Saturday, 4 July 2015

Evening walk

We had a lovely evening walk yesterday along the Union Canal.

The ox eye daisies by the steps up to the canal are wonderful

while by the canal path, the edge of the verge has been mown to allow walkers to move aside to let cyclists pass and the rest is left wild, and is currently full of wildflowers including these tufted vetch (the purple flowers) and the meadow vetchling (the yellow flowers, though i may be wrong with this id, yellow vetches are particularly tricky to identify, i always find).

We met these young mallards, all sleeping in a pile,being watched over

We were less than happy to find that although Edinburgh Council sometimes gets it right with roadside, pathside and canalside verges (see the first two photos here and this post from yesterday) sometimes they get it horribly wrong, as with this pathside verge between the canal and a local park.

So we were quite sad as we walked home but then we saw this lovely sunset

The charity Plantlife is currently campaigning for local authorities in the Uk to manage roadside and other verges better for wildlife. You can find out more here.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Orchids by the roadside

Beautiful to see these common spotted orchids and other flowers in a roadside verge on Corstorphine Hill

This is just near the Corstorphine Hill Local Nature Reserve

where the meadow is looking lovely at the minute, though we didn't find any orchids in this area of grassland (though it is a big area and we only had an hour for lunch!)

We saw several butterflies, including what looked like a speckled wood (but as I mentioned in a previous post, these aren't supposed to be in Edinburgh!) a red admiral and several ringlets as well as white butterflies. None of them were even remotely interested in having their photos taken!

Lovely to see several bees too and by co-incidence, I have a poem about bees up on Verse Wrights today

Thursday, 2 July 2015

In the Blink of an Eye: How Vision kick-started the big bang of evolution

This is a fascinating book about how light has guided the evolution of life on earth, focussing on the big bang of evolution that happened during the Cambrian period (543 - 490 million years ago).

It is full of fascinating details including:

* how angel fish can use their silver scales as mirrors to blind their predators;

* how the camouflage of both predators (such as lions) and their prey (including wildebeeste) is an adaptation guided by light;

* how the cave fish has developed different forms depending on where it lives, such that those that live in caves have lost both their eyes and their silver colouration.

The book is as simply written as the subject matter allows and goes into detail about how light stimulated the development of vision which stimulated the course of evolution itself. It also details the physics that lies behind the production of colour in animals and the pre-historic development of functional eyes as evidenced from the fossil record. 

In the Blink of an Eye: How Vision Kick-started the big bang of evolution by Andrew Parker, published by The Free Press.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

More chopstick bags

A friend recently gave me a huge amount of scrap fabric to upcycle into crafty projects. I've been starting with the obvious things - pieces of fabric the ideal shape and size to make chopstick bags for example

These are now  all in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop - the gingham one here, the multicoloured satin one here and the off-white satin one here. .

A re-usable chopstick bag like these is an ideal way to carry around a pair of re-usable chopsticks so you can avoid using 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).

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Fabulous Flowers

the poppies and other flowers are wonderful along the John Muir Walkway in Musselburgh at the moment. 

Plenty of bees too and a flash of blue dragonfly. Two butterflies were dancing together, flying up into the tops of the trees, I thought they were speckled wood butterflies but those aren't (according to my book) supposed to be around Edinburgh). Plus I saw this wonderfully green beetle / weevil. Edited to add: this has now been identified by a member of Edinburgh Natural History Society as either a Phyllobius or Polydrusus species of weevil

and just over the sea wall I was delighted to see this group of young starlings poking around in the seaweed, not something I've seen them do before

and further along these eiders, the males in eclipse plumage. Two male mallards in the foreground.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Today in Colinton Dell

It had been raining this morning before I went out to Colinton Dell along the Water of Leith. The raindrops were sparkling on the bushes.

The hawthorns are at that stage between flowering and fruiting

and the buttercups are still stunning

and the small islands above Colinton weir are bright with grasses and flowers

The common spotted orchids are now out in the orchid meadow (though too hidden away for photos as yet) and I had a wonderful view of a kingfisher speeding downstream.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Iona - a film review

I have visited the island of Iona (off the island of Mull off the west coast of Scotland) only once but it is a magically beautiful place so I was keen to see the film Iona, which was chosen as the closing gala of the 2015 Edinburgh International Film Festival. The island is the star of the film, with it's beautiful scenery, slow moving farm animals and constant birdsong. Nothing in the story for me lives up to the beauty of the setting.

Iona returns to the island of her birth, escaping from a violent crime in Glasgow, bringing her son with her. The two of them move in temporarily and uneasily with an old friend of Iona's.

Her return to the island stirs up old unresolved situations and causes tensions among her old friends who are both happy and bemused to see her back. As secrets and conflicts come to the surface the film quickly becomes melodramatic.

The film seems to represent the island as a whole as an intentional Christian community, which it isn't. Yes the island is a close knit community and many islanders (though not all) are Christian (However the predominant church is the Church of Scotland not the strict Calvinist Free Church of many Hebridean islands, the latter being what seems to be portrayed in the film, while in reality there isn't a Free Church on the island). On the other hand, the Iona Community is a worldwide ecumenical Christian community with its centre in a residential community based at Iona Abbey. That and the fact that Iona is the island where Christianity first came to Scotland are the reasons that Iona is seen as an important Christian centre. There are in fact tensions between the Iona Community (which isn't even mentioned in the film) and the islanders. All of which makes the extreme piousness of all the islanders in the film somewhat unrealistic.

Iona was the closing gala of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015. To be honest I would have gone for Scottish Mussel, upbeat, entertaining with something important to say. Though perhaps with its English lead/writer/director that film isn't Scottish enough to qualify for the honour?

To read my other reviews from the festival, follow the links below:

Blood Cells - one man's journey after he lost everything in the foot and mouth epidemic.

Scottish Mussel - romantic comedy centred on the fight to conserve the freshwater pearl mussel 

Liza the Fox Fairy - a 'delightfully bonkers' film from Hungary

Black Mountain Poets - sisters on the run join a poetry retreat in the Welsh mountains

Desert Dancer - drama inspired by the life of Iranian dancer Afshin Ghaffarian 

Under Milk Wood - a new cinematic interpretation of Dylan Thomas' classic prose poem

Brand New U - futuristic thriller /  love story 

 Of Chickens and Camels - a review of Chicken (a wonderful coming of age film about a teenager with learning difficultie) and Nearby Sky (a documentary about the camel beauty contests in the Emirates). 

Infini - disaster on an off-planet mine

La Tirisia - love and life in the cacti covered mountains of Mexico

When Elephants Fight - conflict minerals in Congo

 Iron Ministry - a cinematic journey through China by rail

 Index Zero - dystopian SF set in a future Fortress Europe

30 Days Wild goes to the cinema - how the landscape backdrops two films set in very different countries (Sand Dollars and The Gulls)

Find out which were my choices as Best of the Fest

Disclaimer: I had a press pass for the Film Festival and attended free press screenings for these films.