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Archive for Apr, 2018

Today’s guest picture reflects the sun, sea and sand being currently enjoyed by Sandy, who is in the Canary Islands having fun.

Sandy's hols

I must apologise for any more than my usual incoherence in today’s post as after several eventful days, I am feeling a bit tired.

I daresay though, that I am not as tired as the visitor we entertained today.  Loyal blog reader, Mary Jo from Manitoba, had decided that our new bench needed an international test inspection and so she came up from London, where she is taking a short holiday, to visit Langholm.

I met her at Carlisle station and brought her to the Muckle Toon.

She declared that the bench was fully up to standard…

Mary Jo

…having tested it in the company of Mrs Tootlepedal.

And then went back to London.

To say that she is a seasoned traveller is to understate her tolerance to going great distances without complaining.  Next time she comes, we hope that she will stay a bit longer.

She was not our only visitor today because as we were touring the garden with her, I saw a large white butterfly settle on a daffodil..

white butterfly

… and then move to a dicentra.

white butterfly

Unlike the butterfly, which soon flitted away, Mary Jo stayed long enough to have a walk, a bite of lunch and a short drive before departing.

She wanted to walk along the Lodge Walks so we did that and here she is in company with Mrs Tootlepedal showing that in spite of the sunshine on the Kilngreen…

Sawmill Brig

…. a brisk and chilly wind meant that coats were still required.

Mary Jo on the Lodge walks

We were not the only ones enjoying a walk and the Lodge walks are not far from being at their spring best.

Lodge walks

But as we said to Mary Jo, “If only you had come next week….”

There were wild flowers to decorate our walk…

Lodge walks wild flowers

…good views of the monument…

monument

…some trees in leaf….

spring leavesspring leaves

…and more wild flowers on our way.

wild flowers Scholars Field

When we got back to the garden, the sharp eyed Mary Jo spotted a bee on the dicentra….

bee on dicentra

…and took a picture of her hosts perched proudly on the new, thoroughly tested, bench…

Mrs and Mrs TP on the bench

…coats still firmly on against the chill.

I took a picture of a tulip and we went in for a late lunch.

tulip

After lunch, we drove up onto the Langholm Moor in the hope of seeing hen harriers and goats.

We saw a meadow pipit…

meadow pipit

… a sheep….

sheep

… a view of the Ewes valley…

Ewes valley

….two buzzards hunting over the hill…

buzzard

_DSC3662

…but no hen harriers.

However, as we were on our way back to the town, we did see a goat.

wild goat

All too soon, it was time to take Mary Jo back to Carlisle for her train to London.  She has sent me a message to say she is back safely, having enjoyed the day.

I found going about 200 miles to Glasgow and back yesterday quite tiring so I wouldn’t be surprised to find that after 600 miles on the train today, Mary Jo sleeps quite well.

We called in at a late opening garden centre on our way back from Carlisle and Mrs Tootlepedal added a few more plants to her collection.

It was absolutely lovely and rather amazing to see a blog reader from Canada in our garden, the second Canadian reader who has visited us in the last 12 months and it is a tribute to the wonderful world of blogging that such a friendship can be created out of nothing more than some agitated electrons.

I am hoping for some rain tomorrow so I have an excuse for a very quiet day.

The flying bird of the day is one of the hunting buzzards.

_DSC3663

 

 

 

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Long day

Drove to Glasgow….

glasgow city hall

…went to concert (Dream of Gerontius with hundreds of performers)…

…drove home….went to bed.

Good day all in all.

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture shows a fine selection of flying birds spotted by Mike Tinker in Singapore on his way home from New Zealand.

flying swans

There won’t be much in the way of text today because I have had a hard afternoon and evening as we first had a rehearsal for our Langholm Sings concert with the Langholm Concert Orchestra and then, after a relatively brief pause, we had the concert itself.

As I was not only singing in the choir but also acting as compère, it was quite a busy time….especially as I was only told that I was acting as compère two minutes before the rehearsal started so I literally had to make it up as I went along.  Still, I enjoyed both the singing and the introducing so I am not complaining, just a bit jiggered.

When it comes to making things up as I go along, I sometimes think that I should have been a politician.

Mrs Tootlepedal spent a very busy day in the garden and I wandered about there too.

daffodil

Daff of the day (with added fly)

muscari

A tributary of the river of blue

daffs

The back path

tulips and daffs

These tulips keep coming up year after year.

spring flowers

Garden colour

dogs tooth violet

There are a lot of these about

lichen on plum tree

The plum tree is home to many lichens.

tulips

The tulips came out generously in spite of a generally cold and grey day.

I was just saying to Mrs Tootlepedal that you never seem to see a bee on a daffodil when I was proved wrong yet again.

bumble bee on daffodil

There is obviously a lot of pollen going about.  I will have to change my statement to. “I very rarely see a bee on a daffodil.”

I expect I will see lots now.

After lunch I took a walk down to the river, stopping off to check on the red topped lichens on the park wall.

lichen

Still thriving.

The poplars beside the church are in leaf…church with poplars

…and the ladies’ smock along the river bank is going very well.

ladies smock

A lesser black backed gull almost flew for me.

gull

…and I was a millisecond to late to catch a flying mallard…

mallard

…but it was fun to watch them both.

I didn’t have much time to watch the garden birds and because of all the garden activity, there weren’t many about.  When they got a chance though, they turned up in numbers.

busy feeeder

I was going to cheat and make either the mallard or the gull look as though it was flying but I ran out of energy and three chaffinches will appear as flying birds of the day instead.

flying chaffinches

I have a very heavy day tomorrow as we are singing in the church choir and then going to Glasgow for to attend a concert in the evening so a post may not appear until Monday.

 

 

 

 

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Today’s colourful guest picture comes from my sister Mary who recently visited the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park, London.

isabella plantation

Apart from a couple of brief showers, we had a much better day today.  It wasn’t a lot warmer in theory but a very welcome break from the recent strong winds made it feel a lot warmer in practice.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy morning of coffee and lunch meetings but managed to get some gardening in before she went out.  Meanwhile, I got the slow bike out and did some slow bicycling down to Canonbie and back.

Before I went, we checked the pond to see if Mrs Tootlepedal’s improvements were still keeping the water in place.

full pond

They were.

And I saw a couple more signs of spring.

willow and plum

Willow and plum

Once on the slow bicycle, it was a great relief not to have to battle against the wind for once and I enjoyed myself, although I didn’t try for any speed records.

There is enough grass growing for the farmers to be thinking about silage and I liked the rolled pattern on this field near Canonbie.

field near Canonbie

The dandelions in the verges are showing promise and I hope to be able to show some good clumps soon…

dandelion and bluebell

…and I saw my first bluebells of the year so I hope to see them in quantity soon too.

I stopped on the bridge at Canonbie to see how the ash tree flowers were coming on.

ash tree flowers

I think the branch that I looked at can truly be called an explosion of new growth.

I didn’t have to kid myself to see green leaves on the trees along the Esk at the Hollows today.  Spring is definitely springing…

Esk at Hollows

…although it has a bit to go before it is fully sprung.

When I got home, I found that the tulips were appreciating the better weather.

tulips

The euphorbias seem very popular with flies of various sorts as there is often one about when I try to take a picture of the plants.

fly on euphorbia

This is what the plant looks like when the flies have flown.

euphorbia

I went in to have lunch, soup and one of Matilda’s rolls, and took some time to watch the birds.

The siskins had gone away again so the chaffinches were getting a look at the feeder today.

chaffinches

…but there was still some waiting around on the plum tree to be done.

chaffinch and plum blossom

A goldfinch approached the feeder in the manner of one showing that he wasn’t armed and dangerous.

flying goldfinch

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal returned and found that our bench builder had arrived to cut an inch or two off the legs of the new bench.  It needed to be shifted back a bit and Mrs Tootlepedal set to work on that.  The result was very satisfactory and when she had finished,  we invited our neighbour Liz (with friend) to come and try it out

Ally and Liz on bench

By this time, as you can see, it was perfect weather for bench testing.

While Mrs Tootlepedal was gardening and working at the bench area, I mowed the front lawn and walked around with my camera.  I had the macro lens on.

white flowers

Tulips are popping up everywhere…

tulip

…and I spotted another colourful corner.

colourful corner

The plants in the foreground are dicentra and they were attracting bumbles bees again.

bee on dicentra

As were the paler variety in the back border.

bee on dicentra

Liz came in for a cup of tea and then, while Mrs Tootlepedal did some more gardening, I stayed inside to get some computer business out of the way.

I took the opportunity to look at last year’s cycling stats and found that I had done 500 miles more by this time last year so it is not surprising, considering the lack of decent cycling weather,  that our spring is quite a bit  later than usual this year.

I hope we get a good summer to make up for it.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I had an enjoyable music making session while the other two chatted away.  After playing, Alison and I joined the conversation and Mike, who is a retired doctor, made us all rather gloomy with a very downbeat assessment of the shortage of general practice doctors and hospital consultants in our area.  We will have to try our best to keep ourselves healthy.

The flying bird of the day is a female chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew, who thought that this picture of the fernery at York on a rainy day might interest me after my fern walk with Mike a few  days ago.  He was right.  It interested Mike too.

fernery York

We had another cool and windy day here, with occasional heavy showers.  I had to go up to the Moorland Feeders as a fill in feeder filler for Sandy, who is sunning himself by the beach somewhere far to the south (lucky chap).

There were not many birds about so I enjoyed some of the tree features…

laverock hide trees

..until a few birds turned up.

pheasant

woodpecker

Maybe the very brisk wind which you can see ruffling this siskin’s feathers had put the birds off…

blowy siskin

…but it certainly put me off and as Mrs Tootlepedal hadn’t seen anything interesting in the raptor line as she scanned the hillside, we went home…

…where it soon started raining.

busy feeder in the rain

However, it is April so the showers were intermittent and I got out into the garden from time to time.

The tulips are punctuating the daffodils with spots of colour…

tulips and affodils

…and standing alone too.

red tulips

In the pond many tadpoles and snails are to be seen.

tadpole and snail in pond

Mrs Tootlepedal has been trying to find out where the pond is leaking as it has been losing water whenever it stops raining lately.  She has done some serious detective work and today, she added some practical digging and stone shifting and she thinks that she has cracked the problem.

I took pictures of euphorbia and muscari to show the contrast mixture of  rain and sun we had today…

euphorbia and muscari

…for which a couple of tulips provided corroborative evidence.

tulips with rain drops

I found my daffodil of the day….

daffodil

…and then went upstairs to take a couple of general views of the garden.  Here is the front  lawn and its surrounding beds…

view of front lawn

..and here is the middle lawn with a glimpse of the vegetable garden to the right.

view of garden

It doesn’t look bad considering the miserable spring  we have had so far.

The blackbirds still seem to be busy nesting and the female had come out for a break.

blackbird

I made some soup for lunch and then we set off (through an horrendously heavy shower) for Lockerbie (where it wasn’t raining) to catch the train to Edinburgh to see Matilda and her parents.

I like to stretch my legs on the platform after the drive over and before catching the train and I always enjoy the infinite geometry of railway lines.

Lockerbie station

Our  trip to Edinburgh went well.  We caught a glimpse of the alternative grandparents and then turned some dough which Matilda had made with her other granny into bread rolls, enjoyed some football cards  and had a very tasty meal of home made pizza  before setting off to come home.

By this time the weather had cleared up and we decided to walk back to the station.  On the way, Mrs Tootlepedal spotted both some fine lichen…

Edinburgh lichen

…and a grey squirrel…

edinburgh squirrel

…while my eyes turned to the flag flying at Holyroodhouse with Arthur’s Seat behind it…

Arthurs Seat and Holyrood House

…and a selection of buildings which we passed as we walked along.

Views from Regent road Edinburgh

We were a bit alarmed to find that the incoming train from Manchester, which we catch on its way back south, hadn’t even arrived at the station by the time that we due to leave and I expected a long delay.  Mercifully and very surprisingly, the train drew in some four minutes after it was due to leave and left only three minutes later!  In the end we were only eight minutes late getting home.  What a relief.

And the pond hadn’t lost any water so it looks as though Mrs Tootlepedal has cracked the problem.

The flying bird of the day showed off the strength of the wind very well.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture shows the Cave of Drac on Majorca.  Dropscone visited it while on holiday on the island.  He got to listen to a concert while he was there.

majorca cave

We had to agree with T S Eliot today.  The weather was very cruel.  If I went out on my bicycle, it rained and if Mrs Tootlepedal hung out the washing it rained and if we left the washing out in the hope that it would dry after the shower had passed, it rained again just as we were thinking of getting it in.

And then when it had got fed up with raining, it started to hail very heavily.

Finally, when  all hope was lost we got this….

rainbow

…followed by a calm and beautiful evening, unfortunately too late to be of practical use to anyone.

Under the circumstances, Mrs Tootlepedal did an amazing amount of gardening, well wrapped against the cruel wind and I at least got a few miles in on the slow bike before the combination of wind and rain got so discouraging that I packed it in.

The weather made sure it was a rather itty-bitty day but I did find a sunny moment to have another go at the violets.

violet

They require a good deal of crouching which is not my strongest point.

P1090320

Even on a cold and soggy day, Mrs Tootlepedal’s heart is lifted by tulips….

tulips

…and as they are coming out all over the garden, she should find some consolation in the days to come.

tulips

The daffodils give me  a lot of pleasure and here is the daffodil of the day.

daffodil

And I think that this is definitely a colourful corner and I hope that there will be many more to come.

colourful corner

I didn’t take any pictures on my cycle ride as I had to have a rain cape on and every time that I thought of getting at the camera out from underneath it, it started to rain again.

The battle against the wind left me feeling my age a bit and so I had a gentle time for the rest of the day, with a short snooze on my bed included.

I did manage to keep an eye on the birds though and noted that some but not all of the siskins were back.

siskins

Male and female

It was their turn to queue up for the feeder…

siskins

…and they defended their position vigorously when they got there.

siskins

They were not immune from outside attack themselves though.

goldfinch and siskin

Once again, redpolls maintained an observer status.

redpoll

It is not just their heads which are red at the moment. a sign of the mating season I believe.

The weather improved enough for me to be able to walk dryshod to my Langholm Sings choir practice, the last regular practice before our concert on Saturday, though we will have a go with the orchestra in the afternoon before the show.

We worked through the whole programme with the result that we got a lot of enjoyable singing in.  We are doing mostly familiar material and it is gratifying to find that some things which I found very hard to get right a few years ago seem miraculously to have got easier.  You are never too old to learn.

The flying bird of the day is  one of the redpolls.

flying redpoll

 

 

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There may be serious concern about the lack of insects in general but today’s guest picture from Venetia shows that there is no shortage of them just now in Somerset.

somerset flies

We had a typical April day here today, breezy, cool and occasionally rainy but it was just warm enough to allow for gardening and the breeze was just steady enough to allow for a little cycling so in the morning, Mrs Tootlepedal gardened and I went for a cycle ride.

Before I left, Mrs Tootlepedal drew my attention to a small patch of violets tucked away against a fence in a corner of the garden.

violet

Although the theoretical temperature was not too bad, the wind seemed to carry the chill of winter in its wings and I was well wrapped up again as I battled into the breeze.  When the sun was out…..

Wauchope road

…I was in a green and pleasant land, with the fresh green of the new larch growth…

larch

…very prominent.

But mostly, I was in the shadow over here and the sun was over there in the distance.

View from the Bloch

I looked more closely at one of my favourite trees.

Bloch tree

There were masses of flowers to be seen on my way.

flowers

By lurking about in the valley bottom for the most part, I kept out of the worst of the wind but even so, cycling back down to Langholm with the wind behind me was enough to make the slow bike feel like Pegasus.  I fairly flew along.

The twenty miles that I managed brought up my target mileage for the month and as it has all been done on the slow bike, that was very satisfactory.

I joined Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden on my return and mowed the drying green.  This was a painful experience as it has almost as much moss as Mary Jo’s Danish lawn.

I had a look round and tried to get a better euphorbia picture but only succeeded in catching a fly.

fly on euphorbia

The tulips are growing all the time but still keeping themselves to themselves.

tulips

And I found a daffodil of the day standing still enough to photograph.

daff

Then  it was time for lunch, the crossword and a look at the birds.

I very much enjoyed a little action sequence that took place over two seconds.

A chaffinch approached the feeder quietly…

busy feeder

…suddenly there was pandemonium as birds flew off in all directions and a lone redpoll was left to wonder what all the fuss was about.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off on business and I stayed in to greet the gas man who came to give our boiler its annual safety check.  In a sign of the crazy way businesses are organised these days, it turned out that he had come all the way from Glasgow to do our check, which was already well behind its scheduled time, because the local engineers were too busy.  Having finished, he was ready to drive back to Glasgow (90 miles away).  It must make sense to someone.

While the engineer was busy, it started to rain and it looked well set in for the rest of the day.    Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea though and he must have had some good vibes in his pocket because when he got up to, the rain went too.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I walked round the garden.

There was plenty to see.  A bee was buzzing about in the pulmonaria…

bee on pulmonaria

…and a blackbird was busy collecting more  worms….

blackbird with worms

…and things were busy growing.  Flowers on the gooseberry and on the silver pear.

gooseberry and silver pear

I look forward to eating gooseberries (if we can avoid the sawfly) but the silver pear fruit is inedible.

The rain looked as though it might hold off so I went for a walk.

I hoped to see waterside birds and I did but the light was pretty gloomy and the birds were far away so although it was a pleasure to see the birds, it was  a problem to get good shots of them.

oyster catcher, dipper, wagtail and goosander

From top left clockwise: Oyster catcher, dipper, goosander and pied wagtail.

I also saw a grey wagtail and I took a wonderful picture of the rock from which it had just taken off.  I haven’t posted it here to avoid excessive excitement among sensitive readers.

I was doing the three bridges walk and I passed a lot of ladies’ smock which has appeared like magic on the banks of the Esk near the suspension bridge….

Ladies smock

…a grand show of colour in the Clinthead gardens…

redflowers

…some striking male flowers on the noble firs on the Castleholm….

male noble fir flowers

….a very colourful tree (which I can’t identify.  Is there a helpful reader out there?)…

Castleholm tree

…and the first broom flower I have seen this year.  It was in the minister’s garden.

broom flower

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was back out in the garden so I took a look round and was struck by this jewel on a leaf.

raindrop

I had a little Archive business to catch up on as one of our members is kindly helping out a lady who wishes to visit the town for some ancestral research and then it was time to sit down and have a tasty curry for my tea.

The weather is set to continue in the present cool, showery mode for several days but if we can make as good use of the days as we did today, it won’t be too bad.  Those three magically warm and sunny days last week have spoiled us though.  Everything looks and feels dull by contrast.

The flying bird of the day is a reliable chaffinch.  They should give hovering lessons to the other birds.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

 

 

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