It worked out well

Today’s picture shows a chaffinch in the early morning mist.


I had put my faith in the forecast and in spite of an enveloping mist and temperatures only just above freezing, I got up into many layers of cycling gear because my first plan for the day was to go for a pedal.  It took a bit of time for the plan to come to fruition because the mist stayed resolutely in place for long enough for Mrs Tootlepedal to go off to sing at church before it was warm enough for me to set out.

This did give a moment to look out of the window.

The world’s most spherical greenfinch was in evidence.
A very disagreeable chaffinch (on the left) chased off two others in quick succession.

It was still cold and misty enough to give me a bit of a shock when I did set out but I warmed up when I came out of the mist five miles down the road.  I headed on to Longtown and then to Smithfield where I stopped for a banana before heading home.  I wasn’t quite as tired as yesterday but I was still tired enough to find the mainly flat 32 miles ride much harder work than it should have been.  The extra layers of clothing kept me warm but didn’t make for easy pedalling.  It was lunchtime when I got home (average speed 15 mph exactly) and I enjoyed an ample plate of baked beans on toast.
Fortified by this, I was ready for plan B which was a visit to the Moorland feeders with Sandy to try out our remote camera controls.  The light was fair but not brilliant so Sandy set up his camera as close to the feeder as he dared.

Sandy at the feeders
That’s pretty close

I set mine up quite a bit further away.

Tom's camera

The birds didn’t seem to mind the obvious cameras at all and were soon back at the feeders while we sat behind the screen.

I was able to catch a rather blurred brambling for the record.


But then the problems of setting the remote camera up became apparent.  We were hunting woodpeckers and Sandy had his camera focussed solely on the nut feeder.  I had a rather wider view.

A woodpecker arrived, not more than a few feet from Sandy’s camera…


…but having summed up the situation, it decided to torment Sandy by sticking to the tree and ignoring the feeder completely.

I was clicking away like mad. From a distance, I could take in two trees as well as the feeder. But no close ups.

After a while, we decided to move the cameras and this time Sandy focussed on the tree nearest the feeder while I moved my camera to a different angle and a little nearer but still far enough away to catch tree and feeder.  A woodpecker soon turned up.

Woodpecker arriving
It has good brakes.

Just to annoy Sandy, it stayed on the wrong side of the tree.  His camera was off to the right.

Woodpecker annoying Sandy

As you can see I had put my camera where the feeder was going to spoil any shots of the woodpecker on the tree.

I had to resort to foul means. The shot on the right has had the feeder disappeared.
Then it took to the feeder still on the wrong side of the tree for Sandy.

Finally, a result.

I hope to see a fine close up on Sandy’s blog soon.

While my big camera was out in the open, I took a few pictures with sandycam to show the general set up.

We’ve got the woodpecker surrounded here.
woodecker and camera
So near but so far for Sandy.  He is focussed on the tree.
I need another camera. I would like to have got a close up of the second woodpecker on the tall feeder.

After about three quarters of an hour sitting in the chill, we felt that we had achieved our aim and packed up.  We might have stayed a bit longer but I still had another plan for the day.

We went back home and picked up Mrs Tootlepedal who had been making costumes for the community pantomime and set off for Gretna and Plan C.  If I had seen a good few birds on the garden yesterday, I was look for thousands today.  We were after starlings.  In the winter months they gather at Gretna for what are called murmurations.

By a stroke of good fortune we found ourselves in the right place and at the right time.

Things started slowly…

Tens of starlings
Tens of starlings
hundreds of starlings
Hundreds of starlings
Thousands of starlings
Thousands of starlings

The camera can give no impression of the sheer wonder of standing watching hundreds of thousands of starlings wheeling through the evening sky above you.  They form and reform and it is like some huge but diaphanous beast prowling the heavens above.

I moved away slightly to take a longer view.


starling streams

Then I moved back nearer to see where it was all going to end.

starlings beginning to get lower
The starlings beginning to get lower

As the light fades, the starlings get closer to the ground and the flock becomes denser.  Then they put on a show for the tourists of some of their favourite shapes.

The cobra
Throwing the ball
The pigeon

and finally…

The easy chair

Then in the twinkling of an eye, the whole flock pours down into a small copse and the show is over for another day.  And all this is within 400 yards of the Gretna Village Shopping Outlet centre.

We went home very contented with

No flying bird today.  I think you have had enough.  Keep an eye out for Sandy’s blog.  I’ll let you know when he has put the pictures that he took today on it.  Late flash: The pictures are there already.

‘I love it when a plan comes together.’  (courtesy of the A Team)

Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

24 thoughts on “It worked out well

  1. Am very jealous, we have a much smaller gathering of starlings up here, not nearly as impressive as the one at Gretna! Impressive work Mr H

  2. Woodpeckers and starlings, not to mention excellent company – you may say it was a stroke of good fortune, but I think it had more to do with good planning followed by actual doing.

  3. Cold weather cycling miles count double on the odometer, in my opinion.

    I remember your photos of the starling phenomenon last year and I’m still just as wonderstruck by the display. It must truly be a sight to see in person

    1. I like your thinking on cold weather cycling. I’ll adjust my stats accordingly. Somebody suggested that the starlings must be a bit like watching the aurora borealis but in black and white of course.

  4. Fabulous record of murmurations, I had no idea you had this natural event up in Scotland, it occurs in North Wales as well, but I’ve nevre witnessed it. I wonder does it happen elsewhere in the UK? Thnks for sharing your shots with us, I believe your crow is a carrion crow, definitely not a rook.

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