Here and there

Today’s picture shows a New Zealand stitchbird which was attracted to my brother’s camera range by his mobile phone playing bird calls at it.  Crumbs, that’s clever!

Now I am getting the other eye.  She has come in response to my cellphone call.

It was a fine, frosty day.  I thought it much too cold and potentially slippery for cycling so when Mrs Tootlepedal went off to work, I spent a good deal of time looking out of the window.  I took many, many pictures of chaffinches but have managed with great difficulty to cut the results down to two.

chaffinch upright on the wing

chaffinch back

I was pleased to see a great tit on the plum tree as they have been scarce lately.

great tit

I was distracted by another larger and noisy bird in the sky above the garden.


It shows how slowly the rotors must be turning if I can freeze them this sharply with a shot from hundreds of feet below.

We were visited by a single starling.  We have named it George.

starlingI also noticed a chaffinch and a brambling kindly lining up to show the clear differences in marking between them.  (Brambling at the back.)

brambling and chaffinch

Another irregular visitor was this rook on our next door neighbour’s roof top.


After lunch Mrs Tootlepedal went on another muck collection trip and so I walked around the town to see what I could see.  I couldn’t see the dipper so I took pictures of some gulls from the Kirk Bridge.

gull splashing down

gull winging it

Mrs Tinker tells me that this is a young bird.  I walked on up the side of the Esk towards the Town Brig, stopping to take a picture of the steps down to the river from George Street.


On the other side of the bridge, the water was clear and gentle.


On the far bank, my eye was caught by a flash of yellow.  It was too far away for a good picture but I visited Jean for information and she tells me that this is a grey wagtail and not uncommon round here.  It says a lot for the camera that I have lived here for forty years without ever knowingly seeing a grey wagtail before.  Only since I got the camera a year or so ago have I begun to look more carefully at things around me.  Here’s the bird in question.

Grey wagtail

It was too good a day to waste so Mrs Tootlepedal and I set off to Gretna to see the starlings there.  The drive down was a treat as a huge, glowing sun was sinking towards the horizon as we drove.  By the time we got to Gretna, it had gone but the evening was still clear and beautiful.  I looked across the Solway to Skiddaw, a 3000ft peak in the Lake District.


We arrived just too early for the birds but it wasn’t long before we saw the first birds arrive with Criffel in the background.

first signs of starlings

Soon a good crowd had arrived and we thought we could recognise George from the garden.  He is the 320th from the left.

starlings gather

The wonderful natural exhibition takes place in the rather unglamorous and artificial situation of the Gretna motorway services.

Gretna services

The mundane surroundings cannot take anything away from the excitement of watching the display and although we have been to see it often, we are still moved every time we come.

starlings stream

We moved a bit further away from the birds to get a long view and it became apparent that there are nothing like as many birds this year as there have been in past years.  It is still a fantastic sight as the flock coils and swirls in the sky, taking on many shapes and forms as they twist and turn.  Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that scientists think that each bird only needs to keep tabs on seven others for the whole flock to be able to manouevre in safety.

starling snake

starling flower

starling cloud

We drove home in a contented state of mind which was enhanced by the continuing beauty of the sky behind us.

In the evening, we enjoyed a visit from Mike and Alison and Alison and I played three or four pieces with great enjoyment while Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike put the world to rights over a glass of organic, fairtrade Chilean red.  Alison and I are playing a sonata by William Topham which we discarded as dull after a first go but to which we have come back and started to really enjoy.  As I say to my young flute pupil, Luke, practice is the only way and it applies to more mature people too.

I leave you with a picture from the sky above Langholm sent to me by Bruce.  he thinks it might be an omen for Alex Salmond and a warning to David Cameron.

St Andrew in the sky

Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

11 thoughts on “Here and there

    1. Alex Salmond is the elected by a majority first minister of Scotland. He got a majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament under a proportional voting system that was designed to make it impossible for a single party to get a majority so he did very well. David Cameron is the leader of a party that had to enter into a coalition government for him to become prime minister of the UK elected under a first past the post system that is supposed to make coalitions impossible so he did very badly.
      Alex is pushing for a referendum on independence or enhanced devolution for Scotland with three questions on the paper in 2014. Dave has just told us that we must have a yes or no independence two question referendum next year. Many people, me included, think he has a cheek. The vapour trails in the sky make up a version of the St Andrew’s Cross, our national flag.

  1. I have never seen starlings from that perspective before. The swirling flocks make simply stunning images. No wonder you make a special trip to see them. The starlings of my acquaintance might have done that sort of thing when they were Away, but when they settled into my tree for the night they were not at all picturesque. No indeed. They were, with apologies to George, pestiferous.

    I think it’s another example of a weed being a flower that’s out of place.

  2. You surpassed even your own standards with the pictures on this blog. I was absolutely fascinated, birds in action, birds hard to see, manmade birds, fantastic views, it was all there. How lucky I am to have a brother who takes such pictures to delight the readers of his blog!

  3. Amazing photos. I was about to post a comment along the lines that you must have a good camera but was reminded of an anecdote:
    A guy is round at a friend’s for dinner and is showing them a few of his photos. His guest comments, “great photos, you must have an amazing camera.”
    An hour later and dinner is served. Our guy says, “great food, you must have an amazing oven.”

    Great photos sir, you must be a great photographer!

    1. Your first thought was right. I have a Nikon D7000 which makes taking good photographs easy even for a beginner like me. Its ability to ignore an old man’s shaking hands is fantastic as is its ability to provide good quality at very high ISO numbers. I also have the advantage of living in a place where there are many great things to photograph.

  4. I’ve come over from Torch Lake to see you (although I actually live in Manchester UK!) Those starling pictures are fantastic! I haven’t seen a flock like that for years. Last time was over Brighton Pier. And thanks for the chaffinch/brambling info. I think I will soon be able to tick off brambling on my list.

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