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Archive for November, 2016

Today’s guest picture comes from my daughter Annie in London, hundreds of miles to the south of us.  She wants to point out that it was very cold down there this morning.

frozen London leaves

We might have been forgiven for feeling a bit smug when we saw her picture because it was a comparatively warm day here with the temperature well above freezing from dawn until dusk and likely to stay so for tomorrow as well.

On the minus side, the birds had abandoned the garden almost completely and there was hardly a seed eaten all day.

I had arranged to have coffee with Dropscone and I didn’t see a bird worth snapping before he came.  He is playing slightly better golf at the moment so he was more cheerful about his game than he has been lately.  He and his daughter Susan are going on a short city break in Edinburgh tomorrow and as Mrs Tootlepedal and I will be there too, visiting Matilda, Edinburgh will be unusually busy.

I did see a bird after he left (to go and play golf).

robin

And it got a bit nearer later on.

Robin

But that was about it.

I didn’t have long to watch the birds, even if there had been some about, as I wanted to take advantage of the warmer weather (6°C) to get some miles in.

I had a quick lunch and set off on the fairly speedy bike.  The roads were clear enough to let me do a circular ride with confidence that I wouldn’t find any icy spots.  The trouble with setting out straight after a meal though is that your system is too busy digesting the food to give you much help with the pedalling but I stuck to the task and things settled  down after a while.

With the light wind behind me, I enjoyed the return half of the journey.  I had a camera with me but didn’t stop because even at 6°C, cycling is quite a chilly business.  Because you are well wrapped up from the cold, you tend to work up a light perspiration so if you stop for too long,  you get very clammy and that makes for chilly riding when you start again.

However, a little burst of sunshine when I was only a few miles from home suddenly lit up a section of woodland in such a striking way that I was forced to a halt and get out the camera.

Hollows

It was very annoying to find an electricity pole in the middle of the view.  If it hadn’t been there, it would have looked like this…

hollows

…but you can’t do anything about this sort of thing and just have to put up with unwelcome intrusions into your pictures..

There was another pole in front of the Hollows Tower too…

Hollows Tower

…but it couldn’t spoil the soft light which made the scene an enchanted one for a few moments.  By the time that I got home, after 31 miles, the clouds were back in force and it was so gloomy that Mrs Tootlepedal came in from the garden where she had been working and joined me for a cup of tea and a mini Jaffa cake.

I had planned to get a short walk in after my pedal and perhaps find a flying bird but it was far too dark for that so I did some music practice instead.  After yesterday’s 170 pictures, I only took seven in total today so the conscientious reader can only be grateful for that.

In the evening, I went off to a Langholm Sings choir practice and we had a very good session.  We have a concert with our local orchestra on Sunday and we are reasonably well prepared for it (I hope).  Time will tell.

The leaves of the day belong to a very healthy looking wallflower which seems impervious to frost.

wallflower

The flying bird of the day (the only one I saw) just qualifies as the chaffinch hasn’t quite reached the feeder.

chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She took a trip down the river in glorious weather to visit the newly refurbished Queen’s House at Greenwich.

The Queen's House, refurbished and recently re-opened, Greenwich

We had another fine, calm day here, below freezing at the start and never getting very warm in spite of the sunshine.  I didn’t have the chance to do anything interesting after breakfast as I had to drive to Dumfries to visit the orthopaedic outpatients department at the Infirmary.  They had summoned me for a appointment without telling me why and I was interested to find out whether it was my new knee or my old hip which was of interest to them.

I was seen very promptly and it turned out that that my knee was the object of their concern but after an x-ray and a good chat with the head nurse, I was given the OK to carry on as I have been and I went off fairly relieved.

It is not far from the Infirmary at Dumfries to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Caerlaverock and as it has a cafe, I thought that I would see if I could spot a few birds and have my lunch there.

It is not hard to see birds at Caerlaverock as they have a large pond where they feed the birds twice a day.

Folly pond caerlaverock

They use the large funnel in the foreground when they want to collect birds for ringing.

In spite of the sunshine, there was still ice on the pond.

A whooper swan

A whooper swan among the icebergs

A whooper swan

Another whooper swan shows off its ring

But there was plenty of open water too which allowed for this….

Canada goose

A Canada goose creating a stir

…and this…

mute swan

A mute swan stretches its wings

…and this.

whooper swan flexing its muscles

And another swan flexes its muscles

And there were displays of goose yoga too.

canada goose

As well as the swans and geese, there were a lot of ducks about.  A lot of them were mallards but there were many widgeon too…

widgeon

…which are very pretty birds.

There are good views of the surrounding countryside as well as the pond from the top floor of the hide.

Caerlaverock

I left the hide at the pond and walked down one of the long tracks….

Caerlaverock track

…which run between high banks to keep the paying customers from upsetting the wildlife.   There are occasional small hides along the way and from one of them, I got my first good look at just a few of the many thousand barnacle geese that overwinter at Caerlaverock.

barnacle geese

As I got near the hide at the end of the track, I was given a hard stare by a Hebridean sheep.

hebridean sheep

I was interrupting its lunch.

From the two storey hide at the end of the track, I could get a good view over the fields and marshes to the Nith Estuary with Criffel beyond….

criffel

….as well as another of the viewing points for visitors.

Caerlaverock Tower

 

I watched the geese in the fields for a while and looked in vain for a peregrine falcon which I was told was in the area and then walked back to the centre for a light lunch.

After lunch, I returned to the pond hide.

Other ducks were to be seen.

tufted ducks

Male and female tufted ducks

There were teal and scaup as well but not in range of my camera (or my eyesight).

By far the most numerous ducks were the widgeons which came and went in waves….

widgeon

widgeon

There was great excitement at the pond when the two o’clock feed took place.

feeding time at Caerlaverock

The seed tempted a widgeon to come out of the water near the hide.

widgeon

At one moment, with a great roar like an aeroplane taking off, the barnacle geese rose from the field behind the pond in a great mass.

barnacle geese

I was reminded of the starlings at Gretna as they swooped and swirled about…

barnacle geese

…before flying off over our heads into fresh fields.

barnacle geese

I took the hint and made my way back to the car and drove home.

Mrs Tootlepedal, who had been volunteering at the Buccleuch Centre cafe over lunch, was watching the Powell and Pressburger film of the Tales of Hoffman when I got home but when Mike Tinker came round to enquire after the state of my knee, she joined us and we enjoyed a cup of tea and a Jaffa cake or two.

You may well feel that there have been a bit too many Caerlaverock pictures in the post but since I found that I had taken 170 shots when I put them on the computer, you have got off lightly but I had to spend a lot of time going through them and that took up the rest of the afternoon.

As I finished off with a splendid meal of bacon, eggs, baked beans and fried bread for my tea, I felt that I had made the most of what could have been a rather boring day driving to Dumfries and back.

No flying bird of the day today as there have been far too many already so a Canada goose stands in as the posing bird of the day.

Canada Goose

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my friend Bruce.  He assures me that it shows a fine example of a Hutton’s Unconfomity.  He thought that I would be impressed.  I was.

hutton unconformity

I had a full but, at the same time, calm day today.  The temperature got up to a toasty six degrees but I couldn’t make the most of it as I had to take my turn in the Welcome To Langholm office in the Market Place.

I had time to look at the birds for a moment or two before I went up.

goldfinch

The blue tits are happy to eat the seeds…

blue tit

…or the fat balls, depending on which are free.

blue tit

The chaffinches and goldfinches won’t go into the cage at all.

Robins will try both…

robins

…but spend a lot of time making up their minds.

I have put out as few frosted apples which escaped the apple picking but they are not drawing large crowds.

robin ignoring apple

Tourists were in short supply when I got to the Market Place but I did sell a leaflet and a booklet to a visitor so it wasn’t all bad.  I also got connected to a wi-fi hotspot and managed to put some pages of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database which was a great bonus.  I would have done even better at this if I had remembered that peering at a computer screen goes much more satisfactorily when you have got your computer peering glasses with you.

I had a snack lunch in the tourist office so that when I got home, I was able to put on my cycling gear straight away and go off for a gentle pedal.

I was thinking of doing a circular ride today as the roads seemed to be frost free but after going three miles, I discovered that I had forgotten to put on my helmet so I went back and got it and then pedalled up to the top of Callister and back to make up my twenty miles.

It was getting gloomy by the time that I returned and there was no chance of a walk with a camera so the blog is fairly photo free today.

My flute pupil Luke came and we spent the time recording him playing one of his favourite tunes and then after tea, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.

After warming up on a Quantz sonata, we turned to Mozart.  Our new Mozart trio is very hard work but we played it all through, though not without having to stop from time to time to consult the Sat Nav to see where we were.  It is tough going but rewarding as the music is lovely.

My twenty miles today took me up to 3900 miles for the year so there is only another hundred to go to hit my target.  I need another few ice free dry days before New Year to get there and with 30 days still to go, it should be possible….but our weather is always unpredictable and there have been Decembers in past years when the bicycle has never got out of the garage at all.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, sneaking past the feeder pole.

goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture was sent by my sister Mary in response to my plea and is another of her excellent series of Regents Park studies. She plays tennis there nearly every week so she has ample opportunity to catch the gardens in all seasons.  This was yesterday.

Regents Park

There was no frost on the ground when we got up today but it was still calm and fine and so for the first time for a week, when Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing with the church choir, I got the bike out and went off for a pedal.

On the precautionary principle, even though the temperature was just above four degrees, I went up and down the main road to Mosspaul on the grounds that it has been regularly gritted and there would be no danger of hitting a surprise icy patch round a shady corner.

I pedalled the eleven miles north, uphill and into a light wind, at a stately speed and arrived at my turning point in exactly an hour.  I was hoping to do the easy eleven miles back at 20 mph but I let my mind wander over one section and ended up missing my target by a minute or so and averaging a meagre 19.6 mph.  This was a bit annoying but the annoyance was outweighed by the pleasure of getting back on the bike.

What was a bit more annoying was the fact that I couldn’t make full use of this rare cycling day as we had to go to Carlisle after lunch for some shopping and a choir practice.  But then, you can’t have everything.

I did have time to make some lentil soup for lunch and have a look at the birds. Since it was a calm day. I tried to take some calm portraits.

goldfinch

A goldfinch enjoying a snack

chaffinch

A chaffinch saying grace before tucking in.

robin

One of the robins posing

There really are a lot of blackbirds flitting about the garden at the moment and it is rare when you can’t see one.  This one was standing on the hedge….

blackbird

….looking at this one which was also standing on the hedge about four feet away.

blackbird

I was tempted into the occasional action shot but it was very calm action.

chaffinch in cruise mode

A chaffinch in cruise mode

There were occasional burst of sunshine and I caught a chaffinch with the very embodiment of a twinkle in its eye.

chaffinch

The lentil soup turned out well thanks to additional red and yellow peppers and a carrot, not to mention a touch of smoked paprika.

After lunch, there was just time for a quick visit to the garden where I liked these grasses….

grasses

…and was spied on by a pair of beady eyed jackdaws in the walnut tree.

jackdaws

Then it was off to Carlisle to get some dates and cheese (and some other less interesting food) before going to the choir practice.

This turned out to be a very good session with some useful technique lessons being squeezed in among the fine tuning of our concert songs.  Now the problem is to remember what we were taught and then to remember to put it into use next time we sing.  Easier said than done.

Both Mrs Tootlepedal (who doesn’t look a day older) and I enjoy watching Strictly Come Dancing on the telly and we were very pleased that the worst dancer was finally eliminated from the show tonight after having been preserved by whimsical voters long after his sell by date.  After recent shock election results, this was a relief.

The leaf of the day is a soggy lamb’s ear….

stachys

…and the flying bird of the day is a sunlit chaffinch (with a goldfinch jumping before it got pushed).

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture was taken by my younger son and shows the frost on the ground at his daughter’s playground last week. I am now looking once again to kind readers for new guest pictures.Edinburgh frost

We had plenty of frost on the ground here again today as the thermometer was showing -2°C when we got up.  It didn’t get much above +2°C for the rest of the day and with no sun to warm us up, it was quite chilly outside.  As a result, we spent most of the morning indoors.

It was Mrs Tootlepedal’s birthday today so she spent a lot of time reading messages of congratulations from various  heads of state, notable politicians, media celebrities and her family and friends.  In between this I made her some porridge for breakfast, a pot of coffee at the appropriate time and then some sardine pate for lunch so you can see that she was treated like royalty on this auspicious day.

I also found time to keep an eye on the birds outside.

We had ground level visitors…

dove, blackbird and dunnock

…and visitors to the fat ball feeder….

robin, blue tit and coal tit

….a pair of perchers…

chaffinch and sparrow

….and some spectacular starlings.

starlings

I was also pleased to catch not only one or two cute robin shots but actually one shot of two robins on the lawn at the same time.  They are never in shot together long as they do chase each other about.

robins

After lunch, we went for a walk.

Although it was grey and cold, it was also dry and calm so we were not the only ones strolling up the Lodge Walks.

Lodge walks

Most of the leaves are now on the ground rather than on the trees but the walk was still enjoyable…

Pheasant hatchery

…and Mrs Tootlepedal was well wrapped up her her fine new coat…

Mrs Tootlepedal's coat

…which someone very considerate had given to her for her birthday present.  (His considerateness consisted in listening very carefully to what she wanted and then letting her order it herself so that there could be no possibility of error.  It is the best way)

There was a surprising amount of fungus still to be seen in sheltered corners….

fungus in late November

…and some more ice hair.

Ice hair

The hair ice on the right looks as though it might have melted and frozen again. I have never seen this before.

It was generally pretty gloomy so the camera stayed mostly in my pocket but it did come out again when we passed the manse garden and saw a thundering herd of chickens rushing towards us.

Minister's chickens

It turned out though that they weren’t rushing towards us but towards the minister himself…

Minister and chickens

Scott and his flock

…who divulged that the secret of attracting chickens is to always give them food.

We didn’t have long when we got home before we set out again.

This time we went to Carlisle by car for Mrs Tootlepedal’s birthday treat.  This was a visit to the pictures where we saw ‘A United Kingdom’ which tells the story of Seretse Khama, the King of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana), and Ruth Williams, the London office worker he married in 1948 in the face of fierce opposition from their families and the British and South African governments.

The film was most enjoyable, calmly made and presented with a strong story and some excellent acting from all the cast which was led by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike.  It is refreshing to relearn about just how devious, unscrupulous and downright nasty our governments of both parties were in those ‘good old days’ for which some people seem to hanker.

We rounded off an excellent day with a stop for fish and chips in Longtown on our way home.    Mrs Tootlepedal should have more birthdays.

The leaves of the day were among the few that we encountered on our walk whihc were still on a tree…

leaves

…and the flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia’s recent visit to Madeira.  As well as an abundance of fruit and veg in the market, she even had a personal rainbow.

MadeiraWe had another calm, sunny day today but it was the coldest yet with the temperature struggling to get above zero all day.

In the morning, Mrs Tootlepedal went out to have coffee with friends and I stayed at home watching the birds in silhouette.

Some were familiar in spite of their disguise…

chaffinches

…but others were stranger.

starling

I had to look up into the plum tree to see the scene in full colour.

blue tit, chaffinch and starling

We had a small invasion of starlings and the mystery silhouette above was one of them.

starling

Not long after Mrs Tootlepedal returned, I went off for a walk.

It seemed to me that it might be a good day to see hair ice as it appears on days when the temperature is around zero.   I was lucky.

hair ice

I walked along this track…

Stubholm track

….passing many frozen plants on the shady side  of the path on my way.

frozen plants

Then I went through the Kernigal wood and came out onto the forestry track on the far side.  In the shade of the trees it was icy cold but when I got into the sunshine, it was a different world.

Track to Skipperscleuch

The larch trees have not lost all their needles yet.

Larches beside Track to SkipperscleuchI could see the march wall climbing up Whita hill on the other side of the valley.  This marked the border between the Buccleuch lands and the Maxwell lands in time gone by.

March wall

The sharp eyed may just be able to make out the stile which crosses the wall just below the trees in the centre of the picture.

Quarry wall stile

I took this picture when I used it to get over the wall on a walk in July.

I followed the track down to Skipperscleuch….

Track to Skipperscleuch

….then took the track down to the main road, admiring another artistic puddle as I went…

icy puddle

..and finally crossed Skippers Bridge and went to have a look at the bridge from the water’s side.

Skippers Bridge

To my surprise, I could still find a crop of fungus on the river bank which I had noticed on my last visit.  I thought that the frosts would have done for it but it seemed to be in good health.

fungus

I walked back into town along the river bank and completed the journey via the Kilngreen and the Jubilee Bridge.

Yesterday’s walk was about four and a half miles and today’s was just under four miles so although I haven’t got any cycling in because of the low temperatures, at least I have been able to get some enjoyable exercise in good conditions.  The two walks are a tribute to my tin knee as I was able to (relatively) skip over some rough ground on the hill yesterday and through the wood today in a way which would have unimaginable two years ago.

I had a late lunch when I got back and then made a fruity malt loaf in the bread machine and wasted the rest of the afternoon doing some pro sitting down and resting.

I did get out of my chair for long enough to check on two of the many blackbirds which are flitting around in the garden at the moment.

blackbirds

There must be something interesting over there.

In the evening, Mike and Alison Tinker came to visit.  This was the traditional Friday visit for conversation and music and was all the more welcome for being the first for some time as they have been away in New Zealand visiting their son and his family there.

Alison and I eased ourselves back into musical mode and came to the conclusion that we need to settle down to some regular practice now things are back to normal.  Even so, we had a great deal of fun playing Rameau and Telemann among others.

Once again there is no leaf of the day (they were all frozen) but I did find a flying gull as I passed the Kilngreen on my walk.

Black headed gull

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She caught Mr Grumpy’s London cousin pretending to be a statue.

Mr G's cousin posing, metropolitan style

I think it may be true to say that we have already had more frosty days this winter than we had in the whole of last winter which was exceptionally wet and mild…and our winter hasn’t really started yet.

It was another bright and frosty morning today and the thermometer outside our window never reached 3°C all day with the result that the ground stayed frozen and untreated roads tended to be slippery in places.

Under the circumstances, cycling was out and I was more than happy to welcome Dropscone (and scones) for coffee.  The minister’s scone radar was working well and he dropped in to join us with perfect timing.

It took until after midday for the sun to creep far enough round to shed a little light on the feeder area.

The garden was full of blackbirds.

blackbirds

And robins.

robin

In spite of the cold, there wasn’t a great deal of traffic on the feeders and I didn’t get many chances to see a flying chaffinch…

flying chaffinch

…and when I did, there was always a shadow in the way of a perfect picture.

We keep hoping that we will be visited by waxwings and there is a large flock of them thirty miles away to the west.  They must be going to have eaten all the berries over there soon and should head this way next with luck.  All I saw today was an occasional goldfinch.

goldfinch

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh and I went out for a walk.

I started out by visiting the river to look for black headed gulls.

Black headed gulls

There is always one contrarian.

Then I decided to walk along the track to the High Mill Brig and consider whether I had the time and energy to cross the Target Burn and walk up the hill when I got there.

The track to the High Mill Brig was very soggy in parts but did have a friendly face on the way…

robin

…some excellent views…

View of Whita

…and a delightfully wooded ending.

Pathhead track

On the way, I passed several tempting meals for waxwings.

berries

I walked down through a field to the High Mill Brig, which was looking very cheerful in the sunshine…

High Mill Brig

…and decided that I did have enough energy and the day enough sunlight left to make the Target Burn walk a good idea.

The track along the bank of the Ewes to the junction with the Target Burn was decorated with puddles full of ice designed by Picasso…

Picasso puddles

… and I soon passed the remains of the targets which give the burn its name.  The targets were used for rifle practice in years gone by.

I crossed the burn and took to the hill.  Any  colours other than brown were conspicuous by their absence…

Target Burn walk

…though if you lifted your head high enough, there was a distant prospect of fields and hills with some green about them still.

Ewes valley

It was another day with hardly a cloud in the sky and it was great to be out and about on the open hillside in such crisp weather.

The Target Burn route follows a wall across the moor….

Wall target burn

…and I can tell you that the last part of the climb is a great deal steeper than it looks in the picture.  I was pleased to reach the easier surface of the road and decided that there was not enough time to complete the walk by going up to the monument on the top of the hill.

I walked back down the road for a while and after a last look up the valley…

Ewes valley

…I left the road, took the path across the hill and walked back to the town down the golf course.

The course was looking in very good condition in spite of the cold weather…

Langholm Golf course

…but I was surprised to see a hardy golfer with a few clubs in his hand heading up the third fairway, trying to squeeze a hole or two in before the sun set.

Down below in the town, someone had lit a fire.

Smoking chimney

When we first came here, forty years ago, the whole town would have been covered by chimney smoke from coal and peat fires on a still day like today.  The building of the pipeline to bring North Sea gas to the town has given us a much cleaner environment these days.

By the time that I had reached home, the sun had sunk behind the hills and it was very chilly and grey in our garden.

I made a cheerful smoked sausage risotto for my tea and was ready for Susan when she came to pick me to go to Carlisle for our usual recorder group meeting.  All five of us were present for the first time for a few weeks and we had a good evening of playing.

It was -2°C as we drove home but Susan took great care and we arrived safely.  I was pleased to find that Mrs Tootlepedal had successfully driven home from Lockerbie too.

I didn’t find a leaf of the day today but one of the black headed gulls left its perch for long enough for me to get a flying bird of the day.

black headed gull flying

 

 

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