A small window of opportunity

Today’s picture, which comes from a trip Bruce made to Lithuania, shows bird ringing on an industrial scale.  He added this quote: “In Neringa in 2 Lithuanian bird ringing stations combined it is caught 10-15 thousands birds (~80 species) every year”

lithuanian bird ringing

That’s a few more birds than I could see through the gloom in the garden today. It was another grey day, just above freezing but with light winds.  It wasn’t attractive for cycling.  Indeed it wasn’t attractive for anything much so I didn’t do much.

The good thing about today is that it is almost the shortest day of the year and from tomorrow, with a brief pause while the earth gets itself sorted out, things can only get better.  If it was up to me, we would have our winter festival on the 21st/22nd December not the 25th.  There is no reason to believe that the 25th of December was actually Jesus’s birthday and there is a sneaking suspicion that it was only declared to be at that time to coincide with an existing pre-Christian solstice festival anyway.  The 21st is a significant date for everyone of every faith and none in that it signals the birth of another year.  Christians could find another date for Christmas and we would get an extra holiday into the bargain.  Everyone’s a winner.

For particularly pernickety people here is the exact moment: The December solstice will occur at 05:30 (or 5:30am) Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on December 22, 2011.

No doubt the birds are keenly aware of the time of year too.  We didn’t have many today.  The usual two goldfinches were in evidence.

two goldfinches

They were sitting still enough to make a reasonable sharp photo possible.  The chaffinches on the other feeder were much busier and blurrier.

chaffinches cheek to cheek
Chaffinches cheek to cheek
chaffinches beak to beak
Chaffinches beak to beak

The ungrateful birds had pecked all the expensive seed off the flat feeder and left the cheap stuff so I didn’t refill it at first.

blackbird and chaffinches
A blackbird and chaffinches finish off the cheap seeds

There were few goldfinches and siskins today with the bulk of the birds being chaffinches but one of our robins put in an appearance.

robin on fence

I put a little bread out on the lawn and this attracted some starlings.

starling trotting
This one came at a brisk trot

Most of the cheap seed disappeared and I refilled the flat feeder with the good stuff.  It didn’t take long for the blackbirds to find this out and at one stage there nine blackbirds around the feeder.  But not on it.  One fierce female spent a good deal of time chasing every other blackbird away.

blackbird threatening
Here she is speaking to a male on the back of the bench near the feeder
blackbird flying
And here he is, taking the hint.

She just didn’t let up.  They went off in all directions.

blackbird escaping
...and downwards

Other birds got a chance to sneak on when she was busy chasing.

blackbird and sparrow
The only sparrow of the day is trying to get a look in
chaffinch hopping
A chaffinch hops smartly to it

This poor chap could only stare longingly at the food from a distance.

blackbird on fence

This was all very entertaining but after lunch I tore myself away and got thoroughly wrapped up and took the slow bike out for a tentative excursion.  Tentative because it was only just above 3°.  I set off up the Wauchope road but the large ice covered puddles at the side of the road made me nervous and after two and a half miles, I turned back and made my way through the town and onto the A7 towards Hawick.  This is a main road and is properly salted.  In addition, it is exposed to what sunshine there is and the friction of the car tyres helps to keep the road surface warm.  It was perfectly comfortable to pedal along and I went up to Ewes Hall before the gathering twilight made me turn back.  On the way up, I stopped at Sorbie to take this picture which sums up the country round here in the winter.


Even in the darkest part of the year, there is plenty to look at with pleasure.  Whether the sheep on the other side of the road were as happy it is hard to say.

sheep eating off turnips
They are eating off a field of turnips

Ewes hall is one of the many small halls dotted around the countryside.  This one has a keen committee, has recently been refurbished and still is in regular use.

Ewes Hall

By the time I got home, although it was only about three o’clock, the day was pretty well over and I settled down to some tea and toast feeling lucky that I had been able to find a moment in the day when it was both warm and light enough to pedal 16 miles.  Mrs Tootlepedal overcomes these problems by pedalling gently but persistently on an exercise bike upstairs while watching an episode of the West Wing on DVD.  She can cover about ten notional miles per episode.  Last week she was pedalling and knitting simultaneously which takes some concentration.  If the weather stays cold, she may end up fitter than me.

We are not playing recorders again until the new year so I didn’t go to Carlisle tonight as I normally would on a Tuesday but I didn’t find much useful to do instead.

Here is a picture of the intended new elephant keeper, if Santa does his job properly (and the post office).

Great nephew



Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

9 thoughts on “A small window of opportunity

  1. Isn’t it nice to know there still is a sense of rural community and halls such as Ewes are still getting used.

    I’m sure the young chap will make an excellent elephant keeper

  2. I so agree with your interpretation of the Winter Solstice and Christmas. I actually celebrate the Solstice. As a gardener earth cycles are of paramount importance. I also love the photos of the sheep. Please she with the artist in your home her work is amazing! Wanted to share that earlier!

  3. What a beautiful little boy! I hope Santa and the GPO can get their act together and make such an important delivery in time for Christmas.

  4. Sorry you had a recorderless evening but glad you found the weather to go for a pedal. lovely birds as always.

  5. When I opened up your blog on Windows Explorer, as advised, i was able to view the last two pictures which didn’t come up on the email version. What a dear little chap the elephant is going to.

  6. love the elephant! .. and the ringing in Lithuania puts my little set up to shame.. looks like they have a few more hands there tho.

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