A good decision

York Minster

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother’s recent peregrinations.  He passed the south door of York Minster on his travels.

York Minster

I was slightly annoyed to find that I was no better when I woke up this morning.  If anything, I was a little worse.  My throat was better and I had stopped sounding like a disgruntled frog but my cough was a bit worse so another possible cycling day went by without a foot on the pedal.

The weather was rather dull in the morning but, as so often, my day was brightened by the arrival of Dropscone and scones to go with coffee.

After he went on his way, I mooched around feeling a bit depressed by my everlasting cold.  Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help with at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop and I made some rather sombre brown lentil soup for my lunch.

In between times, I looked out of the window.

A dunnock was back on the chimney pot under the feeder.


We have a group of dunnocks lurking in our hedges at the moment.

Some of the birds looked a bit cross like me.


And some looked even crosser.

greenfinch and sparrow

I kept on thinking that I might go for a bike ride after lunch when the weather brightened up but I never quite managed to be able to ignore my chest which was saying, “Don’t cycle, ” in quite a loud though somewhat wheezy voice.

I looked out of the window again.  There were small birds…

blue tit siskin and great tit

…birds with a point of view…

greenfinch, chaffinch and robin

…and, in the end, a sunny bird.


I still couldn’t quite make up my mind whether to go for a quick but gentle pedal and in the end, I went for another walk just to stretch my legs.

I had a look at the garden survivors before I left.

november flowers

You can probably see why I like to walk along the river between the bridges even though the sun had gone back in by this time.

Esk and George Street

The little white dot that you can see in the middle of the river is our resident big gull.

Gull in Esk

I didn’t see much while I was walking, partly because there wasn’t much to see and partly because I was walking fairly briskly for a reason which will become plain later in the post.

I could see that the leaves are nearly all off the trees now….

Castleholm trees

…and I could see where they have gone.

fallen leaves

The path along the river bank was covered with them and I felt like royalty walking along a red carpet.

fallen leaves

When I got home, I admired the work that Mrs Tootlepedal is doing on her new path.  It shouldn’t be too long before I can show you the finished article.

Seeing the starlings on the feeder in the last couple of days had made me think of Gretna and the annual murmuration there.  Although it was rather cloudy, it wasn’t a bad afternoon so I suggested to Mrs Tootlepedal that  this might be a good moment to see if the starlings were actually murmuring.  She agreed that it might be and we got in the car and drove to Gretna.

The starlings don’t always congregate in the same spot every year so we thought that we had better try the place where we had seen them last year first.  As it turned out, we had made a good decision and our timing was perfect.

The clouds had left a gap for the evening sun over the Solway and we could see a gang of starlings perched on electricity wires not far from where we were parked.

starlings at Gretna

More starlings arrived and they shifted along the wires until they were directly in front of the setting sun.

starlings at Gretna

This was spectacular but not very promising for photography so I was pleased when they moved back up and flew past in front of us.

starlings at Gretna

For the next 25 minutes we were treated to a most enjoyable close formation flying display as more and more small birds flew in to join the flock.

starlings at Gretna

Sometimes they came very close…


…and sometimes they filled the sky above our heads.

starlings at Gretna

I took a detail from that last picture just to show the individual birds.

starlings at Gretna

From time to time, I tore my eyes off the birds to admire the sky…

Gretna sunset

…which was sensational.  Unfortunately, I had brought the wrong lens with me and couldn’t do full justice to the sky or the starlings.  The sunset was as much of a treat as the murmuration.

All too soon, as the light faded, the starlings got ready for bed and started to fly lower in the sky….

Gretna starlings

…until a corporate thumb pointed to the chosen roosting spot….

Gretna starlings

…and in the twinkling of an eye, the whole flock had subsided into the trees and bushes for the night.

We drove home in a very happy state of mind, admiring the sunset as we went.  The sky which had been pink and red in Gretna….


….was purple by the time that we got back.


We will probably go back to see the starlings again and there may be more next time as starlings migrate here from Europe as the winter goes on.

In spite of the thousands of flying birds we saw at Gretna, the flying bird of the day is still a local chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

39 thoughts on “A good decision

  1. Our rivers look like yours right now, and so do our trees.
    The sunset alone was beautiful but add the starlings and it is amazing. My son is stationed in Delaware to the south of us and he tells me that the starlings murmur there as well. He says that “some black colored birds fly like they were a school of fish.”
    It must be a spectacular sight.

    1. The sound of the wings and the calls of the birds as they fly overhead add to the spectacle. It is one of the occasions when awesome can be legitimately used.

  2. I think that both the starlings and the sunset were spectacular, I would have liked to have seen the results if you had taken the “right” lens. You know what they say, the right lens is always the one that you leave at home.

    I’m still enjoying the images of the flowers, since it’s turned cold here and there are no flowers to be seen any longer.

    1. We have had a series of near or below zero mornings without getting really cold so we are just about florally finished too.

      I thought carefully about lenses before bringing the wrong one.

  3. I just hope that you got the count of how many starlings participated in that murmuration. 🙂

  4. What staggeringly beautiful photographs you took and what a wonderful sight it must have been to see all those starlings with the naked eye so to speak, beats any amount of travelling.

  5. Sorry to hear about the everlasting cold, that’s rotten, but what a fantastic sunset display of both sky and starlings.

  6. The starling murmuration is a beautiful sight, especially against sunset’s molten colors.

    Your larches are still providing some gold color in the woods. I like seeing them.

  7. My word! Such sights- nature is remarkable and beautiful. The photos are stunning – I’m sure you used the correct lens! It’s lovely when an idea develops such a fantastic result.

  8. Oh, those starlings! They are gathering and mumurating (is that a word?) here too, but I have never been able to get decent photos. Well done.

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