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Archive for Mar, 2019

Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo’s visit to Vancouver  and shows that they have silly cars there as well as silly buildings.  By the time that you make a car this small, you would be better off on an electric bicycle.  I might get into such a car but I don’t think that I would ever be able to get out again.

vancouver car

Mrs Tootlepedal was already up and about this morning when I got up but she wasn’t feeling well enough to sing in the church choir so I went off on my own.  Once again we had a very small choir but there were some enjoyable hymns to sing so we did our best.

The forecast had hinted at rain by the time that church was over and there were a few drops but the day stayed largely dry.  I had to fill the feeders as the traffic had been heavy once again and as soon as they were filled, birds started to arrive.

goldfinch and siskin

The arrivals were almost all chaffinches, goldfinches and siskins but it is good to see a busy feeder even if there is not a great variety of different birds.

traffic stacking at feeder

The birds are working on a controlled stacking system copied from Heathrow airport.

My foot was very sore after yesterday’s cycling efforts which was a bit of a disappointment to me as the cycling itself had been very pain free.  As a result, I limited my walking to the garden and didn’t stay out long when I was there.

I prepared a  pot of mince for the slow of cooker and went out when I had finished.

I like this avenue of little daffodils and the sharp eyed will just be able to see the ground level telephone wire going across the grass at the far end.

row of daffs and fallen wire

Signs of things happening are all around.  I saw the first colour in a tulip of the year…

first tulip bud

…and a little cluster of buds on the silver pear.

silver pear buds

When I went back in to make some coffee, I had time to look at the busy feeder again. A siskin was giving a chaffinch a hard time for undue encroachment…

siskins ganging up on chaffinch

…and a female of the species showed that it was deadlier than the male by trampling on an unsuspecting  siskin in return.

stamping chaffinch on siskin

I switched between indoor and outdoor activities and went out to consider the grape hyacinths.  Mrs Tootlepedal is not going for a continuous river of blue this year but she has several promising pools developing.

pool of hyacinths

Back inside again, I saw a chaffinch trying to get organised for a landing…

wonky chaffunch

…and a goldfinch who had safely arrived using a mixed overhand and underhand grip.

secure goldfinch

On my next garden excursion, I walked across the road to talk to our neighbour Liz and in the course of a very interesting conversation about sore feet, I admired her mossy gatepost…

Liz's mossy gatepost

…and she directed my attention to some more moss a bit further along her wall.

Liz's mossy wall

As I went back inside, the sun came out and a goldfinch showed off the pattern on its wings.

flying goldfinch

I had time for one last excursion to the garden where I wondered what had leapt up and taken this chunk out of the trumpet of a daffodil and left the rest untouched….

eaten daffodil

…and was impressed by the growth in the tree peony in the back bed.

tree peony bud

As Mrs Tootlepedal was not feeling at her best, I left her watching Gardeners’ World on the telly and went off after lunch to do some shopping on my way to sing with our Carlisle choir.  As I not only remembered to write a shopping list but I also remembered to take it with me, the shopping was very satisfactory.

The choir was most enjoyable and we had a lot of good singing but as Ellen, our proper conductor,  wasn’t there for the second week running, we didn’t get quite as much done as we should have.  It is interesting to get different conductors and you can always learn something from a new approach but it doesn’t get the songs for our next concert practised as thoroughly as they would be if Ellen was in charge.

It was really good to drive home in broad daylight as the long winter months have finally come to an end.

The slow cooked mince turned out well and we had it with mashed potatoes and spinach for our tea.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is another of my brother’s Derby insects.  He suspects that the face of this grasshopper might have been modelled on our prime minister after recent events.

grasshopper

We finally got a reasonably calm and occasionally sunny morning today and as it was a good day for gardening, it was almost inevitable that Mrs Tootlepedal should have had an all day embroidering workshop arranged.  To add to her misfortune, by the time that she returned home after the workshop, she began to feel a bit poorly and had to retire to bed and thus the whole day was wasted from a gardening point of view.

I was luckier and able to make the most of it as far as my unhelpful foot allowed.  Although it was quite chilly at a mere 5°C at 10 o’clock, I managed to get my cycling kit on and tested my foot by cycling 14 miles on my new bike.  I took a few pictures to celebrate being out and about as I went along.

As it is getting late as I write this, I append them with the general comment that I enjoyed the views.

glencorf burn march

cleuchfoot gorse

cleuchfoot tree

bigholms tree

Bigholm farm

The cycling was pretty painless but I could feel my foot complaining if I had to go up any sort of a hill, so I kept to a low gear and took my time.

Just before I got home, I passed my neighbour Liz, who also has a troublesome foot.  She was walking her dog and I as I thought that we both might benefit from a cup of coffee, I invited her to drop in when she had got home.

I had time to get changed and make the coffee (and tidy the kitchen table) before she arrived.  The coffee was consumed to a background of really interesting foot conversation.   When Liz left, I had a quick scout round the garden and noticed that more of the fancy cowslip flowers had appeared…

three cowslips

…and the magnolia bud is developing but not flowering yet.

magnolia bud opening

I went back in to prepare some soup for my lunch and watched the birds while it was cooking.

There were a lot of siskins about again.

siskin in a hurry

I liked this chaffinch checking out the feeder spaces.

angelic chaffinch

The siskins are not above giving each other a hearty kick if they want a perch…

pre stamping siskin

…while some chaffinches may suffer from bad breath it appears.

female chaffinch blown away

A goldfinch kept an eye on proceedings in an avuncular way, maybe auditioning for a role as a wise old owl.

goldfinch pondering

The siskins kept nibbling.

siskin feederful

As my foot was a bit too sore for a walk but had not got much worse after my short morning cycle, I went for a flat ride on my slow bike after lunch, with plenty of stops to watch the oyster catchers on the Esk…

oyster catchers composite

…and to go on a very short walk up the track at Whitshiels to admire the moss…

mossy stone

…and a little glade.

glade at whitshiels

The larches are just about to come out and it will soon feel much more like spring.

I cycled back through the town, passing this sensational shrub opposite the Townfoot tollbar…

yellow bush

…and made my way down to the Penton road where I took the obligatory picture of Skippers Bridge…

skippers

..fighting my way past some recently fallen branches to get to the waterside…

fallen branches

…and then went further along the road until I got to the mossy wall.

mossy wall

Then I pedalled back home, stopping at the Co-op to purchase some fish cakes for my tea.

All in all, it was a very satisfactory five miles, though it has to be admitted that my foot was more sore by the end of the day than it was at the beginning so I will have to moderate my enthusiasm for cycling.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I had arranged to go to Carlisle in the evening to hear our friend Sue singing in the Cathedral with the Cumbrian Rural Choirs, who get together once a year for a major sing.  Mrs Tootlepedal didn’t feel up to going, but as she was well enough to look after herself, I went off on my own.

There was a big audience and the best seat I could get was a hard wooden bench in the back of the choir stalls.  I sat under the blue sky ceiling of the cathedral and enjoyed the music.

mde

The choirs, complete with a very good professional orchestra and four excellent soloists, sang  the setting of The Seven Last Words of Christ by Haydn and Mozart’s Requiem.  As this amounted to nearly two hours of music sung in German and Latin, it was a tribute both to the composers and the performers, that I hardly noticed the uncomfortable seat at all.

I really enjoyed the Haydn, which I had never heard before.  There was a translation of the German in the programme and I always feel that it makes listening to church music much more enjoyable if you can get a feel of how the music and the words go together rather than just listening to some pleasant sounds.  The programme notes said that this piece is not often performed as it consists of seven adagios one after another, but I found it rolled on without dragging at all. It ends with a terrific earthquake.

The Mozart was good but the text was not so interesting as the Haydn and as the parts were often singing different words at the same time, it didn’t have quite the same emotional impact for me.  I sang it at a scratch performance a year or so ago and had more fun singing it then than listening to it now.  I don’t want to complain though. The performance was good and the music is lovely.  Also, it might have made a difference if it had been done in the first half of the concert while my mind and body were still fresh.

A flying siskin rounds off the post in the important position of the flying bird of the day.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia’s African odyssey.  I don’t mind getting close to small birds but I might be a bit nervous to get so close to a lion in the open.

Lion,

We had a grey morning and a wet afternoon here today so it wasn’t really the day for a gentle pedal with a camera in my pocket.  Instead I was happy to eat very good treacle scones and drink coffee with Dropscone and wander round the garden in a faint drizzle once he had gone.

The pond has not shown any sign of a serious leak….

fullish pond

…so the reason for its sudden drop a few days ago remains a complete mystery.

My inclination is to suspect that a mighty rushing wind had swept the waters away but Mrs Tootlepedal regards that as fanciful.  She has no better explanation though.  Any suggestions are welcome.  Very thirsty birds?

Beside the pond, I couldn’t help noticing this deep red primrose.

very red primrose

I tried to photograph a small clump of scillas but the only thing that I got absolutely in focus was the stalk.  I was going to have another go but by the time that I thought of it, it had started to rain.

scillas almost in focus

Beside the bird feeder, a charming white flower is emerging and Mrs Tootlepedal is going to tell me what it is when she remembers.

small white flower

During the morning, Mrs Tootlepedal had been surprised to find that the telephone wire to our neighbour’s house, which should have been attached to a tall electricity pole in the middle of our vegetable garden, had become detached.  Instead of passing safely above our heads, it was now stretching across the garden at exactly head height.

fallen phone wire

She rang up those responsible for the wire and after a slightly bonkers conversation with a man in India, she was told that someone would come within four hours and either cut it down or put it up again .  In the event, two young men did come just four hours later but they neither cut it down nor put it up again.

It turned out that they hadn’t been fully briefed on the nature of the job so they hadn’t brought the requisite ladder for leaning against an electricity pole.  This you will understand is a special leaning against an electricity pole ladder not just any old ladder…like the one we offered to lend them for the job.

open reach men

In the end, after some head scratching, they cut the wire and added a new middle section which made it long enough to cross our garden while it was lying on the grass.  We promised not to trip over the wire over the weekend and they promised to send some men with the requisite ladder who would hang the wire up again on Monday.

Before the rain came, I watched the birds and was fatally slow in trying to catch a flying chaffinch on two occasions.

two landing chaffinches

I liked the prompt surrender of this chaffinch caught with a seed in its mouth.

chaffinch holding hands up

Once the rain came, the light was only good enough to shoot sitting birds…

posing chaffinch with seed

…some of whom looked pretty fed up with the weather.

sad goldfinch

As I couldn’t get out, I took pictures of flowers inside.

two indoor daffs

The rain did finally stop in the early evening but it was still damp and grey outside…

damp feeder scene

…so I spent some time on the bike to nowhere in the garage listening to music instead of enjoying a view.

When  I looked out of the back door, I was struck by the colour of the sky.

false sunset

In the evening, there was a special treat as my Friday night accompanist Alison came round to play some sonatas for the first time this year.  She injured her shoulder badly before Christmas and it has taken her a lot of time and hard work to get back into playing duets again.  So while Mike her husband and Mrs Tootlepedal caught up on the news, Alison and I gave some old a favourites a go with a few errors here and there and a lot of enjoyment all round.  I will have to get practising.

After playing we joined the other two to watch a Langholm lass get to the final of Masterchef, a great triumph.

We are promised drier, calmer weather for the next week so I hope to be able to get out and about if my foot allows.

A standard chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest post comes from Mary Jo’s visit to Vancouver and goes to prove that the ability to produce very silly buildings is a world wide phenomenon.

vancouver building

My foot and my cold continue to make life difficult for me and boring for anyone who has to listen to me moaning, which is everyone who comes into earshot.

However, it was quite a pleasant day here, warm and dry, so Mrs Tootlepedal was able to get some useful work done in the garden and I was able to do a little shredding and some compost sieving to help.

I had my camera in my pocket so I looked around while I was outside.

The taller stronger daffodils are looking good…

trad daffodil

…but the smaller ones, like these Jetfires have been more affected by the wind and the rain and although they are still pretty cheerful as a bunch, individually they are inclined to be a bit tatty.

jetfore daffodils

I was looking at an ornamental cowslip and wondering how it could have such vivid red buds and such a brown flower.

new flower

A blackbird was thinking about that too.

blackbird in flower bed

It was too good a day to waste doing nothing so I got my slow bike out and pedalled very gently round an extended three bridges walk, stopping from time to time if I saw anything.

This was one of a pair of oyster catchers on the Esk….

oyster chatcher on Esk

…and this was one of a pair at the mouth of Ewes Water.

oystercatcher on Ewes

They may not be catching any oysters but they look well enough fed.

The pure white duck seems to be developing a black spot on its head.

white mallard

Even if you are cycling slowly, you don’t see as much as when you are walking and it isn’t so easy to stop and investigate as you go along so my photographic pickings for my three mile journey were slim, though I was able to see that the trees in general are beginning to sprout…

nuthatch tree tig

…and the willows are flourishing.

willow flowers

There are not many flowers about yet but this bush caught my eye….

early rhodie bush

…and I was able to get a closer look when I passed by later on my tour.

early rhodie

When I got home, I went inside and watched the birds out of the kitchen window for a while.  Once again the feeder was busy.

Some chaffinches were keeping a wary eye out…

chaffinch checking

…whenever they got near the feeder…

confused flying chaffinch

…while others had eyes only for a vacant perch.

flying chaffinch male

There was a lot of close proximity work and you can see a chaffinch and a siskin clashing wings in this shot.

chaffinch and many siskins

After lunch we set off to Lockerbie Station to catch the train to Edinburgh.  It was twenty minutes late and I seem to have spent a lot of my life standing on the end of the platform looking wistfully down the track…

burst

…in the hope of seeing a train.

We did get to Edinburgh in the end and the slight delay was soon forgotten in the excitement of going to visit Al and Matilda at their new house.  They had taken possession of it this very day and they were very proud to show us round.
It looks great….

dav

…but they say that they are thinking of putting some flooring and furniture in before they actually move in.

After the viewing, we went back to join Clare at her parents’ flat where they are staying until the move is completed.  Once there, we settled down to some serious game playing as Matilda taught her grandparents how to play Llamas in Pyjamas, a very fine game which involves llamas in pyjamas and an a-llarma clock too.

Al and Clare went off to do their duties at a nursery school parents night and Matilda, Mrs Tootlepedal and I enjoyed some pizza for tea.

Al and Clare returned in time for us to go off and catch the train home, which was bang on time to be fair to the railway company.  It will be fun watching the new house being furnished and becoming a home.

The flying bird of the day is a calm chaffinch.

flying chaffinch female

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s African odyssey.  She is putting a full account of the trip on her blog which can be found here.

hippos,

Yesterday’s rest had improved my foot a little but as there is still some way to go, I had another day where I didn’t venture out of house or garden on foot until well into the evening.  I did pay two visits to shops, pedalling very sedately on my slow bike.

It was warm enough outside for Mrs Tootlepedal to get some useful gardening in.  My role was limited to sporadic supervision though I helped to lift up the little bridge over our pond.  It turned out to be acting not just as a bridge but as a home  from home for a pair of frogs too.

two frogs

I don’t know who was more surprised, them or us.

We lifted the bridge to see if we could spot a leak in the pond liner as our pond had mysteriously and suddenly gone down a lot..

empty pond

It had been absolutely full two days ago.  We filled it up and will look anxiously tomorrow to see whether it has gone down again.

I wandered around the garden but as it was a damp and misty day, there wasn’t a lot to see except the  inevitable moss which is taking over the world…

moss elder

…and any amount of rather unusual raindrop patterns on leaves…

another leaf with raindrops

…in every corner…

lupin with raindrops

…of the flower beds…

leaf with raindrops

….and on euphorbia flowers.

euphorbia with raindrops

The forsythia was  doing its best to brighten things up…

forsythia

…and pulmonarias are trying to help too.

pulmonaria

I spent most of the day indoors, killing time by doing this and that and occasionally peering through the gloom at the bird feeders.

The siskins were thoroughly at home today…

four siskins

…although they had to fight off the attentions of chaffinches….

siskin under pressure from chaffinch

…and goldfinches…

siskin under pressure from goldfinch

…not to mention other siskins.

siskin under pressure from siskin

The main business of the day was a visit to the Buccleuch Centre in the evening to see the Langholm Operatic and Dramatic Society’s production of My Fair Lady.

You always hope when you go to see a production involving friends that you are going to be able to look them in the eye afterwards and say well done without feeling shifty.  This show amply fulfilled that hope with a crisp production, good acting, excellent stage crew work and some really first class singing without a single weak member of the cast or chorus.   The show itself is one of my favourite musicals, with a good story, some very witty dialogue and a fistful of memorable tunes.  Time in the auditorium passed in the twinkling of an eye.

I am really beginning to feel the lack of exercise so I fear that I will have to put in some time on the bike to nowhere in the garage starting from tomorrow before I forget how to pedal altogether.

It wasn’t a good day for taking pictures of flying birds as the mist never lifted from the hills so I have put in two mediocre efforts, neither of which are chaffinches.

flying siskinflying goldfinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who visited a garden in the sky on the roof of the Birmingham Library.

Birmingham library rooftop garden

Sadly my sore foot decided that the return of Mrs Tootlepedal was an excuse to stop working altogether and I was reduced to hobbling around for most of the day which was very annoying.  On the more cheerful side, we were visited by Dropscone for coffee and scones in the morning and Mike Tinker for tea and biscuits in the afternoon so socially it was quite a bright day.

As I seem to be catching a cold too, I spent a lot of time doing nothing in particular but doing it very well of course. There were plenty of birds to watch.

A greenfinch put on its lost threatening face in an attempt to dislodge a goldfinch…

greenfinch threatening goldfinch

…and having dislodged the sitting tenant, it imperiously took up its place on the perch…

greenfinch on perch

…and gave any other pretenders a hard stare.

greenfinch staring out chaffinch

(In the best traditions of wild life TV programmes, different greenfinches may have been involved in the creation of this story line.)

Chaffinches approached vacant perches with care…

two chaffinches landing

…but some chaffinches are so habituated to arguing that they can’t resist an aggressive approach even if no-one else is there.

chaffinch shouting at perch

At times there was a positive whirlwind of birds…

loads of chaffinches

…and at other it was  peaceful enough for the arrival of a second bird to come as a shock to the incumbent.

chaffinch surprised

Although I was watching the birds, the birds found plenty to look at too.

greenfinch on pole

Sparrows are more handsome than you might think when they settle down for a moment.  This one was making sure that I was noticing him.

sparrow posing on feeder

On the other hand, this goldfinch had other things to think about than posing for me.

goldfinch on pole

I made one brief excursion round the garden to while away the hours conferring with the flowers and discovered that Mrs Tootlepedal has planted out a recent purchase.  It is a doronicum or leopard’s-bane and it seems to be settling in.

doronicum

We haven’t got many scillas out yet but the ones that are out are doing their best to add a little colour to the garden…

scilla in back bed

…and the clumps of daffodils are beginning to fill out too.

daffodils under feederdaffodil clump

Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that the Rip van Winkle daffodils are noted for retaining moisture which makes their heads hang down.  As a result they get splashed when it rains as these ones have, but the forecast is a bit better for a while so they should look up a bit.

rip van wnkle daffodil

A day of heavy resting has eased my foot off as I write this so I hope to be a bit more mobile tomorrow, ready to greet the Spring equinox with a sunny smile.  (On researching, I find that it will arrive at 21.58 tomorrow.  This came as surprise to me as I didn’t realise that it was an event timed to the minute like that.)

I am suffering from a severe lack of exercise in March, having only cycled 20 miles and hardly walked at all.  I have a doctor’s appointment but it is not for eight days so I will have to wait patiently.  Fortunately my capacity for endless mumphing and moaning has not been affected in the slightest so I am never short of something to do.

Another female chaffinch is the flying bird of the day today.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Jim and Sandra who are used to their bird feeder being visited by woodpeckers and nuthatches but got quite a surprise when this fellow turned. up.

whitaside pheasant

Owing to the impending return home of Mrs Tootlepedal, I had a busy morning of tidying up, hoovering  and floor sweeping.  The weather was much better outside than it has been but the housework and my sore foot kept me firmly anchored at home.

The birds were also pretty busy and I had to fill the feeders as there was a steady stream of chaffinches…

chaffinch shouting

…followed by a flurry of siskins and goldfinches.

sisikins overwhelm a chaffinch

After a cup of coffee, I stretched my legs to the extent of walking round the garden.  The crocuses have not really enjoyed the very variable weather this spring , coming out early and then being battered by rain and wind, but here and there one can be found looking quite cheerful.

open crocus

And the rosemary is busy  flowering.  It is a tricky plant to photograph so I was pleased to find a still moment with enough (but not too much) light to take a picture of it.

rosemary flower

When I got back inside and looked out, a chaffinch and a siskin obligingly posed for me above the feeder…

chaffinch on feeder pole

…while they were waiting for a free perch…

siskin on feeder pole

…and a collared dove looked for fallen seed below.

collared dove under feeder

I made some potato soup for lunch and after getting things sorted out for the evening’s camera club meeting, I tested my foot out on a very short three bridges walk.

I was hoping for some waterside bird life and spotted two oyster catchers on the gull’s usual posts.  They were very vocal as I got near and flew off before I could get close.

two oyster catchers on posts

Just below the sawmill brig, I saw a pair of goosanders and managed to get a fuzzy shot with the zoom well extended before they too…

two goosanders

…scooted off before I could get a good shot.

gosander going off

In the absence of co-operative birds, I had to be content with more static subjects like this script lichen on a tree…

script lichen

…and these handsome bracket fungi on a fallen tree.  They have withstood frost, snow, rain and wind without looking any the worse for wear.

polypore fungus

The hazels were in full flower….

hazel flowers omn twig

…and the willows at the Jubilee Bridge  are breaking out too.

willow flowers

The wild strawberries which are growing out of a crack in the wall at the end of the Scholars’ Field are doing very well.

wild strawberry

Just before I got back to our garden, I had to stop to record the flourishing flowering currant of our neighbours.

flowering currant

I had a final look round and then set off to Carlisle to pick Mrs Tootlepedal up from the London train.  I was very surprised and pleased in equal measure to find that the station can now boast some very smart new seats for those waiting for trains to arrive.  They are padded and very comfortable.  I hope that they get treated with the respect that they deserve.

dav

I didn’t have long to enjoy the comfortable seating as Mrs Tootlepedal’s train arrived bang on time and we were soon heading home.

When we got back, she pointed out this new daffodil whihc has just come out.  It is called Rip van Winkle.  I hope that we can get some nicer weather for it to show off its charms more fully.

Rip van Winkle daffodil

After tea, I went off to the camera club meeting.  There was a good attendance with the welcome addition of a new member and as usual, we got an interesting selection of images to enjoy, with nine members contributing.  One good idea which was demonstrated was the use of a mirror to enable the photographer to take pictures of snowdrop flowers without having to lie on the ground.  I shall definitely try that next year.

It was decided that we should make an effort to have a summer club outing this year and we shall have to think of where to go.  We have a promising suggestion already and I hope that it actually comes off.

A female chaffinch makes for a neat flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

I should add that all is well with the world in spite of bad news in every continent and continuing sore feet because any day is greatly improved by the addition of a Mrs Tootlepedal.

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