Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my brother Andrew, but was taken by his son, my nephew Dan. It shows the trail along the disused Nottingham Canal.
We woke to another dry and sunny morning and I got up early enough to have a wander round the garden before coffee time.
The daffodils are all but over but a single fine specimen is still holding its head up high.
The sunshine made the flowers glow. The trout lilies are on their way out but a few good specimens remain.
Among the newcomers is the brilliant blue of the lithodora. The camera cannot do this flower justice for its absolute blueness.
The cool mornings mean that we are still waiting for the red rhododendrons to come out and other less showy flowers are waiting in the wings too.
What there is in the garden is a profusion of sparrows. They are everywhere.
I didn’t have any time after coffee for garden wandering as Mrs Tootlepedal was keen to take a walk to see if we could see a hen harrier up on the moor.
When we walked along the moor road a few days ago, we had not had any sight of the birds at all so we were not over optimistic but after we had driven the two miles up to the White Yett car park, we still walked along the road in hope.
Like yesterday, the Ewes valley was a place of sunshine and shadows…
…but when we crossed the cattle grid and looked into the Tarras valley, there were a good many more clouds about, and it looked as though it was raining not far away.
We were not discouraged though and walked on down the hill. We were rewarded when a female hen harrier put on a spectacular flying demonstration, more or less straight over our heads…
I only had a 300mm lens with me so I couldn’t get a close shot but the light was kind and these cropped pictures give an idea of how good it was to watch the exhibition.
Mrs Tootlepedal, who had her binoculars with her, had a very good view and was extremely happy.
We hadn’t gone very far when we stopped to watch the bird, and the rain clouds were now looking more and more threatening so we nearly turned back to the car.
When we examined to sky carefully though, it appeared that in spite of the wind blowing towards us, the clouds were actually blowing away from us. Curious.
We walked on, and after a while the sun came out…
…and we saw a male hen harrier flying past us in the opposite direction to the female. He was not so obliging as the female and stayed well up the hill from us.
When I took my eyes from the skies and stared at the ground, there was plenty to see there too.
Little spruce trees, seeded by chance, had new growth on the end of their twigs that made them look like decorated Christmas trees.
The fluffy headed grass looked like bog cotton to me but Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is Hare’s Tail and the bog cotton will come later in the year.
We walked down the hill for a while and then walked back up again.
It was a good deal warmer with the wind behind us and the sun out. The rain clouds had disappeared and it was a fine day on the moor.
As we walked back up the hill, we were treated to the sight of the male hen harrier quartering the ground on the other side of the Little Tarras Water. Although he was clearly visible to the naked eye, he was too far away from my camera. Mrs Tootlepedal had a good time tracking him with her binoculars.
We were both in a very good mood by the time we had got back to the MacDiarmid Memorial and the car park.
The Ewes valley was still a place of sunshine and shadow.
We got home in time for a late lunch.
After lunch, I attempted to make a cake, a thing that I have hardly ever done before. I was following a recipe for a farmhouse sultana cake and I came across one of those mysterious phrases that torment the novice cook: “add milk to the mixture until it has a dropping consistency”. I find that these days almost anything I touch has a dropping tendency so that wasn’t very helpful. In the end, I think I erred on the side of stiffness and the cake has come out tasty but rather crumbly. Practice makes perfect though and I will try again.
While the cake was cooking, it rather unexpectedly started to rain outside. For a while, it looked as though it even be useful ran and a greenfinch looked a bit disgruntled by it.
It didn’t discourage birds from coming to the feeder though…
…nor did it dampen this male chaffinch’s need to explain to a female just where she was going wrong.
But it didn’t last and after getting lighter and lighter, it fizzled out without getting the soil really wet at all.
Grey skies are forecast for tomorrow so with a bit of luck we might get another drop of rain.
On a normal day, this chaffinch might easily have been the flying bird of the day…
…but not today.
Mrs Tootlepedal’s delight takes pride of place.