Friday, 29 June 2018

the wolf of butterdean wood

Weekend of 9th and 10th June
A good weekend following the now regular format of the usual East lothian run on Saturday and a medium distance cycle on Sunday. The weather was pretty good on Saturday and I hoped the coastal savannah would be hoaching with butterflies. We decided  to head East from Gullane and maybe aim for 10 miles, for a change. 

Common Blue, Enallagma cyathigerum

There are 52 types of Odonata recorded in the UK, (38 breeders). I have a laminate with 1:1 scale illustrations and they mostly look fairly identical apart from tiny inscrutable differences. Easier to tell the larger dragonflies although the Hawkers are partially problematic, not least because they don't stand still and give you a proper look-see, and also seem to have different appearances depending on age. Which is why I usually shy away from definitive naming. That one above is most likely a Common Blue. However there are also the Southern, the Northern, the Azure, the Irish and a Variable that are also blue and black. The place to note differences is the 2nd abdominal segment (counting down from the thorax.) Don't say you weren't warned. Of course this attracts nerdy wildlife geeks, and the facebook group for UK Dragonflies and Damselflies is admin-ed with a fist of iron; if you don't post the mandatory when-and-where alongside your pic you are threatened with waterboarding and a sound thrashing. God forbid you say, "I saw it at the pond down the road last Thursday." You can hear the firing squad loading up.

the five-fingered Azure, talcy latexio

Fidra shimmering in the heat haze

a half-hearted dandelion

Coked up on caffeine I often play a guessing game of what-will-we-see-today with a reluctant Mary. Today I guessed Cinnabar Moth (the clues were liberal postings on the facebook Just Butterflies, moths and their caterpillars page.) Given how little we actually saw in the way of lepidoptera this was a pretty good guess.

The Cinnabar Moth is a beautiful scarlet and black job that tries to keep itself hidden in the long grasses. As soon as it flies, its dramatic colours become apparent and give it away. Because they flutter back into the depths of the grass it is easier sometimes to give them a hand and they will happily settle for an elevated view for a moment while I take photos before returning them unharmed to the grass.

Mary likened them to dracula in a cape. They are pretty elegant.

Great to see the specklies in the same place as they were last year, just the other side (Gullane side) of the woods. They seem to have a good nature: they will sit and perch in same spot and this makes taking pics of them a pleasure. Then they will fly in circles around your head. Last year one of the best photos I took of them got lost in a computer malfunction. It was of one just over Mary's head. We hung around here enjoying the dappled sunlight (Specklies' fave conditions) for long enough to nearly reproduce that pic. Tried to capture them in flight but not really possible in these conditions.

an old campaigner, still a strong flier

3 all chasing each other

proof of fairies

one at Mary's elbow another just above her pack logo

On the drive home we were held up quite a bit near the Sir Harry Lauder Road. Some complete fucktard had managed to turn their car upside down - no mean feat - turning left. Difficult to see how they might have managed such an imbicilic act; presumably a combination of a couple of generations of bad parenting, video games installing the idea of no consequence, and youthful high spirits / no grasp of action and outcome. May their recuperation involve some reflection.

So the Sunday cycle. First stop was about halfway, the Lanterne Rouge Cafe at Gifford. Not sure where Mary had heard this was a good place esp for cyclists, but she had. So we went there. Last time we did the walk-in-the-woods first and the cafe was closed. No risks taken this time.

Every time we ride past this big sign I belatedly think I must take a photo of this. It's not the best ever sign painting but it is confident, and pretty evenly done, and I like the background colour. (No idea what a Dolphin G-Stone is; perhaps something to do with Kruder and Dorfmeister (stoner ambient/chill dj sounds) I got the camera out the pack in time to catch it. I keep the camera on a front facing pocket of the arm loop. It is tricky to get it out, take a photo, then zip it back in. However, easier than carrying it in one hand while cycling.

how have I missed this till now?

A surprise meeting with Robin McB for coffee and cake and lots of chat. Various other near misses as I saw Bruce M and the fat bike crew visited later. Or earlier. Nice selection of cakes and temptations and we were encouraged to get filter coffee over fresh as it was less work for the lady at the counter and you got unlimited refills. Mary watched in horror as I had a second cup, anticipating the double talk for the rest of the afternoon. She wasn't wrong. Oops.

saddest picture of the day and a hellish downer
too sad even for emojis

about here we realised we were on the Haddington Half course

what is the purpose of that wooden up-and-over?
Mary realised with great perception it was a winners podium

So today's venue was Butterdean Wood. I had run through it last blog and thought it might be worth a closer scrutiny. Even though it didn't seem to have a pond or any water to encourage D&Dflies. Mary was surprisingly up for this. I think she had enjoyed Saltoun Woods. This is similar but smaller and less diverse. And flatter. It has its moments but they are gentler. And probably don't benefit from a hopped-up tour guide giving a stream of consciousness constant flow of gibberish. Sorry Mary!

the Butterdean wolf.
Luckily it is unable to cross water and so after a frantic chase we outran it to the stream

some foolishness in the RayMearsland zone

So just how do you find your way round mostly unmarked trails and paths without wandering lost for hours? The area is divided with a main path down the centre and about 6 paths leading off it to perimeter trails. It is like a puzzle trying to choose a route through the woods passing most of the paths but without repeating yourself. I did this on the Movescount website then uploaded it to my Suunto which we followed in sat-nav mode. Occasionally I would ask Mary to guess the direction at the next junction which would make us realise just how un-instinctive it can be walking blindly through the woods. I also had printed out a hand held copy so we could see an overview of where we were and what to expect. It was mostly fairly similar although an occasional bench or plaque or unexpected giant metal woodlouse climbing a tree would make for a point of interest. Lots of good birdsong and chatter.

choose a route that goes past as much as possible 
without covering any path twice and returning to the start

This was about the most alarming thing we saw. In the futuristic zone this tree and the top half of a neighbouring and larger bush were covered in what looked like really tough spider web. It had bent the growth of the tree into sculptural shapes which were filled with caterpillar eggs or larvae and I'm not sure the tree was benefiting from it. A quick google suggests Ermine Moths or Small Eggar Moths although they are rarer and usually more contained in smaller webs. This was quite comprehensive and looked like it might spread until the whole world was one big doomsday movie.

this chap had a LOT to say

And that's the last of the photos. Mainly because after we got back on the bikes my saddle broke off. Or rather the bolt, holding my saddle on, sheared. Luckily I was not going fast. But it meant I had to cycle 12miles home standing on the pedals. So no more pics. It was hard enough doing hand-signals. I had, earlier in the day, been thinking we had done several cycles without a mechanical. May well have jinxed it, but it could have been much worse. Still able to cycle, just. 

(As a point of interest this was the second time this had happened lately, and when I went to get another bolt for the seat pin, the guy behind the counter at Law Cycles (I was working in NB that week) quickly realised I needed a new seat post. The reason it happened was the interconnecting serrations on seat post cup and bracket had worn too smooth and any torque was loaded onto the bolt which would continue to shear, and the lot needed replacing. I went to Evans and they didn't have a seatpost the right (most common) size so I dashed to EBCoop and they had one for cheaper. At 1 min to closing. So far so good!)

44 miles cycled, about 3 walked

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

June TB

Friday 8th June: excellent forecast so I thought I would revisit Saltoun Big Wood and check out the dragonpies. I was thinking I should probably be knocking out a Tynecastle Bronze rather than cycling there and then I realised I could do both by catching a train (without bike) to Drem (using my weekly ticket bought to work in NB for the week) and running 30miles from there incorporating Saltoun ponds and also Marl Loch at Aberlady since I was nearby, and see what odonata were on the wing.

the Drem begins here

The Suunto Movescount website is very good for planning runs. The nature of the monthly TB run means going to new places and finding 30 miles of fun and how can you do that without some knowledge of the countryside nearby? The Movescount website lets you plot routes on a better-than-google-maps map that shows all manner of small trails and off road avenues. So most of the 30 miles I planned to run, I had never run before. Sometimes this threw up delightful trails across fields and through woods, other times I found myself clambering into hip-deep nettles and having to climb fences and cross unsafe bridges. Also it is no respecter of property and would have had me taking a line up to the front door of a mansion, down the hall and out the back door. Which isn't always the best way to make new friends.

The good weather was later in the day and I hoped to hit the first watery bit about 1pm and the second about 3pm. I hadn't really worked out the distances and times but had it in my head I would almost certainly be following the trails from Drem to Aberlady that Toby had talked about. He said you didn't have to run on the unpavemented roads, but could follow trails from Drem easily. It started off fine - I was following the route on my Suunto in sat-nav mode and at first the trails were lovely and slowly taking me to the coast. However after a cut-across a field and another field perimeter that wasn't really marked or much short of trespassing, there followed a path choc-full of nettles and I just went alongside in the actual field. There was more of this before the trail reappeared and went down the side of a cauliflower field where loads of whites (large and others) were bobbing about. Also the most tattered small tort I've ever seen. It was flying strongly on wings almost entirely shredded.

Bad trail - the bit full of nettles set aside for walkers! Hey thanks!

shredded small tortoiseshell

I had noticed the above pond on the map and wondered if it held any delights. A quick scan and no sign of dragonflies etc. so I was about to move on when I thought I saw something in the corner...

keeping still and (nearly) out of sight

There were some nice woods and decent trails after that and loads of hoverflies hovering in patches of light between the trees that the camera couldn't focus on. And a big fat wasp or maybe a hornet - it was pretty huge - but it didn't hang about for a decent photo.

When I got to Marl Loch there were dozens of damselflies. And a few four-spotted chasers too but not as many as the other week, when I realised I wasn't going to get a decent photo unless I got into the water with them. So I sploshed into the shallows camera in hand, hoping I didn't step into a deep hole or trip over on tangles of swamp grass. Here are the shots I got then; you can judge whether they were worth it or not. (I thought so.)

I resisted the urge to get in the water again - I wanted to keep feet dry for the next 25 miles. And I hoped there would be better photos at Saltoun.

These 2 got themselves caught in a spider's web so I fetched them out.

everybody was at it

except maybe this lacewing

After a quick check to see if there were any common blues near the remains of the butterfly bush (there weren't) I resumed the unknown trails to Saltoun Wood. It took me nearly out the West side of Aberlady then inland on these pleasant paths through woods and along the sides of fields. I could tell from the sat-nav I was to cut right at the corner of the field below and was concerned I couldn't see a path through the undergrowth. Until I got into the bushes and there was a small (ill-advised) bridge. Ignoring the sign saying Bridge Unsafe Do Not Use I tiptoed over. After another couple of fields I crossed the road we drive down most weekends to Gullane and over the railway bridge and up a couple of miles of tarmac.

across the A1

I had opted for another couple of miles of tarmac so that I could go through Butterdean Wood. Another place I was unfamiliar with and so wanted to check out. It was pleasant enough, possibly worth a return, but lacking any ponds or streams.

Running down the hill I saw this scene (above) and wished I was going that way. It turned out I was, as the road finished up 100 yards round the corner in a farm courtyard and I was carrying on using the trails on the right side of the river for a mile or 2. I was very pleased with the route I had mapped out the night before thinking well that looks like it might be nice, but not realising just how picturesque it was going to be.

I went under the bridge then understood from the sat-nav I should be on top of the bridge and following the road. Which turned into the grounds of Saltoun Hall. Several signs said it was private and that oiks were not welcome. I began to feel uncomfortable. The gps said go right up to the front door. I declined. I slunk into the trees and saw a gardener or butler sitting at a table outside next to some bits and pieces mending something. I cleared my throat and told him I had come the wrong way and asked how to get to Saltoun Big Wood. He had never heard of it (about a mile away) but pointed me in roughly the right direction and told me to climb the fence and keep going but in a very friendly way. I met back up with my gps route but still had a few nettly fields to skirt through before I got back onto welcome tarmac and the last half mile to the dragonfly pond.

And not before time. It was after 4pm when I got there and I was concerned the insects would all be finished flying for the day. However the hot sunshine kept them buzzing around the pond and there was a great number of damselflies and 4-spotted chasers. I stayed there taking photos for an hour, eventually putting the camera down for 5 mins to eat a sandwich, then reluctantly resuming the run, doing a quick circuit of the woods before leaving over the west side, heading towards Pencaitland.

The only other person I met was at the pond, another photographer (with dslr and long lens) struggling to take in-flight photos of the chasers.

The creatures were all very obliging, enjoying the shallows and reeds right at the side of the pond making getting in close with the camera fairly easy. So much so I was not only getting loads of pics (I think about 7~800 over the whole day, most taken at the pond) but I was moving the camera round to get the most attractive background while keeping the subjects centred in the frame. 

this newt had a tadpole/frog in it's mouth

tiny froglet

I tried to get some chasers in flight but they weren't much good

newt and boatman

It was after 5pm when I left, and although the forecast was great for a few hours yet I was keen to push on. I was a bit light headed from the strong sun all day and feeling thirsty. I had filled my reservoir with water the night before then left it in the freezer, so it stayed cool for a long time, but it was getting towards empty and I wasn't sure if there would be any shops en route. 

Jennifer, bone expert, what animal was this?
I reckon maybe deer - it was just larger than fist sized.

When my sat-nav took me close to this stream I popped down for a drink. I was so thirsty I got out my filter soft flask and filled it twice (0.6lt x 2) then filled it a third time and carried it with me. I began to feel much better almost instantly. Nice flavourless water. A quite cold. After a bit I came to the far end of the Pencaitland Railway cyclepath.

My original plan had been to follow it all the way to Musselburgh. However that was going to be 34/36 miles and I am not a huge fan of the last 3 or 4 as I have done them too many times at the end of a long harsh run, so had changed plans to go round the Winton Trails then head through Tranent and down to Longniddry Station. Which would get the mileage up to about 29 plus I'd have the 2, up and down the road to/from the station. 

Silver-ground Carpet Moth?

Again the gps had no respect for Winton House and took me right under it's front windows before going on some dubious trails round the grounds before crossing the road and going round the Winton Trails as featured in the Pentcaitland (now Winton) Trail 10k. They used to be among my favourite trails and though they were fine enough, I didn't recognise much, nor did they seem particularly spellbinding. Maybe I was just a bit tired and with the sun going down, they seemed a bit gloomy.

up the road to New Winton

war memorial at Tranent

The last couple of miles passed quite quickly and this was helped by again choosing a pretty good line from Tranent down to the A1 on choice trails ducking through supermarket car parks and round by Meadowmill Track. Then along the railway until the station came into view. To top off a perfect day the train was due in 4 mins after I arrived at the platform. Couldn't have timed it better if I'd planned it.

30 secs after I took this photo there was an announcement about standing back 
from the rails as high speed trains blah blah blah.

6hrs running 7hrs total, 29.8miles
plus 1 to Waverley, plus 1 from Waverley