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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who was alarmed to see some bears while he was out on a walk  in the town.  He calmed down when he noticed that there was a stout fence between them and him.

bears townfoot

It was a very unreliable day today as far as both the weather and the weather forecast went.  The forecast changed every time that I looked at it and the weather changed even more frequently.  At one moment the sun shone brightly and at the next it was raining or even sleeting.  There was one consistent factor however, a strong and cruel wind that cut like a knife.

As a result, I gave up any thoughts of cycling and watched the birds for a bit.  There are still plenty of them to watch at the moment, with twenty or thirty chaffinches and goldfinches on the plum tree and at the feeder….

invading chaffinches

…and siskins hanging about too.

siskin acrobat

There finally came a moment after coffee when the weather seemed to be set fair for long enough to let me out for a short walk, so I chanced my arm and went for a stroll round Easton’s and Gaskell’s Walks.

There was blossom in the park…

blossom in park

..and plenty of signs of wild garlic growing on the bank beside the river as I went along Easton’s.

wild garlic shoots

Mrs Tootlepedal doesn’t like this walk much as she thinks that the trees don’t look quite well grounded enough…

bare roots

…and she may well be right as there are always little landslips happening along the path and many of the trees are leaning in a threatening manner, but I got along safely today.

As I turned back up the hill at the end of the riverside track, I saw a rich bank of moss…

mossy bank

…and the promise of a good show of bluebells to come later on in the spring.

bluebell shoots

When I got up to the Stubholm there were more signs of spring…

hawthorn buds

…and as long as I could keep out of the wind, it was a very pleasant day for a walk.

stubholm path

I didn’t dawdle though as I went along Gaskell’s because I wouldn’t have enjoyed being out in a heavy rain shower so I kept my camera in my pocket and stretched my legs until I was well on the way home.  Then I stopped to appreciate a tree at Wauchope Kirkyard…

graveyard tree

…and an ash twig on the road down to Pool Corner…

ash twig…and some alder catkins beside the caul.

alder catkins pool corner

The daffodils along the road sides are just beginning to come out, although it will be a week or two at least before they are out in full force.

daffodils moodla point

I got back home to find Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work in the garden, making metaphorical hay while the sun shone..  I looked around and was happy to see the first chionodoxa of the year.

chionodoxa

We went in for lunch and then Mrs Tootlepedal went off to her monthly Embroiderers’ Guild meeting and I settled down to watch Scotland getting beaten by Wales in the Six Nations rugby tournament.  I was so certain that we were going to get beaten that I ended up  mildly pleased when we give the Welsh a good fright before going down.  Even a blatant but unpenalised forward pass in the run up to the first Welsh try failed to significantly dent my equilibrium.

After Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her meeting, another spell of sunny weather tempted me out for a second short walk, this time over three bridges.

Once again, the sunny weather made for a cheerful scene but the  sharp eyed…

Castle Hill and gritter

…will notice a bright yellow gritting vehicle parked on the Kilngreen.  The driver told me that he had been out gritting the country roads to the west and north of the town as frost and snow to quite low levels are expected tomorrow.

Mr Grumpy was out enjoying the evening sunshine while he could and as I passed…

heron one leg

…he raised a languid foot in greeting.

heron two legs

On the Castleholm, I stopped for a chat with a camera club member, retired postman Stan, and by the time that we had finished talking, the sun was dropping behind the hills. It was getting quite chilly so once again, I put more effort into walking than snapping and only stopped to salute some willows at the Jubilee Bridge…

willow

…before hurrying along to get to home and some welcome warmth.

It started to rain again not long after I had got in.

Quite apart form the forecast of sleet or snow for tomorrow, it looks as though the unsettled weather is going to continue for at least a week so my cycling mileage for the month (zero miles so far) is likely to be very poor.  I don’t much mind cold conditions and I can cope with wind if it is dry and I can live with some rain if it is not too windy but I have passed the age when cycling in cold, wind and rain at the same time has any appeal at all.  I will try to sneak in as many walks as I can between showers.

The flying bid of the day is one of the large flock of chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia who got to see the wonderful Mosi-oa-Tunya or ‘The Smoke that Thunders’, better known perhaps as the Victoria Falls, on her African trip.

Victoria Falls

Our spell of very poor cycling and photographing weather continued with yet more rain, accompanied by a chilly wind today to make matters worse.  We had had a clear spell but as it had been over night, all it gave us was an early morning frost and then it went away.

Since it was actually Susan’s birthday today, we pulled out all the stops to celebrate the occasion.

susan's birthday

It could hardly have been grander.

Sadly, the birthday girl didn’t stay long as she had arranged to meet my brother and one of my other sisters in Derby for another celebratory meal so Mrs Tootlepedal took her off to catch the train south from Carlisle.

I stayed at home as I had had enough driving yesterday and went up to theArchive Centre base to put a new ink cartridge in our printer.  To my relief, I had ordered the correct one and the printer worked.

When I got home, I watched the birds for a bit.

The feeder is going down very steadily at the moment and needs to be filled at least once a day.  I put this down to the siskins who are regular visitors and keen eaters…

four siskins

…and keen arguers too.

siskins attack each other

There are still plenty of chaffinches ready to make a dash for the feeder when the siskins go off.

pair of incoming chaffinches

I did go out for a walk round the garden but it was too wet and windy to be fun.

daffodil in wet

I made some soup for my lunch and settled down to a quiet afternoon of doing the crossword and putting music on to the computer.

I did look out of the window at one point and I saw two partridges in the garden (right under the pear tree) so I went out to try to get a picture, but they sloped off before I could shoot them.

Luckily for me, one turned up later just outside the kitchen window and…

partridge head turned

…gave me a hard stare and portrait pose.

partridge

While I was looking at the partridge, I noticed a blackbird so I took a gloomy shot just to record that it had been there….

blackbird

…and then a sparrow popped up too.

sparrow

Mrs Tootlepedal returned safely, having visited a garden centre where she made many judicious purchases, including a tiny plant just for me. I hope to show pictures of its development if I can mange to keep it alive.

It is an argyranthemum.

Argyranthemum

I have put it in a pot and watered it and it hasn’t died yet.  A good start, I think.

In the evening we went off to the Buccleuch Centre to hear a performance by an enterprising troupe of Japanese style drummers, Mugenkyo Taiko, who are based in southern Scotland, not far from us.  We have seen them before and enjoyed them so we were in optimistic mood as we settled down for the concert.

We were not disappointed and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.   I had a minor grump as they brought fewer drummers with them than before, and so there was more talking this time to allow them to recover between numbers.   The grump was only because, if offered a choice, I would much prefer to hear a Taiko drummer drumming than hear him or her talking.  Still the chat was educational so I shouldn’t grumble.

For those who are interested to find out what a Japanese style drumming group are doing in Scotland, here is a link to their website.

There were five drummers tonight and when they were all busy at the same time knocking six bells out of their instruments, it made a powerful and moving sound.

A stately chaffinch outshone the siskins when it came to the choice of flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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After my brother Andrew’s artistic nut weevil yesterday, today’s guest picture from Venetia’s African adventure shows the real thing, dung beetles on elephant droppings.  You can hardly get more down to earth than that.

dung beetles

We had a busy day.  We just had time for a cup of coffee and a quick wave at the birds on our feeder…

four bords at feeder

…before setting off to drive the 40 miles to Tweedbank to catch the train to Edinburgh with my sister Susan.  It is her 85th birthday tomorrow and she was anxious to celebrate this auspicious occasion a day early by meeting our two sons and their partners and especially Matilda whom she has never met.

We managed to combine this with some cultural activity and as soon as we had got off the train, we visited the City Art Centre which is conveniently right next to the station.  Here we had some nourishing soup and sourdough bread in the cafe and then went to explore an exhibition of Edinburgh street photography of the 1950s and 1960s by Robert Blomfield, a medical student and later a doctor in the city.

We had been advised to see this exhibition by Sandy and his advice was very sound.  It turned out to be wonderful.   You can get a taste of what we saw here, though the website’s images don’t convey the full power of the prints that we saw.

After we had visited the exhibition, we were joined at the art gallery’s cafe by our son Tony and his partner Marianne who came from their work to see us. We had an hour of good conversation, tea and a fancy cake with them. I congratulated Tony on the many excellent photographs which he has taken while walking his dogs and whihc I have used as guest pictures of the day.  When it was time for them to go home (to walk their dogs), we walked along the road a few hundred yards, crossing over the railway station and heading for the National Gallery under which the trains disappear.

nat gallery from waverley

On our way along Princes Street, I was struck by these hard working little fellows holding the world on their shoulders.

princes street

The Scottish National Gallery is not particularly large but it holds a delightful selection of works and I recorded some of my favourites on my phone as we went along.

burst

dav

dav

This still life was painted in oils on copper and it gave it a tremendously vivid quality.

dav

Some of us needed a moment to recover from the sensory overload.

susan napping 85th

We left the gallery and walked past the Scottish Academy….

scottish academy

…back down to Princes Street where we caught a bus which took us down Leith Walk where we met Matilda, who had kindly brought our son Alistair and his wife Clare to have a meal with us at an Italian restaurant.

Once again, we enjoyed good conversation while we ate.  The restaurant is very well adjusted to coping with children and gives them a sheet of puzzles and some crayons to pass the time while their elders chatter on.  Here we can see Matilda explaining the finer points of one of the puzzles to her mother.

mde

After we finished the meal and before we parted company, Matilda showed us her latest dance routine in the street while her father moved along beside her, playing the music from his phone.

mde

She is going to her first dancing competition next month and has learned her routine very well already.

As she danced off to go to bed, we caught a bus back to the railway station, jumped on the train back to Tweedbank with a minute to spare and enjoyed a trouble free journey home to round off a most satisfactory day where everything ran like clockwork for once.

We have to thank my sister Susan for suggesting such a good way to spend a day.

Today’s flying bird is having a quiet moment of peace as it wonders if there is a screw loose somewhere.

siskin

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who came across this giant nut weevil in his local supermarket.

weevil

After another night of rain here, I went out after breakfast to check on the state of the river and was surprised by how low it was.

fairly full Esk

I was expecting quite a spate but although it had rained steadily for some time, it had obviously not rained very hard and the river drainage system had coped very well.

It kept raining for most of the day so I had another quiet morning indoors, keeping an eye on the goings on at the feeder.

Siskins were very active in the shouting department, most aimed at passing chaffinches.

Sometimes they shouted up….

siskin shout up at a chaffinch

…and sometimes they shouted down…

siskin shout down at a chaffinch

…and sometimes two of them got in on the act and shouted horizontally in unison.

two siskins shout at a chaffinch

All in all, it was quite a busy morning….

very busy feeder

…although there was time for quiet reflection on the weather too.

goldfinch in the rain

In the afternoon, I went down to Carlisle station…

dig

…where I enjoyed the contrast between the wall panels of steam driven giants of the past and the less glamorous diesel railcars in use today.

 

dig

I wasn’t there to train spot though.  We are being visited by my eldest sister Susan who is on a birthday tour of her young relatives in Scotland and will be coming to Edinburgh with us tomorrow to visit our two sons and their families.  I was in Carlisle to collect her from the London train.

Her train arrived on time to the exact minute and we drove back to Langholm where Susan was greeted by some delightful fairy cakes cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal.

In the evening, Susan kindly took us out for a meal at the Douglas Hotel and while she and Mrs Tootlepedal enjoyed a leisurely coffee before going home, I scurried off to a Langholm Sings choir practice.

They day ended in quiet conversation centred upon the deplorable state of politics and the country.

I hope that the weather is kind to us as we go to Edinburgh tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin (in the rain).

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s Namibian adventure.  She came across one of their famous two headed giraffes and sent me this shot.  It may have more legs than the usual giraffe too.

giraffe

Our sunny weather came to an end today and we had grey skies and rather chillier temperatures but it remained dry so we didn’t have much to complain about at at all.

After breakfast, I noticed a red poll on our feeder…

redpoll late Feb

…and I also noted that not all the birds who come to our garden visit the feeder.  Some just lurk about on trees and bushes like this blackbird and these starlings.

blackbird and starling

I had to act as fill-in feeder filler for Sandy who was visiting his grandchildren and Mrs Tootlepedal came up to the Moorland Project bird hide with me to help.  We filled the feeders and then, while she scanned the hillside opposite the bird hide for signs of raptors (in vain), I sat in the hide and hoped for woodpeckers (also in vain).

There were a lot of great tits about…

great tits at Laverock

…and colourful pheasants as usual…

pheasant head

…but mostly there were chaffinches in large numbers.

We didn’t stay there long as the light wasn’t very good and it was chilly but instead of going straight home, we parked the car not far away and walked down towards the River Tarras  to see how the repairs to the road were going.

In December 2105, the road suffered from a landslip in a big storm…

tarras road landslip

…and the council has just got round to repairing it three and a bit years later.

It is a big job, requiring endless visits from quarry lorries…

tarras roadworks

…and they are of course damaging the surfaces of many of the roads over which they travel on the way to the site.

In the picture above, the compression of distance caused by the camera lens doesn’t show that the old road stops where the brown surface ends and they have cut away the banking below by a huge amount.

You can see the line of the old road on the right of the picture below and it gives some idea of the scale of the work needed for the repair.

tarras roadworks scene

How they are going to join the road back up to its original course defies my imagination.  I shall be interested to follow the work as it progresses.

While we were walking along  the road to and from the works, we saw a great many hazel catkins and I said to Mrs Tootlepedal that there might be hazel flowers too if we looked closely.

We looked closely.

hazel flower and catkins

They were were hard to see but once we got our eye in, we could see dozens of them.

hazel flower tarras road

As we left the work site, the keen eyed Mrs Tootlepedal spotted another blotch of red and thought that it was discarded orange peel.  A second look showed that it was a scarlet elf cap (Sarcoscypha coccinea), a fungus that likes damp spots and leaf litter.

Sarcoscypha coccinea

Further up the road, she stopped to look at a tree and I pointed out that if she looked down at her feet she would see another twenty elf cups all around.

Sarcoscypha coccinea elf cup

She was impressed.

What with the excitement of seeing the road works, the elf cups and the hazel flowers, we forgot about the absence of raptors and woodpeckers and arrived home in time for coffee in a very cheerful mood.

The frogs had left the pond so I looked around for flowers.  Some hellebores keep their heads up in a helpful way….

hellebore heads up

…but others call for crouching.

head down hellebore

Fresh primroses are blooming.

new primroses

Once we got inside and started on our coffee, I was able to enjoy some busy scenes at the feeder.

busy feeder

A siskin took a moment to survey the scene from the top of the feeder pole…

siskin on feeder pole

…while down below, it was all action in siskin world.

squalling siskins

It was good to see a dozen siskins at the feeder today, the most we have seen this year.

I made some soup for lunch while Mrs Tootlepedal considered the business of making a patchwork rug for the rocking horse.  She has time to do this because the crochet blanket has now been finished.

finished crochet blanket

It has provided a very welcome distraction during the long winter nights.

Then  it was time to go to Edinburgh and see Matilda.  We had our usual enjoyable time and another good evening meal before catching the train home.  Matilda told us that she would like to come and visit us for a change so I hope that this can be arranged in the not too distant future.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch who posed more carefully than any of the siskins.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Ada’s trip to Tenerife.  She saw lots of this attractive tree heather while she was there.

Tenerife tree heather

It was another day when we couldn’t see much here as once again it was very grey and drizzly.  It has been reasonably warm though and there are flowers just waiting for a sunny day to spring into action.

soggy flowers

As I was walking round the garden in search of flowers, I heard a familiar purring sound and when I looked towards the pond, I saw that the frog clock was working well and they had returned on schedule.

frog in pond from behind

They are amazingly punctual.  I checked on past years and found that they seem to arrive within a two or three day window each year.  Day length rather than warmth or rain must be the determining factor.

They had got to work pretty smartly.

frogspawn

It wasn’t very attractive standing around getting rained on so I went back in and watched the birds.  My timing was off and I caught this chaffinch half a second too late.

landing chaffinch

It was a lot drier looking at the hellebore through the kitchen window.

hellebores from kitchen

This shot summed the morning up.

drips

It got a little drier and I nipped out to have another look for frogs.  There were half a dozen visible in the pond but this was the only one who hung around for a portrait shot.

frog in pond

After lunch, we set off to catch the train to Edinburgh and as we travelled, the weather improved until by the time that we got to Edinburgh, the sun was out, the wind had dropped and it was a very pleasant day.  The neat and regular houses in the New Town were looking handsome…

dig

…and the view across the Forth from the top deck of the bus as we went down the hill from Queen Street was worth the journey on its own.

dig

When we were walking from the station to catch the bus, we passed a splendid show of crocuses in Princes Street Gardens…

dig

…although a tourist was clashing with the muted colours of the flowers.

We arrived at Matilda’s house just as she got back from nursery and for the next three hours we had fun.  First Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda did their now famous dishwashering dancing as they filled the dishwasher and set it off and then Matilda and I played throwing and catching, setting Grandpa’s feet on fire (“It’s only pretend Grandpa, it won’t hurt.”) and then Matilda enjoyed being trapped and released by both Granny and Grandpa in turn. Matilda is growing up fast and gave me a sound thrashing at a bout of arm wrestling.  This was all very energetic so it was lucky that once again Al and Clare provided us with a splendid meal to restore our strength before we caught the bus back to the station.

Very unusually, our trains, both up and down, were bang on time.   Long may this continue.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch seen from an upstairs window for a change.

flying chaffinch from above

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Today’s just picture comes from Mrs Tootlepedal’s brother, Mike.  He planted some daffodils to brighten the road verge opposite his house and is pleased that his work has born fruit.  Being 300 miles south of Langholm, his daffodils are already out.

Mike daffodils

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Carlisle after an early breakfast to help sort out the music library for  our Carlisle choir.  This is a big job with 130 copies of every piece of music we sing needing to be sorted and stored.

While she was gone I looked out into the garden on another grey day.

The feeder was busy…

busy feeder

…and on the mossy lawn, a pigeon was putting its best foot forward.

pigeon on lawn

I had put out some fat balls and they had attracted jackdaws.

jackdaws on feeder

There was no shortage of flying birds to be seen even if there was a bit of a shortage of light to see them by.

flying chaffinches and goldfinches

Sandy came round for coffee.  He was in an exceptionally good mood because he had just enjoyed a thoroughly good night’s sleep, a thing so rare as to be be priced above pearls.

While we sipped and chatted, we were joined by some greenfinches…

flying greenfinches

…and a very unusually marked jackdaw.  I have never seen one like this before.

speckled jackdaw

After coffee, we went up to visit the Moorland project feeders in the glade at the Laverock hide as it was Sandy’s day to act as feeder filler.  After filling the feeders, we lurked in the hide for a while.  There were plenty of birds about, mostly chaffinches but with a good number of great and blue tits too.

blue and great tits Laverock

As with my garden, there were no winter visitors to be seen at all.  This is a bit worrying as there seems to be no reason not see our usual migrants.  I hope it is a one off and  not a sign of things to come.

We didn’t stay too long and when Sandy stopped at the Co-op on our way back to buy a local paper (full of articles by Dropscone this week), I took the opportunity to get out too and walk home along the river in the hope of seeing something interesting.

The hope was amply fulfilled as I saw a goosander…

goosander

…two oyster catchers…

two oyster catchers

…three dippers…

dippers in esk

…and a single white duck.

white duck

It was still pretty grey and most of the birds were a bit too far away from the bank for good pictures but it was encouraging to see them.  I snapped the church too while I was passing…

church on a grey day

…and a bit of typical Langholm street life.  Dog walking is a popular activity in our town.

alan and dogs

When I got home, I made some soup and then dashed out into the garden when the sun came out.

sunny crocuses

I didn’t have time to enjoy the sunshine and go for a walk or a pedal though as I had to go off to drive to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh.

It was a day of sophisticated travel arrangements as Matilda and her family were flying back from a family party in Dublin over lunch and Mrs Tootlepedal planned to catch the train from Carlisle that I was aiming to catch 20 minutes later in Lockerbie.  It is on days like this that the mobile phone really comes into is own and the flight and train journey went smoothly as planned and we all met in Edinburgh on schedule.

Matilda then took Mrs Tootlepedal and me for a walk in the woods.  We scaled the heights…

sdr

…passed all sorts of interesting plants like this St John’s Wort…

dav

…and came out at the top of a small hill from which we could see Edinburgh Castle in the distance  over the roofs.

dig

The rest of the afternoon was spent in catching up on news of the trip to Ireland, being coached by Matilda in the proper use of the alphabet, watching clips from Matilda’s dancing school’s annual show on DVD and eating another tasty meal.

We got safely back to Lockerbie on the train and drove home as the temperature dropped back to freezing again.

It is supposed to be warm and sunny tomorrow after a chilly start.  I live in hope.

The flying bird of the day is one of the oyster catchers making off down river.

flying oyster catcher

 

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