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April showers

Today’s guest picture is a famous platform which my friend Bruce spotted on a visit to the National Railway Museum in York.

potter platformIt was another day that started well but which was sprinkled with April showers.  As these coincided with efforts to put the washing, out they were not very much appreciated at all.

In between times, the birds visited the feeder uninterrupted by the sparrowhawk.

I saw two robins within a few yards of each other…

robin…and as they weren’t fighting, I think that they may be a pair.

There were plenty of flying birds to be seen….

chaffinch…sometimes too many at one time.

flying chaffinchesThe joiners were paying their final visit to our end rooms  and they were joined by the electrician.  While they worked, Mrs Tootlepdal was busy on the upstairs decoration.  She ran out of some vital smoothing gunge and I was sent off to get some more.  I combined this with my first transaction with my new bank.  I felt very adventurous.

On my return, I saw a sign of spring.  There were ducks in  the dam behind the house.  This is a seasonal precursor to ducklings in the dam.  I have seen these ducks before and have been puzzled that they seem to have set up a ménage à trois which is most unusual.

mallardsWhile I was watching, a crisis developed.  Another mallard thought that four might be company.  How wrong he was.

dam mallards

He started pursuing the lady….she fled.

dam mallards

She pulled off a nifty handbrake turn….

_DSC8095-1

…the intruder overshot…

dam mallards

… and her escorts saw him off.  He was reduced to futile posing further up stream.

I put another fat ball out and it attracted the jackdaws again.  One of them worked out that there were other fat balls available.

jackdawOnce again the rooks joined in and one of them manoeuvred the fat ball into the middle of the lawn at which point things began to turn ugly…

rooks…very ugly.

rooksOnce the fat ball had been devoured, the rooks went off and magically it was time for lunch.

You might think that warring rooks would keep the other birds away from the garden but the small birds were undeterred by the fracas and kept on coming.

chaffinch and sparrowI arranged to go for a walk with Sandy and with perfect timing, the heavens opened as he arrived.  We wasted a little time and things brightened up so we headed for the bird hide on the grounds that if it started to rain again, we would have somewhere dry to sit.

When we got to the hide, project manager Cat was there with two other bird watchers,  It turned out that I was not the only one to be felled by the winds yesterday.  A freshly fallen tree was severely crimping the view out of the hide.

moorland feeders treeWith the hide busy and the view circumscribed, we thought that we would risk a walk and hope for dry weather.  We set off down the road to the Tarras Water.

Road to RashielAs soon as we got among the trees and out of the piercing wind, the walk became very much more tolerable and to make things even better, the sun came out.  I had my binoculars with me as we had seen a harrier as we drove up to the hide but they were just dead weight as we didn’t see another bird.

I kept an eye out for lichens of course.

lichens There were others interesting things to look at such as bat boxes….

bat box…and burbling burns.

rashielWe walked along the road beside the river for a while….

rashiel roadbut didn’t want to push our luck with the weather so we turned back up the hill to the hide.

It was empty when we got there and there was a lot to watch but nothing out of the ordinary except this perching pheasant which was trying to pretend it was a blue tit.

perching pheasantAnd failing.

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal was still painting but in the end, even she had to stop. In the evening, I went to the Langholm Choir while Mrs Tootlepedal had a well deserved snooze.  I not only had a good sing but managed to avoid getting on to the committee when they held an AGM after the practice.  A win win situation.

The flying bird of the day was a sunlit chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

Blown away

Today’s guest picture was taken by my brother on the 3rd of March and shows snow in the Lake District then.  It snowed here today at the very end of the month.  So much for March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb.

BlencathraWhen I woke up at eight o’clock, it was a fine sunny day and it turned out later that Dropscone had had the foresight to get up early and enjoy his 20 mile morning pedal while the going was good.  Mind you, it was so windy that when he stood on his pedals and free-wheeled over a cattle grid on the top of a hill, his bike stopped dead.

By half past nine, it was raining. The rest of the day was a mixture of heavy rain, snow, hail and beautiful sunshine.  I tried to get the washing hung out at one point but the gaps between the showers were too small and even with a howling wind, it didn’t have a chance to get dry.

Dropscone recovered from his ride well enough to make some particularly tasty scones and bring them round for coffee.  We were joined by Scott, the minister so we got nourishment for the body and the soul at the same time.

If I was the sort of person who rudely looked out of the window while his guests were chatting, I might have seen some jackdaws at a suet ball outside.  I might even have been ruder still and leapt up and photographed them…

jackdaws..but perish the thought!

I might have seen the even larger, more severe rooks that followedbehind the jackdaws.

rookrookNo one would imagine that a rook could look cuddly…

rook…but they might be wrong.

In a dry interval, I discovered that the pulmonarias have started to bloom.

pulmonariaThe poor weather had brought in several siskins…

siskins and goldfinches…and even more goldfinches.

It was noticeable that the wind was strong enough to discourage the goldfinches from their favourite very-top-of-the-twig positions.

goldfinchIt was snowing at lunchtime…

snow in the garden…but by three o’clock it looked set fair for long enough to allow me out for a walk.

I drove up to the golf course and walked up the Kirk Wynd towards Whita and the monument.

whitaThe  monument looked tempting in the sunshine so I put my best foot forward (and my other one too) and headed up the hillside.  The gorse looked brilliant in the sunshine….

gorse…and the going wasn’t too bad, even after all the rain…

whita…and  I surprised myself by getting up to the monument….

monument…in a reasonable time and in good order.

As always, I enjoyed the views from the top.

EwesEskI may possibly have been helped on my way up by a heavy wind at my back.  I paid dearly for this help with my woolly hat. This was whipped off my head by a malevolent gust when I was on the very  top of the hill.  It disappeared so quickly that I never saw it again.  If anyone sees a hen harrier flying around with a woolly hat on, it’s mine.

With my ears now flapping in the gale, I headed back down the path and found that the wind once again had a price to exact for its helping hand up the hill.  My foot slipped on a patch of greasy grass and in a trice, the wind had blown me flat on the ground,  Fortunately it had chosen a comfortably soft spot on which to deposit me and I was able to rise gracefully up and continue my descent with only my pride dented.

During the afternoon, the joiners came and have almost completed the task of replacing the skirting boards in both rooms and putting up some new coving in the front room.  (Mrs Tootlepedal was very pleased to have been able to have sourced some polystyrene coving which  exactly matched the existing plaster coving in the room.)

There only remains a final visit from the electrician and then the decoration.  This last may not be absolutely straightforward as Mrs Tootlepedal has plans which will make Versailles look dowdy  but the finishing line edges ever closer.

In the evening, I drove Susan to Carlisle and we had a really good evening of playing with our recorder group.  Roy picked a succession of plums out of his big bag of pieces and we were all working hard to do them justice.

Our drive home, with the thermometer at zero and flurries of snow keeping us alert, passed by without incident.

I caught the flying bird of the day during one of the frequent showers and it is a tribute to the Nikon D7000 that it came out as well as it did.

flying chaffinch

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my friend Bruce.  On one of his walks with his dog, he noticed that the receptacle provided for the convenience of dog walkers has acquired a ‘genius loci’.

dog dragonI woke up to a sunny morning and toyed with the idea of getting up into cycling clothes and rocketing off into the wide blue yonder.  A number of factors were weighed in the balance, the brisk wind, the chilly temperature, business to be done and the state of my knee but in the end they were all trumped by utter idleness and I started the day at a quiet tempo which I maintained with grace throughout the day.

After breakfast I checked on the tadpole development situation.

tadpolesIt is, as they say, ongoing.  It looks as though have survived some very chilly mornings.

To help Mrs Tootlepedal with her decorating, I put an undercoat on the skirting boards for the upstairs room.  This is low grade work suitable for an amateur like me.

When Mrs Tootlepedal went off for a church choir practice, I combined doing my business in the town with a slow bicycle tour to Wauchope School and back for the grand total of seven miles.  The business was nicely varied and included placing a small ad in the local paper for the next camera club meeting, buying and delivering a fan heater for the Archive Centre and paying my garage bill.  As this was all within a hundred yards, it didn’t extend my cycle distance significantly.

The rest of the tour to Wauchope School was hard work in the wind and I was glad that I had not attempted anything more ambitious.  I stopped to record the first wild roadside primrose of the year…

roadside primrose…and then idled back home with the wind behind me twice as fast as I had gone out but still didn’t get my average speed above 10mph.

When I got home, I had a walk round the garden to look for new shoots…

signs of spring…and found some but had to put in one established flower to make up the numbers..

new shootsThere were plenty of birds about today, brought in no doubt by the change from dry to wet weather.

siskins

Male and female siskins

chaffinch landing

A chaffinch getting a toehold on the feeder

blackbird

And a blackbird attracted by another fat ball

The fat ball had other admirers.  A jackdaw perched near by, checking out the options….

jackdaw…before descending to the chimney…..

jackdaw…and finally arriving at the ball and adopting a position very reminiscent of the late, great Jim Baxter tormenting the World Cup winners in 1967..

jackdawAfter lunch, a quick check on the forecast showed the possibility of heavy rain soon, so I nipped out for a walk round Gaskells.  As usual, I was waylaid by lichen.

lichen…and moss too…

moss…but I got back before the rain started.

The fat ball was still drawing in customers.

robinIt was lashing down when Owen arrived to plaster the downstairs room…

plaster…a task which he completed in short order.  The sharp eyed may notice a patch of yellow on the lintel above the stove.  The lintel is from the old fireplace and is full of soot.  Mrs Tootlepedal is using a home made poultice based on bicarbonate of soda to draw the soot out with some success.

In the evening, my flute pupil Luke came.  He will not get the results of his grade examination for some weeks yet but both he and his accompanist felt that he had played well enough to pass so I am keeping my fingers crossed for him.  We have put the exam music to the side and have started on a Telemann trio sonata and some snappy fiddle dance tunes.

After tea, I went off to play trios with Isabel and Mike.  We enjoyed ourselves so much that we played all the repeats that we came across except one.  Often we are quite pleased just to have got to the end of a piece once.

There are weather warnings out for heavy rain and gales overnight and tomorrow.  I hope we don’t find our nice new chimney blown into the gutter when we wake up.

The flying bird of the day is a traditional chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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

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

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

His loss was our gain.

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

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

jackdaw…and a blackbird too.

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

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

flying chaffinchflying chaffinch…or female.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hawk departing

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

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

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

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

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

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

I made do with some local residents.

greenfinch

A greenfinch

Great tit

A great tit

coal tit

A coal tit

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

blue tit

A blue tit

greenfinch

And a much less green greenfinch

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

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

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

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

The heavy overnight rain had filled the river up…

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

I kept an eye out or tree borne lichen.

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

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

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

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

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

flying chaffinch

Anything went

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

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

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

End wall

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

end wall upstairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shall miss the cherry blossom.

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

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

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

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

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

flying chaffinch

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

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

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

mother's day flowers

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

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

blackbird and dove

A blackbird and a dove were lurking among the flowers.

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

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

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

goldfinch…before popping onto the feeder….

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

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

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

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

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

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

pine…and in groups along my path.

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

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

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

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

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

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

goldfinch

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