Saturday, 27 August 2016

lifted by a small copper

No I didn't make parkrun. Again. I am not a morning person. On the upside I got recognised (again!) at Falko's and they (the lady behind the counter and the girl who makes the coffees) knew the order before I spoke. Cheese Tongues today as the Raisin Brioche(s) were all gone by the time we got there. I fed bits to the Jackdaws, but have not entirely earned their trust as yet. They are smart. I will win them over.

I saw a couple of people flagging up national dog day yesterday on facebook. My contribution is the above pic of a dog taking a leak on its own lead. It's not that I am not a dog person (I'm not really a cat person either and in fact sometimes I think I'm not a person person) it's just I think the same people who treat their dogs like offspring, sometimes forget to mention the vet bills and the bags of warm dog poop when they talk about their furry children. And then there are the ones who don't pick up; or leave bags tied in the trees and on fence posts. Anyway enough celebrating canines. Here is a spider that reminded me of Broadway Boogie Woogie even though it is almost ENTIRELY different.

Because the wind was blowing in the opposite direction to usual we ran the usual circuit back to front. So along to Aberlady then across the bridge and back up through the golf course to the car park. Neither of us were feeling full of beans but somehow the coach talked us into some 5minute reps. I wasn't paying attention in class. I think I was in denial as I was thinking I'd make up for my absence at parkrun with attendance at Baddinsgill Round. Trouble is I have run it the last 4 years. And although it's a great event I was going out of loyalty to Nick of CAAC rather than because I felt fired up to run round that course. In fact I felt a bit tired after 3.5 weeks of quite intense work and was more in a kick back drink beer and whistle mood.

Now I know most folk do about 50 weeks work in a row but hey I'm not convinced that 5/7ths of our lives should be devoted to raising funds to sponsor the other 2/7ths though I recognise how it can give us direction and make one feel important. And of course it pays the bills. Anyway Mary says 3,2,1 and we are off and if she said 5mins x THREE maybe I didn't hear because I was recalling the pain of the first 2 miles climb up the Baddinsgill Round or how come I can't channel the same ambition into my work life I channel into my running career. And that richer people aren't, per se, happier people although they do go on better holidays and live in prettier houses.

30seconds brisk, 20 seconds faster, 10 seconds fastest. That for 5 minutes then stand gasping trying to see if Mary is holding up one hand or 2. Two means the towel has been thrown in, one means continue. She is quite some distance away and with the sweat pouring into my eyes I think it is one hand. Onwards and upwards. Next minute and I go past the Subs. Beyond this point dry sand is scarce and I have to zig zag and turn back to M who is near the subs. We are both breathing hard.

need a longer zoom

So, little is said except the count down to lap 3. Immediately we start you can feel the east wind which was invisible, moving with us on the first 2 laps. Another 5 mins of torture and I have a bright idea 90 seconds into the 2 minute standing recovery. I will write a message of encouragement in the sand with my foot. I am racing to get the last 2 letters done (and a photo) before the off...

Meanwhile Mary, some distance off is silently mouthing "wtf" watching me run back to the east end of the beach. Hadn't she already said THREE reps? Only 3. Not 4. Someone wasn't paying attention in class, or is it that he is so old he is losing his hearing, or too busy thinking about races and careers? Or, it (3 reps) was assumed, (since we only ever do 3 reps of 5mins) and maybe it was never actually said out loud?

I'm sure when I eventually watch the playback there'll be loads of good stuff I missed. Anyway, I got to the other end of the beach and still had some 90secs to go, so turned around and ran back; wow Mary's really slowed up this rep, hope she's ok. I ran back to the sort of patient disdain a dog chasing rabbits in the next field gets.


common darter

I was hoping there would be a few butterflies about as there was less wind than yesterday. There were, and a few darters as well. No sign of the damselflies at the pond although a ranger nearby said they would be there, sheltering among the reeds at the waters edge. Might have to return with wet suit.

However the big prize today was a Small Copper! I have been aware of these since June and seen 2 or 3 but they have until now eluded the camera. They are very skittish and fly off as you approach. Today I managed to get reasonably near and was glad I had the compact and x20 lens as the G3 would have been too far away. Also it is about half the size of a standard butterfly (painted lady / red admiral etc) But their vivid forewings give them away.

For a while, looking at websites with very good quality photos, I assumed butterfly hunters had the patience of a saint and robot-like steady hands. And maybe a net and chloroform. Given last week's encounter with a few specimens who didn't mind me standing right beside and taking photos for several minutes I am beginning to think it might be more to do with getting the subject in the right mood on the right plant, or sufficiently distracted by environment or temperature that it allows one to move in close. Although this small copper was slightly less timid it still flew off as I got within yards.
small copper (at last!)

We also checked under the boards where Mr and Mrs Mouse were living but they had moved on and a toad had buried itself in their nest. A couple of buzzards cruised lazily overhead yesterday and today but I didn't get a shot of either. If I can find the time between swimming projects and running (and work as a distant third consideration) I should come down here one day when the wind isn't blowing and make a point of recording the wildlife properly rather than just the stuff I bump into while running past.

a meadow brown very kindly obliged
Not the most spectacular, but if you get close enough, any of these dudes are fascinating.

T F I Fidra

So I had a half formed plan to swim the smallish channel (600m?) across to Fidra. On Friday the tide was out and turning about 3.37 - perfect. Well maybe. Michael was off work (my work week finished Thursday!!) and had mentioned he might be up for a run. I took my wet suit but was fairly sure the stiff breeze would put a choppy sea between me and that iconic island. I haven't purchased a floaty orange drag bag yet anyway, in which to put islanding shoes and the non-waterproof camera. 

MG was up for a run from Yellowcraigs towards NB then across the golf course and along to Aberlady. We were chatting so hard I didn't notice the miles flying by, all done at a gentle pace. Plenty Friday sunshine but a bit of a stiff breeze indeed. The water looked dark and uninviting though from certain angles it did look like a stone's throw across to Fidra. Albeit there was what looked like a strong current flowing from west to east. You might have to aim for the left and try and hit the right end as the wind blew you past Dunbar and out to sea. Maybe next time. The wetsuit remained dry. Far too many bad sea stories in the headlines currently.

this would be the start point if wind was from east

west wind start point

On the way back we saw a Speckled Wood 
and I took this drabber than drab photo of it

The sun was definitely encouraging the butterflies to come out and play but the wind meant they were all travelling past at 45mph. I had a couple of stomps into the long grass in search of treasure but they would rise into the wind and be 60 yards away in seconds. The Speckled Wood was unexpected compensation (despite the websites saying "common and widely distributed") but a couple of Small Coppers got away on the breeze - as one website says "It is a widespread species and a familiar and welcome sight for many naturalists throughout the summer months." I first noticed this variety earlier this year (have I only been mad about butterflies this year?) on the Berwick coastal path and have been trying to get a photo of one since. And I resent the suggestion the outdoors are knee deep in them and you have to trample them underfoot on every trip to the countryside. Like the alleged Common Blue they are flightly wee shits and as soon as you get within x20 zoom of them they are goodnight vienna. Due to me having the second sight (spoiler alert) I can tell you there will be a photo of one taken tomorrow. And posted here. Hurry back!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

summer to autumn

The weather and the forecast are all over the place currently; neither one consistent as the cooler darker autumn evenings move in to shake hands with the last of the summer. Sunday looked good, then a bit dull, then sunny. I planned for either a Pentland run in long overdue hills or the old NB Circuit, my favourite romp round East Lothian beauty spots. I couldn't drum up any mates so went solo, leaving it until later in the day, hoping for a more long-shadow sunset affair. I had really enjoyed carrying the G3 with me the day before and its controllable focal length but the drizzle had meant it stayed under a zip-lock rain hat most of the run. Today I threw sense out the window and carried both the compact AND the G3. While I love the quality of the G3 it doesn't do panoramas or zoom in x20. I amused myself on the train taking panoramas, noticing the camera just filling in the view out the second window with repeated imaging.

the G3,
I hold the neck of the tripod while running keeping sweaty mits off the hardware
I bought the tripod in Italy some 33 years ago. Still works fine.

First off I ran (walked) up NB Law. Sorry to see the motto back on the trig point but at least they have centred it properly on this occasion. The wind was strong, which was why I opted for the coast rather than the hills. The views were splendid as ever and it looked as if I was getting the best weather and that Edinburgh and the Pentlands were still under grey skies.

This pic has a strangely indoors feel!

I plan to swim across to Fidra sometime soon and always mentally measure the crossing.
Sometimes it looks really close, from other angles a long way out.

The Bass Rock appears to have been cut and pasted on.

On the way off the Law you pass a small pond. There were dragonflies buzzing about but they were very reluctant to stay in the one place and allow a photo. The lens on the G3 only does x3 so I have to get close in for close ups. I didn't want to waste too much time right at the start of the run so didn't bother getting the compact out. It was good to see the dragonflies as along with Red Admirals there has been an absence of both on the paths at Aberlady. In the past there were dozens; and loads of damselflies at the pond there and at Balgone.

Some of the harvest had been taken in, other fields were choc full and swaying in the wind.

On the search for lepidoptera and damselflies I took a right at the Balgone Estate and slowed by the pond. I saw various beasts of interest mainly peacock butterflies but none were stopping for a photo and there was no sign of the usual blue damselflies down near the jetty. A large dog, off the leash, then bounded over barking fiercely but luckily after a slighty panicky hello, good boy! it reverted to cuddly retriever and I waved to the owner back down the trail. Disappointed by the lack of insects I continued on my way hoping the strong winds hadn't dissuaded all the wildlife from coming out to play.

A mile or 2 later and I came upon the catch of the day: running down the dirt trail to Stink Farm I just about ran past this perfectly ordinary patch of flowering thistles. I have no idea why a small group of insects (at least 2 peacocks, a painted lady and a bee) were finding it irresistible, why they didn't fly off when I moved in close, or whether they were aware of each other. Maybe they were drunk on the direct sun and the nectar. I have just counted and I took 83 photos in a couple of minutes, half of which were instantly binned. The screen was near impossible to see in the bright light and so for pretty much the first time ever I used the electronic viewfinder. It is probably responsible for the photos I didn't bin although I didn't get a good idea of the results until I was on the train ride home. I was pleased with the results but did have ideal conditions.

bee in between


painted lady

I ran on with a spring in my step. I had been feeling a bit tired after a good week's work and wondering whether I really needed/wanted a 20 miler. The scenery lifted my spirits although I continued to feel a bit tired and was looking forwards to the can of Emerge (39p red bull) I had in my back pack. Also in my pack was a 2lt reservoir that had spent the night half full in the freezer. Topped up before leaving I had ice cold juice for the first 4hrs. The next part of the run is the highlight - through Newbyth Woods then Binning Woods then down to the coast at Tyninghame. I reserved small treats (Soreen fun sized banana loaves & Mrs Tilly's fudge) for points along the way when I might be flagging.

this was the favoured tree of the Speckled Wood

I think it is an Alder and I think the raised bumps are the result of the Eriophyes Laevis mite which is about one fifth of a mm long. On the upside they don't harm the tree (other than the leaf that is occupied).

off the internet

Newbyth Woods is one of the few places I have seen a Speckled Wood. Not the most spectacular of butterflies, (brown with yellow spots) but due to rarity, one I hoped to see again. I saw 4 or 5 here (or the same one several times) at the exact same tree as the last time. Unfortunately they like to land (if they land) half way up a tree, so are not easy to capture. I walked up and down the same patch several times but the only evidence I have is the photo below.

Speckled Wood on the wing. (Unsmiley face.)

So I just focussed on stuff that doesn't run or fly away. Everything was looking fab in the sunlight and I found it difficult to run at any speed past so many pictures. I crossed the road into Binning Woods. Forgot to say hello to Alastair, such was the amount of distractions.

The Rowan berries are leading the charge into Autumn.

After the long haul down Limetrees Walk I took a direct line through the woods to get to the coast. Last time I got badly lost through here (it can be choked with rhododendrons) and this time I steered to the right to avoid similar. I start to look at stuff on the ground (badger sets? and fungi) and soon have no idea where I am. But if you keep going in roughly the same direction you will eventually come out near the secret trail which leads round to St Baldred's Cradle. I was saving the Emerge for then.

oh oh, Ray Mears has been through here.
Now I couldn't take you back to this if I tried - it was hidden in the middle of nowhere.


I recently heard a Radiolab podcast all about trees in the forest using fungi to swap nutrients and communicating with each other in a most unlikely way. Click here for link, actually it's beyond incredible.

So, here was where I planned to sit and drink my caffeine drink. Until those 2 start slurping away at each other. OMG I should just have sat on the other side and cleared my throat. Depraved and disgusting! I ran on, thirsty, looking for more pleasant scenery to slake my thirst in front of.

About halfway along the beach at the big dunes I noticed it was 6.33pm and I had an hour exactly till the 7.33. The next train was 8.33 so I thought I should step on it. For the first time I began to run at a decent pace. I was a bit alarmed though, as there is a mile or more to Tam Bides Here and the Slow sign, then 2 miles to NB outskirts and maybe a mile and half through NB to the station. Was that do-able? Probably not but I got onto the concrete paths after Peffer Burn and took the pace up to about 7min miling, fighting up the long haul past Sea Cliff then out onto the main road. I hit the Slow sign at the top of the hill at 6.59 - five minutes ahead of schedule. Maybe it WAS possible.

Horse with a painting of a goat? Camouflage?
Is this the same as a butterfly with owls eyes on its wings?

The Slow sign.
3.6 miles to go. 33mins till the train. Easy!?

I couldn't remember the exact distances involved but I was fairly sure it was in the bag. I even stopped for a few photos of the sun going down and casting a weird light behind Craigleith. From this angle the islands off the coast looked like a very long and cold swim away. Maybe I was just tired. Should probably chat up pals with kayak so at least someone can get a photo of the bloated corpse of my island project attempts. Anyway I had a clear 7 mins clear when I got into the station so I was surprised when there wasn't a train waiting, or any passengers. Even more surprised when I saw the time of departure for the next train was 20.20 - 54 minutes away. Realising I had noted down the wrong minutes (dep from Edinburgh 33mins past the hour, deps from NB 20 mins past the hour) I issued a string of sexual swear words joined together with a good handful of blasphemy. Then set off to check the bus times at the nearest bus stop. Since that was also a long wait I decided to see if Ben and Alison were home (100 yards away!) Just then Ben went past on his bike so I followed him to his back gate and after a couple of drinks and a look at the boys' book on butterflies and moths, just made it back to the station in time for the 20.20.

out the train window

I sat down in an empty part of the carriage - the train wasn't busy and I try to avoid company as it allows for a bit of stretching en route. So I wasn't best pleased to have 7 or 8 rather merry fellow passengers place themselves right next door. Oh well, I thought optimistically, maybe they'll ply me with drink. And do you know what, they did! And I repay their kindness with a photo that does nobody any favours. Thems are the breaks.

my travelling companions

Always enjoy this tunnel on the way home.