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Archive for May, 2019

Today’s guest picture comes from our neighbour Liz.  She has been going through her photographic archives and found this very odd picture from 40 years ago of me pushing her late husband down the street in a wheelbarrow.  Our strange expressions may be because we have large moustaches painted on our faces.  Memories have  faded but the feeling is that we must have been getting ready to take part in a charity fancy dress wheelbarrow race.

dav

It was a miserable day here today and it didn’t stop raining until the late afternoon.  At times it was very windy too, so I was happy to idle about indoors doing the crossword, making soup and looking out of the kitchen window…

…where there was a lot of action all day.  The sparrows like the fat balls and the little shelter keeps the food and the eaters dry.

sparrows on fat balls

Other birds were soggier like this pigeon…

soggy pigeon

…and this starling…

soggy starling

…and this goldfinch…

soggy goldfinch

Somehow blackbirds seem to be more water resistant than the other birds and the raindrops roll off their backs.

damp blackbird

None of the birds looked very happy…

greenfinch and sparrow in the rain

…until this collared dove turned up looking very calm and dry.

collared dove on ground

The starlings are very busy feeding their young and this little fellow was waiting patiently while its parent collected some seed from the feeder.

baby starling

After lunch, we went off to get some more bird food and pay a visit to a popular DIY chain store  in Carlisle where we hoped to buy a decorative lampshade.  Mrs Tootlepedal knew what she wanted so we looked on the internet before we left and found that our local branch of the store had 20 in stock.  This was good news.

The bird food purchase went smoothly and we also got some straw for our strawberries so we were in a good mood when we got to the store.  Our smiles turned down a little when we searched the lampshade section and could not find the shade we had in mind.

We summoned assistance.  “I don’t think we’ve got any of them,” she said, “but I’ll have a look.”

She looked and she couldn’t find them either.

“They’re not in stock,” she said.
“Your computer says you’ve got 20 in stock”, I replied.
“Hmmm.”

She consulted the computer and it did indeed say that they had twenty in stock.

“Ah,” she said, “but that doesn’t mean that we actually do have twenty in stock. They often say that they are sending us stuff, put it on the computer but don’t send it.”
“Ah” we said,
“Sorry,” she said…

…and we went on our way, sadder but wiser.

Still, we had other shopping to do nearby and that went well so we got home happy enough and found that the rain had stopped at last.

jackdaw going nuts

After a cup of tea, I went out and did some more compost shifting and sieving and then as it was very grey and windy, I went back in and resumed looking out of the kitchen window.

I thought that these sparrows were just doing the usual shouting at each other…

sparrow feeding 1

…but it turned out to be…

sparrow feeding 2

… another feeding experience.

sparrow feeding 3

The young are very demanding….

sparrow feeding 4

…and the parents have a very busy time…

sparrow feeding 5

…indeed,

sparrow feeding 6

In the evening it started to rain again but the gloom was lifted when Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I enjoyed playing Telemann, Parcham and Rameau duets before joining Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike to catch up on all the news.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow in the rain.

flying sparrow

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As well as seeing beautiful river scenes, Bruce has also met St Aidan of Lindisfarne on his Northumberland break, and his statue is the guest picture of the day.

St Aidan of Lindisfarne

There was an infernal racket in the garden this morning and anyone who extols the calming and peaceful nature of bird song has obviously not heard young starlings asking to be fed.

It was raucous.

starling parent and child

And sometimes the parents looked fed up with the demands for food.

two starlings

Young starlings grow quickly but they don’t develop the patterned feathers of the adult so it was easy to tell that this was a youngster waiting for a grown up to appear…

yoiung starling

…which it did in short order, carrying a beakful of worms…

starling bringing food

…which were gratefully received.

starling feeding child

I took a look at the burgeoning clematis flowers along the garage…

garge clematis

…and went off to help Mrs Tootlepedal distribute the wood chips that we collected yesterday on to the vegetable garden paths.

We laid down an impermeable lining and then added the chippings.  The result looked quite satisfactory.

chipped paths

There are more chips to be collected and more paths to be covered so it is ongoing work.

Beside the back fence, a small wild area added colour….

buttercups

…while further along, a transplanted clematis has flowered to Mrs Tootlepedal’s delight.

back fence clematis

I had a wander round, passing my favourite astantias…

two astrantias

…and noting the first flowers on the wiegela…

wiegela

…before stopping to check on the azalea which has been badly affected by lack of rain.

The recent wet weather has encouraged it to open some of its buds after all and…

thirsty azalea

…as it is due to keep raining for some days, all may not be lost.

The waxy leaves of lupins and hostas held the evidence.

two waxy leaves

The clematis by the front door is beginning to look a bit bedraggled so I took a picture of it while it is still looking stunning.

front door azalea

Mrs Tootlepedal is easing the frost bitten but recovering fuchsia out of the greenhouse day be day..

fuchsia out of greenhouse

…and I hope to see it in position in the garden soon.

When I had finished wandering, I set about doing a little more shifting and sieving of the compost in Bin C.  The sieved bits are looking good.

buckets of compost

It was reasonably warm in the garden and there were threats of rain but it kept dry for the morning and only started to rain in earnest as we left to drive to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh.

The train was even later than usual but as one disgruntled passenger pointed out as we arrived at Waverley Station 28 minutes late, this was two minutes too early for us to be able to claim part of the fare back.  Ah well.  And it was pouring with rain when we got out of the station so it was not our finest travelling day.

Matilda was in excellent form when we arrived.  Mrs Tootlepedal was particularly welcomed as she is making a dress for Matilda to wear at a school performance and had brought her measuring tape with her to get the size right.  After the measuring had been done, we played Go Fish and Beggar My Neighbour with Matilda and all I can say is that I didn’t catch many fish and I was utterly beggared by both Matilda and Mrs Tootlepedal.  I have always had characteristically bad luck at cards.

The journey home was delayed too and it was still raining as we drove home so it was good to get back to a warm, dry house.

The flying bird of the day is one of the starlings returning to our neighbour’s holly tree where they are roosting.

flying starling

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce who is on a break in Northumberland, where he took this picture of a bridge over the River Breamish.

River Breamish near Ingram village

It was a grey and faintly drizzly day here today so it was good to have a spot of indoor brightness supplied by the  charming flowers that Sue had brought when she came for coffee on Monday.

sue's flowers

Sandy came for coffee today.  He is suffering from sore feet too and we have been unable to go for a walk for several weeks so it was good to see him and catch up with his news.

When he left, I checked to see what the birds were up to and found a brisk demand for fat balls among the sparrows.

fat ball feeder with sparrows

The sparrows are eating anything they can get their beaks on at the moment and….

four sparrows

…they are monopolising the feeder for a good part of the day.

four sparrows (2)

I went out into the garden to help Mrs Tootlepedal dispose of some of the surplus soil which we had removed from the lawn when we did the returfing. It was amazingly dry and dusty so we mixed it with some composted shreddings and Mrs Tootlepedal spread it on the front beds.

I did some shifting and sieving of the compost in Bin C and then had a wander around to admire the azaleas.  Some of them have suffered badly because of the long cool spell and the lack of rain and have not been able to develop their buds into flowers but others have put on a fine show.

orange azaleared azalea

And the alliums don’t seem to have been affected by the lack of rain at all.

four alliums

We have had an inch of rain recently but it has only been enough to dampen the top layer of the soil in the flower beds and if Mrs Tootlepedal digs down to plant out something new, it is still dry as dust below.  Looking at the forecast though, we may be about to get a persistent spell of light rain over the next few days.  Unhappily, this may turn out to be light enough to be annoying without being useful.

All the same, new flowers are appearing and the Scotch rose is developing well…

scotch rose

…and a little patch of cornflowers appeared as if by magic.  One minute it wasn’t there and the next minute, it was fully formed.

cornflower

The sparrows were interrupted on the feeder by the arrival of a starling…

starling on feeder

…which I noticed as I was making some lentil soup for our lunch.

In spite of a forecast of a 60% chance of a long spell of light rain in the faternoon, I managed to get onto my cycling gear and get out for a pedal while it was dry.

The hillsides are bright with hawthorn blossom on every side.

hawthorn on hill

I passed one of the busiest trees that you will ever see.  It had growth bursting out of every twig.  I think that it is a Norway Spruce.

busy spruce tree

The forecast was looking likely to be ominously correct as a drizzle started up before I had gone far.  I pedalled on though and was cheered up by the sight of some late bluebells on a bank bedside the road.

late bluebells

There were plenty of wild flowers to look at too…

yellow wild flowers

…and  hawthorns and lambs made the day seem nicer than it was.

hawthorn and lambs

I had a good waterproof jacket on and the drizzle was very light so I pressed on to the top of Callister in the hope of seeing some developments in the wind farm that is being built there.  There were sounds of working but nothing to see yet.

The drizzle didn’t last very long, and it turned out to be a good day for cycling with a light wind, so when I came back down the hill into Langholm, I decided to go through the town and out again to the south to see if the new road at the Tarras landslip was open for cyclists yet.

It was.

A lot of work has gone onto making the steep banking below the road stable…

landslip repaired tarras

..and the road itself was a pleasure to cycle down with a beautifully smooth new surface.

new road tarras

I was intending just to visit the road and then turn back for home but having swooshed down the new road and got to the bottom of the hill and crossed the bridge over the Tarras Water, it seemed a pity not to go on, so I cycled along a road that I haven’t used for three years or more.

old road tarras

This took me down the east side of the River Esk and having passed a splendid broom bush…

broom

…I crossed the river by the Hollows Bridge and returned to Langholm up the west bank.

The bus stop at the Hollows, is a garden in itself.

bus stop hollows

The rain stayed away and I got home warm and dry after a very enjoyable 25 miles.

As it was dry, Mrs Tootlepedal and I then took the opportunity to go and collect some more woodchips for her vegetable garden paths.  We didn’t have time to spread them on the paths as it was now time to cook our evening meal.  I left this task in the capable hands of Mrs Tootlepedal and went and had a little sit down and rest.

My cycle mileage for the month has been very poor and I have only managed half the miles that I had originally planned to do by this time of the year, so I am hoping that June brings some very cycling friendly weather and I can make some progress.  I am still quite optimistic that the worst has passed as far as my feet are concerned although I haven’t tried a good walk yet.  Time will tell.

The flying bird of the day is one of our flock of sparrows.

flying sparrow

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  On a recent tour, he stopped at Tewkesbury and took a picture of the bridge there.

bridge

Yesterday’s heavy work on the lawn was an experiment in ‘kill or cure’ and when I woke up this morning, I was very happy to find that the balance had tipped firmly down on the ‘cure’ side of things.  For the first time for ages, my feet weren’t painfully sore.  I didn’t let my feet go to my head though and took things pretty gently through the day.

I did go out into the garden and look at the flowers.  I liked a vetch which has come up of its own accord.  Mrs Tootlepedal is going to leave it where it is as it is popular with bees.

vetch

New white flowers have appeared: Mrs Tootlepedal describes the one on the left as an educated onion and the one on the right is the first of the philadelphus.

four flowers

The Dutchman’s breeks and the Welsh poppies are adding an international air of gaiety to the garden…

…and the light was just right to take a picture of the yellow ranunculus.

yellow ranunculus

I noticed that the plain fuchsia by the back gate is producing flowers but it doesn’t look very well so there may not be the usual waterfall of blossom this year.

old fuchsia

As my back was in such good order, I did some shifting and sifting of compost.  I started to turn Bin C into Bin D but the material had rotted down so well that I was able to sieve a lot of it and just put the remains in Bin D.   I have been trying to layer the compost in Bin A more carefully lately, green and woody in turn, so perhaps this is a reward down the line for good behaviour.

I went in for coffee and watched the birds.  Sparrows were the flavour of the day but redpolls are frequent visitors too.  The goldfinches have almost entirely found a better place to feed.

sparrows and redpoll

The old sunflower stalk continues to provide a useful perch…

sparrow on stalk

…and Mrs Tootlepedal is growing a new sunflower nearby for next year.

We had other visitors.  There were quite a few jackdaws on the peanuts during the day and Mrs Tootlepedal witnessed some angry scenes among them.  I saw this one daring anyone to come and have a go if they are tough enough.

jackdaw going nuts

There are starlings nesting in a neighbour’s tree and one came to the seed feeder today.

starling feeling seedy

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help in the Buccleuch Centre coffee bar over lunch and I went for a cycle ride.  I had intended to try for some long, slow distance today but the forecast was very uncertain and there had been spots of rain on and off through the morning so I settled for some short, slow distance instead and went round my familiar 20 mile Canonbie circuit.

It wasn’t hard to notice that the hawthorn had come out while we were on holiday.

 

hawthord on hill

And there were wild flowers all the way round.

verhe wild flowers

I took a closer look at the bird’s foot trefoil, a flower that I like a lot, and discovered a tiny creature among the petals.

birdsfoot trefoil

The back roads were lined with cow parsley and on this section it had a hem of buttercups as well.

cow parsley and buttercups

There was a lot of wild geranium to be seen.

wild geranium

I stopped to get a picture of the hawthorns beside the Hollows Tower and found that the managers have erected two flag poles beside the tower.

hollws tower and hawthorn

I was pleased that I had decided on a short ride because there were some very threatening showers further down the road and it rained a bit when I got back.

Back in the garden I found that a Rozeraie de L’hay had managed to survive yesterday’s rain showers.

rose in garden

I was struck by this single aquilegia which had grown through one of the golden box balls.  It looked odd.

aquilegia on box ball

When I had walked round the garden, I went in for  a cup of tea and a shower and then settled down to practice some of the songs for our Carlisle choir concert.

In the evening, our recorder group met for a play and for a change the group assembled at Wauchope Cottage which was very convenient for me.  Because the sun had come out again by the time that they arrived, we had a walk round the garden before we started playing.  We played Handel, Bach, Mozart, Byrd, Purcell, Morley and Scheidt so we had good material to work with.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.  It was heading back towards the feeders but as it already had a mouthful of seed, I am not sure why it was bothering.

flying siskin

Footnote:  I was speaking to our daughter Annie on the phone today and she put in a  request for some more general pictures of the garden to put my flower pictures in context.  I am always anxious to please so I found a sunny moment late in the afternoon and took a random set of pictures of various borders.  In spite of the many colourful flower pictures which appear on the blog, the predominant colour in the garden is green.

 

garden bed 1garden bed 2garden bed 3garden bed 4garden bed 5garden bed 6garden bed 7garden bed 8garden bed 9garden bed 10

And of all the views, this one, taken from our new bench as the sun goes behind the walnut tree, is my favourite.

.garden bed 11

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who knows that I like a neat lawn.  She found this one near a well known large house.

Buck house gardens

It was one of those days when it might have rained at any time and there was evidence that it had rained…

rain on hosta

…but in the end, it kept reasonably dry until the late afternoon and I was able to wander round the garden after breakfast looking to see what was going on.

There was the familiar:  the purple stemmed cow parsley is going from strength to strength…

purple cow parsley

…and there was the fresh: the nectaroscordum has started to flower.

nectaroscordum

There was old: the pulsatilla seed heads  are having fun…

pulsatilla

…and there was new: a fourth geum has joined in with the others…

four geums

…and a second astrantia has arrived as well.

pale astrantia

There was plenty of bright colour but sadly a rose had come out and been knocked about by a rain shower before I had a chance to get a good shot of it.

four reds

There were a good number of bumble bees about…

bee on allium

…and the alliums were on their visiting list.

I like the geometry of the alliums….

bees eye view of allium

…and of the sweet rocket too.

sweet rocket head

I was still pottering around the garden when a guest arrived for a garden tour and a cup of coffee.  Sue has recently come to live in Langholm and while she was searching online for information about the town, she happened upon my blog and has since become a regular reader.  It was very nice of her to take the time to come and visit us and Mrs Tootlepedal and I enjoyed a good chat with her.

She lives on the edge of town and has many interesting visitors to her garden.  She has invited us up to see woodpeckers, nuthatches and squirrels so I hope to take up her offer soon.

When  she left, I mowed the middle lawn and then took some time to watch our own birds.  Just the usual suspects were about…

three birds

…though I was pleased to see a chaffinch.  They are normally our most common visitor but they have almost entirely disappeared from our garden lately for some unknown reason.

chaffinch and siskin

After lunch, I went up to the town to keep an appointment but as the person whom I was supposed to meet wasn’t there, I came home again and set to work with Mrs Tootlepedal on some lawn improvement.

The front edge of the middle lawn has lifted up over time and Mrs Tootlepedal wanted it lowered so it looked better and was easier to step off.  This involved raising the turfs, removing soil from underneath and replacing the turfs.

A straightforward task which we approached methodically.  First cut the turfs…

lawn renovation 1

…then remove them and lay them on the drive in the right order…

lawn renovation 2

…then shoogle and level the soil underneath, removing quite a lot of earth and three  buckets of stones…

lawn renovation 3

…before raking the soil flat and putting some compost in…

lawn renovation 4

…and then the turfs that have been removed are sliced to a uniform thinness using a turf box and a knife and replaced in position….

lawn renovation 5

…until it starts to pour with rain and we have to break off and have a cup of tea.

As it was then the tome when my flute pupil Luke came, I left Mrs Tootlepedal replacing the last of the turfs between showers and when Luke left, I helped her to finish off the task. Then we gave the replaced lawn a thorough watering and generally tidied up a bit.

lawn renovation 6

As well as the three buckets of stones, we had removed about two wheelbarrow loads of soil so although it may not look much in the photos, we made quite a difference.  Everything will take a few days to settle, but we were very pleased with the result of the afternoon’s work. The lawn will never be bowling green flat but it is much more level than it was.

Luke has been practicing so the lesson went well too.

Tomorrow will tell whether a couple of hours of vigorous bending and stretching was a good idea.  At the moment, all is well.

The flying bird of the day is one of our sparrows.

flying sparrow

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He lives in Derby and the local football team has a very important match tomorrow so this large football has been placed so that supporters can write encouraging comments on it.  I asked Andrew if he had written anything but he said that hadn’t because he was lost for words.

Derby football

My feet are still not made for walking at the moment so it was lucky that I had two choirs to go to today to help me pass the time,

We started with the church choir.  It was a children’s service today and all the hymns were in unison.  This was good as I hadn’t sung for some time so I welcomed the chance to do some uninhibited warbling to get my voice back in action.

When we got home, Mrs Tootlepedal got busy in the garden and I mowed the drying green and the greenhouse grass and pottered about taking more garden pictures.

I especially liked an azalea with teeth.

azalea with teeth

The rowan has come out and it looks as though there should be enough berries for all the birds when the time comes.

rowan blossom

I looked in the greenhouse as I went past with the mower and had to go back in later with the camera later to record the wonderful flower power of the fuchsia which is still waiting to find a home in the garden.

fuchsia in green hiuse

Outside the greenhouse, the lupins are reaching for the sky.

lupins

We have had some measurable rain at last and Mrs Tootlepedal’s green manure mustard looks grateful.

mustard

The overnight rain had rather beaten down the cow parsley stems but they soon recovered and made a pretty picture with the sweet rocket in the back border.

cowparsley and sweet rocket

I noticed that a good many exhausted male flowers had fallen onto the lawns from the walnut tree and looking up, I could see potential nuts in the making.

walnuts

Elsewhere, there were more signs of fruits to come, with both apples and plums looking promising.

apple plum apple

Mrs Tootlepedal was very pleased to see  that a ranunculus had survived from last year.  It is a challenge for me though, as I find it very had to get a good picture of it.

ranunculus

The hostas are looking very healthy.

hostas

I made some potato soup to go with bread and cheese for lunch and while I was inside, I watched the birds.

The sparrows have almost taken over the feeder at the moment, although there is a redpoll lurking round the back in this picture…

sparrows on feeder

…and a blue tit enjoyed the peanuts without any competition.

blue tit

Down below, a dunnock considered tucking in to the fat balls.

dunnock consider ingfat balls

In the plum tree, the reason for the sparrow keenness for food was being demonstrated.

sparrow feeding young

You have probably heard of the goose step and the turkey trot, but we got a pigeon strut today.

strutting pigeon

When I wasn’t watching the birds, the flowers around the feeder seen through the kitchen window gave me plenty to look at.

geums through wndow

I went briefly back into the garden after lunch and took a close look at the wonderful complexity of one of the euphorbias.

euphorbia in flower

Among all the colour, there is still a world of white out there.

white flowers

Hidden away in a shady corner of the garden, the doronicum is flowering away.  It has been in flower since mid march and shows no sign of stopping.

doronicum

In the afternoon, we went down to Carlisle to sing with the Carlisle community Choir.  We have been meeting in the same church for six years but we are changing to a new venue (hopefully with better lighting) so this was our last sing from the familiar pews.  We spent the time practising two delightful songs so it was a good way to say goodbye.  We have one more meeting before our summer concert so there will have to be some serious home practice in the coming days.

The flying bird of the day is a young sparrow, grown up enough to feed itself now.

flying baby sparrow

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Today’s guest picture comes from learned reader Edward from Sheffield.  He has tree peonies in his garden with flowers a foot wide.

Edards tree peonies

We had timed our holiday well.  After several dry weeks, the weather turned gloomy today and it rained in the afternoon.  According to the forecast, there is a good deal more rain to come which will be welcome from a gardening point of view.

The morning was dry though and this gave us a chance to get busy in the garden, Mrs Tootlepedal doing useful things and I wandering about with a camera in hand.

New flowers have arrived during our absence and there is no shortage of bright colours.

The first iris has come out…

first iris

…and several more geraniums have joined the blue ones which arrived first.

geraniums

They are excellent value and should keep flowering all through the summer.

four geraniums

Lupins have arrived….

first lupins

…and aquilegias are popping up all over the garden.

aquilegias

A favourite flower for peering at closely with the camera is this anemone.  I love its strong colours and busy centre.

anemone close up

But probably, the stars of the show are the red peonies….

two red peonies

…even though they are too red for the camera to really enjoy.

The established flowers are enjoying the weather in spite of the lack of rain…

azaleas and rhodidendrons

…although the azaleas are going over rather quickly.  Perhaps the new rain will help them last.

The clematis at the front and back doors have increased in number while we have been away…

two white clematis

…and the front door variety is fast becoming a favourite of mine.

clematis centre

Potentillas, both salmon pink and yellow are thriving…

yellow and orange flowers

…and the poached egg plant is getting more white edges every day.  The first roses are appearing with the yellow one above joining the the rosa moyesii below.

Our poppies are becoming more international and an oriental poppy has joined the Welsh and Icelandic ones which were out before we left.

four flowrrs

A geum and an astrantia complete today’s collection.

I put down the camera and mowed the middle lawn.  It had been badly pecked while I was away but once I had mowed over the loose moss, I found a lot of reasonably green grass about underneath.  Mrs Tootlepedal intends to carry on a methodical feeding programme so I have every confidence that it will be in good order soon.

I mowed the front lawn too and found that it is still in poor condition, although the feed that I gave it before we went away has encouraged the occasional blade of grass to appear among the moss.  I will keep trying.

As I was working at a very gentle pace, and we took a break to entertain Mike Tinker to a cup of coffee, all this took me up to lunchtime.

I had the opportunity to check on the birds when I got in.  Usual suspects such as siskins and redpolls were in evidence but sparrows are obviously feeding young as they turned up on the seed feeder…

sparrow on feeder

…as well as feeding on peanuts and fat balls as well.

The siskins and redpolls haven’t learned about peaceful coexistence while we have been away.

redpoll being shouted at

Dunnocks were busy on the ground under the feeders.

dunnock

I had a quiet afternoon watching the racing on the telly, a very undemanding activity.  Most of the enjoyment comes from listening to the expert commentators telling us why their chosen horses have not won the race that we have just watched.

I even felt a bit sorry for them when their unanimous pick of a heavily odds-on favourite trotted in third in five horse race.  There was not a lot that they could say.

Mrs Tootlepedal spent the afternoon with her Embroiderers’ Guild group and when she returned, I roused myself to drink a cup of tea and check the kitchen window again.  A jackdaw, fed up with pecking at my lawn, had come to try the peanuts….

jackdaw on feeder

…and it was joined by a starling…

starling on feeder

…but sadly, it and its friends preferred to start in the lawn pecking business themselves instead of eating bird food.

starlings on lawn

If they are eating leatherjacket grubs though, they are probably doing me a good turn as I read that the grubs eat grass roots and can destroy a lawn.  This may explain why the birds always peck at the worst bit of the lawn and leave the bits with good grass growth alone.

I hope to catch up on my blog reading now that I am home.

Meanwhile, the flying (or perhaps diving) bird of the day is a pigeon.

flying pigeon

 

 

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