Monday, 31 August 2009

Back to the wild side…

… and not before time :-) Throughout the school hols my video camera has been rolling capturing a variety of wildlife. I’ve been snap happy too. Scottish Schools are back now so it’s time to hand in some homework! I think we’ll have Maths first…

Sun +4+2+2+2= 10 = pure delight! Ah… perhaps this isn’t a familiar equation but this isn’t a familiar sight in my garden either. Buddleja is a new addition to my front garden (just a couple of years ago) and it definitely gets full marks for performance!

Bees are always visiting it and now increasing numbers of butterflies are too. I'm now even considering doing a butterfly count! Yes, it will be modest... but fun :-)

So far, at the same time, we’ve seen four Painted Ladies… I’m hoping this number will increase yet! Two Small Tortoiseshells, two Red Admirals and two Large Whites make up this modest but record list for butterflies spotted in my small front garden.

Sun kissed gravel and stones are also a very popular spot for the butterflies there. I don’t know, but the colouring of some of the Painted Ladies is looking a bit richer than usual to me.

What do you think? Oh… and you can see seedlings of Euphorbia coming through the gravel too… I’d guess and considerable larger count there!

Moving on to Environmental Studies next… the plastic plant pot can be seen with the Painted Lady above. Oh wait a minute… this Homework isn’t due until the 1st September. I’ll have it ready for then. Mm… and I might not be alone with this homework :-D

English next.… a visual interpretation of the challenge that simple everyday steps can be for some during any one day…

Biology… observations in bird behaviour in the garden over the summer. Homework incomplete due the lush foliage in back garden causing problems with visibility.

A juvenile Robin has been seen but photos are not yet available. House sparrows have increased in numbers quite significantly in the last week. Fat balls are particularly popular.

Science… look to the skies. Successful viewing of the Perseid meteor shower on the 13th of August. No photos or videos unfortunately. First ever sighting from the garden… amazing! Surprised at the speed the meteors travelled.

Finally, Creative Arts… a short film. Subjects include family life, the underground and patience. Entertainment value required.

Subject chosen… just had to be from a swallow’s next in the subway to/from RSPB Reserve Vane Farm. The chicks patiently waited… as I have to post this footage :-)

We walked under the nest not knowing they were sitting quietly above us just under the domed roof. We never spotted the tiny frogs either on our way out either.

Walking down the steps on our return we spotted a little movement on the ground... then the tiny frogs. Quietly watching two frogs we were startled by the noise of chicks being fed! Had we not stopped to watch the frogs we would never have seen the young swallow chicks!

What a delight to see. That’s also the delight of watching out for wildlife… you just never know what’s around the next corner… or under the next roof :-D

Apologies, late homework! Forgot about Craft & Design...

Hedgehog house with camera has not shown significant disturbance on floor to suggest any enquiries. Re-think considered on location.

House moved for third time... someone one popped by the first night! Now awaiting a return visit. Tasty bites near by to encourage further enquiries include some dried mealworms. Fingers crossed :-)

Photos above were taken in my garden with the exception of the frog poster. The videos above were taken at RSPB Vane Farm.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Spot the plastic pots

Okay… perhaps not too hard a challenge ;-)

Game over… let’s move on to the much bigger challenge of what to do with the growing stack of unused plant pots likely lurking in corners of your greenhouse, shed or garage at this time of year. Does this look familiar?

No product placement intended at all in the photo above… honest! Often I plan links but this wasn’t one. I didn’t notice the label until I cropped my shot. I did give a smile though. So, with evidence now, you can see that Dobbies is one of a number of garden centres in my local area that I frequent from time to time…

On a visit last September I noticed a wooden storage unit just inside the exit of their Perth Store. Used plastic plant pots were inside it. At the time I emailed the manager to ask what was done with them and when they were collected. He replied:

“This is an All Year round commitment offering this service. We collect the plastic and add it to our own store generated plastics and polystyrenes. This is then compacted here on site and sent through a third party to be recycled.

This service is now available in the vast majority of our larger stores Nationwide if not all.”

Great news, they were being recycled and on a wider scale too! However, I do remember at the time thinking this was a slight shame that charities, schools, clubs and people with little spare cash couldn’t benefit from this free collection.

Last week I enjoyed email chat with quite a few people through my blog. The week started off with a photo of hedgehogs. Forget the stacking of pots… have you ever seen so many hogs at one time?

Thanks, Martyn and Jill for allowing me to share your photo :-D

I am always thrilled to get feedback on my postings especially when it means I’ve helped others to enjoy the wildlife in their gardens too. Oh… and guess what? This photo led to Martyn & Jill starting their own blog. As you might... expect I chatted lots about blogging too :-D

Sparrowhawks were next up on my email topic list. Oh… but I’ll come back to that one though! Great stuff to come there :-D However, last week I found myself thinking about all the jobs I should be doing in the garden, pottered a little… yep and you’ve guessed it… came back to the question of recycling plastic plant pots. Who takes them now?

Knowing that Dobbies had been doing it last year I decided to ask Ian at the new Dobbies Blog what the current situation was on this. He in turn, asked their Eco Champion, Graham (yes Ian, that is a cool job title). I was delighted to hear that plastic pots are being reused now as well as being recycled… exactly what I hoped. Graham says:

“As part of its ongoing commitment to the environment, Dobbies offer their customers the chance to return their old plastic plant pots for recycling. We ask that these are free of soil and compost. There is a box in each centre where customers can deposit these old pots which are later shredded and the plastic reused or they are offered to schools or charity groups who re-use them in many different ways.”

Collection box at Dobbies, Perth.

Thanks, Graham and Ian :-) I do believe Dobbies has other plans that may be of interest too so I look forward to hearing about them in the future. Of course, I am located in just one small part of Scotland and there are many, many Garden Centres here in the UK and around the World too.

Do you know of somewhere that collects used plastic plant pots? Oh yes… not just Garden Centres… perhaps your local council or recycling centre takes them. I’d like to extend this question to all visitors both inside and outside the UK too.

Just a thought… no pressure at all on other bloggers (I know what this time of year is like for posting) but perhaps you might want to share what you do with your unused plastic plant pots in a brief posting. Perhaps you have great tips for re-use?

Remember the Desert Island Plant Challenge? So many people got involved with that one. What a blogging buzz there was that day… enjoyed by all! So… just how ‘hot’ are plastic pots?

Okay… perhaps I’ll leave you an invitation below just in case you fancy joining me with this one... please feel free to use the image below. I’ll set up Mr Linky on my posting if anyone wishes to add a blog post link. Perhaps you might be able to pass around the word too/instead… that would be just brilliant :-D

I completely understand the chances of repeating the success of the Desert Island Plant Challenge is unlikely but if even if just a few visitors discover an outlet for recycling unused plastic plant pots that they never knew about then I’d deem this a great success :-D

If you’re not a blogger you can still join in by leaving a comment here or on my posting on September the 1st. Alternatively you could drop me an email and I’ll add your info in my posting. I am now wondering just how widespread the re-use of plastic plant pots actually is... this will definitely be an interesting one to hear about :-D

Wishing you a great weekend meantime! More gardenwatching, wildlife videos and garden updates next time :-D

All photos above were taken in my garden between August 24-26th 2009 unless otherwise stated.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Wordless Wednesday... walking

Loch Leven Heritage Trail

All photos above taken by me on August 8th 2009. More Wordless postings.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Auld Reekie… blooms and colour

How about a fresh spin for Bloom Day this month? A change of location perhaps? The centre of Edinburgh was where I found myself for a number of hours on Saturday the 15th and surprise, surprise I didn’t go shopping!

This unplanned trip was a tad rushed in getting here. However, as I sat with a coffee contemplating how I would spend the time (waiting for my daughter) I remembered I had a camera in my bag.

Over the summer I have been carrying my Canon PowerShot around although I’ve never used it much. I’ve never really taken to this camera for some reason. The images haven’t been too sharp. Yes, I hear you… blame the camera not the operator :-D

Okay, let’s put this camera and me to the test! The challenge… blooms and colour.

Yes, I did have a little local knowledge of the area but even so I came across quite a few surprises. I'd like to invite you to join me on a walk around the centre of Edinburgh. Perhaps you might like to pour yourself a cuppa?

St Andrew Square Gardens was my first destination and what a wonderful public outdoor space this is.

I knew about this space but didn't realise that (after a major revamp) last year it opened its gates to the general public for the first time in its 238-year history. Previously it was only accessible to residents and businesses in the surrounding area.

“The garden now boasts a reflecting pool, while ageing trees have been replaced, the statue of Lord Melville restored, and new lighting installed to help bring the square to life at night. A new pavilion coffee shop has also been built.”

In the warm sunshine this area had a fantastic buzz about it. People of all ages were enjoying this space. I, as you might expect if you are familiar with my blog, just loved the design and planting scheme.

The white Japanese anemones bobbing about in the strong wind just drew me right in to them as did the grasses blowing quite wave-like.

I am really impressed by this area now although I don't really remember much about it before.... from memory it was just a very busy area to drive around... or avoid both as a driver and pedestrian!

However, on looking up links for this posting I discovered that during the First World War, the gates of this original garden were opened to visiting US soldiers who camped in the grounds. Wow… I'll take a moment to think of them the next time I pass through this garden.

Coming forward to present day but back at the same time too... let’s talk trams! The main shopping street in the centre, Princess Street, has some major works going on at the moment disrupting both traffic and pedestrians.

Tram lines will connect the city centre to/from the Airport and out to/from Leith. This will hopefully ease traffic and help tourists and locals get around... perhaps even commute.

On leaving the St Andrew Garden I had intended heading along George Street but found myself being herded in the crowd away from that opening of the works barriers. Instead of heading directly to Princes Street Gardens I thought I’d take a quick look at what floral displays could be found along a small section of Rose Street first.

Yep… pretty much as I expected colour came from tiered freestanding displays, hanging baskets and extended window boxes high above main windows. Catching the sun they did brighten up this narrow busy street.

Bedding displays are found it practically every city centre and Edinburgh is no exception. This one below was a bit loud and didn’t appear to tie in with any colour schemes along the street level of Princes Street Gardens. However, it did give a great splash of colour! On this very windy day you can see why planting schemes use low flowering plants.

Princes Street Gardens have been a well used public space for many, many years. Large mature trees afford shade and benches line paths along this tiered garden. Both benches and grass banks have people sitting on them throughout the day from locals and day tripper’s to tourists.

The Scott Monument overlooks this area and if you’re feeling energetic you can climb its 287 steps to get views across the gardens and city. There was a queue when I passed by ;-)

Okay, so lets’ hear it for the real blooms and colour in Auld Reekie at this time of year… the festival acts and its visitors. During August and into September, every year, the city sees visitors from around the world to this International event.

The Edinburgh Fringe runs from AUG 7-31 and The Edinburgh Festival from AUG 14-SEPT 6. Many, many different accents could be heard as I walked through the crowded streets. Tour guides were reeling off their spiel on many corners.

I enjoyed being herded along with the tourists and acts for a while. I felt like a tourist myself. Despite the works disruption there was still a carnival type atmosphere. Music and acts of all types could be heard. The bagpipe/drumming bands got great applause!

Pink cosmos were my blooms of the day… I loved seeing their cheery faces bobbing about in the wind. Bedding really isn’t my thing but I like this planting combo along some railings.

The surprise of the day for me was the Floral Clock! I had no idea it was still there. As I child I had a few relatives in Edinburgh and had been taken to see this clock. I remember it well, even now.

Over the years I have had many lunches with my daughters sitting in the gardens… but not at the Castle side (West) of the National Gallery. What a revelation this was… my daughter’s are probably now too old to appreciate this as I did. This clock has a working movement and does keep time.

As I walked down the steps alongside the Floral Clock and looked ahead to the path beyond I felt like I had been truly transported back in time to my visits as a child. Unfortunately, sorry Edinburgh, the planting schemes felt that way too. I wonder if, when the Tram works are completed, the gardens may get a make-over too.

At the bottom of the steps a look down to the left and a cottage caught my eye. Wow… my first thoughts were that of a Gingerbread House in a storybook. How magical it looked!

Walking ahead gave closer views to the Castle on the left on the rocks above. Many cameras were pointing in that direction although Edinburgh Castle doesn’t really look like a picture book Castle.

The benches were all occupied as I walked. A break in roses, bedding and lavender in one area caught my eye… the tall teasel was also getting caught by the wind! Once again the cosmos made me smile.

A number of Statues can be seen along the gardens… I had no idea there were so many. You can see them listed in this interactive map. Up and down the gardens I went and once again it was time for a break. Care to join me in another cuppa?

Direct plugs to businesses I don’t usually give but I’d like to give one here. Oh yes… I did pay for my coffee at the spacious Princes Street Starbucks Café with a view out to the castle!

This plug like the bag of used coffee grounds is for free! Any company that operates a recycling system direct to its consumers like this has my vote. Displayed in a basket these ‘GROUNDS FOR YOUR GARDEN’ packs are available for customers to take home.

“Coffee grounds can provide a valuable source of nutrition for your garden. The proper amount to be used depends on the condition of your soil and what you are growing. Check with a local gardening expert or your local parks to see what is best for your garden.”

I guess if you had a PH testing kit for your soil you could use that too. Yes, I did pick up a bag myself on this visit and on a previous one. As yet, I haven’t decided how I will use it but do look forward to giving this a go! I wonder if any other coffee shops/chains do this.

Okay, shamelessly I’m going to go from one business plug to another! Dobbies also has my vote on the recycling front but I’ll come back to that one soon. For the moment I would like to say I’m delighted to welcome them to the garden blogging world!

Oh yes… as you can see above they have shirls gardenwatch as their ‘Blog of the Week’ at the moment which I am quite delighted about… thanks Ian for your most generous comments!

However, hand on heart that has not influenced my plug here. I intended mentioning this anyway as I am thrilled to see a commercial company linking to mainstream, non-commercial garden blogs. Personally, I feel there is an absolute wealth of information and inspiration in them… but I do have a biased view knowing so many bloggers :-D

So, as I near the end of this Bloom Day trail around Edinburgh I have been wondering how the Loch Leven Heritage Trail has got on in the National Lottery Awards Final for Best Environment Project.

"Public voting for the final round of The National Lottery Awards 2009 has now closed. The seven winners - one in each category - will be announced during a special, star-studded BBC1 programme, The National Lottery: Big 7, broadcast live on Saturday 5th September 2009. " Not too long to wait then :-D

If you are wondering what’s blooming in my garden at the moment then there’s nothing really new from previous postings except I've added some pink cosmos that I picked up at a bargain price… before I saw them in Edinburgh! The next sunny, dry, still day I’ll take some video.

In the evening sunshine tonight I was thrilled to see butterflies on my front garden buddleja… two painted ladies, a small tortoiseshell and a peacock. That’s the most I’ve seen so far this year. Only the painted lady was close enough to get with the camera.

It’s definitely time for you to flutter on by if you made it to the end of this posting! Mm... looking back perhaps my Canon PowerShot isn't too bad on sunny days!

Now I’ve finally had time to get near my blog I could chat on all night. Mm… perhaps instead it's time I did some blog visiting myself! See you soon :-D

All photos above were taken in Edinburgh on August 15th 2009 with my Canon PowerShot with the exception of the butterfly taken in my garden on August 17th with my Canon 400D.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Hear and there

Let’s hear it for birds and wildlife visiting our jungle gardens at this time of year! One bird that has being catching my eye has been a lonesome Collared dove… but not this first one which I'm showing for comparison.

Here’s the one below that I’ve been watching. It has been sitting around the garden most days on tree branches and often just strolling around the ground…

Can you spot the difference? Let’s take a closer look…

Doing some garden watching of its own is a Collared dove that appears to have the bottom section of its beak missing. It wasn’t until I cropped and enlarged my photo that I spotted this then posted this on the Birdforum.

As mentioned in my replies (on the forum) it is a curious one. Just how does this bird eat? As one reply suggested it has a black collar so it has successfully made it to adulthood so it must be managing. Another reply considered that it has had some sort of accident damaging its beak.

Either way it must have a problem eating. I have seen it pushing peanuts along the ground towards rocks but intiailly never thought anything of it. I guess they are softer than the sunflower hearts and easier to eat although I have seen it appearing to eat sunflower hearts too.

Recently I put out crushed peanuts for any passing hedgehogs and this Collared dove did seem to be quite interested in them. It’s a shame to see it on its own but it appears to be comfortable feeding with the Blackbirds and other birds in my garden.

In the evening it does stay on in the garden after most other birds leave. It was after 9pm in the photos above. Now... was it alone? Oh… and it wasn’t the only one that got a surprise… listen out for my voice recorded at the time!

The video above was taken through my window which I opened briefly to drop some peanuts and sultanas on the ground as this hedgehog visit was just a tad too early and the ground feeder was empty! What happened next?

The little hog ate a while as you can see in the second video below. Strangely though I have noticed that often the hogs will source out single peanuts or sultanas. It disappeared out there into the jungle undergrowth… I went quietly outside with my video camera and followed it… can you guess what it was most likely looking for?

The Collared dove clearly heard the hedgehog rustling about through the plants below it. However our gardens are not the only place to see and hear wildlife. Yep… out there on walks and on Nature Reserves we can see and hear nature of all kinds. Okay… hands up I’m making a link here!

Last Friday morning I took a wander round Loch Leven Heritage Trail to discover more than just birdsong. Nailed to a fence post was a poster…

Last month when I posted video of young swallows being fed along this trail I spotted another poster but the deadline had passed for voting and I thought this competition was over. I had no idea there was one final round. After visiting this trail I would definitely like to help promote it and ask that any visitors here may consider voting for it too.

There is a quick link to the categories at the top of my sidebar but unfortunately I cannot link directly to the voting page. This Heritage Trail is in the Best Environment Project Section of this year’s National Lottery Awards. The Deadline is Thursday if you are interested in voting for any project that has made it to the final round.

Now… I’ve passed by a few times since I first discovered this trail earlier this year. Over the next couple of days I have a rather ambitious plan to help you explore it further too either in person or from the comfort of your own home... no matter where you live.

The Loch Leven Heritage Trail has made quite a difference to this area in terms of access in particular bringing visitors so much closer to nature and wildlife. Personally I think it is very impressive and would love to see them get funding from the Lottery to do even more work.

The videos above were taken in my garden on July 27th 2009. All photos were taken by me either on the trail or in my garden.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Wordless and waiting...

...for the postman.

Today the Scottish Exam Results are delivered via post, email and text. A nervous excitement in many households… including mine! Good luck everyone :-)

All photos above were taken in my garden this morning at around 8:45am. See more Wordless postings here.