Updated on 10 November, 2017

Latest News

Autumn Bird Report 2017

Wit its diverse flora, and free from agrochemicals, Corstorphine Hill is an ancient oasis in a desert of modern monoculture. It produces countless millions of invertebrates and wild fruits, and is a vital feeding station for migratory birds.

In early August – an annual event – a large flock of some 100 Swifts and House Martins gathered to feed daily upon flies in the lee of the main escarpment. The Swifts departed for Africa on 20th August, while the martins remained until 12th September. During this period many passage migrants visited the Hill, with small parties of Spotted Flycatchers noted on 7 separate occasions – a scarce species, entirely dependent upon airborne insects for their food.

Other migrants passing south this autumn included Redstarts, Garden Warblers, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Redpolls and Siskins. Summer visitors enjoyed a successful breeding season on the Hill, and last records of these species were as follows: Whitethroat (19/8), Willow Warbler (16/9), Swallow (20/9), Blackcap (25/9) and Chiffchaff (5/10).

As regards winter visitors, the first Pink-footed Geese performed their annual fly-past on 15th September, taking advantage of a northerly flow from Iceland, and Redwings arrived – perhaps from Scandinavia – to begin gorging upon holly berries on 10th October. 57 species of birds were recorded on the Hill during the autumn period, and you can keep up to date with the latest wildlife sightings at this web address.

For photographic bird & wildlife updates see: http://chilloutdoors.tumblr.com – or click through from the ‘web links’ page of the FoCH website.
Ian Moore.

Doors Open Day

Musicians at the TowerOn Saturday 23rd we opened the Tower for Doors Open days. This year we were contacted by John Hails of Napier University who composed a piece of music inspired by the Tower called ‘Organism viii’. Musicians at the Tower The piece incorporates a fanfare written for Sir Walter Scott, to whom the Tower is dedicated, in the 19th century. The piece was performed by Napier University music students, Eleanor Figures (French Horn) and Emily Greenwood (trombone).

 

Musicians at the Tower

It was a beautiful atmospheric piece which resonated throughout the Tower all afternoon as the visitors were climbing up and down. Eleanor played the fanfare at the top of the tower at 4 pm to conclude the performance. We had 106 visitors that day, and many said how much they enjoyed the music. It was a great and novel event for us and all our thanks go to John, Eleanor, and Emily, and the Cockburn Association for a memorable afternoon.

 

Summer Bird Report

There are mixed fortunes to report for the breeding birds of Corstorphine Hill. On the plus side, above-average numbers of warblers made the return migration from Africa, and Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Whitethroat territories are up by about 50% on 2016. Many of the resident species are also thriving – perhaps most notably Great Spotted Woodpecker, with 6 successful pairs on the south side of the Hill alone. Locally scarce species such as Treecreeper, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Mistle Thrush, Jay and Stock Dove have also prospered, and by the end of May had fledged their first broods; with Tawny Owl, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard lagging just a few weeks behind. Sadly, however, this year there are no breeding Green Woodpeckers or Linnets – but it is hoped these heathland birds will recolonize in due course. Notwithstanding, the Hill remains a vital and precious ‘factory’ for Edinburgh’s avifauna, with some 1,000 pairs of 45 species breeding on or in close proximity to the LNR. Other sightings of note since the last newsletter include Cormorant, Grey Heron, Mallard, Greylag Goose, Oystercatcher, Peregrine, Raven, Siskin, Redpoll and Crossbill. Of wider wildlife interest, Roe Deer are breeding on the Hill, Comma butterflies can be seen in sunny glades, and Natterer’s bats feed at dusk along woody rides.

For photographic bird & wildlife updates see: http://chilloutdoors.tumblr.com – or click through from the ‘web links’ page of the FoCH website.
Ian Moore.

Special Interest.....

Dr Brian Moffat our resident botanist is also an archaeologist and Director of excavations at Soutra Aisle, the remains of a Medieval Monastery and Hospital on Soutra Hill, The annual Open days on the Site are 26th, 27th and 28th August at 2 pm each day . Soutra Aisle is just off the A68 at Soutra Hill, on the right about ½ mile up the B 6368 to Gilston. There is a fascinating story to hear about the Monastery and its activities more than 500 years ago.

Winter Bird Report

Between November and February there were only 11 days of decidedly inclement weather, and only one when the temperature failed to rise above zero. Such benign conditions were ideal for many visiting birds, especially those from sub-arctic zones escaping frost and famine. Most notable was an irruption of Bohemian Waxwings – perhaps 200 across western Edinburgh – that could be seen in small flocks gorging rowan berries, between 21 November and 12 January. Redwings and Fieldfares arrived in above-average numbers to feed on holly and hawthorn, some 40 of the former remaining on the hill throughout, moving to forage amongst the leaf litter in February.

The mild weather encouraged a handful of Lesser Black-backed Gulls to overwinter (they normally head for Iberia – or at least the Midlands), joining the regular seasonal flock of Common, Black-headed and Herring Gulls. Frequent visitors throughout the winter period included Redpoll, Siskin, Raven and Grey Wagtail, while more unusual sightings were Grey Heron, Woodcock, Peregrine, Skylark and Crossbill.

56 species were recorded Nov-Feb, and the overall total for the hill stands at 97 species.

For photographic bird & wildlife updates see: http://chilloutdoors.tumblr.com – or click through from the ‘web links’ page of the FoCH website.
Ian Moore, Committee Member.

City of Edinburgh Council Natural Heritage Service Report

January 2017

The winter that never quite was, I hope I haven’t spoken too soon! Dry, mild conditions – great for overwintering birds, small mammals and hibernating butterflies. Spring flowers almost in bloom, indeed lesser celandine seen flowering in the middle of January! Even the nemesis that is salmonberry is bursting into life earlier than expected. A new management plan has been completed for the site detailing the reasons why and the policies that dictate the way the site will be managed for the next 10-year period including a work plan of activities. A public consultation has been held over the winter period with many encouraging and supportive comments received. The plan will be formally adopted once comments have been absorbed. See https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/directory_record/377102/corstorphine_hill_local_natu re_reserve

Efforts have again been targeted towards the control of the ever invasive salmonberry. Areas cleared this winter season and last will be spot treated with herbicide to control any re-growth. Dominant stands of Himalayan balsam will also be treated in the same manner. Several groups of people have been assisting us of late with a range of different tasks: Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, New Caledonian Woodlands, Royal London, Edinburgh Zoo, the Green Team and Rannoch Centre, local school groups and activity clubs.

The Friends of Corstorphine Hill as always have ensured the Community Walled Garden is maintained to an excellent standard, further emphasised by the retention of the Green Flag Community Award, the wider site retaining its Green Flag Award too.

Anti-social behaviour is infrequent and I am very appreciative to those who pick up other people’s rubbish and dog fouling when encountered, it helps to ensure the site is seen at its best as much as possible. It came to notice that there was use of the site by illegal off-road motorbikes and quadbikes, this was immediately reported to the Police and I would encourage anyone who sees this type of behaviour to do so or get in touch with myself/department. Some removal of felled timber was also noticed, this done without permission and by use of a chainsaw, more than likely used in an unsafe manner without proper insurance – again if such behaviour is noticed please contact us.

David Kyles naturalheritageservice@edinburgh.gov.uk
City of Edinburgh Council Forestry & Natural Heritage Service
Inverleith Farm House,
Inverleith Park,
5 Arboretum Palce,
Edinburgh EH3 5NY
Tel: 0131 311 7078

Autumn Bird Report 2016

AUTUMN CAN BE an exciting time on Corstorphine Hill, when southward-bound migratory birds stop off to feed, or simply use the hill’s distinctive topography for navigational purposes. A dashing Merlin, perhaps disoriented in the early morning mist on 18th August, was the first sign of things to come. Three days later a family party of Spotted Flycatchers appeared – the first of five separate sightings up to mid September. There was a Garden Warbler on 12th August, while anticyclonic conditions brought an influx of Willow Warblers on 3rd September. A splendid Redstart was in the gorse on 11th September, and a steady trickle of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits moved overhead between 10th and 15th, with Siskin also on 15th and Redpoll four days later. The vanguard of the wintering Pink-footed Geese came chattering through at dawn on 17th September, followed by thousands in clan-based skeins of 50-150 taking advantage of a ridge of high pressure on 19th September.

Summer residents began to depart for their African wintering grounds in the usual order, with Swifts being the first to go – last seen on the relatively late date of 26th August. The 60-strong House Martin flock that built up in the lee of the steep northeast corner of the hill departed on 12th September. A last Whitethroat was spotted on 7th September, Blackcap and Swallow 20th while a resilient Chiffchaff was still singing at the time of going to press on 26th September.

Other uncommon local species passing or visiting the hill during the autumn period included Grey Heron, Greylag Goose, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Peregrine, Grey Wagtail, Hooded Crow, Rook and Raven.

A total of 62 bird species were recorded in the autumn period, and the grand total for the hill since 2006 now stands at 97 species. Pictured above: top left, Spotted Flycatcher near The Rest & Be Thankful; lower right, Chiffchaff on the fence bordering the Spire Hospital.

For regular updates of Corstorphine Hill birds and wildlife see: http://chilloutdoors.tumblr.com
Ian Moore, Committee Member

Summer Bird Report 2016

Four species of warbler breed on Corstorphine Hill – Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and Willow Warbler – and all of these birds have returned in 2016 from wintering grounds as far away as sub-Saharan Africa (quite a feat for creatures that weigh roughly the same as two tea-bags). They have joined spectacular local residents such as Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Tree Creeper, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Mistle Thrush, Linnet, Tawny Owl, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove and Buzzard, to number among the 45 species that nest on or around the Hill – a tribute to its ancient and varied habitat, and a rich food chain that is free of destructive herbicides, pesticides and fungicides.

Many birds use the Hill for navigation, and passage migrants during the spring period (or just passing!) have included Osprey, Fulmar, Goosander, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Oystercatcher, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Raven, Hooded Crow, Sand Martin and Meadow Pipit. The total number of species recorded now stands at 94.

For latest sightings see: http://chilloutdoors.tumblr.com
Ian Moore

Spring Bird Report

August 2015 - January 2016

Summer visitors to the Hill remained until late September, with the last Swallow sighted on 21st and Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps on 27th. A handful of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, which normally head to south to England or even as far as Iberia, have overwintered, and can be seen in the Fox Covert area.

The autumn migration began with a passage of Meadow Pipits in late August, and they continued to move south over the Hill until 17th September. Small numbers of Siskins, Redpolls and Crossbills were on the move throughout September and October, and the latter month saw a steady migration, high overhead, of Skylarks. Particular highlights included a party of 6 Spotted Flycatchers on 15th September, and a Snipe on 22nd September.

The first winter visitors as usual were Pink-footed Geese, with small advance skeins flighting south on 16th September. The anticyclone of 26th/27th brought these birds in their thousands – of course, they don’t land on the Hill, but they use it for navigation, and generally fly directly overhead before abruptly changing direction. Redwings – wintering thrushes which do alight and remain on the Hill – arrived on 9th October, and their larger cousins Fieldfares on 4th November. A good flock of Common Gulls has built up (around 50, feeding in the Fox Covert/Clermiston Park areas), and the regular wintering Goosander (about a dozen) can be seen at the foot of the Hill, on the Water of Leith near the ice rink.

Passing birds during the period included Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Peregrine, Raven, Grey Wagtail and Pheasant. In September 49species were recorded, 45 in October,44 in November, 42 in December and 45 in January. The grand total for the Hill now stands at 93 species.

For latest sightings see: http://chilloutdoors.tumblr.com
Ian Moore

City of Edinburgh Council Natural Heritage Service Report

January 2016

Rain, rain, go away....etc etc! It’s been relentless of late and with the ground so saturated, any high winds may be devastating for our mature tree stock so a calm start to 2016 will be most welcome.

You may have been out and about on the 28th of October 2015 and encountered some members of staff from Parks and Greenspace who do not normally work on Corstorphine Hill as our now annual “Parks Day” was staged here. It was a hugely successful day with around 100 members of staff from varying service areas within Parks such as mechanics, joiners, botanical services staff, admin support, contracts officers and senior managers alike participating in conservation and other enhancement activities.

The main activity focussed around control of salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) which is an invasive non-native species severely impacting on the biodiversity within the LNR. It was first introduced to Scotland in 1827 as food for pheasants from North America and due to its attractive appearance people adopted it into their gardens and local populations have escaped. Topography, soil and moisture conditions on Corstorphine Hill are ideal for this particular woody shrub to dominate. Native populations of bluebell, snowdrops, campion, wood anemone and others have been significantly reduced over the time of the spread of salmonberry. Control measures adopted include cutting, digging and burning and treatment of re-growth with herbicide. This measure will continue for a number of years and will form the basis of nature conservation actions within the updated site management plan.

Other activities planned for early 2016 include maintenance of drainage infrastructure and paths and surfacing underneath picnic tables and seats to avoid erosion/grass and other vegetation growing.

David Kyles naturalheritageservice@edinburgh.gov.uk or phone 0131 529 2401.
City of Edinburgh Council Natural Heritage Service
Hermitage of Braid
69a Braid Road, Edinburgh EH10 6JF 0131 529 2401
naturalheritageservice@edinburgh.gov.uk

Summer Bird Report

June-August 2015

Corstorphine Hill is home to around 40 species of breeding birds, many of which depend upon the rich ancient woodland and associated habitats of gorse and scrub. There are hole-nesters such as Tawny Owl, Stock Dove, Jackdaw, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Treecreeper, while birds of the fringes include Willow Warble, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Linnet, Bullfinch and Long-tailed Tit. When you add to this list species such as Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Mistle Thrush and Jay, it is a quite extraordinary variety to find within the limits of a major city.

Unusual summer visitors to the Hill included a Pied Flycatcher at the very end of May, and in mid-July a local irruption of Crossbills, Siskins and Redpolls – as these newly fledged finch families foraged further afield. A splendid Red-backed Shrike appeared in the gorse on 24th August, probably a Scandinavian migrant blown off course by the strong easterly drift the preceding day. There were further signs of migration on 29th August, with a very late group of Swifts feeding in the lee of the ridge, and Meadow Pipits navigating south over the Hill. Passing birds during the period included Sand Martin, Grey Wagtail, Fulmar, Cormorant, Oystercatcher and Curlew.

In June 48 species were recorded, 45 in July and 42 in August. The grand total for the Hill now stands at 92 species.

For latest sightings see: http://chilloutdoors.tumblr.com
Ian Moore

Magical Woodland Walk

We had a very enjoyable woodland experience in June 2015, with performers from Rowanbank Environmental Education, taking over 100 children and adults on a walk over the hill and into the walled garden. There were all kinds of dressed up characters, storytellers, jugglers and stilt walkers. This was thoroughly enjoyed by the children (and I suspect by the adults too). A fun way to learn about the woodland and make children aware that we must look after our trees and woods. It’s something we might do again in the future!

Walled Garden News.......

Great news for the garden team, we have again won the prestigious Community Green Flag Award 2014.

The garden continues to attract a good number of visitors and groups. Continuing work to improve and maintain the garden is always in our plans.

Currently we are looking at a detailed schedule, spread over two or more seasons, to progressively address the need to maintain adequate light and open vistas across the garden and control excessive growth, while keeping the character and attractiveness of the garden as it is now.

Photographs of Corstorphine Hill

Ian Moore has posted photographs of Corstorphine Hill birds and other interesting sightings on the social media web site Tumblr. Click on http://chilloutdoors.tumblr.com to view these super photos.

The John Muir Way

The coast to coast John Muir Way from Cockburnspath, East Lothian to Helensburgh, Argyll opened in April 2014 and waymarkers are in place all along the route including the section over Corstorphine Hill from the Balgreen Road entrance by Rest and Be Thankful, to the Tower, then down to Clermiston Road past the Walled Garden.

Sightings of Roe Deer

Several people have reported sightings of a group of Roe Deer on the Hill during February 2014. This is the first such sighting for a very long time, and very exciting for us to have a new species. They have been seen mostly on the north and east slopes, so keep your eyes open!

Waymarker Project

In 2012 we managed to obtain funding from Biffa Waste Management and Edinburgh Airport to put in 10 sandstone waymarkers at various point on the Hill to help visitors explore the main paths and see the important features. The waymarkers were put in last Spring and their positions are shown on one of the maps in 'Location Maps'

Sculptured Bench in the Walled Garden

Bench commissioned in memory of Eddie PriceLast year we commissioned a new bench for the garden in memory of Eddie Price, our late Chairman, and the driving force behind the Walled Garden regeneration project over 10 years. Bench commissioned in memory of Eddie Price The bench was sculpted out of a single piece of spruce by Iain Chalmers of 'Chainsaw Creations' and was dedicated in a short ceremony in June, attended by many Friends, our President and long term supporter, Councillor Paul Edie, and Eddie's widow, Margaret, and her family.

 

New 10-year Management Plan for Corstorphine Hill Local Nature Reserve

This is currently being prepared by the Natural Heritage Service (formerly the Ranger Service), as the current plan expires next year.. We have been kept informed by David Kyles of the Natural Heritage Service who regularly reports to the FoCH Committee, and have made our own submission to the NHS for inclusion in the Plan. A big priority with the NHS is control of invasive plant species such as Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam and Salmonberry. Many individuals and groups of volunteers have been out over the summer, cutting, digging, burning, and using weedkiller, to try to reduce the spread of these invaders. New volunteers to help in the fight are always welcome - contact the Friends or the Natural Heritage Service. Control measures against invasive plants will be an important element of the new 10 Year Management Plan.

Green Flag Awards

For the second year our Walled Garden has won the prestigious Community Green Flag Award, the only such award in Scotland. Many of Edinburgh's parks have also won Green Flag awards, more than any other city in Scotland.