Today’s guest picture comes from my Auckland correspondent Stephen. He gets views like this on his morning walks along the shore at Waitemata Harbour.
Our spell of grey and cloudy weather continued here, but once again it was dry and comfortably above freezing.
After breakfast, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to take the minutes at a Langholm Initiative board meeting, while I entertained Dropscone to coffee. He brought four of his excellent girdle scones as he usually does.
We had a slightly shorter meeting than usual because I had another appointment, and the conversation was so full of interest, that the time sped by.
I had a quick look at the birds when Dropscone left. I saw this chaffinch. Like me it was looking round to see if it could see any birds.
My appointment was with the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve volunteers at the Laverock bird hide. I was in a group that was putting up some bird boxes in the little wood from which we had cleared the plastic tree guards on a previous visit.
The boxes are tied to the trees rather than being screwed or nailed on to avoid damaging the trees. They are all numbered, and Kat, our leader, was marking their exact whereabouts using the what3words app on her phone so that she can check each one at a later date. I downloaded the app and was quite impressed by it.
I noticed a striking black fungus while we were working.
The bird boxes didn’t take us long so we went off to join our second group which was collecting unwanted pheasant feeding bins from another wood nearby.
These bins are heavy and awkward to carry, and as I had already tripped over while going down to the bird box wood, I was quite pleased to find that the other group had already collected all the bins from the area which we were exploring . . .
. . . so we just had a very enjoyable wander round a wood which was new to me. We spotted some fine fungus here too . . .
. . . and a large outbreak of witches’ broom on a big tree.
We took a closer look at one of the clumps.
I read that these curious growths on birch trees are caused by the fungus, Taphrina betulina. Andrew Curtis on the https://www.geograph.org.uk website says that the fungus enters the tree and stimulates extra growth in the place of one shoot, and then feeds on this extra growth. It does not seriously harm the tree, and is usually classed as a gall, although particularly in young trees, it will reduce vigour and overall height.
When we had all gathered back together at the bird hide, Kat supplied us with hot Ribena and a chocolate biscuit before we went home. On a tree nearby, a chaffinch waited impatiently for us to clear off so that it could get at the feeders which have been put out there.
Mrs Tootlepedal was home by the time that I got back and we had lunch together. In the afternoon, she went off to visit our neighbour Betty for tea and scones, and I took advantage of a slightly less windy day to go for a cycle ride round my familiar Canonbie circuit.
I didn’t have a lot of time, and it was very grey, and even occasionally faintly drizzly, so I didn’t stop for many pictures. I did see two crows on a gate . . .
. . . and a morose bull . . .
. . . but otherwise, I kept going until I had to stop just past Canonbie to put my cycle lights on. As this was beside a monkey puzzle tree, I took a picture.
I was a bit worried when I looked at the hills in the background as they seems to be under a rain shower. Happily, this turned out to be an illusion, and I got home dry.
Mrs Tootlepedal had a very sociable time over her tea and scones, but got home just in time to take part in our regular Zoom meeting with my brother and sisters.
It was very dark by the time that I got home, although the sun had not yet set, so I couldn’t find a flying bird. I had only seen two birds at the feeder in the morning and this is both of them..
Footnote: There is a 2 minute video of some volunteers putting out the first set of bird boxes on the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve Youtube channel. You can find it here if you have a few moments to spare.