Archive for Jan, 2020

Today’s guest picture is another from Dropscone’s visit to Amsterdam.


It was another wet and windy morning here, so I was happy to continue in my peaceful resting mode while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to her monthly coffee morning with ex work colleagues.

I wasn’t left on my own though as Dropscone arrived with some extra delicious treacle scones.  He had put more treacle in than usual, I think.

His golfing has been limited both by the bad weather and the helicopter trips to the pylon at the top of the golf course, but he told me that the crows are still stealing golf balls.  You would think that they would have got bored with that by now.

I had seen a few siskins on the feeder before he came…

siskins on feeder

…but when he left, the birds disappeared too.  I walked slowly round to our corner shop to get some milk and an eclair, and they were still absent when I got back.  I didn’t see any more until the afternoon, when a small flock of siskins arrived in the walnut tree.

siskins in walnut tree

They were reluctant to descend to my level though…

lone siskin

…and it took them ten minutes to lower themselves to the feeder in any numbers.

siskin arriving

But once they had started, they took it seriously…

siskin quarrel

…and soon we had a full house with a queue.

sis siskins

The rain had stopped by now, so I thought that I would test the state of my health by going for a short walk.

It was still pretty gloomy and I don’t think that the helicopter would have been visiting the pylons today, as the pylons had their heads in the low clouds.

clouds over pylons

I did see a dipper as I crossed the Langholm Bridge…

dipper swimming

…but it lived up to its name and dipped under water and disappeared before I could get a good shot.

There were no ducks or gulls at all to be seen at the Meeting of the Waters…

timpen in cloud

…so I took a picture of the part of the Jubilee Bridge  that can be seen in the winter…

jubilee bridge

…and some lichen on the parapet of the Sawmill Brig…

lichen on sawmill bridge

…and strolled up the Lodge  Walks.

It wasn’t a day for photographs and I was trying to keep my head steady so I didn’t look around a lot, but when I got to Holmhead, I could hardly miss the early promise of a really good show of snowdrops to come.

snowdrops january holmhead

There were people shooting pheasants nearby but they missed me and I walked on round the pheasant hatchery.

There were no views available.

mist on hills

I did have to pause for a moment on my walk but as the Duchess had kindly caused a bridge to be built at that exact spot, I had something solid to lean against, and I was soon on my way again.  In the end, I put two miles in and enjoyed the fresh, if damp air.

As I had my camera in pocket when I got home, I took a quick walk round the garden.

The first daffodil is definitely out.  The others are nowhere near as advanced so why this one has got so far ahead is a bit of a mystery.  I haven’t taken a picture of a daffodil in flower in the garden in January very often before.

open daffodil january

The hellebores are showing promise.


Mrs Tootlepedal had a meeting regarding the proposed community land purchase in the afternoon which took some time so I had a quiet sit down while I waited for her to return.

We had a light evening meal and then opened a bottle of economically priced fizzy wine when Mike and Alison came round.  We drank a sombre toast to the future and then Alison and I played an enjoyable selection of undemanding pieces, selected carefully not to make me dizzy.  They went well.

Next time Mike and Alison arrive, we will be a lonely island state at the mercy of the buffeting winds of global trade.  We hope that they blow in a more friendly way than the winds that have been buffeting Langholm over recent days.

A flying chaffinch at least helped me out.  This is the last united European flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another of Simon’s views of the railway bridge over the Esk below Canonbie.  I will have to go for a walk there myself, it looks inviting.

canonbie railway bridge

There is very little to say about today.  I was secretly quite pleased that it was in general a wet and windy day as it made my task of sitting quietly all day much more tolerable than if the sun had been shining.

On the down side, it was very nasty when Mrs Tootlepedal went off to catch the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda.  It had stopped raining by the time that she got to the capital and she had enough time to visit the last day of the Turner exhibition at the National Gallery and the Lakeland shop which is nearby.  A nice mixture of art and commerce.

Because I wasn’t on the trip today, the trains in both directions were punctual and had sufficient seats for the number of travellers.

I did nothing exciting but the enforced rest let me put another two weeks of the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive database and an electrician arrived and replaced the defunct fan in our bathroom, so the day was about as good as it could be under the circumstances….especially as I didn’t have another dizzy spell.

The rain stopped in the late afternoon and I made a brief expedition into the garden just for a literal breath of fresh air.

We are getting very excited about the first daffodil.

daff developing

The snowdrops are coming along well…

snowdrops on back path

…and the magnolia is developing buds.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that it doesn’t get walloped by a hard frost.

magnolia buds

Mrs Tootlepedal has brought some snowdrops in and put them in a vase so they gave me something to photograph…

snowdrops in jar

…though I should have used a tripod, but I was too lazy.

snowdrop flower

The quiet morning and afternoon were followed by a quiet evening.

Perhaps because of the strong winds, or perhaps because of a looming sparrowhawk, or perhaps because of a mixture of both, no birds were seen all day today so this is not a flying bird of the day, or even a perching one.

not a bird

Matilda’s father has fixed the PHP update problem on the Archive website.  As he is a pretty busy chap, this was a great kindness.

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Today’s guest picture comes from camera club member Simon.  He lives in Canonbie and took a walk to visit the old railway bridge over the Esk below the village.  He sent me this picture to add to my bridge collection.

railway bridge kirkandrews

I followed doctor’s instructions to have a quiet day in again today, and the pain that such slightly boring activity brought was alleviated by the fact that it was a dull, windy, grey day outside in the morning and it got worse and wetter in the afternoon. I wasn’t missing much.

My brain is not quite at its peak so I spent some time making bread twice. The first time was a complete failure because I think that I didn’t make sure the the paddle in the bread maker was securely in position and I ended up with a very curious but definitely dead concoction.  The second effort was more successful.

I made some soup for lunch which worked at the first time of asking.

There weren’t a lot of birds about today but a couple of siskins did appear on the feeder…

two siskins

…although the light was so poor that I couldn’t take a good picture of them.

Our garden residents put in an appearance, with a dunnock…

dunnock on tray

…and a blackbird on the tray…

blackbird looking around

…and the robin on a hedge.

robin on hedge

A dunnock kindly tried some trampolining to keep me entertained…

dunnock trampolining

…but mostly I kept myself occupied by doing some Langholm Archive work.  I put a couple of weeks of the Eskdale and Liddesdale Advertiser index into the database and tried to make some progress with my PHP problems.

Reading the manual made my head hurt so I phoned up our younger son and called for help.  He is a computer programmer to trade and had written a lot of the original code for the affected pages.  He generously offered to help and at the time of writing the repairs are going well and most of the repair work has been done.  Mrs Tootlepedal is going to make a sticky toffee pudding to take up as a reward tomorrow.

In the evening a friend came round for a little singing practice and I demonstrated breathing techniques with such enthusiasm that I had another dizzy spell and alarmed her considerably.  You might think that I should be old enough to be sensible but you would be wrong.

However, I recovered after a few minutes and was able to eat the excellent evening meal which Mrs Tootlepedal had provided.  As it involved bubble and squeak, I was pleased not to have missed it.

I am going to have another very quiet day tomorrow with light breathing only.  It is going to be wet and windy again which will help.

A siskin is trying to see where the flying bird of the day went.  I didn’t see it either.

siskin with head screwed on


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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s recent visit to Amsterdam.  It shows the station clock.  Unusually for a clock, it doesn’t show the time on this face.  By a curious mechanism it is able to show the direction of the wind which the weather vane on the tower is recording.  (There is also a flying bird in the frame!)

amsterdam station

My day started with a visit to the doctor, occasioned by a few short dizzy spells over recent days.  The doctor took my blood pressure, felt my pulse, peered into my eyes and ears, and listened to my heart.  Having discovered that I was alive and well, he sent me home to sit quietly for three days, which I fully intend to do.

If I am still dizzy after that, he will prescribe some pills.  As I don’t like taking pills if I can help it, I intend to be steady as a rock after the three days of rest are over.  In the meantime, blogs are going to be quite dull.

Luckily, Dropscone came round for coffee in the morning and Mike Tinker came round for tea in the afternoon so I was not devoid of good company and Mrs Tootlepedal was on hand with constant support.

And there were several birds to look at to help to pass the time.

A siskin started the bird day off with a watching brief on the fake tree…

siskin on fake tree

…and soon siskins arrived at the feeder itself.

siskin on feeder

Then a chaffinch got tucked in…


…and made sure that I knew what it was eating.

chaffinch with beakful of seed

A goldfinch sized up the position…

goldfinch checking

…and flew down to get a seed for itself.

goldfinch landing

Another perched on a stalk…

goldfinch on stalk

…before heading for the feeder and lunch.

goldfinch off stalk

Soon goldfinches and siskins were eating, but still keeping an eye out for…

full feeder

…incoming traffic.

full feeder with visitor

Below the feeder, the ground nibblers were about.  A dunnock crept past some promising daffodils…

duunnock hiding

…while a robin looked around…

robin peering

…and a blackbird took up a solid position.

quizzicval blackbird

Looking down on it all was a rook in the walnut tree.

rook on walnut

The kind people who run the servers where the Archive Group website sits have updated the version of PHP which they will allow me to use.  As a result the page which produces the results for a picture search no longer works.  This gave me a lot of headaches and after some to-ing and fro-ing, I now know where the problem lies.  Solving it will be more difficult as it involves understanding things like this:

PHP Fatal error:  Uncaught Error: Call to undefined function
mysql_escape_string() in
Stack trace:
#0 {main}
thrown in /home/****/****.com/****.php
on line 16

This code is no longer supported so I will have to find out what the new version is or at least find someone who can tell me.  (The asterisks are the file names).    I might have understood this some years ago when the website was first written but I certainly have forgotten all about it now.

Still, I have time on my hands for the next couple of days!

The flying bird of the day is a siskin in determined mood..

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture is another Bermuda view from Joyce.  She tells me that this is the causeway to St George at dawn.

causeway to St George dawn 1

The forecast for today was  not promising but after a very heavy shower overnight with added hail, it was quite a decent day when we got up, and there were none of the threatened icy patches as I walked up to the town after breakfast to do some archiving business.

As I walked back, a buzzing in the sky made me look back towards Whita and I could that the helicopter, which Ada had seen on the ground yesterday, had taken to the air today.  I couldn’t work out what it was carrying though.

helicopter with loo

When I got home, I met Riley, suitably clad for possible rain, just about to take our neighbour Liz out for a walk.


I went in and had coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal and did an easy crossword.  An ice bun may well have mysteriously disappeared during this process.

Then I went for a walk myself.  The forecast offered a twenty percent chance of rain and I hadn’t gone far before I got 100% of a sharp fall of sleet followed by some quite fierce hail.  Luckily I had my new coat on and was well armoured against the slings and arrows of outrageous weather.

And fortunately, the shower exhausted itself quite quickly and I could soon see signs of sunshine.

sun after sleet

I crossed the Becks Burn and followed the road down to the Auld Stane Brig, which I crossed when I came to it…

auld stane brig

…and then walked up the track onto the hill on the other side of the Wauchope Water and enjoyed a tree as I went.

tree on warbla slope

Although our local hills were snow free, the higher hills further up the valley were showing a light covering.

snow up[ the valley

But if you picked the right direction to look, it was a very nice day by now (especially if you were wearing a warm coat).

looking over holmwood

Looking back at the track that I had followed below the fields on the opposite side of the valley, it was hard to believe that I had been in a hailstorm not long before.

looking over becks

I enjoyed a bit of lichen on a boulder…

warbla lichen

…and the view up the Esk Valley…

view from warbla

…and was just about to head down hill to the town when that buzzing was audible again.

The helicopter was back at work.

helicopter with load

It was carrying a big bucket but behind it on the ground, I could see that what it had been carrying when I saw it in the morning, the ubiquitous portable loo for the convenience of the pylon workers.

loo on whita

It delivered its bucket load and headed back.

helicopter going

I could see the pylon on which the work is being done.  It stands beside the sixth green on the golf course and Dropscone is forbidden to play while the helicopter is at work.

pylon on golf course

It returned remarkably soon with another load…

helicopter returning

…and I stood watching on the hillside while it made several trips.

When it was away getting a fresh load, I looked around.

windmills craig

I was using my Lumix which has a very good zoom lens to take the helicopter pictures and I pulled back to show you just how far away I was.

whita in sunshine

You can see the pylon on top corner of the golf course directly below the monument.  Considering that I was holding the camera in a rather cold hand with no support, it is evident that the Lumix is a wonderful camera for wandering photographer.

A look at the map tells me that I was about 0.8 of a mile away.  I walked down the hill a bit and rested the camera on a walks direction post to get as good a close up of the helicopter as I could.  This let me see that it very fairly calls itself a “Skyhook”.

helicopter close up

I had a late lunch when I got home and then, as the weather still seemed pretty good, I got out my bicycle and pedalled eleven miles at a slow pace with so many clothes on that I found it hard to move my legs at all as in spite of the sunshine, the windchill made the temperature a virtual one degree C.

The busy day continued when I got home with first a visit from Mike Tinker and his finely honed tea radar and then the arrival of my flute pupil, Luke with his flute.

After Luke had gone, there was just time for some brisket of beef with nourishing vegetables, expertly cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal, for my tea and then it was time for the January Camera Club meeting.

We had a new member and enough old members to make for a good meeting with a fine selection of photographs from both home and abroad to entertain us until the tea break.  After that we settled down to watch a very well put together audio visual presentation of his holiday in Thailand which Sandy had prepared.  That rounded off an enjoyable meeting and a pretty full day.

It was so full indeed that I had no time for bird watching and so the snowdrops beside the dam are taking the place of any flying bird of the day.


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Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Ada who was walking along the road to Newcastelton when she saw a very unusual bird at rest on the Langholm moor.  It was there as part of the works on maintaining our pylons.

helicopter at pylon

Our run of grey but dry days under a ridge of high pressure came to an end today as low pressure swept in, and we got a grey but very wet morning instead.

Luckily I was in church singing in the choir while the worst of the rain was on, but unluckily by the time that the sun came out in the afternoon, we were on our way to Carlisle to sing with our Carlisle choir so we couldn’t make much use of it.

Mrs Tootlepedal did get a moment or two to do some gardening after the rain stopped but it was still pretty wet…

drops on the line

…though we were very excited by this.

first daffodil bud

The changeable weather is forecast to bring frost tonight so we may have to wait a bit more until the flower opens.

I didn’t take part in the Great Garden Birdwatch this year as there are too few birds about to make spending an hour looking at not much at all a very attractive use of time.  I know that an absence of birds might as interesting to researchers as a lot of different species but it is not interesting to the onlooker.

After I had made my my mind up not to take part, a few birds appeared just to annoy me.

I haven’t seen a blackbird for a few days but today…

male blackbird

…I saw two…

female blackbird

…and the robin arrived as well.


After another very slow start, a few birds began to trickle down to the feeder around the middle of the day. It was siskin time, with first these two….

two siskins

…and then two more…

four siskins

… and finally a competition for perches.

five siskins

A lone chaffinch tried to get into the action but the siskins were having none of that.

chaffinch warned off by siskin

Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree is very good value and I often see birds waiting to come to the feeder taking advantage of its nailed on branches.

siskin on fake tree

After lunch, we went off to Carlisle and had a most enjoyable sing with our choir.  Ellen, our musical director, is mixing up new songs to be learned with putting a bit of polish on more familiar tunes so we are getting a good mixture.

Ellen was telling me that she had to wait for two and a half hours in the emergency lane of a busy motorway last week until the breakdown man arrived to help her after a tyre blowout.  As anyone who has had to use the emergency lane of a motorway will know, this is not a happy experience, so we were pleased that she had managed to get down safely this week.

As an iced bun fell into my shopping bag when we stopped for supplies on the way home, a day which had started out looking very miserable, finished pretty well.  Especially as there were three other iced buns in the same packet.

A female siskin appears as the flying bird of the day.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from a member of the Archive Group.  Joyce enjoys visiting Bermuda where her husband was born, and who can blame her when the views are like this?  That is a spider lily in the foreground.

Coopers island beach with spider lily

After an active day yesterday, I was happy to while away another grey morning with breakfast, coffee and the crossword merging almost indistinguishably into each other.

There weren’t many birds to distract me.  In fact these two siskins were the only ones that I saw on the feeder all morning.

two siskins

We had to rouse ourselves at noon though, as it was the day of the annual lunch of the Archive Group.  I had very carelessly missed this event last year as the sun shone and I got so excited that I went for a cycle ride instead of going to the lunch and completely forgot about it.

I was reminded about that quite a few times today.

We had set several alarms to remind me about the lunch today and walked across to the Eskdale Hotel with Sandy who was passing our gate as we left.

There was a good turn out of  members and partners and we enjoyed some good food and conversation, although we were distracted for a moment when someone saw a lion roaming about the street outside the hotel.

Langholm Rugby Lion

It turned out to be taking part in a video shoot to publicise the rugby club so we weren’t too alarmed.

After lunch, we returned home for a snooze in front of the horse racing on the telly but then, alerted by another alarm, we drove up to collect Sandy and went down the road to Longtown with him.

When we had passed through the town yesterday on our way to not watch a film, we had noticed what seemed like a possible murmuration of starlings so we thought that we ought to investigate this further.

As soon as we parked, we could see a lot of starlings overhead…

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 1

…and small murmurations soon formed.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 2

They reamined disappointingly small though and a lot of the birds flew down to a pylon…

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 3

…and sat on it.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 4

After a while, there were signs of action on all sides.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 5

In our experience of the murmurations at Gretna in past years, the starlings gradually gather into one huge flock but at Longtown today, they stayed stubbornly in many smaller groups.

There were one or two larger groups though and one of them gathered over the High Street.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 6

There weren’t enough in the group to produce the striking patterns that photographers hope for but some good shapes did form and dissolve.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 7

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 8

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 9

Things did not develop as we hoped and we could still see many separate groups of birds in almost every direction when we looked around.

It was a very cloudy day and it soon got quite dark as the street lamps came on.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 10

All the same, it was great fun watching the starlings above the roofs getting ready to go to their roost and I took a lot of pictures in the gathering gloom.

A few more birds did join the crowd…

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 11

…and it became quite an impressive collection…

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 12

…swooping and swerving above the houses.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 13

Strange shapes appeared…

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 14

…maybe resembling a giant fish…

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 15

…or a dove of peace…

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 16

…or perhaps just looking like an impressive amount of starlings in one place at one time.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 17

The show lasted 25 minutes and we intend to come back again if we can get a fine evening. We will try to find a better viewpoint if we do return.

For some reason there is no flying bird of the day today.

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