Today’s guest picture was sent to me by our gardening consultant Liz and shows her daughter Sara reviewing her birthday cake with commendable calm.  The lad in the background has still got a little to learn about how to wear a hat,

SaraOur clocks leapt an hour forward during the night and I adjusted to the change by getting up a theoretical hour later.   I am considering getting up five minutes earlier each day until my body clock and Greenwich Mean Time are running in tandem.  Not having to go to work is sometimes a good thing.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir as usual and I made a chicken stew for the slow cooker.  I had just finished it when Sandy arrived on his way to the bird feeders.  He was followed in short order by Dropscone bearing drop scones.  He would normally be playing golf at this time but no one else was available to play so he came round for coffee instead.

His loss was our gain.

It was a day of very mixed weather and in between showers I was able to look out of the window.  I had put out a suet ball and it attracted the attention of the jackdaw community…

jackdaw…some of whom didn’t take kindly to the paparazzi.

jackdaw…and a blackbird too.

blackbirdI had no takers for the suet ball when it was hanging in a feeder but it went in a few hours when it was on the ground.

The wet weather had brought the small birds back to the garden and I had to fill the seed feeder.  There was no shortage of flying chaffinches, male….

flying chaffinchflying chaffinch…or female.

We even saw a siskin for the first time for many days.

siskinI was just chatting to Mrs Tootlepedal on her return from church when a flurry of movement caught my eye.  The return of the small birds had not escaped the attention of the sparrowhawk either.

sparrowhawkIn one if the sunny intervals I took the opportunity to take an item of Archive Group business down to Nancy, our treasurer, and I naturally took my camera too.

Caroline StreetBlack clouds in the background and sunshine on the Wauchope sum the day up nicely. I crossed the park bridge and looked at one of my favourite walls.

Park wallAs well as the moss, it is home to many colourful lichens.

Park lichenPark lichenPark lichenPark lichenIt is always a treat to walk along this wall.

I didn’t hang about as the black clouds looked very threatening.

It was still sunny though after lunch and I looked out of the window again to see some restful birds who had returned undeterred by the sparrowhawk.

chaffinchsparrowUnder the circumstances, I was particularly impressed that a sparrow came.

It wasn’t long before it was time for us to go to Carlisle for our choir practice there.  Our musical director was back and he worked us hard.  He was hoping to have a big pile of pieces almost ready for performance by the end of the session but we needed more help than he had bargained for and he finished up with only four.  His trouble is that he doesn’t like to leave a piece until we are singing it correctly and some of us need quite a few goes until we reach that happy state.

We drove through some more heavy showers on the way home but were rewarded with a magnificent rainbow as we got near Langholm.

Although I made the slow cooker stew, it was thanks to Mrs Tootlepedal’s winning ways with enhancing the gravy that the final result turned out very well.

The squeamish should look away now and take my word for it that the flying bird of the day is quite good.

hawk departing

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my son Anthony.  It shows his dogs scampering about on Portobello beach on the shores of the Firth of Forth.  The dog on the left must have been going a lot faster than the dog on the middle to be so out of focus.

portobello beachAfter a night of heavy rain and strong winds, we were more than pleased to find no signs of dampness in the front room.   Long may this continue.

On a less happy note, we had to drive down to the people who sold us our new multi fuel stove.  I didn’t put this in the blog at the time because it was so annoying that I was speechless but when we lit it last week, it only took half an hour for the glass in the door to crack terminally.   This turned out to be caused by over-tightening of the holding screws by the supplier so a new one was provided.

While we were down that way, we visited a handy garden centre and brought some expensive goods from their fancy food hall.  As this included some very tasty cheese, the journey was wasted.

We lit the stove when we got back and on this occasion the glass did not crack.  We are encouraged.  It certainly heats the room up well.

It had been a very gloomy and wet morning but things brightened up a bit after lunch so Mrs Tootlepedal and I went up to the new hide at the Moorland feeders.  While I looked at small birds in the trees, Mrs Tootlepedal sat in the car and scanned the sky for hen harriers.  She saw a female very close to and came to tell me about it (after it had gone).

I made do with some local residents.


A greenfinch

Great tit

A great tit

coal tit

A coal tit

The sharp eyed will have noticed that all the birds so far have been ringed.    There were some others which had not been netted so far.

blue tit

A blue tit


And a much less green greenfinch

There are now some handsome benches in the new hide and handy shelves for a thermos (had I thought to bring one).

We were just having a cup of tea when we got home when Sandy arrived.  After the cup that cheers, Sandy and I went off for a brief walk.  It was brief because the light was already fading and rain threatened.

We did a quick tour of the Duchess and Jubilee bridges.  The wild garlic is beginning to grow in the woods…

wild garlic…and soon the familiar smell will be all pervasive on this walk.

The heavy overnight rain had filled the river up…

Esk…in contrast to the low levels of the past week.

I kept an eye out or tree borne lichen.

lichen on a branch…but took a shot of a mossy wall in the name of balance.

wall with moss and lichenA dash of colour in our next door neighbour’s garden alerted me to the first flowering currant of the year.

currantWe got back to our respective homes without getting wet and I settled down to some serious resting.

As my recent cycle outings have left my knew nee a little puffy, I was pleased to have the excuse of some very strong winds and rain to keep me off the bike for this weekend.  I am not so happy to see that the strong winds are forecast to last for most of next week too.

I did manage to find one flying chaffinch in the morning drizzle.

flying chaffinch

Anything went

Today’s guest picture is a swan posing for my sister Mary by the Serpentine.

Swans by the SerpentineIt was a bright and sunny day at breakfast time but cold enough at 3 degrees C to make me grateful that Mrs Tootlepedal had to go out to help record  the newspaper for the blind while I had to stay in in case a delivery came.

This gave me time to take a couple of end wall pictures.

End wall

The scaffolding and the skip have both now gone and the road is completely clear. Hooray.

end wall upstairs

Inside the wall upstairs has been plastered and is drying satisfactorily.

By the time that Mrs Tootlepedal returned, the clouds had come up and the temperature had gone up to a reasonable 8 degrees so I set off for a pedal on the fairly speedy bike.  Everyone agrees that although the temperatures should make things comfortably warm, the moving air that we meet when out and about at present makes things feel decidedly chilly.   It was the same today, exacerbated by the briskness of the wind and I was thinking of quite a short ride when I set out.

As so often happens though, once I got going, I felt a lot more purposeful and cycled twelve miles up the Lockerbie road before turning for home.  I took it very easily into the wind and enjoyed myself in a faintly masochistic way.  Some kind person had cleared the bank of scrub at the Paddockhole Bridge so I was able to stop and add a clear picture of it to my collection of local bridges.

PaddockholeI pedalled on past the bridge until I got to a spot where an owner seems to be digging a large pond beside his house.

PondI don’t know whether this is part of a grander scheme as there seem to be ground works going on all round the house.

MinscaThe Minsca windmills in the background gave me the heartening message that the wind would be straight behind me on the way home.   I was grateful and enjoyed the trip back a lot, especially the last five and a half miles, which I accomplished at an average of 22 mph.  It’s amazing how well your knee feels when pedalling downhill with a brisk wind behind.

After a light lunch and a shower, I set off back up the same road.  This time I was in the car with Mrs Tootlepedal and we were paying the first visit the year to the manure mine.   While she filled a bucket or two, I wandered across to some larch trees.

Larch treesLarch treesSince I had taken a bridge picture earlier, I thought I ought to add a gate picture to keep gate fanciers happy too.

gate at manure mineWhen Mrs Tootlepedal had filled her buckets, we took the time for a stroll along the banks of the Wauchope.


In shady parts there were still little patches of the hail from three days ago.

There was not much water in the river but it chattered away over its many small cascades.

Wauchope riverWauchope riverThe underlying sandstone is often coloured by minerals and the stones on the beaches can be very pretty.

Wauchope riverAbove our heads, a pair of buzzards circled in the sky, giving off their mournful cries.  They were too high for a picture.

We left the banks of the river and found a gate…

wauchope gate…to walk through into the field and back to the car.  The wall beside the gate was home to some very bright green lichen.

green lichenDuring the day, a friend had been cutting trees and shrubs down against the fence of the garden next door and he was kind enough to throw the cherry tree over the fence and into our garden.  He even sliced it up first.

cherry treeThere is a good deal of chopping in that pile,  We made a little start on the task.  This will be fuel for our new stove in a year’s time.

I shall miss the cherry blossom.

I looked round the garden but old faithfuls were the only colour available.  I took pictures of two of them.

chionodoxa and primulaAfter the cycle and the walk, I sat down to listen to the radio but owing to outbreaks of spontaneous somnolence, I couldn’t tell you what I was listening to.

I roused myself enough to make some tea and then we went off to the Buccleuch Centre to attend a production of Anything Goes by our local amateur operatic and dramatic society.  The hall was well filled, and the audience appreciated a very good performance.

I personally enjoyed Cole Porter’s lyrics more than anything else but the tunes are catchy and the singers put them over well.  The musical director rattled things along at brisk tempi throughout and nothing dragged. The show had two excellent young ladies to sing the leading parts and everyone else joined in with competence and pep.  There was a sad lack of tap dancing but you can’t have everything.  The mark of a good amateur performance is when the audience feels comfortable with the production and confident with the performers and the show tonight passed easily on both counts.

Bird visitors were scarce again.  The tree felling next door probably didn’t help.  I did manage to catch a flying chaffinch though.

flying chaffinch

Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia who is very proud of her pond’s first crop of tadpoles.  She sent me a video of them wriggling  but I thought it would be too exciting for the readers.

tadpolesAfter yesterday’s busy day, I took things quietly today.  I was helped by a very windy day which discouraged any thought of cycling and I managed a morning without doing anything more strenuous than drinking coffee with Sandy and Dropscone and putting a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.

It was very gloomy and drizzly at breakfast time so I cheered myself up by snapping some pretty flowers which my daughter Annie had sent Mrs Tootlepedal for Mothering Sunday.  They have lasted very well.

mother's day flowers

Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that the yellow flower is a fancy buttercup.

I did look out of the window from time to time.

blackbird and dove

A blackbird and a dove were lurking among the flowers.

We had quite a bit of rain overnight and this had encouraged a quite a few birds to visit the feeder.  Some were the usual suspects.

robinAmong the visitors once the sun came out was one goldfinch which defied the windy conditions and took the topmost perch in the plum tree.

goldfinchIt couldn’t hang on for long and soon sought a more stable base…

goldfinch…before popping onto the feeder….

goldfinch…and snarling at any other bird which came in range.

goldfinch and chaffinchI did get out as far as the pond….

frogsMrs Tootlepedal had driven off to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda.  When she got there, she found that a broken down goods train had closed the line for an indefinite time so she decided reluctantly to come home again.  As she managed to fit in a useful visit to a retail outlet on her way, she was less disappointed than she might have been.

She is working hard with a home made poultice to draw the ingrained soot residues out of our sandstone fireplace lintel. After lunch,  I left her to this and went for a well sheltered walk round the Pheasant Hatchery and the Kilngreen.   This modest two mile sunny but windy walk took me nearly two hours and it wasn’t because I was stopping to take a lot of pictures on the way.

I had my cameras with me but nothing much caught my eye which I hadn’t taken before.  A recent post by the New Hampshire Gardener made me keep a look out for lichen on trees  as well as my usual walls.

tree lichenThere trees themselves were a treat to look at, both singly in the middle of a field…

pine…and in groups along my path.

treesI saw a quick movement by the fence that you can see beside the path and peering into a bush, I saw a thrush.

thrushWhen I got to the Kilngreen, I was hoping to nod to Mr Grumpy but he was elsewhere.  A pair of ducks flew off and disappeared into the blue before I could get a good shot of them flying….

flying ducks…but too my surprise, they circled round and swooped low across the car park before landing back in the river.  I just caught one of them.

duck in car parkI was strangely tired by the time that I got home and a plan to go up to the moor and watch owls died a silent death in the face of some concentrated inertia.

In the evening, I went up to the Archive Centre with Sandy and was pleasantly surprised to find that our internet connection was working very well.  In fact it was working so well that Sandy and I put two weeks of the newspaper index into the database in double quick time.  It helped that they were fairly light weeks as far as items of news were concerned.

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


Three journeys

Today’s guest picture shows a newspaper headline spotted in Hull by my friend Bruce, who is on a tour of interesting places in England.  He remarks that it is not a headline that he has seen before.  I remark that it must be hard to keep a flying goldfish in a bowl.

Newspaper in HullIt was a beautiful day today, with fluffy clouds in a blue sky and a very light wind.  It cried out for a cycle ride.  It would have got one straight after breakfast if the temperature had not been too close to zero for fun.  I waited around, looking out of the window occasionally…

robin and chaffinch

There was not a lot to see

…until it had crept up to a mellow 4°C.  I wrapped up well and then went off on the fairly speedy bike.

Rather alarmingly, the fields and the roadside were covered in a thick layer of yesterday’s hail and at places even the road itself was white.  I pottered along slowly and carefully until the very local nature of the storm yesterday was made plain by the complete disappearance of the evidence after a two miles.  From there on, conditions were perfect.

As the forecast for the next few days contains many indications of strong winds, I resolved to go as far as the new knee would let me while the going was good.

For the curious, details of the ride can be found by clicking on the image below.

garmin 25 March 15It was mostly gentle going in a green and pleasant land and as I had omitted to put a card in my camera, two pictures from my phone will have to do by way of an illustration.

River Annan

The River Annan seen on the outward leg of the trip.

Solway sky

The wide expanse of the Solway sky on my way home.

After thirty miles, my leg started to pass remarks so I stopped in Gretna for a bowl of soup and a poke of chips at the Old Tollbar cafe. This is advertised as  the last house in Scotland but it would have been the first house in Scotland had I approached it from the opposite direction.

Thus fortified, my legs stopped their moaning until I was near home.  Then they suggested, quite forcibly, that I give up any thoughts of a neat 50 miler and so I settled for 47.5 miles and a tasty heap of drop scones, freshly made by Mrs Tootlepedal when I got in.

It was such a nice day that I had a walk round the garden.

purple heaven

Colour was not in short supply…

frog spawn

…and frog spawn wasn’t scarce either. 


Not quite a host yet


Signs of life in a spirea

The answer to yesterday plant riddle is that the object was the rhizome of a water lily.  I felt quite a fool to be angrily hooking out a tyre only to find that it was a living plant.

water lilyIn my defence, Mrs Tootlepedal thought it was a tyre too when we saw it in the water and the pond is too crowded with plants anyway.

Flying birds were not available but a starling was back on the holly tree…


About ten bickering starlings flew out of the tree as I got too near.

…and a portly pigeon sauntered about.

pigeonAfter a shower, I drove Mrs Tootlepedal up to the Langholm Moor for a brief bird watching session.  Moorland management was much in evidence when we arrived.  A tractor was mowing strips of vegetation….

Moorland tractor… probably to create fire breaks for the burning of the heather.

MuirburnThis burning is done to encourage new shoots in the heather for the grouse but it is subject to some controversy as a method of moorland management.

Naturally with all this going on not far from where we parked, we thought that there would be no chance of seeing any birds but a short eared owl soon made an appearance and drifted along the bank in front of us.  I followed it so far with the binoculars and then took a couple of shots for the record as it flew away.

owlAnother owl, or perhaps the same one again, if it had sneaked back undetected, made an appearance a bit further away later on.

owlWe also caught a passing glimpse of a merlin, flitting along above the heather so we were very satisfied with our outing.

On our way up to the moor, we had stopped at the Kilngreen to try and get a flying bird picture for the day.  The ducks were happy to stay firmly down to earth.

MallardMrs Tootlepedal strolled along to the Meeting of the Waters to ponder on the flow of the Ewes where it joins the Esk.

Meeting of the waters

It actually flows upstream at the junction.

In the evening, I went off to Brampton to visit the Brampton Community Choir.  They recently advertised for a musical director and then their old MD came back from illness and they unadvertised the job.  He is likely to go away within the next year or so and they asked if I would like to go down and see the choir meanwhile just in case.

It has about 60 members and and makes a good sound.  I sang along with the tenors, sight reading  as best as I could and it was arranged that I should go along in the Autumn and conduct a couple of pieces then to see how the choir and I get along.   I look forward to it.

I did find a gull to help out, under protest, with the flying bird of the day position.

flying gull

PS: While I was looking at today’s pictures on my phone, I discovered one that I took on Warbla the other day and didn’t use.  I don’t usually put in pictures which I haven’t taken on the day but I thought this was worth looking at.  The phone has easily my widest angle lens.

view from warbla

All hail

No guest picture today but a garden puzzle instead.  Mrs Tootlepedal and I thought that someone had thrown a bicycle tyre into the garden when we caught a glimpse of this but we were wrong.  We know what it is now but can any gardening reader identify it?

puzzle picture We greeted the dawn brightly today for two reasons.  Firstly it was a bright dawn itself with lovely spring sunshine and secondly….

end wall…the scaffolding magically disappeared, revealing the new wall in all its modest glory.  There is still plenty of work to be done inside but this was a significant moment all the same.

The fine dry weather was still keeping the garden fairly free of birds which was a pity because the light was very good.


The sole chaffinch of the morning.

female blackbird

A female blackbird looks for fallen seed.


One of the two robins in the garden.

Since I had little to do, it was lucky that Dropscone came round with scones.  He had already cycled round the morning run but he was even more pleased about a hole in one that he had scored in the winter golf competition on Saturday.  This was not only satisfying in itself (and cheap, as there were only two people in the clubhouse when he got in) but also put in him the lead in the whole competition with only one more weekend to go.

I was planning on a gentle pedal in the afternoon but a terrific rattle alerted me to a sudden and violent hailstorm.

hailIt was fairly pinging down and not something that you would like to meet when on a bicycle.

Interestingly, as soon as the shower was over, more birds than before came into the garden.

goldfinchThe forecast offered more showers ahead so I abandoned the after lunch cycling plan and went for a walk with my big umbrella in hand instead.

There was the first sign of cherry blossom in the park.

cherry blossomThe hail shower…

hail…had left things looking quite wintery.

Kernigal trackThe hailstones had come down with such force that even the ground in the woods under the canopy was well covered.  I was a bit worried about my footing but the hail seemed to have the interesting property of being ‘sticky’ rather than ‘slippery’ and I negotiated the narrow rough track through the Kernigal woods and then the broad forestry track with hardly a stumble.

The view on each side of the valley could hardly have been more contrasting.

whita and warblaThis shows just how localised the hail shower must have been.

I was able to apply the brakes to take yet another catkin portrait.

catkinsI walked on down to the cottage at Skipperscleugh and was diverted by the varied animals there.


geese and ducks

Fortunately, there was no tendency of the geese and ducks to scurry.

I made my way down to Skippers Bridge where I took the obligatory lichen shot…

lichen…before  walking back along the Murtholm.  I admired the sunlight on the hill behind the farm…

Murtholm..and some coltsfoot beside the track.

coltsfootMy umbrella came in handy with a few hundred yards to go when another hailstorm got going.  This one had less hail and more rain in it and left things looking quite damp.

chaffinch in wet plum treeMrs Tootlepedal cooked me some tasty pancakes to revive me when I got in.

In the evening, I drove Susan to Carlisle where we met at Heather’s to play recorders as our usual hostess, Jenny was off on a ploy.  Heather is an excellent pianist so we took the opportunity to play some Bach duets with (electronic) harpsichord accompaniment.  This was a rare treat.

The temperature dropped to below zero as we drove home and I fear for the future of our potential tadpoles in the pond.

The rain brought enough birds into the garden for me to get a traditional chaffinch as flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

Today’s guest picture shows Mr Grumpy’s London cousin surveying the Serpentine.  He caught my sister Mary’s eye.

Mr Grumpy hiding in the shadeI had to get up bright and early to take our car to the garage to get a new track rod fitted and the radio sorted so that it actually worked.  It was a pleasant sunny day except for a chilly wind again.  Although the temperature for the last few days has been quite springlike when you are in the sun, if the sun goes in or you catch the breeze, it has remained stubbornly cold.

My walk home was well sheltered.  There are still very few birds in the garden so I was more than usually pleased to see a pair of blue tits today/

_DSC7668-1The one on the right has been ringed so I can tell that it was the other one who came to the feeder for a seed.

_DSC7670A pair of starlings also paid a visit, perched on top of a variegated holly bush.

_DSC7685-1There are quite a few blackbirds who spend most of the time chasing each other about.  This one was lurking on the edge of a flowerbed and keeping a wary eye out.

_DSC7686-1The light was quite good today so the absence of birds from the feeder was a lost opportunity.  This was the only chaffinch that I saw all day

_DSC7687I had to look out of our back window to see this house sparrow.

_DSC7690A walk round the garden after breakfast showed that it had been raining overnight….

rainy plants….but it had only been a light shower.

I had to go to the High Street on business just before lunch so I made the best of it by taking a camera or two with me and returning by way of the Kilngreen and the Castleholm.  The black headed gulls are in their spring plumage and showing why they have got their name.

_DSC7707And I was delighted to see Mr Grumpy back in his normal spot on the river bank.

_DSC7713-1On a nearby fencepost, a gull was posing for me.

_DSC7718-1After lunch, I was intending to go for a cycle outing but I was overcome with tiredness and had to sit down for a snooze in a comfortable chair instead.  After about an hour, I got up and went out into the garden,  The recent warmer weather has made the grass grow on the back lawn so I got the hover mower out and gave it the first trim of the year.  Parts of the middle lawn needed attention too and a quick sweep with a light push mower sorted that out.

Most of the front and middle lawn is covered in moss and we will need some really good growing weather before there is any grass to mow.

Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out a new primula.

primulaWe are not sure yet quite what kind it is.

I walked back to the garage and collected our car.

Since it was such a lovely afternoon and we had the car back, after we had had a cup of tea, we jumped into the car and went up onto the moor to see if we could see a short eared owl again.

The trip was worth it for the view up the Ewes valley alone.

Ewes ValleyWe parked beside Kenny, a local wildlife enthusiast and member of our local camera club and he pointed out a female hen harrier just above the skyline.  It was soon joined by another female and a male.  The male then gave us a short but spectacular flying display designed to catch the eyes of the females.

_DSC7725It was too quick and too far away for my lens.  The harriers were the  joined by a pair of buzzards and they circled above us for some time.

harrier and buzzardsAlthough they were too far above us for proper photographs, they were easily in range of our binoculars and very enjoyable to watch so we were pleased to have gone up to the moor in spite of not seeing the owl today.  As a bonus, we did watch a merlin fly past us and settle on a rock further up the hillside.

We got home in time for my flute pupil Luke’s weekly lesson.  He is taking his grade three exam this week and had been to a proper flute teacher a day or two ago for some last minute advice.   He can play his pieces well but needs to put in some hard graft on his scales before Friday.

After tea, Sandy arrived to take me across to the last meeting of the year of the Liddesdale Camera Club.  I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the moon before we left.  Having seen the moon cast its shadow on the sun on Friday, it seemed only fair to show the earth casting a shadow on the moon today.

_DSC7744 (2)The camera club meeting was to show the best pictures of the year and pick a champion print and digital image.  I didn’t have any entries, having not done well this year but Sandy had several.  In the event, almost all the prizes went to the same member and it must be admitted that he is perhaps more skilful and certainly takes much more trouble than the rest of us so he deserved his success.

Although I took technically better flying bird pictures today, this flying robin is still my pick for flying bird of the day.flying robin


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