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A picture free post today as our kindly weak ridge of high pressure has floated away and been replaced by our more customary deep low, bringing strong winds and persistent rain with it.

It was grey and windy when we woke up but it stayed dry for a while in the morning.  I was too busy eating treacle scones, courtesy of Dropscone, to go for a walk and the birds were not interested in visiting the feeder in the garden at all so there were no photo opportunities.

By the time that I might have been able to get outside, the rain was sweeping across the town in sheets and the light was appalling so I settled for useful tasks at the computer instead.

The result was a day with nothing to report, apart from a visit in the afternoon by Mike Tinker bearing a very tasty packet of ginger biscuits.  The biscuits were a present in lieu of the usual presence of his wife Alison to play music on a Friday evening.  Sadly she is a bit poorly and still not fit for human company.   The biscuits were very good but no real substitute for a sonata so I hope that she is fully recovered by next week.

The foul weather is due to continue for another day or two..or three..or four so there may be more chance of pictures of drowning birds than flying ones.  If there is any chance of a walk,  I will take it.

 

 

Today’s guest picture shows one of Tony’s dogs making sure that no-one forgets her hat when it is time for her walk.

Tara and hat

Those hoping for birds or countryside views will be disappointed today.  It was a day when I had the opportunity to go for a bike ride in the morning, to go for a walk in the afternoon and to  go to the opera in the evening but as it happened, I had better things to do.  Or rather, a better thing to do.

I had a moment to check the birds after breakfast.

blackbird on feeder

The unusual sight of a blackbird on our feeder

blackbird and goldfinch

…making quite a contrast with a goldfinch.

And then it was time to drive the 40 miles north to catch a train from Tweedbank to Edinburgh.  We would normally have driven 18  miles west and caught a train from Lockerbie but the recent storms have damaged a viaduct on the main line from Carlisle to Glasgow and Edinburgh and there are no trains running on it at present.  We are lucky that the new Borders Railway is there as an alternative.

What with bad weather, damaged railway lines and occasional coughs and colds, we haven’t been to Edinburgh to see our family there since Christmas so it was good to get a calm and dry day for the trip today.

When we arrived, we were kindly picked up by our older son Tony, who had organised a convenient gap in his busy work routine to meet us.  He treated us to a cup of coffee and then gave us a lift down to visit our grandchild Matilda and her mother Clare.

Matilda was pleased to see us though when it came to having her picture taken with her mother, you might not have guessed it.

Clare and Matilda

She takes her modelling very seriously

She was more relaxed when showing off her socks to Granny.

Matilda

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I took Matilda off for a walk and gave Clare a moment of peace and quiet.

Matilda passing the park

Matilda is a great walker and on this occasion she was more than happy to take us straight past the play park (which you can see on the right of the picture) to visit a much more interesting spot.

Matilda and Mrs Tootlepedal

What could be more fun than watching diggers and dumpers at work on a busy building site?

We stayed there for some time and only then did we visit the play park.  There were slides to be slid down….

Matilda in the park

…and swings to be swung on.

Matilda in the park

Matilda trying to see where Grandpa was at the same time as swinging gave Granny a nervous moment.

We were careful not to get carried away by over rumbustious swinging.

Matilda in the park

Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda calmed down with a short run across the grass….

Matilda in the park

…and then we walked home.

Three things caught my eye during our walk.

A sign of the times

A sign of the times

fuschia

A sign of the very warm winter

Old church

A curious topping on an old church.  Is it a dovecot or a look out?

Clare had improved the shining hour while we were out by cooking some brownies and we had these with a cup of tea to help us recover from the excitement of the walk.

We stayed to have a meal with Al, our younger son, when he got home from work and I took a moment to take a shot of the ladies of the house relaxing while Al did the cooking.

Clare, Ally and Matilda

Though it must be said that Matilda enjoyed bumping down the stairs on her bottom more than formal posing.

Matilda

After a tasty meal, we left to catch the train back to Tweedbank.  It was on time and the drive south was uneventful so that rounded off a very satisfactory day.

The light hadn’t been very good before we left so a rather fuzzy goldfinch will have to do as FBotD.

goldfinch

An almost perfect day

Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s Bristol trip and shows the cathedral there.  Two of his sisters sneaked into the shot.

Bristol Cathedral

In a recent post, I asked for a small ridge of high pressure to give us a break from the rain and today my request was granted.  We woke to blue skies and they continued for almost all of the day.

I might have thought of cycling after breakfast but two things intervened.  The first was an outside thermometer  showing a temperature of 1°C, which is too cold for me to cycle. I, along with the other patients at the time, got such a fierce warning about not falling off our bikes and ruining our freshly installed new knees that any hint of icy conditions is enough to keep me off the bike.

The second factor was the wish of Mrs Tootlepedal on such a promising day to get in the car and go somewhere for a walk, preferably somewhere new.

I was happy to go walking but as I also wanted to go cycling, we didn’t drive far, merely to the top of Callister but we did attempt a new route.  I had recently walked along the forest track there with Sandy and then back again the same way.  We had wondered whether there was a circular route.  Today Mrs Tootlepedal and I went to see if we could find one.

The map told us that we might find a helpful forest ride which would take us to the far end of the track.  We found the ride….

Kirtleton Forest ride

…and set out to see if it was walkable.

Kirtleton Forest ride

It was but it was mighty hard work.  There was no path along it and the mossy tussocks were substantial.

Mossy tussock Kirtleton Forest ride

You can see that there were still a few scraps of snow left about and the cold weather made the going a little less boggy than it might have been but it was still tough going.

Luckily, we only had to plough on through the rough stuff for about half mile until we met the forest track and after that, all was plain sailing.

The forest, which is a commercial plantation, has been partly felled and partly replanted and this gives a short walk some good variety.

You can see all three stages in the next picture, clear felled at the front, newly planted trees in the middle and a mature plantation at the back.

Kirtleton Forest

It isn’t all as neat as that though because where the trees have been felled, the exposed plantations are very liable to wind blow…

 Kirtleton Forest wind blow

…which  is a nightmare if your route takes you through it.

Luckily ours stuck to the forest track and our way was clear.  The felling has opened some extensive views over the Kirtle Water valley.

Kirtleton Forest

We soon reached the top of the track….

Kirtleton Forest

…and returned to the car feeling that we had had a good adventure and very ready for a cup of coffee when we got home.

It was quite  warm enough to cycle (4.5°C) by the time that I had had my coffee but the tramp along the tussocky ride had taken a bit of the oomph out of my legs so I sat and did a crossword and had some baked beans on toast for motive power before setting off on the fairly speedy bike.

I took a moment to stare out of the window before I started pedalling.

redpoll

A redpoll had bitten off more than it could chew..

redpoll

..and had to let a seed drop before turning back for seconds.

redpoll and chaffinch

It soon found itself in company with the chaffinches.

I was cycling into a noticeable west wind when I set out and normally that would mean a warm breeze but the weather in general is coming down from the north and the wind was far from kindly.  My back hurt and I had a slight headache as I battled up the hill to where we had started our walk earlier in the day but once again good old Dr Velo worked his miracle cure as time went on (aided by a downhill section of road) and I was soon pedalling along without a care.

Although it was still a very sunny day and the gorse was in bloom…

gorse

…there were now a few clouds to my left….

View from Gair

…and some slightly more menacing ones behind me as I climbed up to Gair.

View from Gair

Luckily the windmills showed that the wind was now behind me.

I am not at all fit at the moment for so I settled for a 32 mile circular route down to Kirkpatrick Fleming and back by Canonbie and hoped to beat the oncoming clouds.

I nearly managed it but was overtaken by a light shower when I was four miles from home.  It didn’t last long but I was feeling quite chilly without the sun shining and was glad to get in for a cup of tea and a slice of toast to warm me up.

I made a dish of baked eggs and spinach smothered in a cheese sauce for tea and it was good enough for Mrs Tootlepedal to have a helping (and to be seen scraping the bowl afterwards).

After tea, I went up to the Archive Centre by myself as Sandy was having a day out  in Edinburgh.  I had hoped to get a little work done but the internet connection was not working so I came home again.  (I should have done the work when I got home but the combination of the morning walk and the afternoon pedal made me feel that a little rest might be quite attractive so I have left it for another day.)

Once again the better weather gave me several flying bird opportunities.  There were wings closed….

flying chaffinch

…and wings down….

flying chaffinch

….but I ignored them and went for wings up.

flying chaffinch

Some of you may be wondering why I have hardly mentioned that it was sunny today.  The fact is that we are so used to sunshine now that it hardly seems worth a mention.

Today’s guest picture shows the Clifton Observatory, which my brother observed while on his visit to the Clifton Suspension Bridge during his recent trip to Bristol.

Clifton Observatory

The weather forecasters had promised sunshine by half past ten this morning and when we woke up to rain and strong winds, we held our breath (metaphorically) until the appointed time.  Then, lo and behold, the weather gods relented and the sun did come out.  Unfortunately, they omitted to turn off the wind at the same time so that a cycle ride didn’t seem like a good idea.

The sun brought out some birds and then almost immediately something frightened them away again.

It was a sparrowhawk.

sparrowhawk

At least it had the decency to stop for a picture after frightening all my other subjects away

I didn’t cycle but I did go for a morning walk.  I had to wrap myself up becuase the wind was one of those which finds every crack in your armoury and it was decidedly chilly….but it was sunny.

snowdrops

The snow drops behind the house were glowing.

I had an appointment with the doctor before lunch and I had to keep my walk short so I started with a visit to the ducks at the Kilngreen.  They posed for a group shot….

kilngreen ducks

…and then flew off individually.

flying duck

I saw a rook too.

Kilngreen rook

Did I mention that it was sunny?

castleholm

The view of the Castleholm across the Ewes Water from the Kilngreen

My walk took me across the Sawmill Brig and then onto the path which runs behind the trees that you can see in the picture above.

It was still sunny.

Langholm Castle

Langholm Castle (in the sun)

I crossed the Jubilee Bridge, stopping to admire some glowing moss growing on a tree branch high above the river…

moss

…and called in at Mike Tinker’s to enquire about his health on my way home.  He was better but his wife, Alison, my regular Friday evening accompanist was still poorly.  He gave me a cup of coffee and a delicious ginger biscuit and on my way out, we stopped to look at a Pyracantha  by his back door.

pyracantha

The RSPB website says: Birds seem to prefer the red berries, and are likely to have stripped plants by Christmas.

I can only image that the large selection of seeds and other treats which Alison puts out in her garden are more to the local birds’ taste.

The visit to the doctor was very successful in that she has allowed me to give up statins for a while to see if my many minor aches and pains go away.  If they don’t disappear, I will go back on my present low dose which is working well and put the aches down to old age.  If they do disappear, I will have a choice to make.  We will see.

After lunch, I had a moment to look out of the window…

redpoll

A redpoll popped in again now that the garden bird count is over

…and then Sandy came down and we went off for a walk.  The wind was still fierce and biting so we chose a well sheltered walk but were still able to enjoy the sunshine.  Did I mention that it was a sunny day?

Pathhead

I can’t remember if I told you that the sun was out.

Whita in February

Sandy didn’t have his camera with him and the keen wind didn’t encourage hanging about so I didn’t take many pictures…

Lodge walks

…even though it was quite sunny.

There was still enough light to watch the birds when I got home and there were plenty of birds to watch.

collared dove

A collared dove, another one of our regular bird visitors that failed to turn up for the garden bird count

starlings

And starlings, yet another set of bird count dodgers.

The sunlight picked out a robin in the plum tree.

robin in plum tree

We are promised another sunny day tomorrow and the wind is supposed to drop a little too so I am hoping to get out on my bike.  I was speaking to a hardy neighbour who went out on his bike in the strong winds this afternoon.  He had found that three miles into the wind was quite enough for him.  He had enjoyed the three miles back though.

I was rather spoiled for choice when it came to flying birds today.  I might have chosen the sparrowhawk as it flew off to look for prey elsewhere….

flying sparrowhawk

…or perhaps one of the ducks after the photoshoot….

flying duck

…but in the end, I ignored them and plumped for a dramatic jackdaw, caught in the late afternoon sunshine.

flying jackdaw

Did I mention that it was sunny?

 

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother’s recent birthday trip to Bristol.  He took this interesting picture of the famous Clifton Bridge in unhelpful lighting conditions.  He remarks that the bridge is quite breathtaking.  I agree.

Clifton Bridge

There was no discernible difference between the end of January and the beginning of February other than that the slightly longer day gives us more time to watch the rain and listen to the wind.

The whole town is thoroughly sick of the endless bad weather and it is fast becoming the only thing that people talk about when they meet.  The Met Office have issued bad weather warnings for three of the next four days so as far as we can see, there is no light at the end of the tunnel yet.

The combination of warmer temperatures and  very strong winds this morning meant that there were few birds to take my mind off the weather.  The sun did peep out from time to time but it was almost immediately followed by more rain so the thought of cycling or walking was not at the front of my mind.

Luckily Sandy came round for coffee in the morning and Dropscone dropped in for a cup of tea in the afternoon so I had some diversion.

In between times, a very occasional bird put in an appearance.

chaffinch

A lone chaffinch in the plum tree

robin

A robin lurking in a bush

robin

It gave me a profile view later on.

The very sporadic appearances of the birds meant that I was hardly ever in the right place at the right time to catch a flying bird…

chaffinch

…and the windy weather meant that they sneaked up from behind the feeder when they did arrive.

After lunch, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel and we had a very enjoyable hour and a half of music making during which we never gave the weather a moment’s thought.

Mrs Tootlepedal had given me lift up on my way there as she was going to get her spectacles repaired and by good fortune, it was dry enough for me to walk home after playing.

My flute pupil Luke came in the evening and we started a new piece.  This is always exciting.

After tea, I went off to the monthly meeting of our camera club.  We had a small but select group of enthusiasts.  The members showed off some excellent sets of winter pictures, taken in adverse conditions and then we shared photo editing tips and experiences.  This made for a very satisfactory evening.

Needless to say, the prolonged grey weather is beginning  to weigh quite heavily on the spirits of the photographers and we are hoping for a few days of decent light before our next gathering.

Another chaffinch sneaking round the back was my best effort at catching a flying bird of the day.

chaffinch

 

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my sister Mary.  She has been spending a day or two in Bristol with my brother for his birthday celebration.  They viewed the Avon Gorge from the Clifton Bridge yesterday.

Avon Gorge

Following my own advice on being prepared to cycle whenever the opportunity arises, I ignored a light drizzle and a chilly 4°C and went out on the fairly speedy bike after breakfast rather than stare at the garage wall indoors.

The clouds were wholeheartedly embracing our hills so there were no views to be had or photo opportunities to be taken but, on the plus side, there was very little wind either.  This made the drizzle very bearable and I scooted up and down the road to Wauchope Schoolhouse until I had clocked up twenty miles and then I stopped.

Fortunately 20 miles leaves me exactly outside our garden gate.

While I was pedalling, Mrs Tootlepedal had been singing in the church choir and she just got home before me.  As a result, she had started on making the beef stew for the slow cooker which I had intended to do.  This was a good thing, as the stew tasted absolutely delicious when tea time came.

As I had time on my hands, I spent it looking out of the window.  The bird action started slowly with a casual chaffinch….

chaffinch approaching feeder

…followed by an even more casual goldfinch.

goldfinches

As the feeder got busier what started as polite enquiries….

chaffinch and goldfinch talking

Is this perch free?

…turned into heated discussions.

chaffinch and goldfinch talking

Can’t you see its busy, you nitwit!

The rain came and went and at times it was very gloomy….

goldfinch

…but the birds kept on coming…

goldfinches

We had more goldfinches today than usual

…and coming.

busy feeder goldfinches and chaffinches

Of course now than the garden bird count was over, I saw a redpoll (before I had the camera out) and a brambling.

brambling

The brambling obligingly flew down and stood beside a male chaffinch so that those interested in these things can clearly see the difference between them.

brambling and chaffinch

They are very similar in size and not too different in colour when seen from a distance so you might have to look twice to tell the difference if they are up in  a tree together.

After lunch there was time for a moment’s silence as we mourned Andy Murray’s inability to put one over the unstoppable Djocko in Australia but we cheered ourselves up with a bit of ukulele practice.  We are trying to master O Sole Mio with Mrs Tootlepedal picking out the melody while I strum the chords.

It was soon time to lay the instruments aside and go to Carlisle for our choir practice.  The choir seems to get bigger all the time, and today almost all the pews in the church were full of singers.  We make a rich sound when we are on song.

Once again our conductor was looking for as near perfection as we can manage so we spent two very hard working sessions going into a lot of the fine detail for two of our competition pieces.  The cup of coffee and choccy biscuit in the middle were never more welcome.

The wind was still calm as we left for home but it was raining heavily.  We are promised a rising wind over the next two days, reaching up to 60mph at times but once again, it should be worse to our north so we are keeping our fingers crossed (and everything nailed down).

Among the birds and the drizzle, the splashes of colour in the garden keep reminding us of spring.

Daffodils

These are the aptly named Rijnveld’s Early Sensation

primula

An optimistic primula

Even if the weather is terrible, the days are getting noticeably longer which is as good as a vitamin D tablet.

I had many choices of flying bird to day so I have chosen two, one horizontal….

flying chaffinch

…and one vertical (and vocal).

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

Bits and pieces

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Venetia during the cold snap a week ago and shows her cat testing the ice on her pond.  It held up.

Venetia's cat

There was no ice here this morning although the temperature was only just above freezing and in spite of a very gloomy forecast, there was no snow either.  Looking at the weather maps there was snow on all sides of us but once again, we had escaped the worst.

I put out some food for the jackdaws.  It attracted their attention…

jackdaw

…and that of a rook too.

rook

In fact it was quite a pleasant morning if you were able to disregard the piercing wind.  Mrs Tootlepedal found a sheltered spot round the back of the house to do some gardening and I wrapped up well and went for a short walk.

I took a picture or two in the garden before I left as there definite signs of things to come to be seen.

crocus and magnolia bud

I was hoping to see some suitable gulls for the flying bird of the day on my walk but there were no gulls to be seen, just some ducks lurking in a corner out of the wind.

mallards

It wasn’t a day for taking your hands out of your pockets more than necessary and as I was walking a well trodden route and there was nothing new to see, I only took the occasional picture.

contrasting tree trunks

When I got home, I noticed that the rhubarb has begun to show itself….

rhubarb

There were quite a few birds about so I settled down for an hour to do a garden birdwatch count for the RSPB.

There were plenty of birds to watch both on branches….

birds in plum tree

…and in the air…

busy feeder

…but I was a bit disappointed that not all the birds which I often see put in an appearance today within the time limits.  I saw rook, jackdaw, chaffinch, goldfinch, greenfinch, siskin and blackbird but didn’t see sparrow, robin, blue tit, great tit, coal tit, dunnock or starling.

When the time was up, it was far too windy to be an attractive outdoor cycling day so I did a gentle half hour on the bike to nowhere in the garage and then had lunch.

As you can see from the busy feeder picture above, there were few snowflakes about but they came to nothing so after lunch, I went for another walk.  Owing to the adverse cycling conditions, I have put on some weight since Christmas and I will either have to start watching what I eat or get less fussy about cycling in miserable weather.  Meanwhile a walk was a feeble effort to shake down my lunch.

As long as I was out of the wind, it was a nice enough afternoon for walking but if you caught the wind in your face once you were out of the shelter of the town, it was both hard to walk at all and hard to stop crying.

Luckily I had planned a sheltered walk.

There were hints of sunshine too.

Castle Hill

I would look at Castle Hill again later in the walk.

There was plenty of moss to be seen on Gaskell’s Walk.  This was all on just one tree stump by the path.

moss

There was lichen too but I kept my hands in my pocket as I passed it.

I tested the zoom on my new Lumix to its fullest extent to try to catch a heron in a field on the Murtholm and by propping it on a fence post managed to keep it steady enough to get a recognisable picture from a good distance away.

heron

A fallen tree trunk beside the path caught my eye as I climbed the steps to the old railway at Skippers Bridge….

tree grain

…but there were some less welcome ones to be negotiated on the railway.

trees on old railway

Even on a raw winter’s day, it was a pleasure to be out in the woods….

Wood near round house

…but a quick look at  Castle Hill when I got to the Round House…

snow on Castle Hill

…persuaded me not to hang about but to head for home without delay.  I managed to get to within 300 yards of home before the snow hit me so I was quite pleased with my timing.

Although the snow didn’t come to anything once again, the day was very grey by this time so I settled down to do some top quality idling for the rest of the day.  I did interrupt it to cook my tea and have another very short pedal on the bike to nowhere but idling was the chief activity.

I checked the Met Office website and saw that they have got another named storm for us in the offing.  We can look forward to being slapped by the coat tails of storm Henry on Monday evening though the worst should pass to the north of us.    We would give a lot for a small ridge of high pressure.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch in the snow this morning.

flying chaffinch

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