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Archive for Feb, 2020

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother who took refuge from some rain in a coffee shop.  I thought that his biscuit wittily showed rain coming down from a cloud but a closer look makes it clear that it is a sheep.

andrews biscuit

Storm Jorge politely delayed its arrival in Langholm until the late afternoon.  This allowed a small group of jackdaws to visit the feeder in peace.  I had put out some fat balls which the jackdaws like.

One of the jackdaws with white markings was the first to fly in…

clambering jackdaw

…and its friend with the strange white feather was not far behind.  It always looks as though the feather might fall out at any moment but it seems to be very well attached.

white feather jackdaw

Although it was dry and occasionally sunny, it was quite breezy as this ruffled jackdaw shows.

ruffled jackdaw

A rather battered looking blackbird turned up too.

curious blackbird

I was not feeling very perky today so although Mrs Tootlepedal would have liked to make better use of the extra day which the leap year had given us, I was all for lounging around at home.

We were able to get out into the garden after coffee to complete our work on a holly bush which had got a bit too tall in the back border.  A well organised photographer would have taken before and after pictures to show the progress but such a person was not available.  All the same, the holly bush looks more ordered now.

A reader was asking how the frog spawn in the pond is getting.  Recent cold mornings have taken their toll but a lot of the future tadpoles still look OK(ish), though the cold temperatures mean that not much development is to be seen. It is early for frogspawn though and we expect more to arrive later on.

frogspawn late Feb

In other areas of the garden, there is definite movement with leaves on a rose…

rose leaves shooting

…and more on a spirea…

first spirea leaves

…and signs of a peony…

peony shoot

…and actual flowers on the rosemary by the greenhouse.

rosemary flower february

The rhubarb is developing delightful complications.

growing rhubarb

When we had finished clipping and shredding and then distributing the shredded mulch back on to the garden, it was time for lunch.  Our work was speeded up by the arrival in the garden of a young lad who declared that he was bored and was looking for old people to help.  There should be more young people like this.

After lunch, I settled down to do some bird watching while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to shop for supplies.

There were plenty of birds about, stocking up before the stormy weather to come (and wasting seed again).

more siskins

As always, where there are two siskins about, there is likely to be an argument going on.

two flying siskins sparring

A hopeful female approaches a feeder full of males…

lady siskin at a loss

…and another looks heavenward as there is no room at the inn.

siskin praying

The feeder became quiet for a moment and a redpoll sneaked in.

redpoll in sun

Often I have to look hard to see a flying bird but today, I couldn’t miss them.

four flying birds

Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her shopping trip and we settled down to gently snooze while watching horse racing on the telly.

Outside, the siskin horde had arrived and the walnut tree, the sky above the garden, and the feeder were all alive with busy movement.

lots of siskins

As the evening went on, the wind became stronger and the rain became heavier but if it gets no worse than this, we should bebe alright.  We are keeping our fingers crossed once again.

The flying bird of the day is one of the visiting jackdaws.

flying jackdaw

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s Northumbrian holiday.  It shows Bamburgh Castle, which he visited with his daughters and granddaughter even though he had to pay to get in.  His granddaughter got in free in her pushchair though.

bamburgh castle dennis

As Mrs Tootlepedal had an assignation to have coffee with her ex-work colleagues, I walked up the hill to have coffee with Sandy.  With Dropscone being away, there has been a scone drought so I was very happy to find that through the good wishes of an earlier visitor, Sandy had a supply of unlicensed scones to go with our coffee.  They went down well with some raspberry jam.

After our recent sunny days, it was back to normal today and it rained from morning until after dark.  When I left Sandy’s, the rain had eased back to a gentle drizzle so I took the opportunity to stretch my legs with a walk across the Becks Burn.

A horse and and I had a meeting of minds on the state of the weather.

horse giving me the eye

There has still been no demand for the fallen crab apples beside the track.

fallen apples becks track

A sheep posed nicely for me and showed off how wet the ground is now.

sheep becks track

When I got to the Becks Burn, I was able to see the law of unintended consequences in action.    The stream used to flow straight on when it was flooded making access to the bottom of the steps on the far bank very difficult if not impossible.  Someone created a serviceable dam out of natural materials and now the stream stays in its bed and it is possible to get to the steps on dry ground.

bank dammed becks burn

However, the strength of the stream as it is forced to go round a corner instead of going straight on has eaten away at the opposite bank so that support for a walkway has been undermined and getting down to the bridge is getting more difficult all the time.

bank collapsed becks burn

It is still passable though so I crossed the bridge and walked up the steps to get to the road home.

There were several crops of fungus, bright enough to catch the eye on the way.

fungi becks trackfungi becks burn 2fungi becks burn 1

As I walked back down the hill to the town, I could see that the snowdrops are nearing the end of their flowering life…

snowdrop becks road

…but there is never any shortage of lichen on the hedge plants…

lichen on hedge becks road

…or moss.

mossy hedge pool corner

The trees by the river are mossy too.

mossy branches pool corner

Mrs Tootlepedal was still out when I got back so I did the crossword, had a light lunch and occasionally watched birds.

There hadn’t been many about after breakfast…

birds on feeder

…but I had changed the feeder before I went to Sandy’s and two greenfinches were enjoying the new feeder.  They were managing to waste a lot of my expensive seed.  I will have to offer the birds lessons in neat feeding.

two greenfinches dropping food

On the whole, the birds were a bit shy…

shy chaffinch

….and as the light was poor, I didn’t do a lot of bird watching.

Mrs Tootlepedal got back thoroughly soaked from bicycling around the town on business but the heavier rain didn’t discourage the siskins who arrived later…

siksin on feeder

…and instantly…

ill bred siskin behaviour 2

…started arguing.

ill bred siskin behaviour 1

A blackbird kept well out of the way.

balckbird crocus

I spent some useful time practising songs for the Carlisle Choir and looking at hymns for Sunday’s church service and managed not to get too depressed by the return of the rain.

Mrs Tootlepedal watched a news item which said that Scotland has had twice the normal rainfall this February. February is usually the driest winter month apparently, but with it being a leap year so the month has an extra day and another named storm arriving tomorrow, this month is going out in whatever the opposite of a blaze of glory is.

For our tea, Mrs Tootlepedal made a delicious toad in the hole with some sausages lightly flavoured with chillis and perfect batter.  The evening was further brightened by a visit from Mike and Alison who were pleased to find that the rain had stopped by the time that they came round for their usual Friday evening visit.  I enjoyed the duets with Alison.

It hadn’t stopped when I took the flying bird of the day picture earlier on. The chaffinch was expertly avoiding the heavier raindrops.

flying chaffinch

Welly boot note: The Norwegian weather forecast says that we are not going to be too oppressed by Storm Jorge tomorrow.   I hope that they are right.  The BBC was more gloomy.

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Today’s guest picture is a lovely study of a heron in the pond at Myatt’s Fields in London.  It was taken by our daughter Annie.

annies' heron

We had another fine and sunny day, both here and when I got to Edinburgh.  It was a bit too chilly for cycling in the morning so I went for a quick walk round three bridges while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to an interesting meeting which lasted all day.

You wouldn’t know that we have just had two weeks of storms.

peace after storm

An oyster catcher had taken over the fence post duty from the gulls.

oystercatcher on fence

I did see a grey wagtail at the Kilngreen but it was too quick for me and got away.  I had to make do with a tree on the Castleholm which stood quietly and echoed the hill behind it quite neatly.

tree and timpen

It was a lovely day for a walk (as long as you were well wrapped up as the wind was bitter).

lodge walks

I just had time for a coffee and a slice of toast after my walk and then it was time to drive to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh.  It was nearly on time.

There are some fine views to had as the train goes through the hills on its way to Edinburgh.

snowy view from train

When I got Edinburgh, I got off the train at Haymarket instead of going to Waverley as usual.  I had a couple of hours to spare before Matilda got out of school so I walked from the station to the start of the Union Canal, stopping for a snack on the way.

The area round the canal basin has been ‘poshed up’ a lot…

 

union canal

…but some more traditional buildings can be seen further along the towpath.

old church union canal

This was my favourite spot on the whole walk.  It was hard to believe that I was still in the centre of a city.

tree and union canal

two rowing boats union canal

clubhouse union canal

There were bridges to admire along the way, both metal…

 

metal bridge union canal

…and stone…

stone bridge union canal

…and mechanical.  This is a lifting bridge near the canal basin.

lifting bridge union canal

The towpath was sometimes wide…

wide towpath union canal

…and sometimes narrow…

narrow towpath union canal

..but mostly busy.  Cyclists do not seem to have discovered the purpose of bicycle bells so it was nervous work from time to time.

I liked this rather desperate attempt to make a dull building more interesting by adding a portico and a palm tree.  It didn’t convince.

buildings union canal

I took many, many pictures and I hope to visit again in the not too distant future and show you some more of this pleasant place.

On my way to the canal and back, I passed along this splendid crescent.  I lived in Edinburgh for five years but never went this way before.  It is called Gardner’s Crescent..

gardeners crescent

…and it has a garden called Gardner’s Crescent Garden but the planting is not very interesting to say the least.

gardeners garden

I got back to Haymarket and enjoyed a ride on the tram to the other end of Princes Street.

Edinburgh Tram

This was a great treat for me even though I had to buy a ticket because my bus pass doesn’t work on the tram.  Perhaps this was why there was no shortage of empty seats.

I arrived at Matilda’s in time to welcome her back from her school day.  She was in good form and told me that she had been learning the ‘banana hold’ at the judo club.   We had a good time and after some energetic action with a hula hoop, we settled down to do a quiet jigsaw puzzle.

matilda and puzzle

Alistair not only cooked a tasty lentil dahl for our tea but sorted out the coding problems on my Langholm Archive website.   This is just the sort of son you want when computer problems loom and you are peckish after a good walk.

The train home was late but not by much and although I had to scrape ice off the car, the drive home went without any hiccups.

Mrs Tootlepedal reported that her meeting, which was to do with community land purchase in general not the Langholm buy out in particular, had been thoroughly worthwhile, so we had both had a good day.

I walked just under 20,000 steps according to my phone.  It tends to exaggerate a bit but it was still a good day of exercise.

The flying birds of the day were seen at the canal basin and were strangely immobile even when I said “Boo!” to them.

canal birds

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who is on holiday on the Northumberland coast.  He saw a boat temporarily going nowhere.

dennis' boat

I should have mentioned in yesterday’s post that since it was Shrove Tuesday, Mrs Tootlepedal made some delicious pancakes for our tea which we ate with lemon and castor sugar.  They disappeared so quickly that I didn’t have time to take a picture of them.  This was why I forgot to mention them.  I have got so used to taking pictures these days that if I haven’t got a picture, then it probably didn’t happen.

What definitely did happen today was that the sun shone.  All day.  It was accompanied by a very chilly and quite strong wind but we didn’t care.

I started my active day off by walking up to Sandy’s for a cup of coffee and a chat. The route took me up the hill to Holmwood and I could look back over the sunlit town, take in a touch of spring…

town, spring holmwood yellow crocus

…wonder why such a fine house as Holmwood House is still derelict and admire an eye popping burst of yellow crocuses on Jimmy’s Brae.

Sandy was remarkably cheerful for a man confined to barracks for several weeks.  As he has a supply of ginger biscuits, I will certainly be back.

When I got home, there was no time to rest as Mrs Tootlepedal had agreed to a walk and chosen the Langholm Moor as the way to go.  We drove up the hill, and when we parked the car at the White Yett, we could see snowy hills across the Esk, the pylon helicopter parked at its base, (it was probably too windy for it too fly), and my favourite sunlit view up the Ewes Valley.

helicopter turbines ewes

I took a closer look at the snow capped hills.

snow up ewes

It was a good day to be up and about.

We crossed over the col between the Esk and the Little Tarras Valley and saw more snowy hills at the top of Tarras.

tarras valley snow

Our walk was a simple one, down this road for a bit…

road to harrier corner

…and then back up it again.

I enjoyed the winter colours…

tarras valley browns

…and Mrs Tootlepedal scanned the skies for a sight of a hen harrier.  She was very happy when she spotted one through her binoculars, and even though it was far too far away to photograph, I could see it with the naked eye as it ranged across the moor looking for food.

On our way back up the road, we were struck by some very green moss beside the road.

It was Polytrichum Communale (I think) and it was positively glowing in the sunshine.  You can see it in the centre of the panel below.  Nearby, we saw a clump which had been pushed over.  You can see it on the left in the panel below and it shows just how long the stems of this moss are.  Somehow I don’t expect moss to have stems that long.  My moss book says that they can be 40 cm long.

mosses on whita

On the right of the moss panel, you can see some of the sphagnum moss which we expect to find all over our moorland.

When we got home, it was time for lunch and hot soup and bread and cheese was just what was required after experiencing the chilly wind on our way back to the car.

After lunch, I thought about cycling but carelessly managed to think about the very chilly wind too so I watched the birds for a bit.

I was happy to see a blue tit on the feeder…

blue tit

…and I had a good time watching birds enjoying the sunshine.  I especially liked the blackbird sunbathing on the hedge.  Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree continues to be popular.

birds in sun

There was plenty of action but my conscience got the better of me..

birds in shadow

…and I left the birds to it and got changed for cycling.

I went out into to the garden and wasted a bit more time being distracted by crocuses…

crocus panel

…which were enjoying the sunshine too.

open crocus

This is what a hellebore would look like if I was lying on the ground looking up at it…

hellebore from below

…but as I am too old and stout to creep under a hellebore, the shot above was taken by sticking my hand under the flower with a camera in it and hoping for the best.

I finally managed to get out on my bike. It was theoretically about five or six degrees celsius but the wind chill factor brought that down to zero or one degree and I made slow progress up the hill against the twenty mile a hour breeze.

It looked as though my sunny day might come to end as I went up Callister but the brisk wind at least had the merit of blowing these clouds away before they could rain on me.

clouds over callister

To add a couple of miles to my trip, I took a diversion up the Cleuchfoot road, both on my way up and my way back.  It is a gentle little valley with the Logan Water running down the middle of it.

cleuchfoot valley

I found my tree of the day there.

tree cleuchfoot road

I managed a slow but enjoyable twenty miles and this took me over 100 miles for the month.

Once again, I didn’t have much time to rest when I got home becuase I had arranged with Mrs Tootlepedal to combine some recycling at Longtown with a view of the starling murmuration there.  This was very time dependent and we got to Longtown to find the starlings in full flow over the High Street.

longtown starlings 26 feb 5

And i mean in full flow.  You had to be very careful when you looked up not to get an unwanted present in the eye.

There were times when the sky was full of starlings…

longtown starlings 26 feb 4

..making pretty patterns.

longtown starlings 26 feb 2

There were at least two separate flocks and I kept hoping that I would be able to record some of the twisting patterns which are characteristic of these murmurations but either I was too close or the starlings were not in the mood

longtown starlings 26 feb 3

The starlings are right over the centre of the town and the locals are probably quite fed up with having to wash their cars all the time and look carefully where they are stepping.

As it grew darker, the birds got lower in the sky…

black starlings

and soon they were diving down into the trees where they will spend the night.

longtown starlings 26 feb 1

It is quite a sight.  One moment the sky is alive with thousands of birds, and the next, they have all disappeared completely with a sudden whoosh.

I will have to wash the car tomorrow but it was worth it.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chafinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He took his son Nick on a ten mile walk up as many hills as he could find.  Nick is going on a Nepal trek soon and needed some practice.  Here is Nick on Ecton Hill at 1211ft.

Nick on Ecton Hill

My morning walk to the (corner) shop once again took me along the river.  The weather had improved enough for the oyster catcher to get its head in the air.

oyster catcher sideways look

The weather forecast was a lottery today and trying to find out what was going to happen depended entirely on when you looked at it, as it changed every hour or so.  This made planning a dry cycle ride tricky.  It was supposed to rain at eleven and be sunnier in the afternoon, but it didn’t rain at  eleven and the sun came out at twelve and lit up the siskins.

_20S7433

Sunshine is always welcome but does pose shadow problems for me.

_20S7438

There was plenty of action but not enough to call for two feeders, so I took one back in and washed it thoroughly.

_20S7440

The sunshine was a great motivator though, and I had a very early lunch and went off on my bike to add a few miles to my meagre monthly total.   February has been a rotten month for my cycling as it started with dizzy spells which kept me off the bike and just as I recovered from them, the rain and gales started and didn’t stop for two weeks.

It was a novel experience to be cycling in the sunshine.

I wanted to record that it was a  colourful day compared with yesterday’s monochrome ride so I took a picture of a tree.  Because it was not raining or snowing, I was able to look at the result on the camera and much to my surprise, I found that it wasn’t colourful at all.

dead tree bw

Behind my back and without my permission, the camera had gone into monochrome mode and that explained the extreme lack of colour in yesterday’s landscapes.  I apologise for misleading readers but I would say in my defence that it was a pretty monochrome day and curiously, my photo editor still insists that the picture above is in RGB colour so the camera must be withholding secrets even from Photoshop.  I like the monochrome tree anyway.

Still, I moved the dial on the camera back to its proper setting and took a picture of some more trees.

two trees chapelhill

The sunshine became rather variable as I pedalled round my customary Canonbie circuit..

tree beside Canonbie by pass

…but it was shining when I got to Hollows Bridge and found that there was still a fair amount of water flowing down the Esk.

esk at hollws brodge

On the other side of the bridge, a fragile tree looked as though it might plunge into the river at any time.

old tree hollws bridge

The roads were generally quite dry but there were still puddles about and shortly after I had passed this one…,

puddle auchenrivock road

…I was forced to stop at a traffic light.  This had been put up to cope with yet another roadside landslip.

I could see trees at dangerous angles…

landslip with trees irvine house

…and as the road is close to the bank of the river here,  trees had been pulled out of the soil as the bank collapsed.  The road was just intact but barriers were encouraging the traffic to keep away from the affected side of the road.

The wood on the other side of the road has recently been felled and these trees are not so sheltered from the blast as they were.  I don’t know how long these unaffected trees will last…

surviving trees at irvine house

…or the ones that perch in a lonely fashion on the steep bank on the other side of the road.

tree at irvine House

During the second half of my ride, it had started to rain once or twice but I scowled so furiously at the clouds that the rain apologised and went away.  I was enjoying myself so much that when I got back to Langholm, I was thinking if adding some extra miles but this time it started to rain seriously, with a bit of snow thrown in for good measure, so I took the hint and went straight home.

Mrs Tootlepedal was working in the garden and the rain was so local that it had hardly stopped her at all.   I had a look round the garden myself.

four spring shots

..and felt that the flower of the day was the single blossom on the winter honeysuckle.

winter honeusuckle

The sun came out again as I went in.

siskin on feeder arch

Mrs Tootlepedal told me that the helicopter which is taking materials to the pylon on the golf course was back in the air again, so I went upstairs to have a look to see if I could see it.

It was very busy zipping to and fro.  They must have been pleased to be able to get back to work after the strong winds of the past two weeks.

pylon helicopter

As I watched, the rain started again so I shut the window after I had taken this final shot of the helicopter, like young Oliver, going back for more.

helicopter over monument

I was thinking of going for a late walk but the weather seemed too unreliable so I settled down to try to improve the security of the Langholm Archive Group website, a necessity these days when browsers may stop people viewing insecure sites.  This is above my pay grade but I ploughed on and succeeded with two of the three parts of the site but made the third part so bad that my browser had a fit when I tried to view it.

Fortunately, the web hosting company was able to provide a solution when I retailed my woes to them.

Unfortunately, the security certification process has upset the formatting of the sites and I have had to ask for help again.  This sort of thing makes my head hurt.  They have kindly replied but the suggested solution may need me to seek yet more help.

In the meantime, I did find a sunny flying chaffinch of the day. Hooray.

_20S7441

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo on her visit to Australia.  She found that King Parrots are very partial to an offer of a snack.

IMG-2671

We had a bit of a contrast to Mary Jo’s sunny Queensland weather here, as the hills were covered in mist and the ground was white with sleety slush when we woke up.

Even the colours on the redpoll…

_20S7399

…and goldfinch seemed subdued.

_20S7404

It was raining in a persistent and mean minded way (when it wasn’t sleeting, that is) and going outside was not an attractive option.

So I stayed in and watched the birds.

Until I got bored and walked round to the shop to get milk.  I was protected from the worst of the wind and rain by a large umbrella.

After the delight of yesterday’s sunshine, it was not a colourful day….

P1030496

…but the route to the shop takes me along the waterside so there is always the chance of seeing something interesting.  Today it was a pair of oyster catchers keeping as snug as they could in the horrible conditions.

P1030498

Perhaps their posture is an example of keeping a weather eye open.

I took the milk home and then took myself off to visit Sandy, who is still housebound.

He was very cheerful and entertained me to coffee and excellent ginger cake.  On my way home, I stopped to look over the town to see if the prospects for the day had improved at all.

They hadn’t.

IMG_20200224_112622

When I got back, I put the bread maker to work and made some soup for lunch and while it was cooking, I had another look at the birds.  There was no shortage of customers for seeds…

_20S7403

…and the redpolls got into some keen competition for perches.

_20S7411

The winner returned to the perch, although it didn’t look very happy about it…

_20S7413

…while the loser sat on a pole and pretended that it didn’t care.

_20S7419

Down below, a dunnock merged into the background.

_20S7420

The wind dropped and after lunch, it stopped raining for long enough for me to put on my cycling gear.  Then, of course,  it started again.  I wasn’t going to take my gear off though, after all the bother of putting on what seemed like several hundred layers of warm clothing so I got my bike out and went off with hope in my heart and rain on my cycling glasses.

I was worried that the morning sleet might still be lying on the road in slushy patches but it was well above freezing and the rain had done its work so the road was clear.  It was running with water in many places and I was very glad to have a stout pair of waterproof socks to keep my feet warm and dry.

I had an unusual experience when a lorry coming the other way met me at one of these puddly spots.  As it approached me, and absolutely on purpose, it slowed down and passed me without splashing me.  I was so shocked that I nearly fell off my bike.

After three and a half miles when I got to Wauchope Schoolhouse and began to feel the wind in my face as I left the shelter of the valley, I considered the way ahead…

P1190535

…and went back to Langholm.

A bull in the field opposite was not impressed by my lack of get up and go.

P1190536

I took this picture on the way back and despite what you may think, it is a full colour shot.

P1190537

When I put it into my photo editor in the evening, I changed it into greyscale mode. It summed up the day when as far as I could see, nothing changed in the picture at all.  Truly a grey day.

I got back to Langholm and since the rain had stopped, I went round the town and pedalled back up to Wauchope Schoolhouse again. In the end, I squeezed sixteen miles out of a miserable afternoon but as it was my first cycle ride for two weeks, I was grateful to get any miles in at all.  And I felt a lot better for the exercise.

I put my bike away and went in to watch the birds again.  I had put a second feeder out in the morning as there seemed to be quite a lot of birds about, and both feeders were getting well used before I left with a selection of goldfinches, siskins and redpolls in action.

_20S7422

By the time that I got back, a lot of the seed had disappeared.  The redpolls and goldfinches had disappeared too and the siskins had taken over completely.

_20S7423

They were everywhere, under the feeders, on top of the feeders…

_20S7424

…all over the walnut tree…

_20S7425

…and on the feeders themselves.

_20S7426

I counted over a hundred of them in the garden.  I just wish that the light had been better so that I could have done them justice.  As it was, the rain started again and I went off to have a shower, leaving the skins to it.

_20S7429

When I came downstairs, I found that Mike Tinker had dropped in for a cup of tea so I joined him and Mrs Tootlepedal for a chat and some serious biscuit consumption.

When Mike left, it was time for my flute playing friend Luke to come round for our weekly burst of duets.  He told me that is going for a job interview tomorrow so I wished him luck.  I would employ him as he is a very sound lad.

The active day ended with a plate of Mrs Tootlepedal’s fish pie, always a good way to end a day.

Looking at the forecast, there seems to be no end to our run of cold, wet weather for the next week with only a very occasional glimpse of sunshine promised, so I am more pleased than ever to have sneaked a few miles in today.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch who arrived before the siskin invasion.

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Today’s guest picture is another from camera club member Simon.  He took a walk along the old railway line to Longtown and managed to find himself under three bridges at the same time, the main road, the old railway and a footbridge.

simon's bridges

The weather, which likes to have its little joke, decided that a day when there was no time for  walk and when Evie was due to go home would be just the day to put on a show of sunshine after a week of more or less continuous rain.

Now I like a joke as much as the next man, but even I thought that this was going a bit far and allowed a smidgeon of bitterness to enter my soul.

Leaving Mrs Tootlepedal and Annie to combine Evie care with talking to the project leader about the proposed community land purchase, I went to church where a diminished choir and a service with few hymns made for a thin singing experience.

As we were preparing for Annie and Evie’s departure after lunch and I had to some shopping, there wasn’t even a lot of time to look at birds when I got back.

Still, it was good to see them perching in the sun.

sunlit siskin

sunlit robin

sunlit chaffinch

When I went out into the garden for a moment, I turned my eyes to the hills and wished that I had had time to climb.

Castle hill with Cattle

In the garden, there were still no frogs to be seen but the first of the miniature daffodils has come out…

miniature daffodil

…the chives are looking promising…

chives early

…and the rhubarb is developing.

rhubarb developing

I used to think that hellebores were a bit dull but in recent years, I have changed my mind.

hellebore backlit

Back inside, there was another moment to watch the birds.  The sunshine hadn’t improved their manners at all…

two siskins vs chaffinch

…but at least one chaffinch made it safely to the feeder and enjoyed a seed.

sunlit chaffinch looking round

After lunch, I had a quick look to see if the sun had brought the crocuses out…

open crocuses

…and then it was time to pack Annie, Evie, the pushchair and an enormous case in to the car and pray that the Zoe would behave and take us to Carlisle.

The Zoe behaved impeccably and we arrived at the station in plenty of time and found that the train was more or less on time.  These days the railway experience wouldn’t be the same without some excitement, so a train from another railway company got stuck at the platform at which our train was due to arrive.  With a couple of minutes to go, there was a rush of pushchair, case and passengers over the footbridge to catch the down train from the up platform.  All was well  though and we got Annie, Evie, the case and the pushchair onto the train and it pulled out on time as we shed a tear and waved goodbye.

It really was a lovely day in Carlisle as they left…

citadel in sunshine

…but we ignored the lovely day and headed indoors to our Carlisle Community Choir practice.  Fortunately, it was a very good session and the tenors recovered some of their self esteem after last week’s travails.

And even better, it was still light as we drove home so we were able to watch a pretty spectacular starling murmuration over our heads as we went back through Longtown.  If we get a decent day, we will try to go down to see the starlings with camera in hand next week.  There seemed to be a lot more birds than when we watched them a month ago.

The house seems very quiet.

The flying bird of the day is a choice between this rather impressionistic study of a goldfinch…

impression of flying goldfinch

…and this neater but duller shot.

flying goldfinch

Take your pick.

I have time on my hands tomorrow: the forecast is for sleet and snow.  Ha ha.

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