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Archive for December, 2016

Today’s guest picture not only comes from a guest, my son Alistair, but also shows a guest, his daughter Matilda, who has brought her parents down to Langholm for a short visit.

Matilda

We were making plans yesterday to go to Edinburgh to visit both our sons and their families over the New Year when our younger son, Al suggested that he and Clare might like to drive down with Matilda to visit us instead.  We were more than happy with this as the train service over the holiday period is rotten so we arranged another visit to Tony later on in  January and settled down to prepare the house for a VIP.

She was due  to arrive in the early afternoon so I had time to look out of the window while the expert got things into a fit state in the spare rooms.

Birds put on their best behaviour…

Robin

Dunnock

…and even the light co-operated and put on its best performance for many days.

chaffinches

A gallery of glowing chaffinches

I wasn’t entirely idle but my eye was drawn to the feeders quite a lot.

chaffinch arriving

Good light…

goldfinch arriving

…better light….

chaffinch arriving

…best light.

After all the preparations had been made and a light lunch taken, there was still a moment to spare before the VIP’s estimated time of arrival so I sneaked out for a quick walk just to stretch the legs.

I didn’t have time to dally and the light had reverted to its usual greyness so I took few photos as I scampered round Gaskell’s Walk.

Auld Stane Brig

The Auld Stane Brig in winter

bramble leaves

The bramble leaves are still giving us a touch of green.

Marjorie

My friend and ex colleague Marjorie, whom I met near the end of the walk.

After a bit of rain a few days ago, things have dried up again so the walking was very good underfoot and the rivers are back to being an unseasonal trickle.

Wauchope at park

I got back in good time to welcome Al and Clare and Matilda who had found the drive from Edinburgh a lot less busy than they had expected.

Matilda was in excellent form and was soon tinkling away on the piano in the front room.

Matilda

Although she was looking at the music, she was improvising at the keyboard!

We had a good afternoon of playing, a substantial evening meal and then, after a duet…

Matilda

…Mrs Tootlepedal gave Matilda a bath and put her to bed.

Parents and grandparents then sat down to a moment or two of perfect peace.  It was a very good end to what has been an eventful year.

I didn’t get quite as good a flying bird of the day as the light deserved but it was better than most recent efforts.

flying chaffinch

May I take this opportunity to wish all those of you who have had the patience to read the posts through 2016, a very happy and prosperous 2017 and I hope that it brings you all that you deserve and wish for (and a little bit more).

I would also like to thank those excellent bloggers whose posts I regularly  read with interest and admiration for providing me with so much enjoyment through the past 52 weeks.  Long may this feast of words and pictures continue.

 

 

 

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Just to remind myself not to complain too much about the weather, today’s guest picture is another of Mary Jo’s Canadian snowscapes.  Just thinking about clearing a drive in these conditions makes my back hurt.

Canadian snow

Although Dropscone complained that it was cold outside when he came round for coffee (bringing traditional Friday treacle scones with him), it was actually just about 10°C and very warm for the time of year.  However, it was exceedingly grey and gloomy and it felt cold even if it wasn’t.

The scones went down a treat.

It was such a grey day that I only had the camera in my hand for a grand total of 3 minutes all day and it was lucky that this coincided with one of the few busy moments at the feeder.

Some birds stood very still for me.

chaffinch and goldfinch

Others flitted about in an unhelpful way.

goldfinches

After catching a final pose from a bird who appears to have been swimming…

goldfinch

…I gave up and went out to pick a leek and then came in and made some soup with it.

In the afternoon, Mrs Tootlepedal went off shopping and I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and then made some batter for crumpets.

Mike Tinker came in for a cup of tea while I was battering the batter.  I was testing out using an electric beater rather than a wooden spoon for the job and on the whole, I think that battering the batter with a beater made for a bit better sort of batter.

Mrs Tootlepedal returned and with her assistance, I made a set of crumpets.  It is a messy and drawn out business and although the crumpets turned out well, looking not bad and tasting good, we agreed that it was probably more trouble than it was worth.  Still, if we get another day as grey and miserable as this one was, I might get bored enough to try again.

There seems to be going to be one more very dull day to round the old year off and then the new year is set to start off on a brighter note so I will look forward to that.

While I was peering through the gloom, a glint of yellow caused my shutter finger to twitch so here is the best I could do for a flying bird of the day.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mike Tinker’s NZ trip and shows Nelson Cathedral.  He tells me that as it is in NZ,  it has an earthquake policy, the final line of which says: ‘if the earthquake is a gentle event (i.e. no creaks in the building) services will continue’.  I hadn’t thought that there might be a gentle earthquake.

Nelson Cathedral

Our good weather continued today, although it was a bit windier than it has been lately.   Under the circumstances, I was quite pleased to have an excuse not to go cycling as we were expecting a visit from our friend Sue for lunch.

There was a complete lack of birds in the morning and it was a bit annoying that they appeared in the garden just as Sue arrived.  I was listening with my full attention to every word that was spoken over coffee and at the lunch table, even when I might have been distracted by movement outside.

If I had been rude enough to get up with camera in hand in mid conversation, I might have seen this….

robin, chaffinch and goldfinch

Three poseurs

…or this….

goldfinches

Two more poseurs

…or even this…

goldfinches

Impending violence

Sue noticed the arrival of a greenfinch so I make no excuses for having seen this finch festival.

greenfinch, goldfinch and chaffinch

After lunch, we piled into the car and headed up to the hide at the Moorland Project bird feeders, where we sat for a while watching a terrific amount of activity.  Unfortunately, apart from a brief and unrecorded visit from a brambling, there were no unusually exciting birds to be seen.

It is always fun to see a greater spotted woodpecker though and there were a lot about today, pecking away at various feeders and chasing each other up and down trees.

greater spotted woodpecker

The great, coal and blue tits were in sharing mode.

great tit, coal tit and blue tit

And there were dozens of chaffinches around.

chaffinch

Those pink pellets are always popular

chaffinch

The brisk wind was ruffling a feather or two

There were several raptors flying over the hill when we came out of the hide but they were too far away to identify with confidence.

Mrs Tootlepedal has been suffering from a sore foot so she drove the car back while Sue and I walked the two and a half miles home from Broomholmshiels.

The weather stayed dry and there was even a hint of sunshine as we strolled along looking for things of interest on the way.

I always like  a gate and this brand new belt and braces job caught my eye soon after we left the farm fields.

 

Broomholmshiels gate

And bare trees are favourites.

oak

Sue has been going to classes on plant recognition and had a keen eye for the ferns, mosses, lichens and fungi that we passed on our way once we had got into the oak and birch woods…

sue T

Oak wood

There were a lot of things to see just on the trees.

moss and lichens

turkey tail fungus

We saw fine displays of mosses beside the track in the wood and many spleenwort and ferns on walls when we got nearer to the town.

We finished out walk with a stroll along the river bank and since I had told Sue that we might well see a dipper as some point, I was very pleased when we found one singing its heart out near the suspension bridge.

dipper

The light had faded quite a bit by the time that we saw it.

We also met Sandy, who rather annoyingly told us that he had seen a tree creeper at the Moorland site when he was filling the feeders this morning.  Where was it when we needed it?

We had a cup of tea and some of Sue’s delicious home made biscuits when we got home and then, after we had put the world to rights, it was time for Sue to head off back home.  It had been a delight to have her company.

I rounded off a very good day by making curried cauliflower for our tea.

No plant of the day today but I did manage to catch a flying chaffinch out of the corner of my eye while we were having lunch.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture, kindly sent to me by Mary Jo from the land of proper snow, is designed to stop me moaning about our weather.  It won’t work though.  She tells me that she is currently looking after three houses and is keeping very fit shovelling snow.

Canada snow

We had a rather nice day here, with the thermometer showing a balmy 5°C.  It still took me quite a time to get myself organised to go out on my fairly speedy bike.  I had plenty of time while I footled about to look out of the window.  I am still waiting hopefully for the return of the long tailed tits but once again, I had to make do with short tailed coal and blue tits.

coal tit and blue tit

Visitors to the feeder were rather distracted this morning…

chaffinch and goldfinch

…although some concentrated hard on hitting the spot.

goldfinch

The Christmas robin is working overtime.

robin

And a wood pigeon stalked through the undergrowth.

wood pigeon

I finally got going and it turned out to be an excellent day for December cycling.  The roads had mostly dried out, the wind was light (and helpful on the way home) and the sun made a really good effort to shine.

Cleuchfoot view

It was very hazy but not as bad as parts of England where thick fog persisted for the whole day.

I stopped to admire some passing trees.

tree at Tarcoon

One had had a very brutal haircut.

tree at Glenzier

I wanted to have another look at the windmills at Gretna….

Gretna windmills

..which are not actually turning yet.

Because I was cycling in the opposite direction as I went past them, I couldn’t find the exact spot where I took my picture yesterday but I am sure that it was I and not the camera that was confused and the pylons are indeed in front of the turbines at the spot where I took the shot.

I cycled on through Gretna Green down to the border and into England.  I hadn’t really planned a route but it was such a nice day that I headed on south with vague ideas of an interesting route home but when it came to the stop to eat my banana at the twenty mile mark, it became apparent that the banana was still sitting on the kitchen table and not resting snugly in my back pocket.

As I didn’t have any money on me, I was stymied and had to take a short and sensible route home.  I pedalled gently along, stopping from time to time for a drink of water and a rest….

Longtown bridge

The Longtown bridge provided a good excuse for a pause

…and got home after 37 miles feeling quite peckish.

Still, the ride took me up to 4100 miles for the year so I feel that I have thoroughly met my target.  I am now considering what I should take as my target for next year.  4000 again? 4200? 4500?  Or an ambitious 5000?  It all depends on health and weather so I might settle for a modest target and secretly hope to beat it.

I had time for a look in the garden when I got home and was impressed by the amount of rain over the festive season recorded by our scientific rain gauge.

rain gauge

A tiny flower had a tear in its eye.

primula

I did some energy topping up and had a shower  and had time to exchange a few words with Mike Tinker who had dropped by before I had to go off to the Health Centre for a routine visit.

Mrs Tootlepedal has been slaving over a tricky jigsaw puzzle which our older son gave her for Christmas and she finally finished it today.  Tony had asked me for a photo of Mrs Tootlepedal and her mother and if I had known what it was for, I would have given him a higher resolution photo but it turned out surprisingly well in the end.

jigsaw

It was a very good idea for a present and I might well think about it myself next year.

In the evening, I went out to a public meeting in the Buccleuch Centre to discuss the future of our local paper, The Eskdale and Liddesdale Advertiser.  The current owners, a Carlisle based newspaper group, are planning to close it and there a scheme afoot to form a Community Interest Company here to take it over and run it as a non profit making business.

The non profit making bit will be all too easy to achieve but running it as a business will require a lot of expertise, goodwill and enthusiasm.  There was a good turnout at the meeting so we may be able to hope for the best.

The leaf of the day is made up of these green shoots of growth…..

green shoots of growth

….and the better light this morning gave me the chance to take a slightly more respectable flying chaffinch of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture, taken by my sister Mary,  comes from Derby where she spent Christmas visiting our brother and his family.  She managed to find a fine pond in a local park.

Andrew's local park

We have been kindly treated by storms Barbara and Conor, whihc gave us no more than a glancing blow as they whisked up to the north of us but it was still good to wake up to a bright and pretty calm day today.  The downside was that it was much colder than it has been, with the thermometer showing just 3°C when we got up.

This is the minimum level that I consider safe for cycling so I got up into my cycling clothes ready for a prompt start. For some strange reason, possibly connected to the 3°C, I didn’t go out straight after breakfast but waited to see if the thermometer would rise a degree or two.

In the meantime, I stared out of the window in the hope of seeing some long tailed tits.  Only short tailed ones were available though.

blue tits

I had taken the fat balls out of the protective cage to see what might be attracted to them and unsurprisingly, a few jackdaws turned up….

jackdaw

…although they didn’t look very grateful.

A blackbird did a little dance on the edge of the lawn…

blackbird

…and while I was looking at it, I noticed two robins pecking away on opposite sides of the lawn.  They didn’t seem upset by each other so I can’t tell if the subsequent robin pictures that I took are of the same or different birds.

robins

I was destined not to see any long tailed tits today so another short tailed one will have to do.

coal tit

The thermometer didn’t rise appreciably no matter how often that I checked it so in the end, I had to get very well wrapped up and go our regardless.

I was aiming for a circular route of between thirty and forty miles and as I ended up doing 35 miles, I was quite happy.  I could have done a bit more but even at two o’clock, it was beginning to get decidedly gloomy so I came back while it was still light.

The ride itself was quietly enjoyable and I stopped to take a picture or two as I went.  I hadn’t realised that the camera was set to take black and white pictures and as a result I can’t show you the welcome sunshine that I enjoyed for the first part of the ride.

This is Waterbeck Church taken as I approached the village.

Waterbeck church

And this is Burnswark Hill, recently in the news as archaeologists have found an enormous trove of Roman bullets there, indicating that there may have been a training camp or perhaps even a siege of the native fort there.

Burnswark

For those wondering, the bullets were for slings.

I pedalled on down to Gretna where I looked at the new windmills…..

gretna windmills

I took a second shot a few yards further down the road.

gretna windmills

When I looked at the result on my computer, I was puzzled.  Judging by the relative heights, the pylon must be further away than the windmills and if you look back at the previous picture, that seems to be the case.  In this picture though, the wires seem to run in front of the windmill towers.  Perhaps the pylon really is in front of the windmills but I wonder if the camera has been guessing and making things up.  I will have to go back for another look.

For some reason I seem to have reset the camera mode before the last picture that I took. It was taken to show how the sun had gone in and the colour had gone out of the countryside….

Gretna

….which was, under the circumstances, a bit ironic.

I have done very little cycling in December, partly due some cold mornings and to the wind but mostly due to my persistent cold so although I adopted a stately pace and enjoyed the ride, I was still quite tired when I got home and the rest of the day passed in a very relaxed manner.

I am rather conscious that the blog may have been a bit dull recently but with dull weather, short days and a bad cough, I have been living a rather dull life lately so I thank loyal readers for their forbearance and hope for more exciting times to come.

No plant of the day today but I did find a chaffinch to be flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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No guest picture today but a picture of an intriguing present instead.  Our older son gave Mrs Tootlepedal a jigsaw puzzle and she has just started out on it.  I hope to reveal the picture as the puzzle is solved.

jigsaw

Our Boxing day weather can best be described as mixed, with sunshine, sleet, rain and wind all coming and going as the day went on.

Other things came and went as well.  I thought that I was looking at a standard clump of chaffinches when I checked out the feeder….

chaffinches

…but a second look showed me that there was a brambling at the back.  It stepped forward for a solo performance later on.

brambling

That was good as I always like to watch bramblings but even better was to follow when an odd shape caught my eye.

long tailed tits

It was a pair of long tailed tits, exceedingly infrequent visitors to the garden.  Another arrived a moment later. I have only had two other pictures of long tailed tits on the blog since I started (and neither of them very good at all).    There have been reports of them round the town so I hope that now that they have found the feeder, we may see them again.

Hedge and house sparrows were also to be seen….

dunnock and sparrow

And very sportingly, the Christmas robin put in an extra shift.

robin

Once again the brisk jet stream was driving fronts over our heads in a lively fashion and when a burst of blue sky appeared, I took the opportunity to nip out for a walk.

It was colder than it has been lately and although the sky was blue….

trees

…and there was fungus still to be see on tree stumps, there was also snow to be seen on the surrounding summits.

Whita with snow

 Golf hill

My plan was to walk up to the top of Timpen….

Timpen

…and enjoy the views but even as I looked up at the top of the hill, I could see grey cloud building up from the west.  I didn’t fancy getting caught in a snow storm so I turned to my right and walked down the track to the Bentpath road.

On the other side of the river, Castle Hill looked calm enough….

Castle Hill

…but I found myself walking through a sleety drizzle before I even got to the road.  I paused for a while when I reached it….

moss on a wall at Breckonwrae

…being distracted by moss on a wall but then decided to take the rather muddy track through the woods above the river which leads down to the Duchess Bridge.

Walk 2

I was able to fashion a handy walking stick from a fallen branch and with its help, I got down to the riverside without falling over.

The recent rain has put some life back into the little streams that run off the hillsides…..

Streams

…so I had a gentle musical accompaniment to my walk.

I was trying to take a suitably Gothic picture of a tree draped in hanging moss and lichen near the bridge when  a lone fungus on one of its branches caught my eye….

fungus on branch

…and I took that instead.

My route choice turned out to have been very sensible as the trees protected me from any rainfall and when I emerged into the town, the sun came out again.

Langholm Bridge

There were no dippers to be seen today and I just made it home before the rain started off once more…

coal tit

…and so I had a light lunch and settled down to doing another (enormous) prize crossword, grazing on various chocolates and other sweets which Santa had brought and then watched interesting and cheerful things on the telly.

The wind is due to drop tomorrow as the storms give us a break and I am hoping to be able to summon up the energy for a bicycle ride, if I can still remember how to ride a bike.

The leaves of the day are from a viburnum looking very perky, I thought…

Viburnum

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

chaffinch

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A very satisfactory day

No guest picture today and just the briefest of records.

We had weather more suited to the autumn equinox than the winter solstice but apart from that, it was a very good Christmas day.

We entertained Mike and Alison to a small glass of port when they dropped in in the morning (it was stormy enough for any port to be acceptable but we had a good bottle to hand).

We were visited by birds both large…

jackdaw

…and small…

goldfinches

…but mostly I was too busy eating the excellent Christmas lunch prepared by Mrs Tootlepedal and reading the excellent book that she gave me for my Christmas present to have time to look about much.

Mrs Tootlepedal herself watched the DVD which I gave to her and finished fitting a cushion cover which she has made to repair one which wore out.

cushion cover

It has been a very peaceful, enjoyable and relaxing day and you can’t ask for more than that.

I thank all the readers who sent good wishes and return them in spades.

 

 

 

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