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Today’s guest picture comes from Canada.  Lucie, who sent it to me, is scratching her head as to why she can’t find people anxious to share a cup of tea with her on her patio when there are such comfortable looking cushions to sit on.

Lucie's snowy pergola

At least Lucie has had some sunshine.  We got another grey day today but not as windy as it has been for which we were grateful.

The sunshine in my life was metaphorical in the form of Sandy who came round for a coffee in a very cheerful mood.  His foot is a lot less sore and he has been sleeping exceptionally well so no wonder he was smiling.

As well as Sandy, we had plenty of other visitors today and I had to fill the feeder twice, a rare occurrence this year.

The siskins have wasted no time in making their presence felt as can be seen by this picture of a diminutive siskin blowing an incoming chaffinch away.

chaffinch blown away by siskin

A chaffinch did manage an unimpeded landing a little while later.

elgant chaffinch

Meanwhile the siskins took to creeping round the feeder to surprise goldfinches.

siskin sneaking past feeder

After Sandy left, I decided to go for a cycle ride as the forecast offered a few dry hours before the rain came.   It was still pretty breezy with gusts of up to 20 mph so I took things easy as I went round my customary Canonbie 20 mile circuit and kept my eyes open for things to photograph…

…like trees shaped by the prevailing wind…

bare tree chapelhill

…and more trees with some branched pruned by the passing winds…

bare tree Canonbie road

…and even more trees, this time standing in a relatively sheltered spot.

bare tree neat Canonbie

When I came to bridges, I stopped.

This is the Canonbie Bridge, low and wide…

Canonbie bridge

…and this is the Hollows bridge a mile or two up the road, high and handsome.

hollows bridge arch

Landowners grossly neglect their responsibility to provide uninterrupted views of river bridges for passing photographers as you can see from the Hollows bridge and this picture of another good looking bridge, a mile or two up the road which is almost submerged in trees and bushes, whereas….

old A7 bridge

…this ugly road bridge a few yards away is as clean as a whistle (and they have been cutting down more trees near it).road bridge

There is no justice….

…and bridges are not the only cause of photographic dissatisfaction.  Road furniture is a pest too as you can see from the junction at Canonbie where a lovely bank of snowdrops has been overwhelmed by clutter.

snowdrops and road signs

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy helping out at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop so I took a look around and noticed that she has got the Christmas tree out of the greenhouse and is getting it acclimatised for life in the garden.

christmas tree in garden

In the ‘signs of spring category’, new life on a rose was encouraging.

rose leaf

I went inside where I had a late lunch, battled with the crossword and did a little bird watching.

The stalk of the sunflower makes a convenient stopping place for birds waiting for a vacant perch on the feeder.

chaffinch on sunflower stalk

Some birds didn’t wait but made straight for the feeder…

horizontal chaffinch

…while others did their best to remove those who had got there first.

chaffinchs attack

Mrs Tootlepedal returned from a very busy session at the coffee shop and had a restorative cup of tea.  It must have been strong tea because as soon as she had downed it, we went off for a short expedition by car to the White Yett and then by foot up the track to the Monument.

Even on a dull day, the Ewes Valley is worth a look…

ewes valley

…and on any day at all, the lichens on the boulders beside the track and what I think is algae on the monument itself are very eye catching.

lichen and algae

Mrs Tootlepedal had brought her binoculars with her and took a moment at the summit to scan the skies for interesting birds…

Mrs T bird watching on whita

…in vain.

I looked down on the town, eight hundred feet below…

Langholm from Whita

…and then we went back down the track to the car before we got caught in the rain which was threatening to arrive.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went back to the Buccleuch Centre to watch a screening of a performance of Don Quixote by the Royal Ballet company while my friend Susan arrived to take me to Carlisle where we had an excellent evening of tootling.  The ballet was very good too, Mrs tootlepedal reported.

It was raining lightly as Susan and I drove down to Carlisle and it was very wet as we drove home so I was lucky to get my cycle and walk in before the rain arrived.  Sometimes the weather goods relent and give a man a break.  However, it does say that it is going to rain all day tomorrow so it was just a small break.

Another horizontal chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

On the rack

Today’s guest picture comes from camera club member Simon.  He suggested the theme for tonight’s meeting and then found that he couldn’t come.  He sent me this contribution  in lieu.  Prizes (token) for telling me where he was.

IMG_0007

Yet another grey and windy day welcomed us when we woke.  Everybody I met had the same thought in mind, “Why does it feel so cold when the thermometer says it should feel fairly warm?”  A brisk and mysteriously chilly south wind, which should be bringing up warm air, was the culprit.

After breakfast, there was a brief sunny interlude. I had to go and collect a key for the camera club meeting and was pleased to spot oyster catchers beside the river on my way back.

P1160973

We have got quite a number now, circling above the town with their strident calls.  Those who live along the banks of the rivers have mixed feelings about the oyster catchers as the birds often fly around in the middle of the night, waking the residents up with their piercing shrieks.  It is a high price to pay for the coming of spring.

Talking of spring, I saw the first blossoms appearing on the riverside trees…

P1160974

…and the daffodils are starting to come out in earnest in the garden.

P1160975

I fixed up an appointment with my physiotherapist for the afternoon and settled down to do the crossword, have coffee, practise a song or two and watch the birds.

A plump greenfinch turned up…

seated goldfinch and plump greenfinch

…and looked to be rather aggrieved at the seeds on offer.

plump greenfinch

Several siskins also arrived and hung about on top of the feeder…

siskins on top of feeder

…while below, a greenfinch threatened a goldfinch’s peace of mind.

greenfinch and goldfinch

The siskins soon got down and dirty and joined in the fun.

siskin and chaffinch at feeder

I thought that I ought to test my foot so that I could givea good explanation of where it was hurting to the physio so I went for a short stroll.

My foot was sore but usable so I pottered round Gaskell’s Walk.  It was getting greyer all the time and the views weren’t very exciting….

dull whita scene

…so I kept my head down and looked for a variety of mosses.  They weren’t hard to find.

Top left and right were growing on walls, bottom left on the ground and bottom right on a tree stump.

four gaskell mosses

I couldn’t pass the lichens by without a nod in their direction.

Top left and right on a fence post, bottom left on an old tree stump and bottom right on a wall.

four gaskells lichens

As I got to the end of my walk, the white duck flew past and settled in the Wauchope.  He had a conventionally coloured lady friend with him but they flew off before I could take the pair of them together.

white duck in wauchope

The theme for the camera club meeting was street scenes so George kindly posed for me with the dog who was talking him for a walk to the park.

George with dog

It wasn’t long after I got home that it started raining but it didn’t come to much so when I had to drive to Powfoot to see the physio after lunch, driving was no great trial and the rain had stopped by the time that I got to the sea shore.  I did see a few birds with my binoculars but they were too far off to photograph.

powfoot seascape

The physio listened to my report, shook her head in a rather thoughtful way and decided that some traction might be a good idea.  I have suffered from a niggling back for many years so a little traction usually does me some good and I was happy to get stretched out on her infernal machine.  It certainly made my back feel a lot better and only time will tell if it has had a beneficial effect on my foot but I feel a visit to the doctor coming on if things don’t improve.

I hadn’t been home long before Mrs Tootlepedal called out that there were big birds in the garden.  She was right.

Two partridges were pecking about under the feeder.  The partridge shooting season is over now so these birds can feed without running into danger.  This one looked as though it might have difficulty getting off the ground.

partridge in garden

While I was away, Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy with her paint brush.

horse with paunted ears

Dappling is the next thing on the rocking horse restoration menu.  This is a nervous business and Mrs Tootlepedal is giving it a lot of thought.

My flute pupil Luke came.  He is still recovering from a bad cold so we took things easily after missing a couple of weeks.  It was good to be back playing duets again.

After tea, I went off to the camera club where we had an excellent selection of pictures once again.  Most of the other members had taken the theme a lot more seriously than me and as they are a well travelled lot we had street scenes from Majorca, Tenerife, Madagascar, Cuba, Edinburgh, India, Thailand and more.  In addition we had some beautiful pictures of local scenes in the recent snow so we were very well entertained.

And there were biscuits.

Mrs Tootlepedal made some home made ginger biscuits during the day so any chance of losing a little of my additional winter weight has gone out of the window for the time being.  They are delicious.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch with its eye on a perch.

flying chaffinch

 

Today’s guest picture, sent by Bruce, shows that however many oyster catchers we may have in Langholm, they have more on the Isle of Arran where Bruce is staying at the moment.

oyster catchers Brodick

It was another day when grey clouds and a brisk wind made a theoretically warm day here feel rather chilly.  I didn’t much mind though as I spent a lot of the day indoors singing.

The days are getting longer and there was enough light to say hello to the goldfinches…

two goldfinches sunday

…before Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to sing with the church choir. We had a busy time, with four hymns, an introit and an anthem as well as a practice after the service.

This didn’t leave time for a walk of a cycle ride afterwards so I had a stroll round the garden instead.  There is promise of new crocuses…

dark crocus

…and daffodils…

daffodil clump

…but it would help if we could get some consistent sunshine for a day or two.

I noticed a smart miniature daffodil in the chimney pot by the bird feeder…

garden centre daffodil

…and realised that it must have fallen into the shopping trolley when we visited the garden centre not long ago.

Time for nature watching was short because we had a ‘singing afternoon’ with our Carlisle choir stretching from half past one to half past five.  Observant readers might suppose that any visit to our Carlisle choir should involve singing, but these singing afternoons are a cut above our usual sessions.

Young and talented singing teachers come down with our conductor from Glasgow and give small group lessons to the various choir sections with technique instructions as well as specific tips for various tricky moments in the songs that we are practising for the competition in Manchester next month.

You can learn a lot from these teachers.  It is wonderful how much difference a small modulation to a vowel sound can make for comfort and quality in singing a specific word on a specific note.  It is less wonderful to remember that you might have been taught this before and forgotten it.  But that is life.

The teachers are very patient.

The process of humming into water through a straw which I have been pursuing daily on the instructions of the speech therapist must have been worthwhile as my voice survived the day much better than it would have done last year.

And it was still light when we left the practice to come home.  Roll on spring.

The flying bird of the day is an early morning chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

Today’s guest picture, sent to me by her father, shows Matilda in pensive mood earlier this week.  As she was in Ireland at the time, maybe she was pondering the tricky Irish border question.

pensive Matilda

After yesterday’s glorious sunshine, we were back to grey and windy weather today.  It was theoretically quite a warm day with the thermometer showing a mellow 11°C but any warmth was utterly dependent on keeping out of  the very chilly wind.  As it was one of those winds that follow you round corners and blow up your trouser legs and down the back of your shirt, it was hard to get away from it.  I stayed indoors a lot.

I spent the morning reading the papers, doing the crossword and looking out of the window as chaffinches approached the feeder.

chaffunch landing

A goldfinch looked to be in line for a surprise.

chaffinch coming up on goldfinch

I was pleased to see a siskin among the birds on the perches…

busy feeder with a siskin

….and doubly pleased to see two.

busy feeder with two siskin

I had enjoyed my pain free bike ride yesterday so I resolved to see how walking went today and after lunch, I set off to walk about a mile to see how things were.

I nodded to a new daffodil doing its best to come out in the garden…

new daffodil

…and took a route that I hoped would take me past some water side birds.

I soon saw an oyster catcher…

one oyster catcher

…and then two more…

two oyster catchers

…and finally, three in a row.

three oyster catchers

One oyster catcher looks remarkably like another one to the untrained eye so I can’t tell if it was just the same birds flying about…

flying oyster catchers

…and landing in front of me or six separate birds.

Among the oyster catchers, a herring gull stood out.

gull

The walk was a great success as far as seeing birds went but it was a failure in terms of foot comfort so I cut it as short as I could and went home, passing the bush of pink snowberries beside the river on my way.  I love their Sunday name: Symphoricarpos.

pink snowberries

Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy in the garden while I was tottering about and she took me round to see the useful tidying up that she had accomplished.  Among other things, she had cleared some infected leaves from the hellebores and that gave me a photo opportunity which I took.

hellebore

Once back indoors, I settled down to work on choir songs and when it came to tea time, I made myself a dish of kidneys in a spicy wine, pepper and mushroom sauce on a bed of rice and followed that up with some semolina pudding for both of us.  The day might have been a bit disappointing but the evening meal saved it from disaster.

The flying bird is an eager looking goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

 

Conversations

The guest picture of the day is a curious sculpture of a bicycle on a  railway line which Bruce encountered on his recent Annan walk.

Bruce's bike at annan

We had a splendidly sunny day today but from a cycling point of view, it wasn’t as useful as it might have been as it was also very cold for several hours in the morning, with too much of a risk of ice for a unworried pedal.

Under the circumstances, I was more than usually happy to see Dropscone arrive for coffee with treacle scones.  We managed to eat all the scones ourselves with perfect timing just before we were joined by our neighbour Liz who had been walking her dog and Mrs Tootlepedal who had been putting another coat of paint on her horse.

As we sipped our coffee, the conversation, as conversations among people of more than three score years and ten tends to do, turned to the many and various strains and stresses that come with the turning of yet another page on the calendar. The upshot of the discussion was a firm injunction from the rest of us to Liz to seek medical advice today as she won the competition for the most serious immediate ailment by some distance.

When the coffee group broke up, I went for a stroll round the garden.  Although the shady parts were still frosty, the sun had encouraged the crocuses…

clump of crocuses

…with some even popping up uninvited among the moss and grass on the middle lawn.

crocuses on lawn

The snowdrops along the back path are almost at their peak and don’t seem to mind the frosty mornings at all.

back path snowdrop zenith

A euphorbia is showing welcome signs of spring.

euphorbia

I went back in and did the crossword and ate some soup and waited in vain for some birds and the sunshine to come to the feeder.  Birds were scarce but in the end a siskin arrived before the sun.

siskin in shade

Occasional chaffinches joined in but annoyingly for the would be photographer, kept getting their heads into the shadow of the feeder.

siskin and chaffinch 2

In the end, the thermometer rose enough to make cycling a pleasure so I left the birds to it…

siskin and chaffinch

…and went out to see how far my legs would take me.

I was very pleased to find that the potholes on the muddy road past the site where the new wind farm will be on the top of Callister had been repaired and the road cleaned, so I was able to cycle down to the valley of the Kirtle Water in comfort and safety.

I had my eye on bridges today and stopped at the second one over the Kirtle Water that I crossed.

kirtle water bridge near Waterbeck

As well as the bridge, I looked at trees…

tree at between the waters

…on both sides of the river.  These three are being undermined by burrowing creatures.

three trees Waterbeck

I stopped for the next bridge at Sprinkell…

kirtle water bridge sprinkell

…and then stopped again in the village of Eaglesfield to show another side of the gaily painted bus shelter there.

eaglesfield bus stop 2

From Eaglesfield, I headed south to Gretna, very pleased to get away from a chilly and nagging headwind that had made progress a rather slow business.

The wind had been stronger than I had expected and I would have been much happier when it gradually dropped to a mere whisper, if this hadn’t coincided with a change of direction in my route so that now it was behind me but hardly helping at all.

Still, it was a sunny day and it was a treat to be out and about with my ankle giving me no trouble as I pedalled along….and of course there were more bridges to cross.

This one was over a little tributary to the river Sark, just a short distance from the border between Scotland and England.

sark tributary bridge

There was a very inviting path along the stream…

riverside walk Sark

…but I didn’t have time to follow it as my slow progress meant that I needed to get home before it got too dark and cold for comfortable cycling.

I pressed on as fast as my legs would let me and after a very short visit to England, I returned to Scotland and got back to back to Langholm with thirty eight and a half miles showing on my bike computer.  I was seized by a decimal obsession and emulated Mrs May’s Brexit tactic by going round in ever decreasing circles without getting anywhere until the 40 miles finally came up on the screen.  At this point I stopped.

I was just having a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal when our neighbour Liz dropped back in to report that she had followed our advice and actually gone to the Health Centre to see the practice nurse.  She now has an appointment with a doctor.  We were mildly surprised but very delighted with this outcome as her joints are giving her no peace at the moment.

Having discussed pain over coffee in the morning, now we discussed death in the afternoon over tea.  You can see what fun old people have when they get together.  Actually both conversations were very cheerful and interesting, all things considered.

 

I am glad that I got out for a cycle ride today because when I look at the forecast tonight, it tells me that we will be back to windy weather tomorrow.

I did manage to catch one chaffinch in the right time and the right place over lunch, so it is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

For those interested, clicking on the map of the ride below will bring up further details.   It should have felt warm at 56 degrees but the wind was cold and I was happy to be well wrapped up.

garmin route 15 Feb 2019

 

 

Today’s just picture comes from Mrs Tootlepedal’s brother, Mike.  He planted some daffodils to brighten the road verge opposite his house and is pleased that his work has born fruit.  Being 300 miles south of Langholm, his daffodils are already out.

Mike daffodils

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Carlisle after an early breakfast to help sort out the music library for  our Carlisle choir.  This is a big job with 130 copies of every piece of music we sing needing to be sorted and stored.

While she was gone I looked out into the garden on another grey day.

The feeder was busy…

busy feeder

…and on the mossy lawn, a pigeon was putting its best foot forward.

pigeon on lawn

I had put out some fat balls and they had attracted jackdaws.

jackdaws on feeder

There was no shortage of flying birds to be seen even if there was a bit of a shortage of light to see them by.

flying chaffinches and goldfinches

Sandy came round for coffee.  He was in an exceptionally good mood because he had just enjoyed a thoroughly good night’s sleep, a thing so rare as to be be priced above pearls.

While we sipped and chatted, we were joined by some greenfinches…

flying greenfinches

…and a very unusually marked jackdaw.  I have never seen one like this before.

speckled jackdaw

After coffee, we went up to visit the Moorland project feeders in the glade at the Laverock hide as it was Sandy’s day to act as feeder filler.  After filling the feeders, we lurked in the hide for a while.  There were plenty of birds about, mostly chaffinches but with a good number of great and blue tits too.

blue and great tits Laverock

As with my garden, there were no winter visitors to be seen at all.  This is a bit worrying as there seems to be no reason not see our usual migrants.  I hope it is a one off and  not a sign of things to come.

We didn’t stay too long and when Sandy stopped at the Co-op on our way back to buy a local paper (full of articles by Dropscone this week), I took the opportunity to get out too and walk home along the river in the hope of seeing something interesting.

The hope was amply fulfilled as I saw a goosander…

goosander

…two oyster catchers…

two oyster catchers

…three dippers…

dippers in esk

…and a single white duck.

white duck

It was still pretty grey and most of the birds were a bit too far away from the bank for good pictures but it was encouraging to see them.  I snapped the church too while I was passing…

church on a grey day

…and a bit of typical Langholm street life.  Dog walking is a popular activity in our town.

alan and dogs

When I got home, I made some soup and then dashed out into the garden when the sun came out.

sunny crocuses

I didn’t have time to enjoy the sunshine and go for a walk or a pedal though as I had to go off to drive to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh.

It was a day of sophisticated travel arrangements as Matilda and her family were flying back from a family party in Dublin over lunch and Mrs Tootlepedal planned to catch the train from Carlisle that I was aiming to catch 20 minutes later in Lockerbie.  It is on days like this that the mobile phone really comes into is own and the flight and train journey went smoothly as planned and we all met in Edinburgh on schedule.

Matilda then took Mrs Tootlepedal and me for a walk in the woods.  We scaled the heights…

sdr

…passed all sorts of interesting plants like this St John’s Wort…

dav

…and came out at the top of a small hill from which we could see Edinburgh Castle in the distance  over the roofs.

dig

The rest of the afternoon was spent in catching up on news of the trip to Ireland, being coached by Matilda in the proper use of the alphabet, watching clips from Matilda’s dancing school’s annual show on DVD and eating another tasty meal.

We got safely back to Lockerbie on the train and drove home as the temperature dropped back to freezing again.

It is supposed to be warm and sunny tomorrow after a chilly start.  I live in hope.

The flying bird of the day is one of the oyster catchers making off down river.

flying oyster catcher

 

Today’s guest picture is another look at the supersized crazy golf course in Nottingham.  My brother Andrew passed it on his way to classes at the university.

nottingham golf

I was hoping for a bright day today so that I could take some seaside picture when I went to visit my physio who lives on the Solway coast.  There has been a lot of loose talk lately about a ridge of high pressure with warm temperatures and sunny skies but wherever that was taking place, it wasn’t here.  We were stubbornly stuck in single figures, under very grey skies and blasted by stiff winds.

The opportunity to sit indoors in the morning and admire the birds at the feeder was scuppered by two fly throughs from the sparrowhawk with the result that birds were very few and far between…

chaffinch behind feeder

…and mostly hiding when they did arrive.

I walked round the garden but there was not a lot to see.  The winter aconites are trying to open out…

winter aconites

…and the new sarcococca is doing well.

sarcococca

But that was it.

In the absence of interesting birds or flowers, I went off and did some singing practice in disgust and then after an early lunch, we set out to combine the visit to the physio with some shopping.

I picked up a big bag of economically priced bird seed on the way to visit a garden centre near Carlisle.  Once we got there, Mrs Tootlepedal acquired some interesting seed potatoes and an azalea and I purchased a selection of cheeses.

Then we headed off to Annan where I had intended to do some more shopping and take a picture or two.  Unfortunately, the middle of the town was clogged up with road works so we gave up and drove out to Powfoot…

powfoot cotttages

…. to see the sea.  It was gloomy but a dog was having fun…

dog walkers powfoot

…which may have helped to account for the complete absence of any interesting sea birds…

solway on a grey day

…although the sharp eyed Mrs Tootlepedal did spot a lone lapwing.

I missed the lapwing and took a picture of some seaside gorse instead.

gorse at powfoot

The visit to the physio was useful and interesting but did not in the short term do anything to ease my foot troubles.  She thinks the pain may well stem from injury to the tendons in my ankle as it is swollen.  She wiggled my foot in many directions and was unable to find any other cause so that may well be the right answer.  Unfortunately this means that I will have to wait for ‘time, the great healer’ to do his work but she did say that gentle but regular exercise is prescribed so that cheered me up.

She has put a tape down the back of my calf and along the bottom of my foot to give me some support so I shall try a little walk tomorrow and see how it goes.

I picked up a few walnuts in the garden today and found one or two ripe ones which Mrs Tootlepedal ate.  She said they were very sweet. It is a pity that I don’t like nuts with so many lying around.  This one seemed appropriate for St Valentine’s Day tomorrow.

walnut hearts

In the evening, I went off to the Langholm choir where we had an enjoyable evening of singing.  Our current set of songs are tuneful and not too hard which is just what I need at the moment.

While I have been idling about over the past weeks, Mrs Tootlepedal has been very busy.

She has got the first covering of undercoat onto the rocking horse….

rocking horse repairs paint

…and has been very busy with her crochet hook.

crochet blanket

The main body of the blanket is now complete and she is waiting to get the instructions for finishing it off with a border.

The winds are due to ease off over the next couple of days so I hope to get out on the bicycle again.  A little sunshine would help.

The supply of flying birds was very poor today and this was the only one that I captured on camera.

flying chaffinch