Thursday, 19 May 2016


Spring was late again this year. The pink blossom on the trees, one of my favourite spectacles, in the local park, was at least three weeks later than usual. It has been a mild winter so I would have thought this would encourage new growth to start early rather than late.

A great place to visit to see a wide variety of new life springing forth, both flora and fauna, is the Figgate Park, originally known as the Figgate Muir, just 15 minutes walk from my house. Figgate is from an old Saxon word meaning "cow's ditch" and was used as pasture for cows tended by monks in the late 1700s.

There is a great cycle route that you can complete in a day, which takes you from the source of the Figgate, up in the nearby Pentlands Hills, all the way down to the pond and on to the sea. You can read about that in The Outdoor Diaries blog. Around eight years ago the council built a wooden walkway, snaking across the northern end of the pond, having the effect of immersing you more in the wildlife experience.

In the past few months locals have even spotted otter gracing the banks of the large pond in the centre of the park. Sadly I've not seen it myself. Speculation has it that it may well be a pup that's been ousted by its parents to go and find its own territory. There wouldn't seem to be enough food at the pond, though the bird life are all now nesting and incubating their eggs.

One such bird is the mute swan. I was a little concerned this year as it had built its nest right next to the public walkway, and an easy jump for the likes of a fox in search of a tasty meal.

However, several weeks on and my fears were unfounded. Five signets are now happily swimming around with their proud parents, as seen here in a photograph I captured early one morning this week.

Right in the centre of the large pond is an island, inaccessible by predators, creating a safe environment for them to occasionally come out of the water.

As the summer goes on a large area of the park will become very colourful, as the Scottish wildflower garden emerges. Planted just five years ago, every year it seems to get better and better.

But it is the rich variety of animals that attract me the most, and incredibly that list is enormous:

Mallard; Mute Swan; Moorhen; Coot; Goldfinch; Starling; House Sparrow; Blackbird; Canada Goose; Greylag Goose; Grey Heron; Dipper; Grey Wagtail; Magpie; Carrion Crow; Jackdaw; Woodpigeon; Feral Pigeon; Blue Tit; Great Tit; Black-headed Gull; Tufted Duck; Dunnock; Robin; Wren

Red Fox; Brown Rat; Rabbit (including some jet black); Grey Squirrel; Bats

Regular Visitors
Kingfisher; Goosander; Cormorant; Sparrowhawk; Buzzard; Shoveler; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Chaffinch; Long Tailed Tit; Herring Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; House Martin; Swallow; Sand Martin; Mistle Thrush; Goldcrest; Bullfinch; Greenfinch; Redwing

Rare, but spotted
Otter; Osprey; Willow Warbler; Chiffchaff; Brambling; Goldeneye; Gadwall; Little Grebe (used to be resident); Pintail; Teal; Treecreeper; Blackcap; Waxwing

New bird feeders have now been put in place, using old railway carriage wheels in a creative way. Took me a while to realise what they actually were, and I assume they are a tip-of-the-hat to the nearby railway yards.

And finally, under one of the underpasses, a local artist was commissioned a couple years ago to paint a wildlife mural. This is just one side, showing a heron at one end and a fox at the other. On the opposite wall the artist has depicted a kingfisher, woodpecker, squirrel and several other animals, all resident in the park.

All together a fab place to spend some time.

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