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Archive for January, 2014

Today’s guest picture from Jennie in NZ shows an artichoke flower.  I have never seen one before.

artichoke

It was another gloomy day today.  Dropscone had a visit to the dump at Annan in mind so we arranged to meet for coffee on his return.  While waiting for him, I cycled up to the High Street to do a bit of business and because I can’t resist a round number, I stretched the return out to make it two miles and this brought my monthly mileage to exactly 400.

That was my excitement for the day as Dropscone rang up to say that his car had broken down in Annan so coffee was off.  The forecast was for heavy rain and I spent the morning waiting for it to rain until just when I had decided that it wasn’t going to rain after all, it started.

I looked through the window just for the sake of it.

perching chaffinch

Before the rain:  the camera makes it look much brighter than it actually was.

chaffinch

After the rain had started.

chaffinch

Nice landing judgement

During the morning, we were visited by an man who is going to try to help us do something about our damp end wall.  He had a damp meter and when he tested the wall behind the fireplace it registered 45%.   He seemed to think that this was quite damp.  Still, he has some ideas.   Six months of warm dry weather would help a lot.

After the rain started, I spent the rest of the day idling about, playing my flute and practising choir songs and fiddling around with the photo editor.  I tinkered with a duck for fun..

duck

It started like this

duck

Got centred

duck

Got masked and filtered a bit

duck

And then I got carried away

In the evening, we are going to the Gilnockie Burns supper because Mrs Tootlepedal won two free tickets when we were there last year.   It tends to last late into the night so I am posting this early before we go.

The flying bird of the day was keeping its head down just like me.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

 

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This guest picture is to illustrate the news today that much of the south of England has had double the usual amount of rain in January. It has been the wettest since the records began. It was taken in Oxford by my brother earlier this month.

The Thames

We had no rain here today and in spite of a gloomy forecast, we had no ice on the roads.   This was lucky as I had to drive up to the Moorland feeders after breakfast to  fill  them up.

The birds must have seen the forecast for cold weather to come because no sooner had I retired behind the screen than they fell on the food with a vengeance.

Moorland feeders

The light wasn’t good enough to linger for long but I enjoyed watching great, blue and coal tits which are mostly absent from our own garden at present.

great tit blue tit

A great tit and a blue tit share the peanuts.

And I was pleased to see a tree sparrow.

tree sparrow

I also had to hurry home because, I had arranged a belated pedal with Dropscone.  I was able to photograph one angry bird before I went out cycling.

chaffinch

The roads stayed ice free so at 11 o’clock Dropscone and cycled to Waterbeck and back for our delayed morning run.  It was chilly (3°C) but not very windy and Dropscone had his speedy bike so we went a bit faster than recent outings.  This 20 mile excursion look my mileage for January up to 398, the furthest that I have ever managed in January and only 2 miles short of my target for the month.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal was paying a social call on an neighbour so I went off for a walk on my own.  It was still cold and grey so I cheated by taking the car just past the Kilngreen to give me a good start.  I walked up past the Estates office and along the top of the wood.

Path

In days gone by, I would have taken this route and seen nothing of interest but the blogosphere has widened my eyes considerably and there things to be seen on every side.

Peltigera horizontalis

I can even name some of them:  A lichen on a wall: Peltigera horizontalis

growth

But not all. This was growing on the same wall. I don’t even know what it is.

Having seen a birch polypore with Sandy yesterday, I took a diversion into a birch wood today to see if I could see another.  A likely looking tree soon caught me eye…

birch tree

… but the best specimen was on the fallen branch to the right of the tree trunk.

birch polypore

Piptoporus betulinus to give it its Sunday name.

Walking back to the path, I passed another thing which I was quite unable to guess at.

white mess

Is it a lichen, a fungus, a slime mould or something else too ghastly to contemplate?

It is amazing what you can see when you have some idea of where to look.

white fungus

I think this is a fungus but I can’t find it in my researches.

brown fungus

Another which has me baffled

These last three were all on fallen branches.

There were other things to look at too.

sunken building

Not a sunken house but a store of some sort.

seed head

snowdrops

A profusion of very early snowdrops.

The snowdrops are up but seem to be waiting for some warmer weather to open their flowers out.

As I walked back to the car, I felt as though I was being watched.

tree knot

I got back to the car and drove a few yards onto the Kilngreen.  I wanted to tell Mr Grumpy that he had won a prize in the camera club competition.  He was overjoyed.

heron

A nearby black headed gull took things more calmly.

gull

Altogether this had been another very enjoyable outing, making two in one day which is the maximum allowed by the authorities in case we should get too cheerful.

In the evening, I went with Jean and Sandy to the Archive Centre where Jean and I put a good number of entries into the database while Sandy dealt with some photographs which we have been sent by a lady who came across our website.  It is very satisfactory to get a useful reaction to our work of this nature.

The visit to the Kilngreen enabled me to have a non chaffinch flying bird of the day today.

flying gull

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture shows the Old Manor House in Solihull High Street, photographed by my brother Andrew, whose birthday it is today, on a recent visit.

The Old Manor House is an architectural highlight of the High Street

Dropscone had an appointment at cycling time today so I was on my own on a dry and comparatively warm (5°C) morning.  Because there was a noticeable east wind blowing, I decided to do several laps of a five mile out and back trip to Callister so that I wouldn’t have to pedal into the chilly wind for too long at a time.  This turned out to be a good plan as the gusty wind got stronger as the ride went on and if I had gone straight out, I would have had a hard battle getting home.

To give some idea of the fresh wind’s strength, I found myself going at 25 mph up a very gentle hill near the end of my way out for the third time and when I came back along the same stretch, now slightly downhill, I was doing 11 mph.  The details of the ride may be found here.

After three laps and thirty miles, the wind made up my mind for me and I stopped.  This gave me time for an expedition with Sandy in the afternoon.

There was a moment of sunshine while I waited for him to arrive….

chaffinch

…but it soon vanished.

We started by driving back up the road I had cycled along earlier  because I had noticed a large flock of birds in a field which I wanted to look at.  They were still there.

flock at Bigholms

They obligingly flew into the air when we arrived…

flock at Bigholms

…but didn’t come any closer.  We walked along the wall to get a better look.  They seemed to be mainly starlings….

starlings

…but there were certainly some fieldfare in the field too.

fieldfare

Unfortunately, the cloud cover had thickened up and the light was too poor to get good pictures so we turned round and headed  back. We stopped to explore a little wood on our way but although it was pleasant to walk through, it didn’t offer us much photographically in the winter gloom.

We drove back through the town and parked near the rugby club and walked up a forestry track.  We had last been up this on the hottest day of the summer so it was quite a contrast today.

 Whitshiels track

We were hoping to see a bit of lichen and fungus and we were not disappointed.  This well covered gatepost….

Gatepost

…revealed a secret and colourful garden.

Gatepost

We walked on until we came to a field at the top of the wood and near an elaborate sheep fold….

sheep fold

You can see Sandy pretending to be a sheep if you look carefully.

…we met three remarkable trees.

three holey trees

How they remain standing is a mystery.

tree on tiptoe

This one is standing on tiptoe

empty trunk

This one is just a shell

lichens

And this one has a  modern art gallery inside its hollow trunk.

Sandy’s sharp eye noticed another  tree a few yards away.

tree with fungus

It had, as you can see, one or two fungi growing on it.

fungus

I think this is a birch polypore but as always, I stand to be corrected.

fungus

Seen from underneath.

The tree was festooned by fungi.

fungi

As well as the fungi, the tree had some impressive beard lichen

lichen

Gathering gloom and the threat of rain took us away from looking for more fun and we made our way back down to the car and home. For a very dark afternoon, it had been a most enjoyable short walk.

I made myself a leek and squash risotto for my tea and then Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to the Buccleuch Centre to the patrons’ cinema club where we watched Sunshine on Leith.  We had seen it before but it was well worth a second visit.

In between times, I found a standard flying bird in the garden.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from my sister Mary’s recent visit to the Lake District.  It shows Grasmere.

Grasmere

Much to my surprise, today was not a bad day for cycling at all and Dropscone appeared on the dot and we set off round the traditional morning run.  It is not my favourite route because it has a large number of potholes on some narrow roads but at least the recent rains had washed the roads clean so we didn’t have to pedal through a lot of farm dirt.  We avoided all the potholes and the wind was in a kindly direction so we enjoyed ourselves though it wasn’t by any means warm.

After coffee (and a scone of course), I set about making a sourdough loaf.  My starter is behaving very well and I have found somewhere warm to get the dough to rise so I am getting good results at the moment.

Unfortunately, after the benign weather for the morning ride, the cloud thickened and it eventually started to rain lightly making the day unsuitable for photography.  I did try to catch a flying chaffinch…

flying chaffinch

…which were coming in all drections

flying chaffinch

flying chaffinch

…but soon gave up and took a couple who were more stationary.

perching chaffinches

Luckily I had a large bag of marmalade oranges to hand and while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Carlisle in the bus after lunch to get some wool, I set about making some marmalade, confident that it would be more or less ready by her return.

Pride came before a fall in this case and I was still nowhere near finished by the time she arrived home.  My problems all stemmed from trying to make too much in one go and as a result everything took much longer than it should.  Fine cutting the oranges by hand was a big task to start with and then I had so many oranges that I had to use a pan that was too big for the cooker and it took ages to get it to come to the boil.  Then of course it took much longer than it should have done to reduce the liquid and to bring it back  to the boil once the sugar had been added.

The whole thing was a lesson to me not to be so hasty.

As I was going out to play recorders in the evening, I had to leave Mrs Tootlepedal to finish cooking the mixture and fill the jars.  She kindly finished off baking the bread for me too as I hadn’t had time to do that either.

After all this, we are still not sure if the marmalade is going to set properly.  If it doesn’t, there will be more boiling tomorrow.  As I am supposed to be an experienced marmalade maker, this was all very embarrassing.

Still, Susan and I arrived safely at the recorder group and enjoyed our playing.  Our usual hostess in Carlisle was busy so we were out in the country tonight and I can report that it is very dark out there compared to being in a town.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch who has been squeezed through the photo editor.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows the Ullswater steamer.  It was taken last week by my sister Mary who was on a short visit to the Lake District.Steamers continue to run during the winter

Another day and there was yet more rain to greet us when we woke.  Dropscone and I abandoned the thought of the morning run and settled for a treacle scone and coffee instead.

I didn’t have much time to stare out of the window today but that didn’t bother me too much as there was hardly enough light to take a decent picture of a bird.

chaffinch

They were mostly just a blur in the rain.

After coffee, the rain stopped for a while and  I cycled up to the town to do a bit of business.  I was well wrapped up so instead of going straight home, I cycled on up to the top of Callister.  On my way I dropped in on two of my favourite cascades on the Wauchope.

There was a fair bit of water running over them.  The first one is just below Bessie Bell’s.

Cascade on Wauchope

I think that this is my favourite at all times of year. The rock beside the river shows the the bent and shifted sedimentary beds that give our local landscape its rolling hills.

Cascade on Wauchope

The second was a repeat visit to a small cascade near Wauchope School.

Cascade on Wauchope

As I am a creature of habit, my next objective was to admire the lichens on the wall beside the road near the top of the hill at Callister.

callister lichen

I was going to take an even more exciting picture of one on a neighbouring stone when my camera battery ran out.    I cycled on for a bit and then turned and whistled home with the wind behind me.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been singing in the church choir at a funeral while I had been out but was back by the time that I returned.  We had lunch and since I was keen to go back to the lichens on the wall, I suggested a little walk to her which, entirely coincidentally, started from almost the same spot as the lichen covered wall.

She agreed and in spite of some light rain, we drove up to Callister and went for a walk along a forest track which we had never used before.

I did dally for a moment to snap the lichens.

callister lichen

callister lichen

callister lichen

If I was an artist, I could probably claim that these were all my own work and sell them for a fortune.

As it is, I would like to be able to name them confidently.  I have been trawling through some internet pages and wonder if they may be Punctelia subrudecta.

Our walk along a new forest track was among young planting and did not offer much if anything of interest at close quarters but it did have the promise of some splendid views on a better day.

Looking east

Looking east

Looking south

Looking south

The new planting is very regimented and to me the trees seem to be stuck in too close for comfort.

new planting

I suppose that this makes them grow very quickly and keeps them straight.

We walked to the top of a ridge before stopping and spite of a heavy shower of rain on our return journey, we enjoyed ourselves.   This was another new walk for us and another walk to which we intend to return on a better day.

After we had got home and had a nice cup of tea and a biscuit (there’s a surprise), it wasn’t long before it was time for my flute pupil Luke.  He is making excellent progress on the pieces for his forthcoming grade examination and I am sure that he will do well in it.

I rounded off the day with a drive to Newcastleton with Sandy for a meeting of the Liddesdale Camera Club.  This was the best meeting of the season so far.  The visiting expert was not only helpful in his remarks while judging our entries for the panels competition but showed us a set of very impressive examples of his own work.  These were of the school where there is so much treatment of the original photographs that the result is more an example of computer aided design than photography.  Nevertheless the images were very striking and there was at least one for which I would have paid good money to hang on my wall.

He was obviously a man of great good sense too as he awarded my grumpy heron the first prize in a small field in the digital image section.

heron triptych1400

He didn’t mind the green background which was a blessing.

I did squeeze a flying bird out of the pervading gloom when the rain had stopped for a moment.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my younger son and shows a mixture of the old and new in Boston, which he visited last year.

boston

Another miserable, wet and windy day greeted us when we woke up.  If Mrs Tootlepedal hadn’t been going off to sing in the church choir, we might well have tucked the downy back over our heads and retired from the world.

As it was we were all action and Mrs Tootlepedal prepared a lamb tagine for the slow cooker while I cooked the breakfast.  Once she had gone to church, I started of a sourdough loaf and then did a little bird staring.

brambling in the rain

A brambling waiting patiently in the rain.

It seemed to be a good day to some cooking so I made a pan of squash and carrot soup for my lunch and then looked out of the window while it was simmering.

The rain had stopped for a while.

greenfinch

chaffinch

robin

As well as the birds, the many bunches of snowdrops beyond the still flowering wallflowers caught my eye.

snowdrop and wallflower

Never before seen at the same time and in January

The chaffinches were no more polite to each other than usual.

chaffinch

After a while, there was even a hint of blue sky so I nipped out to see whether the rivers had risen enough to make an exciting picture.  They hadn’t so I walked along the wall by the park looking for lichens.  I was spoilt for choice.  I liked the clear outlines of these two.

lichens

lichens

I don’t know what the name of this one is.

I think I might know what the next one is.  I took a close up and a longer shot.

Cladonia digitata,

Cladonia digitata?

Cladonia digitata,

I took this picture just before I got home.  It might look at first sight to be more lichens….

snowdrops

…but in fact it is snowdrops beside the dame.

snowdrops

I don’t have time to walk further because Mrs Tootlepedal and I were going to the choir in Carlisle.  We called in to pick up Jenny and arrived in good time.  They were pleased to see another new member and I introduced Mrs Tootlepedal to one of the sopranos and left her and went back to join the tenors.  We had an excellent session, complete with a mind boggling attempt to sing and do syncopated hand movements at the same time.  The singing went well but the simultaneously syncopated hand clapping was well out of my area of competence.

Since she had come at my insistence, I was hoping that Mrs Tootlepedal would enjoy herself and I was very relieved when I found out that she had.

When we got home, I finished baking the sour dough loaf and Mrs Tootlepedal added the trimmings to the slow cooked lamb and turned out a caramel custard which she had made earlier.  When everything was ready, Sandy appeared by invitation and helped us eat it.  It was an excellent meal and we rounded it off with some of the many cheeses in our cheese box.

In the end then, although it was another miserable day outside, our indoor activities had turned it into a very enjoyable Sunday.

The flying bird of the day, taken in a gloomy moment, is a brambling.

brambling

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture was taken by my older son with his phone in a rainstorm in Edinburgh today while walking his dogs.  I don’t know where he got the idea for this picture from.

fungus

This morning was well up there in the all time list of mornings with really horrible weather as it was blowing a stiff breeze and chucking it down at the same time.  Even the birds had stayed at home…

rain

…and who could blame them?

They must do a little cost benefit analysis though because as the rain eased a bit and the wind dropped off, they arrived back in the early afternoon.

chaffinches etc

It was noticeable that the chaffinches were still bickering.

A brambling came and sat in the plum tree looking as though butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth….

brambling

…but it had no scruples when it came to try to kick another bird off the feeder.

brambling kicking chaffinch

It must have been a bit underweight though as the chaffinch continued feeding unperturbed and the brambling flew off after standing there for a few seconds, looking a bit foolish.

I was pleased to see quite a group of greenfinches back.

greenfinch

The rain did stop for a moment every now and again and the light was nearly good enough to catch a flying bird.

flying chaffinch

It soon started again though and Mrs Tootlepedal and I abandoned any thought of an outing and settled for lounging around instead.

On looking out of the window at four o’clock, I noticed a patch of blue sky so popped out for a very short walk round the town just to stretch the legs.  There wasn’t much daylight left by this time but the low sun made a valiant effort to make up for the rest of the day so far.

Langholm in evening sun

Langholm in evening sun

sunset over church

There are a great many rooks roosting near the edge of the town this winter and often the sky is full of them.  Some came to rest on the top of the tree on the right in the picture above.

rooks

I took a quick walk round part of the New Town while the going was good and saw that this lichen was thriving in the wet weather.

lichen

I am going for Peltigera hymenina

I just got home before it started to rain again.

Sandy came down for a cup of tea and a biscuit or two and we went through a rough plan of a talk we are going to give on photography next month to a local WI group.  We should have enough material to talk for a couple of hours so the difficulty will be in cutting it all down to a reasonable length.

One bright spot on an otherwise dullish day was that we got phone calls from all three of our children.  It is always a pleasure to chat to them.

The evening was whiled away by watching two episodes of my favourite TV drama, The Bridge.  It is in Danish and Swedish with subtitles and someone suggested that subtitles might be a great help in making you absolutely concentrate on the action to make sure that you knew what was happening.  I think this might be true and I certainly find it very absorbing.

In the rain I found two flying birds for the price of one.

flying chaffinches

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