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Archive for Jan, 2017

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s holiday in the deep south.  He decided to leave the mainland and travel to the Isle of Sheppey across this impressive (but ugly) bridge.

sheppey bridge

I had a discussion with Sandy as we walked along yesterday as to whether the day could properly be described as dreich.  He thought that it could on general grounds of being very grey and misty but I thought that perhaps the lack of rain disqualified it.   Today was even gloomier and I looked up the definition of dreich in a handy on-line dictionary.  It said:

Dreich (Old Scots origin)

A combination of dull, overcast, drizzly, cold, misty and miserable weather. At least four of the above adjectives must apply before the weather is truly dreich.

There was no question.  Today was truly, truly dreich.

It was far too gloomy for any decent bird pictures so naturally the little blighters queued up to have their pictures taken.

They do it on purpose.

Some were perching….

goldfinches in the drizzle

….in fact, a lot were perching….

goldfinch, robin and siskin

…and some were flying…

goldfinch

…in fact, a lot were flying…

chaffinches

…and all were laughing at me as I put the ISO up higher and higher and still couldn’t get a clean shot.

The drizzle let up enough enough at one point in the morning to allow me nip up to the town to order some more coffee and pop into the chemist to get some Vitamin D tablets to offset the weather.

It was a few degrees above freezing so I did occasionally think of a walk or even a soggy cycle ride but each time that I did so, a fresh gust of wind blew sheets of drizzle across the garden and like King Edward and his army, I thought again.

In desperation, I looked for colour indoors and found that our daughter’s two floral Christmas gifts were earning their keep.

jasmine

The jasmine is producing a steady trickle of flowers with the promise of lots more

hyacinth

The hyacinth is well on the way to its full glory

I had some soup for my lunch, looked out of the window from time to time….

robin

The robin returned

siskins

And siskins kept arriving

There was no doubt that it was a dull day in many ways so I made the best of it by putting a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and practising both my flute and choir songs.

Somehow or other, I managed to get to the end of the day without doing anything energetic or very interesting and I am hoping for better weather tomorrow.

My flying bird of the day was perhaps the worst actual picture but at least it was a more infrequent visitor so it was the most interesting. It’s a greenfinch…

flying greenfinch

…and it shows the drizzle quite well.

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Today’s guest picture shows a fine Zwartble tup.  It was sent to me by Irving, who bred it.  They are a Dutch breed.  I have never knowingly seen one before.

zwartble-tup

We had another grey day today, a day far too dark and gloomy to allow for taking proper photographs so I limited myself to taking only forty or fifty or so.  Well, you have to find something to do on a dull day.

I started off by looking out of the window.  Oddly enough, a blackbird was the easiest thing to see.

blackbird

And a robin brightens up the darkest day.

robin

Although the temperature hovered around 3°C, the day had two things going for it; it was dry and there was hardly any wind.  In these circumstances, even 3°C can seem quite cheerful so I got our my slow bike and went for a pedal before lunch.

I took the slow bike, which has a belt drive and an eight speed hub gear, so that I wouldn’t have to clean the chain and cassette on the fairly speedy bike yet again.  Constant bike cleaning is the downside of winter pedalling.  Being a slow bike, it also gave me plenty of chances to look about and keep an eye out for any remaining icy patches (fortunately there were none).

I started off well by seeing a dipper at Pool Corner.

dipper

I was thinking of going on a circular ride but when I got to Wauchope Schoolhouse, the road ahead looked so misty….

misty road

(The camera makes the situation look a lot better than it actually was)

….that I decided that the risk of being run over by a van or lorry in the mist was too alarming and I settled for my ‘outdoor gym’ and did 21 miles by going three times up and down the three and a half miles to Wauchope Schoolhouse.

My tree of the day is at the road  junction at the school.

tree

As I dawdled along, I saw a bright patch of lichen on a wall and stopped to investigate.

lichen

When I looked at the neighbouring stones in the wall, I saw that nearly every one had its own individual lichen on board.

And some had two…

lichen

…or more.

lichen

It was Lichen Central.  All the pictures were taken without moving my feet from the spot.

When I got home, I dug up a leek and made some leek and potato soup for lunch.  Mrs Tootlepedal was ready for some refreshment as she had spent the morning papering the stairwell.  As this involves diagonal cutting as well as the pasting and smoothing, it is hard work for the brain as well as the hands.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went back to work and I went off for a walk with Sandy.

We were strolling up the Lodge Walks when the sound of a chain saw filled the air.  It was Robin, our local wood artist hard at work.

Robin carving

He was at work on a collection of carvings set into a very large felled tree trunk.  His target is to cover the whole trunk, back and front with his work and I will try to keep an eye on it as it develops.  There is a very promising large bird beginning to emerge from the centre of the trunk.

He stopped to talk to us and show us the tools of his trade.   He mentioned that the most important item in his kit might be his first aid box.  He certainly needs a steady hand in his line of work.   We think that when the work is finished, people will come from far and wide to see it.

Sandy and I walked on.

It was even duller than the morning….

walk to Pathhead

….but there were still things to see, such as patterns of seed heads….

seed heads

…twisted roots exposed by water running off the woods behind….

tree roots

…pheasants’ footprints in the drying mud…

pheasants footsteps

…a tree rising above the competition….

tree

…and of course any amount of lichen on the trees as we passed.

tree lichen

We were walking in the opposite direction to the one which we usually take in the hope of seeing things from a different perspective and near the end of the walk, this hope paid off.  I have never noticed this charming tunnel when approaching it from the far end.

trees near pathhead

I thought that it might be worth a little enhancement…

trees near pathhead

…but I might be wrong.

The final detail was the serpentine curve of the road as we got back down to the Lodge walks again.

Sawmill road

It was Sandy who suggested that it was serpentine.

After a cup of tea and a biscuit when we got home, Sandy went off and I spent some happy time discarding many, many, many lichen pictures before my flute pupil Luke came.  I got out a new duet and he sight read it without a mistake.  A very satisfying moment for us both.

After tea, I walked up to the town to play trios with Mike and Isabel and we spent a very enjoyable hour playing Quantz and Mozart.  What could be a better way to end a cold, dark day?

The flying bird of the day is another level headed chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my son Tony, who came across this splendid waterfall while walking the dogs in the Dollar Glen in Clackmannanshire today.  He is having a birthday celebration weekend away.

Dollar Glen

There was nothing much to celebrate about the weather here today.  It was as gloomy as a Washington Democrat (the simile of the day).

It was just above freezing but so raw and grey that although I thought of a walk or even a pedal, in the end I couldn’t persuade myself to leave the warmth of the kitchen.  While I was there, I made a version of a Bolognese sauce for the slow cooker and looked out of the window.

It was so dark that the camera couldn’t believe that I was serious and in the end I went out into the garden for a minute or two to photograph things that stood absolutely still.

The early daffodil is doing its best to ignore the inhospitable weather.

early daffodil

Oddly enough there were some very static birds doing some hard staring while I was out there.

blackbird

collared doves

I soon went back in and did some necessary business for the Archive Group, looked at songs for the choir later in the day and went back to the kitchen and looked out of the window again.

It was a day for chaffinches.

chaffinch

chaffinches

Although they weren’t always welcome.

siskin and chaffinch

Siskins are small but rude.

Sometimes peaceful co-existence was possible.

siskin and chaffinch

Maybe they had spotted a common enemy.

I was happy to see a blue tit back at the fat balls.  They have been going down very slowly and need eating.  It  might take more than a single blue tit though.

blue tit

There was a moment when I felt so guilty about being idle that I nearly went out for a walk but when I was thinking about what clothes to wear for the outing, I looked out of the window and saw a lady walking up the road with an umbrella up.

I changed my mind.

Mrs Tootlepedal is now having a choir practice straight after the church service so she didn’t get back until nearly lunchtime and it wasn’t long after lunch before it was time to set off to Carlisle for our choir.  Mrs Tootlepedal has a full singing day on a Sunday.

The practice was very enjoyable.  This is a bonus when we are working for a competition.  Our conductor drives us hard but also takes care to praise us whenever he can and only criticises us under the severest provocation.  He has a remarkable well of enthusiastic good humour to draw on.  It is always fun to feel that you personally and the choir in general are improving at a song.

A slight pall was cast over the day by the untimely departure of Andy Murray from the Australian Open but on the up side, this saves us from the possible agony of watching him losing in the final yet again so we must be thankful for small mercies.

The plant of the day is a lilac bud….

lilac bud

…and the flying bird is a murky chaffinch in a shot which shows just how still they keep their heads when they are eyeing up a landing spot.

chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mike Tinker.  He was in Oban on the west coast of Scotland when he saw this fine sunset.

Oban sunset

We had some very welcome sunshine here today but the price to pay for it was a frosty morning and this in turn put paid to any idea of having a cycle ride in the sun.

I stepped out into the garden to see what was about and was pleased to see that a very shiny starling was toeing the line.

starling

The sunshine brought strong shadows over the seed  feeder so taking pictures of birds there was hard work but a blue tit visited the fat balls which are hanging on the lighter side.

blue tit

On the other side, Zorro the chaffinch was my only shot of note.

chaffinch

I idled the morning away, reading papers, doing the crossword and lending Mrs Tootlepedal a hand for a few minutes  as she papered the ceiling in the stairwell and upper landing.  Papering round a trapdoor in the ceiling, a velux window on the slope and a light fitting in between needs a very skilled operator and more than two hands at the trickiest moment.

I finally got my mojo going (rather gently) and went out for a walk to see what I could see. I was hoping for a dipper, some hair ice and some good exercise.

My walk had a bright start.  The snowdrops beside the dam at the back of the house get lots of sun when it is out and in response, they had come out too.

snowdrops

As I walked along the Esk to the Kilngreen, all was quiet with hardly a  bird to be seen.  At the Kilngreen the gulls were playing leapfrog along the fence posts…

gull

….but this reflective character in the Ewes took my fancy.

There was rich colour in the moss on the wall opposite the Buccleuch Estates yard….

moss on wall

….and a cone developing on the Noble Fir beside the new path on the Castleholm.

Noble fir cone

I kept an eye (and an ear) out for dippers as I crossed the Jubilee Bridge and saw one on a rock a little way upstream.  It was too far away for a good shot and it meanly flew off when I scrambled down the bank to get closer.  I walked along Eskdaill Street and up to Pool Corner in the hope of seeing another dipper there.   I was in luck.  It was a good way off too.

dippers

The dippers in the Esk and the Wauchope

On this occasion, the bird was kinder and hopped up onto a branch to give me a closer shot.

Dipper at Pool Corner

It was just a pity that the sun didn’t penetrate to this gloomy spot.

I walked on towards the Auld Stane Brig and then along Gaskell’s Walk, passing the intricate patterns of a retired rosebay willowherb ….

rosebay willowherb

…and some brilliantly frost decorated moss on a wall beside the road.

moss on wall

I was justified in thinking that this might be a day to find hair ice….

hair ice

…and there were quite a few examples beside the path.

Although in the sun, it was pleasantly warm for a walk, anything in the shade was still frozen.

Gaskell's Walk

It was such a nice day that when I got to the Stubholm, I decided to walk onwards to the Murtholm and Skippers Bridge.  A patch on a tree beside the track made me think of script lichen but when I took a closer look….

lichen

…I was a bit confused.  It does look as though there is some script lichen in there but there is other stuff too with the result that it looks more like hieroglyphic lichen than anything else.  (I made that up before anyone asks.)  Perhaps a knowledgeable reader can help me out.

On my way to Skippers, I passed a blue collar sheep, perhaps reflecting on recent political developments.

sheep on Murtholm

It was a lovely day.

Timpen from Murtholm

The scaffolding at the bridge didn’t seem to have got much farther so I didn’t linger but the steps up from the road just beyond the bridge looked so inviting….

steps up from Skippers

…that I walked up them and on to the old railway track.

old railway

This was once a branch line which connected Langholm to the Carlisle to Edinburgh ‘Waverley Line’.  Such has been the success of the re-opened northern section of the line from Galashiels to Edinburgh that hopeful people are now campaigning for an extension of the line all the way to Carlisle with an alteration of the route to take it directly through Langholm.  I think that they might have to do a lot of hoping.

The walk up the steps and along the railway was rewarded by a delightful path up through the old wood to the Round House.

Round House path

Sheer poetry on such a day.

After that, the journey back to the town was more prosaic, especially as it involved a visit to the Co-op to get something for our tea.

All in all though, it was an excellent walk and I was surprised to see when I got home that my mapping  program told me that it was comfortably over five miles.   So I got my dippers, my ice hair and some good exercise…..and some tasty baked potatoes for tea.

A win, win, win, win situation.

By the time that I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal had successfully completed papering the stairwell and we both felt it was time for a cup of tea and a sit down.

The flying bird of the day is a lone gull who gave me a fly past.

black headed gull

 

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Today’s striking guest picture comes from my brother who describes it as ‘dusky’.  I think  he must have been in London yesterday evening.

The thames at night

We had summer indoors today and winter outside.  They were brought to us by courtesy of the jasmine family.

jasmine

A gift from our daughter Annie has come into flower in the sitting room

winter jasmine

Its winter cousin keeps plugging away outside the back door.

In the garden there are now several clumps of promising snowdrops…

snowdrops

…but we are still waiting to see one in full flower.

The rhubarb crumble scenario is developing.

rhubarb

It might have been a suitable day for a cycle ride but a slight drizzle in the morning made me more than content to be sipping coffee with Sandy rather than getting wet.  After he had left, I turned to the main business of the day which was making marmalade.

As those of you who make marmalade in the traditional manner will know, it is a lengthy process.  The oranges have to be squeezed and sliced thinly which takes quite a lot of time in itself and then the resultant juice and fruit mixture needs to be simmered for at least two hours.

When the simmering is done, the sugar needs to be added and the mixture boiled until it is ready to set.  Then it is left to settle for some time and the mixture stirred to distribute the orange peel evenly.

Finally it is put into jars and left to cool before being labelled and covered.

There may be time during the process when a moment can be found to stare out of the window…

chaffinch

…but today as often as not, when that moment came, the birds were lurking round the back of the feeder.

Sometimes a bird obliged though.

goldfinch

A goldfinch is a pretty bird, worth the wait.

As well as the cooking, marmalade makers have to spend what seems like hours throughout the process in  washing their hands to get the stickiness off and then wiping off anything they may have touched while turning on taps, opening cupboards or picking things up and putting them down.

Still when it is all done, the light might have gone for the day but the reward is there for all to see.

marmalade

If we want enough marmalade to last us for a year. there might have to be another session!

I might have done something useful in the late afternoon but I was foolishly tempted to watch a bit of the Trump inauguration and found myself frozen into immobility as it unfolded and unable to tear myself away.

Finally, pangs of hunger got me out of my chair and I cooked a potato and feta bake for our tea.

It was quite a cooking day as I also made a fruity malt loaf in the breadmaker.

The evening brought sweet music as Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I played three familiar pieces which gave us great pleasure and soothed the spirit.

We are promised a sunny day tomorrow which will be most welcome.

I did find a flying bird among the orange peel.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows the pretty church at Cavers which my neighbour Gavin passed while on a walk in the country near Hawick.

Cavers

I had a well organised day today with a sting in the tail.

The morning started with a view of the feeder…

several chaffinches

Several chaffinches appeared

…which was followed by a brief floral tour….

daff, snowdrop and wallflower

Signs of spring on all sides

…and concluded with a spin down to Canonbie and back on the fairly speedy bike.  This is a regular route and the whole thing would have been quite humdrum except for a burst of song which stopped me in my tracks as I passed Pool Corner on my way out of Langholm.

The song came from a pair of dippers by the side of the pool.

dippers at pool corner

One below in full courting mode….

dippers at pool corner

…and one above, like Juliet on her balcony.

dippers at pool corner

Music must have worked its charm because in a trice, both birds were side by side, singing their little feathered hearts out.

dippers at pool corner

I pedalled on in an uplifted mood.

I was ready to be entertained by anything that I passed.

Tree with cows

A tree with added cows

cows being fed

Social services in a farming area – meals on wheels for coos.

A tree with starlings

A tree and field full of what I think are starlings

More work on the bridge at langholm.

More work on Skippers Bridge at Langholm.

The weather was as perfect as a January day could be for a pedal with very light winds, high clouds and a very friendly temperature.  My serotonin levels were well topped up by the time that I got home.

After a shower and lunch, it was time to set off to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda.

The train was on time and we even arrived a minute or two early.  Like the station at Carlisle, there are works going above the platform in Edinburgh and the bridge above the station has been well upholstered.

North Bridge

We took a bus down to Matilda’s from Princes Street which gave me a chance to take a picture of the old North British Railway hotel at Waverley Station…

NB Hotel

…built in a time when keeping the customer happy was part and parcel of running a railway.

We had a very good time being entertained by Matilda and her parents, especially while playing Snap.  Matilda won the first game by the simple expedient of taking all the cards into her care whether they were pairs or not.  But we all had a lot of fun.

After an excellent tea of cottage pie conjured up by Mrs Tootlepedal (or Scottidge Pie as Matilda referred to it), we caught the bus back to Waverley station and were a bit stunned to say the least to find that our train had been cancelled, as indeed had all trains running on the line.  Some unexplained incident had closed the line and we were at a loss as to how we were going to get home.  There were no notices or information but a kind lady in the ticket office advised us to go to the station entrance and wait for a bus to take us to Lockerbie.

We went and waited.  This gave me the chance to take a photo of Edinburgh by night.  Someone had been painting the town red.

Ediburgh

A bus duly arrived and we were taken to Lockerbie with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of comfort.  The only downside of the nearly two hour journey was that we didn’t get home until after eleven o’clock and that will explain the late posting and hurried prose of today’s blog for which I apologise.

I found a flying chaffinch of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mike Tinker’s New Zealand trip last autumn and shows the Japanese garden in Queens Gardens in Nelson on the South Island.

the Japanese garden in Queens Gardens , Nelson

I had a very restful day today, with three moments of activity in sea of peacefulness.  The peace was helped by the continued absence of birds in the garden apart from a handful every now and again.

The first event was entertaining Dropscone to a cup of coffee and enjoying two of his tasty scones enhanced by some home made blackcurrant jelly.

He is going away to the south of England for a few days holiday with his daughter Susan soon so not only will I miss the scones but I won’t get any recorder playing either.  I will try to be brave about this.

A very small group of goldfinches gave me something to look at after coffee.

goldfinch

I do mean a small group

goldfinch

Though it did increase a bit….

goldfinch

…and then a bit more

But that was the maximum.  A chaffinch tried to swell the numbers but was rebuffed.

goldfinch

I have bought a smart new feeder which holds a block of treats guaranteed to attract high quality birds to my garden….or so it said on the packet.   I have hung it up but the sum total of high quality birds attracted so far is a a single coal tit…..and that arrived when my back was turned and had gone by the time that I looked round.

(Before you ask, I saw it out of the corner of my eye.)

As a result of the new feeder, the fat ball cage has been put on the bench but it is still has loyal customers who spurn novelty feeding blocks.

robin

dunnock

After lunch, I went off for a dull pedal on a dull day, going up and down the five miles to the lower slopes of Callister twice.  I didn’t even take my camera as it was too gloomy but at least I got some gentle exercise.  My Garmin computer, which records my rides, is still working on the bike but it has taken a huff and won’t talk to my computer any more so readers will be spared any little maps of forthcoming rides until it has recovered its good humour.

I have tried all sorts of things – WD40, resetting the factory settings on the device, reinstalling the program that it talks to, woggling wires, kicking things and even carefully modulated bad language but none of them works.  This sort of thing is very annoying when something has been working perfectly well for years.  You might begin to suspect that is part of a dastardly plan by the manufacturer to tempt you into buying a new device.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to be a front-of-house volunteer for a screening of The Pirates of Penzance at the Buccleuch Centre and I went along later to enjoy the show.  I very rarely see a production these days with which I have no quarrels but this was one.  Director Mike Leigh put before the audience a clean and simple production, well sung and acted, staged in an imaginative and  clean modern setting which worked very well and which was well lit and at no stage did he put awareness of his clever direction before the audience’s enjoyment of a very witty show.

The only blemish on a charming evening was W S Gilbert’s tendency to make a mockery of an older woman.  It jars a bit.

I did manage to find a flying chaffinch in the morning’s bird desert.

flying chaffinch

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