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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony in East Wemyss where the perpetual sunshine has brought his well protected vegetable plot on nicely.

Having had fine weather suitable for June in May, we are back to having cool and changeable weather suitable for May in June. It was a day of occasional showers and no sunshine with the temperature eight to ten degrees C less than last week.

Mrs Tootlepedal was leaning out of an upstairs window when she saw what she thought was a blackbird making a rush for the hedge by our front gate. She didn’t think much of it at the time as blackbirds often dive into hedges, but she was surprised to say the least when she saw the bird still there an hour and a half later.

She took a closer look. I kept well away because although I like to photograph birds, I am rather bird phobic if they get too close to me.

After some consideration, Mrs Tootlepedal decided that the bird was a swift. It was trapped in the hedge as it couldn’t get its long wings into a position where it could turn and take off. Very bravely, in my view, she leaned down and picked the bird up, getting an ungrateful peck for her troubles. It was indeed a swift and when she released it, it flew off at speed. Why it flew into the hedge at ground level in the first place is a complete mystery.

After this excitement, I calmed myself down by a walk round the garden. Not wanting to lie on wet grass to look up, I stuck my camera under a nectaroscordum and took pot luck. The photo editor helped in getting this result.

Weddings may not be allowed at the moment but our Spirea Bridal Wreath is doing its best to look happy.

The first flowers have appeared on a philadelphus….

…and we have a mystery flower waiting to come out. I shall be interested to see what it is.

Some things are doing well, like the thoroughly protected peas showing lots of flowers behind the netting…

…but other things are showing frost damage and the climbing hydrangea has lost of a lot of its potential flowers. There are some which look as though they will come out in time.

In the back border, Mrs Tootlepedal has cut the cow parsley back as it has finished flowering but the honesty is still going well…

…while the alliums are fading away.

There wasn’t a lot of insect action but I did spot a bee busy in a Welsh Poppy. Looking at its pollen sacs, it had found a good place.

We went in to have coffee and a WhatsApp meeting with Matilda and her father in lieu of the traditional Thursday trip to Edinburgh to meet in person. Matilda read us a good story and then we played several games of colour bingo. I am happy to report that we all won.

After the call, I had time to watch the birds. A greenfinch watched me.

Chaffinches lined up for the feeder in a very neat and methodical way, one on the left…

…and one on the right.

A sparrow and a goldfinch played a waiting game.

…while a blue tit, an infrequent visitor, got tucked in.

It was an afternoon for inside work for me, with a light drizzle making life hard for Mrs Tootlepedal while she planted out some leeks. I sat at the computer and added two parish magazines from 1969 to the Langholm Archive Group’s website. Sandy had scanned these and done the OCR and HTML formatting on these so I just had to check them over and upload them to the site.

We have had a slow puncture in one of the Zoe’s tyres. It hasn’t mattered much as we have not been going anywhere, but the car has to go to Carlisle next week for a service so Mike Tinker very kindly came round with an accurate tyre pressure gauge to check that we had enough air for the trip. We did.

He had had an interesting morning as people dug holes in his garden to find a fault with an underground telephone cable. As the fault wasn’t even on his own line but someone else’s, he was remarkably calm about having had to dig up and replant things so that the engineers could dig their holes. At least they had pinpointed and corrected the fault.

It was still drizzling but there was little wind and the forecast promised a gap in the rain, so I set out to pedal round my twenty mile Canonbie circuit for the sixteenth time this year. It may sound a bit dull to do the same ride sixteen times but the weather is always different, the seasons and the willingness of my legs to co-operate change all the time, so the ride is new every time that I do it.

The promised gap in the weather did appear but it didn’t look like a big gap to me so I didn’t stop for pictures until I saw brave men hard at work up the pylon at Canonbie in the drizzle…

…and once more with five miles to go when the looming clouds…

…stopped looming and started to rain quite heavily. I was suitably dressed though, and with the light wind it wasn’t too cold for comfort at 12°C, so I pedalled along quite happily, The rain stopped after ten minutes or so and I got home damp but not soaking.

I had a quick look round the garden when I got in and was happy to see that a pink peony had almost come out.

While I Zoomed with my siblings, Mrs Tootlepedal cooked a very tasty chicken casserole for our tea and that ended the active part of the day.

The flying bird of the day should have been the swift but it was far to quick for me to capture on camera so a chaffinch takes the honour.

Footnote: On our walk yesterday, Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a tiny blue flower on the hill. It is very pretty…

...and it turned out to be a heath milkwort. That is a new flower for this blog. It is very enlarged in the photo.

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Today’s guest picture comes from George, a friend that I met the other day. He asked me about a walk I had done. I suggested that he and his wife might like to try Walk 9 of the Langholm Walks and lo and behold, here is his wife Susan half way round the walk yesterday in beautiful sunshine.

We didn’t have such beautiful weather here today but we did have some reasonable overnight rain which left the soil in Mrs Tootlepedal’s vegetable garden looking nice and moist this morning.

And the flowers in the garden hadn’t been harmed by the rain at all and were looking fresh and cheerful.

It was back to being a bit chilly and windy so we didn’t have our street coffee morning. Luckily the crossword was rather obscure and took me a long time to solve so I wasn’t bored.

Apart from that, I listened to a lot of interesting stuff on the radio and did nothing useful at all.

I watched the birds. We have a steady supply of greenfinches and the odd siskin at the moment.

After lunch, we went for a walk, despite the brisk breeze and the threat of rain.

George’s expedition round Walk 9 of the Langholm Walks had awakened Mrs Tootlepedal’s interest and she suggested that we might do it ourselves today. I agreed, as it is my favourite of all the walks. We took rain jackets, a few dates and a camera and set off along the track to the Becks.

There were wild flowers and fine ferns to be seen along this section of our walk.

We crossed the Becks Burn and were walking up the road towards the farm when we were passed by a snail.

To be fair to our walking speed, it wasn’t going in the same direction as us and Mrs Tootlepedal spotted it as it crossed the road.

A patch of sunlight on the hill behind the farm gave us hope…

…that the weather might be kind to us and we were soon high enough to have a look back at Langholm behind us.

The swaying grass beside the track through the fields past the farm showed how brisk the wind was…

…but as it was behind us, we didn’t care.

When we got to the end of the track through the fields and took to the open hill, we were faced by a stiff climb on rough ground into a rather grey. weather..

…but the climb was well worth the effort as were soon able to enjoy the views that make this such a good walk. From the end of the track, the walk takes a horseshoe route along the top of three ridges and gives the walker wonderful views in all directions.

As you get towards the top of the first ridge, Calfield Rig, you can look south and see the gap in the Lake District where Ullswater lies 40 miles away in England….

…or look west and see Criffel looming above the Nith Estuary 30 miles away to the west in Scotland.

Langholm lay a couple of miles behind us now…

…and all around us were inviting hills to walk on with not another person in sight.

And this might be the best place to get that view of Skiddaw across the Solway Firth.

For a few hundred feet of climbing, this is a wonderfully airy spot and I never get tired of it.

Perceptive readers may well have realised by now that this is going to be a picture heavy post. If walk descriptions are not your thing, you can take my word that we enjoyed the walk and skip to the end of the post for the usual flying bird finale.

We walked along the ridge, keeping an eye for cattle grazing. When we saw some, we were able to drop below the ridge and cut a corner and we did not disturb them. This is a look back along the the ridge.

There are turbines on the next hill along…

…and we could hear a good ‘wumph, wumph, wumph’ as they turned in the breeze.

We turned along the ridge that makes up the top of our horseshoe and found ourselves walking along the boundary fence in a field of bog cotton

Looking north over the fence we could look down into the next valley…

…and looking to our right, we could see a sea of cotton.

As we reached a fence half way along the ridge, a ray of sunshine contrasted with some mean looking rain clouds which were coming our way.

Our last turning point, just below the hilltop, lay ahead bathed in sunshine but the clouds encouraged us not to hang about and enjoy it too much.

The best of the weather was now heading south behind us and the English hills in the distance behind Warbla were getting the benefit of the sun…

…while to the north, things looked more unsettled.

Did I mention that as far as views go, this is the walk that keeps on giving. You don’t just get good views, you get different good views all the time.

We were on the homeward stretch now as we took the last leg of our horseshoe along the ridge from Black Knowe to Timpen and Meikleholm Hill. The rain reached us as we went along and I had to put my rain jacket on, but though it had looked very ominous, it proved to be only a passing shower and we were able to enjoy the view up the Esk valley….

…before we got to the trig point on Timpen…

….at 1068ft the highest point of our walk.

As we descended carefully down the steep slope from the summit, we could look down to our right and see Becks Farm and the track through the fields that we had followed on our way out.

And we could look down on Langholm basking in the sun for a moment….

…but another rain shower was on its way so we pressed on as fast as creaking knees would let us.

Once again we were lucky and the shower passed over us at a crisp pace and we got back home as dry as we had left it.

At only just over five and a half miles, this walk packs in a lot and it has plenty of climbing and rough ground to make it feel a lot longer than it is, so we had a pleasant feeling of a job well done as we had a cup of tea and separate digital chats with my siblings and our daughter and granddaughter.

I had a walk round the garden while tea was cooking, and although things are looking good…

…we still need more rain. Fortunately, the forecast says that we are going to get some.

I apologise for the large number of pictures but it was a scenic walk and I still didn’t do it full justice.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Sandy. His blue tit family have fledged and left the nest box. This was the last one to go.

Today saw the beginning of a change in our weather. If the forecasts are to be believed, we are going to lose about 10°C in temperature over the next day or two, but gain some very welcome rain. We will miss the warm sunshine but we will be happy to stop watering the garden for a few days.

It was just the start of the change though today as the temperature only dropped a couple of degrees and the sky clouded over. It politely let us have our street coffee morning with added sunshine before covering the sun up for the rest of the day.

To tell the truth, we were pleased with the temperature drop as we have been finding the past few days a little too hot to handle and we were able to be more active in the garden as a result.

I mowed the greenhouse grass and the drying green after breakfast and the crossword but I kept an eye out for flowers too. The orange hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca), sometimes known as fox and cubs, is developing well.

And other flowers are coming out to join the show.

The panel shows a new Sweet William, Lilian Austin opening out, an orange potentilla and a rather tatty anemone which hasn’t enjoyed the dry weather very much at all.

I went in to make coffee and spent a moment watching the birds.

There were a lot of sparrows on the feeder!

Beacause I saw that the demand was high, I went out and filled the feeder. This brought goldfinches into the action…

…and caused some regrettable behaviour when a young greenfinch tried to kick a sparrow off its perch.

The sparrow was outraged but unmoved and the young greenfinch moved on, hoping to catch an older greenfinch by surprise.

It’s behind you!

While we were drinking our coffee, we couldn’t help noticing the oriental poppies. They are going over in grand style. With their petals open, they are about the size of soup plates now.

When we went back into the garden, I got my macro lens out and had a peer about. The bees have exhausted the cotoneaster and this one was back on the good old reliable dicentra again.

I looked closely at musk…

…honeysuckle…

…and rhododendron….

…noticed that a peony has gone to seed….

…and took a wider view of an astrantia and two roses.

Then I mowed and edged the middle lawn. If we get the promised rain over the next few days, it should start to look quite respectable.

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal had cycled up to the town to get a new battery for her watch (one person in the shop at a time and social distancing observed) and on the way home, she had stopped at our travelling butcher’s van and acquired two chicken and leek pies whihc we ate for our lunch. They were very reasonably priced and very tasty too.

After lunch, I decided to go for a cycle ride. If I had stuck to my lockdown schedule, I should have gone for a walk today, but it seemed a pity not to go cycling on a day with light winds when the forecast for tomorrow has got strong winds in it.

The sun was well hidden behind the clouds and I thought that it was cool enough to go up the Wauchope road without getting stuck in sticky tar. This turned out to be correct and I was rewarded by a stunning display of the cow parsley along the road at the Bloch.

Even on a dull day, this is the sort of thing that lifts the heart.

And I always like the view from the top of the hill here across the Solway to the Lake District…

…so I was very happy with my route choice.

There was a very occasional drop of rain right from the start of the ride, but the drops were so occasional that they didn’t stop me taking a longer route than my usual Canonbie circuit. I visited Glenzier and Chapelknowe before turning down into England and arriving at the main road home. I stopped for a drink and a date at Silverhill Wood beside a hedge with some rhododendron flowers poking out of it.

When I set off back to Langholm up the A7, I was pleased to find that the traffic is still pretty light but I still turned off and took the even quieter route through Canonbie village.

This gave me the chance to nod to a group of very contented cows who were have a rest under my favourite trees at Grainstonehead…

…and acknowledge the fact that it not just people that have been affected by the lockdown. Hollows Tower…..

…must be feeling a bit lonely having had no visitors for months.

I needed to cycle through the town and up to the High Mill Bridge and back to bring my trip up to thirty miles (a round thirty seems to be much more satisfying than a twenty and a half mile trip for some inexplicable reason). I got backhome in time for a cup of tea and a shower before our evening Zoom meeting with my siblings.

The drops of rain did increase in frequency during the ride but I felt no need to put my rain jacket on until I was almost home when it started to look like proper rain. Of course, as soon as I had my jacket on, it went back to drops every now and again.

It did rain a bit more seriously in the evening but t was still nowhere near enough to make a difference. Fingers are crossed from more rain overnight.

The flying bird of the day is a greenfinch.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my camera club friend Simon who noticed these interesting additions to a pylon when he was out and about near Canonbie. They are going to renew the cables.

We had another beautiful day here today. As this was the first day of summer, there is a slight worry that summer can only go downhill from here on. It will be hard to get a better day day than this.

We had our morning street coffee off the street today, tucked round the corner beside the dam where two of our number could sit in the shade of Margaret’s shed, while Liz and and I sat in the sun holding umbrellas to provide our own personal shade. Passers by, used to finding us in the street, were amazed to find us on the grass looking for all the world like an impressionist painting by Monet.

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal did some work in the garden while I wandered about looking for new flowers. There were new flowers to be found.

The wiegela has started flowering.

A red geum has come to join the geum flock.

A new lupin is probably my favourite lupin now it has come out.

Both the red and white astrantias are not at their peak yet but full of promise.

And the stars of the show today are the silver lined irises.

Mrs Tootlepedal is pleased with the progress of the vegetable garden and I was able to snip some leaves from her cut and come again lettuce patch to have in a lettuce and marmite sandwich for my lunch.

After lunch, I looked at the feeder through an open window and saw a goldfinch there…

..and in the distance, I could see Mrs Tootlepedal putting the new bench to the very use it was designed for on a sunny afternoon.

it seemed to be a couple of degrees cooler than it had been yesterday, so I decided to mark the start of the summer months with a cycle ride. Wanting to avoid the Wauchope road where the tar was melting last time that I went that way, I headed south out of. Instead of crossing the river at Skippers Bridge, I kept on going down the east bank of the river and then crossed the Tarras and went through Claygate towards the Hollows.

This route is quite hilly and I was concentrating so hard on pedalling sensibly and not getting too hot that I forgot to take any pictures until I got to the shade of the old road at the Hollows.

I headed down to Canonbie, hoping to see the pylon devices that Simon had photographed but instead of the devices themselves, I saw workmen on another pylon getting ready to install them.

I heard a man on a news programme recently complaining that young barristers could only expect to earn as much as an electrician but I think that these super electricians deserve every penny that they get.

Away to my left, Canonbie Church looked at its best.

I pedalled on south and joined the main road for a mile or two at the end of the Canonbie by-pass. The traffic was still light and nowhere near back to pre-lockdown levels.

After a very unpromising winter, farmers must have feared the worst, but things have improved a lot recently as this field of waving barley near Longtown shows.

I left the main road here and turned up towards Milltown of Sark, crossing the border back into Scotland on my way. The last tree in England is also the last to get its leaves.

I looked back at the tree after I had passed it and you can see from the direction that the Gretna turbines are pointing that the wind was helping me up the hill here. I was grateful for the help but having the wind behind me and not blowing in my face meant that it was hot work for a mile or two.

Readers may have noticed how completely weed free the field of barley that I passed earlier was. I worry that this is part of the reason for the drastic drop in the number of insects about, so I was happy to see an uncultivated field full of buttercups further along my journey.

The wind continued to be helpful all the way home, and I arrived back after 26 enjoyable miles in perfect time to have a shower, a cup of tea (and a ginger biscuit or two) and join in the evening Zoom meeting with Mrs Tootlepedal and my siblings.

After the meeting, I watched the birds for a bit. Mrs Tootlepdal’s fake tree may not have any leaves but it is still a useful spot for birds waiting for a perch at the feeder to have rest.

We needed to have a queuing system as the feeder was busy.

I had time for another wander round the garden before scrambled eggs for tea and found another new flower out. This is the first of many foxgloves to come.

And I feel a bit guilty that I usually show the garage clematis en masse when the individual flowers are very pretty in themselves.

But if the silver lined irises were the morning stars, the evening star was Lilian Austin, a really lovely English rose.

The scrambled eggs (on toast) brought the first day of summer to a satisfactory close. I hope that there are many more like it as far as the weather goes, but mixed with overnight rain from time to time of course. We need rain badly.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my cycling reader Paul. He lives in Lancashire and he sent me this picture of a reservoir to show that we are not the only ones having a dry time just now.

I am starting today’s post with a picture from yesterday. I almost always only use pictures in a post which I have taken that day as this blog is a daily diary, but I had this one ready to put in yesterday’s post when the new block editor made me forget about it. The blackbird had made such a good effort to pose nicely for me that I thought that it would be a sin not to reward him.

Back to today.

It was another day of wall to wall sunshine but with a brisker breeze to keep things a little cooler.

Neither of us had slept well in the heat last night so we had a quiet start to the day. Then, instead of street coffee, we enjoyed Zoom colour bingo event curated by our granddaughter Matilda. Through the wonders of technology, it involved all four of her grandparents, two of her aunts, a cousin, and her own parents (and three of the four countries of the United Kingdom). The rules were simple enough for even me to grasp and the method ensured the games ended in good time so we had space to chat and catch up as well as play.

After Zooming, we went out into the garden, where Mrs Tootlepedal did useful thinks and I wandered around, a bit at a loss to find something to do. In lieu of anything more productive, I looked at flowers.

There are new arrivals, an orange hawkweed…

…the first of many Sweet Williams…

…a beautifully dark pansy…

…and the first bud on a rose.

I was passing the bird feeder and noticed that a greenfinch was ignoring me. I didn’t ignore it and got the benefit of photographing a bird on the feeder in good light and not through a window.

I was happy even if it it was not.

Our neighbour Kenny, who gardens the far bank of the dam, has produced a really lovely lily there…

We went back in to have lunch and then Mrs Tootlepedal took the sensible view that it was a good afternoon to sit quietly indoors out of the heat. I was restless and split my time by being bored indoors and doing nothing useful outdoors. As usual, when left with nothing better to do, I pointed cameras at things. The bright light was a problem so I looked for shady corners with Welsh poppies…

….ranunculus…

…and musk.

And I found an ornamental onion.

At one stage, I went for a shady sit down on our new bench and was joined for some quality time by a blackbird on a nearby hedge.

I checked to see what had captured the bees’ fancy today. It was chive diving.

I went back in to get set up for my second Zoom meeting of the day and while the computer was warming up, I looked out of the back door at the dam to see if any birds were cooling off there. Starlings were making use of the facilities…

…but they flew off in a huff when I got too close.

The afternoon Zoom meeting was the weekly Carlisle Choir virtual rehearsal with our energetic leader Ellen. Once again she was well prepared with a really good grip on the technology. All the same, the current technology will still not let everyone sing at the same time so it was more of a chance to get together and keep the spirit of the choir going than a great singing experience. About 50 members signed in and I enjoyed it.

There was another gap in the day now, with nothing much to do so I made a batch of 30 ginger biscuits as the last lot of 30 biscuits has mysteriously disappeared.

Then I had to time to check to see if there were more birds swimming in the dam. There were none but a white clover by the back door caught my eye instead…

…and I had to look out of the front window to see some birds. The feeder was half full and the bottom layer had been taken over by three greenfinches…

…who weren’t going to let any other bird get a look in. This led to some wistful flying birds, hoping for a perch but not succeeding in dislodging the incumbents.

And then it was time for the third Zoom meeting of the day, the usual get together with my siblings. My brother was absent but my sisters were in good form. I didn’t stay for the whole meeting as I wanted to get out for a cycle ride in the comparative cool of the early evening and still be back in time for our evening meal.

it was 25°C but the sun was down in the sky a bit and a cooling breeze kept conditions ideal for the elderly cyclist. I headed north up the main road out of town, hoping that there would be little traffic on the road and that the wind would be helpful as I headed uphill.

Both hopes were fulfilled. There was hardly any traffic and the wind was not only helpful up the hill but by some fluke of meteorology, helpful to me on the way back down again. As a result, I was home in plenty of time for a delicious meal of liver and onions prepared by Mrs Tootlepedal.

I took two pictures just to show that I had been out. The first was soon after I had set off, and shows the Ewes valley at its best…

…and the second was at the head of the valley as the shadows were closing in on the road to Mosspaul.

I was passed by two cars in the ten miles back home. Cycling heaven.

Looking at my cycling spreadsheet when I got home, I see that I have cycled 15 times this month and covered 450 miles, my best month this year by a good distance. As I have gone for a walk on the other 16 days, it has been an excellent month for exercise.

The flying bird of the day is a duck who was passing over the garden while I was wandering about.

Footnote: As an experiment because I am using the new block editor, I have put the pictures in at a larger size than usual. I don’t know if this will make any difference but if it does for good or bad, I would be grateful for any feedback.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Bill, a blog reader, who was pleased that we enjoyed his creative poppy plantation on our recent walk. Nature got a helping hand! He has sent me this picture of a ceanothus which rivals the cotoneaster as a bee magnet.

Our spell of dry, warm and sunny weather continued today, and it was, if anything, warmer than it was yesterday. On the hand, there was a stronger cooling breeze available so we were all pretty happy.

Our neighbour Margaret, the senior citizen in our socially distanced street coffee morning set, was the beneficiary of the slight loosening of the lockdown when her son and daughter-in-law visited her for coffee today, bringing their own seats with them. Mrs Tootlepedal and our other morning coffee neighbour Liz joined them but I, thinking that five was a crowd, went off to have coffee with Sandy instead.

He had acquired a new cafetiere so we sipped good coffee together and watched a pair of very industrious blue tits bringing food for the family to the nest box on his shed.

Judging from how busy the parents were, there must be quite a few nestlings in the box.

The skies have got busy too lately, and we watched a plane leaving quite a trail as it passed overhead.

Sandy has a handy flight tracking app on his phone and he was able tell me that this was an Airbus jet going from Aberdeen to London.

When I got home, the street coffee morning was just breaking up, and Mrs Tootlepedal and I went into the garden.

There was aerial activity there too, but this time it was two young starlings pestering a fed up parent for food.

A check on a rose that appeared in yesterday’s post showed me that the pink tinge was in fact the proper colour for this rose…

…and it was the early white flowers that were non standard.

Mrs Tootlepedal has discovered a single plum on the plum tree that was not killed by the frost, but we are keeping its location secret for security purposes. She is very pleased to see new shoots on the plum tree after the quite severe pruning we gave it.

I mowed the middle lawn and the weather has been so kind that I was able to run the mower over the grass without using the collecting box. This is good for two reasons, the mowing is quicker and easier and the grass cuttings act as a mulch to improve the health of the lawn.

Then it was time for lunch.

After lunch, I mowed the front lawn, again without the box on, and then we had a sit down on the new bench in the shade.

There was more starling action as a youngster perched hopefully on the top of the holly tree looking this way and that for someone to come and feed it. There were adults about but they didn’t seem interested in helping this particular youngster.

I filled the pond and while it was filling, I checked on the bees on the Limnanthes. They were diving in.

The tadpoles were very happy with the new water level.

The temperature was up to 25°C (77°F) by this time but the breeze was frisky enough to suggest that a walk might be good thing. Mrs Tootlepedal however felt that it was an afternoon for staying in, so I went for a walk round the Pheasant Hatchery by myself.

As I left the house, I noticed that more of the big red poppies had appeared along the dam.

There was a tremendous disturbance when I got to the suspension bridge. It turned out to be oyster catchers objecting to people coming to close to their nest. Further up stream, another oyster catcher was much calmer.

There were more people about than there have been lately, which not surprising considering that it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, but it meant that I couldn’t hang about waiting to see wagtails on the Kilngreen and I crossed the Sawmill Brig and headed up the Lodge Walks towards the pheasant hatchery without delay.

The felling of trees along the Lodge Walks in recent years mean that it is no longer quite such an attractive scene for photographers but the trees on the other side of the Castleholm are always a treat at this time of year…

…so I took them instead.

Once I had got round the pheasant hatchery, the walk back along the bank of the Esk was delightful…

…with small pleasures on one side…

…and large ones on the other.

There is a good still pool in the river beneath the Duchess Bridge and I thought that I ought to be able to get a nice reflective shot but the banks are steep and tree lined so I could see half the bridge and half a reflection…

…or more of the bridge and no reflection…

..or more of the reflection and none of the bridge.

It was very frustrating. I needed a drone camera.

The picture above is a bit confusing but I am looking down past a tree straight at the river. You can see the tree and the stones on this side of the river at the bottom of the frame but all the rest is reflections in the water.

In the picture below, you can see the stones on the far bank and trees on the near bank. In between is the river.

It was good to be out on such a day.

I got back in time for a cheerful Zoom meeting with my siblings and after our evening meal (slow cooked stew with spinach from the garden and bubble and squeak on the side), I got a special treat. Mrs Tootlepedal invited me to go with her to collect some horse muck from a stable at the Stubholm.

The temperature was perfect by this point in the day, and while Mrs Tootlepedal collected a couple of buckets of the good stuff, I counted trees.

As a bonus, I was allowed to carry one of the buckets of manure back home. The perfect end to the day.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow heading past the feeder pole with sunflowers seeds in mind.

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony in sunny East Wemyss. He passed this delightful garden maintained by OAPs for the benefit of passers by.

We had another lovely day here with the only worry that it might get a bit too hot for us pallid northerners. One sign of the easing of the lockdown was the sight of several aircraft con trails across our otherwise blue skies. Like the increase in traffic, this is an unwelcome side of the return to ‘normality’.

I had a walk round the garden after breakfast and the crossword had been disposed of, and although there is not much startlingly new to be seen, it is always a pleasure to wander about among the flowers. And a white butterfly shared my enjoyment.

The blue lupins are going from strength to strength each day.

In the absence of the gaudy colour of the frost damaged azaleas, we are appreciating the more subdued corners in the garden.

I went back inside and noticed a goldfinch and a sparrow having a chat on the feeder…

…before Mrs Tootlepedal and I started a WhatsApp chat of our own with our son Alistair and our granddaughter Matilda in Edinburgh. Their south facing house is very hot at the moment but they found a cool spot where Matilda could read an amusing story about ‘Mr and Mrs Brown who are upside down’ to us. We also used another app that lets us play games at a distance and we passed a most enjoyable time with them. Alistair revealed that he had used technology to give an online Power Point presentation to 50 of his work colleagues. We were impressed.

After our chat, I made a beef stew for the slow cooker and then made lentil and bacon soup for our lunch. While it was cooking, I went out for another look round the garden.

Another rhododendron has started to come out in a shady spot in the back border…

…and a pink tinged rose caught my eye in a bush of otherwise white roses.

After lunch, I decided to brave the heat and go for a cycle ride. The temperature had hit 20°C which might have been a bit hot for a walk but cycling brings its own breeze with it. In the event, conditions were kind enough for me to enjoy a 30 mile ride. This was apart from the first five miles, where bad road surfacing had left the tar melting in little bubbles making the road very sticky and hard work. From then on, things improved.

The countryside is looking very green…

…and a calf had found some long grass to rest in.

I didn’t stop a lot as it seemed much warmer as soon as I lost the breeze of my own making. But I did want to record that the damage to beech hedges from the fateful late frost extends far beyond our Langholm.

There were brown patches on almost all the hedges that I passed. But plenty of buttercups in the verges made up for some loss of leaves in the hedges.

Mrs Tootlepedal had suggested that it would be wise for me to take things slowly in the heat and I had no difficulty in following her advice. My legs were content just to fill up the gap between my shorts and the pedals rather than to give me much help in the pushing department. Still, they have done a fair bit of work over the past few days so I can’t complain.

I got back in good time to join in the daily Zoom chat with my brother and sisters and then I had another chance to watch greenfinches on the feeder…

…and take another walk round the garden while the vegetables were cooking to go with the slow cooked stew.

I like the flowers in the late afternoon/early evening sun. It seems to sharpen them up.

…and bring out the colours better than when the full sun of the day is on them.

Especially on my current favourite lupin.

After our evening meal, we had a special treat, the better side of the easing of the lockdown, when Mike and Alison came round for their customary Friday evening visit for the first time for many weeks.

As they are not allowed to come into our house yet, there was no music playing, but there was beer and conversation (socially distanced) on the lawn. As it was a beautiful evening, with virtually no breeze, and as it has been too dry for the midges to breed, sitting out in the garden was very acceptable and we enjoyed this slight move back to life as it used to be.

Alison thought that the clematis over the garage was looking well.

The good weather is set to continue but with a bit more breeze and the temperature down a degree or two, it might be a good day for a walk tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch again.

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