had been in league with the people who had wanted to drill for oil on the island but is won over by it's utopian lifestyle and intriguing mix of Buddhist and pantheistic spirituality. Although the premise is fascinating, I found the book tedious, as it reads almost entirely as two dimensional characters talking about philosophy at each other and utopias are, by definition, much less interesting than dystopias, in fictional terms at least. It is however worth reading to the end as the ending is excellent.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Swifts everywhere!

This summer, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I are taking part in a survey of swifts in Edinburgh. I recently attended a training session (which I blogged about here) and since then Crafty Green Boyfriend and I have made three slow walks round our designated survey area to look for low flying groups of swifts and then nesting sites. We've both been keeping an eye out too for swifts wherever we go in town (more so than usual I mean, we're both always watching out for swifts at this time of year!)

Swifts only visit Scotland for just over three months in the year (May to August) and spend the rest of the year flying down to Africa and then round and round Africa before coming back to the same nest site. They only land when they're nesting, when the young leave the nest they remain airborne for three or four years before they make their first nest! Swifts are declining in the UK for a number of reasons but one is the lack of nest sites - they nest in holes in walls and under roofs and these days these holes are often blocked up when buildings are renovated. The City of Edinburgh Council (and some other councils in the UK) advise that swift bricks be used in new buildings over a certain height (a swift brick is a brick that is hollow inside and includes an entrance hole so that the swifts can enter the nest) but they can't enforce this.

Our first two survey walks weren't very successful, despite the fact that on most days we see swifts flying round our street (which is part of our survey area). Our last walk on Monday evening was more successful and we ewre able in fact to identify a nest site!

Today I spent some time wandering round the Meadows area of town and saw more swifts than I've seen for a long time! There were two groups of about 30 swifts in two different areas of the Meadows (though, given how quickly swifts can fly these may have been the same 30 birds). Then I also saw ten swifts above Fountainbridge Library. I'm going to add these sightings to my overall survey report.

If you're in Edinburgh and you know where swifts are nesting, please feel free to add your sightings to the comments (I'm only at this stage interested in probably nest sites, not if you see high flying groups of swifts). If you're taking part in the survey yourself then of course you don't need to let me know where you've seen nest sites, though there's nothing to stop you commenting about them anyway!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Do you have a favourite tree?

Trees are wonderful, they are beautiful to look at and they offer homes to wildlife and shade on a hot day like today.

European Tree of the Year has been running for four years now as a way of celebrating the most iconic trees across the continent.  It is a way of drawing attention to trees that have played important roles in history or that are threatened by development (you can read here about a tree that is threatened with destruction as it stands in the way of the controversial high speed railway line that would link London to the north of England).

Nominations are open to any living tree in the UK with a story to tell and any individual, group or organisation can enter a tree until midnight on Sunday 30 July. You can nominate your tree here.

From these nominations, judges will create shortlists for each nation (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland). Then the public will vote for the winners in each country. This year we will be selecting just one tree from this public vote to represent the UK in Europe in 2018.

Sadly even a winning tree is not guaranteed protection. Shockingly Sheffield City Council in Yorkshire seems to be on a mission to rid the city of trees! It is intent on removing street trees, including a beautiful avenue of lime trees and an old elm tree that is resistant to Dutch elm disease and home to rare white letter hairstreak butterflies. There is huge opposition to the council's moves, but they seem to be ploughing on regardless. You can sign a petition to save the butterfly hosting elm here

Do you have a favourite tree? Feel free to write about it in the comments section and if you're in the UK, remember to nominate it for Tree of the Year before the end of the month!

Monday, 17 July 2017

Time to Count Butterflies!

The Big Butterfly Count is now underway in the UK! It's an opportunity to get outdoors and look for these beautiful insects and at the same time help conservationists assess how the butterflies are faring!

Today was a lovely day for a walk through Colinton and Craiglockart Dells for my weekly patrol of the Water of Leith there. I kept my eyes open for butterflies and saw one red admiral, two small whites and this lovely comma:

This was my first comma of the year and was very obliging in terms of allowing me to take photos.

I was also delighted to see this Myathropa florea hoverfly, click on the photo to enlarge it to see the full detail of the patterning

As many readers of this blog will know, I've been increasingly interested in hoverflies in the last couple of years and have learned to recognise several species. The Myathropa florea is one that I could recognise when I saw it today but I needed to look it up to remember it's name. However when I saw the hoverfly below I immediately rhought 'oh it's a Syrphus sp!'

I sent both photos off to the UK Hoverflies Group on Facebook only to be told that this is not a Syrphus sp, but a Epistrophe grossulariae. I've made this mistake before and have asked for expert clarification on how to tell the difference! Hoverflies are beautiful insects and many of them are relatively easy to find and identify with some degree of confidence but there's still a fair amount of room for confusion! 

Have you seen any interesting insects recently? 

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

Saturday, 15 July 2017

All that glitters....

I don't wear nail varnish at all and so I was initially surprised when Crafty Green Boyfriend's Mum gave me a set of three nail varnishes that she had picked up at the end of a jumble sale. But when she told me she thought I could use them as paint, then I immediately starting thinking.....

The glitterly nail varnish has proven to be the most useful! As some readers of this blog may remember, I buy bags of unsellable and broken jewellery from local second hand shops to recreate into items to sell in my Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop. Some items are just slightly shabby and a coat of glittery nail varnish is just enough to smarten them up! Take this large ring and metallic bangle, I've no 'before' photos but this is how they look after the nail varnishing

The problem is though I'm not sure what to do with them now - I've not created anything new with them so I can't sell them as handmade, I wouldn't wear them myself and I'm not sure they're vintage so I can't sell them in my Crafty Green Magpie vintage and supplies shop..... I also have no idea how well the nail varnish will last!

Friday, 14 July 2017

Vibrant colours of summer

As I often do, I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for a lunchtime walk round Corstorphine Hill. The colours of the ragwort, rosebay willow herb and foxgloves are vibrant in the bright sunshine

We saw a couple of ringlet butterflies and a red admiral, which we will record for the Big Butterfly Count, which starts today and lasts until 6 August.

We also picked quite a lot of raspberries. Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother makes excellent raspberry jam, but I always like to eat some of the berries as I pick them!

There's also a lovely spash of wildflower colours in the mini wildflower meadow that has been planted in Brunstfield Links, which I photographed yesterday

And there's some vibrant colour in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop with this dragonfly charm necklace

which is in the shop here.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Lots of Hoverflies

It turned out to be a great day for insects yesterday, specially hoverflies. Just along the John Muir Walkway between the Mouth of the River Esk and Musselburgh Lagoons alone I saw probably 10 species of hoverfly. Here are some of them

Eupeoides corollae 

Eupeoides sp (probably Eupeoides luniger)

Long Hoverfly (Sphaerophoria scripta)

Marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Pied hoverfly (Scaeva pyrastri)

Thanks to the UK Hoverfly Facebook group for help with identifying most of these to species level! Apart from the Marmalade hoverfly, these are all new species for me. There were also others that wouldn't let me photograph them!

I was also delighted to see a couple of burnet moths (six spot burnets I think), including this one

So it was a lovely day for insects and all my records will be going to the Wildlife Information Centre 
  which keeps records on the wildlife in this area.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017


playing fields -
swallows chase each other
round the goal posts

Monday, 10 July 2017

Interview with the director of the film Zer

  1. One of the films I most enjoyed in this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival  was Zer (which I reviewed here).  Zer is the story of Jan (Nik Xhelilaj) a young man studying music in New York who becomes close to his Turkish grandmother, Zarife (Güler Ökten), in her dying days and is fascinated by a Kurdish song she sings (the Zer of the title). I was invited to interview the director, Kazim Oz via email: 
    Q1. What was the original inspiration for the film?

The story is based upon a song called ZER that I heard so much while I was shooting a documentary in 2005. Both in shooting process and after the shooting was over, song really haunts me, I always encounter with it. Later on, I worked on the story of the Zer and I put it in a kind of historical dimension. It turned out to be related to 1938 Massacre that was executed by Turkish Republic upon Kurdish people living in Dersim.

Q2.  Is  Zer a real song and is the story behind it (as shown in the film) a real story?
There are lots of traditional and different versions of the same song Zer. I just wrote a new song and story out of all these different versions. I even wrote new lyrics for the song which has different melody.
Q3. How would Jan's reactions to his experiences have differed if he had been based in Istanbul rather than New York? 
It is well thought idea to choose NYC rather than Istanbul and Europe. It is consciously chosen. I thought how far the road and distance is from the roots, then the impact of the journey/quest will be deepen. The story will be stronger if the distance is getting long. It is valid for both culturally and geographically. Someone from Istanbul will cover a short distance to find his/her roots. If I had chosen someone from Istanbul, his relations with his grandmother and his own culture would be different. Undoubtedly, his psychology would be different, as well.
Q4.  How did you avoid the blending of past and present in the film from becoming confusing?

In this film, Zer is one the main characters. It also plays a great important role for every each character of the film. Therefore, past and the present must be blending in each other but at the same time it should not be chaotic and suffocating for the audiences. Past and present intermingle in such a soft way in our life that we could not even notice it, it must be like that.  Past, present and the future are not separate from each other with radical boundaries and limits. There is actually a kind of wholistic flow of time. I tried to succeed to have cinematic correspond of this wholeness in Zer.
Q5. How do you hope viewers will react to the film?
They react the same way as imagine. They are really interested in the film, they follow it without being confused and being estranged from it. They watch it as if they were in this journey. I am very happy about it.

Q6. Is the film going to get international distribution? If so when will it be in cinemas?

It is on cinemas in Turkey, now. We had and still have great difficulties in distribution on national ground due to the censor executed by the government. You have watched uncensored version of it but some scenes you watched are not included in version being shown in Turkey. They are deleted. In Turkey, censored version of the film is on cinemas. Furthermore, although Zer has audiences who want to watch it, cinema halls are feared of government pressure and do not want to show Zer. As to current situation in distribution, we are looking for a foreign distributor to be able to show Zer in all around Europe. Lots of audiences demand Zer and show their request on social media accounts of Zer.  I hope we will be on cinemas all around Europe till autumn.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Colours of Summer

It's warm and sunny today and lots of flowers are in full bloom on Arthur's Seat. There are some lovely colour combinations, here we have birds foot trefoil, white clover and vipers bugloss

Even alone, the vipers bugloss is a wonderful mix of colours

and the lady's bedstraw is wonderfully bright

There are ladybirds everywhere at the moment, Crafty Green Boyfriend captured this photo of some of them 

and I liked this view of the ladybird at the top of the umbellifer flowerhead 

We found quite a few cinnabar moth caterpillars on the ragwort 

We were delighted to meet this lovely young rabbit (Crafty Green Boyfriend took this shot)

Hope the bunny's safe from the ravens that are nesting on this part of the hill!

Friday, 7 July 2017

The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh

Piya Roy is an American marine biologist of Indian parentage who is visiting the Sunderbans to study the Irrawady dolphin. During her visit she employs Fokir, a local fisherman, to row her around the area and meets Kanai, a Delhi businessman. These two men give her insights into two very different views of the future of the Sundarbans.

Fokir seems to have a sixth sense about where to find dolphins and Piya is rewarded with excellent sightings and not-quite sightings:

She sprang into a kneeling position and listened carefully, tuning her ears to the fog.  A few minutes of close attention was all it took to know there were several dolphins in the vicinity of the boat. The sounds were scattered in direction and seemed to change location frequently; some were faint and far away while others were close at hand. She had spent great lengths of time listening to these muffled grunts and knew exactly what they were: only the Irrawady dolphin produced this kind of sound.

Piya's work isn't all straightforward, she has to contend with language difficulties with the local people and plenty of difficult weather conditions. But during her visit she becomes committed to the Sunderbans and their wildlife.

This is a fascinating novel, which really brings the Sunderbans wetlands to life and engaging the reader with the area. It does sometimes feel slightly too long but the ending is wonderful, so keep going!

Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh published by Harper Collins.

The Sundarbans are under threat, read more by following the links below

Sunderbans steadily losing its famed mangroves.

Stop the coal plant, save the Sunderbans.

Thursday, 6 July 2017


a sudden breeze - 
the scent of lime blossoms 
across the river

Wednesday, 5 July 2017


It's a great time of year for insects!

These ladybirds along the John Muir Walkway in Musselburgh have plenty to eat with all those aphids!

And I was delighted to get really good views of two burnet moths, I think they're probably narrow bordered five spot burnets but if you know otherwise, please let me know in the comments

Monday, 3 July 2017

A Meadow of Sunshine

The common spotted orchids are lovely in the meadow in Colinton Dell at the moment

I was delighted to see two red admirals in the Dells too, though only one stopped for the photo opp

and summer has flown into the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop in the form of these lovely dragonfly earrings

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Kedi (a film review)

Yes, I've seen my last film of Edinburgh International Film Festival for this year! But learning of the release of Kedi onto our screens had me back into the cinema immediately!

Kedi (Turkish for cat) is a beautiful film about Istanbul seen from the perspective of the many feral and semi feral cats that stalk the city streets. Several cats are featured - from the polite cat who waits outside a restaurant and paws at the window when it's hungry, to ruthless hunters, to those who steal and scavange from the markets to cats who have adopted favourite people. Its obvious that all these cats have distinct personalities and all of them have a natural charm and engaging screen presence.

The film also focuses on the many people who look after the cats, the fishermen who share their catch with the cats, the artists who adopt cats for company and inspiration and the people who wander the streets weith bags of food to give out to cats. Everyone speaks of their love for the cats and how they help them in their lives.

But Istanbul is developing and expanding, green spaces are being lost, meaning that there is less space for the cats. This will mean issues for the health and welfare of the cats and not once was the issue of neutering brought up, even in passing.

This is a lovely, easy to watch, relaxing film for anyone who loves cats. Istanbul also looks like a beautiful city and a wonderful place to be a cat.

Kedi is showing at the Cameo until Thursday 6 July. You can view times here.

You can read my last film review of this year's film festival and my round up of the festival here.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

National Meadows Day

Only 2% of the meadows that existed in the UK in the 1930s still exist today. Meadows offer vital habitat for insects and birds and are worth protecting, enhancing and celebrating.

It's National Meadows Day today and to celebrate we visited Cammo Estate.  The fields around the estate are currently a mass of wild flowers

with plenty of insects too like this burnet moth

while in the estate itself the grasslands are also full of flowers

We were amazed to see all these caterpillars on the nettles (can anyone recognise which species they are?)

I may share more photos from the trip tomorrow!