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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Today’s guest picture is a break with tradition and is in fact a pair of pictures as Bruce sent me a fairly standard view of the famous ‘Bridge over the Atlantic’ between the mainland and Seil Island…

seil bridge

…but also included his view from the bridge.  He was surprised to find that someone had painted a white line down the middle of the channel, presumably to keep marine traffic on the right track.

seil bridge view

I was listening to a radio programme about the Roman poet Horace today.  One of his most famous phrases was ‘Carpe Diem’ which might be translated as ‘make good use of your day’

We had a beautifully sunny and reasonably warm morning and if there ever was a dies that needing carping, this was it.  Sadly, as my knee still needs cossetting, the dies remained totally uncarped.

I looked at birds instead.

In the dark months, the shadow of our house looms over the bird feeder and so the brighter the sunlight is on the plum tree….

sunny chaffinch

…the darker the shadows are on the feeder…

coal tit profile straight

…though this can produce an interesting silhouette from time to time.

coal tit profile landing

It was about midday when the sun and birds both appeared on the feeder.  Once again there were not many birds about so this gave the blue, coal and great tits plenty of scope for visiting.

blue tit with seedcoal tit with seedgreat tit

A robin popped in and although I took a very poor picture of it just as we were going out, I have put it in for the record.

robin

While I was bird watching, I couldn’t help noticing the berberis….

berberis November

 

…and I went out for a closer look.  One part of the bush has gone bright red while the other remains fairly subdued.

sunny berberis

The perennial wallflower is a marvel.  We have two and the other has now given up but this one looks as though it is ready to go through the winter.

november perennial wallflower

The calendulas are very diminished but they are still trying to produce new flowers.

november calnedula

Apart from the berberis, the brightest thing in the garden was this stone ball wrapped in a blanket of moss.

mossy stone ball

I raised my eyes to the hills and sighed…

cattle on Castle Hill

…and went back inside for lunch.

Then we went to Edinburgh.  Our up train started late from Lockerbie but arrived on time in Edinburgh.  Our down train left Edinburgh on time but arrived ten minutes late at Lockerbie.  Variety is the spice of life!

We found Matilda in very good form and she absolutely trounced me at snap though I held my own in a game of Pelmanism.   We enjoyed other games as well and after an excellent meal, cooked by her father, Matilda ended our visit with a ballet display.  We went home feeling very cheerful.

I just managed to catch today’s flying bird by the merest fraction of a millimetre.

just flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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Not the best of days

Today’s guest picture comes from my son Tony who is photographing a lot more now that he lives in the country and not in the city.   He must have a very steady hand.

tony's moon

We were promised rain today and we got it.  I managed to get along to the producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre after breakfast before the rain came but it started soon after I got back and continued all day well into the evening.

Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge was showing 3½ inches when I looked at it this evening and as we have had a pretty dry spell recently, most of this has come in the past two days.  I did mean to check the gauge every week but I keep forgetting.

After we had had a cup of coffee, we decided to improve a very gloomy day by going to get Mrs Tootlepedal’s new reading glasses, buy some bird food and visit a garden centre to get a new honeysuckle for the garden.

The glasses and bird food acquisition went well but trying to buy a plant in the garden centre was up hill work as it was full to the brim with Christmas tat and plants had been relegated to the outer regions.  We tried a second garden centre and failed there too but Mrs Tootlepedal had been able to pick the very tulip bulbs that she wanted at the first centre so it wasn’t a total write off.

After lunch, I tried to take a bird picture but there were few birds to be seen and those that were about were not doing any unnecessary flying.

wet saturday chaffinch

Mrs Tootlepedal and I walked through the rain to the church to attend an organ recital in aid of the fund to restore our church organ to its full glory.  The recital seemed rather gloomy too, not helped by the organist telling us not applaud as he thought that it was silly.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off afterwards to help out at the Buccleuch Centre and I settled down to full time resting as I had tweaked my leg muscle again while walking to the church.  It is really hard to find the balance between gentle restorative exercise and making things worse.  I am not getting it right at the moment.

Then I made the mistake of watching a bit of the Scotland v Wales rugby international and the sight of Scotland reverting to old habits and losing comfortably made the day seem even gloomier.

No flying bird of the day so I am finishing with a picture which shows that it wasn’t raining all over Scotland today.  On the east coast today.  Tony and Dylan spent some happy time digging up a large tree root and were justifiably proud when they succeeded in getting it out of the ground.

Tony, Dylan and the root

 

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Today’s non-guest picture is the return of the embroidery of the Wallace Monument just because I enjoyed it so much (and it’s a better picture than the one that I took with my phone).

Mrs T Wallace embroidery

Today’s post is going to crush the two days of our mini-break into one so there are a lot of pictures but I will try and keep the waffle to a minimum.  (Some of this appeared in yesterday’s post so I am sorry if regular readers get a sense of deja vu.)

Matilda and her parents had invited us to walk round the enchanted forest in Faskally Woods near Pitlochry with them and in addition had arranged an overnight stay in Pitlochry to make the 350 miles of driving there and back more manageable.

Day 1: outward bound

So we drove up yesterday, stopping off in Stirling to visit the Wallace Monument, erected in memory of William Wallace, a Scottish hero, who may or may not have been of Welsh stock (he was definitely not American or blue in the face).

The monument sits on a steep knoll, high above the car park…

Wallace Monument from below

…and it was a stiff climb for us to reach it and see the tapestry on display there.  We were rewarded by some fine views over Stirling and the river Forth.

View over Stirling

The castle was opposite us but was not looking at its best as they have got the builders in at the moment.

View over Stirling with castle

After lunching in the cafe below the monument, we drove north, taking the scenic route to Pitlochry through Crieff and Aberfeldy.  If you ever have some time to spare on a sunny late October day, it might be hard to find a better place to spend it.

view of perthshire

Quite apart from the stunning hill and glen scenery and the brilliant autumn colour, the roads in this part of rural Perthshire are pothole free, a real treat for us.

They are narrow and often winding though so there were no chances to stop and record the country.  Indeed, if we had stopped to take every picturesque shot that was worthy of recording, we would never have got to Pitlochry.

Even the main road as we got near to the town was stunning (and it had a lay by too).

A9 near Pitlochry

The view from the hotel car park was good…

view from Piltochry hotel car park

…and the one from our bedroom window was better.view from Piltochry hotel window

We met up with Matilda and her parents at the hotel.  They had been enjoying all the delights of Crieff Hydro for a couple of days and were in very good form.

The Enchanted Forest at Faskally is a highly popular autumn event and requires a lot of organisation to make it work well so we had to be at the appointed place at the appointed time to get ferried to the venue by bus.  Everything went like clockwork and we were soon sitting in a yurt listening to a story teller relating a tale of the hare who rescued the light when evil beings had stolen it.

By the time that we came out of the tent, darkness had fallen in the forest and we followed the trail, stopping from time to time for food opportunities on the way.

There was a lot to like for children of all ages up to 76.

enchanted forest1enchanted forest 2enchanted forest 3enchanted forest 4enchanted forest 5enchanted forest 6enchanted forest 7enchanted forest 8

After two and a half hours, we had finished our tour and a bus was on hand to whisk us back to our hotel and a good night’s sleep.

Day two: homeward bound

After an excellent breakfast, Matilda took her parents home and we went for a short excursion.  We drove through more beautiful autumn colour, far better than the rather subdued stuff we have round Langholm.  Even on a relatively dull morning, everything was tinged with gold and it was hard to keep my eyes on the road.  Our destination was the famous Queen’s View over Loch Tummel.

We parked the car and followed a path through the woods…

Queens View Loch Tummel 1

…looked across the valley…

Queens View Loch Tummel 2

…and then took in the view…

Queens View Loch Tummel 3

…which was well worth a second look.

Queens View Loch Tummel 4

The eye can cope with dull light much better than the camera can and it is hard to convey just how much pleasure was to be got just by standing and staring.

After drinking in the scene, we walked back to the car…

Queens View Loch Tummel 5

..enjoying the varieties of colour and the luxuriance of the lichen among the trees.

lichen on pilochry tree

We crossed back over the River Tummel…

River tummel from bridge

…and headed for the fish ladder….

salmon ladder Pitlochry dam

…which helps salmon get past the large hydro electric dam at Pitlochry…

Pitlochry dam

…which would otherwise block their return to their spawning grounds.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to visit the viewing  chamber which lets you see the fish as they swim upstream as it is closed but the sight of the trees on the banks of the loch created by the the dam was some consolation.

 

View from Pitlochry dam

We might have gone for a cup of coffee in the cafe and visitor centre above the dam…

cafe Pitlochry dam

…but the call of home was strong and we headed south, avoiding the 2568 (estimated) bends on the scenic route and taking the main roads instead.

The autumn colour was just as sensational and it was a pity to see the colour draining out of the trees as we drove south.  Why the colour should be so much better in Perthshire than it is in Dumfriesshire is a mystery to me.

We stopped a couple of times for a break and a snack on our way and at our second stop, the Annandale Water services, we enjoyed a good view of geese, heading for a swim…

geese at annandale water services

…in the waters that give the service station its name.

annandale water services

There are service stations with poorer views than this.

We got home in good time and in good order, having had a really good couple of days out.  Matilda (and her parents) are really thoughtful people.

I didn’t have the time or energy to find a flying bird of the day today but I was really pleased to find that Crown Princess Margareta is having a final fling for the year so she is the flower of the day.

Crown princess margareta October

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia who came upon a horde of ladybirds on one of her visits.  This picture shows just a few of the insects that she saw.

Ladybirds

It was a bright but chilly morning here and I had to scrape ice off the car windscreen after breakfast before I could drive up to the Moorland bird hide to fill the feeders as a substitute for Sandy who is still on holiday.

There was a lot of mist about along the river and enough of it had spread up the hill to the hide to give me a rare treat when I got out of the car, a mistbow.

mistbow

It soon faded away and I set about filling the feeders and then lurking in the hide to watch the residents emptying them again.

I did a brisk business with tits.  Here are a blue tit and a coal tit taking in some peanuts…

blue tit and coal tit

…and here is a great tit waiting to take its turn.

great tit

I had to wait a while for a greater spotted woodpecker to arrive but when one did, it posed very graciously for me.

woodpecker

There is almost always fungus on the ground near the feeders at this time of year.

Laverock fungus

Coming out of the hide to go home, I found that the hide was in sunshine and the valley below in mist.

mist from Laverock

I plunged bravely into the valley and the mist and headed for home.

mist from laverock 2

Although the temperature was only 3°, the day was very calm and it felt much warmer than it should have done.  In the circumstances, it seemed too good a day to waste indoors so in spite of it being nearly coffee time, Mrs Tootlepedal agreed to come for a drive up the hill road on Whita.

We were soon back above the mist and looking down.

mist from hill road

It was well worth the effort.

misty trees hillhead

We drove up to the White Yett and looked back over the Esk and Ewes valleys.

mist from white yett

We parked in the car park at the MacDiarmid Memorial and  I walked a little further up the hill, passing this delight on the way.

dewy spiders web

From there, I could see the mist lying over the rivers below.

mist from whita

I would have liked to have stayed longer and to have taken innumerable shots in pursuit of the perfect mist picture but it really was coffee time by now so we headed back down the hill.

We stopped for a moment at the Kilngreen where Mrs Tootlepedal had been asked to say what she thought some bright red small fruits were in the garden there (amazingly deep red crab apples most probably was the verdict).

I took the opportunity to look around.  It really was the most perfect day.

kilngrren sunny morning

And we were now….

mist on Timpen

…looking back up at the mist.

mist on Castle Hill

Coffee and ‘things to be done’ called us and all too soon we were back in the car after a light lunch and heading for Edinburgh to visit Matilda and her parents.

Matilda, her mother Clare and I went to the Botanical Gardens to feed the ducks…

Matilda feeding ducks

…but we were a bit slow off the mark and bells were ringing for the closure of the park almost as soon as we had got there.

Still the ducks got their rice and we had our fun and it was still a good day for a walk so we weren’t too unhappy.

Alistair, Matilda’s dad, is a dab hand at making tasty pizzas so we had an excellent evening meal before catching the train home with a tricky crossword to while away the time.

In all the going up and down, I had little time for the birds in our own garden but I did catch a flying chaffinch while the feeder was still in the morning shadows.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is a swan which was spotted by my Somerset correspondent, Venetia while on a walk.  She notes that the magnifying effect of the water gives it enormous feet.

Venetia's swan

My day started not with swans but geese, as a large skein flew over the garden just after breakfast with a lot of honking to make me pay attention.

flying geese

A short while later, I took an impressionistic  picture of my favourite poppies…

poppies

…and went off to the Laverock Hide to fill the Moorland Project feeders for Sandy.  He is still in foreign parts and feeding elephants rather than chaffinches.

The light was very grey but it is almost always a pleasure to sit in the hide and watch the birds so I stayed for a while.

There were plenty of the usual suspects: chaffinches…

chaffinch moorland

…coal tits….

coal tit moorland

…great tits…

great tit moorland

…woodpeckers…

woodpecker moorland

…and of course, pheasants both males, in an argument….

pheasant debate

…and a female above such uncouth behaviour.

female pheasant moorland

When I got home, I had a cup of coffee and did some business on the computer but I found time to pick some raspberries, which are in fine form, and have a quick look round some flowers.

poppyastantialilian austin october

The garden is looking bedraggled.

A man came round to clean our gutters and I hope that he has done a thorough job because we have a couple of inches of rain forecast for tomorrow and Saturday.  This should give the gutters a good test.

I didn’t have long to hang about at home though as it was my day to go to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and her parents.  Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that the train was late but I managed to walk down to the park near her nursery school in time to find Matilda playing with friends.

She was in a very sunny mood and gave me a big hello…

Matilda at Pilrig posing

…and made good use of the playground slide…

Matilda at Pilrig on slide

…and the death defying ‘Flying Fox’…

Matilda at Pilrig on flying fox

Wheeeee!

…before we went home for some snap, Pelmanism and railway building.

Alistair made a delicious  pasta with mushroom sauce for our evening meal and I caught the bus back up to Princes Street in a very satisfied mood.

I was early for the train so I took a picture or two.

My Lumix is very caring and if I get it out at night it says, “I know that you are old with a wobbly hand so I will see what I can do to help.”

I thought that it did quite well for hand held night shots.

national gallery edinburgh at night

The National Gallery

Bank of scotland edinburgh at night

The bank of Scotland building on The Mound

Walter Scott edinburgh at night

Sir Walter Scott looking rather ghostly as he sits under his monument.

The train back was late too but only by a few minutes so I got home in good time.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch at our own feeder.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Mary Jo from Manitoba.  She thinks that I ought to raise my lawn care ambitions a bit.

big lawn machine

It was grey,  windy and sometimes wet when I went up to the fill the feeders at the Moorland Project’s Laverock Hide.  Sandy is away in very distant parts on holiday so I am taking on his duties for a while.

As usual after filling the feeders, I had a sit down in the hide under the shelter of its fine natural roof…

laverock hide roof

…to watch the birds for a while.  It was very gloomy and my camera could only just pick out a woodpecker on the far side of the glade.

woodpecker

It had better luck with the birds just outside the hide.

There were industrial quantities of chaffinches about…

chaffinch on stump

…happy to share with the occasional coal tit.

chaffinch and coal tit on stump

A great tit….

great tit

…and a greenfinch visited the peanuts…

goldfinch at laverock

…and there were several pheasants in various states of scruffiness about as well.

pheasant bedraggled

When I got home, I had a quick look at our own feeders…

busy feeder

…and a stroll round the garden.

late sweet william

Late sweet williams have appeared.

new clematis oct

And a brand new clematis flower on a plant that has not looked promising so far

old clematis oct

There are still old clematis  flowers hanging on here and there.

The chief business of the day was a visit to Edinburgh to see Matilda.  When we got to Lockerbie station there was a great air of excitement about as it seemed that the  train would be on time today, an historic occasion.

It arrived on time, left on time and got to Edinburgh on time too.  It was surreal experience.

We walked down the hill and met Matilda and her parents just as they got back to their house in another outbreak of good timing.   We spent some happy hours being entertained by Matilda and then eating an excellent evening meal of green soup (a household speciality cooked by Clare), linguine with asparagus with garlic bread (cooked by Al) followed by a sticky toffee pudding (made by Mrs Tootlepedal and carried up with us on the train). We left to catch the train home in a very contented frame of mind as it is hard to beat the combination of good food and good company.

I apologise for the brief report today but we have to get up early tomorrow and there are still things to be done.

The flying bird of the day is one of our own chaffinches.

close up flying chaffinch (more…)

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan who had a recent trip to the west country where she looked over the surfing beach at Newquay from her hotel.

Newquay

I had an uneventful day today with only a visit to our new travelling bank in the morning and a visit to Matilda in the afternoon to report.

I took a look round the garden before going to the bank.

verbascum

The verbascum is developing well

dahlia

An unusual dahlia

drive flowers

The bed at the end of the drive

I had a quick look at the birds over lunch.  Sparrows and chaffinches were in evidence.

sparrow with sedchaffinch peering

When we got to Lockerbie station in the afternoon, I stretched my legs with a walk along to the end of the platform before the train came (late as ever) as I usually do and once again was delighted by the geometry of railway lines.

Lockerbie railway geometry

I think it is the vanishing perspective that makes the view so alluring.

I looked up at the decorative tower on the town hall and saw that it had some birds as extra decoration today….

Lockerbie town hall with birds

…and I was pleased to see one actually perching on the wire structure that is supposed to keep them off the building.

Al and Clare have been very  busy preparing their house for inspection by potential buyers but they finally finished today and the house is now on the market.  It looked so good in the house agent’s booklet that we nearly bought it ourselves.  I gave the lawn a trim and a neatened up the edges which gave me some innocent enjoyment.

As they were both tired and the house was far to neat to have a meal in, we went out for our evening meal for the second week running.  I could get used to city life and eating out if wasn’t for the ruinous expense.,

To be fair to the rail company, the train home was on time.

It was a very grey and windy day so it wasn’t a day to take many photographs but I have never seen a flying bird of the day pictures that spoke of “Flaps down!” with such urgency.

chaffinch flaps down

 

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