More snowdrops than raindrops

Today’s guest picture is another much needed dose of sunshine, this time from Derby. My brother Andrew saw an inviting bench, but he tells me that as soon as he sat on it, the sun went in.

We had another day of persistent rain here but it stayed reasonable warm and the wind wasn’t as bad as it had been yesterday. All the same, it didn’t make going out very attractive so I put up with another hour on the bike to nowhere in the garage after coffee.

By the time that I got back from nowhere, an engineer had come to service our boiler and parked his van right in front of the bird feeder. Bird pictures were scarce today.

Mostly I shot sitting birds…

…and wandered round the garden in a light drizzle admiring the snowdrops which are not put off by rain..

…and sympathising with the crocuses which are.

In a definite sign of spring, the first frog spawn has appeared in the pond, even though I haven’t actually seen a frog yet.

The engineer left and I saw a chaffinch and a siskin on the feeder at lunch time..

…and then went for another wet walk after lunch.

As it wasn’t as windy as yesterday, I was able to take an umbrella and keep quite dry so I enjoyed the outing.

Approaching the Kirk Brig, I saw the resident dipper on its favourite rock…

…and a kenspeckle figure lurking behind one of the arches.

The river was too high to see any oystercatchers so I walked on past the Kilngreen, over the Sawmill Brig and up the Lodge Walks.

Mist has hanging on the hills…

…and I had to leap over a big puddle…

…and dodge the many fallen small twigs and branches brought down by the strong winds…

…but the rewards were fine lichens on a tree (which may or may not have appeared on this blog previously as I can’t pass lichen like these with out a shutter click)…

…and a really good display of snowdrops at Holmhead.

I walked up through the snowdrops…

…and took the top path back towards the town.

…passing other keen walkers defying the weather on my way, and some more script lichen.

When I got back to the Lodge Walks, I went home by way of the Castleholm and the Duchess Bridge in the hope of seeing some good hazel catkins and checking to see if any hazel flowers might be looking ready to come out.

There were many catkins and some flowers were out too.

The flowers are tiny (you can just see a spot of red behind and to the right of the catkins if you look very carefully in the left panel) and the light was not good enough to take a decent picture. I took one anyway just to record this welcome sign of spring. Looking at my files, I see that I saw frog spawn and hazel flowers at about this time last year so things are going to plan.

There are a lot of catkins about this year.

It started to rain more heavily as I crossed the Duchess Bridge so I put the camera away and headed for home without delay.

I got another treat when I got back when Mrs Tootlepedal made scones to go with our afternoon tea. I had accidentally bought some cream on my shopping trip so we had a proper cream tea with scones, whipped cream and strawberry jam. The day seemed brighter.

The regular sibling Zoom brought the active part of the day to a close. We are promised better weather tomorrow so perhaps the photographs will be a little less soggy in tomorrow’s post.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch trying to hide behind the feeder.

A general absence of sunshine

In need of some cheer, I have gone back into my files to find this guest picture of the day. It shows Tony’s dogs enjoying a sunny game of volleyball in his garden in East Wemyss.

It was a miserable day here today. When it wasn’t raining, it was about to rain, and when it was either raining or not raining, the wind was blowing vigorously. The wind is howling and the rain is battering on the front room’s windows as I write this in the evening.

I managed to avoid having to get on the bike to nowhere by watching the birds. before the worst of the wind and rain came on.

A disgruntled and damp greenfinch appeared first…

…followed by a friend.

Then they were pestered by chaffinches until one greenfinch gave up.

There was a ground crew of chaffinches scavenging for fallen seed (at one time Mrs Tootlepedal counted over twenty of them)…

…and when the greenfinches left, the chaffinches took over the feeder.

Blue tits and coal tits have been very scarce lately so I was pleased to see a blue tit today.

The weather got too wet and windy for the birds so I turned to making some strawberry jam to pass the time. Some very unseasonal strawberries had jumped into my shopping basket yesterday. The jam may have turned out to be a bit runny but that is no bad thing as it will last longer if I have to spread it thinly on my bread and butter (and it will make a good sauce for ice cream topping).

I made some lentil and carrot soup for lunch and then decided to defy the elements and go for a short walk.

It had actually stopped raining for a moment when I set out, but it soon started again and I was grateful that I had put on sensible clothing. I went round Gaskell’s and down to Skippers Bridge , glad to take a little exercise, but taking photographs was less rewarding as I didn’t want to get the camera soaking wet and the light was appalling anyway.

I did note that this little stream at the start of Gaskell’s Walk…

…had overflowed a blocked drain, carved out a channel in the path and poured stones and mud all over the road in the recent heavy rain.

I enjoyed this colourful tree trunk, painted by nature’s answer to Jackson Pollock…

…but there was not a lot to see as I went along. I do wish that someone would magically appear and clear the branches away from this view of the Becks Burn joining the Wauchope Water…

…as it makes a fine sight as it rushes down a staircase to plunge in.

I had hoped that the rain might stop again as I went down to Skippers Bridge, but it didn’t and I had to keep my head down and my camera in my pocket as I walked into the wind. I took my camera out as I walked back along the other side of the river for a token picture of the variegated ivy screening the sewage works.

I didn’t expect to see any oystercatchers at the waterside when I crossed the suspension bridge but to my surprise, a lone bird was sitting on a freshly made nesting hollow.

I fear that she was too optimistic and her nest will have been washed out by the rising river by now. It is due to rain most of the night and tomorrow too, so a restart will be necessary. It seems rather early for nesting anyway.

My coat was still dripping wet four hours after I got home!

Exhausted by battling the elements, I let the rest of the day do what it liked and took no interest in it.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, also keeping its head down.

More sun, more breeze

Today’s guest picture comes from sunny East Wemyss. Our son Tony took this nice photograph of one of his dogs this afternoon.

We had another fine day here, but we had to wait for a little unexpected rain at breakfast time to clear away before the good times rolled in.

The shock of the rain, natural indolence and a slight reluctance to get going brought on by looking at the speed of the clouds scudding across the sky kept me off my bike until midday.

I looked at the birds to give myself another excuse not to go anywhere. The usual customers were around…

…but a greenfinch arrived and weighed up the options.

Another one leapt straight into action…

…and claimed a place at the table.

It was too nice a day not to bicycle though, so in the end I did get going.

It was quite a battle up hill and into the wind for the first six miles but I finally got to the top of Callister. I found some startling works in progress at Falford when I got down to the other side of the hill.

They seem to be erecting a large pipe bridge over the Kirtle Water. I shall be interested to see what develops.

I stopped a couple of miles further on to take a picture of the Hotts Burn…

…which meets the Kirtle Water…

…just in time to flow under this bridge, the Hotts Burn coming in from the left and the Kirtle Water from the right.

To my left, I could see the spire of Waterbeck Church and some rather brutally pollarded trees.

I cycled on past some gorse bushes which are usually full of flowers at this time of year. I didn’t take a picture as there were only a few rather bedraggled flowers. They have not enjoyed the long cold spell.

The quiet back roads were unusually busy today, with tractors rushing in all directions as farmers made use of the good weather. I managed to pass and be passed by them all safely and made better progress once the wind was no longer in my face. I didn’t stop to take may pictures for some reason but a large old house, mostly hidden behind trees, caught my eye near Kirtlebridge.

I kept my camera in my pocket after that, and put all my efforts into trying to improve my average speed after taking an hour to do the first ten miles. I made a circular tour, coming home through Glenzier and totted up 31 miles which was pleasing, though my average speed remained very mediocre. I just haven’t got the heart to battle into the wind any more and and I try to enjoy going at a more sedate speed than former years. On the plus side, it gives me time to think about stuff and I am expecting my plans for the comprehensive reform of British company law to be taken up enthusiastically by the government.

Snowdrops and crocuses welcomed me home…

…as did Mrs Tootlepedal. She had been busy at her drive project while I was cycling and I arrived in perfect time to help drop the latest slab into position.

Then I put it to the test by driving over it on my way to do some shopping. This was my first visit to a shop since the outbreak of cases in Langholm some weeks ago. Since then we have been tested and vaccinated. The vaccination was three weeks ago, so I relied on the protection that that should give me, but I put on a double mask as well.

I put the shopping away when I got home and went for a quick walk round the short three bridges route in some lovely evening sunshine. Instead of a dipper at the Kirk Brig, I saw a pair of reflective ducks.

I was hoping to see oystercatchers again and there was larger flock of about twenty birds on the side of the Esk today…

…but they were not standing in the sunshine which was disappointing.

I noticed that the recent rain had managed to get the river to rise enough to wash away the pile of trees and branches that had piled up under the town bridge.

At the Kikngreen, someone put down some food for the gulls and caused a commotion.

If I had had my bird camera with me, I would have been spoiled for choice for a flying bird of the day!

As it was, I dodged out of the way and walked on.

The sun was catching the tops of the pine trees on the Castleholm…

…and in one place, it caught some trunks as well.

Above me, the moon was out in the very clear blue sky and I put the zoom lens on the Lumix to ‘full stretch’ and pointed and shot. (The picture is uncropped)

By coincidence, the last time we had a clear blue sky and a moon visible in the afternoon was almost exactly a month ago. I took this shot on 23rd January. (I cropped this one a bit)

As you can see, the sky was a bit clearer today than it was then.

It was getting a bit chilly as the light faded, so I bustled on home and just had time for a cup of tea and a slice of bread and plum jam before our regular Zoom meeting with my siblings.

The forecast is offering us two days of rain to come so it was a good thing that both Mrs Tootlepedal and I made good use of these past two fine days.

The flying bird of the day is a female chaffinch nicely toning in with the subdued background.

A song cycle day

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew and shows the pond behind his house.

We had a very nice day here today, with an average temperature for the whole day up to the moment when I started writing this post of 48.5°F (9°C), topping out at 52°F (11°C). It was sunny for most of the day and there was no sign of rain. It put a spring in our step.

The only downside from a cycling point of view was the 20mph wind from the south. We were sheltered from it in the garden, but I knew it would be a factor if I went out on my bike. As a result, it took me quite a bit of time, with a cup of coffee and a slice of toast and marmalade, to crank up my get up and go to the point where I actually got up and went.

I chose my traditional Sunday morning route down the main road as there are few if any lorries on that A7 on a Sunday. I did 20 miles more or less due south, crossing first the Esk at Longtown and then the River Lyne…

…on my way to the bench at Newtown on the Roman Wall where my bike likes to pause for a rest.

The wind made it quite hard work but the thought of the helping hand on the way back made it tolerable. Even so, I needed a little rest at Longtown so I took the opportunity to admire the fine bridge there once again. It has been substantially repaired after its recent troubles. I took the wider view with my phone…

…and a closer look with my Lumix.

Even with the helpful wind on the way home, the computer app on which I record my rides was kind enough to point out that this was the slowest that I have ever done that route. To tell the truth, my legs were very happy that I didn’t try too hard as they were beginning to complain five miles before I got back. An hour on the bike to nowhere is all very well, but it doesn’t do all that much to prepare you for three hours in the saddle in the real world. I am not complaining though as I enjoyed the outing a great deal.

Mrs Tootlepedal had spent the morning in the garden and pointed me in the direction of freshly blooming crocuses when I got back.

I looked at snowdrops too, particularly the fine crop lining the back path.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy on her drive project so I went in and had a late lunch and then a look at the birds.

The afternoon sunshine made for some interesting light and shade pictures as chaffinches flew in towards the feeder…

…and when they arrived too. (A lone coal tit interrupted the procession of chaffinches.)

A lone chaffinch was king of the castle on Mrs Tootlepedal’s seed tray table.

I had a shower and then took part in the weekly virtual choir practice with the Carlisle Community Choir. The way things are going with the vaccination programme, it does begin to look as though we might get back to real singing together before the end of the year. I am trying not to get too optimistic though in case of more disappointments.

The days have just got long enough to let me get out for a quick three bridges after the choir finished. Mrs Tootlepedal, who had had a long and busy day in the garden, was happy to let me go by myself.

As I left the garden, a thrush in the walnut tree was doing some choir practice of its own.

There was some very nice evening light…

…as I walked down to the river…

…and just beyond the suspension bridge there was a flock of ten oystercatchers. I was very pleased that I had come out for my stroll.

I love the beady eye of the oystercatcher…

…and its decorative legs and beak too.

I walked along the river towards the town bridge, admiring the views across the water…

…and the view of Castle Hill from the bridge.

There was another pair of oystercatchers among the ducks at the Kilngreen…

…but the light was beginning to fade now, and there was just enough sunshine left to illuminate the moss on the wall beyond the Sawmill Brig…

…and to provide some evening shots as I went over the Jubilee Bridge on my way home.

For a walk of just over a mile, I thought that it had been very good value.

Mrs Tootlepedal had the inspired idea of adding eggy bread to enliven the remains of a quorn pasta sauce for our evening meal and that brought an excellent day to a close. We have been eating a lot of home made crackers in between times. They proved to be very eatable in spite of not winning even second prize in a beauty competition.

A curious feature of my morning bike ride came as I passed the entrance to an industrial estate near Longtown. About thirty unmarked white vans drove out of the entrance and passed me as I cycled down the road. The looked slightly sinister and the words of a song from years ago came to mind:

At midnight all the agents and the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone that knows more than they do

A little research when I got home showed that Amazon have opened a warehouse there since I last cycled that road. This is a sign of the times, I suppose and may or may not be regarded as sinister.

The flying bird of the day is another shady chaffinch.

Loopy and crackers

After yesterday’s sunny seascape from East Wemyss, I have gone to the other side of the weather and the other end of the country today. My sister Caroline took this study of the rolling seas off Southsea on a very grey day.

After the persistent rain here yesterday, it was a relief to wake up and find that the rain had stopped.

I was so excited by this that I put my cycling clothes on after breakfast and got ready to go out for a pedal. The forecast suggested that there might be a window of opportunity before the rain started again.

It turned out to be a very small window indeed, as it was raining by the time that I had cycled half a mile. Still, I had new gloves on and I was anxious to try them out so I kept going. The gloves are supposed to be waterproof and they have special fingertip material so that a mobile phone can be used with the gloves still on.

They turned out to be waterproof and I took this picture of the generally low cloud at Cleuchfoot with my phone just to prove that the magic fingers worked.

…and then I took this one of the Glencorf Burn just to prove it again.

I must say that my phone is a bit of a liar as it makes the day look a lot brighter than it actually was.

It was raining pretty steadily by the time that I had done five miles so I headed back to Langholm, uncertain about how far my enthusiasm for testing new gloves would last.

I had the wind behind me and it was really quite warm for the time of year so I found that my enthusiasm lasted quite well. Indeed, it carried me through the town and up the main road to the north for another four miles.

However, the main road was running with water and had some serious puddles so the thought of cycling back into the rain with the chance of meeting a lorry and a puddle simultaneously and getting soaked diminished my enthusiasm by a considerable amount. Fortunately my four miles up the main road had brought me to the Sorbie road end, so I was able to solve the problem by going up the hill and through the Gates of Eden on quieter roads. This was redoing the first loop that I did on my last ride..

It was still pretty damp though…

…and I was impressed by this rush of water coming off the hill, through a hole in the wall and into a drain under the road.

I found that I had done eighteen miles when I got back to Langholm, so for the sake of decimal neatness, I popped up the Wauchope road for a mile and the return trip took my distance up to 20 miles. I did think of doing the second loop of my last ride too but the rain started to get heavier so 20 miles seemed to be enough.

In spite of almost continuous rain, my waterproof socks and gloves kept my extremities dry and I enjoyed the outing a lot more than I had expected.

I had time for a cup of coffee and some Garibaldi biscuits as well as a look at the birds before going for a shower.

A goldfinch summed up the day nicely.

In spite of the rain though, the feeder kept busy, very busy at times…

…and late comers got a warm welcome.

Chaffinches and goldfinches were the most frequent fliers…

…and took care to keep an eye out in both directions.

Business on the fresh jar of peanut butter has been very slow since I put it out, so I was happy to see a blue tit having a peck today.

The rain kept going after lunch and I spent a relaxing hour or two doing nothing more demanding than listening to an interesting programme on the bad situation caused by ten years of misconceived austerity. It wasn’t a polemic, just a sober accounting exercise.

The forecast suggested a break in the rain around four o’clock so Mrs Tootlepedal and I went for a walk. We had a touching faith in the forecast since it was still raining when we set out, but our faith was rewarded and our walk finished in dry conditions. It was exceedingly gloomy and this was annoying when we came across a small flock of oystercatchers on the Kilngreen, the first of the season…

…and in the dim light, I couldn’t get close enough for a good picture…

…before they flew off….

…leaving a familiar figure on his own beside the water.

We saw a dipper at the Sawmill Brig but that too flew off. Only a tree, lately washed downstream, was left to focus on.

We could hear a lot of spring bird song as we walked round the new path on the Castleholm but it was hard to see any of the singers as there was no let up in the gloom even after the rain stopped.

Street lights were reflected in the river.

When we got back, we had a late cup of afternoon tea and then I made some cream crackers. I had been eating home made cheese on shop bought crackers yesterday and thought it would be good to eat home made cheese on home made crackers today. The crackers were passable for a first effort, but once they were made, I realised that I had rather carelessly eaten the last of the home made goat’s cheese at lunchtime. I ended up eating shop bought cheese on home made crackers. I will try to make cheese and crackers simultaneously next time.

The rain came back in the evening but we are promised a better tomorrow (perhaps). Let us hope so.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

Head down

Today’s glorious guest picture comes from Tony in East Wemyss. It was taken just over a week ago and is a reminder of those sunny snowy days earlier this month which seem long past now.

There was not the slightest hint of sunshine here today. It was raining when we got up and it looks as though it might well still be raining when we go to bed.

Under the circumstances, it was not a day when my new smile was much in demand.

It was not so windy as it has been and there were quite a few birds at the feeder.

…with siskins and goldfinches to the fore.

A dunnock checked for seed falling from above…

…and a chaffinch arrived after I had topped up the feeder.

For want of anything better to do, I pedalled away on the bike to nowhere for 55 minutes between coffee and lunchtime.

For some inexplicable reason, I was unable to persuade Mrs Tootlepedal after lunch that a good walk in pouring rain and a brisk wind would be fun, so there was nothing for it but to go by myself.

There were moments when I thought that Mrs Tootlepedal had made the right decision, but on the whole it was warm enough and my umbrella was large enough to make sure that the walk wasn’t too bad. I recently sprayed my walking boots with a waterproof treatment and between that and the waterproof socks, my feet were kept warm and dry.

With the rain from above and the puddles from below kept at bay, I looked about from time to time as I went along, even though it was too gloomy for sensible photography.

There was plenty of water running down the hillsides…

…and there there was plenty of water going under Skippers Bridge.

While I was going up the hill towards Broomholm, I kept an eye out for tiny dots of red among the moss and lichens on the roadside wall.

When I got to Broomholmshiels, I looked in vain for a view….

…and had to make do with lichen and fungus on a gatepost…

…and decorative tree bark.

Once I got onto the track through the woods, I had to watch my step carefully as the mud made things quite slippery. It would be fairly stupid to have managed many icy walks without injuring myself and then to fall over as soon as the ice was gone.

Crossing Jenny Noble’s Gill needed concentration as it was running freely.

I did look up for long enough to see an oak tree gesturing at encroaching birch trees to give it space…

…and a beech sapling provided some much needed colour.

When I got back to the town, I had a little time in hand so I went to the Meeting of the Waters where quite a lot of water was meeting.

I crossed the Sawmill Brig…

…and then put my camera away as it had got too dark to take any more pictures although it was only just 4 o’clock.

After a cup of tea and a chat with Mrs Tootlepedal, I made some Garibaldi biscuits. That last batch of ginger biscuits has disappeared. Since Mrs Tootlepedal and I only eat a very rare biscuit, it is a continuing mystery as to how they vanish so quickly.

The day finished with a sibling Zoom followed by an evening meal of fishcakes and sautéed potatoes. I have just had a look outside, and the rain seems to have stopped. This is just as well as we have had over an inch of rain all ready today according to our local weather station.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch at full spread in some heavy rain.

When you’re smiling

Today’s guest picture is another from Laura. It shows a Lake Michigan winter scene.

Our spell of wet and windy weather continued today. Unfortunately, the driest bit of the day was in the morning and I spent it indoors, waiting to go for my dental appointment. I might have gone out for a short walk or a bicycle ride, but I didn’t want to find myself stuck out in the country should an accident have occurred when I ought to have been smiling at the dentist.

I passed some of the time with crossword and coffee and some of it by looking at birds. There was a selection available with goldfinch, siskin and chaffinch all able to put up with the brisk wind today.

The amount of time that flying birds actually have their wings closed is surprising to me.

When I went out, I noticed that a small twig which had fallen from our walnut tree had a good covering of lichen on it.

I walked off to go to the dentist with time in hand, and then found myself scampering home to collect my mask which I had forgotten. As I was then pushed for time, I cycled round instead of walking and arrived early. They were still busy with the previous patient so I had to stand in the entry outside the surgery for a while. A passer by remarked that she hoped that I had got the right day this time. I rightly assumed that she was a blog reader.

I stood there for long enough to take a photograph or two. The surgery is on the left…

…and on my right behind the wall is the Thomas Hope Hospital with some good architectural features…

…and a curious moustachioed face looking down at me.

I got into the dentist after the previous patient emerged and was out again within minutes, the proud possessor of a fully formed smile. I won’t put a picture of it on the blog for fear of scaring children and horses. As I had been waiting to get my gap filled since well before Christmas, I certainly felt that I had something to smile about at last.

I had been worried that it might start raining while I was at the dentist but I cycled home in the dry and had another look at the birds when I got there. A greenfinch had arrived and was checking things out from Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree.

It needed a little practice with its table manners I thought.

The forecast was for heavy rain to start at two o’clock, and as it was just midday now, I reckoned that I had time for a short walk and a late lunch before the rain came.

Mrs Tootlepedal set about making some leek and potato soup and I walked up onto Meikleholm Hill.

The early signs were good as Whita was clear and the clouds quite high when I looked back on my way up…

…and as I got onto the open hill, I could see sunshine a little way up the valley.

However, my rapture at the sunshine was severely modified by the fact that it was raining where I was standing.

As I walked up to the water tank and then along the track along the hill…

…the rain got heavier, the day got gloomier and all the views disappeared.

I passed one of the improbable tracks plunging through woods made by our local mountain biking community…

…and was pleased to get into the shelter of some forestry myself.

There were some odd spots of colour to cheer a grey day up as I came down the hill to the road, in the shape of fungus…

…and the ever present moss.

It rained on and off for the rest of my walk but as I walked back to Langholm along the road, I got my camera out to record some more moss, this time sprouting away on a wall…

…and a delicate pink and grey lichen, almost hidden by moss further along the wall.

Most of the concrete fence posts along the road have mossy heads, but among them I noticed one where a peltigera lichen had taken hold.

I got home feeling rather soggy but was cheered up by a warming bowl of excellent leek and potato soup.

I was a bit at a loss for something to do in the afternoon which didn’t involve sitting on the bike to nowhere in the garage, so I made a batch of goat’s milk cheese. We had some goat’s milk and yoghurt in the fridge, courtesy of our admirable corner shop (he got it in specially).

Last time I tried this cheese, I got confused as there are two different methods, giving different results and I mixed them up. This time, I paid close attention and ended up with a very passable soft cheese. This blog has been powered by two cream crackers, spread with Scottish butter and a good wodge of fresh goat’s cheese on top.

The flying bird of the day is that greenfinch on its way from fake tree to feeder.

Looping the loop

Today’s guest pictures come from Laura in Michigan. She tells me that these ice sculptures were carved during the recent St. Joseph Magical Ice Festival. Some stand about 8ft tall. (They also have a frozen fish tossing contest at the festival I believe.)

We were far from icy here today and the weather seems to have settled into a warmer, windier mode for the present. The warmer bit is very welcome but the wind was very brisk and rather piercing so it was still a case of wrap up warm if going out for a walk.

I did wrap up warm because I was going out for a walk with Sandy after coffee. It seems a long time since we had coffee together in one or other of our gardens let alone in our houses, but there is nothing we can do about that.

We met at his house and strolled along the track to the Becks Burn and back. One of the features of the present situation is that there is often no news to exchange when you meet a friend and that was the case today. It was lucky that a robin took it upon itself to offer us some vocal entertainment as we passed.

You can see the brisk wind ruffling its feathers.

And if the views are rather dull, as they were today in cloudy conditions, there is always plenty of fungus to look at. This set all came from the same pile of logs…

…and wherever we looked, there were more examples to be seen.

In spite of the chilly wind, there were plenty of people out walking so we took our time getting back. It was good to have a walk with Sandy and I hope that we can get out again soon.

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work on her drive project. The project has been on hold for nearly two months thanks to the frozen ground, so it was good to see her in action again. She was working on the paved and cobbled section in front of the kitchen window bench.

I had a look round the garden before lunch. There are good looking snowdrops all over the place now…

…and a little colour, some old, some new, too.

After lunch, there was even an opportunity for some weeding in the vegetable garden for Mrs Tootlepedal, while I dug out a couple of leeks for tomorrow’s soup. The strong wind and the garden activity had put off the birds and this starling, sitting above us as we worked, was the only bird that I had the opportunity to photograph in the garden all day.

The camera may have made the sky look blue but it was as grey as grey could be.

I let a little time go past in the hope that the wind might drop a little and then went out for a cycle ride. I was very well wrapped up!

The ski goggles were an excellent choice as they stopped my eyes watering and my nose running, and in addition the thick band that holds them on kept my ears warm. This was fortunate as the wind hadn’t dropped very much, if at all.

After yesterday’s trip to the Sorbie road end, I thought that I wouldn’t wait for summer but go there again. This time I would pedal up the hill, go through the Gates of Eden, down to the Burnfoot Bridge and then back to Langholm on the other side of the Esk. This is a ten mile loop.

To give an idea of the strength of the wind, I did the first four miles up the gentle but steady gradient to the Sorbie road end at well over 14mph. The next four miles into the wind, admittedly hillier but with a lot of downhill too, took me almost exactly twice as long. I was down to four miles an hour as I battled over the col at the Gates of Eden while the wind funnelled through the gap towards me. I was happy to stop to take a couple of pictures.

Looking ‘through the gate’…

…and looking back down into the Ewes valley.

Once I was over the little col, I had to pedal madly to get down the hill into the Esk valley…

…but the Bridge at Burnfoot was well sheltered so I stopped to add it to my bridge collection.

It was peaceful down beside the river….

…but I tore myself away and puffed up the hill to Craigcleuch, looking back across the valley towards the Gates of Eden that I had just cycled through.

I will do the loop again on a sunny day when the views are better.

I got back to Langholm in just under an hour, and felt that I had been on a mini adventure as I hadn’t done that route for a long time. In fact, I felt so cheerful about life that I went through the town and out again on the Wauchope road and did another loop, less testing as far as the wind and hills went, but a little longer. Garmin kindly provides me with a neat map. The many blue sections show where I was slowest and the rare red sections where I was (relatively) speedy.

The bottom loop took me over familiar roads, past my favourite tree (in black and white this time for variety)…

…past the ever diminishing Kerr Wood…

…and past my new favourite field near Auchenrivock…

…and back home again.

Once again my route planing worked out well as it brought my total mileage for the month so far up to exactly 100 miles, and my total cycling time for the month to exactly eight hours. I like a well rounded number.

I was a bit late in and just had time for a cup of tea and slice of toast before our regular Zoom with my siblings.

Thanks to the complete lack of flying bird opportunities in the garden, the flying bird of the day, spotted on my walk with Sandy, is a bird of a different sort.

Senior moment

Today’s guest picture comes from my New York correspondent Mary-Jane. She was in a snowy Central Park when she met these charming animals. There is some debate as to whether they are dogs or polar bears.

All trace of snow and ice has gone here, and we had another reasonably warm day. Unfortunately, a brisk and chilly wind didn’t make going outside quite as attractive as it should have been. I spent the morning being very careful not to forget that I had an important dentist’s appointment. It is quite hard to get dentists’ appointments just now so it is vital not to miss one.

While I was waiting to set off, I was entertained by chaffinches arriving on the feeder…

…and that pheasant back again for a strut on the lawn in a little burst of passing sunshine.

They didn’t make me lose sight of my impending visit, so I was in a chipper mood when I set out in good time for the appointment. I even had a moment to spare to check for dippers at the Kirk Brig (none available)…

…and to stop while crossing the suspension bridge to see that the Esk had gone very brown after the thaw.

I was outside the door of the surgery bang on time so it was just a little disappointing to find that I was in fact two days early for the appointment which was on Thursday 18th and not Tuesday 16th, a mistake which I thought that anyone could easily have made.

Now I will have to try not to forget it on Thursday. Ah well.

After I had had a cup of coffee and some ginger biscuits, I went out for a walk round the garden. The snowdrops are now officially out.

And I found that there is still a little ice about as the disk of ice in the bucket has diminished but not disappeared yet. I like the 3-D bubble effect in the ice.

The daffodils are bunching up nicely.

When I went back in and looked out, I saw that the pheasant was back, making sure that I got its best side.

I had enjoyed my short walk to the dentist so I went out for another one before lunch.

I discovered that the Esk might be brown but the Ewes water was not, and there was a distinct colour clash where they joined forces at the Meeting of the Waters.

You can see a good flock of gulls in the picture above. They kindly took to the air as I went down onto the Kilngreen and flew over me several times…

Two came down a bit closer to me…

…and I struggled to get all of them into the frame.

I think that they must have been hoping that I was bringing food because they pursued me up the river and nearly made me miss an old friend on the opposite bank.

I went up the Lodge Walks to Holmhead and saw plenty of snowdrops on my way and when i got there…

…though it may need another week and a sunny day to see them at their best.

I liked this little tree stump with a mossy tablecloth set on it.

I was surprised to see a brand new gate across the track at the top of the pheasant hatchery…

…but it looks as though they have left enough space to add a pedestrian gate beside it.

As I crossed the Duchess Bridge, I met a man who was leaning against the railings looking fixedly down the river. He told me that he was hoping to see a kingfisher as he had seen one passing under the bridge several times lately. I might have to go and do some leaning against those railings myself.

There was a good deal of birdsong to be heard as I went along, and in the milder weather this was a definite hint of spring. This hint was confirmed by our neighbours’ currant bush when I got home.

The wind had been gusting at around 30mph all morning, but the forecast suggested a slight easing in the afternoon so I gave it an hour or so to calm down and decided to do twenty miles on my bike.

The weather gods were in a jovial mood and it started to rain as soon as I went upstairs to put on my cycling gear. I was having second thoughts but then the rain stopped as suddenly as it had started so I got into my gear, went downstairs and got my bike out. It promptly started to rain again. I went back inside and had third thoughts, some of them unprintable, and then rain stopped again. I pedalled off up the Wauchope road, and thankfully the weather gods had had enough fun and left me to enjoy a dry ride.

The icy patches which had been there when I walked up the road recently had all disappeared and in spite of a still brisk wind, cycling was enjoyable. I wasn’t entirely confident that I would stay dry as the clouds were very low over the hills and I couldn’t see the background scenery at all when I got to Cleuchfoot.

I didn’t want to spend too long cycling into the wind so I made another diversion up to the Kerr wood and then headed back to Langholm. Having done 12 miles by the time that I arrived in the town, I did another eight miles going up and down the main road to the north. The clouds were still sitting on Whita…

…but they were lifting and there was even a hint of blue sky as you can see. The view up the valley was reassuring…

…and it had turned into a much better day by the time that I got to my turning point at the Sorbie road end.

This road goes through the Gates of Eden from the ‘wrong’ side and I must cycle along it this summer as it has some good views.

I took the boring option today though, and pedalled back to Langholm into the wind down the main road. I had judged the distance just right and the cycle computer beeped to indicate 20 miles completed as I cycled through our front gate.

There are more wet, warm and windy days to come in the forecast so I hope that some of them will be as kind as today was so that I can get a few more cycle outings in.

Since it is Shrove Tuesday, Mrs Tootlepedal made pancakes for afters at our evening meal. We ate them with caster sugar and lemon juice and they went down very well.

The flying bird of the day is one of the overhead gull gang.

Out twice

Today’s guest picture comes from Langholm exile Tom in South Africa. He met this example of South Africa’s national bird, a blue crane, while out on his bicycle.

We finally got a warm day here after what seems like months of freezing or near freezing cold weather. It was only 43°F (6°C) at half past nine o’clock, but that felt pleasantly warm when I got my bike out and set off for a pedal for only the second time this month. I was cautiously still wearing plenty of layers which may have helped.

I was still a bit wary of coming across icy patches on little used back roads so I went straight down the main road south out of town. I was amazed to see this sight…

…in fields beside the road. It took me some time to work out that they have been probably been preparing the ground for commercial tree planting. If it is going to be planted with trees, they are going to be very close together. I will be interested to see what develops.

I sneaked over the border in order to take the road towards Gretna, passing these geese among the molehills beside the Longtown pond…

…and seeing the first lambs of the year when I had gone through Gretna and was on my way back.

While I was watching the lambs, a train whistled by…

…which made me sad for a moment. This is the railway line that we use to visit our granddaughter Matilda and her family in Edinburgh, a trip we haven’t made since last March.

As well as the day being reasonably warm, the wind was much lighter than the forecast had suggested so I pedalled along in a happy mood, especially as the wind was behind me on my way home. As I got near Langholm, the sun even came out for a few minutes…

…but it didn’t last. It looked as though it had rained in Langholm while I was out cycling as the streets of the town were very wet when I got to them.

I had managed 31 miles by the time that I got home and I was pleased that I hadn’t decided to add a few more miles on to my journey because it started to rain quite a lot shortly after I got in.

This was a a shame, as a small flock of goldfinches chose this moment to come to the feeder…

…in ever increasing numbers.

The waiting room was quite damp.

The rain had stopped by the time some greenfinches arrived.

Mrs Tootlepedal made some nourishing soup for lunch, and I ate it with bread and two sorts of home-made cheese.

Fortified by this, I set off for a short walk after lunch, hoping that it wouldn’t start raining again.

I had got to the top of the banking above the town when I stopped to see if I could pin down the source of some very vociferous tweeting. For once I managed to locate the bird responsible

You don’t usually see dunnocks on the top of trees making a big noise so I think that spring must be in the air at last.

I started to walk along to the Becks Burn and as I looked across towards Whita, I could see that it was enveloped in a shower of rain…

…and very soon, I was enveloped too. I began to doubt the wisdom of my outing and a sheep looked at me severely as though I might be a little short in the brain department…

…but I persevered and by the time that I got to the Becks Burn, the rain had stopped. The rivers had been running very clear when Mrs Tootlepedal and I had been on our walk yesterday, but they had become rather cloudy today.

The ground is obviously beginning to get softer.

Happily, the tracks and paths were still firm enough for my walk today, and I crossed the burn safely and climbed the steps up the bank on the far side. Once on the road past Hallcrofts, I strode out boldly. I did interrupt myself from time to time though, as this is a road with a feast of lichen of display on trees, gates, fence post and hedges.

It wasn’t a day for views so when I got down to the Wauchope road and walked back along Gaskell’s and then down to Skippers Bridge, I looked for more lichen and moss to pass the time. And I added some catkins too.

I also noted that a lot of the birches along Gaskell’s seemed to have very red/brown trunks.

I saw a most unusual striped lichen effect on one tree…

And I spotted a lot happening on another.

When I got to Skippers Bridge, I spent more time admiring the lichen on the parapet than looking at the river.

It was that sort of day.

All the same, by the time that I got over Skippers Bridge, it was back to being quite a nice day…

…and I enjoyed a leisurely stroll up the river bank to finish my walk.

The day had turned out much better than I had expected, so to celebrate when I got home, I made thirty ginger and orange biscuits. The official ginger biscuit tester tells me that they passed the taste test. I had to check them too. Several times.

We had a cheerful Zoom with my siblings and that rounded off a satisfactory day.

Our warmer weather is set to continue for several days so there may even be a flower picture or two to come.

The flying bird of the day is one of those goldfinches in the rain.