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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia.  She visited the Haynes International Motor Museum with my sister Mary and saw many wonderful motor cars, including this 1900 Clement Voiturette.

1900 Clement Voiturette

When you look back at them, there are some days which seem to rather slip through your grasp and you never really get a grip on them.  This was one such day.  Although we did quite a lot, nothing much seemed to happen.  As a result, if this post is somewhat disjointed, it will match the day very well.

We had a slow start after breakfast but then we drove down to the bike shop in Longtown to recover my set of car and house keys, which were still in my bike pannier along with my rain jacket.  My bike won’t be ready until Friday at best so we drove quietly back home, giving a lift to a local man who had just left his bike for repair at the bike shop and was intending to catch the bus back.  As he would have had to wait half an hour before the bus came, he was quite grateful.

It was a rather grey and gloomy day but still reasonably warm so we had a walk round the garden when we got back.  A blackbird on the fence caught my eye.  It had picked up a fallen rowan berry from the ground.

blackbird on fence with berry

It was just as well that it hadn’t been tempted by these St John’s Wort berries near by and they are poisonous to livestock and probably not very good for birds.

st john's wort berreis

Most of the Sweet Williams are past but this one, lurking in a vegetable bed, still looks rather attractive with its dainty blue boots.

sweet william

The honey suckle on the vegetable garden fence is doing well.

honeysuckle

I went in and put a grey day to some use by entering two weeks of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database, making a small dent in my backlog.

Mrs Tootlepedal occupied herself in making some plum chutney.  She tells me that we won’t be able to sample it for six months.

In the afternoon, I considered the weather and the forecast and the threats of heavy rain, and then went out for a short ride on my borrowed bike.

It was a day for cloudscapes…

cloudscape wauchope 1

…and no matter where you looked, there were plenty of clouds to see.

cloudscape wauchope 2

I had gone about four miles, when the view behind, with a hint of sunshine, looked a lot better than the view in front, and as it started to rain, I decided to race the rain back home.

cloudscape looking back to langholm

Although it continued to drizzle on me, the wind was coming from behind, so I didn’t get very wet at all. It was dry when i gt home.

I put the bike under cover and walked round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal.  She has recently put down some grass seed to grow as green manure on the now empty potato bed, and this is of great interest to the sparrows who lurk in every convenient tree and hedge…

two sparrows

…and eat the seed whenever our backs our turned.

When  we came out, they flew up in a great cloud and some of them settled for a while on our neighbour Betty’s garage roof.  This is just a portion of the flock who were pecking at the grass seeds.

sparrows on betty's garage

I had a look at some flowers.  The lobelias round the chimney pot are in fine fettle…

lobelia at chimney

…and the late Lilian Austin rose, featured yesterday, has been joined by two more blooms.

three Lilian Austin roses

I tend to look at the phlox as a cloud of colour but this single flower was worth looking at by itself, I thought.

phlox blossom

After a while, the clouds seemed to have passed over, so after a last look at these zinnias, one with a miniature garden at its heart….

two zinnias

…I set off to complete my intended mileage for the day.  It started to rain almost as soon as I had left the house but I had my rain jacket with me, so I put it on and pressed ahead.

This was a good plan because the rain soon stopped and in spite of some impressive clouds over Callister…

callister cloudscape

…it turned into a sunny day as I came home from the top of the hill.

callister view

Although there was a break in the middle, I aggregated the two rides into one and recorded 20 miles for the day in my mileage chart.

When I got home, I walked round the garden for a final time….

striking nastrutium

…and then went in to print out some pictures for our camera club’s forthcoming exhibition.

Mrs Tootlepedal cooked an excellent evening meal and we rounded off the day by watching an exciting stage of the Vuelta.

The flying bird of the day was standing very close to me on the lawn before it flew off.

blackbird on lawn

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who visited a Book Cafe but found that reading one of their books might be tricky.  He tells me that he didn’t bolt his coffee and cake though.

book cafe

This morning couldn’t have offered a greater contrast to yesterday’s summer weather.  The clouds were clamped down on the hills, the town was engulfed by gloom and there was a persistent drizzle.  The drizzle did fizzle out though and I was able to walk up to the town after breakfast to do some archive group  and camera club business.

I had hoped to have a cup of coffee with Dropscone when I got back, but he had a golfing engagement so I went out to check the garden.

It was warm enough, but the results of the drizzle could be seen hanging about on dahlias….

dahlia with droplets

…and in a hundred neat pockets along the front hedge.

hedge with jewels

I had several goes at capturing the beauty of the water filled webs…

triple panel droplets

…and this was my favourite as I thought that it caught their jewelled nature best.

web with drops

Since it wasn’t a gardening moment, I went in and made half a dozen pots of plum jam, using early plums which we had picked that were not suitable to eat yet.  Our jam thermometer is a bit like the jam maker himself, old and unreliable, and I may have overcooked the jam a bit, but I had a test helping on some new bread in the evening and it wasn’t too bad.  We are researching digital jam thermometers and if any reader has had a good experience with one, we would be pleased to learn about it.

After the jam making was finished, I went out into the garden and was happy to find that the clouds had lifted and the rain had cleared away altogether.

I had a walk round to admire the late colour.

lily, crocosmia, astilbe and rose

…and noted that sometimes, one plant gets overtaken by another as these two clematis flowers, peeking out through alien foliage, show.

two lonely clematis

Elsewhere, clematis has a clear run.

clematis on fence

I made some soup for lunch and then Mrs Tootlepedal headed off to collect embroidery exhibits, the work of her local group, which have been on display in Hawick.  I went back out into the garden where the sun was now shining and found myself ducking to avoid being mowed down by hordes of butterflies and sparrows which were circling the garden.

Although it was pleasantly warm in the sun, it was not as hot as yesterday and the butterflies all had their wings wide open.

red admiral, two peacocks, white butterfly

Once again, there were far more peacocks about than any other sort…

peacock butterfly wings spread

…though the whites came a close second.

white butterfly

The large family of blackbirds are still around at various stages of development…

young blackbird on ground

…and they and the resident starlings and sparrows were joined by a tuneful thrush today.

starling, thrush and sparrow

There were so many butterflies about that I had to persuade them to shift over to give me a bit of room on the bench to sit….

two butterflies on bench

…and enjoy a small plum snack.

four plums on bench

It had dried up enough to let me mow the middle lawn and then I got my bike out and pedalled round my 20 mile Canonbie circuit.  It was a good day for a cycle ride…

view over Bloch

…with the country looking at its most benign.

view down wauchopedale

Farmers had been busy cutting grass in every corner of their fields.

tree with cut grass

All new deciduous trees seem to be planted in plastic tubes these days and this view as I climbed the hill over the Kerr seems to show that it is a good idea, with a flourishing little forest well under way.

successful tree tubes

As I came back home along the Esk valley, there was more evidence of grass cutting to be seen.

grass cut at grainstone

I would have liked to have had time to have gone a bit further but there was the front lawn to cut and my flute pupil Luke to welcome.

I did find time when i got home to watch a blackbird in the rowan tree.  It was eyeing up the berries and bending to check on them, but the big question was, would it pose for the ‘money shot’?

blackbird panel in rowan

It did.

blackbird with berry

Mrs Tootlepedal arrived safely back from Hawick, and while my flute pupil Luke and I practised, she made a delicious cauliflower cheese, garnished with beans and courgettes from the garden for tea.  We ate it with a side dish of beetroot which our friend Nancy had given us and i had cooked earlier.  She has grown so much beetroot on her allotment this year that she can hardly face eating any more.

We rounded off the day by watching the highlights of the Vuelta, the cycling tour of Spain.  It took our minds off the political situation.

The flying bird of the day is a bee visiting one of the last big poppies.

flying bee with poppy

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Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia who visited the very impressive flight of locks at Caen Hill on the Kennet and Avon canal.

Caen Hill Locks

We had another fine and sunny day today, with the temperatures well up into the mid twenties (80F) so it was quite pleasant to go into the cool of the church to sing with the choir in the morning.  The service was led a Langholm man who has led a remarkable life both in Britain and America.  He gave an interesting address and chose excellent hymns, so I enjoyed the whole thing.

When  we got home, the garden was awash with butterflies.  We could count about forty on a buddleia at one point but curiously, they all sat and sipped with their wings tightly closed as you can see in the shot below.

four butterflies

What was most surprising, as we are used to seeing the butterflies with their wings spread out, was the unanimity with which all the butterflies behaved.  I couldn’t get a decent open wing shot at all.  It doesn’t matter so much for the painted ladies who look quite nice with the wing shut or open….

painted lady wings shut

…but the other butterflies are very dull when closed.  Luckily, there were other insects to watch, like this moth on the red buddleia…

moth on buddleia

…and the mint was covered with small flies of a colourful nature.

flies on mint 1

I wish that I had a steadier hand to do these little charmers justice.

flies on mint 2

There was a good variety.

flies on mint 3

I didn’t do a lot of gardening, just some quiet dead heading and wandering around looking at sunny flowers.

sunflower heart

It was just too hot to do much and like this dahlia, I often went in to get a bit of shade.

secret dahlia

The dead heading is worthwhile though and if you dead head the Icelandic poppies, they keep coming for the whole summer and beyond…

icelandic poppy in sun

…and the calendula repay a bit of attention too.

bright calendula

There are still some flowers to come and I liked this low hanging spray of fuchsia showing promise…

fuchis hanging about

…and the sedum is warming up too.

sedum coming

Late in the afternoon, when the sun was getting lower in the sky, I finally got out on my bicycle for a short ride.

I was very pleased to see a metaphor come to life as I passed a farmer making hay while the sun shone.  (In fact he was making silage but I shall ignore that.)

making hay Bloch

I like the way that this bull, in a field covered with grass, chooses to stand in a muddy patch.  It is a creature of habit, I suppose.

bull at wauchope SH

I cycled up to the far end of Callister and when I stopped and turned, I recorded the new road surface which makes cycling so much more of a pleasure than bumping along worn and potholed roads.

new surface on callister road

I had a friend with me as I cycled back.

shadowy cyclist

When I got to Langholm, I took the road along the river bank.  Birds were standing on either two legs or one leg as the mood took them.

gull and mallard by Esk

I clocked up a modest 17 miles but as it took me over 300 miles for the month with a few days still in hand, I wasn’t unhappy….and I was quite hot enough as it was.

Mrs Tootlepedal had gardened sparingly through the day but she had attacked a patch of wild growth and brought another metaphor to life as she had firmly grasped the nettle.  In fact, quite a lot of nettles.

dead nettles

She also cooked a delicious meal of pasta alla norma for our tea.

We were able to watch the totally unexpected highlights of a dramatic cricket test match  in the evening and this rounded off a pleasantly warm and gentle day.   Looking at the forecast, this might well have been the last day of summer.

I spent quite a lot of it wrestling with the intractable prize crossword and in the end I had to ring up my sister Mary for help.  She was very helpful and between us we have got down to the last clue.  It will have to wait.

I did find a single peacock butterfly kind enough to open its wings and pose for a moment…

peacock butterlfy on buddleia tip

…and the flying bird of the day, a young starling,  is ruminating on life among the rowan berries before taking to the air again.

young starling in rowan

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mrs Tootlepedal and features one of our plums.

ally's plum

The picture itself might not seem to be earth shattering but the fact that Mrs Tootlepedal took on her new smart phone and emailed it to me, is a giant leap for her into a whole new world of tech.

The acquisition of the new phone was the main business of the morning and involved a trip to Carlisle.  I had tried to get the phone sorted on-line yesterday but it proved an intractable business so we made an appointment to speak to real people in the EE shop in Carlisle.  This proved to be a really good idea, as an admirably competent young lady was able to add the new phone to my account, get Mrs Tootlepedal an excellent bargain for the monthly charge and give me an extra gigabyte of data thrown in.

She told us that the staff in the shop are no longer paid commission for hard selling, and indeed get no bonus for completing a sale at all.  They get their reward if customers speak highly of them when asked their opinion a week after the deal is done.  This is a good idea!

She sold us what we wanted, didn’t try to sell us anything we didn’t want, gave us a tremendous amount of technical help and sent us on our way in a very cheerful state of mind indeed.  We will speak highly of her when we are asked.

While we were in Carlisle, we bought some cheese, visited a bookshop where we had a cup of coffee, and wandered through a market in the middle of the town.  All in all, it was a very satisfactory morning.

When we got home, we had lunch and then we went out into the garden.  It was one of those days when the weather in Carlisle was bright and sunny but the weather in Langholm was grey and gloomy with the clouds down over the hills.

This is a bit hard to bear but I took a picture of Mrs Tootlepedal’s new phlox just for the cheery colour.

phlox

In spite of the cloudy day, it was warm enough and at worst there was only a faint drizzle so we got a lot done.  I mowed the lawns and together we removed and binned what seemed like a hundred or more green plums from the poor old plum tree which is still overloaded with clusters of plums hanging on it like bunches of grapes.  The plums are beginning to ripen and plum jam is in the offing.

After the de-plumming, we sat for a while on the bench while we rested and looked around. Some nicotianas looked back at us from behind the yew.

nicotiana behind yew

On the fence behind the bench, the runner bean flowers made a good show.

runner bean flowers

More actual beans would not go amiss but we had a few with our evening meal.

Across the lawn, a bee visited the lamium…

bee on lamium

…while on the lawn, a harassed mother blackbird fed an ungrateful youngster.

blackbird feeding young

We went in for a cup of tea and a biscuit and then I decided to go for a walk.   I  had only gone a few steps when my feet decided that a ‘bicycle walk’ would be better idea, so I got the slow bike out and cycled round an extended three bridges walk at a very leisurely pace.

You don’t see as much when you are on a  bicycle, no matter how slowly you go but I couldn’t miss the gull on its favourite rock…

gull on rock august

…or Mr Grumpy lurking more inconspicuously a few yards away down the river.

heron beside Elizabeth St

I cycled up the Lodge Walks and took a photograph.  It was a bit dull so I took the liberty of asking my photo editor to put an arty filter on it.  I quite liked the result.

arty Lodge walks

At the side of the road, this massive fungus was easily visible at any speed.

fungus Lodge walks

The sun came out as I pedalled along, and it turned into a very pleasant evening.

pheasant hatchery road

In the low sun, the trees looked delightful both in general…

castleholm trees

…and in particular.

castleholm tree

I would have liked to have been on foot, but I bumped along the track on my bike happily enough.

pheasant hatchery track

I passed the Duchess Bridge but did not cross it…

duchess bridge in shade

…and went on to the Jubilee Bridge and the Scholars’ Field to make my way home.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round for their usual Friday evening visit, and Alison and I played some very satisfactory duets, including a Telemann Sonata which we haven’t played for some time and which went very well all things considered.

The hard working mother blackbird is standing in for the flying bird of the day.

blackbird on lawn

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony who was in a good position to admire the big festival wheel in Edinburgh.

big wheel Edinburgh

My feet and joints generally sent me a message this morning to say that they had had enough of cycling and walking for the moment.  As it was a miserable grey day, I was only too happy to take the message on board and have a really dull morning indoors doing faintly useful things.

I did poke my nose out once or twice but the sight of the creeper putting on its autumn colours was not essentially cheering…

creeper turning

…though an orange crocosmia…

orange crocosmia

…a rudbeckia trying its best in poor conditions…

faded rudbeckia

…and another sunflower..

new sunflower

…did their best to counteract the gloomy weather.

After lunch, we went off to Lockerbie as usual on a Thursday to catch the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and her parents.  As usual the train was late, but as it was not very late and there were plenty of free seats, we were grateful for what we got.

We had a good time with Matilda and when we played Beggar My Neighbour, for the first time in recorded history, I wasn’t beggared first.  I was very proud, although Clare did kindly point out that there is no skill involved in the game.

After the usual excellent meal cooked by Alistair, we caught the train home and unusually this was late too, but once again not very late so all was well.

The sitting blackbird of the day is reminding us that the fence needs painting.  I don’t think that it is going to happen though.

balackbird on fence hoop

I’ll try to be more interesting tomorrow.

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  He gets up very early to walk his dogs before going to work and thus can take pictures like this with his phone.

ANT'S SUNRISE

We had yet another day of intermittent showers, some very heavy and almost all quite short.  The shortest lasted about a minute but was quite intense while it was in action.

I started the day by filing down a key.  When we moved the Archive Group to its new premises, we got some keys cut to let members in to work.  Some of the keys fitted the lock but others didn’t and I have been meaning to sort the ill fitting ones out for some time.  Like many of my little plans though, nothing actually happened until I got a call today to do something about it.  Galvanised by this, I got busy with a little file and went up to the office where, rather to me surprise, the key now fitted and opened the door.  I delivered the key to the member who had asked for it, and she was probably even more surprised than I was.

Encouraged by this, I resolved to risk getting wet, and went off for a bike ride.  Once again the wind was very unhelpful and made cycling hard work, so I settled for fifteen miles, making sure that I had the wind behind me on the return journey.   The sun came out as I pedalled home and Wauchopedale looked very inviting.

Wauchopedale view

When I got back, I had a cup of coffee and then walked round the garden.

This poppy had given all it had to give to passing bees…

exhausted poppy

…but the buddleia still has plenty left to attract butterflies….

peacock butterfly

…and the Michaelmas daisies are not short of pull either.

fly on daisy

Sadly, the sweet peas have had their day and I gave Mrs Tootlepedal a hand as she demolished the imposing structure which had given them support.

Nearby, I admired the fine mint plant next to the greenhouse.  It is, as they say, in mint condition.

mint in mint condition

Round the front lawn, the yellow crocosmias are making a good show.

yellow crocosmia

It was a pleasantly warm day, and after we had finished with the sweet peas, Mrs Tootlepedal and I sat on the new bench and had a rest.  From the bench I could see a good crop of Japanese anemones climbing above a hedge…

Japanese anemone clump

…and a good flock of sparrows clustered on the silver pear.

sparrows in silver pear

Then it was time for lunch.

After lunch, we went out into the garden again.

When Mrs Tootlepedal had been cutting down the potentillas on the dam side yesterday, I had noticed that the fuchsia further along the house wall was looking good, so I took a picture of it today.

fuschia beside dam

I had also noticed a plant with many tiny white flowers on it and Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is lemon balm.

lemon balm

The camera club has had a small exhibition running in the community cafe in Canonbie for some time, but it is coming to an end this week and we are going to take the pictures up to The Hub in Eskdalemuir, where they will be on show during September.  The organiser there had asked me to paint a pen portrait of the camera club and provide a poster for the exhibition, so I went in and did my best to meet her requirements.

Then there was time for another garden check to see if there were any birds wanting to have their picture taken.

A blackbird gave me that fashionable over the shoulder pose…

blackbird back

…and a dunnock tried for the same effect but didn’t quite have the neck and shoulder for it.

dunnock on fence

I took a final picture…

clump of calendula

…and went back in.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I checked over our potato crop fairly carefully to take out any tubers which had been forked or were suffering from slugs.  We put the rest of the crop into storage.  For one reason or another, we had managed to spear quite a lot of potatoes when we were digging them up but the slug damage was very slight so we were pleased to have enough to last for some time.

Although there was a hint of rain in the air when we had finished sorting the potatoes, I went for a short walk.   Along the way, there were unwelcome signs of the turning of the year to be seen.

leaves in puddle

…and unwelcome, although pretty, invasive plants to be found.

himalayan balsam park

And there was a token of how strong the winds have been in the form of a pile of branches beside the path…

fallen oak branch easton's walk

…which turned out to be from a substantial limb which had split from a tree.

fallen oak branch easton's walk 2

I didn’t walk as far as I intended as I fell into conversation with a friend whom I met on the way and we had a lively discussion about life and politics which took some time.  There were a couple of short, sharp showers while we talked but as we were under a well leafed tree, we were unaffected.  In the end, we broke off our debate and walked back together, heeding the call of the evening meal.

No flying bird of the day today, but I felt that the resident dragons in the park were taking a keener interest in me than usual as I walked by them today, so I have put them in to keep them happy.

park monsters

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Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie.  A friend, a fellow allotmenteer, brought her round some dahlias from Annie’s plot.  They are doing a lot better than ours are.

annie dahlia

We had another unsettled and unsettling day.  It is difficult to have a plan of action when the weather (and the forecast) is so changeable. In the forecast yesterday morning, we had been promised a calm and sunny day today so I was looking for a good cycle ride, staring early.

By the time that I got up today, there was no sign of sun and the forecast was now promising showers in the morning and a sunny afternoon.  I settled down to coffee and the crossword, thinking of an early lunch and an afternoon pedal.

There was rain.

Having finished the coffee and the crossword, I ventured out into the garden.

There were no butterflies to be seen but we were not short of other insects.

I saw a hoverfly vising an Icelandic poppy

hoverfly icelandic poppy

…and a bee well into a poppy…

bee in poppy

,,,while another hoverfly had caused a small pollen storm.

hoverfly in poppy

Another bee took a more refined approach to a geranium.

bee on geranium

Not every small creature was so welcome though.  Our turnips have taken a bit of a bashing.

nibbled turnip

Mrs Tootlepedal hasn’t planted as many cosmos as usual because the plants have tended to suffer from disease in recent years, but there she has some and they are just coming out.

cosmos

Although the bird feeders are not out at present, there are still plenty of birds about, particularly starlings…

fluffy starling on holly

…and blackbirds.

blackbird on bench

I looked at the forecast just before noon.  The sunny afternoon had disappeared and rain showers were back in.  I did put my cycling clothes on but cycling was once again postponed and we were busy out in the garden, looking at some ominous clouds, when a pair of strangers appeared at the front gate.

Were we the owners of Wauchope Cottage, they asked.  We confessed that we were and the man said that he had come especially to see the house as his name was Wauchope too and he had often seen pictures of our garden when he researched Wauchope on Google.

We invited him and his partner Cassandra in to tour the garden in real life. They turned out to come from New Orleans and were in Scotland to find as many Wauchope connections as they could.  They had been to a Wauchope family mausoleum in an Edinburgh churchyard and now they had come to visit the mighty Wauchope Water and Wauchopedale in all its glory.

After their garden tour, they sat our bench for a moment’s rest before continuing their adventure.

Mr Wauchope

When they left, I took a picture of the work that Mrs Tootlepedal, in the guise of Attila the Gardener, had been doing in the garden when the visitors came.  The age of the salvias is ended and they are no more.

no salvias

However, I shredded them all and they are now serving a useful purpose as either garden mulch or an addition to the compost bin.

As the weather continued to look gloomy, I went back indoors and did some work on the computer until finally a good forecast and some fine weather actually coincided and I went out for a cycle ride.

Nothing is perfect though, and a stiff breeze made cycling into it more of a duty than a pleasure so I cut my intended distance down and settled for a comfortable 20 miles round my customary Canonbie circuit.

In spite of the wind, it was warm enough to make being out and about enjoyable, and as I pedalled along, the clouds were being blown away and the sun shone for the whole of my trip.

retreating clouds

The River Esk drains well and there was little sign of the recent rain as  I looked over the bridge at The Hollows.

esk at hollows

I stopped when I got to the old A7 just before getting back to Langholm and enjoyed the view across the valley.

view from old A7

Beside the road, an umbellifer was playing host to a crowd of insects.  I can count seven but there may be more.

umbellifer and insect

The amiable sunshine made even a very ordinary dock look rather gorgeous…

dock close up

…and  I was able to find some refreshment before getting back on my bike again.

brambles

The blackberries were delicious.

When I arrived back, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had been very busy cutting down  potentillas at the back of the house along the dam while i had been away.  After the recent flood had put water through the ventilators under our floor, she thought that clearing away the vegetation in front of the ventilators would allow more flow of air which could only be a good thing.

This provided me with an opportunity to do a lot more shredding and more beds were mulched and the compost bin was once again enhanced.

I just had time to some black and white photography of nicotiana..

three nicotiana

…and our strikingly dark pansies…

black pansies

…before going in to cook baked eggs with spinach and a cheese sauce for our tea.

In the evening, we were visited by Mairi, the camera club member whose pictures I had printed.  She had framed them, and she brought them back so that they could be part of our next camera club exhibition.  She stayed on for a while to chat to Mrs Tootlepedal and we soon had the world put to rights.

The flying bird of the day is a gull which I caught when it was passing over the garden near midday.

flying gull overhead

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