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FEATURE – Edinburgh Wildlife website

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Robin in the New Town - image copyright A Robson

Edinburgh Wildlife was set up by Anthony Robson and demonstrates all the wildlife that can be found in the city in photo form.  Every sighting is recorded by date and location and we were delighted to catch up with Anthony to ask him some questions about his fascinating website. 

So tell us a little about yourself
I was born in the imaginatively named Wallsend, being the end of Hadrian’s Wall just east of Newcastle, but grew up from the age of four in Aberdeenshire.  After studying law at Aberdeen University I moved to Edinburgh to work ten years ago, where I still am, holding down a day job as a (slightly reluctant) solicitor.  I’m not one to sit still, however, and as a keen cyclist (mainly as a daily commuter) found myself writing and editing the citycycling website, before also taking up photography as a major hobby that has grown over the last few years. 

What inspired you to start up the Edinburgh Wildlife website ?
A few factors conspired at once. I realised I had a lot of pictures of wildlife, not just within Edinburgh, but it was something that was becoming more and more prevalent in my photography. I’d always had an interest in wildlife, now I had a way of recording it for myself. Then one morning, on my Sunday ritual of a walk around the Figgate Park before getting the papers, I spotted a terrapin in the water. I didn’t get a shot, but going online found there wasn’t really any ‘centralised’ way to record such a thing (all terrapins in the UK are released pets, they can survive in our climate, but for some reason can’t breed). 

European brown hare: image courtesy of Phil Johnston

Every year I head to Skye with my girlfriend, and every year there are a couple of websites I check out before going, Skye Birds  and Glendale Wildlife  both record the comings and goings of wildlife on the island. So having a stack of my own pictures, wanting a way to record wildlife, and having the template of the Skye sites, I set about recreating them, with my own twist – I wanted to try and create a photographic record of everything living in the city, both for people already here, and tourists coming in who have an interest in wildlife. 

How often do you go out to spot wildlife in the city?
I have my camera with me 99% of the time, so virtually every day, whether it’s intentional or not, I’ll be spotting. At lunchtimes I like to escape the office, and I’m fortunate enough to be 5 minutes walk from the Water of Leith, a lovely stretch from Belford to Dean Village. It gets me away from the hubbub, as well as affording the opportunity to see some cracking wildlife. 

Living in Duddingston, so close to Duddingston Loch and the Figgate Park means I’m never far from a green space. But then even in my back garden I’ve seen foxes  and sparrowhawks and woodpeckers

Cycling to work every day just adds to the chances of seeing something interesting. The simple fact of the matter is, in Edinburgh we’re surrounded by wildlife, but sometimes you don’t start seeing it until you’re actually looking for it. And once you do everything starts leaping out – a couple of months ago I was idly staring out of the window at my desk in the West End and saw something that wasn’t quite the usual pigeon on a roof opposite, got the camera out, zoomed in, and there was a sparrowhawk  perched having a look about. 

Can anyone submit photos to your site?
Absolutely! I’m more than happy for people to email their own photos or send me links to them if they’re hosted somewhere like Flickr. I want to cover as much of the city as possible, and even if I’ve got a picture for something in an area already, an updated shot, or a better photograph, is always welcome. 

I’ve had some great shots from the general public so far, perhaps most notably from Phil Johnston who gets some simply stunning shots from the Cammo Estate  and is responsible for the kingfisher photo  and Brian Mason, who has filled a lot of the gaps

Where and what has been the best wildlife spot so far?
That’s a difficult question to answer. In Edinburgh I love seeing things like tufted ducks,  dippers  and moorhens , but they are fairly commonplace. It’s fabulous seeing one of the raptors like a sparrowhawk , kestrel, or buzzard  over the city, and while they are an unwelcome and destructive non-native species, seeing mink along the Water of Leith for the first time was a bit of a thrill.   

Tufted duck - Image copyright A Robson

However the best moment so far in Edinburgh was seeing a kingfisher for the first time. I didn’t manage to get a photo, but that flash of blue and orange, having wanted to see one since I was a kid and was bought a wildlife magazine with a big picture of one on the cover, was just brilliant. 

But the choices go on and on, and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to some interesting places in the world, and seen some interesting wildlife along the way without even trying. But Scotland (and Edinburgh) can still boast some great wildlife, even if it isn’t man-eating, or as big as a bus. The trick is seeing the fun in everything, even down to a squabble amongst house sparrows on a bird feeder. 

Having said all of that though, I think my favourite photo is one of a humble hoverfly in the Botanic Gardens. Wandering through the trees he was in the air, just caught in a ray of light coming through the branches. He posed perfectly, hanging in the light, and as soon as I checked the shot, and saw the background in perfect darkness and the shining fly in the foreground, I knew I’d nailed it. 

 

Heron - image copyright A.Robson

What do you know exists in Edinburgh but has so far eluded you? 

Having seen kingfishers I really want to get a photo of one now, but at least I’ve seen them. Otters are an animal I’ve not had any luck with yet in the city (although I was alerted to a regular haunt in Canonmills by Darren Anderson, the late night/early morning stakeout I went on with him proved the only fruitless wait he’s had to see them). And badgers, which I know live on Corstorphine Hill. Perhaps the most difficult species to get a photo of would be the bats in the city, but I’ll be making an effort. 

Where can people get more information about Edinburgh Wildlife?
The best place to start is the website  but you can also follow the sightings on twitter.  There is also a Flickr Group which is not affiliated but I am a moderator  and of course you can email me at: anth@edinburghwildlife.com 

Thanks Anthony, now where did we put our camera and binoculars?


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