Wednesday, 26 July 2017

arrested by a small copper

After a weekend of disgusting weather the clouds lifted on Monday. I hadn't even bothered with a run on Sunday, it was that bad. So I felt (work being put to one side) I should probably go a run. I felt a bit low though, a bit tired and kinda dragged my feet about getting out the house. I developed a cold after last week's long run and have been trying to go easy to get shot of it. (Hence no work for a day or 2 of admin.) But all that sunshine obliged me to do something useful outside, but what?

slightly out of focus day

The best way to commune with one's spirit guide is not to ask them a straight question and expect a direct answer. (Just as you can't ask Padmasambhava for a substantial lottery win and expect him to stump up. At least that hasn't worked so far.) I fanned out the options like a deck of cards and, while looking in the other direction, let fate choose the one I fancied most. Turns out Dalmeny was calling to me. Perhaps catch a train to Dalmeny and run home? The wind was blowing in the wrong direction. What to do? Mary suggested running to Dalmeny and catch the train home. Genius! But time was slipping by and I didn't really fancy the eight miles of tarmac before the nice stuff started (about Cramond Brig). I know, I'll cycle! There are places I can padlock the bike then run round the woods. That way I maximise the time spent and miles run in the Dalmeny Estate and minimise the hard work getting there and back. Sorted.

I took the cyclepath that runs parallel to Ferry Road then over the red bridge at Crewe Toll along to Blackhall then a right turn towards Davidson's Mains. I have an idea this is the route Mary takes when cycling to work at Clermiston but am unsure. I then crossed the road at Quality St (it was choc-a-block at Quality St! ....I'll get my coat.) And cut through the attractive park before skirting the boundary of the Royal High School. I stopped for nostalgia's sake to take a pic of the music dept and gym but really I feel a bit Steely Dan about those 5 years. Hell, that's a good tune!

From the RHS I popped out onto the Queensferry Rd and did a grim mile to Cramond Brig, buttocks clenched, hoping I wouldn't get mashed by a texting lorry driver. I had planned to leave my bike in the trees along the first gravel lane after the CB, but my lazy spirit guide was whispering in my ear to cycle all the way to the shore, missing the long dull mile which would be much more pleasurable on a bike. It was! But I could go no further and still call this a run so took the tiny path right at the shore and left the bike 100 yards into the trees, padlocked, where it wouldn't be seen.

if only the sea was turquoise - not brown

I felt a bit dislocated running, couldn't quite get into the rhythm, or was it just that brick feeling of cycling then running? Or just the lingering near death experience of cycling in heavy traffic? I sorted the problem by heading into the woods and having a poop. (Always carry kitchen roll to wipe the chain oil off your hands after a mechanical.) I know, too much information. Put a skip in my stride though, and I was able once more to hear my guru when he whispered in my ear to take the wrong side of the stream that goes down to the shore - you know, the one by the rushes.

smallest run ever (2.12miles)

I've never seen this little estuary so high - not sure if it was the weekend's rain or the high tide or both. There is usually some wildlife going on here though - previously ducks with chicks, so perhaps it was those memories that pointed me in this direction, rather than cross the little bridge, the only way to get past the stream with dry feet. 

The place was delightful - white shells and yellow flowers all around and scrubby grasses and the wild roses heavy with rose hips. And loads of whites. Normally I don't bother much with (Small) Whites (pretty much identical to Large Whites but slightly less dark markings and about 10~15mm smaller wingspan) as they are very skittish and won't hold still for a photo. And if you are not right up close they generally overexpose (the camera exposes for the surrounding landscape unless you use bracketing) making an undefined white ghost. And they are fairly common. A three-way why bother. I don't remember taking the photo below, probably sneaking up on a white and then firing as it took off. I like its randomness. Anyway I stopped running and had become the landscape. Then I saw it!


Right in the centre of the photo above. I recognised it instantly, like a bejewelled ear-ring dropped in the grass. Small. And copper coloured. Can you see it? I silently mouthed small copper. I have only seen a couple since I became aware of them last June and only managed one single photo till now. Holding my breath I edged forward. I took the above shot before trying to get in closer for a decent shot but it upped and disappeared. They are near the Blues on my all-uk-species wall chart and have similarities - size and hairy, light-coloured bodies, and not dissimilar underwing colours. Happily though, they spread their dazzling red-orange wings when landed and become instantly recognisable. In the air they disappear in a flutter of drab brown zig-zags. I walked along and back the same 20 yards for 5 minutes or more, eyes darting, heart beating, saying small copper out loud, like a junky looking for a dropped wrap. And then...

you looking at me?

I spent 30 mins walking back and forth the same 50 yards. I'd lose sight of it as it flew away then see it again on top of the white flowers. Either my eye was adapting or the butterfly wasn't minding my company, allowing me to get closer with the camera until I was holding the lens only inches away from him. I say him but sexing the insects is not easy. In the butterfly bible there are 2 identical pictures, one larger, but not much, than the other. "The male is smaller than the female, and has more pointed forewings." 

The big question for me was not m or f, but was this one or several insects? I wouldn't know until I got home. Was this a colony or just a lone bandit? The bible says they fly in ones and 2s. It seemed unlikely there were several and I never saw more than one at one time. I had noticed the attractive blue dots of the abberant form caeruleo-punctata but it was only some time later I noticed that 3 photos don't have the blue dots. And the black forewing dots in those photos are more distant from the brown border, virtually touching in the other specimen. We have at least 2 small coppers! Result! 

this video still was me putting a big peasant finger in the shot to show the scale

I had real trouble getting these images. Never deleted so many blurred pics. Being SO small I had to get down on the ground and get the front of the camera jammed up as close as possible. The bright sunlight was the only reason the results are as good as they are. The zoom kept focussing on the wrong stuff (compact camera = no manual focus) and I couldn't see the screen very well in the bright light. I took 160 shots of the small coppers and got a dozen decent ones. I was totally stoked though and realised my joy of butterflies and taking photos might just have eclipsed running. I ran 2.12 miles in 80minutes.

Being lifted by the small coppers (so to speak) I even bothered with a small white (giant by comparison to the coppers) and was pleased with this shot; for once the white not bleaching out entirely. There was a strong breeze blowing and I think the whites were concentrating on just holding on while swaying back and forth in the long grasses, not really noticing me in a narcotic trance wading through the scrub with a glazed look in my eyes. 

I was just preparing to leave (had to hurry back into town for book group) and resume running when a prile of whites flew over and settled nearby as if auditioning for photo. I had to oblige, and I think I get points for quantity if not quality.

I will be back!

this is me proving there was some running done.
If you were running properly it would be all shoogly I hear you say...

(otherwise know as battleship potemkin)

ahh, the bike is still there

So with an sd card full of coppers and a heart full of joy I jumped on the bike and reversed the route, stamping on the peddles in lieu of a proper run. Only one guy passed me on a busy cyclepath, a thin wheeled Trek with clip-ins; and I drafted him from Telford Rd to Leith. We probably averaged 20mph for that section. Great day out and I will be back looking for more coppers next time I am out with the spirit guide. Meanwhile I must buy some lottery tickets.

cycle (red bits: fast)

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