Wednesday, 16 August 2017

great snake hunt ep.3

photo Mary (with corrections)

It's been a while since I last had a wild goose chase in search of semi-mythical creatures. June 2014 and Steve and I searched the Lammermuirs fruitlessly, then a year later in Sept with Mary we failed to see anything snake-like, also in the Lammermuirs. So a trip to not see adders was long overdue. We chose the same venue, having come so close on previous occasions. Spoiler alert: No snakes!

Some things never change.
Looking at the photos from June 2014 I found this one of Steve (below) virtually a copy of the one above. Essentials for a snake hunt = 1/ eyes peeled, 2/ sunshine; to encourage snakes to bask in full view, 3/ endurance; to be able to endure near continual disappointment and frustration.

and for comparison Sept 2015

I should stick to butterflies

cammo-clad quad-biker with gun out hunting wild joggers

gonna shoot something!

lots of these about today - the nearest to a snake we found

fox moth caterpillar
(only ever see the larvae never the imago)

Mary decided she was only up for Lammer Law summit, not the original plan to go along to the turbines. There were probably whole slithering nests of snakes along at the turbines. You'd almost certainly be kicking them off the path to get past. Never mind, I've always thought there should be reptiles in the rocks of the summit mound on Lammer Law. Maybe there'd be some today. Spoiler alert: no.

wind farm in background: inundated with snakes, possibly

trig point selfie

Not snakes but those other popular beasties, WASPS!

good to see that to cope with the cold summit conditions 
these chaps have worn their hairy jim-jams

I mooched around the dark and sinister ponds looking for toads and frogs.
Almost as many as snakes. Lovely colours of vegetation. But that's your lot.

Distant Pentlands 

more of these

As we were descending back the way we came I told Mary I had 2 requests. By not actually mentioning what the requests were, I was hoping to pique her curiosity but instead we pretty much agreed it was unlikely I'd be getting either.

After a while I broke and told her the first request was to return by the other side of the Hopes Reservoir. I forget who, but someone mentioned it was pretty path and went all the way round. My previous worry was it went halfway and then faded out leaving you to bushwack for a mile or 2 of unpleasantness. The normal road is so nice it seems ungrateful to go searching an alternative. Mary, to my surprise, was up for it.

(The second request, pushing my luck, was to detour East on the drive home past the Wall Brown site of last week so I could chase Walls for better photos. Not a chance in hell of that happening!)

usual path seen from other side of reservoir

A big thanks to whoever recommended the other side. The path was exquisite; although trickier in places (we were both wearing road shoes) muddier and narrow, went through very scenic woods and heathery patches and had lovely views across to the normal track round the reservoir. Also more chance of spotting wildlife. The trees and bracken being good cover for all manner of things. In reality I only saw a couple of butterflies. But there was a sign warning of snakes and I think it was the right sort of ground to find them. Possibly. If they exist.

I chased this one through a lot of heather.
You're welcome.

Nice to get close up to this charming water feature. It was tempting to disprove their spikey discouragements (although presumably the door was locked,) but there were a couple of walkers nearby (who had probably just chased away all the snakes from the premier snakey area down the hill.) There was text carved into the wall about the stone for this embankment being reused from Calton Jail. Unfortunately there are a few signs discouraging swimming. 

And back to (near) the start. No snakes but ten out of ten for scenery and amazing purple heather. A great place for a wild goose chase. Highly recommended.

9 miles

up and down

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

a muster of peacocks

So next time some wiseacre asks how many eggs a Peacock typically lays (hoping you don't realise it's the peahen that lays eggs in the world of fancy birds) you can tell them with confidence 300~500 sticky green eggs and usually on the underside of a nettle leaf. 

Saturday we were back in Gullane doing the usual run. It was never going to match last week's extravaganza and butterfly head count but the weather was ok (bit windy, but bright) and I was foolishly optimistic; especially having found a large shrubbery next to Toad Corner favoured by the Peacocks, the Small Tortoiseshells and a Comma. The downside of this shrubbery is you have to wade deep into the undergrowth. I picked up a few hitchhikers last week, with stingers or teeth, and my torso and legs look like a dose of the measles or chicken pox. Weirdly the spots (I react adversely to insect bites) seem to be taking it in rotation to tickle and I will wake in the night raking my fingernails over a new constellation that missed the Anthisan cream before lights out. I should get a large table knife and butter the bedsheets with the the Bite and Sting Cream then jump in like a giant meat and sting-paste sandwich. Me being the meat. The lengths I go to for decent photos. Mary stands over in the short grass telling me we have been here long enough and she is getting stiff legs and cold.

nothing much going on at Marl Loch - where are those dragonflies?

Bee and extras.
So many of the photos have additional bugs and beasties I don't notice till I get home.

always plenty bees

nice agreeable Blue, sat still and didn't fly off

you looking at me?

shaded broad-bar moth

So after a bit of skirting around the shorter grasses I go and wade into the undergrowth. I can see peacocks but they are perched on thistles behind thistles and there's no way I can get a shot from here. Too many other distractions for the autofocus. I see the undergrowth is already beaten down in trenches approaching the shrubbery and wonder if there are other butterfly enthusiasts spending time here making little enclaves from which to shoot zoom shots of the lepidoptera that clearly enjoy the protection of the dense greenery. Mary thinks it might just be deer. Maybe; there are areas of flattened grasses like grazing animals lay down for a snooze. As I wait other peacocks come and go and so I move from one side to the other to get the best line on a perching butterfly, as it flits from one flower-head to another. Elsewhere, a peacock is snoozing with wings outspread on a leaf or flower, flopped and sunbathing. I move in getting better and better close ups until it flies off or I get as close as I need, the lens about 2" from the insect.

in amongst the biters and scratchers
photo Mary, from a safe distance

often the focus will pay attention to the wrong thing

this dude was flopped out here for a while, just sunbathing

Mary shouted out she was moving on and I could catch her up. I began to untangle myself from the swamp bushes but saw this specimen at a distance with a nice background and got a few shots before running at full tilt and eventually catching M just at the beach. It was worth it.

particularly like the moth(?) flying past in the background
the place was buzzing with little white moths that are almost impossible to snap as they drop indistinguishable into the grass and disappear.

this is the happy hunting ground

love this beautiful crab shell
is that the whole universe on it's back or an underwater scene?