Category Archives: Wildlife

Butterflies, Bees and Birds

It might not have the same ring to it but this is the order that I spotted the first of each of my eagerly-awaited arrivals this Spring. Beyond daffodils and lambs, these are the sightings that really make my heart sing and a sure sign that Spring really is here and the weather might finally start to buck up. Continue reading Butterflies, Bees and Birds

Our Girls Will Soon Be Free…

Yesterday we had an update on the Avian Flu restrictions – good news and bad, the Prevention Zone covering Scotland will now be extended until the end of April, however, as it’s deemed a low-risk zone we will be allowed to let our hens out on the 28th February as long as we have enhanced biosecurity to minimise the risk of infection from wild birds.

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It doesn’t state what these enhanced biosecurity measures are so it looks like that’s up to us, so, as we’re interpreting this – as long as we’ve done the little things that we can, like remove bird feeders from the garden, we should be set to give the girls back their freedom.

It seems like an awfully long time since the restrictions first came in at the start of December – can’t wait to see them back out foraging round the garden and hopefully they’ll laying eggs again!

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What a Beautiful Find in the Woods!

I found this beauty in the woods on the Newhall Estate yesterday – I wasn’t sure if it was a decomposing mushroom or a weird, yet strangely beautiful fungi.

Blackening Brittlegill - Russula Nigricans
Blackening Brittlegill – Russula Nigricans

After speaking with fellow Gastronomy student, Ally, from Beechbrae who is my go-to for all things fungi-related and some further consultation from Mark, a forager from Galloway Wild Foods  we have the answer – it’s Blackening Brittlegill (Russula Nigricans)

Here are some interesting facts that I found about it.

Russula nigricans, the Blackening Brittlegill, is a very variable species in terms of its size, shape and colour: it changes in each of these respects quite markedly as it matures, eventually becoming black all over.

Common in broadleaf, mixed and coniferous woodland, Russula nigricans occurs throughout Britain and Ireland. On mainland Europe this brittlegill can be found from Scandinavia right down to the Mediterranean region; its range extends eastwards into temperate parts of Asia.

Caps of Russula nigricans are 6 to 20cm (exceptionally 25cm) in diameter, convex with an inrolled margin and then later flatter and centrally depressed, the caps are dirty white at first, turning grey-brown and then eventually blackening all over.

Culinary Notes – When they are young and still white, Blackening Brittlegills are considered by some authorities to be very good edible mushrooms; however, perhaps because they become tough and deteriorate in flavour as they blacken, the general view seems to be that these woodland fungi are at best only mediocre from a culinary perspective (and there are plenty of other mushrooms with a superior reputation). That is a shame, because not only are Blackening Brittlegills chunky and often abundant but with their thick, very widely spaced gills, they are also very easy to identify with confidence.

(German mycologist Andreas Gminder says that these brittlegills are excellent when fried with bacon and onions.)

Avian Flu – The Girls Are Off To ‘Prison’ For 30 Days

This morning brought the news that a particularly virulent strain of avian flu (H5N8) has been causing deaths of poultry and wild birds in Europe and that although there have been no reported cases in the UK that all keepers of poultry across Scotland, England and Wales, are legally obliged to ensure that their birds are kept away from wild birds to restrict any potential infection.

Betty (front) & Rose
Betty (front) & Rose

This left us in a bit of a pickle as our chicken run is only half complete. Thankfully a kind neighbour came over and helped us get it enclosed and in compliance with the 30-day restrictions that have been imposed. This might be the kick up the bum needed for us to get on and finish the run properly but for now, it will do.

Temporary measures
Temporary measures

I feel quite sorry for Betty and Rose as they usually have free range of the garden so I’ll need to find some things to keep the girls amused during their confinement as well as keeping a close eye on them for any signs of illness.

Information From DEFRA

  • Since 3 November, highly pathogenic avian influenza of subtype H5N8 has been found in dead wild birds in Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the Russian Federation. These outbreaks have affected various wild bird species, including Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula), Common Pochard (Aythya ferina), gull species, wild geese, wild swans and various other wild waterfowl and raptors. Read the latest outbreak assessment or sign up to our Alerts Service to keep up to date with the latest news.
  • Clinical signs that poultry keepers should look for in their birds include a swollen head, discolouration of neck and throat, loss of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhoea and fewer eggs laid – although these vary between species of bird.
  • Where avian influenza (or Newcastle Disease) is not strongly suspected, but cannot be ruled out, poultry keepers may wish to liaise with their private veterinarian about using the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) ‘testing for exclusion’ regime in GB. This involves submitting samples to a testing service at the APHA’s National Reference Laboratory, Weybridge and can help detect a notifiable avian disease at the earliest opportunity for such cases.
  • Wild bird surveillance activity in Great Britain has been increased. If poultry keepers or the general public find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or gulls, or five or more dead wild birds of other species in the same location, they should report them to the Defra helpline.

Defra Helpline

 

F-off Fox! (So sorry Marge)

This morning we lost Marge to a fox. Our fault entirely for forgetting to shut them up in their coop last night.

 

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Marge checking out my office / Potting shed

 

Thankfully neighbours were woken by the noise and came to alert us at about 5.30am, they shoo-d the fox away leaving Marge dead by our back door, Rose missing (last seen in the fox’s mouth being taken down the garden) and Betty, alive but very frightened.

There were feathers EVERYWHERE all around the garden!

A few searches, after hearing a chicken down the bottom of the garden, and we found Rose, alive and well if a little ruffled behind our shed, she must’ve managed to get away -I can’t tell you the relief. Clever girl.

It could have been SO much worse, if it’d been dark and they’d been in their coop we’d have lost the lot and likewise, if the neighbours hadn’t heard and scared the fox off, the same result.

Clearly, we’re feeling pretty rubbish but we did bury Marge in a nice spot by the river and hopefully Rose and Betty will settle down (and grow their feathers back) soon.

Another sad day in our Pentland Garden.

New Girls on the block – Ivy & Etta

Meet the latest additions to our Pentland Garden – Ivy and Etta.

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They are Maran chickens, Ivy is a Copper Blue Maran and Etta is a Copper Black with lovely iridescent feathers. They lay a dark brown coloured egg and they’d even thoughtfully laid one for us en-route. (We thought it’d be a nice complement to the blue eggs we get from our Cream Legbars, Betty, Marge & Rose).

Still being newbie backyard chicken-keepers we had a lot to learn very quickly when we discovered they were being delivered a few days earlier than expected. A mad dash saw a neighbour kindly bring us over an old dog box and run as we tried to cobble together a separate area for them from random materials lying around and about.

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There was certainly a lot of noise from all of the girls to start with – there’s also been a lot of squaring up and pecking through the fence, hopefully it won’t last too long and they get used to each other quickly. Marans are a more docile breed so I’m assuming our girls, who are quite territorial, will stay top of the pecking order but we’ll see.

We had one escapee moment (I’ve now ordered a big fishing net for future chicken catching shenanigans) as well as raising the divider even higher. Have a feeling these two will be just as entertaining but in very different ways and who knows these ones might even be a bit more cuddly – would love a proper chicken cuddle (like in this cutest video below).

Honey on-tap straight from the hive – this is amazing!

A friend recently sent me a link to an article about the Flow Hive and all I can say is ‘WOW’ and when can I get my hands on one?!

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I would love to keep bees however am a little wary, not least due to the fact I ended up in hospital after having a reaction to a wasp sting, albeit a good few years ago now.

This no-fuss hive pretty much looks after itself and to harvest the honey you literally do just turn on the tap.

Continue reading Honey on-tap straight from the hive – this is amazing!

Botanical Treasures Exhibition July-Sept 2014

Here’s another exhibition at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic gardens that looks like it’d be worth going to see….

Botanical Treasures Exhibition

Tues 1st  July — Tues 30th Sept 2014

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This summer, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Herbarium and Library building at the Edinburgh Garden, we are publishing a beautifully illustrated new book Botanical Treasures: Objects from the Herbarium and Library of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. This exhibition will highlight some of the exquisite objects from our collections, including rare books, herbarium specimens, maps and teaching diagrams Continue reading Botanical Treasures Exhibition July-Sept 2014

The war on Slugs begins – nematodes are my friend!

A quiet couple of days on the gardening front however daily inspections are showing new things coming up every day – the red onions, garlic & radishes are the latest to start appearing.

my haul from last night's slug hunt
my haul from last night’s slug hunt

The rhubarb and parsley seem to be getting chomped so last night we went out at dusk to collect a load of slugs to try out a natural slug repellent method that I found online – it involves a bucket, some weeds, tap water & slugs! (I had to use my veggie steamer as couldn’t find anything else with holes in the lid – the neighbours think us quirky enough as it is – bet they wondered what one earth we were up to!) Continue reading The war on Slugs begins – nematodes are my friend!