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

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