Friday, 29 September 2017

Autumnal Wanderings

Once again, we find ourselves grounded by bad weather this morning. So, to brighten things up a bit, here are a few pictures from the last few days. As usual at this time of year, we will start with the fantastic colours of autumn - and in particular, the Maples. This golden one was just beautiful and fooled the 'automatic' setting on my camera into thinking it was looking at a sunset!
Another view of the same tree...
At Shipley Hill, the magnificent Beech Tree which stands guard over the southern side of the hill, is just showing it's colours around the edges.
In the back garden, things have started preparing for Autumn too. Spider's webs hang from every plant and fence post, tangling around your face whenever you try to get to the shed. Among the leaves, there lurks a stranger. Looking somewhat spider-like, this is a Harvestman (Phalangium opilio) and it has a face only a mother could love! This one, I think is a female as males have horn-like structures at the front.
Despite looking like one, it is in fact NOT a spider although closely related. They do not have fangs or produce venom and they don't produce silk for web-spinning either. They are however, ferocious little predators of other insects, small snails and slugs, which it catches using the tiny hooks and spines on its legs. Look out for them, they are everywhere at this time of year!
Moving swiftly on to something much more attractive, we encountered the four cygnets which have been raised on the overflow from Shipley Lake.
Now they are reaching maturity, it would appear that they have been abandoned by their parents as there is no longer any sign of them. But these four juveniles look quite able to look after themselves and are sticking together for the time being.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Autumn Invertebrates

During the autumn, it's often difficult to avoid walking into millions of spiders' webs which decorate the countryside. A couple of days ago, as we set out on our walk, we were treated to the sight of hundreds of webs, bedecked with dew drops and sparkling in the sunshine.
This particular web was built by and inhabited by a Four Spot Orb Weaver (Araneus quadratus).
Moths too, are still to be found in the countryside and gardens at this time of year and they no doubt have to be very careful to avoid all those webs. This little moth was found on our patio doors a few days ago and after a short search, I managed to identify it as a Garden Carpet Moth (Xanthorhoe fluctuata). It is a common species and one which tends to prefer the more suburban areas.
My attention was drawn to a small willow tree last Friday. At the tip of a couple of branches, there was a flower-shaped growth of leaves which looked somewhat out of place and not at all like the other leaves of the willow. It was obviously a gall of some kind, but one which was new to me - so it too, needed identification.
It turned out to be a Camellia Gall produced by a tiny gall midge with a big name Rabdophaga rosaria. It is thought to be common in the UK, but not well recorded, so it's difficult to be sure just how common.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Cheer Up

It's been so wet and miserable this morning, that I thought it was best to try and cheer up a bit with some more pictures of Autumn colours around Shipley Park. Firstly, from under the lovely old Beech Tree on Shipley Hill, just beginning to change into its Autumn finery.
When we sat for our coffee the other day in the picnic area by Mapperley Reservoir, we used a different seat from usual (thanks to some scum-bags who think you are supposed to sit on the backs of the bench with your muddy feet on the seat). This gave us a slightly different view.
With a little digital manipulation, you get a rather painterly effect.
Around Shipley Hill, the trees are all dropping leaves and nuts on the ground, making for a busy time for the squirrels.
It won't be long before this Silver Birch has dropped all its leaves, but for now, the sunshine illuminating them from behind as they turn yellow, made for a nice picture.
Out on the open meadows between Shipley a Cinder Hills, the scene was dominated by the shiny, black rolls of plastic-coated silage, waiting to be collected and stored for winter fodder.
With such a rich variety of grasses and wild flower species, it promises to be a tasty treat for the livestock when they're confined to their sheds in the months to come.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Autumn Colours

It seems to come round quicker every year, but it's that time once again, when the countryside begins to glow with Autumn colour.
As we set out for our walk to Osborne's Pond this morning, the chill in the air spoke of yet chillier days to come and falling leaves marked the start of autumn.
It was one of those bright, sunny mornings when you just want to be out and about enjoying the day and the colours.
Around Shipley Lake, the Maples are beginning to look their best, with the promise of more to come.
Already, some trees are displaying a breathtaking richness of colour.
With closer view and with a bright blue sky as backdrop, it just gets better.
With a little digital 'bloom', the trees on Shipley Hill make for a beautiful picture too.
No doubt there will much more to come over the next few weeks as Autumn strengthens its grip on the countryside.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Raindrops and Berries

The appearance of hundreds of berries in the hedgerows, points to the end of summer and the onset of Autumn. This year's crops of berries looks as if it's going to be a good one. The Rose Hips are looking glorious.
Full of vitamin C, these fruits have been used for thousands of years for their nutritional qualities. They can be made into jam, jelly, soup, syrup, pies, bread, wine and marmalade. So, they're versatile too.
Belonging to the same family as the roses, Pyracantha is another shrub which is full of fruit at this time.
Pyracantha berries can also be made into  jelly, but they are mildly poisonous if eaten raw and can result in gastro-intestinal troubles.
One berry which it is definitely best to avoid eating is that produced by the Black Bryony. Belonging to the Yam family, the fruits contain high levels of saponin and are quite poisonous. But the berries are rather attractive and unusually numerous at the moment.
We were lucky enough to have the sun shining on us this morning as we walked around Shipley Park and admired the Autumn berries. We were not quite so fortunate a few days ago when we got caught in a heavy shower and had to seek shelter under an old railway bridge. Fortunately, the shower was short-lived and from our dry vantage point, the splashes of raindrops in the muddy puddles, made for some rather 'arty' shots.
It's amazing what the camera will capture.
Just room for one more...

Wednesday, 13 September 2017


Leaving the botanical gardens, we turn our attention to our walk along the banks of the Water of Leith. We started in the delightful Dean Village.
Taking centre stage was the fine building known as Well Court. Built in the 1880's, commissioned by Sir John Findlay, then the owner of The Scotsman newspaper.
Well Court was originally built for local workers of Dean Village. An advertisement described Well Court as, “providing homes of two and three rooms with conveniences, let to a respectable class of working men at rentals of £7 to £12 per annum.”
We soon left the village behind us and came to the weir.
A little further on, we had views of the Belford Road Bridge.
At a bend in the river, we discovered a Grey heron standing on a fallen log in the stream.
On our way back, we sat for a while at this spot, enjoying the sunshine and the sight of the heron which seemed to be enjoying the sun too.
Back along the Waters of Leith, we passed Dean Village and on past St Bernard's Well.
The classical columns of the building, was designed by Alexander Nasmyth - an artist of the city and was built in 1789. It sits on the river bank with a walkway alongside it with Fuchsias in full bloom...
and Malcolm looking over the side.
Well, that's it for our Edinburgh trip. No doubt we'll be back soon.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Colourful Exotica

Continuing our wander around the glasshouses of Edinburgh's Royal Botanical Gardens, I thought we'd look at some of the more exotic flowers on display. Starting with this species of Aristolochia or Dutchman's Pipe.
Further on, we found another member of this family of strange climbers, looking even more exotic than the last.
Many of the flowers were a little more colourful.
Some were heavily scented, like this Hoya.
Others were just so brightly coloured, that they appeared to glow in the gloom under the canopy.
Some were Blue...
some were pink...
or yellow...
or peach-coloured like this Hibiscus.
Among the most strange were the insectivorous Pitcher Plants with lots of hanging pitchers ready to spell doom to any insects which fell in.
Passion Flowers hung above our heads...
and all around, the greenery was every bit as interesting than the flowers. Passing this weeping conifer, we headed out of the glasshouses.
Tomorrow, we will see something of the Waters of Leith.