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April weather

There may be serious concern about the lack of insects in general but today’s guest picture from Venetia shows that there is no shortage of them just now in Somerset.

somerset flies

We had a typical April day here today, breezy, cool and occasionally rainy but it was just warm enough to allow for gardening and the breeze was just steady enough to allow for a little cycling so in the morning, Mrs Tootlepedal gardened and I went for a cycle ride.

Before I left, Mrs Tootlepedal drew my attention to a small patch of violets tucked away against a fence in a corner of the garden.

violet

Although the theoretical temperature was not too bad, the wind seemed to carry the chill of winter in its wings and I was well wrapped up again as I battled into the breeze.  When the sun was out…..

Wauchope road

…I was in a green and pleasant land, with the fresh green of the new larch growth…

larch

…very prominent.

But mostly, I was in the shadow over here and the sun was over there in the distance.

View from the Bloch

I looked more closely at one of my favourite trees.

Bloch tree

There were masses of flowers to be seen on my way.

flowers

By lurking about in the valley bottom for the most part, I kept out of the worst of the wind but even so, cycling back down to Langholm with the wind behind me was enough to make the slow bike feel like Pegasus.  I fairly flew along.

The twenty miles that I managed brought up my target mileage for the month and as it has all been done on the slow bike, that was very satisfactory.

I joined Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden on my return and mowed the drying green.  This was a painful experience as it has almost as much moss as Mary Jo’s Danish lawn.

I had a look round and tried to get a better euphorbia picture but only succeeded in catching a fly.

fly on euphorbia

The tulips are growing all the time but still keeping themselves to themselves.

tulips

And I found a daffodil of the day standing still enough to photograph.

daff

Then  it was time for lunch, the crossword and a look at the birds.

I very much enjoyed a little action sequence that took place over two seconds.

A chaffinch approached the feeder quietly…

busy feeder

…suddenly there was pandemonium as birds flew off in all directions and a lone redpoll was left to wonder what all the fuss was about.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off on business and I stayed in to greet the gas man who came to give our boiler its annual safety check.  In a sign of the crazy way businesses are organised these days, it turned out that he had come all the way from Glasgow to do our check, which was already well behind its scheduled time, because the local engineers were too busy.  Having finished, he was ready to drive back to Glasgow (90 miles away).  It must make sense to someone.

While the engineer was busy, it started to rain and it looked well set in for the rest of the day.    Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea though and he must have had some good vibes in his pocket because when he got up to, the rain went too.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I walked round the garden.

There was plenty to see.  A bee was buzzing about in the pulmonaria…

bee on pulmonaria

…and a blackbird was busy collecting more  worms….

blackbird with worms

…and things were busy growing.  Flowers on the gooseberry and on the silver pear.

gooseberry and silver pear

I look forward to eating gooseberries (if we can avoid the sawfly) but the silver pear fruit is inedible.

The rain looked as though it might hold off so I went for a walk.

I hoped to see waterside birds and I did but the light was pretty gloomy and the birds were far away so although it was a pleasure to see the birds, it was  a problem to get good shots of them.

oyster catcher, dipper, wagtail and goosander

From top left clockwise: Oyster catcher, dipper, goosander and pied wagtail.

I also saw a grey wagtail and I took a wonderful picture of the rock from which it had just taken off.  I haven’t posted it here to avoid excessive excitement among sensitive readers.

I was doing the three bridges walk and I passed a lot of ladies’ smock which has appeared like magic on the banks of the Esk near the suspension bridge….

Ladies smock

…a grand show of colour in the Clinthead gardens…

redflowers

…some striking male flowers on the noble firs on the Castleholm….

male noble fir flowers

….a very colourful tree (which I can’t identify.  Is there a helpful reader out there?)…

Castleholm tree

…and the first broom flower I have seen this year.  It was in the minister’s garden.

broom flower

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was back out in the garden so I took a look round and was struck by this jewel on a leaf.

raindrop

I had a little Archive business to catch up on as one of our members is kindly helping out a lady who wishes to visit the town for some ancestral research and then it was time to sit down and have a tasty curry for my tea.

The weather is set to continue in the present cool, showery mode for several days but if we can make as good use of the days as we did today, it won’t be too bad.  Those three magically warm and sunny days last week have spoiled us though.  Everything looks and feels dull by contrast.

The flying bird of the day is a reliable chaffinch.  They should give hovering lessons to the other birds.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

 

 

Binned

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary, who saw this copy of the Lamazzu – a winged deity looted from the Iraq Museum – made of empty date syrup cans, on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square

Our weather descended from the recent summer heights to slightly below the seasonal average, the feeling of slight chilliness compounded by a stiff wind which reminded everyone of the long cold months since Christmas.

The weather in the morning didn’t bother me much as I had to spend a couple of hours in the Welcome to Langholm office where I caught up on some Archive Group work.  I didn’t do quite as much as I had hoped though as I had to provide a welcome and information to no less than three visitors in the two hours.  I was fairly rushed off my feet.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden, having reorganised the greenhouse while I was out.  She is planting things out and improving the soil as much as she can so I sieved the last of the compost in Bin D and then set about shifting the contents of Bin C into the now empty Bin D.  I then emptied the contents of Bin B into Bin C.

I know that there is an insatiable desire for compost  pictures among the readers of this blog so here is the result.

compost bin shifting

The picture does show graphically how compost reduces in bulk over time.  The small amount in Bin D was the same size as the current amount in Bin C when it first arrived from Bin B and Bin B was full to the level of six of the wooden frames when it was first filled from Bin A.

This was quite heavy work so it was now time for lunch.

Mrs Tootlepedal provided me with a delicious dish of fried eggs and fried cabbage as a reward for compost shifting.

It was far too windy, with constant gusts of 25 mph and above to think of cycling so after lunch, I went out into the garden with my camera in hand.  Windy weather makes it hard to shoot flowers but I did my best.

white flowers

Mrs Tootlepedal is not certain what the pretty white flowers above are but I know what these ones below are.  They are potential plums if everything goes well.

plum flowers

The dog’s tooth violets are springing up all over the place.

dog's tooth violets

This clump of cowslip like things is enjoying the weather whether it is hot or cold and is getting larger all the time.

cowslips

The tree peony is looking very healthy.  Last year its flowers were hidden behind its foliage so we are hoping for a better show this year.

tree peony

The madness of the crab like flowers of the euphorbias is well advanced. I hope for a calmer day to take a better picture.

euphorbia

There is little pool of pale blue in the river of muscari.

muscari

And this is the start of our own clump of marsh marigolds in the pond.

marsh marigold

Once again the cold wind was causing the tulips to purse their lips but there is very promising red one waiting for some sunshine.

tulip

The daffodil of the day is a muted example.

daffodil

I put the camera down and mowed the front lawn with a great deal of huffing and puffing because the lawn is so spongy with moss.  There was a heartening amount of grass to cut even if the end result was a very patchy looking lawn.

Then, since it wasn’t really a very inviting walking day, I finished the composting job by emptying Bin A into Bin B so all is ready for Mrs Tootlepedal to start the process going again by filling up Bin A.  I may even have some grass to add to it myself.

Owing to the need for frequent pauses to admire the work in progress or chat to the gardener, it soon turned out to be time for a cup of tea and a sit down indoors.  This gave me a chance to look at the birds.  As it also started to rain, I was very happy to be inside.

The siskins really seem to have gone elsewhere although there was one on hand to join the queue for a seed today.

queue at the feeder

Mostly it was goldfinches and chaffinches again, with the goldfinches concentrating hard on the job in hand….

goldfinches

…and making sure that incoming chaffinches knew who was boss.

goldfinch and chaffinch

But the goldfinches are no match for a really angry redpoll though.

redpoll

The evening was given over to music when first my flute pupil Luke came and cheered me up by playing very well.  Then I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel after tea for what seems the first time for ages.

It was good to get back to playing and our lack of practice didn’t seem to matter as we played some familiar pieces with a good deal of verve, all things considered.

The flying bird of the day is one of the goldfinches.

goldfinch

Strong winds and showers are on the menu for both tomorrow and Wednesday so getting out on my bike to knock off the last few miles of my monthly target may be a bit of a battle.

 

 

 

 

Lightning conductor

Today’s guest picture comes from a boat trip that Dropscone took while on his holiday in Majorca.  He saw these  interesting rocks.

majorca cave

The forecast drop in temperature came about but it was not quite as dramatic as it might have been.  All the same, some light drizzle and clouds made the day seem very gloomy compared with the last two days.

It rained while we singing in the church choir in the morning but by the time that we emerged, it had stopped again and I paid a visit to the dam at the back of our house before going inside.  On our side of the new bridge, aubretia is beginning to drip down the concrete…

aubretia

…and on the other side of the new bridge, our neighbour Liz has a striking clump of marsh marigold.

marsh marigold

In the garden, evidence of the morning drizzle was to be seen…

daffodil

…and so I turned up the flower of a dog’s tooth violet to get a sunnier view of it.

dog's tooth violet

I went in and prepared a beef stew for the slow cooker, checking on the birds outside from time to time.

The siskins seem to have found somewhere more attractive to eat and we are left with mostly goldfinches and chaffinches at the moment…

busy feeder

…who are always ready to exchange a few well chosen words.

_DSC3414

Once the stew was started, I took a second walk round the garden.

The hyacinths looked cheerful enough…

grape hyacinth

…but the tulips were missing the sunshine and stubbornly refused to display their charms.

closed tulips

After lunch, I had time for another quick look round.

There are some weather conditions which seem to make the hellebores lift up their heads. I haven’t quite pinned down what the requirements are but today was one of the days when it happened.

hellebores

The hellebores have been very good value this year and have been out for ages.

Something has been eating the petals of the daffodil of the day.

daffodil

We made an early start on the trip to Carlisle for our afternoon choir as we had some shopping in mind.

We visited a bookshop first and then went to a specialist tea and coffee supplier where I bought tea from India, China and Sri Lanka to go with the African teas that I am currently drinking.  Two packets of coffee beans from Nicaragua and Brazil also found their way into the shopping bag.  Sometimes, we take the wonders of international trade for granted but I reflect on a small part of it every day as I drink tea and coffee.  And am grateful.

We concluded the shopping by going to a well known clothing store where I bought a shirt just like that.   My ability to make such a bold and swift decision was greatly helped by the fact that my personal shopping adviser was holding my hand and she suggested that a shirt might be a good thing to buy.

The afternoon choir session did not turn out as expected.

We got there to find that our conductor and accompanist, who come down from Glasgow each week, had found that railway maintenance which should have stopped in time for them to get to the practice was still ongoing and they were trapped on the wrong side of it.

In the absence of anyone else, a pianist from the choir stepped forward to act as accompanist and I got the chance to take the choir for a shortened session.  As there is nothing more magical than waving your arms about in a casual way and being greeted by the sound of glorious singing, I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

The sun had come out by the time that we finished and the evening was so lovely that we took a longer and more scenic way than usual to drive home.

The stew was good too so the day ended very well.

A collared dove sat in the plum tree.

collared dove

I checked a weather site for local weather and it said that yesterday’s high was 69.3°F and today’s was 60°F and tomorrow’s will be 51°F.  This translates roughly as a drop from 20°C to 10°C so we will back to feeling the chill again.   April showers are also likely and I may be a bit pressed to get as many miles in on the slow bike as I would like before the new bike arrives with the new month.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

A literal footnote:  Mary Jo kindly sent me a picture to cheer me up.  It shows her husband leaving his mark on lawn in Denmark that is so mossy that it makes mine look not too bad at all.

moss in Denmark

 

 

 

Today’s guest picture is another from foreign parts.  Dropscone is on holiday in Majorca and was impressed by the efforts to keep the sea at bay there.

majorca

We had another lovely day here.  I don’t want to sound ungrateful because we have enjoyed the spell of good weather immensely but getting it so early in the year, may well mean that we will have to wait a long time for another good spell to come along.  In the meantime we may not be as pleased to see normal late spring weather as we would have been if we hadn’t had this misplaced burst of summer.

Still it is very welcome while it is here.  Mrs Tootlepedal’s river of blue is coming along…

hyacinths

…though it is not easy to capture on camera.  The sharp eyed will just be able to make the hyacinths out in front of the daffs.

The area for the new bench was smartened up and dead on cue the new bench arrived…

new bench

…and by happy coincidence, a lady bearing gifts of plants for Mrs Tootlepedal’s garden  turned up at just the right time to give the new bench a test.

P1090174

It was decided that it was a fraction too high and the bench maker promised to return and cut a bit off the bottom of the legs.

All the same, it was quite suitable for Mrs Tootlepedal and I to sit on while we drank our morning coffee and I was pleased to see that the dicentra beside the bench was acting as a bee magnet.

bee on dicentra

It had attracted a very big bumble bee.

Mrs Tootlepedal has been busy in the garden and I found that she had planted out one of the corydalis from the pots by the greenhouse.  She had found a good spot.

corydalis

The sun has brought on the tulips and there is colour on all sides.

tulips

tulips

This was my daff of the day.

daffodils

I had a look for tadpoles in the pond and for life on the dam and found both.

tadpole and water boatman

A little pond skater cast a big shadow!

On the front lawn, a blackbird found a juicy worm…

blackbird

…and having found it, disappeared into our holly bush.  As it went in, another came out and the in and out traffic continued so it looks as though there must be a nest in there.  We await developments.

I took advantage of the dry conditions to mow the middle lawn again and the battle against the moss is progressing quite well but as rain is forecast for tomorrow, I am not counting any chickens yet.

With all the action in the garden, there was not much time to watch the birds and there weren’t many birds to watch but I was pleased to see a goldfinch in the plum tree…

goldfinch

…not least because I could see some growth on the plum tree too.

In the garden, I sieved a little compost and I am now getting near the end of the material in Bin D so another compost shifting process will start soon.

After an early lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I put the last of the new veg beds into place. Some delicate work with the spirit level was required.

veg beds

The slightly narrower beds and the consequently wider path between them should makes things easier for the gardener.

After we had finished the bed, we sat on the bench again and I felt bold and thirsty enough to try drinking a mug of Mrs Tootlepedal’s ginger and ginseng infusion which comes in a standard teabag.

After drinking it, I found myself strangely serene and at the same time somewhat stimulated but curiously with no great desire to try the stuff again.

Under the influence of the concoction,  I put on my cycling shorts for the first time for many months and went off for a gentle pedal round my customary Canonbie circuit.  It was so warm and sunny by this point that I had to apply some sun blocker to my peely-wally limbs before setting out and I certainly needed it, as it was pretty warm in the sun. I had to keep drinking even on a short ride.

As the forecast suggests that the temperature is going to drop ten degrees and it it is going to rain at some point in every day to the end of the month, I enjoyed the warm  sunshine today a lot.

I was in no hurry.  Indeed my legs made it plain that I couldn’t have hurried even if I had wanted to so I had time to stop and look around.

I had noticed on a previous ride that if the sun was in the right place, it picked out the house beyond the central arch of the Liddle Viaduct and so it proved today.

Liddle viaduct

Yesterday it was celandines and today it was anemones.

anemones

I stopped on Canonbie Bridge to see how the willow flowers were getting on.  They were pretty well over but beside them, a new flower was sprouting.   I think that this is an ash tree.

canonbie tree flowers

I stopped on Hollows Bridge to see if I could persuade myself that I could see green leaves on the trees beside the river.

Esk at Hollows

Hmm.

I could see some green leaves further on though.  What I think might be a  beech at Irvine House and what is definitely a bramble at the end of the bike track.

beech and bramble

When I got home, I had a cup of tea and persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal to leave the garden for a while and come with me for a walk. She had been working hard all day so she cycled along beside me while I walked with cameras in hand.

I was hoping for riverside bird life but we only saw a lone oyster catcher and a distant grey wagtail.

wagtail and oyster catcher

There were plenty of people about and even one hardy young lad swimming in what must have been pretty chilly water so it was no surprise that there weren’t many birds about too.

The walk had its compensations though.

Ewes with daffs

Lodge Walks

And when we got home I found that the reason that I hadn’t seen any honey bees in the garden today was probably because they were all visiting my neighbour Hector’s currants.

bee on currant

On consulting my spreadsheet, I find that my afternoon ride, though short, still brought up the 1000 miles for the year so far.  I am still behind schedule but making progress.

I didn’t have time to spend waiting for a good flying bird to turn up so this is the best that I could do for flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s guest picture is another NZ bird from Mike and Alison’s recent antipodean expedition.  This one is a pied shag.

pied shag

We had a dull and cloudy morning but with men re-pointing our external wall under the kitchen window, there was no chance of seeing any birds so I retired to the computer and put in some practice on Sunday’s hymns.

When the men left so did the clouds and it turned into a another very good day, though a little cooler than yesterday.  Mrs Tootlepedal went out into the garden and did gardening things while I sieved a little compost.  The results soon found their way onto a flower  bed….

compost and blackbird

…although a blackbird found Mrs Tootlepedal’s manure more alluring.

I had a walk round and was happy to find new tulips out…

tulips

…a thriving dicentra…

dicentra

…and the daffodil of the day.

daffodil

In spite of the sunshine, we are very short of bees, with only one or two bumble bees about.

I had an early lunch and then gave Mrs Tootlepedal a little help with the third of the new veg beds before I packed some supplies in to my bike bag and set off to enjoy as much of the sunshine as I could (with as little hill climbing as possible).  As a result my route took me over the hill out of Langholm….

low plane

…where I was buzzed by another very low flying aircraft…

…and down to the shores of the Solway…

View over solway…where the men who put pylons in the middle of every view had been busy again.

On my way down I passed some early hawthorn leaves (with added lichen)…

hawthorn leaf and lichen

… and this fine show of celandines beside the road from Chapleknowe to Gretna…

celandine beside road

… and then a blast of the modern world seen from the railway bridge at Quintinshill…

railway at Gretna

…and wild flowers both modest and showy.

wild flowers

Having got down to the flat lands, I stayed on them.  The wind was stronger than I expected and pushing the slow bike into a breeze is quite hard enough without having hills to contend with too.

I headed south from Gretna into England, where there were flowering shrubs to be seen…

blackthorn and gorse

…and made my way down to the banks of the River Eden near Rockcliffe.

River Eden at Rockliffe

I was hoping to see some waterfowl but two swans and some unidentifiable ducks were too far away to be interesting…

P1090130

…so I found a pleasant spot under some early leaves…

P1090132

…and ate a blackcurrant jelly sandwich and half a banana.

Refreshed by this feast, I went back up to the top of the bank above the river…

P1090134

…and headed on southwards.  Before I got to Carlisle, I turned eastwards, following the line of this colourful gorse hedge…

gorse hedge

…where the men with pylons and telegraph poles had once again got there before me, and cycled inland across the A7.

The road in the picture below may look undistinguished…

Road near Scaleby

…but it represents cycling heaven for me.  It is flat, well surfaced, sunny, traffic free and (although you can’t see this) the wind is behind me and all is well with the world.

It took me through Scaleby, past the church ( probably early 13th century with tower of early 14th century and restorations of 1827-28 and 1860-62. Large blocks of dressed red sandstone, probably from the nearby Roman Wall)

Scaleby church

…and onto the main road to Longtown.

Now I was heading north again, with a bit of a crosswind.  Once I got to Longtown however, the wind was mostly behind me  and the 12 miles home, up the gentle hill to Langholm were very undemanding.

I had stopped at the border for another blackcurrant sandwich and the last half of my stock of bananas to give me some strength for the final push, when my eye was caught by some movement in the field on the opposite side of the road.  A small group of lapwings were flying low across the stubble and one landed and walked past me.

lapwing at border

Lapwings have become very rare round here in recent years so it was good to see some today.

As I got near to Langholm, time was drawing on and I liked the shadows cast by the trees on the near bank onto the far bank, making it look as though the trees on the far bank had ‘reverse’ shadows rising out of the water to meet them.

Esk in evening

I got home, having cycled 50 miles in five hours, including all my stops.  I managed an average moving speed of eleven and a half miles an hour.  This is a tribute to my skill in finding a really flat route.  The slow bike with its relatively upright riding position and its solid back tyre was surprisingly comfortable but I was still pretty pleased to get off.  Straight handlebars put a lot of pressure on your hands and wrists.

While I was out, Mrs Tootlepedal had settled in the third veg bed very neatly…

new veg bed

…and I couldn’t resist an evening lawn shot….

lawn at dusk

…before I went in.

There was enough light left to take a bird feeder shot…

busy feeder

…before it was time for a shower and an excellent meal of Mrs Tootlepedal’s fish pie to round the day off.

The new bench to go in Mrs Tootlepedal’s paved area is arriving tomorrow.  We are excited.

The flying bird of the day is an evening chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

Sorry about too many pictures again.  Don’t blame it on the boogie, blame it on the sunshine.

For those interested, details of the ride may be found by clicking on the map below.

garmin route 20 April 2018

 

Terrifying ladybird

Today’s guest picture comes from Langholm exile Tom.  He sent me this delightful view, taken on his morning walk in South Africa.

Tom's walk

There are far too many pictures in today’s post but when the sun shines after so much gloom, it is hard to stop the shutter finger clicking.

It was a beautiful day in Langholm today…

Beautiful day in Langholm

…so it was a bit sad that I had volunteered to spend most of the morning in  the Welcome to Langholm office, especially in view of the fact that I had no visitors to welcome.

When I got home, there was time to mow the front lawn, hunt for tadpoles…

tadpoles

…note signs of spring (plum tree on left and sliver pear in the middle)…

signs of spring

…check out the growing river of grape hyacinths…

hyacinyth river

…applaud the first tulips of the year….

tulips

…capture the daffodil(s) of the day…

daffs

…and go in for lunch.

There were birds about, both peaceful…

chaffinch and goldfinch

…and excited.

chaffinches

All too soon, it was time to drive to Lockerbie to catch the train to visit Matilda, her parents and her other grandparents in Edinburgh.

The train journey was the only time all day when the sun didn’t shine….

Tinto hills

Tinto Hills shot from the train window.

…but it was sunny in Edinburgh when we got there.

Matilda and her parents were visiting her other grandparents who were visiting from Cambridge.  They  have a pied a terre in Edinburgh, with a fine camellia by the door.

camellia

Matilda was waiting for us and it only took the addition of a mask to turn Matilda from a small serious child….

Matilda

…into superhero Ladybug.   She saved us from innumerable evils with great aplomb.

It was a day for a walk but Matilda had already been to the Botanic gardens which are not far away so she turned the offer of a second visit and the grandparents made an excursion by themselves.

The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh,  free to enter, is a treat.  It was ideally suited today for a gentle grandparently stroll in the sun.

Botanic Garden

Mrs Tootlepedal, Eileen and Francis take the air

I took too many pictures and I have put a selection of them here.  As well as catkins….

Botanic Garden catkins

…and exuberant flowers…

P1090070

…and more modest flowers…

P1090068

…there were well designed corners…

P1090067

…plentiful signs of spring…

botanic gardens

…and Chinese gardens with streams and bridges.

botanic gardens

And there were other interesting things too, like a magpie and a tree creeper…

magpie and tree creeper

…which was obligingly creeping up a tree when we saw it…

…and a grey squirrel.

botanic gardens squirrel

We didn’t have long, although it would have been easy to have spent hours enjoying the sights…

botanic gardens

The prettiest flowers of the tour

botanic gardens

This bed was a mystery

…did I say that there were catkins?

botanic gardens

…and we had reluctantly to drag ourselves away from the garden to go for our evening meal.  Matilda’s aunt and cousin who also live in Edinburgh came to join us so nine of us sat down for a family meal.  It was rounded off by a serving of Mrs Tootlepedal’s sticky toffee pudding which we had brought up with us on the train.

With the aid of a handy app, Alistair was able to get us out of the house in perfect time to catch the bus back to the station and we walked along Princes Street to the station in the evening sunshine.  Arthur’s Seat formed a backdrop to the city and…

Arthur's seat

…a good crowd were enjoying the view from the top of the hill.

Arthur's seat

Our journey home went well and we arrived back, tired but happy after a busy day.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch in the sun.

flying chaffinch

Halfway to paradise

Today’s guest picture comes from Mike and Alison’s recent visit to New Zealand where they saw this handsome NZ kingfisher.  I don’t know which of them took the picture.

NZ kingfisher

It was reasonably warm for the time of year again this morning but once again the effect was somewhat spoiled by light drizzle and a very strong wind.  I stayed indoors and did some useful stuff.

Mrs Tootlepedal had to go off to the dentist for some treatment and I filled some of the time while he was out by watching the birds.  I was able to confirm that we have at least four lesser redpolls visiting us at the moment.

busy feeder with redpolls

I am not sure if the hidden bird at the back of the feeder is another redpoll or a siskin.

There were plenty of siskins shouting and beating people up.

busy siskins

A wood pigeon brought a more stately air to the proceedings.

pigeon

The forecast was for a fine afternoon with a further rise in the temperature so after lunch, I thought of cycling although the wind was a bit off-putting.  However, I did manage to get into my cycling gear and go out.  Virtue was rewarded when it turned out that the wind had dropped considerably from the morning and although it was still noticeable, it wasn’t totally discouraging and I enjoyed pedalling in some warm air.

There were signs of spring along the road and although the prettiest was probably this primrose…

primrose

…..the most welcome was probably this larch twig, a real forerunner of the new green season.

larch bursting

As always, I looked at a wall if I stopped to take a general view and I liked this crusty set of lichen…

lichen on wall

…and was interested to find that there were some tiny red spots of colour among the stems when I put the picture on the computer.  I hadn’t been able to see them with the naked eye.

The most noticeable thing was not the roadside flowers or the larch needles but the fact that the grass has at last started growing in the cultivated fields.

Ewes valley april

We are greening up….

Ewes valley april

…although the rough hillside has some time to go yet before it goes green.

I was a bit sorry to find that the day was more amenable to cycling than I had thought that it would be as I could have gone a more interesting route if I had realised.   I made up for my dull route choice by stopping at the Kilngreen to buy a nougat wafer from the ice cream van there and I ate it while sitting on a bench by the river and enjoying the bird life.

This is a lesser black backed gull (I have to thank a reader who corrected my view that it was a herring gull last time one appeared in a post),

lesser black backed gull

And these are a small fraction of the hundreds of rooks that swirl about in the sky over the town.

rooks

I took a picture of the Langholm Bridge to show how much the river has dropped since yesterday…

Langholm Bridge

…and then I pedalled home, arriving just as the sun came out.

It was such a lovely afternoon that I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal, who was just having a cup of tea indoors after some hard work in the garden, to come and drink it outside.

Mrs T's new bench area

She has almost finished her new bench area so we put a couple of plastic chairs out and tested it.

This is the view that we had from the chairs.

daffodils

It was wonderful to be able to sit out and enjoy the warmth and the sunshine as this was our first opportunity for months.

The new lawn shaping has been completed and this is how it looked this afternoon.

new look middle lawn

You can see the new bench are on the right.

I was quite pleased to see the grass on the middle lawn trying to win the battle against the moss so I got the mower out and mowed the front lawn.  There is no picture of the result there as the moss is still winning hands down.

I had time for a camera-wander.  I got a fleeting glimpse of a tadpole in the pond….

tadpole

…which was very encouraging.  There were lots of others about too.

The first fritillaries are out…

fritillaria

…and I found a corydalis in a pot and the rosemary next to the greenhouse.

corydalis and rosemary

The temperature is due to drop back a bit but even half a day at 18°C was enough to cheer us up enormously.  We have had such a long spell of cold and cool weather that we had begun to think that things might never warm up again.

The are a lot of daffodils to choose from but this one was my daffodil of the day today.

daffodil

I made some risotto for our tea and then Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help at the Buccleuch Centre and I went off to sing with the Langholm community choir.  Our concert with the local orchestra is in two weeks so we worked hard.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.  It is not a good picture but I think that it conveys some of the energy that these tiny birds put into their visits to the feeders  so I have put it in.

flying siskin

I would like to thank Canadian reader and Langholm exile, Joyce Lewis, for a very kind mention of this blog in an article which she wrote for our local paper.  It is very nice to think that the pictures can bring back youthful memories of the area.