The weather last Saturday was ideal for the Scottish Wildlife Trust visit to Dunglass Dean and the shore near Cockburnspath.
As soon as we stepped out of the cars we found a Large Skipper butterfly sunning itself on the grass next to the road. This is an orange brown butterfly which can fly quite fast and when at rest on the grass it looks more like a moth. It has recently spread across eastern Berwickshire and this one in East Lothian may be the second record for that county.
Ringlet, Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood butterflies were also in evidence flitting around amongst the grass at the edge of the wooded dean.
Before descending into the dean we explored some woodland where there is an extensive colony of the strange, rather than beautiful Twayblade Orchid. This orchid gets its common name Twayblade as it only ever has two blades of leaves. The flower spike can reach 45cm and consists of a great many small green flowers which can be easily overlooked as they merge nicely into the surrounding vegetation, once we got our ‘eyes in’ we saw hundreds of spikes of flowers. We then crossed the old disused road bridge back into Berwickshire.
On the bridge we found the Common Centaury, a relative of the gentians, this plant has short upright stems and attractive, open bright pink flowers. Although its name indicates it is common it is quite a scarce plant along the coast of Berwickshire. Growing beside it is another rare plant in Berwickshire with common in its name, the Common Cudweed.
This one is not so showy with upright stems to 15cm tall, the leaves are covered with white woolly hairs and the tiny flowers are yellowish, it must have poor, dry soil such as found on the old road bridge as it cannot stand the competition from other plants in rich, moist soil.
We then explored a small field where the soil is the waste material left over when the A1 was reconstructed a few years ago. The soil is poor and the site exposed but it has been colonised by hundreds of Northern Marsh Orchids, a species which is often found in disturbed sites such as along recently rebuilt roadsides. The flower spikes are a rich and vibrant deep purple and were much admired.
Growing alongside were more Twayblade orchids, but here in the open they are small and stunted when compared to the ones in moist shade a few hundred yards away. More Large Skippers, Ringlets and Speckled Wood butterflies were on the wing and a showy Burnet moth was obliging and sat to have its photo taken. Lots of Shield Bugs were on the surrounding Oak and Ash trees and Skylarks were singing overhead.
We then proceeded into the Dunglass Dean itself, following the John Muir Way. There are four road bridges and the railway bridge crossing the deep dean and we descended and walked under three of them.
To be continued.