Sunday, June 28, 2009

Old Moor again

Yes, I know it's an RSPB reserve, but
when I went yesterday, the insect life was just wonderful! And where would the birds be without them? Apart from that, my bird photos were really not that brilliant. Saw quite a lot of birds, though, mainly black headed gulls, but also great crested grebe, grey heron, greylag goose, canada goose, wigeon, tufted duck, coot, oystercatcher, ringed plover, lapwing, redshank, dunnock, tree sparrow and chaffinch. Quite a few had young, and I was amused to see that coot chicks have orange heads. What's that all about? Seen quite a few jays over recent weeks. One was pretending to be a crow - standing in the middle of the road - and there was one in the garden this morning. Had to go out to stock up on bird food this morning. A family of house sparrows are eating us out of house and home. My local B&Q doesn't do bird food during the hanging basket season, so I had to go up to the garden centre as well. At least our front door which had been numberless since we had a new one installed is now displaying its shiny new number 17 proudly.
Last week I did a little bit of the missing part of the Barnsley boundary walk, but I kept getting lost, it wasn't especially nice, and I had just decided to abandon it for the day when I finally saw a BBW sign. Perhaps I'll try and finish the 2 remaining legs before we go on holiday. They are pretty long and will take a bit of travelling to and from so I should really take advantage of the long days.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Auld Reekie

As suspected, the new job is taking its toll on other activities. That's not a complaint or an excuse, just a fact of life. However, we got full value last week from a weekend in Edinburgh. Back in the dark(ish) days of March, I discovered I had won 2 nights DB&B for 2 in a hotel in Edinburgh. How great is that? It could have been almost anywhere, but Edinburgh would have been my first choice!
On arrival on Friday afternoon, we split up to do a bit of shopping in the new town, dodging the tramworkings which have turned the area into a nightmare for motorists, and even we users of public transport had trouble figuring out which way the buses were going. Yes, they all stop on George street, but the direction of travel is not so obvious as when they stopped on Princes St, as we discovered to our cost on one occasion. We finished off with a quick trip out to Ocean Terminal on the bus.
The free evening meal turned out to be rather good, so we had no mixed feelings about eating in the hotel rather than finding a nice restaurant in town for Saturday night.
Saturday started with fine weather. We got a bus across to the Botanical Gardens - one of my favorites - and spent an enjoyable hour or so wandering around and dodging an occasional shower before joining the Water of Leith Walkway at Stockbridge and following it through Dean Village (see photo - I'll put a few more on Flikr) as far as the Museum of Modern Art. I've done the walk in its entirety twice now, and would strongly recommend it for its varied scenery and wildlife. It's hard to believe you are so close to the centre of a huge city. The Museum has a gateway leading from the walkway, and I promised myself I would visit it on my next trip. The amazing thing was meeting people we knew from Sheffield in the cafe. The first time I did the walk, I also met someone I knew near the start of the walk. The gallery itself was interesting - worth a visit, but I can't say there was anything unforgettable in there. The most impressive stuff was Damien Hirst works - as with so much art, it has to be seen in real life to have its full impact. We both liked one of his "turntable images" best, and seeing a lot of his anatomical / pharmaceutical stuff all displayed together made much more sense of it.
On emerging, we found the weather had deteriorated. We hopped on a bus and went out to Musselburgh. I love the Esk estuary, and the beach with its thousands of mussel shells and lumps of driftwood. Sadly, it was freezing cold and wet by now. We braved it briefly, and saw lots of martins, gulls, swans, and what we thought were clods of earth on the banks from a distance, turned out to be dozens of huddled eider chicks and mums.
We had plenty of time to enjoy Sunday, and despite an unpromising start, we decided to go out to the north east of the city, onto the Firth of Forth, near Silverknowes. The weather improved as the day wore on, and we had an excellent walk along the promenade, seeing oystercatchers, shelduck, herons, and more eiders. We continued our walk by following the River Almond walkway from the Firth with its small picturesque harbour upstream for a couple of miles. It was just magical! After catching a bus back to the city centre, we stll had time for a late lunch and a stroll along the Royal Mile. It was obvious from the comments of some of my Twitter friends that we had been incredibly fortunate with the weather: it had obviously been very cold and wet in England, providing a suitably high water table for the torrential rain on Wednesday which brought the railways a chaotic state on Thurday for my work trip to Banbury - apparently because of flooding at Dore!!!
So this weekend has seen me neglecting my walking in order to catch up with jobs at home. But the weekend in Edinburgh was well worth getting a bit behind. What a superb city it is!