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Rocking around

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew’s tour of five abbeys last weekend.  As well as many fine buildings, he saw some good bridges too, among them this lift bridge at Gloucester docks.

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It was another calm, dry day at North Berwick and after breakfast, Mrs Tootlepedal and I enjoyed a stroll along a largely deserted beach before taking Matilda up to the carousel for another whirl, this time on a horse….

anothe rode

…followed by a very vigorous bounce on the mini trampolines nearby.

We had a walk on the east beach afterwards in company with a pied wagtail.

wagtail on NB beach

The local seagulls are a lazy lot and this one was trying to get a lift out to sea on a seal, but it hadn’t got things quite right to the amusement of the seal.

gull on seal

We got back to our cottage in time for lunch and a visit from our landlady and an electrician.  They had come to fix the lights in the kitchen which were all defunct.  We were pleased to get them mended but a slightly better impression might have been created if they had been working when we got here.

After lunch, we put on suitable clothing and set off to the harbour to catch the boat for our annual trip to the Bass Rock.  We got to the harbour early and Al and Matilda waited patiently on the harbour wall.

al and maltilda on harobour wall

We were first onto the boat when the time came and it wasn’t long before we were pottering out of the harbour past some eider ducks…

eider ducks

…and heading towards the open sea.  Once clear of the rocks, the captain put his foot on the accelerator and we sped off towards Craigleieth Island at a great rate of knots.

Craigleith Island is home to nesting razor bills and guillemots in great numbers but as soon as a puffin appeared on one side of the boat….

ouffin off craigleityh

…or the other…

puffin swimming

…every camera turned to it and the other birds were ignored.

We were on the wrong side of the boat to get the best view of the birds on the island but I did spot a seal…

seal on Craigleith

…and I was happy to watch the guillemots and razor bills swimming about without taking pictures of them.

Once we had circumnavigated the small island, we left it in our wake…

appraoching craigleith

…and headed off towards the Bass Rock…

approaching bass rock

…where it was impossible not to notice the thousands upon thousands of gannets nesting there and filling the air above and around the rock.

bass rck covered in gannets

Gannets are beautiful birds with a wingspan of nearly six feet.

flying gannet

The boat took us right up to the rock and as we were on the right side of the boat this time, we got a wonderful view of the birds.

two gannets at nest

Gannets are affectionate birds and do a lot of beak tapping as couples.  The guide told us that if we saw this loud behaviour…

gannet shouting

…the gannet wasn’t  complaining but just telling its partner that it was going off fishing for a while.

We were too close to shallow water to see the gannets doing their spectacular dives but we did see them taking off…

gannet after take off

….flying past with nest material in their beaks,,,,

gannet flying

…and demonstrating their impressive wingspans,

gannet flying away

They are very striking birds when seen close to and the boat captain was meticulous in giving us every opportunity to admire them.

two gannets

The rock is almost entirely covered by gannets but there were a few kittiwakes (not close enough to photograph) and occasional guillemots who had found a spare ledge to call their own.

two guillemots

I think that this was my favourite shot of the trip.

gannet taking off

The east end of the rock has some fine caves and a lighthouse….

bass rock caves

…and once we had passed them, it was time to head back to harbour as the rock grew smaller…

farewell bass rock

…and smaller as we motored on under a big sky.

bss rock with cloud front

We got safely back to harbour having enjoyed unusually calm conditions for the trip, and after another whirl on the carousel and bounce on the trampolines by one member of the party, we had a cup of tea in the Seabird Centre and arrived home tried but satisfied.

Al cooked us a very tasty lemon and asparagus linguine for our tea and that rounded off a first rate day.

Although I was spoiled for choice, I haven’t gone for the predictable gannet as flying bird of the day but I have chosen a herring gull instead.

flying gull

 

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  He attended the Fife agricultural show on a damp day yesterday.

ag show fife

We had a calm and tolerably warm day today at North Berwick although an early glimpse of sun soon headed out to sea….

sun on island NB

…leaving us feeling that a coat might be a good thing.

After breakfast, I went down to the beach with Matilda and while she channelled the little mermaid…

matilda as mermaid

I got busy building five sand castles.

As soon as they were finished, the little mermaid turned back into Matilda (her name means mighty in battle) with the inevitable outcome for my castles…

castle stamping sequence

….but luckily, I had a back up.

Queen of the castle NB

We went back in after a while and collected Mrs Tootlepedal and went off for a babyccino and a biscuit at the Seabird Centre cafe which has a fine view across the bay to Craigleith Island.

veiw from seabird centre NB

There is a traditional carousel outside the Centre, so what could be more natural than taking a ride in carriage while ringing the bell…

matilda on carousel NB

…and smiling at the assembled audience?

matilda on carousel NB close

We gathered together with Matilda’s parents for a nourishing lunch of soup and bread and cheese and then went back down to the beach.  Our cottage leads onto a sheltered corner of the which was heavily use for launching sailing boats…

reflection in sea NB

…and power boats too.

car on beach NB

We watched the Seabird Cruise catamaran leave the harbour with interest as we are going to go on that cruise ourselves tomorrow.

seabird cruise NB

Other seafarers took the cheaper self drive option.

rowers NB

When the boat launchers left enough space, Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda took a stand against the incoming tide…

Mrs T and Matilda NB

…and when their castle was washed away (King Knut was right), and a light drizzle had started, we went inside and played cards.  I won’t say who won but we were playing ‘Beggar my Neighbour’ and I played the part of the beggared neighbour very well several times so it wasn’t me.

The drizzle cleared and Al and Clare took Matilda off to do some trampolining and have another ride on the carousel while Mrs Tootlepedal and I did some shopping.

While we were walking back to the cottage, we passed a small flock of eider ducks by the harbour, so I went in to get my camera and walked back to the harbour by which the time, the ducks had flown.

I had a little wander round and found that boats, both gentle….

sailing boats NB

…and speedy…

speedy boat NB

… were still filling the waters round the harbour.  It had been a busy day on the sea.

I was hoping to catch a flying bird and was disappointed to find this gull waiting for a lift home.

dav

Out to sea, a low mist had formed, shrouding all but the hills on the Fife shore across the Forth…

fife shore low mist

…and surrounding the Bass Rock too.

bass rock low mist

We finished a traditional day in a traditional way by going out for a meal of fish and chips.  It has been a good start to our holiday.

And I did find at least one gull who proceeding under its own steam.

flying gull

All charged up

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew  who spotted a fine bridge in Tamworth.

Tamworth bridge

Just a brief post today to say that we left the delights of the garden at home…

home azaleahome clematis

…and travelled to North Berwick by way of Tweedbank.  We stopped at Tweedbank to use a public charging point for the little white zingy thingy.  We were anxious to find out if we could mange the process for the first time.  It turned out to be remarkably simple.  It was due to take 55 minutes to charge up the power that we had used getting there so we took the opportunity to walk past this fine outburst of broom and hawthorn…

dav

….to a cafe on a loch nearby where we had lunch.

The charging had gone to schedule when we got back to the car and we drove on to North Berwick in a very relieved state of mind.  Some of the route took us over steep and long hills where the power meter dropped dramatically but as we went down the other side, the meter recovered its equilibrium and we arrived with plenty of power to spare.

I parked in a public car park 200 yards from our cottage and was delighted to find another public charging point there. We should get home all right at the end of our week.

It was rather grey and drizzly in North Berwick but I went for a short walk while we were waiting for Matilda and her parents to arrive.  It is always a pleasure to be at the seaside, whatever the weather.

bass rock from afarNB harbourNB law behind townNB faoming rocksNB rocks and foamBas rock from distanceNB lichenNB pool changing hutsarctic tern scul[tureNB bird spotter

And of course there are a lot of flying birds about too.

flying gull

I should note that although we haven’t been here long, Matilda has already stamped on ten of my sandcastles.  It is going to be a busy week.

 

Protection

Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo from Manitoba’s trip to England.  She went down to Hastings on the south coast and was rather surprised to find a reminder of home in the shape of a somewhat morose moose.

Mary Jo's moose

Although I had enjoyed my cycle ride up the hill to the bird hide yesterday, the effect of having to push hard to get up the hill hadn’t been kind either to my breathing or my feet so I wisely decided to go nowhere further than the corner shop today.

Luckily there was plenty to look at and quite a bit to do in the garden so I wasn’t bored.

One of the field beans from Mrs Tootlepedal’s green manure planting has avoided being dug in and is flowering merrily and the potatoes are just popping their heads through the soil too.

bean and potato

The front door clematis brings a smile to my face every time I pass it by.

front door clematis

It was sunny again today but not as warm as it has been but new arrivals are still appearing and we saw the first veronica and choisya flowers today.

veronica choisya

And the sun has encouraged abundance…

groups of flowers

…not least among the alliums.

allium copse

Not all the good things can be seen from inside the garden and I had to go out onto the road to see two more arrivals, a honeysuckle in the hedge…

honeysuckle in hedge

…and the first flowers on the rosa Moyesii.

rose moyesia

When I went back in I spotted two more new arrivals, a pink aquilegia and a posh geum.

aquilegia and geum

Undoubtedly though, the brightest flower in the garden wasn’t even out yet.

rhododendron buds

That is the very definition of red in my view.

I didn’t just wander about.  I did a little work too.  We recently bought a very reasonably priced half moon edging tool from the ever intriguing middle aisle at Lidl in Carlisle and Mrs Tootlepedal and I put it to use in producing some neat edges for the middle lawn.

Mrs Tootlepedal, who really likes a neat edge, was very pleased with the result.

neat lawn edging

So was I.

Then I got the electric hover mower out and mowed the drying green and the greenhouse grass.  I often talk about mowing the drying green but I don’t know whether it has ever appeared on the blog before.  Here it is….

drying green

…not the greatest expanse of grass in the world but sufficient for its purpose.

It has a fringe of nettles and other wild plants in the far corner to encourage insects.  Mrs Tootlepedal has a plan to let the grass grow freely and cut a path just wide enough to give access to the whirligig.  She intends to plant tulips among the grass so as to make the area decorative as well as useful.

Then I lent a hand as Mrs Tootlepedal fashioned a protective cage for her sweet peas.  If our peas and sweet peas are not fully protected, the sparrows nip the tops off the growing plants and they come to nothing.   It is very infuriating and gives Mrs Tootlepedal a lot of extra work, but this year she thinks that she has got the peas properly protected.

three pea fortresses

The pair of blackbirds nesting in the hydrangea are working very hard collecting food and it is rare not to see one or both of them pecking away on the lawn.

blackbird pecking lawn

Seeing them working away made me think of the front lawn which is still in poor condition so after lunch I got out one of those cheerful packets of soluble fertiliser which promise you a greener lawn in five days and used it.

For once, I believed the advertising hype as nothing could be less green than the front lawn at present so the manufacturers are on a winner here.  Mrs Tootlepedal helped by filling one watering can while I sprayed with the other, and in this way the work was soon done.

 

Over by the compost bins, the rowan is coming along nicely.

rowan buds

I was standing in the drive, thinking quietly about life at one stage of the afternoon when I was nearly run over by the partridge.

the partridge on drive

It nudge me aside and headed for some fallen seed from the feeder.  It didn’t stop long and scuttled off through a neighbour’s hedge.

And that was quite enough activity for the time being, so I went inside and watched horse racing from York on the telly.  There were some good races.

Before I settled down, I went upstairs and had a look at the azaleas round the front lawn from a window.

front lawn with azaleas

Mrs Tootlepedal has planted some new azaleas and they should add to the picture over the next few years.

This is one of them.

new yellow azalea

When Mrs Tootlepedal set about cooking our evening meal, I popped out to mow the middle lawn and had to duck my head as I went through the back door to avoid the overhanging clematis there.

back door clematis

The need for all the lawn care and pea protection is because we are going away for a week to frolic by the sea with Matilda.  There should be a lot more to see in the garden when we come back (quite apart from a much greener lawn).  While we are off, our neighbour Liz is going to feed the birds for me and Mike and Alison are going to keep an eye on the greenhouse and the garden for Mrs Tootlepedal, so things will be well looked after.

There is no flying bird of the day today.  This is partly because I didn’t spend a lot of time looking and partly because the chaffinches, which are by far the best at offering flying bird opportunities, have more or less temporarily (I hope) disappeared from the garden.

A blackbird, finding a wheelbarrow full of compost to dig in, is the parental bird of the day instead.

blackbird in barrow

Hiding

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan.  She came across this very colourful boundary to a restaurant’s outside seating area and knowing that I like fuchsias, sent me the picture.

susans meal planting

It was another very sunny day here but not quite as warm as the last two days, presaging a slight change in the weather but probably not enough to bring some much needed rain in any quantity.

Our two resident blackbirds are busy morning, noon and night pecking at the lawn for food for their young.

blackbird family

The garage clematis is showing more flowers every day but is still not near its full glory…

garage clematis

…unlike the Japanese azalea which is opening flowers at a great rate…

japanese azalea

…and contributing to a colourful display along the back path.

back path with colour

I sat down for a moment or two on our new bench and enjoyed a purple patch with a perennial wallflower on one side…

perennial wallflower

…and many alliums on the other.

alliums in arow

Sandy is away on holiday at the moment so I got the chance to act as fill in feeder filler at the Moorland Project hide.  I went up on my slow bike, stopping as is compulsory on a sunny day, to admire Skippers Bridge yet again..

skippers in May

…and noting wild flowers on my way, including Pyrenean valerian, ajuga and another outbreak of wild garlic.

wildflowers on way to hide

The back roads are delightful at the moment and the grass roof on the hide is growing very well.

tarras road and hide

As I filled the feeders, two pheasants were squaring off with a good deal of feather flapping and barking…

pheasants squaring up

…and this was the champion of the day.

pheasant triumphant

I sat in the hide for a while with a fellow bird watcher but there was not a lot of birds to watch apart from siskins.

I did notice a coal tit…

coal tit

…and was pleased to have a brief visit from a greater spotted woodpecker.

woodepcker

When I left the hide, I cycled down the hill to see how the road repairs are coming on.  The repaired road has been completed and and surfaced so it won’t be long now until the traffic can start to flow again.  After several years of being closed, it will not be too soon.

new tarras road

On my way home, I passed a patch of what I think must be horsetail.  It had a fine contrast between its spear like head and a rather frilly tutu further down the stem.

horsetail

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden.  We are going on a short holiday next week and she has a lot to do to get everything in order before we go.  I watered the strawberries as the vegetable garden is very dry and also gave the compost in Bin A a good soaking to help the decomposition.

The sunshine is bringing the flowers on well.

trree peony and sweet rocket

…and a rook popped in to enjoy the colour.

rook in plum tree

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do some business in the town and I was sitting doing the crossword when a neighbour knocked on the door to say that we had a visitor.

The partridge was back on our windowsill.

partridge on windowsill

It stayed there for most of the afternoon, moving off at one time, only to return to another sill later in the day.

I was somewhat jiggered by sore feet and asthma after I got back from cycling up to the hide and spent the rest of the day very quietly, wasting immense amounts of time at the computer which wouldn’t behave properly so I couldn’t even get useful things done.

In the end I cheered myself up by taking up Mrs Tootlepedal’s suggestion to make some ginger biscuits.  They came out well.

She continued to work in the garden and at one stage disturbed an ant colony which was hiding under some black polythene covering a potential seed bed.  The ants got to work straight away in moving some large capsules, which I presume are eggs.  Before too long they had cleared the site and found a new home.

ants and eggs

As I sat at my computer trying to work, the partridge kept an eye on me.

partridge outside window

Mrs Tootlepedal took it some seed and water.

The day drifted to a close but I felt a lot better by the evening than I had in the morning and afternoon which was a relief.

The flying birds of the day are two swallows.  I saw them heading for holes in the bank of the Esk as I came back from my morning cycle ride.

swallows

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia, who like Dr Foster went to Gloucester but, unlike him,  found that the weather was fine.  She enjoyed a singing day in this lovely building.

gloucester

Our fine weather continued and with the breeze still coming from the south, we had an even warmer day than yesterday.  The watering seems to have encouraged the azaleas (though it may just have been another sunny day that did the trick) and there was a lot more colour about when I went out for a walk round the garden after breakfast.

azaleas coming out

Every flower had turned its face to the welcome sun.

poppy and peony

There were colourful corners about.

colourful corner

…and the clematis by the front door has finally plucked up the courage to open its buds and see what life is like outside.

front ddor clematis

Among the flowers, I found a siskin having a rest on the pond bridge.

siskin on pond bridge

I went in to make coffee in preparation for the arrival of Dropscone (with scones) and I got so excited when he came in that I knocked over the full coffee pot which was standing om the counter top, covering the counter top, my hand and the floor with a rich stream of coffee and grounds. I said a bad word and put my hand under a cold tap.

On the advice of Dropscone, I got old newspapers out and laid them over as much of the mess as I could before keeping Dropscone happy with a cup from yesterday’s coffee pot while I got everything as clean and dry.  Mrs Tootlepedal came in, took one look at the carnage and went out again.

Thanks to the good work of the much reviled mainstream media in soaking up the excess liquid, it didn’t take as long as I thought it might to get tidied up and I was soon able to sit and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and a scone while Dropscone told me of his recent golfing triumphs.

After Dropscone left, I decided to test out some shoe advice I had received from our daughter Annie and go for a walk.  It proved to be good advice and I managed to walk a mile without too much trouble.

I went round Easton’s Walk and as I strolled through the park, I saw that a wood carver had been busy on a fallen tree.

carving in park

My main object was to see if the wild garlic was out and it didn’t take long to see and smell the pretty white flowers…

wild garlic may

…which lined my walk on all sides.

wild garlic panel

The were still some bluebells out so it was a walk to exercise the nose as well as the eye.

late bluebells

Although garlic and bluebells were by far the most numerous flowers to be seen, other plants were available…

wildflowers eastons walk

…and the first sighting of vigorous grasses…

grass seed

…were a hint of more pollen to come.

The hawthorns which are in a  position to catch the sun are coming out and it will not be long until there is blossom everywhere.

hawthorn stubholm

It was a glorious day to be out for a walk even with slightly sore feet…

stubholm track

…and my mellow mood was enhanced by azaleas and rhododendrons in the park.

azalea and rhododendron in park

We have so little rain lately that our rivers are reduced to a trickle and I could see a reflection of the suspension bridge in the Wauchope above the Kirk Bridge.

suspension bridge reflection

When I got back home, I made some vegetable soup for lunch and then Mrs Tootlepedal went off for a short course on how not to set the customers on fire at the Buccleuch Centre where she is a volunteer.

She had spent the morning slaving over her Embroiderers’ Guild branch accounts as she is the treasurer and had finished up with that most annoying of all accounting errors, a difference of £1 in the balances.  I trained as an accountant for a few years after leaving school so while she was out, I went over the books and pinned the error down to a slight mistreatment in the recording of the petty cash and when this was regularised, the books balanced and all was well.

Mrs Tootlepedal returned and before I could even show her the books, she whisked me out of the house to record an emperor moth which she noticed sunning itself on the side of a building on Henry Street.  It was worth looking at…

emperor moth

…but annoyingly, it wouldn’t spread its wings for me, so we left it to bask and went home.

Mrs Tootlepedal got her accounts ready to print and then we went out into the garden and finished off netting the fruit cages.  It was still very warm but the sky had clouded over and it felt for a while as though we might get a thunderstorm.  Happily, the rain stayed away and we completed the task and went in for a cup of tea and a moment to watch the birds.

Two goldfinches were in hot competition for the same feeder…

goldfinch competing

…and when I looked, I saw that some bad bird had made off with the perch from the opposite side of the feeder which might account for the pushing and shoving.

I just had time to go for a nine mile bike ride on the slow bike before tea and when I started out, I was very pleased to see our friendly partridge trying to work out a reason for crossing the road in Henry Street  (you can see the loss of feathers on its neck)…

Partridge and oyster catcher

…and I came across an oyster catcher nesting in the middle of the bus park at the Rugby Club near the end of my ride.  It got up when I stopped and stamped off in a huff so I took a quick shot and pedalled off apologetically.

In the evening, I went to the last practice of Langholm Sings under the direction of Mary my singing teacher, who has been our conductor for the past few years.  I will miss her when she has gone and rather annoyingly, I will also miss her final concert with the choir as we will be on holiday next week.  We had a very good sing though.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch heading towards the missing perch.

flying goldfinch

 

Net gain

Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo from Manitoba who is not in Manitoba at all at the moment.  She is in London and visited Kew Gardens where she took this picture.  You might think that as it was taken in a famous garden it shows a wonderful plant but in fact it is an even more wonderful glass sculpture by glass blower Dale Chihuly.

glass blower Dale Chihuly’s career KEW

We had another very fine day here today and with the wind coming up from the south, it was warm as well as sunny.

I pottered around the garden in the morning when I wasn’t drinking coffee or doing the crossword.

There was colour galore…

red flowers

…with old and new plants enjoying the weather.

purple flowers

There were more bees and other insects about today and I found two of them visiting a Welsh poppy…

welsh poppy with flies

…but they hadn’t discovered the first of the Icelandic poppies yet.

icelnadic poppy

When I walked over the pond bridge, there was a lot of tension on every side…

surface tension with frog

…but viewed from another angle, the frog seemed quite relaxed.

frog may

Nearby I saw this puzzle picture.  Was it a version of Jonah and the Whale?….

tadpole om lily leaf

….or was it just a water lily leaf half out of the water with a tadpole resting at its heart?

I walked along the dam at the back of the house to see if birds were bathing in the water there.

A sparrow had obviously just taken a dip when I arrived.

wet saprrow on barbed wire

When I came through the back gate, I passed one of the less cultivated areas of the garden.  Against all her ingrained gardening instincts, Mrs Tootlepedal is going a little wilder each year.

dandelions in garden

Blackbirds are nesting in the climbing hydrangea on the front wall of the house and this one took a moment to rest on the feeder pole before going off to collect more worms from the lawn.

blackbird

It had a wisp of nest stuck on its head which made me think how lucky we are to have hands and arms.  It twisted its head this way and that, so I imagined that it knew something was stuck up there, but it had no way of getting it off.

Although the crossword was quite tricky and took some time, I managed to have several wanders among the flowers.

This is Mrs Tootlepedal’s current favourite….

rhododendron in bloom

…and this is mine.

late tulip

I had a close look at the cow parsley and found, as so often is the case, that there is more to some flowers than you think.

cow parsley blossom

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help at the Buccleuch Centre coffee bar over lunch and when she came back she sat on a garden bench and had a snack while I scarified the front lawn and collected the moss with the mower.

It has been very dry over the past weeks and as there is no rain in the immediate forecast, Mrs Tootlepedal had been doing a lot of watering in the vegetable garden before breakfast.  I thought that I ought to do my bit, so I watered the azaleas round the front lawn and one of the hedges which we have been cutting back.  Most of the azaleas have been refusing to progress from buds to flowers and I wondered if the dry spell was the cause.

The next task was putting the netting onto the metal frames for the two small fruit cages in the vegetable garden.  This involved measuring and cutting, and a good deal of bending and stretching.  By this time, the afternoon had got decidedly hot and we had to stop before we had quite finished the job.  Although a trick of the light makes it look as though we have only done the sides, we have done the front and back of the two cages as well.  Just the front section of the top of the left hand cage remains to be done.

fruit cages netting

After a short collapse and a cup of tea to recover from the heat, Mrs Tootlepedal made a fish pie for our tea.  When we had eaten our meal, she went back to the Buccleuch Centre where she was acting as a front of house volunteer, and stayed on to watch a screening of All My Sons by Arthur Miller.

I got my natty cycling shorts on and went out for a suitably short evening ride.  I am still trying to take care of my feet by mixing rest and gentle exercise (with frozen peas applied from time to time) but at least I can cycle without pain so I enjoyed my ten mile outing.

I looked up to see a tree at one point and was surprised to see the moon high in the sky behind it.

tree and moon

It was a grand evening to be out on very quiet roads and it was good to be able to cycle far enough to get a view.

wauchope road evening

I was keeping an eye out for hawthorn blossom but I only saw two bushes in flower and they were in a sheltered but sunny spot near the town.

first hawthorn

Mrs Tootlepedal came back from the Buccleuch Centre with her withers thoroughly wring by the Miller drama and this made me quite glad that I hadn’t gone too.  I generally need cheering up not wringing out just now.

The flying bird of the day is the sparrow which appeared earlier in the post.  It came back down off the fence and took a bath.  The water was certainly flying even if the bird was not.

sparrow splashing