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Archive for Dec, 2017

Today’s guest picture is a glimpse of the Regent Canal at Camden, kindly sent to me by my sister Mary.

Regent's canal at Camden Town

We had been threatened by heavy rain and gales in the morning, courtesy of storm Dylan but once again we got off very lightly with no more than a stiff breeze and no rain at all when we got up.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I were able to cycle off to sing in the church choir after breakfast with no danger of being blown off our bikes or getting soaked.

We got back from church in time to see a robin…

robin

….and welcome our last visitor of 2017, the recorder playing, choir singing, container lady and good friend, Sue.

Mrs Tootlepedal had made fish pie and there was plenty of cheese about so we had a nourishing lunch and from time to time, we looked out of the window at a flock of goldfinches which had come to the feeder.

goldfinches

Every perch on both feeders was taken by goldfinches and more waited their turn.

goldfinches

The collective name for goldfinches is a charm and it was indeed charming to see so many in our garden.

Although we had been promised rain in the morning and a dry afternoon, it started to rain quite heavily while we ate our lunch….

blackbird

…and things dudn’t look promising as far as a walk went at all.

We had just settled down in the sitting room after the meal, ready to spend an hour or so in quiet conversation, when I spotted a ray of sunshine.

We leapt up and looked for boots.  Sue’s were in her car and while she was outside fetching them, she saw a wonderful rainbow.   I grabbed a camera and went into the garden.

rainbow

The sunshine was fleeting though and by the time that we had put our boots on, the sun and the rainbow had gone.

Still, we had our boots and coats on so we set off for the walk, more in hope than expectation of keeping dry.

It did seem as if it was raining as we went through the park but it was probably just water dripping off the trees.

dripping needles

And when we got into open country, the rain had gone and we did the rest of our walk in breezy but dry conditions.

My daughter Annie has given me a book on moss for Christmas so I will have to pay more attention to moss in 2018.  There is plenty about.

mossy wall

When you walk with different people, you see different things and I would have passed two stones without a second glance but Mrs Tootlepedal, who likes the history contained in rocks, thought them interesting enough to stop and examine them.

stones

Sue liked the colour combination of the hawthorn berries and the tree lichens beside the track.

haws and lichen

My camera didn’t do it justice.

I took the next picture to reassure doubters that there is indeed intelligent life on the earth.

two wise women

It was pausing to enjoy the view as we climbed up Warbla.

The view when we got to the top was sombre and although there were a few gaps in the clouds, the sun never found one to shine through.

gloomy view of Langholm

Proof that we made the summit.

Warbla with women

I took this picture of the town bridge, a mile away and on a very gloomy day just to impress Sue with the abilities of the Lumix.  She was impressed.  It is not cropped.

bridge

Sue has been studying lichens at her plant classes so naturally we stopped to look at the park wall on our way home.

lichen

And as we walked round the garden when we got back, I realised that I hadn’t taken a tree picture on the walk and looked at our walnut tree.

walnut tree

There was still a little light left in the west and Sue decided to make the most of it by heading home before it got dark.

We had been more than pleased both to see her and to get a walk in and we would have been thoroughly delighted with the visit even if she hadn’t brought some very tasty home made biscuits with her.

Alison and Mike had brought biscuits with them when they visited us on Friday so the end of the year has been very well be-biscuited.  These are the sort of friends you want.

Once again it was generally too gloomy for flying birds but the burst of sunshine which brought the rainbow also brought a very fine perching starling of the day.

starling

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the patient readers who have ploughed through another year of these posts and wish you all a very happy new year.   Special thanks goes to those who have sent me guest pictures (keep them coming) and those who have been kind enough to offer the comments on the posts which are always appreciated.

Thank you and good night.

 

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Today’s guest picture is a snapshot of the weather in Manitoba.  It was sent to me by Mary Jo.  It makes even a very gloomy winter’s day in Langholm look toasty.  As Mary Jo said, it provided an excellent excuse for a prolonged lie-in. These are degrees C.

Manitoba weather

Shakespeare posed the rhetorical question, “O, who can hold a fire in his hand / By thinking on the frosty Caucasus?” so although I felt a great deal of sympathy for Mary Jo’s deep freeze, it didn’t make our miserable day here seem any better.

It was above freezing and much of the snow had melted but there was enough slush about to make walking an activity which required attention and the low mist didn’t make being outside attractive anyway.

We had a quiet morning indoors and even watching the birds wasn’t much of a distraction as there weren’t many about today and the light was appalling.

If they sat very still, I could catch them…

siskin

robin

siskins

….but there was no much point in wasting time with a camera.

After lunch, we were promised a slight lift in the gloom and when it came, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went out for a stroll with a bit of shopping thrown in.

The walking turned out to be less problematic than we feared and there were  parts of the walk where the snow and slush had almost disappeared.

Stubholm

A bright spot on a dark day was a burst of flame in the heap at the stables on the Stubholm.

fire

When we got to the Murtholm, it was almost possible to believe that it hadn’t snowed yesterday at all….

Murtholm

….but a look up at the  slopes of Warbla told a different story.Warbla with light snow

We crossed Skippers Bridge for the last time in 2017….

 

Langholm Distillery

…and as usual were impressed by the detail in the lichen on the parapet of the bridge…

skippers lichen

…and I took the last photograph of the bridge for the year as we walked back to the town.

Skippers Bridge

There was a promise of brighter skies behind the trees on the opposite bank…

trees

….but it was only a promise and it soon faded back to grey.

We did our shopping and then walked home, happy to have had some exercise and to have met some friends on the way.

The little Lumix which sits in my pocket when I go for walks is a marvel of technology but it has odd quirks and one that came to the fore today is its positive dislike of catkins.  I saw some very chirpy reddish hazel catkins in the hedge while we were talking to a friend whom we had met on our walk so I got up close and tried to take a picture of them.

The Lumix simply wouldn’t focus on them.  It didn’t focus on anything else but just wouldn’t focus on them.  It claimed it was focussing on the catkins but it was lying.

catkins

There is just something that it doesn’t like about catkins.  It’s a great mystery to me and I sometimes think that I have spent the best part of my later life trying to get a decent catkin picture.

We had a quiet evening in.

Fortunately, it is going to be a degree or two warmer tomorrow so we shouldn’t be troubled by frozen slush but unfortunately, it is going to be wet in the morning and  a lot windier in the afternoon so it looks as though 2017 is going to end in a way that will typify the whole year….with rotten weather.   We are investing a lot of hope in a better year in 2018 as Mrs Tootlepedal has big gardening plans and I want some enjoyable cycling days.

This was the best effort at a flying bird of the day that I could manage.

goldfinches

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture from Irving, taken earlier on,  shows the Black Esk reservoir, the source of our drinking water these days.

Black esk

After yesterday’s crisp and sunny weather, we could hardly have had a more different day today.  It was soggy, grey, cloudy and cold…

…but there were compensations.

snowy garden 2017

The view from an upstairs window in the morning

snowy garden 2017

Untrodden snow on the drive

It was a winter wonderland.  Or at least, it would have been a winter wonderland if there hadn’t been a persistent damp drizzle and if the clouds had lifted to reveal the hills.  As it was, it was somewhat of a damp squib of a day.

The birds really appreciated the feeder and there were dozens on the ground, on the feeder, on the plum tree and even more waiting off stage on the walnut tree.

snowy birds

Some birds seemed quite happy as more snow fell…

chaffinch, goldfinch, siskin

…but some just couldn’t contain their impatience.

chaffinches

I got out a shovel and cleared a path along the drive and some of the pavement outside the house and then after a look around…

snowy garden 2017

…went back in.

The day took a turn for the better when Dropscone came round with some traditional Friday treacle scones and my coffee blend worked out well.

We caught up on Dropscone’s golfing adventures and his family news and then he walked off through the snow again.

It had stopped snowing by this time so I thought that I ought to take a bit of exercise.  I strapped the Yaktrax to my wellies and set out to see where my fancy would take me.

It took me past the church…..

parish church snow

…with its details neatly picked out by the snow.

Then I passed the Meeting of the Waters, presenting a marked contrast to the sunny scene when we were here feeding ducks with Matilda a couple of days ago.

meeting of the waters snow

There was no golden winter light today and a rather ghostly scene appeared when I looked at the trees across the Castleholm.

snowy trees

Individual trees had been picked out by the falling snowflakes.

snowy trees

I met a jogger on the Lodge Walks.  She was running rather gingerly on the icy surface but remarked as she passed that the conditions on the track to Potholm further back had been more comfortable.

My fancy turned to the track to Potholm.

It would mean a five and a half mile walk in total but the lure of snowy scenes and good conditions underfoot led me on and I pushed ahead, ringing Mrs Tootlepedal first to stop her worrying about a longer absence than was expected.

The decision turned out to be a good one.

There were plenty of snowy scenes.

View of Potholm from Langfauld

And excellent walking on the track through the Langfauld wood.

Langfauld

The bridge at Potholm marked the furthest point of my walk.

Potholm Bridge

I met a second jogger coming towards me on the road from Potholm.

jogger on Potholm road in snow

The scene was white enough to make a sheep look quite grey by comparison.

sheep in snow

The snow and the grey sky made a good backdrop for this tree at the Breckonwrae.

tree in snow

And I finished up taking the same shot a the end of my walk as I had taken at the start of our walk yesterday.

Today:

langholm in snow

Yesterday:

View from Scott's Knowe

Both walks had been really enjoyable.

I got back in time to have a very late lunch and enjoy a robin in the snow….

robin in snow

…and a couple of the many blackbirds scavenging under the feeder.

blackbirds

Because the weather was expected to be rather inhospitable later in the evening, Mike and Alison came round for the usual Friday evening visit in the afternoon.  Alison and I enjoyed playing pieces by Rameau, Loeillet and Woodcock and then we sat down with Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal to a cup of tea, some excellent home made (by Alison) mince pies and a few ginger biscuits to dunk in the tea.  It was a good way to round off the Christmas holidays.

Now we are preparing for the New Year.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch once again.  They are very reliable birds if you don’t have a lot of time to look out of the window..

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony’s visit to the pre Christmas fun in Edinburgh.  He saw salmon being smoked.

smoking salmon

We had another frosty but bright day today with the temperature once again struggling to get above zero.

Most of the morning was spent getting everything packed and ready for the departure of our guests who were heading back to Edinburgh after lunch, hoping to get the best of the driving conditions for the trip.

Among all the action, I didn’t get much chance to look out of the kitchen widow until Matilda and her parents had gone but perhaps I wouldn’t have seen much as Alistair spotted the sparrowhawk paying us a visit and picking up an unfortunate small bird on its way.

Once we had waved our guests off and shed a sorrowful tear, I did a little robin spotting….

robins

…and then Mrs Tootlepedal and I set off to see how the felling of the Becks wood was going on.

It was still really chilly as the frost in the garden showed….

garden ice

…but it was a glorious December day for a walk….

View from Scott's Knowe

…and as long as we stayed in the sunshine, it even felt quite warm.

The felling of the Becks wood is going on apace.

Becks wood felling

We were able to watch the skilled operator cutting trees, lifting them up and snedding and slicing them with ease.

Becks wood felling

It won’t take him long to clear the whole wood.

We obviously couldn’t go through the wood so we turned back and walked down to the Wauchope road through the field, taking a party of visiting walkers with us.  They had been hoping to do the Becks walk and were pleased to get some guidance on an alternative route.

When we got down to the road, Mrs Tootlepedal headed for home and I crossed the Auld Stane Brig….

Auld Stane Brig

…and headed for a track up the hill.

On my way I passed a curious frozen puddle with a translucent centre….

frozen puddle

…and yet another example of hair ice.

hair ice

It was cold in the trees and I was pleased to come back into the sunshine when I got onto the hill.

There were trees to be seen at the bottom of the hill….

trees

….a sheep on sentry duty on the track further up…

sheep on warbla

…and a blasted hawthorn, survivor of many gales.

tree on warbla

I could see snow on the hills just outside the town….

Snowy view

…and the moon hanging in the sky above the track.

Moon over warbla

I could look back across the Wauchope Water and see the wood which is being felled.  I don’t know how much of the wood will go but it will be missed when it is gone.

Becks wood

When I got to the track back down to the Stubholm, I noticed a strange black line down the centre of the roadway.  A second look showed me that it was my shadow and I stood with my legs apart to take a picture of it.

long shadow

It is not every day that I find myself on a gently sloping track with the sun low and  dead behind me so this might well be my only chance to prove that in the right conditions, I can have a fifty yard long shadow.  (I paced it out.)

As the sun got lower, the light got more golden.  We may not have had a very colourful autumn this year but we are getting some enjoyably colourful winter afternoons now on the days when the sun shines.

Meikleholm Hill

Whita in winter

I walked down the hill with care as there were some icy bits to avoid but I was able to keep my eyes open enough to see some fungus on a tree on the Stubholm track….

fungus

…and some lichen on the park wall.

lichen

It is a constant source of wonder to me that two stones in the same wall, just a yard or two apart should have different lichen on them.

The house seemed very quiet when I got back.

A look at the forecast in the evening revealed a very confident prediction of snow for tomorrow and I am not so old yet that I don’t consider the first snow of winter to be an exciting event so I hope that we do get some.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch giving a siskin the hard stare.

flying chaffinch and siskin

Here is a little video of the three eating machine for those with 20 seconds to waste.

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my next door neighbour Irving who is spending the festive season visiting his son and family in Florida.  The picture shows some of the  20 to 30 ibis they see outside the house every day.

photo(1)

We had another sunny day here today but the temperature was at zero when we got up and not much higher at any time during the day.

pigeon

A pigeon looking as though it wasn’t enjoying walking on our frozen lawn.

Luckily there were no ice covered pavements or treacherous patches on paths so it was a good day to get some of the very fresh air that was available.

In the morning, Alistair and Clare went off to sample the delights of shopping at Gretna leaving Matilda to look after us.  We attempted to go for a walk with her but it turned out that her father had gone off with her pink gloves in his pocket and no amount of differently coloured substitutes would do so the walk was abandoned on account of cold fingers and we waited for the gloves to come back from Gretna.

The sun had got round to the bird feeders by this time so I had a quick look out of the kitchen window….

chaffinch and goldfinches

…where there was a lot of activity.

I caught a couple of peaceful moments too.

siskin

 

greenfinch

Mrs Tootlepedal made some green lentil soup and we enjoyed it with a light lunch of cold cuts when the shoppers returned.

Then, since the gloves had arrived, we set off for a walk to feed the ducks.

We took the sunny side of the street which gave the photographer quite a big problem, when trying to get a picture of the group without his shadow appearing in the shot.

I tried this side….

Matilda, Al and Clare

…and that side but the shadow was always in the way.

In the end, I lurked behind Mrs Tootlepedal and took this shot…

Matilda, Al and Clare

…which was the best that I could do.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, except those left by people impatient to be somewhere else…

jet plane

…but since it was one of the days when the vapour trails disappeared almost as soon as they were formed, we could ignore them.

In the sun, it was very pleasant (as long as you had the right gloves on)…

Meeting of the waters

…and Matilda had a lot of fun playing on the equipment on the Kilngreen…

play park with matilda

That dratted shadow appeared again!

play park with matilda

…while I looked at passing black headed gulls….

black headed gulls

…which had been attracted by another party of bird feeders.

black headed gulls

Then Matilda came to feed the ducks…

duck

…who responded with gratitude to some good seed and pink pellets.

_DSC0436

Light is a funny thing, as they say considering that the heads of the ducks on the left and right in the panel above are the same colour when they face in the same direction but totally different when they look in opposite directions.

While Matilda fed the ducks, I looked at passing gulls again.

_DSC0439

_DSC0448

We continued out walk across the Sawmill Brig and onto the Castleholm where those with the taste for such things, had a happy time smashing the ice in the puddles while I looked for trees.

castleholm tree

When we reluctantly left the icy puddles, we walked mostly into the shade and the difference in temperature was quite marked…

icicle

…so we didn’t dilly dally again as we headed for home, pausing only to admire the moon which was floating above the monument.

_DSC0451

Matilda needed a little assistance from her father on the final stages of the journey home and I wondered, looking at her hands….

P1060252

…whether her parents are feeding her enough.  (The pink gloves are underneath the other ones)

After a quiet moment for relaxation and refreshment when we got home, the rest of the afternoon was spent having unremitting fun including snap, Pelmanism, dancing, playing ‘duck, duck, goose’ and putting on mermaid entertainments (impresario:  Madam Matilda).

It was lucky that Mrs Tootlepedal had spent the time preparing us a feast of parsnip and potato gnocchi and sweet potato and spinach saag aloo as we badly needed the fuel.

All in all, it was voted a very successful day and we should all sleep well tonight.

In spite of the gulls, I have gone for a garden chaffinch as flying bird of the day, mainly because I really like the sceptical air with which the flier is being viewed by the perching bird.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture, taken by Alistair, shows Matilda and her mother Clare enjoying a good book.

clare and matilda

The miserable weather gave us a break today and we even got a sunny spell.  It was quite a bit cooler but as it kept a few degrees above freezing, no one was complaining.

After some early dancing with Matilda at the keyboard and work at the keyboard while Matilda danced, I found a moment to fill the feeders and have a look at the birds.

The colder weather had brought them back in good numbers.

I can count thirteen waiting in the plum tree for a seed opportunity.

 

plum tree birds

There was no standing on ceremony at the feeder itself although as you can see there was some standing on chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

A starling got small reward for its visit.

starling

There was constant activity and the chaffinch rightly looked a little worried as a siskin bomb approached him.

chaffinch and siskin bomb

A dunnock wisely kept out of the way in a nearby bush.

dunnock in bush

Al and Clare took advantage of the better weather and went off for a walk and with Matilda politely keeping Mrs Tootlepedal engaged with some painting tasks, I took advantage of the better weather to go off for a bike ride.

I had to spend quite a bit of time before I left in cleaning my bike and getting rust off the chain.  The downside of winter cycling is the amount of maintenance a bike requires which is why many cyclists put their bike on a rack and retire to the gym at this time of year.

Still, I like fresh air and there was plenty of it about today after all the mist and clouds so I was happy to hit the road.

From the look of the hills, we had only just missed a white Christmas.

snowy hill

You might think from that picture that it was a rather wintery day but the more the camera pulls back to the bigger picture….

snowy hill

…the better….

snowy hill

…the day looks.

Wauchopedale

Although it was only 4°C, while the sun was out it felt pleasantly warm.  Sadly, the sun didn’t last all the way round but the roads were quiet and basically dry and the wind was light so it was a good day for a pedal.

I went round my usual loop to Canonbie and back and stopped at some familiar spots.

grainstonehead

Liddle viaduct

The viaduct is 1.2 miles away and proves what a good zoom the Lumix has.  The picture was hand held and is not cropped.

There was plenty of water coming down the Esk at the Hollows….

Esk at Hollows

..and plenty more joining it.

Esk at Hollows

I thought that if I cycled through the town when I got back and went a mile or two up the Ewes valley, I might get a snowy view of the hills but it was disappointing with only the highest hills in the distance showing white.

Ewes valley with snow

I managed to add 23 miles onto my annual total and I have now cycled more miles than last year which is satisfactory.   I have five days left to meet the target which I set myself at the start of the year but the forecast is not very encouraging with either frost or rain for the rest of the month.

In the afternoon, Al and Clare took Matilda off to visit the parents of Alistair’s best friend from his school days.  The friend now lives in California but his parents are always pleased to see Alistair and gave Matilda and Clare a warm welcome.

While they were out, I had another moment to bird watch and I liked the very smart reaction time of a chaffinch at the feeder.

chaffinch and siskin

The siskins were once again out in force.

siskins

We had an excellent evening meal of cold cuts, roast vegetables and small portion of sticky toffee pudding but only tiny inroads were made into the cheese mountain caused by some over optimistic purchasing by me.

I have had an email from my Manitoba correspondent, Mary Jo which included a picture of the sort of clothing needed for a cheerful walk when the temperature is miles below zero and I have joined it to a picture of the sort of cycling gear needed when the temperature is only just above zero.  It is hard to tell who is the more elegant.

Mary Jo and me

All right, it isn’t hard.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin looking for a perch.

flying siskin

 

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Merry Christmas

Today’s guest picture is an adventurous squirrel making free with an athlete’s banana on the edge of a tennis court.  My sister Mary spotted it in Regent’s Park.

Squirrel in R. Park 001

Apart from the weather, we had a perfect Christmas Day.  Everyone got exactly the presents that they wanted and Matilda and her father spent most of the day playing with theirs.

Mrs Tootlepedal conjured up a very satisfactory midday meal indeed and we all tucked in, eating with great gusto but without eating too much, a tricky thing to manage.

For the evening meal, we ate cold this and that but topped it off with a helping of Mrs Tootlepedal’s sublime sticky toffee pudding.

The day was delightful but the weather was frightful.  All the same,  Mrs Tootlepedal and I staggered out for a walk after lunch in the rain.

It was even less of a day for pictures than ever so I only took two.

River Esk

I thought they summed up our walk quite well.

Jubilee Bridge

We are promised a bit of sun tomorrow.

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