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Archive for the ‘flowers’ Category

Today’s guest picture is another Bermuda view from Joyce.  She tells me that this is the causeway to St George at dawn.

causeway to St George dawn 1

The forecast for today was  not promising but after a very heavy shower overnight with added hail, it was quite a decent day when we got up, and there were none of the threatened icy patches as I walked up to the town after breakfast to do some archiving business.

As I walked back, a buzzing in the sky made me look back towards Whita and I could that the helicopter, which Ada had seen on the ground yesterday, had taken to the air today.  I couldn’t work out what it was carrying though.

helicopter with loo

When I got home, I met Riley, suitably clad for possible rain, just about to take our neighbour Liz out for a walk.

riley

I went in and had coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal and did an easy crossword.  An ice bun may well have mysteriously disappeared during this process.

Then I went for a walk myself.  The forecast offered a twenty percent chance of rain and I hadn’t gone far before I got 100% of a sharp fall of sleet followed by some quite fierce hail.  Luckily I had my new coat on and was well armoured against the slings and arrows of outrageous weather.

And fortunately, the shower exhausted itself quite quickly and I could soon see signs of sunshine.

sun after sleet

I crossed the Becks Burn and followed the road down to the Auld Stane Brig, which I crossed when I came to it…

auld stane brig

…and then walked up the track onto the hill on the other side of the Wauchope Water and enjoyed a tree as I went.

tree on warbla slope

Although our local hills were snow free, the higher hills further up the valley were showing a light covering.

snow up[ the valley

But if you picked the right direction to look, it was a very nice day by now (especially if you were wearing a warm coat).

looking over holmwood

Looking back at the track that I had followed below the fields on the opposite side of the valley, it was hard to believe that I had been in a hailstorm not long before.

looking over becks

I enjoyed a bit of lichen on a boulder…

warbla lichen

…and the view up the Esk Valley…

view from warbla

…and was just about to head down hill to the town when that buzzing was audible again.

The helicopter was back at work.

helicopter with load

It was carrying a big bucket but behind it on the ground, I could see that what it had been carrying when I saw it in the morning, the ubiquitous portable loo for the convenience of the pylon workers.

loo on whita

It delivered its bucket load and headed back.

helicopter going

I could see the pylon on which the work is being done.  It stands beside the sixth green on the golf course and Dropscone is forbidden to play while the helicopter is at work.

pylon on golf course

It returned remarkably soon with another load…

helicopter returning

…and I stood watching on the hillside while it made several trips.

When it was away getting a fresh load, I looked around.

windmills craig

I was using my Lumix which has a very good zoom lens to take the helicopter pictures and I pulled back to show you just how far away I was.

whita in sunshine

You can see the pylon on top corner of the golf course directly below the monument.  Considering that I was holding the camera in a rather cold hand with no support, it is evident that the Lumix is a wonderful camera for wandering photographer.

A look at the map tells me that I was about 0.8 of a mile away.  I walked down the hill a bit and rested the camera on a walks direction post to get as good a close up of the helicopter as I could.  This let me see that it very fairly calls itself a “Skyhook”.

helicopter close up

I had a late lunch when I got home and then, as the weather still seemed pretty good, I got out my bicycle and pedalled eleven miles at a slow pace with so many clothes on that I found it hard to move my legs at all as in spite of the sunshine, the windchill made the temperature a virtual one degree C.

The busy day continued when I got home with first a visit from Mike Tinker and his finely honed tea radar and then the arrival of my flute pupil, Luke with his flute.

After Luke had gone, there was just time for some brisket of beef with nourishing vegetables, expertly cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal, for my tea and then it was time for the January Camera Club meeting.

We had a new member and enough old members to make for a good meeting with a fine selection of photographs from both home and abroad to entertain us until the tea break.  After that we settled down to watch a very well put together audio visual presentation of his holiday in Thailand which Sandy had prepared.  That rounded off an enjoyable meeting and a pretty full day.

It was so full indeed that I had no time for bird watching and so the snowdrops beside the dam are taking the place of any flying bird of the day.

snowdrops

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Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Ada who was walking along the road to Newcastelton when she saw a very unusual bird at rest on the Langholm moor.  It was there as part of the works on maintaining our pylons.

helicopter at pylon

Our run of grey but dry days under a ridge of high pressure came to an end today as low pressure swept in, and we got a grey but very wet morning instead.

Luckily I was in church singing in the choir while the worst of the rain was on, but unluckily by the time that the sun came out in the afternoon, we were on our way to Carlisle to sing with our Carlisle choir so we couldn’t make much use of it.

Mrs Tootlepedal did get a moment or two to do some gardening after the rain stopped but it was still pretty wet…

drops on the line

…though we were very excited by this.

first daffodil bud

The changeable weather is forecast to bring frost tonight so we may have to wait a bit more until the flower opens.

I didn’t take part in the Great Garden Birdwatch this year as there are too few birds about to make spending an hour looking at not much at all a very attractive use of time.  I know that an absence of birds might as interesting to researchers as a lot of different species but it is not interesting to the onlooker.

After I had made my my mind up not to take part, a few birds appeared just to annoy me.

I haven’t seen a blackbird for a few days but today…

male blackbird

…I saw two…

female blackbird

…and the robin arrived as well.

robin

After another very slow start, a few birds began to trickle down to the feeder around the middle of the day. It was siskin time, with first these two….

two siskins

…and then two more…

four siskins

… and finally a competition for perches.

five siskins

A lone chaffinch tried to get into the action but the siskins were having none of that.

chaffinch warned off by siskin

Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree is very good value and I often see birds waiting to come to the feeder taking advantage of its nailed on branches.

siskin on fake tree

After lunch, we went off to Carlisle and had a most enjoyable sing with our choir.  Ellen, our musical director, is mixing up new songs to be learned with putting a bit of polish on more familiar tunes so we are getting a good mixture.

Ellen was telling me that she had to wait for two and a half hours in the emergency lane of a busy motorway last week until the breakdown man arrived to help her after a tyre blowout.  As anyone who has had to use the emergency lane of a motorway will know, this is not a happy experience, so we were pleased that she had managed to get down safely this week.

As an iced bun fell into my shopping bag when we stopped for supplies on the way home, a day which had started out looking very miserable, finished pretty well.  Especially as there were three other iced buns in the same packet.

A female siskin appears as the flying bird of the day.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  The parakeets in Hyde Park are so tame that this one came to her friend Garth’s hand without even being offered food.

parakeet and garth

In spite of being in a spell of high pressure which usually brings sunny weather, we have been getting a lot of cloud.  This has been trapped near the ground and is reluctant to disperse.  As a result we didn’t have any views to enjoy when we caught the train back north after our visit to Evie and other relatives.

What we did have was a punctual train.  We were beginning to think that we might have become railway train Jonahs, bringing lateness and delay in our wake whenever we boarded a train but today’s journey put paid to that idea.   As the train wasn’t even very full, we had a most comfortable trip and caught the bus from Carlisle to Langholm with time to spare.

Although we have had a delightful time in the south, we were still very pleased to get back home…

welcome home

…even if it was even greyer in Langholm than it had been on the way up.

A few snowdrops in the garden promised a brighter future.

snowdrops Jan 23

After a revivifying cup of tea, I took my legs out for a little stretch.  It was reasonably warm at 8°C and there wasn’t much wind so it wasn’t a hardship to be out but there wasn’t a lot of light left in the day.

I walked round Pool Corner…

pool corner grey evening

…along towards the Auld Stane Brig…

tree at churchyard

…where I checked on the fencepost lichen garden…

lichen fence post

…and then returned by the track towards the town.

gaskell's walk

Meikleholm Hill was entirely encased in cloud…

no view of Meikleholm Hill

…but on the other side of the valley there was a slight lift so that I could see the mast on Warbla for a while,

warbla in mist

The was no chance of seeing the monument on Whita though.

stubholm in low lcoud

We had lightly boiled eggs for our tea and will go to bed early in an effort to be fit to face local life again tomorrow after the excitements of the great metropolis.

I shall take this opportunity to thank  my sisters Susan and Mary for accommodating Mrs Tootlepedal and me during our stay, and Mrs Tootlepedal’s brother and sister in law for our welcome to Marlow.  We saw nine relatives (plus two alternative grandparents) in two days which is a very reasonable return of relatives per hour spent.

I have filled the bird feeder up to the top and hope for a visit from some garden birds tomorrow but in the meantime, the only flying bird action that I saw today was a noisy parliament of rooks having a break in their discussion while I was on my walk.

flying rooks

Note: I don’t know what happened to the posts from my phone while I was away.  They didn’t have any allowance for comments for some reason.  The ways of WordPress are often mysterious and as far as I know, it wasn’t anything that I had done.  I am hoping that comments will be enabled on this post now I am back at my computer.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset corespondent, Venetia.  She visited the wonderfully named ‘The Newt’ estate where she came across this excellent sinuous bridge.

bridge the newt

Although we are not completely free from the threat of wet and windy weather yet, we awoke to a grey but dry day today.  The wind was still too brisk to make cycling fun though.

After breakfast, Mrs Tootlepedal had some business to attend to and I went to our shop for supplies.  We had a cup of coffee when we had both returned and then we went for a walk.

Mrs Tootlepedal likes a bit of novelty in a walk if she can get it, so we drove three miles out of town and embarked on a walk up the track alongside the Esk from the Burnfoot Bridge to the Bentpath bridge and back again.

burnfoot and benty bridges

Burnfoot Bridge on the left and Bentpath Bridge on the right.

It was a well chosen route as it was sheltered from the brisk and chilly wind for the most part.

Although we were not far from Langholm, it was noticeable that the walls were built in a different style to the ones round us, using smaller stones probably collected from the river.

burnfoot track wall

The end of one of the walls gave a neat demonstration of their sloping construction.

wall end westerhall track

We didn’t see much of the river itself as there are trees along the bank all the way, but we did get some very pleasant views of the rolling country on the other side of the track.

Burnfoot track view

As we walked on, the rough track became a smooth road and we entered the grounds of the Westerhall estate, which has impressive stone gateposts at each end.

westerhall estate gates

A little sunshine at this point made the walk even more enjoyable.

westerhall road 2

Westerhall has some lovely woods and interesting buildings among them.

westerhall buildings

The grounds are well looked after and a broad grass avenue leads up the hill away from the house. The sharp eyed will be able to spot another little building in the distance at the top of the hill.

westerhall ride

In fact several grassy paths lead through the woodland with some rather grand steps on the way.

westerhall steps

We stuck to the road though…

westerhall road

…and walked on until we got to the church and churchyard at the village of Bentpath.

westerkirk mausoleum and church

Among the graves, some bearing the names of many different members of the same family, there is a mausoleum designed by Robert Adams which was built for John Johnstone.  The mausoleum is a fine example of the use of the Greek Doric Order in a building. It actually contains the remains of John’s father, Sir James Johnstone of Westerhall (1726-94). The mausoleum is built in ashlar, with a prominent lead covered dome. The front features two pairs of columns supporting a pediment and frieze decorated with ox-skulls.

You can still see the ox skull decorations and one of the gravestones beside the mausoleum has a spectacular show of moss and algae.

Westerkirk churchyard

On our way through the estate, we had seen a good looking example of an orange witch hazel….

westerhall witch hazel

…and when we got to the bridge at Bentpath, there was an even finer yellow variety.

witch hazel at bridge

It was just behind a very nicely situated bench…

seat at benty bridge

…where we had a sit down and a snack as it was one o’clock and lunchtime.  I had bought some dates with me but Mrs Tootlepedal had gone for a banana.  To make things perfect, we only needed a glass of wine and a loaf of bread but we hadn’t brought those.

We didn’t stop for long and were soon on our way back to the car.

We stopped to admire the very unusual semicircular bridge over the Kirk Burn…

kirk burn bridge westerhall

…and the Kirk Burn itself which was splashing down towards the Esk in fine style.

westerhall kirk burn

The grounds of Westerhall have a lot of good looking rhododendrons and azaleas and we intend to come back when they are out in the spring.  In the meantime, a big patch of dogwood was giving a little winter colour.

westerhall dogwood

I had taken nearly fifty pictures on the outward leg so we didn’t stop for many on the way back.  We did stop to look at buzzards circling too high in the sky to be within camera range.  Mrs Tootlepedal had seen a hen harrier hunting over the hill as we drove towards Burnfoot on our way to the walk and she thought that she might have spotted it again as we walked, but it flew out of range before she could get her binoculars on it so it may just have been another buzzard.

The sight of Burnfoot House tucked in below Douglen Hill…

 

burnfoot and dowglen hill

…signalled that we were nearly at the end of our walk.

We had covered just under four and half miles and thanks to taking many photos and watching many buzzards, we had spent almost exactly two very rewarding hours in going the distance.

By the time that we had had a bowl of soup and a cracker with cheese when we got home to add to our very light lunch at Bentpath, the light was beginning to fail.  Mrs Tootlepedal did go out into the garden with a view to doing something useful but it was too gloomy and too chilly and too windy so she came back in.

Perhaps because of the stiff breeze, gusting up to 40 mph according to the Met Office, there were no birds on the feeder at all today when I looked.  The only bird that I did see was this dunnock in the mirk of the late afternoon, and so it is the non flying bird of the day.

dunnock

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  It is a horrible evening here so I was pleased to find his cheerful picture of life on the river at Chester last week.

chester

We were promised a visit from Storm Brendan later in the day so it was good to find a quiet, dry morning when we got up.

The birds didn’t seem very interested in getting some food in before the storm came though and all that was to be seen was a goldfinch on the feeder and a crow in the walnut tree.

goldfinch and crow

I cycled up to the town to do some Archive Group business and called in at our not so near corner shop of the way home to stock up on a few necessities.  Then it was time for a coffee and finally, I got out for a walk.

I did think about a cycle ride but the prospect of a strengthening wind made a 5 mile walk more attractive.

I had only got as far as the back wall of the house when I had to stop to note snowdrops almost out beside the dam.

dam snowdrops

I hadn’t got much further before I was detained by a dipper which was living up to its name by doing some vigorous dipping in the Wauchope above the Kirk Brig.

dipping dipper

They can stay under water for an amazingly long time.

In the end, I had to go on and I walked through the town and along to the track to the oak woods and the Moorland Project bird hide.

It was muddy and slippery, so I had to keep more of an eye on where I was walking than interesting things but this fallen tree was large enough to attract my attention.

felled tree with fungus

And the oak trees are hard to miss when you get to them.

oak tree near jenny noble

I didn’t want to hang about too much in case the threatened rain came in before schedule so I pressed on to the bird hide.  I had heard at second hand that the hide was closed as a result of the larch disease which will lead to the trees at the hide being felled soon.  I wondered if this meant that the trees had already been felled but when I got there, the hide and trees were still there and the notice on the hide door read as follows:

laverock hide notice

I was in time, the hide was still open and the feeders had been filled by one of the volunteers.

I sat in the hide for a few minutes and was rewarded with a good supply of peanut eaters.

Among the crowd, there were two coal tits….

two coal tits

…two blue tits…

two blue tits

…and a great tit with a chaffinch with other things on its mind.

great tit and chaffinch

A green finch arrived and checked to see if the peanuts on the other side of the feeder were any tastier.

inquisitive greenfinch

There were plenty of puddles about and a pheasant was happy to use one as a drinking fountain.

drinking pheasant

There had been some sunshine om my walk out but the clouds were coming up from the west so I didn’t stop long and was soon on my way home along the road.

It is hard to convey the sheer pleasure that can be got from contemplating our hills while out on a walk and I don’t have the camera or the skills to do them full justice but even in the middle of winter, this is a very pleasant prospect.

view from Broomholmshiels

In hot weather, the sheep that you can see in the field in the foreground of the picture above often make use of the shade of a tree beside the road.  Looking at the exposed roots of the tree, I wondered if the sheep were responsible for these scratches.

sheep scraped root

On my side of the fence there was a good show of xanthoria parietina lichen.

xanthoria parietina lichen

I set off down the hill at a good pace and I wasn’t intending to stop again but when a cladonia lichen winks at you from a wall across the road, it would be rude not to stop.  This one was so big and bright that it looked like a flower.

british soldier lichen

The river had dropped enough to let me take a picture of Skippers Bridge when I got there.  As the light was dull, I thought that it would make a change to show the bridge at work instead of the usual still life portrait.

I feel slightly nervous when I see lorries of this size crossing the bridge as they seem vastly too big for it….

skippers bridge with lorry

…but the bridge has stood up well to fairly constant traffic for over 300 years and will doubtless outlast us all.

I got home before the weather broke and had lunch with Mrs Tootlepedal.  She went out on business in the afternoon and was not as lucky as me, as it was raining very heavily by the time that she bicycled home.

Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea and my flute pupil came in the early evening.  Mike got wet but Luke was lucky to find a gap in the rain when he came.

As I write this in the late evening, the wind is soughing round the house but the rain has stopped, temporarily at least.  Weather reports show severe gales on exposed western coasts but we are on the very edge of the storm so we are quite lucky so far.  Long may this continue.

The flying bird of the day is that dipper, pushing off low over the river to find more food.

flying dipper

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo in Manitoba.  She was unimpressed by my flimsy  footwear in a recent picture on the blog and sent me this shot of real boot quality in her latest pair.

Mary Jo's socks

The ‘wet day’ marmalade which I made yesterday has set well, and this morning I put the caps on the jars and used some rather fancy labels.

2020 marmalade

(My handwriting was never good and has got steadily worse with the advent of keyboards and computers.)

The day was remarkably calm after yesterday’s strong winds and I was able to stroll down to sing with the church choir wearing a light jacket and a cheerful smile.  The hymns were a mixed bunch with an African tune, a Jewish melody and some old faithfuls and we had an enjoyable sing.  After a quiet time, we are going to start singing introits and anthems again so we had a practice after the service.  We were ready for coffee when we got home.

The birds were in no hurry to come to the feeder today but the walnut was playing host to jackdaws.  Jackdaws pair for life and we often see pairs of them sitting and chatting amiably among the branches of the tree.

jackdaw pair

As the welcome sun came round to the feeder, some dunnocks appeared on the ground..

dunnock

…and a pigeon landed on the electricity wire above…

pigeon on wire

…and finally a redpoll actually came and ate some seed.

redpoll on feeder

A siskin arrived too….

sisking on feeder

…but it was a very quiet morning for bird activity.  A small heap of feathers on the lawn showed that a sparrowhawk had visited earlier in the day so that possibly explained the lack of visitors.

I was pleased to see that our robin had not been the victim.

robin on wire

After our coffee, we took a quick walk round the garden.  We were delighted to see the first signs of snowdrops.

first snowdrop

We have occasionally seen them fully out by this time, so I hope it will not be long before a flower appears.

We left the garden and headed out for a visit to the river.  The rivers had fallen a lot since Gavin took his picture yesterday…

new course of wauchope

…and the Esk looked very calm…

Esk after flood

…but the lines of leaves on the bank showed just how near the road the river had been at its height.

tide mark esk after flood

It had brought down a good load of sand and gravel with it and this has blocked off the flow of the Wauchope through the second arch as it comes under the Kirk Bridge.

sandbank at mouth of wauchope

We crossed the suspension bridge and walked down the river towards Skippers Bridge.

Because we go to Carlisle for our other choir on a Sunday afternoon, we didn’t have a lot of time to spare.  Mrs Tootlepedal kept up a brisk pace and I only took a  few pictures as we went along.

The heavy rain had left fungus on a bench and lichen on a fence untouched….

fungus and lichen waterside

…but the river was high enough and the rocks slippery enough to make me think that a glimpse of Skippers Bridge through the trees was probably as close as it was sensible to get today.

skippers through trees

Although it was now a lovely day and it wasn’t much after midday, the long shadows across the field at the Murtholm reminded us that there is still a lot of winter to go.

murtholm winter shadows

And the reflective fence posts recalled yesterday’s rain.

fence post relections

It is curious that the left and right fence posts are reflected straight up and down but the centre post is at a marked angle.

The forecast for the next couple of days is appalling, with a named storm coming our way but today really was the calm before the storm.  It was a lovely day for a walk.

view of timpen january

As we walked along the Stubholm track, we passed some fine trees.  Mrs Tootlepedal gives a sense of scale to this one.

big tree at stubholm

The walk finished with a quick look at fungus and lichen on trees and walls round the park.

four lichens park wall

After a light lunch we added a useful visit to the recycling facilities in Longtown on the way to the Carlisle choir.

As we drove down, we were able to listen to the edition of Gardener’s Question Time on BBC Radio 4 which had been recorded last month in the Buccleuch Centre.  Among others, they used my question on the show so now I am famous.

The question asked for suggestions for flowers which the panel thought might make good photographic subjects.  Mrs Tootlepedal has taken up one of the recommendations and if all goes well, you will be able to see the results in the blog in the course of time.  I am not going to say what it is.  It will be a surprise.

At the choir, we found that yet another tenor had come to sing with us. That made three new members in two weeks.  The hard work of the committee in trying to attract new men to the choir seems to have paid off.

We had a very hard working practice, with three new songs to learn.  Fortunately our choir director was in fine form and she drove us along at a good pace so we got a lot done.

The weather stayed good for our drive home and as we weren’t in the mood for heavy cooking, we had boiled eggs with soldiers for our tea.  As good as a feast any day.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Gunta, who sent me this charming photo of snowy plovers resting in horse hoofprints on a beach.

snowy_plovers-5753

We had a day with plenty of birds about and some dry and occasionally sunny weather…

plum tree of birds

…which came with the first sign of snow of the year when I looked out of an upstairs window.

monument with light snow

As it was our day to go to Edinburgh and the recent timetable changes require us to leave home shortly after coffee, I had no time to explore the snow and stuck to a quick tour of the garden where I saw the winter jasmine and..

winter jasmine january

…that first daffodil bud that Mrs Tootlepedal had noticed yesterday..

first daffodil bud

I noticed that there were quite a few blackbirds about too but they were shy and I only just caught this one before it disappeared.

blackbird january

A jackdaw hung about for a bit longer.

jackdaw chaecking things out

By the time that we got to Lockerbie Station, the sky was blue…

lockerbie town hall

…but a pile of snow on the platform bore witness to a heavy shower of sleet earlier in the day…

snow lockerbie station

…and there was plenty more snow to be seen when the train got into the hills.

snow on train to edinburgh

We had had time to admire the pile of snow on the platform before we left as the train was quarter of an hour late.  However, it bustled up the line and got to Edinburgh only a few minutes behind schedule.

We popped across the road from the station and enjoyed a light lunch in an art gallery cafe and, having lunched, we enjoyed three free exhibitions in the gallery itself.  The best of the the three was of the work of Mary Cameron.  She was quite unknown to us but we really enjoyed her work and felt that we should have known about her earlier.

burst

She had a wonderful range of subjects in the exhibition, including such a harrowing picture of horses after a bull fight that the French government made a postcard of it which it then used in its public campaign to discourage bull fighting in France.

We went back across the station to do a little shopping and catch the bus to Matilda’s.

The station was busy and we watched the London train roll into the platform to pick up passengers for the trip south.

burst

Matilda was in good form and we were joined by her other grandparents and her aunt and cousin for our evening meal.  Alistair cooked a delicious feast, this time a lentil and dahl, and we all tucked in.

After the meal, we caught the bus back to the station.  Knowing the railway comany’s unreliable habits, I had carefully checked that the incoming service from Lockerbie was running and would arrive in time to take us back to Lockerbie.  We were pleased to see it roll into the platform as we got to the station.

To say that we were therefore a bit stunned to see on the departure board that our train south had been cancelled is a bit of an understatement.

It turned out, as far as anyone could tell, that they were going to keep this train to act as the next train two hours later and if we wanted to get to Lockerbie meanwhile, there was a bus waiting outside the station to take us there.

We took the bus.  And arrived at Lockerbie an hour behind schedule which is why this post is hurried, I haven’t answered yesterday’s comments and I am not going to read any posts tonight.  I will try to make up for these omissions tomorrow.

On the plus side, the bus was remarkably smooth and comfortable, the driver competent and cheerful and motorway traffic light, so the actual bus journey, though long, was not too bad at all.

I took a flying goldfinch picture which didn’t come through the editor quite as it should have, but I liked it all the same so it has sneaked in…

flying goldfinch

…but the official flying bird of the day is this chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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