Strictly for the birds

The Drummer, spotted in Regent's Park on the way to tennis

Today’s guest picture comes from one of my sister Mary’s visit to Regent’s Park.  She encountered ‘The Drummer’ on her way to play tennis.

The Drummer, spotted in Regent's Park on the way to tennis

After several hours of strong winds rattling the windows and and sighing and moaning in the night, we woke up to calmer conditions with no damage done and nothing more terrifying than some steady rain.

chaffinch in the rain

It was my 75th birthday today so I celebrated by getting up late and eating my porridge with an extra spot of honey on it.

It was a miserable morning as far as the weather went and even when the rain stopped, a cold north wind continued to blow so I found things to do indoors.  These included opening a very large hamper of bird food which my daughter had sent me, doing the crossword and looking at the birds.

The birds took quite a long time to arrive in numbers, doubtless because they needed a moment to recover from the night’s wild weather.  When some birds did come, it was in the shape of a small flock of goldfinches….

First coming in one or two at a time…
…then in unruly gangs…
…and finally taking over the whole plum tree

There was a single robin about too.


I made a pan of sweet potato soup and after we had eaten some of it for our lunch, we considered a birthday outing.

One of the camera club members had seen a good turnout of starlings at Gretna last week and told me where to go to see them so we thought that this sounded like a good place for our trip.

It had stopped raining and the wind had dropped and we went off with high hopes.

When we got to the appointed spot, there was the makings of a good sunset to look at…

Gretna sunset

…which was a pleasant surprise after such a grey day but sadly no sign of any birds.

The starlings arrive at their roosting site in large numbers just before dark and when they have gathered, they enjoy an aerial ballet for several minutes before settling down.  It is known as a murmuration  but today, although we sat and waited patiently, there wasn’t even a whisper of a starling about so we drove back through the village to see if they were to be seen anywhere else.

A pylon, looking rather thicker than usual caused us to stop.


At least there were starlings about even if they weren’t in the air yet.

Nearby there is a newly erected windmill…

gretna windmill

…standing in lonely splendour.

It won’t be alone for long though because as we stood and looked at the starlings, we noticed a turbine blade being delivered to the site behind us…

gretna windmill

…and we could see the crane and the column ready for the installation of the blades.

Turning back to the pylon, we saw that a few birds had taken to the air…

Gretna starlings

They were soon joined by others…

Gretna starlings

…and rather annoyingly, they set off in the direction of the spot which we had just left.  We jumped in the car and drove back again.  The sunset had got more dramatic by this time….

Gretna sunset

…and across the Solway, we could see the lights on the Caldbeck television mast glowing in the twilight.


The starlings soon joined us and we could hear the flurry of their wings and the chatter of their conversation as they flew overhead.

Gretna starlings

…filling the sky above us.

Soon the ballet was under way, sometimes in solid shapes….

Gretna starlings

…sometimes in snaking lines..

Gretna starlings

…but always flowing and changing.  The birds split into two or three separate groups so the effect was not as sensational as it can be when they are all together but it was still a privilege to be able to watch them.

Gretna starlings
You can see any amount of objects in their shapes if you have imagination.

The camera does a fantastic job of peering through the gloom so the results don’t give a true indication of how dark it was by this time and soon even the camera couldn’t see the birds any more and we turned and headed home.

We hope to go back later in the year, if we can find a day with a bit more light about (and hopefully a few more birds as well).

When we got back, it was just in time for a nice cup of tea and a birthday treat.

Birthday cake

You can see that we know how to celebrate in style.

That was quite enough excitement for an old man.

The leaves of the day, finally all swept off by the wind, are the last of the climbing hydrangea on the house wall…


…and the flying bird(s) of the day is a celestial hedgehog.

Gretna starlings

Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

55 thoughts on “Strictly for the birds

    1. I may very well have photographed everything round here that there is to photogrpah soon. Sometimes I look back a year or two and the posts seem eerily similar. I lead a very quiet life but thank you for reading the posts.

      1. I love reading about your live. It sounds pleasant and peaceful and pleasantly predictable. An oasis in a world full of hate and misery.But I suspect you have your own share of problems you don’t write about.

      2. I don’t have anything to worry about that would cause the slightest tremor to anyone else so I consider myself very blessed. I am really happy if you get a little peaceful pleasure from following my wanderings. You are quite right that we all need a break from the outside world if we can get one.

  1. Happy Birthday Mr Tootlepedal, from one of your many Canadian fans. Your starling pictures are wonderful – wish we could train ours to put on a show like that.

      1. I haven’t been to see them at their murmuration/roost points yet, but they’re certainly spending time at my feeders in their numbers now, and returning in mass to their roosts across my sky.

  2. Just yesterday I thought that it would be about time Mr. T catches up to my age – Well, I was a day too early. All the best to you and keep on going.

  3. Happy birthday Tom.

    The Caldbeck transmitter, along with its companion at Sandale, were key features on the horizon from the house where I lived some 50 years ago as a schoolboy in Wigton.

    On clear days, Langholm monument was also visible.

  4. I’m glad that the starlings cooperated for your birthday (with a little help from you and Mrs. T. zipping back and forth). And chocolate frosting – doesn’t get much better than that. Happy 75!

    1. I had promised myslef not to post any ore sunsets as there are more than enough from other people on the internet already but as I had time hanging heavy on my hands, I got tempted.

  5. Happy Birthday, and more to come! Yes, you do know how to celebrate with that chocolate cake! Porridge and not special scones for your birthday breakfast?

    I have always loved the endlessly undulating flocks of birds across the sky at migration time. The celestial hedgehog is perfect Flying Flock of the Day ending your post.

    1. Apart from barnacle geese and starlings, I don’t see a lot of migrating flocks though there are others if I took the time and trouble to find out where to go to see them.

  6. Happy birthday Tom! 🌹🌸🌼 The starling pictures are great! It’s funny I saw them here too today, but had no camera – happy to admire them through your lens.

  7. Happy Birthday Mr Tootlepedal! What a fine way to celebrate your special day- a trip out, wonderful sunset, dancing starlings, hedgehog in the sky and to top it all a chocolate cake- you deserve every crumb! Best wishes for the year ahead.

  8. Glad you had a good birthday. All those starlings, beautifullyshown in your excellent shots, makes one surprised to hear that overall in the UK the numbers are sharply declining.

  9. I love the starling pictures too, it’s a few years since I’ve seen them, but they are spectacular. Chasing starlings round the back roads near Gretna is a lot of fun and I’m glad you found them eventually. A great thing to do on your birthday!

  10. Happy Birthday Tom!

    We have large flocks of starlings here, but they always seem to be going some place as a flock, and not doing any of the twisting and turning as you show in your wonderful photos. I can’t believe that you got such good images in so little light.

  11. Awesome bird pics! And happy birthday! Isn’t your cake much bigger than usual? I always make a big deal about my mom writing her garden diary at age 71, 73, and 74, because it so impresses younger ones that she was still lively at that age. You know it is not THAT old! Our local newspaper recently described a 64 year old as elderly, leading to much aggrieved outcry (mostly from me).

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