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Preview: Crafty Green Poet

Crafty Green Poet

creative thinking ~ greener living

Updated: 2017-11-19T20:02:54.484+00:00


A Christmas Tree in Waiting


Every year for the past several years we have had a living Christmas tree in a pot, taken from Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother's garden and  returned there after the festive season. Today we chose this year's tree, though it will be a while before we collect it and bring it home.

It was a lovely day for a wander round the garden. The apple tree is as ever laden with fruit

and the maple looks stunning in its autumn colours

and its leaves make a beautiful carpet when they fall

Birds Drinking from a Puddle


Yesterday I wasn't able to join Crafty Green Boyfriend for his walk round Corstorphine Hill but I was very impressed by these photos he took of some birds drinking from a puddle. (Click on the photos to enlarge them)

long tailed tit and blue tit

 blue tit having a really good wash

long tailed tit arrives to watch blue tit bathing 

long tailed tits all in a row

long tailed tits in conversation 

a goldcrest


Witches Brooms


A little late for Hallowe'en I know, but I was impressed by the witches' brooms growing in this birch tree in Silverknowes. Now the leaves have mostly fallen the brooms are more noticeable than they usually are.

The witches broom is a growth caused by pests  or disease, for example wasps, viruses or fungi. Although they occur in a number of different species of tree, in this country at least they are most obvious in birch trees.

Olive Tree


Dark comfort of the olive grove
protects earth from storm and drought,
offers sanctuary.

Dark fruit, plump with food and oil,
creates a whole cuisine,
supports villages.

Dark branches laden with symbolism
represent the unattainable.


Another poem reposted from back in 2006! 

I also recently reposted an old poem over on my Shapeshifting Green blog, you can read it here

I've recently had a couple of poems published in online journals, you can read them by following the links below: 

Raspberry Picking on Misty Mountain Review

Rogue on Quatrain Fish.

Peregrine at Musselburgh Lagoons


The autumn colours are still beautiful along the wooded paths leading to Musselburgh Lagoons. This tranquil scene though hides a much more frenetic world on the Lagoons themselves!

The oystercatchers had gathered in their hundreds in a large crowd on the lagoons, along with a few curlews. They were hopping around unconcernedly as a peregrine circled overhead, divebombing the oystercatchers then flying up again to repeat the whole process. I think the apparent lack of concern from the oystercatchers' point of view was due to them knowing that if they flew off  then the peregrine would have a better chance of catching one of them - though an adult oystercatcher seems a rather large meal for a peregrine (can anyone comment on that?). After several minutes the peregrine flew off without a meal.

Later as I was walking along the River Esk returning to Musselburgh town, I saw a kingfisher flash blue under the bridge.

Then I managed to catch this cute goose, a cross between a Canada goose and a greylag (in the second photo you can see a Canada goose to the right of the photo). You often see these hybrid geese at Musselburgh.

Leaf Islands and Mysterious Balancing Stones


One of the things I love about autumn are the leaf islands that form in the mill lade next to the Water of Leith in Colinton DellThe leaves float downstream until they collide with the stones on the bed of the lade and arrange themselves like this.Meanwhile on the river itself the mysterious rock balancer has been at work again (click on the image to get a better view)The autumn colours are still beautiful, here's just a selectionBut some trees are already almost entirely bare[...]

Wojtek the Bear - Polish War Hero


Wojtek was a bear, rescued as a cub, from a cruel fate as a dancing bear in Iran by Polish soldiers who then kept him as a mascot, friend and helper.

This memorial statue, by Alan Beattie Herriot, recently placed in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens is a wonderful tribute to a brave and characterful bear (though I do find it astonishing that Edinburgh has far more statues to animals than it does to women).

Seeing the statue made me want to find out more about Wojtek and so I was delighted to discover Wojtek the Bear, Polish War Hero a book by Aileen Orr. This entertaining, informative and moving book follows Wojtek from his initial rescue in Iran, through his life in the Polish army during the 2nd World War and in a camp in the Scottish Borders to his last years in Edinburgh Zoo (where one of his keepers was Crafty Green Boyfriend's Dad!) Wojtek truly was a hero, he helped carry supplies, caught a spy and was a huge morale boost for the troops. He loved swimming, making friends, dancing at local dances in the Scottish Borders and eating. He drank beer and smoked cigarettes.

As well as telling Wojtek's story, the book outlines Polish history during the war and immediately  afterwards, the terrible suffering of Poland during the war at the hands of both the Germans and the Russians. The book concludes by telling the story of the author's campaign to get the statue to Wojtek erected in Edinburgh.

Wojtek the Bear, Polish War Hero by Aileen Orr, published by Birlinn Books

November Sunshine


A lovely late autumn day today! We started at the exhibition for the proposed housing development on Cammo Fields held at Cramond Kirk, where we posted our comments of don't build on these fields as they are valuable habitat for various farmland birds that City of Edinburgh Council commits to protecting in the local biodiversity action plan.  You can read my previous blog posts about this proposed housing development here).Then we went into Cramond village for coffee and cake outside overlooking the River AlmondWe were delighted to see a flock of about 50 lapwings flying around above the river!We then walked past Cramond Island  and along the River Forth to Silverknowes. It's always worth stopping to admire the fish sculpture by Ronald Rae.The wildflower meadows are still looking lovelyand the wild rosehips are decaying beautifullySomeone had laid out this row of shellsWe finished our walk up the road between the sheep pasture  and the golf course, where the trees were full of birds.Though the birds (starlings, bullfinches, goldfinches, fieldfares and redwings) didn't want to be photographed![...]

Mythologies of the Moon


New moon she is virgin.
Full moon she is mother.
Waning she is wise,
healer and transformer.

She rides a white chariot to watch
the tides of sea and woman.
Her wheel takes souls to death
and possible rebirth.

She hunts me and she haunts me
while, sprinkled with her dust,
I am a satellite, enslaved
to orbit her.

I let my eyebrows grow and howl,
dress in white as she wanes,
red when she is full
and my tides run blood.

As an owl she reads my soul,
stretches out soft wings of healing,
gives insight into previous lives
and solace for the present.

New moon she is virgin.
Full moon she is mother.
Waning she is wise, 

healer and transformer.


(Reposting from back in 2006, also previously published in both Curlew and Moonstone poetry magazines)

beautiful beech trees


The beech trees look particularly beautiful at this time of year

The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause



 This wide ranging book takes as its starting point the soundscapes of wilderness areas (of which there are a diminishing number as the human population increases, encroaching onto previously pristine habitats.)

From there, Bernie Krause, former musician and sound recordist examines natural sounds and how humans have intereacted with them, from devising our first music inspired by the natural sounds around us to our impact on nature, both through destroying habitats to the huge impact of human generated noise on the world.

It turns out that even an environment that looks to the eye to be healthy can reveal itself, through analysis of recordings of its soundscapes, to be much less complete that it seems. Krause gives many examples of specific habitats that he has studied and found to be diminished. He also examines the impact of human noise - by for example demonstrating how a jet flying over an area can disrupt the natural soundscape.

Soundscape is the sum of all the sounds made by all the animals and other natural features in an area, including bird songs and calls, wind and rain, to mention just a few. Most sound recordists focus on recording individual species and the study of intact soundscapes is under resourced. Similarly where  modern music takes inspiration from nature it tends to be by using the sounds of one bird or other natural sound and the whole of nature's soundscape is generally ignored.

This is a fascinating book, full of intriguing facts though very sobering in its assessment of our impact on the natural world. It ends with a plea to be quiet and respectful of the natural world.

The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause published by Profile Books (2013)

Dean Gardens


Dean Gardens is one of the private parks in Edinburgh, set aside for use by people in nearby streets who do not have their own gardens. Today I was able to visit it with one of my birdwatching groups, as a member of the group is also a member of Dean Gardens! It's a lovely place, covering seven acres of the banks of the Water of Leith and offering a number of pretty paths, stunning views and lovely autumn colours.

one of the paths 

a view over the weir at Dean Village 

the back view of Hygeia (the goddess of health and hygiene) in St Bernard's Well

some of the flats overlooking the gardens

Autumn Yellows


I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for a lunchtime walk round Corstorphine Hill today. Lots of lovely yellows around, from the gorse

to the birches

and the lovely juxtaposition of birch and gorse in this photo



above a bank of clouds -
harvest moon

Autumn colour and a kingfisher


I was leading a group round Colinton Dell today, but first I had time to do my weekly patrol of the dells for the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. The autumn colours are at their best now in many places

and the ivy is in flower, waiting for late season hoverflies, but I have to say I've seen very few hoverflies this autumn compared to last year.

I had two wonderful sightings of kingfishers (possibly the same bird in each case) before I met up with the group, but we didn't see one at allduring the walk. We haven't seen a kingfisher at all during this session of walks, while last time I lead these walks there were kingfishers every week!

Garden Drama


Sparrow-hawk falls from the sky
precision hunter, yellow eyes staring defiance,
pummels sparrow to extinction.

Domestic cat, disturbed by her internal tiger
leaps from the path with outstretched paws
wondering what is tiger for?

Sparrow-hawk sees only predator with claws
flies off, concedes defeat
returns to a hungry nest.

Overfed cat plays with sparrow, walks away,
tiger stripes blurring in her mind

to shimmering flames of domestic fire.

Continuing to repost old poems, this one was published on the blog back in 2008.

The Blackbird Singularity by Matt Wilven



I was immediately drawn into this novel by the relationship that Vince has with a blackbird that visits his garden and how he tempts the bird to finally brave coming into the house. It reminded me of my mother and her favourite blackbird that she used to feed.

However, things for Vince are a lot more complicated than just feeding the local birds like a caring birdwatcher. Vince has just stopped taking his lithium, he's haunted by the ghost of their first child and Lyd, his physicist partner is pregnant again.

This is a brilliant book, totally engrossing, a roller coaster ride of emotions that never veers out of the author's control (though it is clear that Vince is losing control of his life....). I particularly love the descriptions of Vince's relationship with the blackbirds:

"I slide the patio door shut and pull a chair away from the kitchen table, wrap my hands around a cup of coffee and watch the white lawn. Within seconds a blackbird arrives and then another. Soon there are nearly a dozen of them fluttering about, raising tiny clouds of hoar frost and trying to win a few moments on top of one of the sultana clumps. I'm not sure how long I sit watching them, but for the first time in a long time, I experience thecreative glimmer of a new idea.

After  a couple of minutes the idea is outshining my interest in the birds so I venture upstairs to my writing desk."

Mental health, grief, paranoia, dysfunctional families and barely functional friendships plus nature make for a wonderful mix in Wilven's debut novel. Can't wait to see what he writes next!

The Blackbird Singularity by Matt Wilven published by Legend Press (2016)

Up the HIll


I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for his lunchtime walk round Corstorphine Hill today (He works just near the hill, so can walk round it most lunchtimes!). The weather had really warmed up from the early cold start and the trees were looking lovely in the sun

There's also a lot of fungi around, including this lovely patch of turkey tail

The Secret Garden


Today's writing group from the Ripple Project spontaneously had a trip out to the nearby Lochend Community Growing Project's Secret Garden as one of the group members was involved in an event at the garden.It's a lovely garden, tucked away between houseswith lots of raised beds that the members cultivate and decorateThere's a wonderful pizza oven for cooking and bakingand a lovely cosy corner for chatting inWe took part in a plant pot decorating workshop, which involved spray paint, and in my case, haikuThe second haiku readsautumn gardenthe lingering scentof lavenderWe also drank tea and ate some lovely vegan chocolate cake made by one of the garden members. [...]

Losing Touch


The taste of the rain changes
losing the tang of salt
to take on the edge of metal

Glaciers crack like gunshots
as they crash down mountains
to flood the valleys.

Dazzling heat burns
migraines into tired heads
blurs our vision.

Darkness no longer smells
of honeysuckle
but of death.

Originally posted in 2006 for the Poetry Thursday theme of synaesthesia



The populations of many seabirds are in decline around the world, but now there is a way you can help!

Zooniverse, a citizen science web portal has launched a new project, Seabirdwatch!  Camera traps have been set up around the north Atlantic to take thousands of photos of kittiwakes and guillemots, two of the sea bird species that are in decline.

Seabirdwatch invites you to take part in counting these seabirds to help scientists understand population trends. So, visit the website, where after a quick tutorial, you'll be asked to identify and click on images of birds and their chicks.

This is a great way to join in seabird conservation and involves no hanging on ropes off dangerous sea cliffs and no bobbing about in small boats on choppy seas! 

I found out about this project through Autumnwatch, which started a new series last night. It's always well worth watching whether you're new to watching nature or you're a seasoned naturalist.

Notes from a birdwatching walk


Several fieldfares, flying around, calling loudly above the streets. I watched them with delight but they had flown before the birdwatching group arrived.

One treecreeper spiralling its way up the tree, from the back its variegated brown plumage lets it blend in with the tree trunk, from the side, though, its white tummy isvery visible.

One kestrel hovering very low to the top of the hill. By the time we had climbed the hill though, hoping for a better view, the kestrel had entirely disappeared!

Three male bullfinches, lined up in a row in the top branches of a bush, their dark pink breasts glowing beautifully.

One female bullfinch, disappearing into another bush, from where she called constantly, a quiet call.

Blue tits, robins and wrens everywhere!

Easter Craiglockart Hill this morning.

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

Autumnal Reflections


It's a beautiful day today, very warm for the time of year which is pleasant though worrying from a climate change perspective. (It's been a very warm autumn so far this year). Musselburrgh Boating Pond looks wonderful.

for Weekend Reflections

Meanwhile in the hides, all the birds and the roe deer were too far away to photograph with any meaningful results, but this little slug posed nicely for me! (Is it a young leopard slug?)

Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson



Subtitled 'the woman who thinks like a cow' this is a fascinating book about animal behaviour. Temple Grandin has autism and has used her different way of seeing the world as a way into understanding animals.

Temple Grandin is an associate professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She has worked in the meat processing industry, helping to make slaughter houses more humane. As a vegetarian I didn't find this part of the book the easiest to read, but I have to admit that so many people are meat eaters who will never give up eating meat that it is vital that slaughter houses are made more humane. Also it is fascinating to read how the author thinks her way into the cow's mind, how it perceives the world and how it can be made to feel calmer and less threatened.

The rest of the book looks at all kinds of animals, how they learn and how they relate to humans and whether the ways in which animals communicate can be considered to be true language, including the story of Alex the parrot, who seemed to be able to genuinely communicate and learn quicker than his owners and trainers expected . She outlines what makes dogs so good at being helper animals (particularly their sense of smell!) and how best to train dogs to increase their chances of growing up into well behaved, calm pets or working dogs (and she's a great believer in dogs working to give them a purpose in life!). The author constantly compares her own way of thinking as a person with autism to the way that animals think.

All in all this is a fascinating book, whether your main interest is in autism in humans or in animal behaviour.

Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson published by Bloomsbury

Autumn Red (a poem)


the early turning leaves of maple and cherry

slanting light glances
on rosehips
and five shades of rowan berries

the last poppy splashed
against ochre grass

the minor key
of robin's autumn song

first posted September 2008