Saturday, 30 September 2017

a flotilla of admirals

First up some pics from Friday. I was working outside Weds~Fri as the weather was fine for 3 days running, a rarity of late. Just off Leith Links, so I wasn't expecting much interaction with wildlife. However, a Red Admiral landed on the flowers in the little garden area beside the entrance I was painting. The sun was shining and I had my (older) camera with me so took these pics.



Saturday, and Mary was up for a run at Gullane. She had had a hard week and had taken a day off work (that never happens) about Tuesday due to being badly crocked. If we had a wheelchair she would have been in it. Not just legs but she had a swollen wrist as well and couldn't say how she got it. I think it is just old age! Anyway after a few days rest she was ready to run again so we paid a LAST EVER visit to Falko's and got coffeed up. (No scones or Raisin Brioches so we settled for half a cheese tongue and half a pretzel each.) (Lady behind counter said thanks for the card and she'd see us at Haddington. I like her optimism but that is a longer way to go for a coffee, and there's no beach.)

While we were drinking coffee and waiting for the (unforecast) heavy rain to stop, I noticed the ivy on the wall behind the toilets was flowering and full of Red Admirals. They are very keen on flowering ivy, as most of the other favourites, buddleia etc. have finished flowering. The proliferation of Admirals this year has been the late summer story in lepidoptera. Others have come and gone but the Reds have been omnipresent, and pretty much the main species seen regularly since the first week in September. Others have noticed this too. Springwatch blogged the findings of the biggest ever butterfly survey. It was carried out by Butterfly Conservation, and is noteworthy as butterflies tend to be a signifier for the health of all the wildlife in the country. Some species are declining, however there was a 223% rise in numbers of Red Admirals in Scotland (75% in England). This won't come as a surprise to anyone looking at the pics I have been posting lately. The big story a couple of years ago was the Painted Lady, another migrant. I don't believe I have seen a single specimen this year, although sightings have been made. This year is definitely the year of the Red Admiral.

We were both pretty hopped up on coffee and followed the usual route out the JMW and down to Aberlady. I was yabbering away about this and that, and Mary was discouraging my controlling ways, saying she wouldn't look this way and that, and I was to stop being so domineering. I refuted this and sarcastically made my point by laying a hand on her head and pointing it this way and that, while we ran. There were complaints about dishevelled hair, but I couldn't see any difference.

Along the trail side are these light purple flowers. If you take a pic of them they look whitish but they are purple. There were several Reds on them. Mary ran on as I pulled over for pics.

Hipster Stonechat with handlebar moustache.

Having found the delightful Newt last week under the boards, of course we had to check under them this week. Two dark toads lurked there and burrowed into the sandy soil trying to get away from whoever had lifted the roof off their home. Also the Newt was hanging out still and not any more pleased to see us than last week. I think we will leave them be for the winter now as they are clearly bedding down for the duration. We carefully replaced their roof.

newty beauty

Aberlady beach was just about entirely empty and the tide was out. This must be the first time ever I have run this stretch with a camera and not taken photos. I hear Portuguese Men O War have been washing up on the south coast of England. They can be small but remarkably toxic to humans and dogs. I was keeping an eye out for any stray jellies with balloon type floatations attached but other than the usual stranded lion's mane there were no prophylactic type killers. At the other end around mushroom corner we bumped into Helen and Jeff. Jeff is taking time out to recover from an injury, but hopes to run the Skyline. 

mushrooms going autumnal colours???

around Gullane Point this one flew out in front of Mary 
and she almost seemed to be playing keepy-uppy with it for a few steps.

also this rather swish chap

I count 14 and one in flight - a new record
although if I panned back to show the whole garden it would be around 40+

We both felt in good shape but Mary was reluctant to run beyond the usual 6 mile route. We had spoken about extending it to 12 or maybe 15 miles if it was all going well, but Sunday's forecast had brightened overnight, so it would be wise to quit while ahead, rather than push Mary's luck and set off her injuries again. There would be miles to be run tomorrow. I admit I was disappointed, but was then quickly distracted by one of the gardens along Marine Terrace. (A different one from last time.)

There were three groups of purple flowers and each had a swarm of Red Admirals crawling all over them. We were so intent taking photos that a dog walker on the other side of the road came over to see what we were papping. She was equally impressed. I have never seen such a congregation - or had to look up the collective noun for butterflies. Swarm, or Rainbow apparently. Mary came up with a Fleet of Red Admirals and I thought maybe flotilla, continuing the nautical theme. I took FAR too many photos while Mary (after a while) ran on to the parked car. When I eventually left I met her driving the car on her way to either pick me up or run me down, she didn't admit to which. I have restrained myself on number of pics posted here. It could be there is a limit to how many the average person craves. Weirdly I don't seem to get bored myself - there is always that perfect shot lurking just around the corner. 

Checking the photos over later there was a solo peacock in there too, maybe thinking it was a Red Admiral. They are of the same family being Nymphalidae.

We probably got the best part of the day. (Luck, not planning.) Just before we started running there was a heavy shower and then a bit later, after getting home via Tesco's there was a heavy shower of hail (even as the sunshine picked out the falling ice!) and we were surprised there wasn't thunder and lightning given how dark grey the clouds were. Tales coming in of some less fortunate getting soaked in the Pentlands!

Monday, 25 September 2017

my newt

On the way to Gullane we were behind this classy vehicle.
I assume they are a fan of Teight That.

I whistled on these deer to get their heads out the grass,
 but the echo had them staring into the woods.

We were both a bit weary on Sunday after all the hills on Saturday. It was bound to be a day of recovery and mooching about taking photos. It took a while to get going, but I remembered it might just be our last ever visit to Falko's (they close forever on Sunday 1st Oct at 5pm!) so wrote out a card for them saying thanks for the coffees and charming service. The woman who normally serves, was on holiday. 

I was fairly sure the butterflies would no longer be resident at the butterfly bush. I asked Mary how many she reckoned we would see on the run and she proposed 5. (Individuals not species.) I thought maybe one or 2 at best. But that we might get dragonflies in and around Marl Loch. Well, yes and no. We stood about admiring the long grassy reeds round the pond but there was a lack of much in the way of interactive wildlife. Although the air was full of insects and the spiders were out and about making friends with as many as possible. I tentatively edged around the watery perimeter and when I shook a Sea Buckthorn shrub, out flew a sizable dragonfly and a Red Admiral. Mary informed me 5 minutes later the dragonfly had still not landed and was most of the way to Fife. 

Now this is a strange thing. The butterfly bushes were fenced off, as was a large portion of the savannah, with no indication why. It was obviously humans that were being discouraged as none of the other locals read yellow signs. Fibbing yellow signs. I doubted that non-metal string could carry a current but wasn't keen to discover the reverse while stepping over it. Recently I had learned from Richard L that if you lay a grass stem on an electrified fence you can feel the pulses through the grass. There were a couple of (maybe) 8 year olds watching with interest, and being bolder than I, one of them touched the non electrified cord. There was no electricity. I knew that all along. His mum (too late) shouted to touch the cord with the back of his hand so that if he got a shock he wouldn't involuntarily grab onto the fence. (And anyway the non-existent electricity is usually pulsed so that doesn't happen.) What sort of concentration camp had she grown up in? Presumably one where there wasn't a restricted diet as she filled her cords with an ample arse. (Mary pointed that out to me later, so not my bad, ok?) (Now we're all in trouble!)

Anyway, the butterflies were the only creatures respecting the no fly zone as there were none inhabiting the usual bushes. After a quick scope I returned to the path, sneering at the yellow signs and their transparent lies and we ran to the shore. Just before, as you pass through a pleasant field, there are a couple of sheets of ply that have been there for years. When you lift them up there are always snails and those rock-hopping springy bastards you get on beaches when you lift a seaweedy rock looking for treasures, but it turns out more like lifting a tarpaulin off a corpse. Them, there's always plenty of them. But occasionally you do get a treasure: once it was 2 small mice and a toad playing Texas Hold'em. But today was extra special. Initially I thought it was a lizard, and recalled the only lizard EVER at the nature reserve was one found deceased in a pit trap to the chagrin of the trap setters. Yup, used to have lizards, but in discovering that we killed them all! Like that tree they chopped down only to find out it was the oldest in the world. D'oh! But no scales. So not a lizard...

So this little beauty - how handsome is that and check out the golden eyes! - is either a Smooth Newt or a Palmate Newt. The only difference is they both have an orange tummy. This one had a vibrant orange strip down it's tummy that was delightful but was reluctant to spend more than a nano second on his back so you'll have to take my word for it.  A Palmate Newt will eventually grow black, webbed back feet. A Smooth Newt may not, or maybe it does as well. Google it why doncha? Both types hibernate under (ply) logs come winter although this one may have just been on a shopping trip as they eat snails, bugs and springy rockhopper things. Palmates develop a ridge down their backs, Smooths develop a crest. Or vice versa. Only puzzle is where is the nearest fresh water. I think Palmates will travel further from water, but if you don't know the source...

Well I was absolutely charmed and delighted. In all the time we have run on the coast the only amphibians we have seen are toads and frogs, which are also very pleasing but not as rare. (Yes I know the other term for a Smooth Newt is Common Newt, but how many have you seen this week? Eh?) We did see these creatures in the Lake District, and also near Tayvallich, through in the west, so I admit they're not exactly tropical, but they are few on the ground round here.   

Knowing the potential for messing up I took 80 photos and a short bit of video. From the photos, I got 4 usable ones. Mainly I blame trying to hold something squirming and keen to be back eating flies in the dark, in one hand, while trying to take pics with a camera in the other. I took a number of more natural shots on grass and dirt but these are the best ones. It is VERY small and fairly rapid though not as quick as a warmed up lizard. Check out Mary's blog also for some more pics, including this one which is a good shot of my new camera, never mind Norrie the Newt.

photo Mary

still from soon-to-be-released movie

whew, after all that excitement you'll need a picture 
of some grassy heathery stuff to calm down

reflecting on a ladybird

Thinking that would be the big news of the day over we went out onto the beach. There were lots of these pink flowers between the dunes and the beach, and they were attracting quite a lot of insects. And a couple of Red Admirals! One flew right at Mary as she stood atop the dunes and parted her hair for her, as the swoosh of it's wings swept past her ears! Another flew out to sea. Now that can't be right? A third did some excellent work hopping round the flowers while ignoring me and my camera.

flowery margin next the the beach

contestant for blandest moth of the year

After a bit we remembered there was running to be done and so did some, sprinting down the beach. While mid sprint I recalled it was doing exactly this that set off the glute issue I have been carrying for a while now. It almost disappears entirely until I take long fast strides, then quickly returns at the far end of the beach/road/downhill.

Over in mushroom corner the mushroom season was well underway. The shots of Mary taking photos are better than the shots of the fungi which are a bit fly covered and grubby. Consider yourself spared.

Also a bit tatty was this Stonechat who might well have been moulting. He had more grey than I do and looked a bit peaky, but flew perfectly normally. I think he is considering the paradox of the Independence question and how if we had got independence it would have been a really tough year or 2, balancing the books in light of the disastrous oil slump. At least there are plenty of insects enjoying the rare lack of wind.

talking of insects here's a spider choc full of them

berries, a multitude of berries, all shades of brown, red, and purple
(I'm saving the rest up for later blogs once the butterflies have left.)

Haha, I watched this (most likely) Speckled Wood take off from a tree and fly South then when it turned around and came back overhead I thought I'd take it's picture even though it was never going to be a close up. I watched it fly strongly off in search of another tree to call home, thinking all the time it was far too smart to ever appear on my blog. Well sucks to your assmar piggy.

Turning the last corner off the shore road there is a well planted garden with this bush in it. My eye was caught by a Red Admiral coming in from the sea (can that be right?) and landing on it. Much in the same way as Tippi Hedren watches a crow fly in, to land on the climbing frame in the children's playground, which is now covered in crows. In a parallel but marginally less alarming way this bush (looking very similar in nature to those popular with RAs at the Botanics!) was just covered in late season feeding Red Admirals. There had to 20 or 30, I couldn't really see as they were all round the other side. I resisted the temptation to climb the wall or go in the gate. And I felt hurried as Mary had run on and might be concerned I hadn't followed (although strictly speaking not the first time this has happened.) I took a hurried few shots feeling I was covering ground already covered. Also, as the sun was away they were nearly all nectaring with folded wings. 

And that was about that, except for this very well maintained car, which had nice green seats and a door that wasn't absolutely required when the sun roof was down. It's a shame that these old cars are deeply inefficient death traps, as they have considerably more panache than those driven by Teight That fans.