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Archive for December, 2011

Today’s picture is from my recorder playing friend Sue’s holiday trip to the New World.  It shows the Biosphere in Montreal.  It looks a bit draughty to me.

biosphere

The last day of the year was very much in the style to which we have become accustomed.  It was gloomy and wet.  The cloud never lifted above 500 ft the whole day.  It wasn’t cold though so I put my wet weather gear on and set off round the morning run on the slow bike.  It rained the whole way round and the very damp conditions didn’t do my breathing any favours.  I took so long that Mrs Tootlepedal had made and drunk her own coffee before I got back.

I then had to spend quite a bit of time pulling wet clothes off and putting them into the washing machine before I could make and drink my coffee.

In spite of the gloomy day, I was glad to have a pedal on the last day of the old year as it has been a year of steady pedalling for me.  For those interested, I have updated the cycling page to reflect the pedalling year.

It was a rotten day for taking bird pictures and it was a rotten day for the birds too.  I have taken some rough shots to give an impression of it all.

miserable goldfinch

A miserable goldfinch

The next bird was so rain sodden that it was hard to recognise.  I think it is a greenfinch.

miserable greenfinch

more miserable goldfinch

An even more miserable goldfinch. The chaffinch looks not too bad.

Another miserable goldfinch

Another miserable goldfinch

Even more miserable goldfinches

Even more miserable goldfinches

The only birds that looked perky were the bramblings who seem to be more waterproof than the gold and green finches.

brambling

Even they couldn’t really brighten the day up as they sat around on dripping branches.

brambling and chaffinch

Chaffinch on left, brambling on right.

I devoted a lot of the afternoon to making bread.  My daughter Annie had sent me a recipe for a hand made loaf using the ‘sponge’ method.  Just in case it didn’t work, I made a loaf in the bread machine as well.  The bread machine loaf was made with a ready mixed packet of serious ingredients from Lidl.

machine made bread.

This is not bread for the frivolous bread nibbler.

The other loaf required endless making.  You made this bit and let it rest and then you made that bit and then you put this bit and that bit  together and let them rest again.  Then you kneaded the dough in a very gentle way three separate times, letting it rest in between.  Then you roll out the dough, roll it up and put it in a bread tin and let it rest again. Finally, you get to cook it, but of course you have to change the oven temperature half way through the process.  The whole thing took until 8 o’clock in the evening.   The result looked very nice.

Bread made with love and patience

This is bread made with love and patience

Time will tell which tastes best but the three minutes it takes to make the machine loaf compared with the six hours for the other loaf may well influence my future course of action, no matter how lovely the patient bread tastes.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I may or may not wait up to see the New Year in but we will both be jolly pleased to see the old year out as it has been a bit of a wash out.

Late newsflash: Mrs Tootlepedal has just brought me a slice of the patient bread.  It is delicious.  I shall know what to do on the next really wet afternoon.

I know that there are readers in both Canada and USA so I am adding another of Sue’s holiday pictures to maintain a balance.

staten island ferry

I would like to wish a happy New Year from Mrs Tootlepedal and me to all our readers with grateful thanks for your many useful, amusing and kind comments over the past year.  Keep them coming.

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Today’s picture is a postcard sized embroidery on the theme of Guam which Mrs Tootlepedal has sewn as part of the Embroiderers’ Guild contribution to next year’s London Olympics.

guam postcard

The weather continues in a miserable vein here.  It wasn’t too bad in the morning but as it was icy, I decided to wait until the thermometer crept up before going cycling.  Needless to say that as the thermometer went up, the rain came down.  It was that cold, persistent, sleety sort of rain which really discourages you so for yet another day, I mooched round the house doing nothing much. This is becoming a habit but everyone in the town is feeling the weather a bit as it seems as though we have only had a scrap of sunshine here and there since the beginning of August.  This may be a pardonable exaggeration but it is not far out.

In spite of repeated visits by the sparrowhawk over recent days, the birds were back in the garden today in force.  At one time, I was able to count well over 50 chaffinches on the ground under feeders and visiting the flat feeder.

There was a feeling of slight hysteria as though this might be the last day of free food.  The light wasn’t good so the pictures are not of the best quality but I have put them in just to try and capture the mood of feeder frenzy.

greenfinches and flying chaffinch

The greenfinches looked unflustered by this chaffinch

flying goldfinches

The goldfinches were highly flappable

flying finches

The chaffinches more so

 

chaffinch siskin goldfinch

There was a good selection of birds about

more flying finches

A goldfinch just hanging on under pressure

 

all sorts

This was a typical moment of bird whirl

There were quieter moments here and there.  I saw this blue tit early in the day before the bedlam had got going.

blue tit

In spite of the fact that I know from the bird ringing that blue tits are little savages, I still think they look particularly neat and sweet on a feeder.

brambling

This brambling looks well. It was one of a pair of visitors.

From looking at bird sites, I think that this is a male but Dr Barlow will put me right if she reads this post.

chaffiches drinking

Two chaffinches out for a drink

The drinking bowl had blown away in the recent strong winds but luckily it hadn’t gone too far and was undamaged.  We have a pond in the garden and running water in the dam at the back of the house so there are plenty of drinking spots for the birds and the bowl isn’t used very much.

greenfinch on twig

There were several greenfinches around today.

The flat feeder was visited by a rook but it didn’t stop long enough to fill its crop and soon flew off.

flying rook

I took all these pictures before the rain started in earnest and by the early afternoon, it was too dark even for my clever camera to get a decent picture.  Mrs Tootlepedal was so fed up that she went out and bought herself a pair of very reasonably priced trousers at Gretna.  She told me that she was not the only one choosing retail therapy and the whole place was absolutely hotching with bargain hunters.

In the evening, we were visited by Mike and Alison and Alison and I battered our way through three pieces on treble recorder and electric harpsichord (Andrew Parcham, William Topham and Anon).   I think the experience could best be characterised as punk baroque as both of us were a little short of our best.

After playing, the combined wit and wisdom of the conversation of the four of us left the world with many of its problems thoroughly sorted out…or so the couple of glasses of fizzy wine which we had drunk told us.

Here’s to another glimpse of the sun soon. Cheers. (I am raising a small glass of port which I was given by some kind person for my Christmas.)

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Today’s picture from my brother Andrew shows a bridge across the Otaki River in New Zealand.  It is not a bridge that I will be crossing under any circumstances.

bridge

It was intermittently a better day today and at one stage, we even saw the sun.  It was still very windy and with the continual possibility of rain, I didn’t consider it a good morning for cycling.   Instead, after a disgracefully late breakfast, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went up to refill the bird feeders at the moorland feeding station.   We managed to find a beautifully sunny moment to do this.

The general trend of the weather can been seen from this picture which I took while we up there.

rainbow

It was just as well that we went up as the feeders were well down and it took us some time to get them topped up.  When we had finished,  Mrs Tootlepedal retired to the car to get out of the piercing wind while I lurked behind the rather skimpy hide, camera in hand.

The first bird I saw after I had taken up my position was a sparrowhawk which flew briskly along the whole line of feeders far too quickly for me to get a picture.  I thought that this would have put paid to my chance of seeing any other birds at all but within minutes, the feeders were busy with chaffinches and various tits.

coal tit

A coal tit visits the peanuts within yards of the hide

I switched my attention to a peanut feeder on the opposite side of the clearing where a number of different tits were sharing in a companionable way.

coal tit and blue tit

Then my attention wandered a bit as tits are quite common and when I looked back, I saw something completely different.

strange object

This was, of course, a woodpecker.

woodpecker in the distance

Although they are bigger than the tits and chaffinches, these particular woodpeckers are not very large birds.

But they are very striking.

woodpecker back

woodpecker from the side

woodpecker from the other side

At this stage, it started raining and so I made my excuses and left.

As we had been driving up the hill to get to the feeders, we had come up behind a cyclist who was braving the weather and I was tempted to change into my gear when we got home.  A really heavy shower of sleety rain and further gusts of wind soon put some sense into my head and I found simple tasks to do indoors instead.

There were a mass of birds in our garden all morning and at one time I was able to count at least 40 chaffinches on the go.

nine chaffinches

This was a typical scene at the flat feeder

Other birds were available.

blackbird, brambling and chaffinch

A mixed bag of blackbird, brambling and chaffinch

At the niger seeder feeder, things were busy too.

goldfinches and siskin

Goldfinches see off a siskin

siskins

The siskins return undeterred

Siskins and goldfinch

Now a siskin sees off another siskin

 

chaffinch, goldfinch, siskins

And finally even a chaffinch gets in on the snarling act

In the afternoon, I was just about to take a picture of two bramblings on the ground under the kitchen window when a mighty rushing of wings heralded another flying visit of a sparrowhawk and an associated bird explosion.  The small birds flew off in safety and the hawk shot off into a bush with no posing this time and then circled round the garden high in the sky before pushing off to find gardens with less nippy birds in them.

In the early evening, we decided on an outing.  Things didn’t go well.  We started by visiting the chemist to pick up a prescription which it eventually turned out that I had picked up several days earlier.  That was embarrassing.  Then we went to Gretna to see the starlings and parked in a place where we didn’t see any.  That was annoying.  Then we didn’t go into the Gretna Gateway shopping centre which was the chief point of the trip in the first place.  That was simply laziness.

I said to Mrs Tootlepedal, as we drove home, “Well at least we have had a nice outing.” “No, we haven’t,” she replied.  That was the truth.

Things got better when I went off to the Archive Centre with Jean and Sandy for our usual Thursday evening’s work session.  This was followed by a visit to the Douglas for a session of refreshment and community moaning about the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.  We felt better and went home.

 

 

 

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Today’s picture comes from Bruce.  He took a picture of his terrier and it came out like this with (honestly) no editing.  I’ve heard of red eye but this is ridiculous.

blue eyed dog

Perhaps he is due a visit to the dog eye specialist

Although it was very windy when we got up, it wasn’t raining and the end wall didn’t require any mopping up which was a relief.  It was too windy for cycling and so Dropscone and Arthur came round for coffee and we put in a bit of work finishing off some slices of Christmas cakes as well as sampling Dropscone’s girdle scones.  It’s a hard life, as they say but someone has to do it.  We were joined by Mike Tinker who kindly helped us with a little cake eating.

While we were enjoying our coffee, I noticed a sparrowhawk flashing through the garden but the others were rather dismissive saying it could have been anything.

We had a good chat and when they left, the light had got good enough to make it worth looking out of the window.

I noticed that the lone brambling was back on the flat feeder.

lone brambling

It's the bird on the right of the picture

There were greenfinches about today, both on the hanging feeders…

greenfinch and flying chaffinches

greenfinch and goldfinch

…and on the flat feeder.

greenfinch and chafiinches

As you can see, the chaffinches were very busy once again.

flying chaffinches

Sparrows are still very scarce.  Here one shares a feeder with a goldfinch.

sparrow and goldfinch

It was the only one which I saw all day.  There were plenty of goldfinches though.

Goldfinches on feeder

With a greenfinch keeping an eye on them

flexible goldfinch

Then suddenly, the garden went quiet.   Often this is because someone has walked up the road past the front gate and unsettled the birds but on this occasion, it was a visitor of a different kind.  I make no excuses for showing several pictures of her (I think it is a female) as I may never get such a good chance again.  She was sitting quietly in the plum tree.

sparrowhawk

sparrowhawk turning

sparrowhawk turning more

Finally, she checked that I had got her good side…

sparrowhawk looking

..and flapped lazily away without reducing our resident flocks at all.

That made my day.

Mrs Tootlepedal came back from work soon after and although I am always pleased to see her, I was glad that she hadn’t come a moment or two sooner and discouraged the sparrowhawk from resting in the plum, tree.

After lunch, the wind dropped for a moment, and I was just thinking of going for a walk or even a pedal, when it got up again and started to rain as well.  I took the hint and went to put a week of the paper into the database instead and then I practised lounging around.  I am getting quite good at that.

By the time I sat down to write this page in the evening, the rain was lashing down and the wind was howling.  Even so, looking at the news bulletins, we seem to have had much less bad weather than the rest of Scotland so I mustn’t complain.

I leave you with a picture of the fine Christmas present received by my son Tony’s latest dog acquisition, Tara.

big bone

That will take some chewing.

 

 

 

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Today’s picture shows a chaffinch in the plum tree at a rare moment when it wasn’t raining and the wind wasn’t blowing.

dry chaffinch

This was too good to miss and so I gulped down a plate of cereal and, rudely leaving our guests to be entertained by Mrs Tootlepedal over their porridge,  I seized the moment and my slow bike, switched on the front and rear lights and set off up the Wauchope road.  I didn’t have a lot of time as our visitors were catching a morning train back to London and I had to be back to see them off.

Because of my tight schedule and forecast rain, I didn’t take my camera with me and so I can’t show you the progress that the foresters are making in cutting down the wood at Bigholms.  Holiday season or not, they were hard at work as I passed them on my way to the top of Callister.   At the summit of the hill, I turned for home and when I got back to Langholm after 12 miles, I worked out that I just had enough minutes in the bank to go back up the road to Wauchope Schoolhouse and still have plenty of time to say my farewells.  I got my little legs spinning round and covered the last seven miles at a good pace.

My sisters and Pat were just packing their bags into the car as I got back.  Mrs Tootlepedal had volunteered to take them into Carlisle with a thought that she might see what the sales had to offer while she was there.  I waved them off and sat down to a cup of coffee and a slice of toast.

I didn’t sit still for long because the still weather and the relatively light sky made taking bird photos more possible than recent days.

Jackdaw

This jackdaw visited the flat feeder quite a few times but never took any seed.

chaffinch with spread wings

A female chaffinch approaches the seed feeder

chaffinch approaching feeder

This is obviously the chaffinch approach technique. A male at the flat feeder.

I had to go out to fill a feeder and I was reminded that there is one flower still in the garden….

Forsythia

A Forsythia flower by the back door

…and there is promise of more to come.

potential daffodils

Potential daffodils

The chaffinches were very busy at the flat feeder.

busy chaffinches

And they were certainly eating the seeds.

seed explosion with chaffinches

This is my favourite picture of the day

A goldfinch found something to eat on a twig.

goldfinch on twig

Other goldfinches spread out among the feeders.

goldfinch and siskin

At the nyjer seed

Goldfinch flying

At the sunflower seeds

By the time I had had my lunch, the moment of peace had passed and a light rain began to fall.

siskin

It didn't stop this siskin visiting

And by two o’clock, the familiar plum tree chaffinch was back.

wet chaffinch

It was nice while it lasted.

Mrs Tootlepedal got back safely from Carlisle and we both decided that what was needed after all the work and fun of the festive season and the stress of playing cards night after night, was a good sit down.  That seemed to last for the rest of the day.

Over Christmas, we had a couple of days of strong winds and no rain.  Then today we got a day of rain and no wind.  Now, as a treat we are getting both together and  we are promised heavy rain and gale force winds for tonight and tomorrow.  We will have the buckets out for the end wall.

 

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Another picture of my brother’s Christmas to make up for our grey days.  He’s getting ready to swim here.swimsuit

We are in a period of very consistent weather at the moment, grey and windy.   The idea of a little boxing day outing was not very attractive but it was quite warm and not actually raining in the morning so we all piled into the car and I set off to the moorland bird feeding station to do my stint of filling up the feeders while Cat, the project manager, is on holiday.

We dropped Pat and Susan off at Skippers on the way and they walked the mile back from there and then after I had topped up the feeders, Mrs Tootlepedal and Mary set off to walk the two and a half miles home while I waited around hoping to see some birds.

walkers

There was not much in the interesting bird line at the feeders…

blue tit

A blue tit tries the peanuts

 

chaffinches

There were quite a lot of chaffinches scuttling about

..but the fact that the feeders were still pretty full when I arrived didn’t fill me with much hope that there were a lot of birds about so I didn’t hang around for too long.

There were more birds in our garden than up on the moor.

Goldfinches

Goldfinches showing off their back and front plumage

 

 green finch

A green finch turned up

siskin

One of the handful of siskins we have at the moment

There are still a good flock of chaffinches around as well.

After the ladies’ morning walks, we had a light lunch of ends and then went out mob handed for another walk. This time we went across the bridge on to the Castleholm and round the new path.

setting off

On our way. We come in all shapes and sizes.

One of the benefits of winter walking is that, even if the light is not very good, you can get a clear view of things that are obstructed by leaves in the summer.  This is the new footbridge over the Esk. It is quite an impressive structure.

new bridge

This is the castle. It is not so impressive.

Langholm Castle

It was demolished by royal command.

It used to be quite impressive.

Langholm castle signboard

This is the picture on a information board by the new walk.

I was pleased to see that the heron was in position at the Kilngreen but my little camera was not up to the task of taking its picture.

Exhausted by all this walking, the ladies indulged in some sofa surfing in front of the telly while I watched a broadcast of  Edinburgh playing Glasgow at rugby. The attendance was very good at 13,000 equalling the number at a top football match in the city yesterday.  It was an exciting draw at 23-23 with the very strong winds making playing quite tricky.

We followed this up with a light evening meal of more delicious ends and another highly entertaining couple of games of Oh Hell.  Once again, I managed to avoid the embarrassment of coming top of the leaderboard.  It is an aptly name game.

Our visitors go home tomorrow and we have had a delightful time over Christmas.  It has only been a pity that the weather has been so grim that we haven’t been able to enjoy an outing.

 

 

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Quiet day

Today’s picture, sent to me by my brother Andrew to counter any bad publicity that the weather in New Zealand may have had on this blog, shows him having a cappuccino on Christmas Day.

Christmas in New Zealand

It was far from like that over here, though it was a very mild 10°C.  As this was accompanied by strong winds, ten tenths cloud and sporadic rain, it was lucky that we had stuff to occupy ourselves with indoors.

We got up reasonably early as some of the party were going to church.  They enjoyed the service, particularly as the minister managed to include the names of 27 football clubs in his sermon.

Once again the day was too dark for satisfactory bird photos so I contented myself with only the occasional glance out of the window.

siskin with sunflower seed

A siskin has it's Christmas dinner in the rain

There was a large gathering of chaffinches on the flat feeder.  It wasn’t nearly as nice as the camera makes it look.

chaffinches and goldfinch

There's a lone goldfinch in there too

Then they remembered that they hadn’t been to church and skittered off in a hurry.

chaffinches leaving

I can only imagine that we really are in for a mild winter because we are still very light on winter migrants.  A handful of siskins and goldfinches is all we have.

ruffled siskin

This siskin is getting ruffled in the stiff breeze

By the time we went in for our (late) Christmas lunch, this female siskin was the only bird visible.

female siskin

Courtesy of Mrs Tootlepedal, we had an excellent meal and then in traditional manner, we lay about on various chairs and sofas, groaning and watching old films on the telly.

In the early evening, I went for a wander round the town with our visitors just to shake the turkey down before we faced the Christmas pudding.  The town was very quiet but the Christmas lights in the High Street added a touch of gaiety to the scene.

lights

Santa

After a very light snack for tea, we sat down to another round of “Oh Hell” and I graciously allowed the others to do better than me once again before everyone felt so sorry for me that they let me do a bit better in the last game.

We received an e-mail during the day showing the new elephant keeper at work.

Elephant keeper

We think it is in good hands.

I would like to end by hoping that all readers of the blog had a good Christmas too, if they celebrate Christmas, and to thank everyone who sent me good wishes.   May all your days grow longer and all your wishes come true.  (I am wishing for brighter conditions for snapping birds.)

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