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Archive for February, 2017

Today’s guest picture come from Mike Tinker.  Knowing my fondness for taking photos of pheasants, he sent me this picture to remind me of how they start out.

pheasant chicks

The planning for the day revolved around someone being at home to greet the gas man when he arrived to give our boiler its annual service.  Since we had been given a six hour window, this entailed quite a lot of hanging around, complicated by Mrs Tootlepedal spending two hours volunteering at the Buccleuch Centre and my anxiety to put a fine day to good use by cycling.

It was sunny but far too cold to cycle after breakfast so I was happy that I had arranged a dentist’s appointment followed by scone sampling with Dropscone over coffee. It had warmed up enough after coffee for Dropscone to go off to play golf while I walked round the garden…

azalea and tree peony

Things are busting out all over.

Elder lichen and moss

A garden in itself on an elder branch.

…and watched the birds.

We started in a yellowish sort of way with  siskins and a goldfinch…

siskin and goldfinch

…and then things got greener when a greenfinch arrived on the scene.

siskins and greenfinch

Greenfinches always look rather imperious even when they are sitting quietly in the plum tree.

greenfinches

Their motto might well be: Wha daur meddle wi’ me

A pair of blackbirds were busy feeding on the ground below the feeders.

blackbirds

They struck some good poses.

There was also a pair of robins and as they weren’t chasing each off the premises, they may be a couple which would be good.  I could only catch one of them at a time though.

robin

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Buccleuch Centre and I sat beside the phone in case the gasman called.  Some of the sitting was more metaphorical than actual as I made some dough for rolls in the breadmaker, hung out the washing and ate some soup and cheese for my lunch as well.

When Mrs Tootlepedal returned, I was already changed into my cycling gear and after a quick scout round the garden….

crocus and rhubarb

Progress

…I was soon cycling up the Wauchope road in chilly but windless conditions.  The sun was out and how ever much I may have been charmed by the bridges of Manchester, the views of Wauchopedale trumped them by far.

wauchopedale

This picture should enlarge a bit if you click on it.

I cycled to the top of Callister but didn’t want to get too far from home while the Mrs Tootlepedal Rescue Service was waiting for the gasman so I turned, appropriately enough, at an entrance to one of the valves on the main natural gas pipeline into our town…

gas valve puddle

…which pretty accurately reflected our recent changeable weather.

Having climbed Callister to get to my turning point, I now had the pleasure of the gravity assisted return journey….

Callister

…back down the hill.

I stopped to admire the lichen on a concrete fence post beside the road a little further on.  It was glowing in the sunshine.

concrete lichen

I had done 15 miles by the time that I got back to Langholm and seeing that the gasman had arrived and was at work, I nipped back up the road to Wauchope Schoolhouse to add another six miles to my total.

I stopped on the way back to add to my collection of winter trees….

tree

…though at not much more than three metres in height, this one may be regarded as more of a bush than a tree perhaps.

On the other side of the road, the afternoon sun provided a very mellow gate scene for me.

Wauchope road gate

There was still enough light when I got home for Mrs Tootlepedal to point out first a robin and then a dunnock, both perching on a bush outside the kitchen window.

robin and dunnock

Although they were only a small distance apart on the same bush at the same time, the double portrait above shows them in typically contrasting style.  The robin likes to survey the world from on high while the dunnock likes to peer at it cautiously from a bit of cover.

I was just shaping the bread roll dough into rolls when Mike Tinker dropped by to see how we had done in the singing competition.  He stopped for a cup of tea while I went off for a relaxing soak in the bathtub.

As I looked out of my bedroom window, I could see some lovely evening light on Whita so I opened the Velux window and took a picture of the hill and the monument over the roofs of Henry Street.  Quite by accident, I included the window as well and rather liked the result.

reflections of henry street and whita

Since it was Shrove Tuesday, Mrs Tootlepedal made some delicious pancakes for our tea and when the rolls had risen and been baked,  the day came to a very satisfactory end.

The morning scones with the conversation and coffee had all been interesting, the washing had dried in the sun, the rolls had come out round and brown, the pancakes had been flat and tasty and the cycling had been most enjoyable and on top of all that, the gas boiler had survived for another year in fine condition.  All is good.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Warning this post contains (far) too many words and pictures.

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who seems to have been Scarborough this morning.

Scarborough

Alert readers will have gathered from the title of today’s post that our Carlisle Community Choir did not carry off the prize at the Manchester choir competition.  Apart from that however, Mrs Tootlepedal and I had a very satisfactory weekend.

Dropscone kindly gave us a lift to Carlisle Station on Saturday morning as he was going into the city to do some business anyway.  This was very handy for us as the bus and rail timetable didn’t mesh at all well at that time.

The train was delayed a little by serious wind and rain causing a speed restriction as we went through the hilly part of the journey but we arrived in Manchester in time for a late lunch.

After lunch we walked round the centre of the city in rather gloomy and occasionally rainy weather.  The city planners have obviously mislaid their manual about consistent style as I have never seen such a hodgepodge of buildings old and new, beautiful and ugly, smart and dilapidated in the same place.  They have not been helped by first canals, then railways and finally large roads slashing their way through the centre of the built up area.

The city has many fine old buildings from the days of its wealth as a manufacturing centre…

Manchester art gallery

…and this Greek Temple, which turned out to an art gallery is one of them.  We popped in to get out of the rain and enjoyed a fine show of paintings by L S Lowry, one of my favourite artists.

Evidence of Manchester’s railway past was not hard to find…

Manchester

…and many of them had been converted to shopping or events centres.  We liked the little amphitheatre which had been created on front of this building.

Every city these days seems to need to have a really silly looking building and this one caught our eye as we went past…

Manchester building

By coincidence, there was an article in the paper which I read on the train while going home that said that the odd structure on the top of the building creates uncanny and unwelcome sounds when the wind blows. Who would have guessed that that might happen?

Last year, the sun had shone while I walked round the same area on the day of the choir competition.  This weekend, things were much gloomier…

Manchester canal

…and walking along the canals wasn’t an attractive proposition.

Mrs Tootlepedal liked these arty modern gargoyle waterspouts on one building.

Manchester canal

We didn’t have as long to explore as we would have liked as our pre theatre evening meal booking was for five fifteen, the only spare table that we could find.   When we got there, we were amazed to find that the Italian restaurant that we had chosen at random was both enormous, as it was sited in a large former office building, and full to the brim with early eaters.  Manchester certainly is a ‘happening place’ on a Saturday night in February.

Our meal was very good and we then walked down to the Bridgewater Hall for our evening performance.  The Bridgewater hall turned out to be a very modern concert hall and provided a rather austere setting for an evening of music, song and ballroom dancing headed by Anton and Erin of Strictly Come Dancing fame.  I had expected a more sparkly and spangly setting but the music and singing were good, the  costumes were very elegant and the dancing from the two principals and six energetic youngsters was outstanding.  It is wonderful how people can cross the floor so swiftly, so lightly and so athletically that it makes you want to get up and try yourself.  Fortunately I didn’t do anything so silly and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

When we got back to the hotel, I remarked to the concierge that it was a rather miserably wet evening and he replied, “What do you expect? It’s Manchester, it always rains.”

On Sunday morning, Mrs Tootlepedal had a lie in while I went for a brisk stroll with the intention of seeing some of the canal network.  It was a much better day as far as the weather went.

I went along a very cavernous street between two big new buildings and was amused that the architects had tried to lighten up the gloom with a dancing sculpture or two…

manchester home

…but I felt that they were fighting a losing battle.

I got to the canals and for a man who enjoys bridges, I had hit gold.

Manchester canal bridges

A railway crosses a road and canal

There were bridges of all shapes and sizes….

p1090545

…and some with added tunnels.

Manchester canal bridges

There were conventional picturesque canal scenes…

Manchester canal bridges

…with added geese…

Manchester canal goose

…and everywhere you looked there were more bridges…

Manchester canal bridges

…to some of which, I could only look up with wonder.

Manchester canal bridges

You could hardly find a more graphic image of the fact that the age of canals was overtaken by the age of the railway.

Sadly, the time for the  choir competition was getting closer so I couldn’t spend as much time as I would have liked (all day) and soon had to move on.  Just to show that it doesn’t always rain in Manchester, the sun came out as I passed the Library building.

Manchester Library

I picked up Mrs Tootlepedal from the hotel and we walked down to the the Whitworth Art Gallery where we met the rest of the choir who had arrived in their bus from Carlisle.  The gallery had provided us with a rehearsal space where we warmed up and sang through our songs.  We were encouraged to receive a cheerful round of applause from a small group of art lovers who had paused to listen to us.  It was a good place to sing and as a bonus, we were able to nip though to an exhibition of Andy Warhol paintings which were on special show in the main gallery.

We rolled on up to the Royal Northern College of Music where the competition was held and sang our songs as well as we could to an enthusiastic reception from the other choir members on the auditorium and then sat and listened to some of the other choirs sing.

There is no doubt that I enjoying singing choral music more than I enjoy listening to it so Mrs Tootlepedal listened to more choirs than I did but the choirs that I listened to were very impressive, even if to my taste their steely perfection took a bit of the joy out of their performances.

After the competition was concluded, the rest of the choir re-embarked on their bus and Mrs Tootlepedal and I headed off up town (in the rain) for another Italian meal and a visit to the cinema.   We went to see the much lauded film La-La Land and came out absolutely amazed not at the film itself but at the fact that it should even have got one Oscar nomination let alone 14.  It struck us as very dull fare indeed. Still, a good meal and a night at the pictures is not to be sniffed even if the film falls short of expectations.

Our journey home today was uneventful, with the train running on time and the connection with the bus allowing us time for a cup of coffee in the station hotel at Carlisle.

The sun had shone as we came through the Lake District hills but it got gloomy as we got home and showers of rain arrived not long after us.

I had a look round the garden.  Not surprisingly since the weather had been very miserable…

rain gauge

Two days of rain in the scientific rain gauge

…..while we were away, things had not developed very much.

crocus daffodil

I could only find one frog in the pond but obviously there had been a lot of frog activity.

frog and spawn

It was resting just under the surface of the water.

I tapped the feeder to loosen up the seed and it was soon very busy…

busy feeder

…with plenty of other customers waiting their turn.

chaffinch and goldfinch

The rain eased off and I went for a short walk to stretch my legs after the journey.

There were signs of spring…

currant and crocus

…and signs of the rain…

timpen and moss

…but it was good to see some hills after two days in the flat lands.

There was just enough light when I got home to see a robin and a great tit….

great tit and robin

…but soon it was time for tea and then I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.  We had a busy evening and played two divertimenti and five sonatas before we fell off our chairs exhausted.

This made an excellent finish for a very satisfactory long weekend of music and fun.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin

If you have got this far, thank you for your patience.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia, who was wandering across the Somerset levels at East Lyng when she was passed by a freight train.

East Lyng train

From our point of view, it wasn’t much of a storm yesterday but it was certainly calm and sunny when we got up this morning.  From a cycling point of view though, it was too cold and our pond was frozen over.  Under these circumstances, I was more than happy to spend a little time drinking coffee and nibbling treacle scones with Dropscone.

A goldfinch on the plum tree really caught the morning sun but equally a goldfinch found the concomitant shadows on the feeder.

goldfinch and greenfinch

While we were chatting, a great tit dropped by and hung around for a moment or two.

great tit

After Dropscone left with golf in mind, I took a quick turn round the garden…

hellebore, daffodil and wallflower

Hellebore, daffodil and wallflower enjoying the sun.

…cleaned and oiled my bike chain and set out for a cycle ride.  The temperature had risen to a safe level by this time but to compensate, the sun promptly went in.  There was a forecast of possible light rain later so I stuck to a fairly dull thirty mile circular route and stopped from time to time to look at three trees.

pine tree near Dunnabie

A fine tree by a heavily patched section of road on the way to Waterbeck

tree near Dunnabie

A battered tree against an unwelcoming cloudscape

Near Sprinkell

The Tour of Britain peleton once squeezed past this tree along this narrow road.

A bit further along the same road, I stopped to take a picture of the burn in a little valley below me as I climbed a hill after crossing it on a small bridge…

near chapelknowe

…and I would have enjoyed the view even more if I hadn’t been well aware that in half a mile or so, I was going straight back down another hill to cross the same burn again.   That is cycling though.

The first ten miles of the trip were quite hard work with several climbs into the wind but thereafter I had the benefit of a most friendly breeze at my back and no steep hills so that I enjoyed the last twenty miles a great deal.

I stopped as I crossed the road bridge over the Irvine Burn three miles from home and looked at a little farmer’s bridge a few yards up stream…

Irvine Burn bridge

…and then I crossed the farmer’s bridge and looked back at the road bridge which at one time was crossed by  the  A7 to Langholm…

Irvine Burn bridge

…and then I turned round and stared open mouthed at the vast embankment which carries the new A7 and which must have a little hole at its foot to let the burn through.

Irvine Burn bridge

As a driver, I like the new road on its embankment and as a cyclist, I am grateful to it because it allows me to cycle up the old road in peace.

When I got back home, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy working in the garden and in spite of a light drizzle which started almost the moment that I got off my bike, I walked round the garden with my camera in hand.

The ice on the pond had gone and at least some frogs had survived.

frogs

Although new floral developments have been slowed by the recent poor weather, one crocus had defiantly opened up its petals while all the rest remained closed for business.

crocus

Mrs Tootlepedal’s avenue of snowdrops along the back path are still looking well…

snowdrops

…and they put thoughts of black and white flower studies into my head.

snowdrops

snowdrops

Almost everything looks interesting if you peer closely enough.

The drizzle didn’t come to anything so I thought that I might go for a little walk but then I had a second thought, watched a bird or two…

chaffinch and siskin

A chaffinch and siskin perform a balancing act

….had a cup of tea and a shower and did the crossword instead.

After that, the day ground gently to a halt.

We are going to Manchester for a couple of days tomorrow, both for a short break to take in a show and see the city and to sing with the Carlisle choir in a competition and I may well take the chance to take a day or two off the blogging treadmill while I am there, giving both myself and the patients readers a well earned rest.  I may succumb to temptation but if you don’t see a post for a day or two, wish us luck in the competition and be prepared to see some city pictures when we get back.

The plant of  the day is a blushing Euphorbia…

Euphorbia

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

siskin

 

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There is no guest picture today because I do not have one and so a gallery from the Moorland Feeders will take top billing instead.

coal, blue and great tit

We were threatened with wind, rain and snow as storm Doris came to visit us today but after a night of rain, we were largely untroubled by her  during the day.  Since there was heavy snow to our north and gales and flooding to our west and south, once again we seem to have got off lightly.

It was quite wet when I went up with Sandy to help him fill the Moorland Feeders but in spite of the rain, we spent a little time on the hide.  We weren’t rewarded with anything special in the way of interesting birds but there was constant activity so we weren’t bored.

Among the throngs of great, blue and coal tits, siskins and chaffinches, we noticed a greenfinch and a woodpecker or two…

woodpecker and greenfinch

…but this bedraggled pheasant really summed up our visit.

soggy pheasant

Sandy stayed for a cup of coffee when we got back and when he went off, I spent a moment or two looking at our own birds….

blue tit

…and was pleased to see that some pink pellets had tempted a blue tit to come to the feeders.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I spent quite a lot of time considering whether it was a good idea for Mrs Tootlepedal to brave the floods and snow and travel to Edinburgh to see Matilda but as the Edinburgh train service was disrupted by floods between Carlisle and Lockerbie, we thought that it would be wise not to risk it and she went off to Carlisle in the car to do some useful shopping instead.

While she was out, I went for a short walk to check whether the repair at Skippers Bridge had survived its first angry river test.

It had.

Skippers Bridge repair

I am sorry about the branches in front of the bridge but it wasn’t a day to get too close to the water’s edge!

Skippers Bridge

Seen from the downriver side, you realise how much of the force of the river hits the central pillar when the water is high.

On my way down to the bridge, I kept my eyes open.  I usually look at walls and rocks for my lichen shots but today I was looking at trees and saw both script lichen, probably on a beech…

script lichen

…and this fine colourful selection on a silver birch tree trunk.

lichen on birch

There was plenty of water that was not going down the rover.

flooded gate

On my way back from the bridge, I walked up through the oak and birch wood…

oak tree

…and this gave me the chance to look back down on the bridge from above….

skippers bridge

…and it also took me past a wall where I could be sure of seeing some blue green algae (which is often yellow).

The New Hampshire Gardener had a wonderful picture on his most recent post showing how unexpectedly fluffy this algae is and I wanted to check this out.  Although it was very damp, our algae looked quite fluffy too….

blue green algae

…though my pictures weren’t very good.   I will come back on a better day and have another look.   It is very educational reading other people’s blogs and I learn something on most days.

After playing about with the buttons on my camera on my last walk, I met another wall further on today on which gave me the same colour effect but without any pressing of buttons on my part.  The wall really does look like this.

red brick

My walk had been remarkably pleasant in spite of a light drizzle and I took a last look at the river before I crossed the suspension bridge…

River esk in flood

…and went home for a nice cup of tea and a slice of toast and marmite….and a final look out of the kitchen window.

goldfinch and chaffinch

Mrs Tootlepedal got back safely from Carlisle which was encouraging as later in the day, Susan arrived to take me down to the city  to play with our recorder group.  The day had calmed down completely by this time and there was even the odd star to be seen.

We had a good play, followed by an excellent biscuit with our tea and drove home thoroughly relieved to have avoided any of the scenes of storm related accidents and disasters being shown on the news programmes.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch in the drizzle.

flying goldfinch

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I have raided my brother’s visit to Exeter for another guest picture today.  He had rather gloomy weather for the trip but managed to get out for long enough to photograph a new bike and pedestrian bridge over the river.

The river and a handy new foot/bike bridge

Today was the last of my visits, for a while  at least, to the Moorland Feeders to act as a fill in feeder filler as the regular workers are returning from their long  weekend in New Zealand shortly.

I went up with Mrs Tootlepedal.  She kindly acted as assistant filler but it was a rather chilly and wet morning so we didn’t stay long.

I sat in the hide for a moment or two and very much surprised a woodpecker when my camera flash went off unexpectedly….

woodpecker

…which was a pity as it was right in front of me at the time.  It left in short order.

I watched a succession of tits visiting the nuts…

coal, blue and great tits

…and admired the delicate gradations of colour on the backs of  the blue and great tits.

tit colours

On our way home, we stopped to look at the work on the damaged cutwater of Skippers Bridge and were very surprised to see that it had been finished…

skippers Bridge repair

…and very neatly too.

skippers Bridge repair

It may get tested as we have heavy rain forecast for tonight.

After a cup of coffee, I went out into the garden and picked a couple of leeks and then made some leek and potato soup for lunch.

By this time, the rain had stopped and there was even a little sunshine so while I was cooking, I was entertained by the birds.

siskin and chaffinches

Very entertained.

chaffinches flying

I did think of cycling after lunch as the better weather continued but it was quite windy and as I haven’t done much walking lately, I decided that a walk might be better value.

Before I left, I was drawn to the pond by the mellifluous croaking of the frogs.  They were in affectionate mood…

frogs

…and one in particular tried to catch my eye with some elegant throat puffing.

frog

I tore myself away and walked down to the river to see if I could spot an oyster catcher or a dipper.  An oyster catcher on a rock in the Esk was most co-operative….

oyster catcher

…but although I saw two dippers as I walked up the road beside the Ewes Water, they were both obscured by branches and I couldn’t get a good shot.

I walked up the track from Whitshiels,  hoping to find a British Soldier lichen or two on a gatepost where they usually live and was pleased to see that they were still there.

British Soldier lichen

The red spots are tiny so I was even more pleased to find some helpful light when I got close.

British Soldier lichen

I walked on up the hill in a very cheerful mood and thanks to the sun lasting well, I took far more pictures than I should have with the result that this post has gone a bit over budget as far as images go.   Still, it was a good day for taking pictures so it would have been a pity not to take a lot.

The views were good….

Ewes Valley

…and I played around with the camera settings to give a bare tree a slightly mysterious feel….

tree at Whitshiels

…and thinking of my black and white flower challenge tried the same settings on a gorse flower.

gorse

I am getting a few ideas.

On my way back to the town, I watched buzzards and hunted in vain for frogs in the quarry puddles as well as checking out the moss on a stone wall….

moss on wall

As I came down past the golf course, I saw a very colourful shed which I have never noticed before.  I don’t know whether it is new or whether I have just been unobservant hitherto.

shed beside Kirk Wynd

No camera tricks there.  It really is that colour.

The colours on the shed made me think of the camera colour picker though and I took this shot of the ninth green on the golf course….

ninth green

…before dropping down into the Market Place.  For once, there were no cars parked in front of the  new tourist information centre where I often volunteer in the summer so I took a picture to show it in all its glory.

Welcome to Langholm

It’s quite hard to miss.

By the time that I got home, the sun had gone and after taking a picture of a hellebore in the back bed…

hellebore

I cheated by holding its head up.

…I set about the first compost sieving of the new season with Mrs Tootlepedal.  We were dealing with a bin of substantially aged kitchen compost and it was so well rotted and friable already that it hardly needed sieving. It was a gentle start to the composting year.

Some drizzle tried to discourage us as we worked but we looked it sternly in the eye and it went away.  As it went, Mike Tinker arrived.  He came just as we were stopping for a cup of tea and so he joined us and we enjoyed some good conversation with our biscuits.

After he left, I went through the pictures while simultaneously practising the choir songs for Sunday.  It worked surprisingly well and I think that I might well have got them off before the big day.

In the evening, I went out to sing with our Langholm choir and had an enjoyable warble but I took care not  to sing too loudly.  My voice is feeling the strain of the constant practice a bit and it would be very annoying to arrive in Manchester with the songs learned but with no voice to sing them.

The two flowers of the day speak of spring; the daffodil is from the garden and the crocus from the bank of the Ewes at the Kilngreen.

crocus and daffodil

The sunshine today was really lovely and it looks as though we might escape the worst of the winds during Doris Day tomorrow, although it is due to rain a lot.  We are keeping fingers firmly crossed.

Meanwhile, the flying bird of the day is a gloriously sunny, fully streamlined goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s visit to Exeter.  It is self explanatory. (Just in case it isn’t self explanatory, here is a link.)

exeter customs house

We had a pretty strong indication from the Met Office that it was going to rain in the afternoon.  This meant that if I wanted a pedal, I would have to get organised a bit better than usual and get out promptly after breakfast.  To my surprise, I did get organised reasonable promptly and  if I didn’t get out strictly after breakfast, it was at least before coffee time when I hit the road.

In view of the impending downpour, I didn’t hang about taking pictures and increasing wind, often a sign of rain here, towards the end of my 25 mile trip encouraged me to pedal a little harder with the result that I got home just before the rain started in earnest.

There was the merest drop or two of rain by the time that I had put my bike in the garage so I got a quick walk round the garden.

I tried out a camera/lens combination which I hadn’t used before and got rather unsatisfactory results but one or two at least showed what I was pointing the camera at.

crocus

The Camera Club has a challenge to produce black and white pictures of flowers for next month so readers may expect a few trial efforts from time to time.

crocus

Hmm.

There were lots of very unsatisfactory pictures of crocuses on the camera card so I put another one of them through the photo editor….

crocuses

…in an effort to make the best of the bad job.

I don’t think that that camera/lens combination will reappear, or not at least until there is some much better light.

All the same it was good to see the crocuses were appreciating the 10°C temperature even if it wasn’t sunny.

Mrs Tootlepedal was volunteering at the Buccleuch Centre coffee bar so I went in to have a bit of lonely lunch and a look out of the window.

Chaffinches circled the feeder….

chaffinches

…and I took a couple of portraits as they settled down.

angry chaffinch

This one was not a happy bird…

chaffinch

…but I thought that this one looked quite philosophical as it was buffeted by wind and rain

A set of rather severe looking siskins turned up with no time for socialising or fighting.

siskins

The day got gloomier and gloomier so I put the camera away and settled down to go over the songs for the choir several times in an effort to get them solidly entrenched in what remains of my brain.   There is no doubt that in my case steadily advancing years have taken their toll on my memory.  In my youth, I passed all my exams on memory skills alone without bothering to understand much of what I was writing down but now it is a struggle to learn twenty lines.

Annoyingly, as I sing through the songs concentrating on correcting any lapse from my last go, I make a different mistake each time.  It is very frustrating.  Mrs Tootlepedal came along  and that lifted my mood.

The rain is pounding the windows of the house as I write this in the evening but we are being offered the chance of a little sunshine tomorrow which will be welcome.  In contrast we are being offered the fourth named storm of the winter on Thursday with the strong possibility of gales and even snow.  The storm has been named Doris.  This will presumably make Thursday, Doris Day.  Whip crack away!

I was looking through the pictures which I had taken at lunchtime when I came across this interesting composition.  I took me some time to work out how a bird might have three claws on a perch and simultaneous open and folded wings!

chaffinches

I got there in the end.

The flying bird of the day is another of the chaffinches as I didn’t have much choice today.

flying chaffinch

Oh the Deadwood Stage…….

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Today’s guest picture was taken by Mike Tinker when he was visiting a zoo in New Zealand.  Neither Mrs Tinker nor Mrs Tootlepedal are flattered in any way.

Mrs T

The day started very grey and drizzly and I was more than happy to spend some of the morning sampling Dropscone’s scones with a bit of Cumbrian honey to add flavour while we drank a cup of coffee or two.

Before he arrived, I had started the day by going up to the Day Centre after breakfast to collect the key for the camera club meeting in the evening.  This required the use of an umbrella and I was surprised when I got back to find that there was enough light to see a bird or two approaching the feeder.

siskin

It was breezy enough to slow down even the siskins as they came in to land which made my job a little easier.

The rain sometimes came with a bit more force but it didn’t discourage the birds today.

flying chaffinch

The day began to brighten up a little after coffee and I arranged with Sandy to go for an excursion in the afternoon.  In the meantime, I cycled round to the shop for some supplies and on my way back I saw this touching scene on our neighbour’s fence.

collared doves

It stayed dry so I was able to wander round the garden, where in spite of the morning rain, there were definite signs of longer days and warmer weather to be seen.

crocuses

_dsc2297

hellebore and rhubarb

I was just daydreaming on the subject of rhubarb crumble when my train of thought was disrupted by loud sounds from the pond.  It was alive with frogs….

frogs

…. literally heaving with them.

frogs

I counted fifteen frogs in our small pond.  It is an annual source of wonder to me that so many frogs return to our pond at the same time as each other.

Now we just have to hope that we don’t get a hard frost to undo all their hard work.

Sandy duly appeared after lunch and we decided to go up to the Laverock Hide at the Moorland Feeders to see what was going about there.

The sun came out while we there and although there was a strong enough wind blowing to make me very glad that I wasn’t out on my bike, the birds weren’t discouraged and we were treated to a constant stream of visitors to the feeders.  The hide itself was quite busy too and five other people came in and out while we were there.

Between the frogs in the morning and the birds in the afternoon, I managed to take far too many pictures and had a struggle to look through them all later on.  These are just a few from the hide.

I always enjoy watching the greater spotted woodpeckers tuck into the peanuts.  They show great concentration on the task in claw.

woodpecker

Siskins on the other hand, are often distracted by squabbling.

siskins

Some less frequent visitors were to be seen…a couple of greenfinches….

greenfinches

…and a lone brambling.

Brambling and blue tit

Sharing with a blue tit

The largest number of birds on the feeders was made up by coal, blue and great tits which swarmed over the feeders in waves.

great tits

Three great tits

One old friend gave me a sideways look.

pheasant

We left the hide and went down to the river at Hagg-on-Esk to see if there were any waterside birds to be seen but we were disappointed and came away with only a few river views for our trouble.

The sun had gone behind a cloud as we walked up stream…

River Esk

…but it came out again as we walked back down.

River Esk

When we got back to Langholm, Sandy went off to do some decorating and I settled down to practise a song or two for next Sunday’s competition.  Mrs Tootlepedal joined in and we made a merry noise.

In the evening, I met Sandy again at the Camera Club meeting.  Thanks to business commitments, illness and holidays, we had a reduced attendance but once again there were a lot of interesting images to admire.  Our two new members are keen on something a bit different and we have been challenged by them to produce a black and white image of a flower for next month’s meeting, preferably without using any of the automatic features on our cameras.

By chance I took this shot today while I was out in the garden.  It was nearly in black and white…

snowdrops

…but I will have to try to do a bit better to meet the challenge.

The flying bird of the day brings back back memories of a miserable morning after a very pleasant afternoon and evening as far as the weather went..

flying goldfinch

 

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