A bit of a blow

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He visited Sheffield for cultural purposes recently and enjoyed a sunny spell while he was there.

We had a very occasional glimpse of the sun here today, but in general it was grey and pretty windy again. Dropscone came round for coffee, bringing some of his excellent scones with him, and we enjoyed the coffee and scones spiced up with a vigorous political discussion where contrasting views were expressed. When it comes to politics, Dropscone and I agree to differ.

After coffee, I had a look at the birds and found a pigeon skulking around under the feeder.

Up above, a blue tit and a goldfinch enjoyed seeds and sunshine simultaneously.

I took a walk round the garden and found a few new flowers to go with the Jetfire daffodils. The daffodils seem to be getting redder trumpets every day. Pulmonaria, primula and chionodoxa are bringing a little colour to the flowerbeds . . .

. . . and there are potential flowers on every side now.

Things are looking up, even though it didn’t feel very springlike in the brisk and chilly wind.

I soon went back inside to prepare lunch. Outside, blackbirds came to look for fallen seeds.

I was emptying the kitchen waste caddy into the compost when I saw a very decorative snail hanging on to the lid of the bin.

I left it undisturbed.

I occasionally looked out of the window when I went back in, and I saw that goldfinches were our main visitors today . . .

. . . with a few siskins about too. Some of them were camera shy . . .

. . . but I had better luck with this one.

Encouraged by the glimpses of sunshine, I decided to go for a cycle ride after lunch. Needless to say, that was the last that I saw of any sunshine, and it even started to rain while I was pedalling. Fortunately this turned out to be a little weather gods’ joke and it soon stopped.

It was bad enough battling the strong wind. Rain would have made for a very miserable outing.

The recent rain had turned the field pond at Tarcoon into a small inland sea.

There were no gulls on the pond, perhaps because they were all at the far side of a field a bit further on.

The strong wind kept me concentrating on my on my pedalling and I forgot to take any more pictures until I arrived at my favourite little larch tree beside the river on the old main road. It wasn’t hard to spot the larch flowers.

I took two more pictures while I was stopped.

I got home to find that Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy in the garden while I had been cycling. The new hellebore has found a home. (I noticed that the sun had come out as soon as I stopped cycling.)

The sun soon went in, and so did I, but not until I had checked on the rhubarb patch . . .

. . . and the winter heather which Mrs Tootlepedal kindly planted so that I would have something colourful to photograph in the dark months. It has been very successful.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to take to the stage in the Centenary Concert for the second of the three performances, while I was picked up by my friend Susan and driven off to the depths of Cumbria to play music with the other two members of our recorder quartet. Mrs Tootlepedal reported that her concert went well, with a good audience in attendance, and as the recorder group had a very good playing session followed by tea and home made ginger biscuits, we both had a good night out.

For the curious, I should say that Mrs Tootlepedal’s appearance as the mother superior involved worrying with the other nuns about what to do with a problem like Maria and did not require any mountain climbing. The recorder group played music by Bach, Handel, Haydn, Tomkins, Corelli, Frescobaldi, and de Lassus.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, one of the few I saw today.

Nun better

Today’s guest picture comes from East Wemyss. It is not doctored and I think it might be the most interesting picture that Tony has ever taken. It is not often that you see a rainbow letting off steam.

It had rained heavily here overnight, but we had plenty of sunshine during the day. This would have been even more welcome if had not been accompanied by some very strong and gusty winds which made going outside a bit of a penance. As a result, I spent a lot of the morning indoors doing the crossword, with a bit of archiving and practising both my recorder and singing thrown in too.

I would have spent time watching the birds, but the strong wind kept them away until the afternoon. I did manage a short tour of the garden before lunch and found a few flowers to enjoy.

The yellow trumpets on the daffodils are interesting. When Mrs Tootlepedal brought one in and put it in a vase, it soon looked like this . . .

. . . which is much more what is should look like. As the day went one, we both thought that the trumpets in the garden were tending to look a bit more colourful too . . .

. . . so we wait to see how they develop as time goes on. Maybe, as we do, they would like a bit more warmth and sunshine for them to be at their best.

Although it was still windy, the birds came back to the feeder in the afternoon. They had to concentrate hard on hitting their marks in the frequent gusts.

Once settled down though, they were able to enjoy the sunshine.

Under the feeder, a blackbird practised its Henry VIII stance.

After lunch, we measured out four areas on the front lawn where we hope to create wild flower beds, and I gave them a good going over with the scarifier. There is an amazing amount of moss on the alleged lawn, and I will have to give the beds at least one more going over.

I then decided to leave the shelter of the garden and brave the wind for a short walk. It was far too windy to enjoy cycling, even on my electric bike.

After the heavy rain during the night, the sunshine and brisk breezes had dried the tracks up pretty well, and I found the going good as I wandered along to the Becks Burn and then came home via Gaskell’s and Easton’s Walks.

There were a few more signs of spring along the way in the form of a lone dandelion and quite a lot of golden saxifrage.

I have passed it many times, but today this tree stump, posing beside the bridge over the Becks Burn, really caught my eye.

I came down to the Auld Stane Brig to find that the sun came out from behind the clouds just as I got on to Gaskell’s Walk. Sheltered from the wind, it was pure pleasure to follow the path through the wood.

I enjoyed the knots and grain in the handrail beside the steep climb at the end of the woods. To be frank, I also enjoyed having a really good excuse to stop several times as I toiled up the slope.

When I came to the fields at the Stubholm, I found a rabbit firmly believing that if it sat still enough, it would be invisible.

I spent time as I went round Easton’s Walk trying to get my bird app on the phone to tell me what I was listening to. Considering the noise made by the wind, I thought that it did well to pick out any birds but as well as the omnipresent robins, it heard a song thrush, several chaffinches, an oyster catcher, jackdaws, siskins and an alarmed wren.

It is always a pleasure to end a walk by going along the path by the river to the park . . .

. . . and I am grateful for the handy fence which is there to catch elderly walkers if they stumble.

When I got to the park, I was able to point my zoom lens at Castle Hill where I met the cattle on yesterday’s adventure. Naturally, since I wasn’t walking there today, the cattle had transmogrified into gentle sheep.

When I got home, I checked to see if there was evidence of frog activity in the pond.

After a light evening meal, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to prepare to take the stage in the Operatic Society’s Centenary Concert, and a little while later, I went off to watch the show. It was a lightly staged concert with solos, ensembles and full chorus numbers reflecting the shows performed by the society over the years. It started with The Mikado, the opera performed in 1923, and ended with a rousing rendition of 500 Miles from Sunshine Over Leith, the most modern show in their repertoire.

The show was well presented and admirably performed by the chorus and the soloists. For me the high spot of the evening was the appearance of the very wonderful Mother Superior surrounded by the chorus of nuns from the Sound of Music, but I may have been slightly biassed about that.

It was raining heavily again as we walked home but luckily I had a large umbrella to hand so we didn’t get wet.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

A well timed call

Today’s guest picture comes from our younger son, Alistair. The builders provided a cherry tree in his little garden when he bought his house. It is doing well.

We woke to another grey and often rainy day, which was only brightened by the arrival of our neighbour Margaret for coffee. She was in a cheerful mood in spite of the weather as she has just become a great grandmother again, and to top that, a great-great grandmother as well. You don’t meet many great great grandmothers every day.

It remained a miserable day when Margaret left . . .

. . . but it didn’t discourage the birds, even though the seed in the feeder was very low.

I went shopping for groceries and Mrs Tootlepedal combined getting her hair done with buying more bird seed for me. I went by car and she braved the rain on her bicycle.

The condensate outflow for our boiler has been disconnected since it froze solid in the very cold weather before Christmas, and it was time to ring the engineer today to set a date for him to come and reconnect it. As it happened, he was only a few miles away when I rang, and he came immediately, fixed the boiler, mended a small radiator valve leak, and went on his way. If only all life was as well ordered as that.

After lunch I looked round the garden but spring joy was hard to find. The magnolia is a bit depressed and the Jetfire daffodils have lost their red trumpets over the years.

Then I put part of a week of the newspaper index into the Archive group database while I waited for the bread maker to finish a loaf and subsequently, since it wasn’t quite as rainy as it had been in the morning, I went for a walk.

I went round Potholm, starting in the direction which took me up the newly cleared track from the Duchess Bridge.

The trees sheltered me from any rain, and when I got to the road at the top of the wood, I was walking with my back to the wind and the rain had dropped to a faint drizzle. I saw lambs in the field beside the road and it felt quite springlike as I strolled along

This happy feeling lasted for about half a mile . . .

. . . and I was pursued by more rain as I crossed the bridge and walked up past the daffodils on the banking below the farmhouse.

Rather than taking the usual track back to the town, I cut up through the gloomy spruce woods where the pheasants are fed, took a forestry track for a while, and then ploughed over some very rough ground through newly felled areas until I came to the track at the top of the felled woods. The climb was steep enough to encourage me to stop half way up and admire the view. It wasn’t very admirable today.

My plan was to follow the track round the contour of the hill and come down to the town by the track that I had taken when I last climbed up Castle Hill. This excellent scheme was stymied by finding cattle occupying the the track when I got round the hill. I sneaked past them by going down on a rough path through some trees. Flushed with triumph, and covered with mud from falling over twice, I came out to find even more cattle, now both above and below me. Putting on my best ‘nothing to see here’ face, I walked nonchalantly between the two groups, and got off the open hill as quickly as I could. As it happened, the cattle couldn’t have cared less about me, and apart from a curious gaze or two, they kept on grazing.

I didn’t stop to take pictures of them, but took a picture of a tree as I came down the field to the Baggra instead. At least it had stopped raining by this time.

I used my new phone app to identify the urgent calls of a bird as I came down to the Sawmill Brig. It told me that it was a great tit and when I looked, I could see that the bird was indeed a great tit.

I learned from the app that there is a difference between a bird’s song and its call.

When I got to the town, I looked down the river from the bridge and enjoyed a cheery cherry tree as I walked along the riverside.

What with the clambering up the hill and dodging the cattle, this had definitely been a bit more adventurous than my usual ’round Potholm’ walk, and I was very pleased to have a cup of tea and a slice of bread and raspberry jam when I got home. The availability of raspberry jam was the result of an accident when I was shopping earlier in the day. Several trays of raspberries had fallen into my shopping bag and I had had no alternative but to make them into jam when I got back. Nothing beats freshly made raspberry jam on freshly made bread so it was a happy accident.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went out to the final rehearsal for the Operatic Society centenary concert. I am going to watch her in action tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

I wandered lonely in a cloud

Today’s guest picture comes from Sandy. He has temporarily forsaken Langholm for some sun, sea, and sand in Benidorm. He was impressed by this tree.

We could have done with a bit of that sunshine here today but it wasn’t to be. It was reasonably warm (10°C/50°F) by the afternoon and pretty calm too, but as it rained gently more or less the whole day, any thoughts of gardening or bicycling took a back seat. The conditions really encouraged the birds though, and I had plenty to watch while I stayed inside all morning.

I was spoiled for flying birds . . .

. . . and there was a lot of action to be seen . . .

. . . though there were moments of peaceful perching . . .

. . . and uninterrupted nibbling.

I didn’t spend all morning watching birds though, as there were breaks for the crossword, coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal, making quite interesting vegetable soup, and putting a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to meet with two expert conservators who had come to look at the ancient map and document which were recently passed to the Langholm Initiative. Plans for conservation are developing.

After lunch, feeling the need for a little exercise, I put on waterproof trousers, a fairly waterproof jacket, some sturdy boots, and went out for a walk. As it was still raining, I took my umbrella with me too.

I walked to Skippers along the riverside track and saw plenty to keep me interested. (I recommend clicking on this gallery to get the bigger picture if you have the time.)

The buildings works at the far end of the Murtholm have led to the track being closed at the junction with the main road at Skippers Bridge. Luckily an alternative route has been provided . . .

. . . which only added about 50 yards to my walk so I was soon crossing the bridge . . .

. . . and walking up the steps to the old railway line.

I headed up the hill through the oak and birch woods and climbed into ever thicker cloud as I made my way up to the stile over the wall.

There was some very fine gorse on the other side of the wall which brightened up a grey day . . .

. . . but the rest of the walk, along the quarry track to Whita Well and then onwards again to join the Newcastleton road, was still grey in spite of some more fine gorse bushes just above the fields.

I crossed the Sawmill Brig when I came down to the riverside and walked up the Lodge Walks for a bit before crossing the Castleholm. I have passed this tree beside the road many times without noticing how much its root resembles a mighty animal’s claw or hoof.

As there was not much in the way of views to entertain me on my walk, I used my new birdsong ID app on my phone from time to time. There was not a huge amount of bird song about today but it produced a surprising amount of results from fairly faint recordings. These are the results of recordings on the hill (top left), half way down the road (top right), on the Lodge Walks (bottom left), and in the garden at home when I got back (bottom right).

It will be interesting to use it when the bird song season really gets going in the next few weeks.

When I got back there was a Zoom with our son Alistair and his daughter Matilda (very excited about a circular green skirt which Mrs Tootlepedal is making for her), and then another with my brother and sisters, full of concern for my brother-in-law who is in hospital after catching Covid.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went out to the first dress rehearsal for the Operatic Society’s centenary show. I am looking forward to going to see it.

It was hard to choose the flying bird of the day today, but in the end, I settled on this goldfinch.

A surprise for Mrs Tootlepedal

Today’s guest picture comes from Portsmouth where my sister Caroline spotted this fine magnolia.

I got up early this morning and was pleased to find that it was a fine day. Fine days are always welcome but this one was especially welcome as our older son Tony drove all the way down from East Wemyss with his partner Marianne and their three dogs just so that he could bring Mrs Tootlepedal a cup of tea in bed to celebrate Mothering Sunday. It is not too much to say that she was stunned.

This was demonstrating family feelings with a vengeance, because after a breakfast and a walk with the dogs, the whole party got into their car and drove straight back to East Wemyss so that Marianne’s children could give her a treat in the afternoon.Our admiration for their stamina was unbounded.

The weather stayed fine for the dogs’ three bridges walk.

On our way, the three East Wemyss dogs were excited to meet mountaineering dog Henry who was taking his owner Mark for a walk. The walk felt decided springlike with the cherry blossom, the daffodils and the wild strawberry on the Scholars’ Field wall.

We got back just in time for Mrs Tootlepedal and I to cycle to church to sing in the choir, while the visitors got packed up and left for home. It really was a flying visit, and some might think it not sensible to drive 250 miles for such a short encounter, but it brought us all an enormous amount of pleasure, especially Mrs Tootlepedal and Tony, so I think that it was very worthwhile. We will remember it for a long time.

The church choir was unexpectedly augmented by our ex minister Scott who joined me in the bass section. He came round for coffee after the service and we enjoyed a good gossip.

He mentioned that his wife had been given a Daphne that was not doing well, and Mrs Tootlepedal told him that we had one in the garden. I popped out to photograph it.

It is a Daphne Mezereum and Mrs Tootlepedal has no idea where it came from. She did not plant it but it looks quite at home.

I had had a look round the garden before coffee and found incipient euphorbia, the first scilla of the year, and a hardy bunch of crocuses.

When Scott left, there was just enough time for a pedal round my familiar Canonbie route before going off to Carlisle for our afternoon choir. It was reasonably warm and not too windy, so I got out my pushbike and pedalled as hard as I could (i.e fairly slowly), not stopping for too many en route illustrations.

When I took a second look at the larch tree, I found that it also had some lovely flowers. Along with the hazel flowers, these are a real delight to see in early spring.

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had been doing some heavy lifting in the garden and a potentilla was about to get moved.

She is going to remodel this bed at the end of the middle lawn. The results should be very satisfying.

I had just enough time to inhale a bowl of soup and have a glance at the birds . . .

. . . before we set off for Carlisle.

Just as we were leaving, a large bunch of flowers was delivered. They turned out to be from Tony, so he scored very highly in the filial stakes today.

We had a hard working practice, including being scattered about during one song so that we were not sitting in our usual groups. I found my self sitting between a soprano and an alto which made life challenging for me (and probably for them too). As the soprano was Mrs Tootlepedal, it wasn’t quite as intimidating as it might have been.

We were feeling a bit disorganised after such a full day, so we stopped at our local chip shop to collect a ready cooked evening meal. It went down very well. Perhaps we might do this again after some future choir practices.

Flying birds were at a premium today and this was the best that I could do.

Taking it gently

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia. She liked this gate at The Newt when she walked through the gardens there recently.

After the modest collapse of the rider and the complete failure of the electric bicycle yesterday, I took things very easily today. In fact, I was still in my dressing gown when we had a visit from our plumber to discuss the installation of a new boiler at some as yet unspecified date later this year. We had a cup of coffee and discussed many things as well as plumbing.

When Robert left, I had a look at the feeder and found a steady stream of birds visiting, although the traffic was nothing like as heavy as it had been yesterday. I had time to make a little portrait gallery of visitors at peace, including a rook in the walnut tree.

There was a little action including a chaffinch landing . . .

. . . and a blackbird trying to creep out of shot.

It rained gently from time to time but it was mostly dry and quite warm, so I went for a stroll round the garden to check on frogs in the pond . . .

. . . and signs of spring.

Generally, spring is still on hold as we wait for a full show of daffodils. A starlings was perching quietly on the power line over head.

After an early lunch, I took my life in my hands and watched a full game of rugby involving Scotland, something I usually forgo for the good of my mental health. Although they were not at their best, they managed to sneak a win, and I stayed remarkably calm as they looked as though they were going to throw away a good lead.

As it was forecast to stay dry and the temperature was at a reasonable 12°C (54°F). I thought that I would see if the electric bike had dried out and was working properly. I was pleased to have an excuse to take the electric bike, as it was quite windy and I wasn’t sure how I would feel once I got going.

Happily, both the bike and the rider worked well, though I took it very easily to make sure that I got round the 20 mile trip past the Solwaybank wind farm. It did stay dry for the outing even though the clouds were sitting firmly down on the hills . . .

. . . and the nearest turbines were but shadowy ghosts as I cycled by.

As well as the barn roofs in today’s header picture, there were a couple of cheerful bursts of colour along the way . . .

. . . and there were more extensive views available when I looked away from the hills . . .

They have been giving the section of the road, which has one my of my favourite leafy tree tunnels, a brutal haircut . . .

. . . and I fear that for a while at least, cycling along here when the leaves come out will not be the treat that it has been in the past.

I did think of extending my ride a little but the clouds seemed to be getting ever lower as I got near home . . .

. . . so I didn’t risk it. In fact it stayed dry as I passed this elegantly posed couple at rest . . .

. . . and I made it home safely.

A walk round the garden before I went in showed a possible flower bud on a new camellia. Mrs Tootlepedal is quite excited by this but fears that it may turn out to be just more leaves.

I sank into the sofa with a cup of tea provided by Mrs Tootlepedal and we watched the England vs Ireland rugby match. There was a great deal of tactical kicking, and an unfortunate lapse of concentration by an England player on the stroke of half time, leaving them a man short for the second half, meant that the match didn’t have as much interest to the neutral viewer as it might have had.

I wasted four hours watching the rugby on the telly today but it has left me feeling a lot less tired than I was last night, so perhaps it was no bad thing.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch concentrating hard.

Damped down

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony, and it just goes to show that the sun doesn’t always shine in East Wemyss.

We have left our frosty nights behind for the moment at any rate, and it was pleasantly warm when I went out to fill up the bird feeder at breakfast time. The birds seemed to be enjoying the better weather too, and the feeder got very busy almost as soon as I went back inside.

We don’t often see greenfinches in the garden as early in the day as this.

As usual siskins wasted little time before shouting at all comers.

The feeder remained busy with chaffinches, greenfinches, goldfinches and siskins . . .

. . . as I went off to volunteer on the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve. We were planting trees at Broomholmshiels which is only a couple of miles away, so I cycled up on my electric bike. There were only four volunteers to help our leader Kat today. We didn’t get a lot of trees planted although we worked very hard. It is not too difficult to plant the trees and put up the tree guards, but carrying the posts, guards and trees across the tussocky ground is very tough.

The task was made harder by the arrival of several showers coming up from the south west.

We stopped after we had added just under 50 trees to the considerable number already planted and ploughed back through the tussocks to Kat’s car which you can see in the background. It doesn’t look too bad in the picture, but every step on the way is an invitation to fall over.

When it came to going home, I found to my annoyance that the rain had got to the controller on my electric bike and I had to pedal back under my own steam. The sun came out in the afternoon and I cleaned and dried my bike and the controller worked properly. I was very disappointed to find that it had stopped working again later in the day. It may need some more careful drying out. We shall see tomorrow. If it happens again, a visit to the bike shop will be in order. Losing power on an electric bike is not a good thing as they are so much heavier to pedal than an ordinary road bike.

I found a frog hanging around in the pond when I got home.

Such had been the bird traffic while I was out that I found that I had to fill the feeder again at lunch time. Once again, it didn’t take long for the birds to get back to business. Goldfinches were the first to arrive

Some waited patiently for their turn . . .

. . . while others rushed in.

A pigeon under the feeder . . .

. . . was doubtless pleased to see all this activity as it meant more fallen seed for it to pick up, especially as there were siskins about.

I planned to go for a bike ride after lunch, in spite of the possibilities of more showers, and I went as far as going upstairs to put some waterproof bike gear on. However, that was as far as I got. I foolishly glanced at my bed and before I knew it, I was having a snooze. I think that my body was suggesting that I had got cold and wet enough times in recent days, and avoiding getting wet again would be a good thing.

I listened carefully to what it was saying, and after I got up an hour later, I went no further than cleaning my electric bike and going for a very gentle walk round the garden.

The warmer temperature made it feel quite springlike. The next wave of daffodils is just starting . . .

. . . the vinca beside the drive is showing its first few flowers . . .

. . . there were several frogs visible in the pond . . .

. . . and buds and shoots . . .

. . . are getting ready to burst out all over.

There was even a new crocus to be seen.

I didn’t get too excited though, and soon went back in for a quiet sit down in front of the telly.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy afternoon. Grasping a large parcel, she had walked up at lunchtime to the visiting post office in the town hall in a sharp rain shower only to find that it was shut for holidays. Still grasping her parcel, she walked home again. There was nothing for it but to wait until the post office in Canonbie opened at three o’clock and drive down to post it there.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came over for their first Friday visit since they went to visit their son and his family in New Zealand. They were still suffering slightly from jet lag but Alison and I enjoyed some recorder and keyboard duets before joining Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal for conversation. It was really good to be back playing music again.

I am looking forward to finding out if both bike and rider are in better condition tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

A damp squib

Today’s guest picture comes from my Manitoba correspondent Mary Jo. Wide awake readers looking at the picture will probably realise that she is not currently in Manitoba. She is house sitting on the Island of Oahu, Hawaii and this was her breakfast view. She tells me that it’s a tough job but that someone has to do it.

Our view here today was severely restricted by very low clouds and sheets of rain being blown across the garden by a brisk wind. At least it was a bit warmer than it has been. I was happy stay snugly indoors in the morning, though I did have to pop out and fill the bird feeder when a chaffinch complained that it was empty.

Dropscone came round for coffee, bringing some excellent scones with him, and we managed to mostly ignore the weather while we sipped, chewed and chatted. When he left, I looked to see if the refilled feeder had attracted any birds.

Traffic was quite brisk, and I noticed that more siskins had turned up today after their recent temporary absence.

When I looked at the picture on my computer, I saw that the siskin in the final frame has been ringed.

Then I went off to do some shopping at the Co-op. I very cleverly remembered to take my shopping list with me today, but failed to be organised enough to buy everything that was on it. You can’t win them all.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal scattered some breadcrumbs from our breadboard onto the lawn and there was an almost instant response from the jackdaws . . .

. . . though I think that that last jackdaw may be a crow.

It stopped raining for a while, so I put on some waterproof trousers, a pair of stout boots and my new rain jacket and went for a walk round Potholm. It was still very windy and the Potholm walk is sheltered in places.

The ducks were visiting us again and as I left the house, they scuttled out of the garden and plunged into the dam

It was definitely a damp day. The rivers were fairly well up after the recent rain and the bridges were using all their arches. Little streams were running off the hill and oystercatchers had to look hard to find a rock to stand on.

The clouds remained firmly clamped down on us throughout the day, so as views were unavailable, I focussed on the foreground . . .

When I got to Potholm Bridge, I could see that the hills had their heads in the clouds and the trees had their feet in the water.

My new coat got a thorough testing as I walked along the road after crossing the bridge. The brisk wind was blowing some heavy rain straight at me. Sadly, my new coat wasn’t up to the task of keeping me entirely dry. Although I didn’t get soaked through, I was undeniably damp when I got home. I think the answer to this is not to buy rain jackets at bargain prices, but Mrs Tootlepedal thinks that the lesson to be learned is not to go for walks in lashing wind and rain. There may be some truth in both points of view.

My walk was through soggy scenery.

I could see streams running off the hill when I looked back across the river . . .

. . . and the world was leaking when I got to the road back to Langholm

I didn’t get any protection from the rain as I came back to the town since the once tree shaded road is now completely open to the elements . . .

. . . though to be fair, the rain had stopped by the time that I had got this far, so it didn’t matter.

Just to get a little colour into today’s post, I visited the hellebores when I got back to the garden.

When he was having coffee with us on Tuesday, my olive oil supplier David suggested that I might like to try a phone app called ‘Merlin’ from Cornell University which identifies birds by their calls. I tested it out on my walk today in not very favourable conditions and it worked a treat. I look forward to using it again when I am out walking as I am very poor at recognising bird song.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch being ruffled by the wind.

Late flash: Mrs Tootlepedal has just come back from her Operatic Society anniversary concert practice and reported that frogs are purring loudly in our little pond. Maybe spring has arrived at last.

Good weather for ducks

Today’s guest picture of a fine tree comes from my Welsh correspondent Keiron.

The night didn’t get nearly as cold as the forecast had threatened, and we got away with a fairly gentle -3°C. It got above freezing quite promptly, and although the day only managed a rather chilly 4°C at its peak, the snow magically disappeared from the town.

We had a very quiet morning, and I didn’t even go as far as looking out of the window until just before coffee time. When I did look out, I found that a pair of recent visitors had returned, with the male politely waiting . . .

. . . until the female had visited the feeder tray.

This gave me the opportunity to admire the light on the male’s head.

Their presence did not put off a blackbird . . .

. . . and life on the feeder above carried on as normal. Sparrows were building up their strength as they get ready to attack Mrs Tootlepedal’s growing vegetables later in the spring. . .

. . . a goldfinch enjoyed a seed . . .

. . . while a young greenfinch flew in to get its share.

The feeder never got very busy and there was always a free perch available.

I left the birds to it and settled down to coffee and a business meeting with Mrs Tootlepedal. We were going through the household accounts to make sure that we both knew clearly what the other was responsible for, and also to check that there were no unnecessary outgoings for services that had continued to be charged even though we no longer needed them. Fortunately, we found that everything was in order and broke up the meeting in good time for lunch.

Although it was only 4°C, there was not much wind, and as the forecast said it wouldn’t rain until the late afternoon, I decided to take my pushbike out for a short pedal to try to add a little to my rather skimpy bike mile total for the year so far.

I was very warmly dressed, and it was pleasant enough as I cycled up the Wauchope road. I stopped to admire the hard work of either one very busy mole or a small gang of them working together as a unit in a field.

I hadn’t decided where to go by the time that I got to Wauchope Schoolhouse, so I took a short diversion up and down the Cleuchfoot road . . .

. . . while I made up my mind. This was a good decision, because although I headed further up the road towards Callister after my diversion, it meant that I was only four miles from home when it started to rain. It was only gentle rain, but I really didn’t want to get cold and wet for the second time in three days, so I turned tail and pedalled back to Langholm as swiftly as I could.

When I got in, I had a quick look out to see if the feeder needed filling and saw that the female mallard was back. She gave me a hard stare . . .

. . . and I returned the compliment.

Fortunately, there was some horse racing from Cheltenham to watch on the telly, and this passed the time when I should have been pedalling. I popped out into the garden between two of the races to try to add a bit of colour to an otherwise rather grey post.

A daffodil which had survived wind, rain, frost, and snow was doing well . . .

. . . but it had all been too much for this bunch of crocuses.

The day got increasingly gloomy and it felt much more like winter than spring as the light faded. An evening meal of macaroni cheese cheered us up.

The forecast is pretty gloomy to so it doesn’t look as though my bike mileage will be going up any time soon.

The flying bird of the day is a greenfinch.

A surprise

Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Ada’s recent trip to Tenerife. She met a hoopoe while she was there.

We didn’t have a hoopoe here today, but we did have plenty of familiar birds on another chilly, grey morning. There was enough of a queue after breakfast to persuade a greenfinch to kick an inconvenient goldfinch off a perch.

There were plenty of birds trying hard to get the pick to be flying bird of the day.

I had to stop watching the birds at this point, as first Sandy came round for coffee, then we were joined by our neighbour Margaret, and just after Sandy left, we were joined by our friend David who was delivering a bottle of his excellent olive oil. In the middle of all this, Dropscone dropped in, bringing a gift of an aubergine. All in all, we had a very sociable morning. When Margaret and David left, I cycled round to our corner shop for milk and meat, while Mrs Tootlepedal made some curried parsnip soup. Then I had another chance to took at the birds.

A green finch was chomping on the seeds in some weak sunshine . . .

. . . and a pigeon was clearing up the fallen seed below.

I took a quick turn round the garden and found the hellebores looking quite jolly . . .

. . . and used a sheet of card to make a background to help the camera pick out some details in the rather poor light.

We had finished lunch and were considering what to do in the afternoon when Mrs Tootlepedal noticed that it had started to snow. The birds were not discouraged . . .

. . . but I was, particularly when the light snow turned first to hail and then to a mini blizzard.

The snow eased off a bit, and I thought that this might be a good day to try out my new waterproof jacket. I put on boots, walking trousers and gaiters, and I was just going out when Mrs Tootlepedal noticed something strange. The birds on the feeder noticed it too.

A duck had joined the scavenging gang.

It was still snowing as I went off on my walk so I took an umbrella as extra protection.

The snow had stopped by the time that I crossed the river by Skippers Bridge and walked along the road to Broomholmshiels. Then I made my way back by way of the track through Longwood to the Round House, and the path down to Skippers Bridge from the old railway line . . .

. . . by which time, it was sunny.

I returned to the town along the riverside path, with much of the low level snow having gone already. The hills were white and it had turned into a lovely day for a walk as I crossed the suspension bridge.

It was pretty cold though, with the temperature hovering a degree or two above freezing so I was pleased to find that my new rain jacket performed very well in these conditions.

The cold and damp conditions had made my chest hurt a bit, so I was more than usually content to sit down to tea and biscuits with Mrs Tootlepedal when I got in.

I had to refill the feeder today as business had been so brisk, and I was pleased to see a siskin. We haven’t seen one in the garden for some time now.

The forecasters seem to think that it is going to get down to somewhere round -4°C to -7°C tonight and tomorrow morning. This will be a shock to the system. Things may warm up after that. I hope so, as I would like to get out to do some longer bike rides in comfort. Cycling has been a bit of a battle with wind and cold weather so far this year.

A chaffinch in a sunny moment is the flying bird of the day.