Fun on the Water

Sitting on a bench by the side of the Union Canal on a very fine evening, reading. Hear some splashing, look over and see a kayaker coming along, enjoying the spring evening. Managed to grab the camera for some very quick pics as he came towards where I was, then turned as he passed and saw a traditional “Indian” style canoe coming the other way.

Evening Kayaking 01

Evening Kayaking 02

They both moved over to give each other plenty of space, passing with friendly smiles and waves, all enjoying a very welcome evening of warm sunlight after several days of rain and wind.

Evening Kayaking 03

And while we’re on the canal theme, here’s a nice bookend to my recent photos of this year’s new cygnets – this year’s new ducklings on the Union Canal! All looking unbelievably cute and fluffy, also looks like I caught one of them here mid-quack!

Little Quackers 05

Little Quackers 03

As ever, click on the pics to see the much larger version on the Woolamaloo Flickr site (now over 24, 000 photos!)

Little Quackers 01

New Life

We’ve reached that time of year when something rather wonderful happens: I heard a few weeks back that our resident breeding swan pair on the Union Canal had nested, laid their eggs, then hatched them. The main nest is along near Wester Hailes, but the pair claim a roughly five mile stretch from there right into the city centre where the canal ends at Lochrin Basin.

Swan Family 05

Well, as you can see from the photos taken on a canalside stroll, the we cygnets are now strong enough to start swimming up and down that range of canal with Mama and Papa Swan keeping a close eye on them. I’ve been waiting for them to be strong enough to start going up and down the canal, and had heard from a friend they were around our area the previous night. I went for a stroll the next day, not really expecting to see them, assuming they would have drifted back down the way before I was there. I had reached the final section of canal and given up on a chance of seeing them – with them moving up and down several miles, it is pure luck if I happen to be walking by a section they are in at the right time.

Swan Family 08

I paused at the Watershed, the floating cafe-barge moored by the old Leamington Lift Bridge, and as I was waiting for my coffee, I happened to look over – and there they were, the Swan Family, happily bobbing around in the water right behind the barge. Just when I had pretty much given up for that day and assumed I had missed them, that they had already headed back down the canal, there they were. I’ve taken photos of their broods each year going back quite some years now, but it still always makes my heart sing to see them with their new cygnets, especially when they are at this size, just adorable, fluffy, beautiful little creatures, sticking close to Mum and Dad.

Swan Family 010

Swan Family 011

Swan Family 014

Swan Family 015

I’m so lucky to have this just a few moments walk from my flat, and right in the middle of the city. Always cheers me to see this little annual miracle of nature, then to try and follow them through the next few months, taking more photos of them as they grow into adolescents, before one by one they fly away to start their own lives. So many people out walking or cycling by the canal stopping to admire them, it really does brighten the world for many of us.

Swan Family 020

They swam back along a little further, then up through the reeds onto the opposite banking, a spot the mother and father know well and often use as a temporary nest for the little ones to rest for a while before heading back along to the main nest. As ever, click on the pics to see the larger versions on my Flickr.

Vid - Swan Family 01

Vid - Swan Family 02

Quoth the Raven

Quoth The Raven

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
” Edgar Allan Poe

Snapped this with long zoom, simply looking out of upstairs window back at the family home on a very dark, grey-skied day, seemed very brooding and Gothic, so Poe came to mind.

Autumn calls

Despite some sudden bursts of very fine weather, summer is most certainly giving ground to the approach of autumn here now. Even if we get a warm, sunny day, the shadows are longer, and the sun sets earlier each evening, and when it does the temperature drops a lot quicker than it did in the middle of summer, while the early mornings are noticably cooler. But the light, on a sunny day at least, is now moving towards that glorious golden quality, while the leaves are turning on the trees, right now at that beautiful mix of still some leafy green mixed with increasing golds, reds and browns, and every day there are more fallen leaves along the pavements (yes, I have indulged in my first kicking a pile of dry autumn leaves into the air of the year, it has to be done).

Conker Season 03
The chestnuts are now large on the old tree leaning over the wall of the nearby boneyard, the boughs heavy, the conkers about to fall to the ground below (sadly the days when schoolkids grabbed them to play conkers with seems to be long gone, but it’s still nice to see this annual sight).

Autumn Apples
Autumnal apples approaching full size, hanging over a garden wall on my route home from work, sparking a sudden childish desire to go scrumping. And yes, I did say that partly because I wanted an excuse to use the word “scrumping”. As ever, click on the pics to see the lager versions on my Flickr site.

Life by the Canal

The last couple of months have seen the usual yearly increase in wildlife along the Union Canal, not far from my flat in Edinburgh. Ducks with fluffy wee ducklings, the Moorhens and their little chicks calling to them among the reeds, and of course our resident breeding mute swan couple who have been on this stretch for some years now, with their 2021 brood of cygnets, which have gone from smaller than my hand a few months ago to almost as big as Mama Swan now. As ever click the pics to see the larger sized versions on the Woolamaloo Flickr page.

Ducklings 02

Ducklings 03

It’s rather wonderful to have all this, right in the heart of a major city, we’re very, very fortunate to have it on our doorsteps, little slices of natural beauty in the middle of the urban jungle, a once polluted, dirty, industrial waterway now home to pleasure craft, houseboats and a great refuge for wildlife.

Moorhen and Chicks 01

Moorhen and Chicks 03

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Swan Family 013

Swan Family 010

Swan Family 03

Of course, all this wildlife attracts the attention of the local apex predators!

The Hunter Watches 03

And naturally it is a great place for Edinburgh citizens to enjoy a stroll by the water and to see the wildlife (always makes my day a little better to see the swans and ducks and their young). Some don’t even just stroll by the water – this chap stretched out in his canoe and let it idly drift while he snoozed happily in the warm sunshine!

Summertime And The Living is Easy 03

Summertime And The Living is Easy 04

Others prefer to walk, cycle, or run alongside the canal, or simply sit by it in the sunlight, or read. I like to walk along to the floating cafe-barge, The Watershed, and get a coffee and flapjack there, sit by their open air tables by the water with my latte and a book before walking home. Great stretch for a wee promenade.

In The Sun By The Bridge 02

Tired

Hand In Hand 02

The Thinker

Sailing Talk 02

Marching In Masks 02

I Can Teach You 01

I can teach you to skateboard!!! I love the look of joy on their faces.

I Can Teach You 02

Serious Cyclist

Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades

Pause the walk for a rest and coffee and a read at The Watershed, the floating cafe-barge by the old Leamington Lift Bridge.

Coffee, Camera, Book

The Watershed at Dusk 01

The Watershed at Dusk 03

The Watershed at Dusk 04

Autumn is knocking on the door

Autumn Whispers Quietly in the Ear of Summer

Walking in the Hermitage of Braid today, near the foot of Morningside (Miss Jean Brodie country). The trees are still mostly resplendent in their verdant coat of summer greenery, but Autumn, Autumn is whispering in Summer’s ear “my turn is coming….”

Golden Apples of the Sun 03
Golden Apples of the Sun 01
Golden Apples of the Sun 02

Just outside the Hermitage, over a tall wall of an expensive house, the branches of its trees were laden with the autumn bounty of apples. And me there without my scrumping ladder to grab any…

The Swan Family

I normally keep an eye out for the regular breeding pair of swans we have on the nearby Union Canal, especially in spring when they have their cygnets. This year being furloughed for so long during Lockdown, with a single permitted daily exercise walk the only thing I could do outside the house, I had more of an opportunity to walk that way with the camera, and capture photos of them, from the small, fluffball stage of a couple of weeks old, to now, where they are rapidly growing to a similar size to their mother (Papa Swan is rather larger!), so I thought I would post a sequence of pics of this year’s cygnets to show how they have grown in the last few months.

Swan Family 08

Swan Family 09

Vid - Swan Family

Swan Family 024

This is our 2020 cygnets when very small – and supercute! I always love seeing them every year, but this year with the grim reality of Lockdown, the isolation and every threatening stress and depression, the magic and beauty of nature became all the more important, a wonderful escape as I took my once a day allowed exercise walk during the Lockdown (and of course where I go walking, the camera goes too).

Swan Family 037

Swan Family 042

Vid - Swans Feeding

My friend who runs the Union Canal Swans Twitter and Instagram is so known to the parent swans they let her feed their babies each year, the short video above is her feeding them some porridge (being Scottish swans they love a bit of porridge!)

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Sleeping on the grass by the side of the canal

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Swans Family 102

You can see how much larger they are by this point.

Swans Family 103

Papa Swan shaking it all out.

Swans Family 108

Quick close up portrait before they slipped back into the water after resting on the banking.

Vid - Swans Taking a Stroll

I love that slap-slap-slap of those big, webbed feet on the wet towpath!!!

Natural Wonders

On the daily permitted lockdown-era exercise walk I’ve been taking photos as I walk, mostly of the unsettlingly empty city streets. I’ll post some of those later, but for now, thinking we could all use something cheering, here are some wildlife photos I’ve taken on those walks. I spotted this pair of swans this evening on the Union Canal:

Swans 01

Swans 03

Swans 02

Swans 05

This lordly heron was on the Water of Leith, next to Murrayfield rugby stadium, surveying his kingdom:

The Lordly Heron Watches 01

The Lordly Heron Watches 03

And these goosanders were splashing around just on the other side of the river from the heron:

Goosanders 01

Goosanders 03

Meanwhile in an almost deserted Princes Street Gardens, the air is filled with the lovely scent of magnolias, while the cherry blossoms are becoming full and heavy:

Springtime in Scotland 01

Springtime in Scotland 04

Springtime in Scotland 03

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:

Heron on the Almond 02

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:

The Autumn Leaves 03

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:

The Autumn Leaves 02

The Autumn Leaves 01

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

Foraging Squirrel 03

Foraging Squirrel 02