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Archive for Aug, 2018

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who started a nine mile walk today by crossing the River Manifold over this handsome bridge.

Manifold Bridge

We had a lovely day here as well but it was decidedly chilly at first so it took me some time to get going on my bike.

I checked on the buddleia after breakfast….

Three butterflies

Mixed sunbathing for two peacocks and a small tortoiseshell

…and I was just in time to take a gift of eggs from Scott, the minister (but not offer him coffee in return) just before I set off.

I was slightly nervous about how my legs would be feeling after the slow and arduous effort on Wednesday but a day visiting Matilda had worked wonders and they were in a cooperative mood today.  I took care not to upset them by going up any steep hills.

I hadn’t gone far before I noticed two buzzards which were very agitated about something and circled around above my head crying out loudly.

One hovered long enough for me to take a picture.

buzzard

I rode past banks of rosebay willowherb seed heads as I went along…

rosebay seeds

…and was impressed by the fact that the wind hadn’t dislodged them yet.

I rolled down out of the hills and into Gretna where I saw a wedding party get ready to attend their ceremony at the ‘Famous Blacksmith’s Shop’.

Gretna wedding

They avoided getting run over.

I continued down into England, passing churches with steeples and square towers.

Rockcliffe Church

Rockcliffe

Scaleby Church

Scaleby

The church at Scaleby had a shiny new padlock on the door and warning notices from the police.  Not the most welcoming of sights.

I turned off at Scaleby and followed this unassuming road.

new road to Smithfield

It was a moment to note for me though, as it was one of the few roads in the area that I had never cycled along before.

Thanks to my perky legs, I didn’t need to stop for many breathers so there are fewer pictures today and  this picture of the welcoming sight of the monument on Whita Hill is the only one that I took in the last fifteen miles.

Whita

The jaunt was almost exactly 50 miles and this took me over 3000 miles for the year so it was a satisfactory ride both for itself and statistically.  It also brought up 565 miles for the month, my biggest monthly tally for four years.  It is amazing what some good weather will do.

When I got home, I did a bit of bird watching….

goldfinch

The single goldfinch soon got swept away by an incoming tide of sparrows.

sparrow melee

…and then I had a look around the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal.

She spotted a ladybird…

ladybird

…and I spotted a small tortoiseshell stretching its wings….

small tortoiseshell butterfly

…and then I spotted it again!

small tortoiseshell butterfly 2

Among the more flashy flowers, the feverfew sparkles away quite modestly…

feverfew

…but persistently.

And Mrs Tootlepedal’s new cosmos, which is improbably called ‘Double Click Cranberries’ raised its head to the sun.

cosmos

I cut down the head of the giant sunflower and put it out for the birds…

sunflower head

…and picked up one of the fallen flower heads and rested it on my knee.

sunflower flower

My neighbour Liz was trimming her cherry tree and the job seemed to call for a tall person so I went across to give her a hand and ended up with a good collection of branches for shredding and adding to our compost heap.

I had a relaxing bath and came downstairs to a delicious evening meal prepared by Mrs Tootlepedal, the highlight of which was an enormous courgette fritter.

It took some time to recover from this but I was back in good order by the time that Mike and Alison came round for their customary Friday evening visit.  Alison and I were playing early music in the French style and had  a hard working and enjoyable time getting to grips with some tricky pieces.

It was a good way to spend the last day of summer.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow, putting down the landing gear.

flying sparrow

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  As well as seals and curlews, his new house offers him fine sunrises as he walks his dogs.

Wemyss sunrise

We had a lovely crisp and sunny morning here, perfect for cycling if I had had any go about me.  Sadly, my go was gone and I was still having a light snooze after breakfasts when Sandy came round on Archive Group business and roused me enough to make a cup of coffee.  When he went on his way, I looked round the garden.

There were peacock butterflies all over the place, on the red buddleia…

butterfly on ref buddleia

…on a cosmos…

peacock butterfly on cosmos

…and on the main buddleia too.

peacock butterfly on purple buddleia

They were sunning themselves on paths and flitting about in a very butterflyish way all morning.

The white cosmos are flowering freely…

white cosmos

…and after a slow start, poppies appear as if by magic on fine days like today.

four red poppies

As well as a lot of edible plums, we also have a silver pear on the silver pear tree.  You would need teeth of iron to eat one though.

silver pear

After a great rush of blackbirds earlier on, they have become rather scarce lately so I was pleased to see this one today.

blackbird

When I looked at the birds on the feeder, once again a blue tit was hanging about in the plum tree….

blue tit among the plums

….waiting for a chance while the sparrows played follow my leader round the feeder.

circulating sparrows

Beside the feeder, the accidental sunflower is going from strength to strength.

feeder sunflower

The main business of the day was going to Edinburgh to see Matilda and for once the trains were more or less on time and not too full so the journey was a pleasure and it is always a treat to see Matilda and her parents.

She took her father and me to the shops to get the ingredients for a one pot lemon and asparagus linguine for tea.

Matilda going shopping

(I have digitally scrubbed the graffiti off the board behind her as I don’t like to encourage  that sort of thing.)

Al and Clare are preparing their house for sale so while we shopped, Mrs Tootlepedal and Clare cleaned windows.  Then Al cooked the linguine and it turned out to be delicious so we went home in a cheerful mood.

The flying bird of the day is a strangely twisted sparrow.

twisted flying sparrow

(We are looking at it from behind and it has its head turned sharply to the right to check out the feeder.)

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Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia, my Somerset correspondent.  She set herself up with this splendid view with the intention of enjoying the Red  Arrows display team as they flew towards her.   Unfortunately, owing to a failure of communication, they appeared from behind her and were past before she could get a good shot.  Still, the  countryside is lovely.

somerset view

We had dawn till dusk sunshine today (with the occasional cloud) and as a result, I spent a lot of time outside.

I was going to go cycling in the morning but Mrs Tootlepedal had asked if I could clean the tray which catches the fallen seed below the bird feeder so while she went off for a meeting, I did that.  Bird poop and soggy seed are difficult to get off so this took me some time.

Mrs Tootlepedal returned and it was such a  fine day that it seemed like a really good time to dig up the remaining potatoes and let them dry before storing them.

There were quite a lot to raise.

potatoes on bed

Some of them were definitely not small potatoes.

big potato

And the haulms needed chopping up and putting into the compost bin.

compost bin full of haulms

And I couldn’t spend time in the garden without looking around a bit.

yellow bee

three poppies

two reggae

And after all this, it was suddenly time for lunch and I still hadn’t gone cycling.

After lunch, I checked on the butterflies.  There were a lot about and as the buddleia blooms are going over, it wasn’t surprising to find a peacock and a red admiral sharing one of the ones that is still out.

peacock and admiral butterflies

I finally got cycling and soon found out that although the sun was out, there was a brisk wind to go with it so it was warm but hard going.  I set off to go over Callister but found that the loose gravel merchants had been at work there very recently so I turned back and took a diversion.  At one stage, this entailed going along a narrow road with a very poor surface, gently uphill and  straight into the wind.  I was pleased to take a rest and nibble on a bramble in a hedge…

bramble

…and make up for the recent lack of gates in the blog.

gate

I passed several farmers in the process of getting a second cut of grass for storage.

grass cutting in field

They must be pleased because when the cold wet spring was followed by a drought, things didn’t look very promising.

In spite of the constant verge cutting, some (short) wild flowers are showing again beside the road as I pedal along.

wild flower

For one reason or another, my legs were in a very uncooperative mood and the wind was coming from a rather unhelpful direction so my progress would have made a snail feel quite comfortable.

I needed a few stops to let the legs recover and I took one of them at this small bridge over a little burn a few yards from the border with England.

bridge near Springfield

It was a pretty spot…

path at bridge near Springfield

…with a lot of Himalayan balsam about.

balsam at bridge near Springfield

I took my last breather, about three miles from home and was impressed by the seediness of the area.

rosebay willowherb seed

seed head

In spite of my lacklustre legs, I managed 43 miles and found that Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy while I was out.  She had collected up the potatoes…

potatoes in barrow

The ones in the bucket are damaged and have to be eaten first.

…and sorted out the bed.

potato bed

She is going to sow green manure in the bed now.

I checked on the butterflies and saw five peacocks at once….

five butterflies

…and then went in for a cup of tea and a look at the birds among the plums on the plum tree.

birds in plum tree

Mrs Tootlepedal was preparing a home made pizza for our tea (our breadmaking machine makes a very good dough for pizza bases) and while she was doing this, I had another check on the butterflies….

four butterfleis and a bee

Four butterflies and a bee on the same flower head this time.

…before going off for a shower and coming down to eat the delicious pizza.

We are taking a keen interest in La Vuelta (the Tour of Spain cycle race) and I was very envious of the beautifully surfaced roads that they were cycling along today though I was happy not to be going down the final hill with them at 76 kph.  My nose starts bleeding at 48 kph.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow threatening the position of a greenfinch.

incoming sparrow

 

 

 

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I have kindly been sent a lot of guest pictures lately and I am working through them so I apologise to those whose great images have fallen through the sieve of time.  Today’s effort is from our younger son and shows his washing line on a typical recent day.

wet washing line

We had another grey day today here for the most part, a day when it always looked as though it was going to rain soon….but it didn’t and as a result there was lots of time for work in the garden.

As soon as the worst of the early dampness had worn off, I got various mowers out and mowed the drying green, the greenhouse grass, the middle and the front lawns and then strimmed the edges of everything that I could see.  There was hardly a blade of grass standing in the garden by the time that I had finished.

counterstriped lawn

I went for a fancy pattern to please Julie, a faithful reader from Australia, who had suggested that  a little variety in the lawn striping would not go amiss.

Then I sieved some compost.

After some slack dead heading days because of the drizzle, there was any amount of dead heading to be done and both Mrs Tootlepedal and I went round several times snipping off the ones we had missed on the previous circuit.

Some flowers survived the snippers.  The camera makes things look a lot brighter than they actually were.

white and red poppies

sunny reggae dahlias

Even on a drab day these ‘Sunny Reggae’ dahlias shine.

There are an encouraging amount of insects about.  Sometimes it seemed that every flower had one.

wild strawberry with tiny insect

phlox with insect

been on daisy

Or two!

dahlia with two insects

But butterflies were scarce.  The strong wind may have made life hard for them

peacock butterfly

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help at the Buccleuch Centre over lunch so I set the kitchen window camera up in the vain hope of seeing the nuthatch again.

I saw a blue tit first….

blue tit on feeder

…and then the usual stramash of sparrows…

mass of sparrows

…with occasional greenfinch incursions…

incoming greenfinch

…but no nuthatch.  I am revising my nuthatch expectations down to nil.

We were having our outside doors painted for the second time as it had rained very heavily after the first effort and the work needed to be redone.  The painter went off after lunch and looking at the clouds, it seemed that it might be quite likely that the same thing would happen again but fortunately the rain held off and the doors dried.

I had received a call from a data miner in the Archive Centre to say that an unfortunate train of events had led to one of the microfiche readers losing some vital parts so after lunch, I snapped a siskin on the feeder…

perching siskin

,…and  went up to the Archive Centre to see what I could do about this, taking a picture of the clematis by the front door on my way out.

big hearted clematis

This is a late flowering and you might say that it is all heart.

It was a bit of a struggle to fix the microfiche reader as one of the errant parts had suffered minor damage but I got it cobbled back together in the end and the miners should be able to get back to work (with care).

When I got home again, Mrs Tootlepedal was hard at work in the garden and I joined her, mostly in a  supervisory role but from time to time actually doing something helpful.

After a while, we both needed a sit down so we tested out the newly oiled bench and admired the flowers in the new bed beside the lawn.

new bed by middle lawn

On our other side, tall rudbeckias looked down on us.

rudbeckia

I like these rudbeckias because the flowers are durable and don’t need much dead heading.

However, there was plenty of dead heading still to do on a final tour.

There are many flowers about that don’t need dead heading all the time.

pansy and anemone

We are sawing up the old, rather rotten bench a bit at a time and I was cutting through a plank on the back when I noticed some lichen on one of the uprights.

lichen on old bench

We were probably right to think that it was time for a replacement.

I had thought of a walk (it was too windy for a cycle ride) but all this gardening had knocked some of the stuffing out of me so a cup of tea and a sit down looked like a more attractive proposition.

Mrs Tootlepedal cooked a delicious evening meal and there were just enough raspberries to have as a dessert.

In any spare moments during the day, I ate a plum.  More plums are ripening all the time.  The wasps and the jackdaws are dealing with a lot of them but there are more than enough left to satisfy the most enthusiastic plum eater.  I can see plum chutney looming.

I hope to widen my horizon tomorrow as the forecast is quite cheerful.

The flying bird of the day is a greenfinch.

flying greenfinch

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from our older son Tony’s morning dog walking.   You don’t see sights like this in Langholm.  I shall expect porpoises next.

wemyss seals

We woke to another rather chilly and damp morning and things hadn’t got any drier or brighter by lunch time when I took this picture while doing some dead heading.

soggy calendula

A visit from Sandy for coffee and conversation brought a little metaphorical light into the day but otherwise it was a morning for getting Archive Group business done on the computer and making some potato and courgette soup. (The supply of courgettes is endless.)

Sandy helped me take the new bench, which I had treated with decking oil yesterday,  out into the garden and we put it back in its place.

oiled bench

In spite of the drizzle, it looked very cheerful surrounded by flowers.

I set the bird watching camera up over lunch in the hope of seeing a return of the nuthatch but had to make do with birds just failing to hit the perches at the first attempt instead.

blue tit landing

greenfinch missing

The feeder was intermittently busy…

busy feeder

…with sparrows and greenfinches but the nuthatch didn’t come back.

Jackdaws did.

jackdaw on fat balls

When we a have been out in the garden recently, we are occasionally startled by great whooshing of wings as large flocks of sparrows rise up and fly from one spot to another.

They are very fond of the seed feeder….

two sparrows with seed

…and the fat balls….

sparrows on fat balls

…but today when I was upstairs, I looked out of the window and saw that the philadelphus at the front gate had become the preferred perch for a while.

sparrows on philadelphus

The drizzle gave up and down in the garden, Mrs Tootlepedal was preparing the ground for a transplant of a spirea while I cut up a huge amount of green waste for composting.  The waste had come from the work that Mrs Tootlepedal with the help of our neighbour Liz had done on Saturday as part of cleaning up the bushes at the far end of our hedge along the road.

neat hedge

They had acquired two wheelbarrow loads of soft clippings that needed cutting up before being put into the compost bin.  I would have shredded them but our shredder has not been working well lately so I laboriously cut the stuff up with secateurs and shears.

Then I wandered round with the camera for a while.

There was life in the garden.

cosmos and hoverflywhite dicentra and bee august

Mrs Tootlepedal found this woolly bear caterpillar in some long grass and it wriggled about on her glove as I tried to take its picture.

woolly bear caterpillar

There is still plenty of colour in spite of the gloomy clouds above.

four colourful flowers august

And there were even one or two butterflies.  This is a red admiral, looking a little part worn I thought.

red admiral butterfly

Beside the buddleia, the Michaelmas daisies are in full flow.

Michaelmas daisies

At this point, we were visited by Mike Tinker.  This was very fortunate as I know that he has a taste for repairing machinery so I suggested that he have a look at our shredder and before you could say “Jack Robinson”, he had the front plate off, the insides cleaned out and the thing back in full working order.  This is just the sort of visitor that you need in the garden.  We went inside and had a nice cup of tea.

After he went, my flute pupil Luke arrived and we had a very worthwhile session.  Luke guiltily admitted to practising again.  Where will this all end?

Late in the day, I spotted a couple of goldfinches at the feeder.

two goldfinches

They are infrequent visitors at the moment.

I am hoping that the weather gets either warmer or drier, or preferably both, as I would like to get another pedal or two in before the end of the month and it has not been attractive cycling weather for the last two days.

Meantime, here is the flying chaffinch of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from the seaside outside our son Tony’s new house on the north shore of the Forth.  As well as seal spotting, he has been curlew catching.

curlew at Wemyss

We had very little encouragement to do anything outside here today as it rained on and off the the whole time in a very dispiriting sort of way.

wet poppy

Although a little rain doesn’t seem to deter the bees which I find rather surprising.

bee on white cosmos

And the mint is enjoying the weather.

mint spreading

(I meant to put it in yesterday’s post but I forgot so I will mention that the rain for last week, as measured by Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge, was 4 cm or just over an inch and half.)

Luckily I had plenty to do, including some local shopping in the car, preparing a beef stew for the slow cooker and grappling with a very tricky crossword so time passed quite cheerfully.

What made a gloomy day feel better was the second visit in two days of a nuthatch.  I didn’t have my camera set up and it flew off but I set the camera up at the kitchen window more in hope that expectation of a return visit and was rewarded when the nuthatch not only came back but hung about on the elder…

nuthatch on elder

…and gave me a hard stare when it caught me taking its picture.

nuthatch staring

It is a beautiful bird and a very rare visitor to our garden indeed so this was a special treat.

While I was finishing off my cooking, I was looking at the feeder again through the window as I worked.  The nuthatch was long gone and there was nothing out of the ordinary, just a couple of chaffinches…

chaffinches

…who soon gave way to greenfinches flying in from this side…

flying greenfinch 1

…and that side.

flying greenfinch 2

After lunch, with the rain still coming down, I sanded down the new garden bench which is sheltering in the garage for the moment and gave it a coat of decking oil.  Then I adjourned for some flute practice and watched a bit of the F1 race on the telly.

In this way, I passed a quiet day very comfortably.  Mrs Tootlepedal went to sing in the church choir in the morning and then devoted herself to curtains.

In the evening, while I was preparing some potatoes to go with the stew, I cast a hopeful eye  on the feeder.  There was a sole soggy goldfinch to look at…

damp goldfinch

…until, very satisfactorily, either the same nuthatch returned…

nuthatch on feeder pole

…or one remarkably like it.

It descended onto the seed feeder and waited until I had got the best picture that poor light and the handheld Lumix would allow.

nuthatch on feeder

…and then it flew off again.

I hope it becomes a regular visitor, at least for a while.

The stew turned out well and we had a few raspberries from the garden with a drop of cream to follow.  All in all, what could have been a very dismal day turned out well.

The flying bird of the day is probably jumping more than flying!

leaping nuthatch

 

 

 

 

 

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No words can do justice to the greatest guest picture of the day ever.  It comes from my Newcastle correspondent Fiona who is in the Netherlands and it is a view that just can not be surpassed.

IMG_2249

I’d like a bit of that piquant Jersey cheese.

It was cloudless and chilly when we got up but the sun warmed things up and Mrs Tootlepedal was soon out in the garden trimming hedges for all she was worth.

I went to look for butterflies.  They too were up and about early in the day.

P1130679

A painted lady posed for me on the buddleia.

P1130682

As the forecast was good, my plan was to go cycling but after I had waited for the temperature to get into double figures and then joined Mrs Tootlepedal in the hedge trimming frenzy, it was later than I had planned before I got under way.

As it was a Saturday, I set off south down the main road, letting gravity and a mildly helpful wind speed me through the first fifteen miles in an hour.  I nearly managed to keep that speed up for thirty miles but after that, things slowed down.

My first stop was for the level crossing on the way to Rockcliffe.  I was not the only cyclist held up.

P1130684

The fellows on the far side were cycling from Penrith to Dumfries, a distance of 61 miles by the national Cycle Route 7 and their intention was to go back to Penrith tomorrow, a very pleasant way to spend a holiday weekend.

I went round the Carlisle by-pass and found myself on the south side of the Solway, riding along the flat ground between the sea and the Lake District Hills.

P1130685

My target was to go round the vast radio station at Anthorn….

P1130686

…which is on a promontory with the River Whampool’s estuary on one side…

P1130687

..and the Solway itself, looking towards the Nith estuary on the Scottish side.

P1130688

The road is extremely flat but a noticeable wind made the going quite hard until I had rounded the tip of the promontory and was heading back towards Carlisle.

Once I had got to Bowness on Solway, I stopped for a snack on a handy bench beneath this helpful road sign.

P1130696

Although the sign is part of the tourist business surrounding Hadrian’s Wall (an early effort to keep the English out of Scotland), it does make the point of how far the Roman influence stretched from the seat of government.

As I cycled on, I could look straight across the Solway to the Scottish shore and it was good to see some water between the land on both sides.

P1130691

The tide wasn’t fully in though and there were a great number of birds on the shore.  It would have been good to have had the time and the camera and lenses to look at them more closely.

The long black line of birds on the picture below…

P1130698

…turned out to be oyster catchers, hundreds of them…

P1130692

…and the indistinct white blob in the foreground looks like an egret to me.

P1130697

The zoom lens on the Lumix could see more birds on the Scottish side and some rough water in between.

P1130700

I think that the rough water may have been caused by the incoming tide meeting the outflowing rivers Esk and Eden.

I noticed a group of people looking at the shore further along.  There were a lot more birds there but I made such a bad job of photographing them ….

P1130703

…that I am not sure what they are.  They may well be sandpipers.   Kindly readers point out that they are probably dunlin.

P1130705

I know that these are swans and you can see the wind turbines at Gretna in the background…

P1130707

…about 7 miles away as the seagull flies but 16 miles for me on my bicycle to get there.

I had to negotiate a bit of traffic on the road across the marsh on my way.

P1130709

All went well though and I returned by pretty much the same route as I went out, stopping to note this view of Netherby Hall through the trees just before I got back into Scotland.

P1130711

My trip came to a neat 75 miles and it would have been a bit further if my legs hadn’t objected.  Perhaps I went a bit too fast at the start of the ride or perhaps they were still feeling the walk up Warbla yesterday but for whatever reason, after about 45 miles they made it very plain that straight home was the only way to go.

garmin route 25 Aug 2018

You can see how flat the Solway plain is.  Click on the map to view details of the ride.

It was lucky that the sun was out for most of the time because when it went behind the clouds, it was a bit chilly.  With only a month to go to the autumn equinox, we may have to come to terms with the winding down of this year’s splendid summer warmth.

Mrs Tootlepedal arrived at home at about the same time as me.  She had spent the afternoon visiting a walled garden at Artkleton, a few miles up the road from Langholm.  It has been opening on a Saturday for visitors and she went up with our neighbour Liz and two other friends and they had a very good time admiring the garden and its flowers with the added bonus of having a cup of tea with cakes as well.

As I sat in the kitchen recovering from the ride, I saw a nuthatch outside the window but once again, I was in the right place but without the right camera and it had flown off before I could catch it.

I had to make do with some sparrows.

_DSC6722

Mrs Tootlepedal made a tasty cheese flan for our tea and that rounded off a good day all round.

You can find a flying sparrow of the day if you look hard enough among the flock.

_DSC6720

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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