Thursday, 28 May 2015

Edinburgh International Film Festival programme launch

The programme for the Edinburgh International Film Festival was launched yesterday.

A new artistic director, Mark Adams, who gave a very entertaining speech at the launch, has taken over for this the 69th edition of the festival, which will run from 17-28 June. The event will showcase 164 features from 36 countries, including 24 world premieres, 8 International premieres, 16 European Premieres, 84 UK premieres and 2 Scottish premieres.

My impression at this stage is that the festival has become more commercial this year, with fewer obscure films and more mainstream features. Certainly I feel there are fewer 'must-see' films for me. I know that my tastes are eclectic and odd and that moving towards the mainstream makes sound economic sense, but in a world where even the arthouse cinemas seem to be becoming ever more mainstream, I have always valued Edinburgh International Film Festival as somewhere I could guarantee my fix of obscure films.

Having said that there are a number of films I hope to catch and review here, including:

Black Island Poets in which two sisters on the run pretend to be poets to find refuge in a poetry weekend;

Blood Cells in which the UK foot and mouth epidemic of 2001 impacts on a young farmer

Scottish Mussel a romantic comedy focussing on conservation issues about the endangered Scottish pearl mussel

Out of Nature in which a Norwegian man goes back to nature

Nearby Sky which focuses on the first woman to enter her camels into the UAE's camel beauty pageant

and When Elephants Fight which focusses on Britain's ties with the illicit trade in Congo's conflict minerals.

You can download the full programme here or pick up a paper copy at the Filmhouse or many other venues around Edinburgh.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Rally for the Climate

Recently Stop Climate Change Scotland  asked people to tell Nicola Sturgeon the First Minister of the Scottish Parliament the things they love that will be damaged by climate change. 

Of course, my message to the First Minster had been that I love nature and am concerned about the effects of climate change on wildlife and plants. 

Today people gathered at the Scottish Parliament to hand over thousands of messages from across Scotland to the First Minister.

It was nice that the event took place close to Arthur's Seat, the iconic Edinburgh landmark. It was also nice to watch house martins and swallows swooping around above our heads, as well as gulls, crows and a sparrowhawk.Who knows how these species will be affected by climate change? Though house martins and swallows are declining in the south of the UK (though their populations are stable in Scotland).

The First Minister was unable to be there and was represented by Aileen Macleod the Minister for Environment, Land Reform and Climate Change. 

Speakers from each of the political parties represented in the Scottish Parliament were given 2 minutes each to outline their approach to stopping climate change. But, it is time for action, not words and Scotland has not yet met the ambitious climate targets it has set for itself, though it is making good progress compared to the rest of the UK and indeed the rest of Europe. 

There was a photo shoot after the postcards were handed over, the youngster in the photo above was really the star of the show. 

Then it started raining, so I left before the music started.

This event was part of the build up to the meeting in Paris where world leaders are expected to conclude negotiations for a new global deal to tackle climate change and address its impacts. You can find out what's happening in your area here.

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

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Blooming Cactus

This is the cactus that grew so tall and at such an angle that it kept falling over. So we chopped its top off and then later it grew back an extra four tops. It still leans at a funny angle but it no longer generally falls over. It did however once fall over and roll under the television and sat there for a day before we noticed it. Since then it has behaved well and sat nicely on the windowsill. It has never flowered though.

Until now.

These blooms are well worth the wait....

Monday, 25 May 2015

Sunshine and shade in Colinton Dell

Today started out quite chilly but has warmed up along the way. I spent most of the morning, as I often do on a Monday, walking round Colinton Dell alongside the Water of Leith.

it was lovely to find several cornflowers in the 'Hidden Meadow'

and the ash trees are looking lovely now too

as  indeed are the hawthorns, some of which are already fully in bloom

The wild garlic (ramsons) are still in full bloom and looking wonderful. I love the light in these photos, which makes the ramsons flowers look pale green, although in reality they're white.

For those of you in the UK, a reminder that Springwatch starts at 8pm tonight on BBC2. The live cameras are already set up .....

Sunday, 24 May 2015

More from the Big Nature Festival

There's so much to see at Scotland's Big Nature Festival this weekend, that I couldn't fit into just one blog post!

The Wild about Scotland bus is there, a project from the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which is travelling across Scotland engaging children with Scotland's wonderful natural wildlife. The bus offers fun, practical lessons that connect children to nature with a view to creating a lifelong appreciation and respect for Scotland's wildlife and the important role it plays in wider conservation issues.

while PAWS the Partnership against Wildlife Crime in Scotland is informing people about their work in fighting wildlife crime, and have a mock up of a crime scene, complete with toy bird

 Visit East Lothian had built a sand pit outside their tent, where children were happily playing. The beaches are one of the many visitor attractions in the area.

So all in all it's been an excellent festival, offering activities of all types to appeal to all ages and levels of experience. Plus the money raised will go towards conserving the curlew, an iconic wader, for which the UK is a breeding stronghold, with 68 000 pairs. Sadly the bird is declining across it's range and is globally 'Near Threatened’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. So a very important cause to support.

Thanks again the the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds who gave me a free ticket for this event.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Scotland's Big Nature festival

Crafty Green Boyfriend and I went to Scotland's Big Nature Festival in Musselburgh today. The weather was perfect for this kind of event, sunny and warm, though with a breeze coming in from the sea.

The route was signposted well for cyclists

though we walked from Musselburgh along the John Muir Walkway, one of my favourite birdwatching walks.

There's lots to do and see at the Festival, including tthe lovely Wild About East Lothian Tent

which is East Lothian in miniature, including all the main wildlife habitats found in the country, along with interactive activities, and lots of information about wildlife and the problems it faces.

The packed programme offered something for everyone. Our first stop was the Scotland's Larder tent for a demonstration from Anna Canning of Flora Medica of how to make pesto from wild greens, in this case ground elder, nettle and sticky willy (goosegrass).

After the demonstration we sampled the pesto, which was delicious. It's also a great way to use ground elder if it's a problem weed in your garden.

Next we went to the bird ringing demonstration, where we watched bird ringers from the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) ringing a beautiful male reed bunting. The bird is having his wing measured in the photo below.

We also went to a very interesting short talk from Ben Darvill (also of the BTO) about swallows, martins and swifts in the UK. Swifts are my favourite birds and this year so far I've seen about ten of them flying above our flat. In this talk, Ben outlined how all these birds are declining in the southern parts of the UK but doing relatively well in Scotland. He packed a lot into the 20 minute slot but it would have been nice to have had longer! However that would have meant fewer talks in the programme, so there needs to be a balance!

We enjoyed browsing the various stalls and were particularly impressed by the beautiful pencil-drawn art works of Fran Knowles. We were also struck by Gill Hatcher's lovely little book, Bunny behind the Moon, about a young bunny called Wonder, who finds out that her extra large ears are picking up messages from the bunny behind the moon.

We bought lunch from the Whitmuir Organics food truck, which was delicious, but slightly messy to eat! We also enjoyed a couple of real ales from the Orkney Brewery. It's good to see the Scottish Nature Festival offering ethically produced food and drink from Scotland.

Before and after the festival, we enjoyed listening to the spring birdsong as we walked between the venue and Musselburgh, including reed buntings, skylarks, willow warbler and whitethroats. The grassy areas were full of speedwells and vetches bursting into flower (photos tomorrow) and we found this beautiful little creature

So all in all we had a wonderful time! More tomorrow, I hope.

Thanks to the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) for giving me a free pass to the festival!

Friday, 22 May 2015

A brief history of rhinos

Today is the International Day for Biodiversity. A chance to celebrate the diversity of life on earth, to understand what that diversity contributes to our lives and to focus on the need to reserve and conserve our wild plants and animals and the places where they live. I've been thinking particularly about rhinos. 

Thirty million years ago, the world was home to giant rhinoceroses, which weighed up to 5 tonnes, making them the largest land mammal that has ever lived. Since then, many species of rhinos have come and gone, including wooly rhinos that thrived during the Ice Ages.

Today, there are five species, most of which are becoming rarer all the time, due to pressures from poaching.

In Africa, the southern white rhino fell to 100 animals in South Africa in the 1960s and conservation efforts raised the population to 20, 000 by 2008. Since then though, poaching has lead the population to fall again. Botswana is seen as the only country that is safe for rhinos. The country's KhamaRhino Sancutary hasn't had a single rhino poached in 24 years. In great contrast to South Africa, where in 2013, a rhino was poached on average every eight hours.

The outlook is even bleaker for the northern subspecies of the white rhino. There are only five left in the wild, the one male has its own personal 24 hour armed guard and has had his horn removed to deter poachers.

The other African species, the black rhino is critically endangered. In the 1960s when there were only 100 white rhinos in Africa, there were 120, 000 black rhinos. This population was reduced by paoching to 2 000 in 2000, though conservation efforts had increased this to 4000 by 2008. This number has since been reduced by a new, more organised and extreme wave of poaching. Having said that, in Kenya there were 381 black rhinos in 1987 and in 2015 there are 640, not a huge number but the population trend isn't all downwards, though  three of the subspecies of black rhino are already extinct.

The Sumatran rhino, the smallest species, and the only one that is hairy, is critically endangered, threatened by poaching and the loss of the secluded shrub areas it needs to give birth in.

The Javan rhino may be down to 40 individuals, all found in a tiny area in Java.

News is slightly better for the Indian rhino. It is doing particularly well in Nepal, which over the past year has seen no poaching of wild animals. The rhinos suffered from poaching that became rampant during the civil war which ended in 2008. Since then their numbers have increased. In 2015 there are 645 individual rhinos in Nepal, compared to 534 in 2011.Bumbers of Indian rhinos in Assam have increased from 200 in the 1900s to 2,544 in 2014.

References: (click on the links to read the articles)

The Story of Rhinos and how they conquered the world.

Rhino Coservation in Botswana.

Botswana's Rhino Sanctuary leading the fight against ivory poaching .

Critically endangered black rhinos re-introduced to native habitat (Kenya).

National Rhino Count 2015 (Nepal).

Wikipedia entry for Indian rhinoceros.