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Archive for Mar, 2019

Today’s guest picture from our son Tony shows the East Wemyss dogs enjoying their day in the sun beside the Firth of Forth.

dogs in the sun

We had a pretty nice day here too, although a chilly wind reminded us that we still have some way to go before jumpers and coats can be light heartedly discarded.

Still, it was a treat to cycle to church in the sunshine and a selection of good hymns and an interesting address on the subject of ‘wheat and wine’ made for a good service.

We are just about at peak daffodil in the garden now and I took this picture of the middle lawn surrounded by them when we got back from church.

lawn and daffodils

Mrs Tootlepedal has a good variety of different daffodils on show and the six below are by no means all that we have.

six daffodils

On the other hand, the lawn itself, although it may not look too bad in the picture above, is in a very poor state, full of both moss and lichen…

moss and lichen lawn

…with not a lot of grass about.

I averted my eyes from the lawn and enjoyed the flowers.  The grape hyacinths are getting very blue….

grape hyacinths very blue

…and one of the perennial wallflowers has produced its first flowers.

perennial wallflower

Fritillaries have arrived in the back border and may well be candidates for the mirror treatment in the course of time.

first fitillary

Mrs Tootlepedal likes the matching colours of this flower and the shrub behind it…

cowslip and spirea

…and I like the little flowers themselves.

little cowslip

I went for a very short walk to take a picture of our friend Mike’s cherry tree as this may be its last year in his garden and on the way, I admired our neighbour Hector’s flowering currant….

hector currant

…and having taken the picture of the  cherry (I was late and it is just past its best as far as colour goes)…

mike's cherry

…I took this picture of our neighbour Liz’s forsythia.

Liz forsythia

We are fortunate to be surrounded by so much colour at no expense to ourselves!

On our lawn a jackdaw looked round, doubtless wondering who had taken all the wool mulch away from the flowerbeds.

questing jackdaw

The other jackdaws have taken it all.

At the feeder, there were plenty of siskins, some waiting for a spare perch…

two siskins on pole

…and others dropping in as soon as there was an opportunity.

diving siskin

Such was the pressure on the sunflower hearts that occasionally a siskin would try the peanuts.

siskin eating peanuts

I was happy to see a brambling, but once again, only one came.

lone brambling

After lunch, we went off to sing with our Carlisle Choir.  We combined the visit with a little shopping where Mrs Tootlepedal acquired a few more plants for the garden while I stocked up on coffee beans and cheese.

At the choir, our proper conductor was back after two weeks off and we had an excellent practice.  I enjoy all the songs that we are singing which helps.

I made a sausage stew when we got home and while it was cooking, I went out for a short walk in some lovely evening light (we have an extra hour on our hands in the evening now).  I noticed a new little blue flower in the back border….

little blue flower

…and then I left the garden and walked past the church….

church in low sun

…and down to the river where I found a gathering of about 30 oyster catchers.

They were lined up along the edge of the Esk and I couldn’t get them all into one shot.

20 oyster ctachres

One of them stood out though.

oystercatcher and dramatic river

The river was in shadow and it was too late in the evening to get a satisfactory flying bird of the day picture when the birds took off for short hops along the bank…

flying oyster catchers

…but I still quite liked this impressionistic view as a group headed for the suspension bridge.

impression of flying oyster catchers

The sausage stew turned out well and a little gentle telly watching rounded off the day.

A horizontal and streamlined goldfinch with its eye on the prize is the flying bird of the day.

horizontal flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony’s partner Marianne.  She shared her enjoyment of a view over the river Tay at Perth with some jackdaws.

birds on Tay

I realised when I came to put this post together that I had included far too many pictures in it by accident so I apologise in advance and recommend that busy people give today’s effort a miss.

I spent the morning down at the community cafe at Canonbie Church with fellow camera club members Stan and Sandy helping to put up our camera club exhibition there.  It takes longer than you might think to hang thirty photographs so that they look inviting and well balanced even with the expert help of Archie and Beverley from the cafe.  The finished set up looked good and it is ironic that I should have forgotten to take a picture to show the exhibition in place.  I hope to cycle down to Canonbie soon and take a picture when I am there.

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal sitting on a garden bench looking intently at one of the flower borders.  She was watching our local pair of partridges and they kindly waited long enough for me to get out a camera before they marched off over the lawn, down the drive and away.

the partridge

While I had the camera in my hand, I noted some daisies…

daisy

…the first open tulip of the year…

open tulip

…and the unnamed little white flower which Mike Tinker told us last night is a cardamine, so it is no longer unnamed.

cardamine

The feeder was empty so I filled it up and in no time at all, the birds were back in business.

busy feeder

Mrs Tootlepedal had been very busy while I was down in Canonbie and had discovered that the brick foundation which she had excavated yesterday ran the whole length of the bed that we were cultivating.

It would be too hard to remove it so the trench will be filled in and potatoes planted and then next year, it may all go down to grass.

trench in potato bed

Speaking of grass, I pushed my light mower over the drying green but grass was in very short supply and most of the area is covered in spongy moss with the occasional blade of grass sticking through.

moss on drying green

After lunch, I suggested a walk and Mrs Tootlepedal thought that that would be a good idea.  There was a light drizzle in the garden so we decided to go down to Canonibie in the hope that it might be drier down there.  It had been sunny there while we were putting up the exhibition in the morning.

It was rather grey when we got there but we parted the car at the bottom of the Byreburn wood and went for a walk anyway.  Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a fine display of wood anemones not many yards away from the car so that was a good start.

wood anemone

Our walk took us through the oldest part of the wood where there are many fine old conifers, including one of the earliest Douglas firs to come to Britain.

big trees byreburn

Although there are not many larches in this part of the wood, this one stood out with its fresh green growth.

latch buds

As we went along, the wood got younger…

byreburn wood trail

…and we finally emerged into an area that has been felled.  Here the path took a turn up a steep but short climb….

path through uphill byreburn wood

…which gave us a look back over the sawmill below.

canonbie sawmill

Luckily, the path makers had thoughtfully provided a place of rest for the elderly walker at the top of the hill.

bench in byreburn wood

We now walked along the edge of the wood beside green fields as we headed up the Byreburn valley…

Windy Hill

…passing this interesting tree on the way.conifer at Windy Hill

We got to the spot where a great railway viaduct spanned the valley in days gone by…

Untitled-1

Photo from the Langholm Archive collection

…but it was demolished in 1986 and there is no sign of it all now.

view of burebrun from old viaduct spot

We continued on until we came to the road and then walked down to the Byreburn itself.  The willows have been outstanding this year and we thought that this showed how well they are doing.

fat willow

We crossed the Byreburn by the road bridge and walked down the track on the far side of the stream, stopping at the Fairy Loup to record a clump of ladybirds on a fence post…

clump of ladybirds

…and noting the very gentle trickle of water over the waterfall after a good few days without any rain.

fairy loup trickle

This was a coal mining area once and an old engine house can still be seen.  It pumped water out of the workings beside the burn.

old pumping house

We were out of the woods now and walked back along the old A7 towards our car.

Just past the engine house was a patch of grass which was full of lichen.  It makes a change from moss.

lichen at byrebrunfoot

We were on the flat beside the river Esk and the farmer had been out rolling his pasture which gave the fields a very well tended air.

 

 

fields at Canonbie

Then there were just a few celandines…

celandine beside old A7

…a patch of blackthorn hedge…

balckthorn at Byreburn wood

…and a horse chestnut bud to record….

chestnut bud

…before we got into the car and drove home, having enjoyed a walk, some of which Mrs Tootlepedal thought was entirely new to her.  It certainly had a great variety of surroundings and interest for its modest two and a half mile distance.

Not surprisingly, we were quite happy to sit down and have a quiet cup of tea and a rest when we got home.  It had been a strenuous day for Mrs Tootlepedal in particular with a lot of digging and delving in the morning.

The flying bird of the day is a female chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from a visit to Birmingham by my brother Andrew.  He took the opportunity to show us the BT Tower there on a beautiful day..

Birmingham BT Tower

I am trying mix gentle exercise with good quality rest for my foot so I went back to lie on my bed after breakfast and was fortunate to find a tricky crossword in the paper which took some time to finish and gave my leg plenty of opportunity to have a relaxing stretch.

When I came down, I joined Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden and we had a look around.  I once again marvelled at the agility and pertinacity of the slug who crawled up a  stem and took a single bite out of the trumpet of just one of this bunch of daffodils and then crawled back down again.

nibbled daffodil

That’s what I call a discerning diner.

The pulmonaria hasn’t done very well over the winter this year but it is producing a few flowers.

pulmonaria

We got out hedge trimmers and a saw and trimmed a couple of bushes next to our neighbour Irvin’g fence and then sawed off two branches of a lilac which were leaning over his fence (and not doing very well anyway.)

After that, we got into the car and drove off to a garden centre where we had a light lunch and made some judicious purchases.  Mrs Tootlepedal bought some plants and I bought a novel product for the lawn which claims to combine fertilizer for the grass with bacteria which are going to eat my moss and make it disappear without me having to rake the dead moss out.  This sounds a bit too good to be true but I won’t find out if I don’t use it and the grass needs a boost even if the moss doesn’t get eaten.

We came home by way of the Gretna Outlet shopping village.  I recently broke both my coffee cups by dropping one of them on the other so I was looking for replacements.  I was resigned to having to buy two unnecessary saucers to go with the new cups, and I was very pleased to find that I could buy cups without saucers thus saving both money and space in the cupboard.

Instead of going straight home when we got back to Langholm, we completed our little outing by driving through the town past my favourite view.

ewes valley

I looked back down the hill towards the town.  The foresters have been very busy in the recently felled wood and the wood is now full of the plastic tubes that go with new planting of deciduous trees.

new planting

We did see some goats on our way up to the county boundary and it is a sign of how well they blend into the background that you might think at first sight that there were four goats in the picture.  In fact the ‘goat’ on the left is a clump of heather.

three goats

They were busy eating but did keep half an eye on me to see what I was up to.

goat eating

And sometimes even both eyes.

goat staring

When we got to the county boundary we met an expert local naturalist who had parked there and was looking for interesting birds.  Had he seen anything?  Not a single thing.  If he hadn’t seen anything, we wouldn’t either so we set off  back down the hill.

We had to slow down as a goat crossed the road in front of us but by the time we had drawn alongside, it had its head down and was ignoring us entirely…

disguised goat

…as were its friends.

goats hifing

We left them to it and continued down to the Tarras bridge.  On the far side of the valley, we could see family groups of goats with their young.

goat family

When we got home, we took a moment to watch our own birds…

siskin in need of a perch

…and as there was a lot of demand but not much seed, I refilled the feeder…

not enough perhces

…but there was still more demand for perches than supply…

busy feeder full

…and things turned ugly.

threatening goldfinch

Very ugly.

two goldfinches

We left the sparring  goldfinches and siskins to it and went out to do some gardening.  The task was to use our petrol driven rotavator to dig over a grass strip between two narrow beds to make a larger bed for this year’s potato planting.

Things didn’t go well. The machine was hard to get started and when it finally burst into life, it was extremely reluctant to do any digging.  Instead of burrowing into the soil as it should, it just moved backwards towards the driver in a vaguely threatening manner.  We took the tines off and turned them round and that made no difference at all.

Mrs Tootlepedal went in  to study the handbook for the machine and I looked at it in a curious way.  I wondered vaguely what a rather faded label on the front of the machine might say and bent down to peer at it.  “The driver must always be facing this label”

This was what they call a tea tray moment, i.e. when you bang your head with a tea tray after making a discovery which should have been obvious all the time. When the machine had been reassembled after coming back in the post from its service, the handles had been put on the wrong way round. Duh!

We set about putting them on the correct way and took the machine out for another try.

Success!

rotavator

The soil was tilled.

All was not entirely sweetness and light though because the machine bumped up and down rather alarmingly at one end of the bed instead of tilling the earth.  Mrs Tootlepedal got into full archaeologist mode and dug an exploratory trench…

new bed with trench

…which revealed a double row of bricks a foot below the surface, obviously the foundation for  an old structure of some kind.

new bed bricks

Our garden has had a long existence in various forms and uses and Mrs Tootlepedal is used to finding all sorts of things under the soil when she is digging. We found a lot of big stones under the soil too today.

new bed stones

The bricks will come up and the machine will leap into action again and the potatoes will be planted.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and after Alison and I had experienced the benefits of doing some practice as we played Telemann, Corelli and Vivaldi, we all sat down together to watch the final of Masterchef.  Jilly, our local competitor, did herself proud but narrowly failed to carry off the prize.

Having watched some very good cooking, we will have to up our own game in the kitchen.  I am going to ask Mrs Tootlepedal for some quails eggs in a fig sauce to go with my porridge tomorrow…. or perhaps not.

There are not one but two flying goldfinches of the day today.

two flying goldfinches

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s African trip.  She met a number of alarming animals as she went along.

Nile crocodile

My day started with a visit to the doctor to inquire about the possibility of a miracle cure and consult about the blood test results following my mild anaemia.  The blood results could not have been better as all my levels were just about as good as they could be.  The doctor declared that I was in perfect health and I was almost embarrassed to mention my foot trouble and show her my swollen foot.

Her diagnosis was osteoarthritis due to wear and tear and the miracle cure was thus not available.  She has sent me off for an x-ray though in case I have got some other damage in my foot.  As that will probably take two weeks to happen, I shall continue to hobble around muttering balefully meanwhile.

It was a lovely day though so that cheered me up when I got back into the garden, especially when I found out that Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy putting a neat edge on the middle lawn.

edged lawn

Nothing makes a lawn look better than a neat edge.

I did the edges of the front lawn and then took a look round.  In the pond, the tadpoles are still in a heap but they are looking quite healthy and should start swimming around soon.

tadpoles

It was such a perfect day that I thought that I might test out the idea that had been put into my head by Stan at our last camera club meeting and try what a mirror could do.

The dog tooth violet seemed like a good subject as it hangs its head down so I stuck the mirror underneath it and had a go with my little Lumix.

violet with mirror

The result was very satisfactory in that I got a shot which I don’t think that I could have got by any other method without picking the flower.

violet in mirror (2)

I got my Nikon out, put the macro lens on and tried a few other flowers with the mirror technique.

A hellebore…

hellebore in mirror

…a scylla…

scylla in mirror

…and back to the violet again.

violet in mirror

I am grateful to Stan as it is obviously a really promising idea….though if I am seen walking through the woods with a shaving mirror in my hand, I may get some odd looks.

While I had the macro lens on, I peered at the euphorbia…

euphorbia in sunshine

…the doronicum…

doronicum

…and the nameless little white flowers.

two little white flowers

I noticed the very first dicentra of the year…

first dicentra

…and Mrs Tootlepedal noticed that there were several ladybirds about too.

ladybird in garden

Mrs Tootlepedal went in to cook some sticky toffee pudding and I stayed out in the garden and was very pleased to get a visit from a man from the power company who had come to inspect our wobbly electricity pole,  He gave the bottom of the pole some savage whacks with a hammer and decided that the telephone men had been wise not to climb up it.  It has to go and after some consideration of the possibility of digging trenches through three gardens (as the pole serves three houses), he decided that putting up a new pole would be the way to go.  To avoid wrecking Mrs Tootlepedal’s garden, the hole for the pole will be hand dug.  This will make for interesting work for the apprentices whose job it will be to dig the hole.

In the end, as we were going to Edinburgh as usual to visit Matilda, I had to leave the garden reluctantly and make a little lunch.  I watched the birds as the soup heated.

In spite of a free perch on the other side of the feeder, a lady chaffinch thought that it was quite all right to trample on an innocent goldfinch.

chaffinch stamping goldfinch

To try to tempt some different birds to come to the feeders, I have put out some peanuts.  Mrs Tootlepedal saw a blue tit visit but the only bird I saw nibbling on the nuts was this siskin.

siskin on peanuts

On the whole, the sunflower hearts seem much more attractive than the peanuts and the birds were jumping at the chance to get a seed.

siskin landing

The trip to Edinburgh was delightful, with the train on time and the countryside looking at its best in the sun.

When we got there, Matilda was away from home practising a dance routine for a forthcoming competition so I had a moment to take a very short stroll through the nearby Botanic gardens.

It was a good place to be.

sdrsdrdigdav

Matilda returned and we had time for a chat before a meal of asparagus and lemon linguine cooked by Al and Mrs Tootlepedal’s sticky toffee pudding.  Al and Clare are in the middle of moving to their new house and we hope to be able to see it with the furniture and floors in soon.

The journey home went well so apart from still having a sore foot, it was a very satisfactory day.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who met this violinist in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.  The exhibition is called “Too Cute”.

Brum fiddler

I had a restless but inactive day as my dratted foot went from being more or less pain free at breakfast to extremely sore by the end of the day.  I am frustrated.  What is best? Rest? Exercise?  A mixture of both?  I can’t wait to see the doctor on Friday.

Meanwhile a disjointed post will accurately reflect a disjointed day.  The best thing about it was that Mrs Tootlepedal was recovered enough to go off to an embroidery meeting in Hawick where they combined business with lunch and I have no doubt that the banter had them all in stitches.

I made frequent forays in search of flowers and found a promising tulip…

nearly a tulip

…an actual aubretia…

aubretia

…a dog tooth violet (a candidate for seeing if mirror photography will work)…

dog tooth violet

…and a little lamium.

lamium

Mrs Tootlepedal  is mildly vexed to find that the jackdaws have now removed nearly all of her wool mulch for their nests.

no wool left

It was a warmish day with a bit of chill still in the wind but we were short of sunshine and I had to rely on the daffodils along the back path…

daffodil path

…and some that our neighbour Kenny planted along the dam at the back of the house to bring some brightness into the day.

dam daffodils

Other flowers were available.

cowslippy thing

The magnolia has come out.

open magnolia flower

The birds emptied the feeder again today with siskins and goldfinches the first to get tucked in…

siskin and goldfinch and food

…but with chaffinches arriving to get their share too.

one chaffinche on each side

As the seeds  went down, things got heated.

arguing chaffinches

HEALTH WARNING:

The next part of the post contains composting pictures which those of a nervous disposition may find too exciting for their own good.

In the afternoon, while Mrs Tootlepedal was away, I turned my hand to some gentle composting.  I sieved some more of Bin D and finished emptying Bin B into Bin C.

This left Bin C (on the left) and Bin D (on the right) looking like this.

Bin C and Bin D

Bin B is now ready for refilling from Bin A…

Bin B empty

…but as Bin A is only half full….

Bin A half full

…I can take a break from turning compost for a bit.

The end product of the system is this.

two buckets of composy

Mrs Tootlepedal will soon find a home for it in the flower beds and vegetable garden.

Of course, you don’t have to do turning and shifting and sieving as you can just leave your compost in a great heap and let time do its work but where is the fun in that?

I had rung up the phone company in the morning to complain that the fallen telephone wire which is lying across our garden had not been fixed back up again.  The men who came on Friday had promised that someone would come on Monday to do the job.

Rather to my surprise, I got through almost immediately to a very competent and helpful lady in India who told me that the job had been marked as closed for some reason but she said that she would start a new job and get someone round as soon as possible….and with the right ladder!

She gave me a window of 48 hours in which to expect them but she must have added strong words to her case report as no less than three men came round in the afternoon.  I was pleased to hear that they had brought the blue ladder with them too.

Things went downhill a bit after that as having inspected the pole in our garden, they declared that it was so unsafe that they could not lean a ladder against it under any circumstances, blue or not, for fear of knocking the pole and its live wires over.

Of course the pole doesn’t belong to them as it is the property of the energy company so that means more delay.  They did think of taking the phone wire across the garden by a different route but that would have involved using one of their own poles beside the dam and when they looked at it, they found that it was decidedly wonky too, being over 60 years old.

New poles all round seems to be what is needed.

But as we have been waiting for six years to get the pole in our garden replaced, we are not holding our breath.  Something may happen as the phone company men are going to report to the electricity company  men that the pole is dangerous and the  telephone wire is still draped across our garden…

fallen wire with sandbags

..though it does have additional official sandbags on it now.

In the evening, I went off to sing with the Langholm Choir and found that we have had a concert arranged for us next Tuesday for which at the time of writing, we have no conductor, no accompanist, not many singers and no music.  It promises to be an interesting event.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch female

 

 

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Today’s picture is another from Venetia’s African odyssey in the course of which she seems to have seen just about everything you could expect to see if things went really well on such a visit.

Elephant crossing,

After the excitement of yesterday’s outing, I had a quiet day today.  The weather was quiet too, with a tiny spot of sun and a single drop of rain, but it was mostly grey and unemotional.

Although Mrs Tootlepedal is still a bit under the weather,  she managed to go out and sort out posters in the Welcome to Langholm office for forthcoming Buccleuch Centre events.  I had a look at the birds.

It was a hard stare and shouting day.

siskin warning chaffinch

I was suffering a bit from yesterday’s walk so I measured out visits to the garden in small doses but made the most of my time while I was out.

I started with a check on the developing magnolia…

magnolia flower

…and then set about shifting some more compost from Bin B into Bin C.  In spite of having a good cover on Bin B, the amount of rain we have had has made the compost wet and heavy so I am moving a modest amount at a time but I have got down to needing one more go after today’s effort.  Perhaps because of the moisture, the compost is full of worms this year which is a good thing.

I also sieved some of the compost in Bin D but as it is wet too, the sieving is more tedious than it should be so there is quite a lot of that left to do.

I took a picture of a newly flourishing bergenia…

bergenia

…and went back in looked out at the birds again.

They were still shouting.

goldfinch shouting

I had some nourishing soup for my lunch and watched the birds whizzing round the feeder…

busy feeder

…and I was delighted to see a stranger among the chaffinches, siskins and goldfinches.  A redpoll had come to call.

chaffinch and redpoll

I paid another visit to the garden to gather the material for a panel of primroses and primula…

primrose and primula

…and while I was out, I got the mower out and put the blades up high enough for me to be able to walk across the front lawn pretending that I was mowing it.

Basically I was just squashing moss, although a few blades of grass here and there stuck up enough to end up in the grass box.  It is the first step in a process that I hope will end up with the lawn looking quite respectable for one or two weeks in the middle of summer before the moss starts its inexorable return.  It is a pointless but amusing exercise.

I retired to my computer and added a new parish magazine from 1968, which Sandy had scanned and formatted, to our Archive Group website.

I was thinking of a very short walk or slow cycle ride but there was a hint of drizzle so I went back to my computer and put the accompaniment for the last movement of one of the pieces which I am playing with Luke into the kind programme that plays the keyboard and the cello part for us.

I got bored of sitting around in the end and in spite of the poor light, I went off on the slow bike to see if there were any birds down by the river.  Because the light was poor, there were birds on all sides.

I saw a pair of oyster catchers showing that one leg or two is all the same to them.

two oysdtercatchers with legs

I saw Mr Grumpy standing on the rock where the big gull usually stands.

mr grumpy in Esk

I saw a pair of goosanders both standing  out of the water for long enough for me to get a shot of them…

male goosander preening

…though the female had lost her head.

female goosander headless

All these were on the short stretch between the suspension and the town bridges.

I crossed the town bridge and stopped at the Kilngreen where a pied wagtail posed for a moment…

pied wagtail ewes

…while two mallards tried to sneak off unnoticed behind my back,

ducks sneaking off

I was talking to a fellow cyclist when a dipper flew past but it was too quick for me and all that was left was to catch the fine show of daffodils along the bank up to the Sawmill Brig.

ewes water daffodils

I pedalled gently across the bridge, up the Lodge Walks and then back along the riverside path….

Castleholm pine tree

…and then I went through the town up to Pool Corner where this fine crop of catkins caught my eye.

dangly catkins

I had one final look round the garden when I got home…

orange trumpet daffodil

…and enjoyed two of the different daffodils that Mrs Tootlepedal has planted over the years.

red trumpet daffodil

That pretty well concluded the excitement for the day apart from watching our local heroine Jilly making it through another day of Masterchef.

A chaffinch looking a bit uncomfortable is the flying bird of the day.

cricked chaffinch

Note: I see that Sandy has put a set of pictures from our walk at Watchtree yesterday onto his blog.  Those interested can see them here.

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Stephen, a friend of my sister Susan.  He took this picture of  a fabulous Sydney Harbour sunset. The occasion was the opening night of the annual Opera on the Harbour.  I hope he will forgive me for only using part of his shot.

sydney harbour

We had a wonderfully spring like day today, with lots of sunshine, no rain and a moderate wind.  It was a perfect day for cycling but good sense suggested that I should give that a miss.  Instead, I rang up Sandy who came round for a cup of coffee over which we decided that a leisurely walk round a nature reserve would be the best way to use the day.

Mrs Tootlepedal was recovered enough to seriously consider coming with us but in the end, good sense overtook her as well, and she decided on a quiet day at home to continue her recuperation from her cold.

Watchtree, the reserve whihc we chose, is on the other side of Carlisle, between the Solway Firth and the Lake district hills.

lake hills from watchtree

It is not your run of the mill reserve as it is on an old airfield which now is the site of half of a wind farm.  In addition over half a million sheep carcasses were buried on the site during the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001.  All this might make for an unattractive place to visit in many ways but a lot of work has been done to make it worth a visit.

And they serve very tasty bacon butties in their little cafe.

Fortified by the bacon butties we set off to walk round the old airfield among the wind turbines.

watchtree wind turbines

Our first stop was at a bird hide on a pond.  The walk down the side of the pond was fringed by hedge plants covered alternately in lichen or blossom.

watchree bird pond lichen and blossom

There was not a great deal of activity on the water but I was happy to see a tufted duck emerge from diving under the water for long enough for me to get a shot.

watchree bird pond tufted duck

A coot also emerged from under the water with a little weed in its beak.

watchree bird pond coot

The pond was looking very charming with reeds..

watchree bird pond reeds

…and the reflections of the turbines to add variety.

watchree bird pond

Some bird feeders had been placed behind the bird hide and we saw two tree sparrows enjoying a snack.

tree sparrowsd watchtree

We moved on to a second pond, passing a gorgeous clump of gorse with a strong smell of coconut on the way.

rampant gorse

There were quite a few waterfowl about on this pond but as usual, they hung around at the very far end so I could only get some rather blurry pictures of a goose literally trying to blow itself up.

goose inflating

Having failed, it paddled off very calmly.

goose serene

My binoculars were more use than my camera.

pond with waterfowl

We left the hide and walked round the pond to the edge of the site where we came across this slightly macabre reminder of a local air crash.

crashed jet engine

We then followed a half mile circular path through a young wood on the edge of the site.

Half the route was lined with trees in leaf….

watchree wood track green

…with the other half still bare.

watchree wood track

Leaving that wood, we crossed a runway and went into an older wood where the sharp eyed Sandy spotted a deer lurking among the trees.

hidden deer

There were willows on all sides but my favourite of the day was this back lit one in the wood.

sunlit willow

Bird feeders had been set up in this wood but although we could hear any amount of twittering in the trees around us, the feeders were unused so we walked onto to the pond in the centre of the wood.  It too was very quiet and nothing could be seen swimming around in its clear water.

watchtree pond

It was very pleasant strolling through the woods in the sunshine so we continued our walk in good spirits, eventually coming to the site of the old control tower from the airfield where the was a handy aerial photograph of the site on an information board.

orton aerodrome

Our roughly two mile walk took us round the triangle you can see in the picture, starting at the bottom right corner and going round anti clockwise past the first three wind turbines,  You can see the two ponds and the two woods which we visited.

The control tower itself has seen better days.

control tower watchtree

Although my feet were not very comfortable, the fine weather, the ponds, the woods, the wildlife and the good company made the outing thoroughly enjoyable and we were tired but happy when we got home.

While I was in active mode, I made an effort at giving the middle lawn a mow and even though there is a lot of moss on it, I was able to add a good heap of grass cuttings to my compost bin.

Then I went in and made Mrs Tootlepedal a cup of tea.

And watched our local birds for a moment.

chaffinches at feeder

Later on, I was just waiting for my flute pupil Luke to come when I noticed movement outside the kitchen window.

The pair of partridges were visiting.

red legged partridge close up

They are undoubtedly our most handsome visitors.

red legged partridge

Luke has been practising again with very beneficial results and we enjoyed playing through our Loeillet sonata a lot.

As we are going to get to work on our Quantz sonata next, I will have to copy Luke and do some serious practice myself.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch with its wings firmly shut.

flying goldfinch

 

 

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