Sunday, 12 November 2017

tales of the riverbank

Since Mary was away at her origami and kickboxing workshop, I was left to my own devices. Having done a fair bit of East Lothian lately I caught a train to Dalmeny and ran back through the estate grounds.

yes I know there is a new crossing but it's not a patch on this

halo again

NB Law over the horizon and making like a mirage

Just near the big house the path drops down towards the beach. This pheasant was standing proudly surveying his kingdom from the wall. He was so distant I couldn't even see he was missing his tail feathers. As I cautiously approached he started edging away, eventually jumping down into the undergrowth. I retreated back to the path and took a shot or 2 of the mansion. By the time I continued onwards I noticed he had resumed his elevated vantage point.

This is a favourite spot where a small stream winds out over the beach and into the sea. Even when there are no Small Coppers to photograph it is still a lovely place, although I don't know if I'd read a book of poetry sitting on a damp rock. Under the still water there were dead leaves in muted colours and fermenting bubbles, on top, reflections of purple sky and pines, all of which promised better photos than I took. I enjoyed the being there though and had to remind myself I was also here to run, not just kick about through the leaves and jaggy grasses looking for non-existent butterflies.

Luck and no luck. A stoat or 'squirrel with bald tail' ran across the path right in front of me but having seen me before I saw it, disappeared into the undergrowth before my brain even registered bald tailed squirrel. Did it have something in it's mouth? Missed photo of the day. However there were a couple of real luckies. First was this wren (?) which appeared right below where I was lining up a shot of a teasel head. I moved the camera down and got 4 quick shots in about a second as it twitched about then shot off. Right place, right time is everything. 

The tide was very much out. Looking across to Cramond Island from Dalmeny Estate I thought it might be nice to run over for a look. A year or 2 since last there. (Just checked and it was 4 years past April: some of the photos of are the same windows and buildings and views of the bridges. Link HERE.) It seemed so close and the tide was far enough out to allow a dry-footed passage. However before I might get to the causeway I had about 3 miles to cover, reaching the mouth of the Almond then running a mile upstream to Cramond Brig, crossing and returning to the estuary another mile. Would the tide still be sufficiently out?

on the way along the Almond the obligatory heron

The Salvesen Steps have a semi-permanent temporary scaffolding stairway.

The trees along the raised walk between the steps were in great form: full of golden ochres, russets and yellows. I remembered fond canoodlings here with a girl back in my schooldays.

What happened next really surprised me. I saw an orange tarpaulin over the water at the weir. And blue netting over the crags behind like so much Christo and Jeanne-Claude sculpture. The reflections on the still water above the weir were rather effective although the JCB on the other side of the weir suggested engineering rather than art. As I was taking all this in, all of a sudden a bright turquoise and orange iridescence shot out from my side of the bank, flew across the width of the river and perched in the trees 60 yards away. I had the camera turned on and zoomed in as quickly as I could and shot off 3 photos before the kingfisher left it's perch and headed downstream. I watched for it landing, planning to follow it if humanly possible, but it flew out of sight about 300 or more yards with no signs of slowing or considering another perch. Weirdly I felt it might have come along to check out the orange and blue markings of the engineering works, feeling an instinctive rivalry or attraction to it's own trademark plummage, writ large. 

I was a bit shaken, having 2 rather unexpected events almost simultaneously. One, a small rare nearly tropical looking bird, the other a transformation of a familiar iconic weir, sometimes low, sometimes high but never half shut off with a JCB on a raised temporary road spanning the downstream and marching up to the salmon ladder like it doesn't give a fuck. And yet in 18 years of running up and down the Water of Leith and River Almond I'd never so much as seen a turquoise feather. I'd rather thought they might be a figment of the marketing departments. A kingfisher! Wow! I nervously checked to see if I'd caught the mucker on camera. Rubbish shots but enough to confirm it. Sigh of relief. Maybe the stoat wasn't the wildlife highlight of the day after all. Right place, right time! I was as surprised as if I'd seen a ghost. Very glad I got a photo.

And what about the weir? There weren't any signs I could see explaining the work but I'm guessing stone work is being replaced, and the dyked causeway maybe temporary. Are you surprised nobody has facebooked this? ME TOO. Must be too busy with other important stuff.

All this and I still had important treats awaiting! In the small pack on my back I wasn't carrying a waterproof - it wasn't going to rain (probably) - but a freezer bag with a couple of slices of finest homebaked bread for the gulls. The Black Headed Gulls are old friends and happy to oblige fly-bys for crumbs and an occasional pecked finger. The light wasn't great and it was too cold for a long stand so I dispersed the bread quickly, took some snaps, enjoyed the frottage of breast plummage lightly grazing fingers, then stowed my freezer bag and ran across the water to Rat Island!

at first I thought this is my one legged friend from last time

then I realised that losing legs is perhaps more common than you'd think

I checked the timetables for tide times at the Cramond end of the causeway. It said it was safe until 4.15pm and it was 3ish when I arrived. An hour is plenty. Let's do it!

I really like this image ^. The window frame is in focus telling you that is the subject. The landscape is out of focus suggesting it is merely background but you can still tell where it is and so grounds the subject. I felt it necessary to visit each of the small pill box type WW2 fortifications. There were more than I remembered, and new graffiti. I wondered were there graffiti conferences or 8hr festivals of tide obliged all nighters, party till you drop, I love the smell of aerosol in the morning, and all that. Or did spotty youths with bags of spray cans sneak over singly in the dark and tag in the dawn light? Most of the people I heard speak, did so in Polish and foreign tongues. More sense to visit this fab local amenity (and FREE!) than the lazy locals, painters aside, whose idea of strenuous activity might be to attend the game, not realising they aren't actually involved in a sport, other than drinking. I wondered who would be last off this afternoon, before the 4.15 seawater slaps the concrete. No sing song closing time called and bells rung as in the botanics at sundown. Who is spending the night on a dark mountain?

the sea looking east was reflecting the colours of the sky

these small birds raced from one tree top to the next in skittish flight
couldn't get close enough for identification

After all those excitements the run home along the front was a blur of boredom and fading light. A brief stop for a shot of Granton riviera looking cut-and-pasted onto the 2 shades blue sea- and sky-scape. The street lights were on to light the cyclepath from Granton to MacDonald Road and I made a careful watch of the distance; ticking off the miles up to 16, just yards before Iona Street. Almost accidentally I had run 83.8 (call it 84!) in the previous 7 days and felt 16 would make a nice round total for 8 days activity. Excluding a mile or 2 round the Botanics on Thursday. I'd like to be able to claim this as a return of the mojo, back in the fight, getting strong for the coming season. But it was actually more about taking a few days off work while the sun was shining. Soon as the rain starts I'm back indoors. But it was good while it lasted!


16 miles and a kingfisher!

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