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.

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