Heron

Out for a walk with chum and his hounds, spotted this large heron on a pile of rocks in the River Almond at Cramond:

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Heron on the Almond 03

This was next to the old Fair a Far Mill by the weir on the Almond (or as I thought it looked like that day, the ruins of the Palace of Autumn Leaves):

The Ruins of the Palace of Autumn Leaves

The mill dates from the 1700s and was still operating into the late 1800s, and in later life became a metal working shop as well. Sadly many of the buildings along the river were destroyed in a huge flood during the 1930s, today it is a scenic ruin on the path by the Almond, a popular spot for walkers, on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Thundering Weir Washes Water to the Sea 01

Autumn Colours

Autumn colours in Princes Street Gardens, just below the Castle:

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And a closer look at the leaves as they change before falling – the grass below them was carpeted with fallen leaves of red and gold:

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The Autumn Leaves 01

And while I was walking through the trees I met this charming wee, bushy-tailed chap:

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Foraging Squirrel 02

Swan Life

I saw the Union Canal swan family on my walk home at the weekend. This year the usual mating couple of adult swans had nine cygnets, back in the early spring, and I have been taking photos of them and watching them over the last few months. Back in mid-May they were just these tiny little balls of adorable fluff:

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By June they were growing, the fluff moulting out and their grey feathers starting to appear, as they got larger:

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By August they had grown to around the same size as their mum and dad – here they are being hand-fed by the lady who runs the Union Canal Swans twitter feed which reports on them:

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Feeding the Swan Family 06

And now in September they have learned to fly, with most of the babies having now left the canal and gone off to find their own spot, probably one of the nearby lochs like those on Arthur’s Seat, where large groups of young swans stay until they mature (and the grey feathers go to white), then they find a mate and strike out to find their own spot, like their mum and dad have on the canal near me. I passed them at the weekend, and now there is only one cygnet still with the parents, the left have flown the nest. It’s remarkable to see them go from tiny creatures to these large, elegant birds taking wing in just a few months, a small miracle right here in the middle of the city, but at the same time it is also sad to see them leave.

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Family Outing Vid

New life

Out walking along the nearby Union Canal, and at last managed to get some decent photos of the swans with this year’s cygnets. I’ve managed to bag pics of them in previous years (I wonder if it is the same swan couple who return to this area each year?), and had heard from friends that they and their babies were in the area, but each time I walked along that way I didn’t encounter them, until a few days ago.

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The whole family was on the ramp by the towpath, across from the old boathouse at Harrison Park, some preening themselves while out of the water, others sleeping, while the mother and father swans kept guard so nobody got too close. I managed to take several photos, the cygnets still in the utterly adorable “fluffy” stage of down rather than full feathers yet, beautiful wee things. Amazing the magical sights you can find just a few moments from your home…

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I’ve seen the swans and the ducks along this stretch of the canal with their babies a number of times over the years, but each spring it is still something special and quite wonderful to see, and with so much uncertainty and trouble in the world it’s no bad thing to be reminded of the magic and beauty of nature all around us.

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And there goes the whole family, off for a wee paddle down the canal after their rest!

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Growing…

Remember the tiny young cygnets I photographed back in early June, sleeping in their nest among the reeds by the side of the canal near my home?

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I snapped them again about a month after that, swimming along the canal with their parents, now shedding the adorable fluffball look and starting to grow in their proper feathers:

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That last one was early July. Tonight I saw the whole Swan Family again as I walked home alongside the canal, one parent and cygnets all snoozing by the side of the canal and on the towpath, while one of the parents kept a watchful eye open:

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It’s as well one of the parents was on guard duty – most walkers, joggers and cyclists moved over onto the nearby grass to give the birds plenty of space, but one utter arsebag of a cyclist came charging at them full speed, with a “out my way” look on his face, he tried to zip past them only inches away. And the parent swan reared up, huge wings opened up, started hissing and lunged to peck his legs. Frightened the hell out of him, you better believe he finally swerved out the way then. Just pure stupidity and arrogance, he could have avoided them easily. Stupid thing to do, he could have harmed one of the swans, and swans can be quite bad tempered anyway if you get too close, but to do it to one guarding its children is just asking for the swan to have a go at you!

Frankly I’d have happily shoved him and his bike into the canal myself if I could. Anyway, most people passing were more considerate, gave them space and were clearly enjoying seeing such a lovely little natural bit of beauty and wonder. Quite lovely to just see things like this on your walk home in the middle of the city, from tiny, fluffy baby cygnets to rapidly growing youngsters, won’t be long before they are taking wing themselves.

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So. Much. Fluffiness

Walking home a couple of weeks ago along the Union Canal at Fountainbridge I came across the lovely sight of Mr and Mrs Swan taking their new fledglings along for a wee paddle, a flotilla of fluffy cuteness:

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Then this afternoon I found this little natural wonder: the fluffy cygnets all curled up together in their nest in some reeds by the edge of the canal, dozing in the warm afternoon sunlight as their parents floated in the water nearby, keeping an eye on their young charges. What a lovely little wonder to just come across…

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And here is one of the proud parents:

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Proud parent 01

Blossoming

The cherry blossoms have been late this spring, after the unseasonable bursts of late winter weather a few weeks ago, but finally it warmed up, the sun shone, they came out, and now they’ve mostly gone already – for a few days the branches hang low and heavy with the petals, then with each breeze they flutter down, a soft rain of silk, carpeting the pavement below, and then they are gone again for another year. Naturally I snapped a few photos before the vanished…

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Spring has sprung

Out walking along the nearby Union Canal a few days ago, the first properly spring weekend of the year – we’ve had nice, bright days but usually still cold, this was sunny and also warm for the first time in the year. Beautiful light and the welcome return of colour to the world after the long, dark winter. It happens every year and yet each year it still seems like some wonderful magic as the dullness of winter suddenly gives way to a riot of vibrant colours:

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I have always found the way light reflects from water to be entrancing, and as I walked under one of the canal bridges the bright spring sunshine was bouncing off the water and creating a flickering, rippling dancing pattern of changing light on the stonework. I had taken a photo then thought it would be better in video mode, just to capture the quality of the patterns and movement. In still photo mode it looked better in monochrome (I’m not a fan of altering my pics in PhotoShop, so when you see a black and white photo from me, it means I shot it in B&W, not colour then change in PhotoShop. I know I could do it that way, but it feels better to me to shoot in B&W if a scene feels like it works better in mono, rather than just greyscale it afterwards in an editor), and fortunately the video mode in the new camera allows me to shoot in mono as well as colour, so I took a few seconds:

water under the bridge vid

At last, signs of spring…

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At last, very belatedly signs of spring here – walking home tonight it was a fine spring evening, glorious light quality, bright, clear. I noticed a lot of daffodils in full bloom, a full two months late – those should have been in bloom back in March but such was the appallingly, unseasonably cold (even for Scotland)weather for much of this spring they are only now blooming. It was so nice I went slightly out of my way to walk along the Union Canal on the walk home from work, and saw that – finally – the blossoms on the trees are starting to flower, again weeks later than they should (really they should have flowered and fallen by now leaving carpets of soft white and pink petals across the pavements). Normally I would shoot these delicate petals and the clear, blue dome of sky above in colour, but for some reason I felt like trying them in monochrome and actually I’m quite pleased with how they came out, which I attribute to the beautiful light quality more than my own eye.

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The turning of the seasons

Some leaves are clinging to their lush greenery, aided by the bursts of almost summer-like warmth, while some have already begun to dry and turn red and gold. In Mel’s garden some late bloom roses have come out after we trimmed the plants back earlier in the year and some final insects are buzzing round the flowers in the sudden warmth before winter arrives, while the berries hang on the bushes. Walking home the long, red twilight stretches long, thin shadows, skies blue, wispy clouds tinged salmon pink. The wind rustles in the branches and with each little breath more leaves fall to join their cousins in little piles on the ground or to float along the canal alongside the ducks and swans. When the autumn moon rises it is a huge, harvest moon, glowing brightly in a purple-black sky, the stars changing their tempo to their winter configuration. Each warm day now is a gift; you wonder if it will be the last one before the inevitable slide into the long, dark winter.

Moments of transitory beauty

On the way to work, a glorious, almost perfect Scottish autumn morning; the sun is lower in the horizon and its light now stretched out to deeper, warmer tones than the harsher light of summer – we’ve entered the Golden Time. Our location north of the edge of Europe means our weather and climate isn’t always the nicest but it also means we are at the curve of the Earth to see the sun tilt further as the seasons pass us, from the height of summer to the low arc of the sun’s brief appearance in winter. At this time of year, when we are lucky enough to have a clear day, it means the sunlight becomes the most glorious golden-copper hue; against the older buildings constructed of great blocks of native stone rather than mere bricks it looks magnificent.

It looks even more beautiful against our nation’s natural beauty (and regardless of weather one thing Scotland has in abundance is astonishing natural beauty), the warm gold of the autumnal sun matching the colours of the season perfectly, the gold of the harvest being brought in, the leaves browning, crisping, drying, turning, falling. Yesterday morning an almost perfect autumn scene – clear, pale blue sky and the sun, low now in the sky, just above Castle Ridge, shining directly through the rich foliage of the trees in Princes Street Gardens as I passed.

The branches are still full of heavy greenery from summer, but already some leaves are turning, a mix of verdant green with touches of red, brown and gold, the trees equivalent of the man with just a touch of distinguished gray, perhaps. The low morning sun came through them from behind and lit them up, the green still vibrantly alive, the turning leaves glowing as if from inner fire, a last reminder of beauty and life before the long sleep of winter; Edinburgh Castle, her ancient stones warming in the morning sun, the backdrop to this and what a backdrop. It lasted only seconds, the juxtaposition of where I was, where the sun was in relation to me, the trees, but for a few seconds I saw pure beauty shining in a dying leaf and the play of shadows and sunbeams across the Castle. For a few seconds I had no cares in this world, lost in the ephemeral, momentary beauty of my homeland, glowing with the glorious light of an Impressionist painting but infinitely more lovely than any artist’s hand could capture.