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Archive for February, 2016

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He passed a prominent landmark on a recent cultural trip to the capital.

St Pauls

I would have enjoyed a quiet day of rest today but medical matters intervened and I had to drive to Dumfries in the morning to see a specialist about my hip. It has been giving me modest pain for a number of years and I was hoping that getting a new knee would improve my walking enough to stop it hurting.

My walking has improved but my hip pain hasn’t so I went to see what was what.

I had a moment to look out of the window on another cold and grey day before I went.

chaffinch

A chaffinch looking a gift seed in the mouth.

chaffinches

You don’t think of birds arguing but these two chaffinches are taking the Brexit debate very seriously and if you look closely, you will see that one is putting his foot down most firmly.

When I got to Dumfries, a very nice doctor gave me the once over, was flatteringly amazed by my youthfulness and bendability (you might well worry about his judgement) and assured me that whatever else I had, I didn’t have arthritis in the hip joint and that no surgical invasion of my body would be needed.

This was quite a relief but did leave the question of what is giving me the gyp.  He was less definite about that, counting out a number of possibilities on his fingers and writing me a prescription to see a physiotherapist.  So, no arthritis and no cure.  I call that a 1-1 draw.

I was going to do a bit of sight seeing on the return journey but a smir of rain and a biting wind, coupled with the fact that I had carelessly come out without coat, hat or gloves, persuaded me that home was the place to be and I was back in time for lunch.

We had been promised rain but it hadn’t arrived by the time that lunch was over so I popped out for a walk to stretch the legs after all the sitting around yesterday.

I had the oyster catchers in mind and there was a pair at the meeting of the waters but they were very uncooperative.  When I was on one side of the river, they were on the other and when I crossed over to get closer, they crossed back.

oyster catcher

Distant views

Pairs of birds are noticeable now and both the oyster catchers and the mallards were keeping company.

oyster catcher and mallard

I was idly trying to take the perfect flying gull picture (not easy in the poor light)….

black headed gull

…when I got a multiple choice option, not just once…

black headed gull

…but twice.

black headed gull

I don’t know what had disturbed them  It certainly wasn’t me.

I crossed the Ewes and walked round the new path.  Life is on hold during the cold spell and exciting developments are hard to find..

conifer

I strolled on up the Esk, first on the riverside path…

Riverside path

Looking back down the path. There is not a lot of colour in the scenery just now.

…and then following the path that climbs up the slope beside the river on the way north.

Walk 2

This track was carefully cut into the steep slope many years ago and has survived remarkably well.  The cold, dry spell has made walking conditions very good for the time of year.

I did try to creep down to the waterside for an arty bridge shot on my way but I slipped over in a most undignified manner and got a very soggy spot on the seat of my trousers so I desisted.

Once I got to the road, I was going to walk back along an open hill track but a suspicion of rain made me think better and I scurried home along the sheltered road as best as I could.  In the end, it didn’t rain properly until the late evening so I could have taken my time.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden when I arrived back and she drew my attention to horticultural mathematics in action, kale fractals.

kale

Instead of a long awaited phone call from the power company with whom I am in dispute on behalf of the Archive Group, I received a letter today.  This was quite exciting until I read it. It says, “I am sorry that you recently had to raise a complaint with Scottish Power. Unfortunately it is taking longer than anticipated to resolve your complaint.”   It didn’t specify why this should be.  In spite of the doctor’s kind remarks this morning, I am ageing fast.

I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and felt better.

My flute pupil Luke came and cheered me up even more with some excellent playing.

The flying bird of the day is a departing duck.

flying duck

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia and suggests that her recent holiday may have taken her well away from home.

Venetia lion

We went well away from home today (though not so far as Venetia) and had to get up very early for us at quarter past five to be ready to catch the bus with the rest of the choir from Carlisle to Manchester at 7a.m.  Although all the organisation went very smoothly, the length of the bus trips down and back (five hours between them) and the number of choirs competing made for a good deal of sitting and standing around.  We got home at 10 o’clock.

The event took place in the Royal Northern College of Music.

Northern college of music

It has an unassuming front door but the concert hall inside where we sang was very modern and had good acoustics.

The singing went as well as we could expect and I enjoyed it much more than I expected.  A picture of four of the tenor section shows that we were in good heart before the competition.

four tenors

Gill, the lady in the picture, has a very fine tenor voice and is an excellent singer.

After we had sung our pieces, there was time either to listen to other choirs or to stretch the legs and see a bit of Manchester.  I much prefer singing in choirs to listening to them so as the sun was shining, I chose the walking option.

I didn’t have a lot of time but there was plenty to see.

Grosvenor Picture Palace

A fine old cinema with a tiled exterior.

Manchester pub

And an equally fine pub with a tiled frontage.

The middle of Manchester is split by motorways, railways and canals and these leave some gloomy looking areas.

Railway

A big viaduct carries the railway through the town.

A sign suggested a route to a canal basin which I thought would be interesting but when I reached the canal, I turned the wrong way and walked away from the basin.  The canal looked little used but the dirty water provided some beautiful reflections.

Manchester canal

Sometimes with geese….

Manchester canal

…and sometimes without.

Manchester canal

There were moments when it looked as though the canal might come to an end but a series of gloomy  low bridges and short reaches among high buildings…

Manchester canal

…brought me out to a more fashionable stretch, guarded by another goose

Manchester canal

I left the canal and another ill judged choice of direction took me past some interesting sculptures…

vimto and coil

…and a decorative university doorway neatly spilt down the middle by the afternoon sun…

Manchester doorway

There were fine buildings both old and new to be seen as I wound my way back through the streets…

Manchester

…and finally  got back to the music college in time to hear three choirs, two fellow competitors and last year’s winners, who gave a guest performance while the judges deliberated.

The judges declared that the general standard of the competing choirs was the best that they had ever had in the competition over the years and this was very encouraging although it didn’t entirely make up for the fact that we didn’t figure in the prize list.

Apart from a nervous moment on the way home when the bus driver stopped the vehicle on the motorway and got out and examined unspecified things,  the journey home went well and the part of the choir that was in our bus was in good enough spirits to sing for the entire journey home.

We have another competition coming up later in the year but it is only half as far away which will be good as both Mrs Tootlepedal and I have reached the age when spending 17 hours travelling, sitting and standing about for 15 minutes of singing may seem like quite a high price to pay for having fun.

I managed to find a flying bird whihc was a pleasant surprise.  I think that it must be one of those hefty Manchester chaffinches which they have down there.

flying goose

I am ready for bed.

 

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Human resources

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who was able to get right down to the river side to take this excellent picture of the damage and temporary protective measures at Skippers Bridge.

Skippers 148

Our spell of cool (-2°C to 5°C), dry days continues.  The best thing about it is the very light winds which come with it.  It feels as though we have been more or less continually buffeted by strong winds for more than a year so this break has been received very gratefully.

It would have been a very good day for a brisk cycle ride once the temperature had crept up but I conducted an internal audit of my corporeal situation and the auditor prescribed a day of rest.  I have done over 100 miles of pedalling this week after a very lean spell so perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised that my system went on strike.

Sandy came round for coffee and picked up a set of pictures which the camera club is contributing to a Moorland Festival in March.  As I will be away at the time that the exhibition is being set up, he has kindly agreed to take the stuff in and supervise the hanging.

I did think of a walk after he had gone but didn’t get any further than a little thought.  No action ensued.

I was able to use the time to look at a robin.

robin

I am pretty sure that these are pictures of the same robin.  It seems to have sustained an injury below its left eye.

The robin on the right in the picture below is definitely the same one as it was taken at the same time and has the same injury….

robin

..but the one on the left was taken a couple of hours later so I don’t know if it is still the same bird.

I  mostly sat about and groaned and mumbled but I did look up from time to time and saw these squabbling chaffinches at the feeder.

chaffinches

Luckily the six nations rugby tournament came to my rescue in the afternoon so I had something to watch and it even provided me with a very rare Scotland victory to cheer.

After the match, I was so perked up that I actually did mange to get up and go for a very short walk.  I was so impressed by Dropscone’s picture of Skippers Bridge from the water side that I scrambled down a bank to take a picture of the Jubilee Bridge in the fading light.

Jubillee Bridge

A walk round the garden showed very little of interest…

viola

…as the cool weather has put spring on hold for a while.

Mrs Tootlepedal had made a very tasty chicken pie for our tea so between the rugby, the walk and the food, the day ended up with me feeling quite a bit more perky than when it started.

We are getting up very early tomorrow to catch a coach in Carlisle at 7 am to take us to Manchester for our choir competition.  I don’t know whether there will be any photo opportunities or when precisely we will get back from what is going to be a very long day so tomorrow’s post may be very brief or indeed non existent.

I am pretty sure that there won’t be a flying bird of the day to match today’s effort.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Newcastle correspondent.  Fiona was taking refuge in a bird hide at the Rising Sun country park when she took this shot. ( She was hiding from the huge piles of work she has to do for an exam.)

Rising Sun

We were greeted by a scattering of snow on the ground when we woke up today but fortunately there was not enough to cause a nuisance and although the day remained chilly, it was just warm enough to see the snow off.

While it was still too cold and potentially slippery to do anything active outdoors, Dropscone appeared bearing the traditional Friday treacle scones and that let the time pass pleasantly until it was safe to go out for a walk.

I put my wellies on and clumped off round the Becks.  There were signs of both new and old growth as I walked along the track towards the woods.

leaves and burrs

And proof that the minister is not the only chicken fancier in the town.

becks chickens

There were bigger animals to admire as well.

white pony

When I got to the woods, I walked down to the Becks Burn and because I had prudently put my wellies on, I was able to stand in the middle of the stream and look into the rocky grotto which houses the little cascade.

Becks cascade

It is an unusual little waterfall for our area with the flow of water sliding down smooth grey rocks and splashing into a very blue green pool at the foot.

I took another view, not so attractive but giving a better idea of what the little gorge looks like.

Becks cascade

I’ll have to return when the light is better as I think that there is the making of a very pretty shot in there somewhere.  It certainly was well worth standing in the stream to look at it.

I continued round the walk and as always, I was struck by the variety of mosses and lichens on the walls beside the roads.

lichens and mosses

As you can see, they are enjoying the weather a lot.

Most of the lichens are reasonably compact but here and there, they lie over the walls like spilled custard.

lichen

As I got to Pool Corner, a ripple in the water attracted my attention.  It was a dipper dipping but it was too far away for my camera and flew further off as I got nearer.

dipper

I will have to creep up quietly next time I come round the corner.

When I got home, it was time for lunch and I used a bit of quality cheddar to make a couple of slices of toasted cheese which went down very well.  I looked out of the window while the cheese was toasting (and again after I had eaten it as well).

siskin

A siskin spies out the lie of the land

They look very dainty but are the most belligerent of all our visitors.

siskin and chaffinch

Big chaffinches don’t scare them

 

siskins

And they don’t mind a bit of sibling rivalry either

The goldfinches rose above this vulgar hullabaloo.

goldfinch

And later on a chaffinch checked carefully to see if the siskins had gone.

chaffinch

After lunch I was slightly delayed by a call from Scottish Power asking if the Archive Group was keen to renew its contract with them.  I was a bit lost for words.  In the end she said that she would email the complaints team to get them to ring me (I have been waiting a week now for a promised call) and I said that I would be in later on.

In the meantime, I made good use of what had turned into a very pleasant, almost windless afternoon by pedalling for twenty miles up and down the Wauchope road, not getting too far from home in case of a breakdown or puncture.

On one of my laps, I met Mike Tinker and wished him a happy birthday.  I finished off the last lap and was in time to join him for a cup of tea.  As he left, I took the official birthday portrait.

Mike Tinker

I think that you’ll agree that he looks very well for his age.

I went in and rounded off my photographic day with a blackbird.

blackbird

We still have a lot chasing each other round the garden.

Scottish Power didn’t ring of course but I cheered up after tea when I went to the Buccleuch Centre for the second day running.  This time, I listened to a very entertaining live jazz concert which had a lot going for it.  Firstly, there was no amplification at all, secondly, there was no drum solo and thirdly, the double bass solo was both very good and reasonably short.  As these are all requisites of a perfect jazz concert to my taste, I was very happy.  A delightful extra bonus was a baritone sax played with great zest.

The eight piece band, called the Classic Jazz Orchestra, specialises in playing Jelly Roll Morton’s works but they threw in all sorts from Bix Beiderbecke through Count Basie to Antônio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim as well.    Unfortunately, there was a regrettably small audience so they couldn’t exactly get the joint rocking but we were very appreciative and they certainly played with every evidence of enjoyment.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch lit by some early evening sunbeams.

_DSC9921-2

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Today’s guest picture shows the marina at Willington, which was my brother’s ultimate objective on his cycle trip yesterday.

Willington Marina

A sub zero but sunny morning gave me the task of clearing the ice from the car before Mrs Tootlepedal drove off to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh to see Matilda.  One of the recent gales severely damaged a viaduct on the route and the railway has only just reopened.  It is a relief that it is back on the go as getting to our nearest station now requires a round trip of just 36 miles rather than the 90 miles we needed when the line was closed.

After she left, the thermometer was still showing a minus value so I was pleased when Dropscone came round for coffee to help to pass the time.  He is having to get used to leading a quiet life until his ribs are fully healed.

It was still only just above freezing when he left so I did the crossword and looked out of the window for a while.

So that I could do both things at the same time, I set the camera up on a tripod and used a remote control to fire it off.  This is very relaxing but as you can’t look through the viewfinder while you are taking pictures, you can get some unintended shots.

flying chaffinch rear

Not the usual flying chaffinch angle.

The chilly weather brought a steady flow of traffic to the feeder.

Siskin

It is very difficult to catch a flying siskin as they don’t hover when approaching the perch but just pop straight on.

Chaffinches hover all the time whether coming in from above….

flying chaffinch and feeder

…or below.

flying chaffinch and feeder

There is no shortage of bad manners when the feeders are busy.

goldfinch and siskin

Synchronised shouting from a goldfinch and a siskin

In the end, the temperature reached 2°C and I decided on a short walk before lunch.  Before I tucked Newcam into my pocket, I pointed it at the feeder just to see what would happen.

chaffinches

It did well, I thought.

I decided to walk along the Esk, over the Duchess Bridge, round the pheasant hatchery and back by the Kilngreen.  On my way out I saw a few things of minor interest…

Ministers chicken, frost hair and fungus

One of the minister’s chickens, fading frost hair and fresh fungus

….stopped once to get a view of the Duchess Bridge from below….

Duchess bridge

…and again to admire the snowdrops at Holmhead.

snowdrops

And on the way back some contrasting moss on a tree stump looked attractive…

mossy stump

…and two mallards on the Ewes water might almost have been cloned in Photoshop.

mallards

At the meeting of the waters, I saw not just one or two oyster catchers…

oyster catchers

…but three, although they wouldn’t all look up at the same time.

oyster catchers

To be even handed, I took pictures of three black headed gulls having a quick shake and shower in the Esk below the Town Bridge.

black headed gulls

I got back in perfect time for a bowl of leek, chick pea and potato soup, kindly left for me by Mrs Tootlepedal who had used Dropscone’s gift of leeks to make it.

Then I got out the slow bike and pottered round the town doing some business and shopping before setting off for a sight seeing trip up the Wauchope road.  I visited my favourite cascade just to show how quickly the rivers go down after a few dry days.

Wauchope cascade

More of a trickle than a cascade

The low water gave me a chance  to consider the forces which bent the strata beside the stream.

Wauchope rocks

Rocks brought to their knees.

The Wauchope is a very short river, running for only three miles.  It is fed by two main tributaries and I cycled up them both in turn for a while.

Logan Water

This is the peaceful Logan Water

bull

And this bull was guarding the access to the Bigholm Burn

I got to the top of Callister and then turned and rushed home to be in time in case Scottish Power rang at four o’clock.

They didn’t.

Mrs Tootlepedal got home safely after having a fun time with Matilda and crossing the repaired viaduct very slowly both times.

In the evening we went to see a production of As You Like It recorded at the National Theatre in London and shown on the screen at the Buccleuch Centre. We liked it a lot.

The flying bird of the day is one of the gently hovering chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture shows the canal beside which my brother Andrew cycled on his way to a nice cappuccino this morning.

canal

We didn’t quite have the same sunshine here today but it was another dry, crisp day so no one was complaining.

It was below zero when I took the car up to the garage before breakfast to get  a new timing belt fitted but it didn’t feel unpleasant so I assume that the humidity was down to a reasonable level.  It was too cold to cycle though so I was pleased that Sandy dropped in for a coffee on his way to visit a friend at Talkin Tarn.

When he had gone, it was just warm enough to shift the last compost out of Bin A into Bin B and start filling Bin A up with the products of Mrs Tootlepedal’s recent garden spring clean.  Thus the whole cycle starts again.

I was watched with great interest while I worked by a robin which darted in from time to time for an opportunistic worm snatch.

robin

When I had covered up the possible worms with the new material, he took to a neighbour’s garage roof and issued a challenge to all and sundry.  The challenge was answered and he flew off across the garden and gave the impudent challenger a good duffing up.

The sharp frost had not discouraged the flowers…

crocus, snowdrop and primula

…although the daffs were very depressed.

It took until lunchtime for the thermometer to rise to 3 degrees so I had time to do the crossword and look out of the window while I waited for a cycle ride.

redpoll

The light was better for redpoll spotting today.

There was a good variety of visitors.

blackbird

starling

great tit

…and a robin made a reappearance.  Whether this was the winner or the loser in the previous battle, I couldn’t say…

robin

…but it was certainly determined to have a sunflower heart or two, giving a siskin quite a fright.

robin

The roads were dry after the good weather yesterday so I thought that 3 degrees would be safe enough for a pedal and after lunch I wrapped myself up in my many layers and set out to visit Paddockhole Bridge, ten miles away.

The bridge was looking good.

Paddockhole Bridge

The stream running under it is the Water of Milk

I took the opportunity to check when the windmills are going to be delivered to the Ewe Hill wind farm nearby and an obliging engineer told me that are expected in six weeks.  I am going to try my very best to be on the spot when they arrive.  They should make a good photographic subject as they are huge.

Between the cold and the many layers, my legs never really got going and I was even slower than yesterday but getting two cycle rides in good conditions on two consecutive days was such a treat that I didn’t mind.

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal told me that Scottish Power had rung while I was out and would ring again at four o’clock regarding the Archive Group bill.  I had hoped to go for a walk after my pedal but this meant that I had to wait by the phone….and occasionally look out of the window.

crocuses

No birds caught my eye so I had to go out into the garden to catch these crocuses.

Annoyingly, but all too predictably, the power company, having rung up when they knew that I was likely to be out, failed to ring back when they knew that I was going to be in so that was an hour of my life wasted.

Mrs Tootlepedal went up to fetch the car and I sat about and  sulked.  Luckily I looked out of the window at exactly the right moment to catch the evening sun setting Whita alight.

whita in the setting sun

It really did look like that.  I was leaning on the open Velux window upstairs to take the picture and by accident took quite an arty shot.

whita in the setting sun

It is interesting (to me at least) that the same camera pointing in the same direction and shooting only seconds apart should see the same scene with such different intensity of colour.  The top picture was much more like real life.

In the evening, we went off to a practice with Langholm Sings, our local choir, and in spite of being a few singers short of a full turnout, we had an excellent evening, singing an interestingly varied selection of material, some hard and some easy.

The forecast is suggesting that we will enjoy a few more of these dry but chilly winter days and although it has come rather late in the season, a bit of proper winter weather will be very welcome.  We even had a few snowflakes in the morning and a little hailstorm in the afternoon today but it didn’t come to anything.

A chaffinch is the FBotD.

flying chaffinch

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I nagged my sister Mary to take another of her photographs of Regent’s Park on her way to play tennis and she very kindly obliged with this beautifully composed guest picture when she went to play today.

Regent's Park 23.02.16

We awoke to a pleasantly sunny day here too but our delight was tempered by the fact that it was freezing.  With damp patches on the roads providing many icy opportunities, there was no way that I was going cycling until things got quite a bit warmer.

I was therefore very pleased to welcome Dropscone (bearing scones) for coffee.  He had been up bright and early and had already been shopping in Carlisle.  As well as scones he brought us a gift of leeks, which he had purchased there for a very reasonable price. I feel  a bowl of soup coming on.

He is under orders to let his broken ribs heal gently and is going to put in the time by thoroughly mastering the rules of golf, a gargantuan task which should keep him fully occupied.

The feeder outside the window was in deep shade so I had to look to the plum tree for birds that I could recognise.  The brambling was back.

brambling

The birds at the feeder could only be seen in silhouette.

chaffinches

The flashes of white on the wings reveal these to be chaffinches

Some were not easy to identify at first.  Was it a siskin?

redpolls

Zooming in on two of the shots made me think that I had spotted a redpoll…

redpoll

…and the photo editor confirmed it.

Before Dropscone had arrived, I had cleaned and oiled my chain and I had also taken the precaution of getting dressed in my cycling gear for breakfast to ensure that I would have no excuse for not cycling when the time came.  It was nearly mid day though before the thermometer reached 3 degrees and I felt able to set out.  I armed myself with two of Mr Ritchie’s power boosting filled rolls and a banana and pedalled off into the distance.

It was far from warm, even in the sunshine and I skirted nervously past quite a few icy puddles on the road in the sheltered parts of the Wauchope valley but once I was out in the open, the ice disappeared and so did my fears.

There was a light but very nippy north wind blowing and I was pleased to be suitably dressed.  I had two pairs of socks, shoes and over shoes on my feet, long johns and cycling shorts and leggings to protect my bottom half, a helmet with two under caps and a buff round my neck to protect my head and, most importantly, four top half garments as well.

There were times when I thought that I might have overdone it when I was puffing slowly up hills but as soon as I picked up speed, I was grateful for the four tops.  For some reason I couldn’t get the strains of “Reach out, I’ll be there,” out of mind as I pedalled along.

I chose a mainly flat and rather dull route, going through Ecclefechan and passing the wood powered power station at Steven’s Croft, near Lockerbie….

Steven's Croft

…before stopping at the 25 mile mark for a breather and a filled roll.

I turned for home with the wind now behind me.

I was heading down the old A74, once the main road between England and Glasgow but now relegated to a minor route….

A74

…hemmed in between the railway on the left and the new motorway on the right.   It is handy to have this road for days when I feel the need for an undemanding ride.

‘Pagedogs’, one of my correspondents, suggested lackadaicycle as a good word for gentle pedalling and with a slight adaptation of this clever thought, I was enjoying a lack-a-day cycle today.  (You have to say Pagedog’s suggestion out loud if it means nothing to you when you  read it.)

It was good to be getting a few miles in without trying to rush though I did push on a bit when it started to hail near Waterbeck on my way home.  There were some impressive clouds about…

waterbeck clouds

…both to my left….

waterbeck clouds

…and to my right so I pushed on and escaped with only the lightest of pinging for a few hundred yards.

I haven’t done much cycling recently, lackadaisical or not, so I was very happy to arrive safely home after fifty miles, tired but cheerful.

I had time for a quick look round the garden.

aconite, hellebore and crocus

In spite of the sunny day, there was not much to see – another two aconites, some very fed up hellebores which have come out too early and been subjected to several frosts and a potential crocus.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been working in the garden along the dam at the back of the house for almost all the time that I had been cycling so she was quite tired and happy too.

The light had reached the feeder by now and I took a picture of two siskins in conversation.

siskins

They are probably discussing the political situation and wondering where they will migrate to if Britain leaves Europe.

After sitting down on the bike all afternoon, I practised sitting down in an easy chair for  the evening.  I did get up twice, once to catch the end of a lovely day…

sunset

…and once to take a shot of the almost full moon…

moon

..but I was a day late and I should have done this yesterday.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, taken when I had got back from cycling.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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