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Archive for the ‘flowers’ Category

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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Today’s guest picture finds my Somerset correspondent, Venetia on the Ovango River.  It looks like a good place to be.

Okavango River

After yesterday’s gadding about all over the country, I planned for a quiet day at home today, starting with a cup of coffee with Sandy.

There was a slight hiccup in the proposed placidity when fellow archivist Nancy phoned me up to say that one of the microfiche readers in the Archive Centre wasn’t working.  I cycled up and after a great deal of head scratching, I took some advice from Sandra, another archivist, searched online for solution and found one.  Phew. I cycled home again.

Sandy was in good form when he arrived and we hope to be able to get out for a walk soon.

When he left, I watched the birds for a bit and once again there was a fair bit of action on the feeder.  Chaffinches flew in double handed…

two chaffinches incoming

…but the siskins were more than up to defending a perch.

chaffinch and siskin arguing

A collared dove was an oasis of peace and quiet in a furiously fluttering feathery world.

collared dove

The snow from last night had disappeared and from time to time the sun came out and shone on the siskins…

siskin posing in sunshine

…and I even thought of a gentle pedal.  However I went out to help Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden instead and trimmed a couple of berberis bushes.  Then I made some soup for lunch and after we had eaten it, I went out to help in the garden again.

Since we are making new soft fruit beds this year, the old ones are being re-purposed so I dug over the old raspberry and strawberry beds…

rasps and strawbs dug up

…and after some work on the gap  between them, they will become the the home for the potatoes this year.

We also put the Christmas tree in its new place…

christmas tree planted out 2019

…where it will sit quietly until next December.  It is looking healthy and sturdy so we have every hope that it will see a bauble or two when the time comes.

It is sitting beside the remains of our rhubarb patch.

early rhubarb

I saw quite a few daffodils on my travels yesterday and we are getting more out here in the garden every day now.

daffodil

I went in for a sit down, leaving Mrs Tootlepedal working away outside and then Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea.  He is much better after having had a chest infection and it is good to see him getting out and about again.

When he left, I went out for a  quick three bridges walk just to stretch my legs.

A dipper stood on a rock in the turbulence of the Meeting of the Waters and showed off the special white nictitating eye membrane which keep its eyes protected when it is dipping.

over the shoulder dipper

A cluster of ducks lurked behind daffodils on the bank at the Kilngreen…

three ducks

…and a bit further upstream, a second dipper was doing some lurking of its own.

hidden dipper

I was hoping to take more pictures but there was a large crowd of children and parents on the Castleholm attending a running event so I passed by and made my way home without lingering, stopping only to record two more signs of spring, a willow at the Jubilee Bridge…

willow bud

…and some blackthorn in bloom beside the Esk.

blackthorn

I got home in time to meet Luke for our regular flute lesson.  We had a hard working half hour, trying to develop the correct style in our playing.

That concluded the excitement for the day.

There are two flying chaffinches of the day today as I couldn’t choose between them.

There is the vertical lady…

flying chaffinch vertical

…and the horizontal gent.

flyimng chaffinch horizontal

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Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s recent walk along the canals of Birmingham.

birmingham canal

We kept our dry weather today but there was no sign of sunshine so the temperature was at a more natural level for the first of March.

Following on the experience of the garden playing host to a partridge (though not in a pear tree), we saw the arrival today of two doves (though collared and not turtle).

two doves

Now we are expecting three foreign hens (though probably not from France).

In the absence of three French hens, I was happy to welcome Dropscone with some of his very best treacle scones at coffee time.  After coffee and conversation, he left to discuss the problems of installing a water meter in premises with no water supply with a man from the water company who wanted to install a water meter in the old Archive premises which don’t have a water supply.   I wished him luck.

Meanwhile, the siskins had got busy back in our garden.

A chaffinch sensibly kept its head done while two siskins squabbled…

siskin and siskin cinfrontation

…and a goldfinch did its best to ignore some challenging behaviour.

siskin and goldfinch confrontation

There were enough birds about to make putting out a second feeder seem like a good idea but in no time at all, both were being monopolised by more siskins.

siskins at both feeders

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Buccleuch Centre for lunch with two of our neighbours and I made some ginger biscuits to give to a friend of ours as a birthday gift.

Once the biscuits were cooked, I went out and  sieved some compost.  The gentle back exercise involved had a very beneficial effect on my feet.  They had been rather sore after pounding the streets of Edinburgh yesterday.  As a result, when Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her lunch and gave the biscuits the thumbs up, I went out for a short walk.

The pale hellebores in the garden had taken note of my complaints about them hanging their heads down and had made an effort to look up a bit.

pale hellebores

I walked down to the river and was happy to see that the trees along the bank between the bridges were bursting into flower…

riverside blossom

…and below them, the daffodils are starting to make a show.

riverside daffodils

It is beginning to feel like spring.

There were no gulls or oyster catchers about at all but I did see a dipper standing on a rock below the town bridge.

dipper below bridge

And along the Kilngree, a female mallard was doing the same.

duck on a rock

I crossed the Sawmill Brig and was impressed by the fruitful mosses on the wall.

four mosses

Instead of walking along the Lodge Walks, I headed up the hill and walked along the top of the woods, passing this gate on the way….

pathhead gate

…and seeing two unusual sheep in the field behind the gate.

varied sheep

As I walked along the top track, there was a hint of blue sky…

blue sky

…but it was not enough to bring the sun out as the blue sky was over there =>  and the sun was over there <=. along with a lot of clouds.

Although the individual snowdrops are going over fast, there are still enough about at Holmhead to make a delightful scene.

snowdrops Holmhead

There was not a lot of peace and quiet on the walk as the birds are getting the spring spirit and I was serenaded all along my route.

black bird

The many hazels along the river bank as I walked back to the town were dripping with catkins and covered in the tiny red flowers but I resisted the temptation to take yet another hazel flower picture and settled for this white flower growing on the wall at the top of the Scholars’ Field.

wild flower

As I passed my old school, I was saddened to see that the windows are not being maintained.  Although it is unoccupied and unused, it is still sad to see a building going to seed.

school window

I dropped in on Mike and Alison on my way home to enquire about their health and was offered a cup of tea and a ginger biscuit, which I accepted.  When I left, Mike came out into the garden to show me his dog’s tooth violets which are looking very pretty.

dog tooth violet

After tea, Mrs Tootlepedal and I set off in the car with some of our home cooked ginger biscuits, tastefully wrapped in a special bag which Mrs Tootlepedal had sewn while I was out walking.  They were to be a gift for our recorder playing and choir friend Sue who was having a birthday meal with her daughter.  Her daughter had secretly organised an after meal invasion by Sue’s friends and Sue took it very well when more and more people kept appearing through her daughter’s front door.

We had a very enjoyable and social time talking to Sue and her friends and eating the snacks provided by her daughter.

In a break from the endless line of flying chaffinches, the (only just) flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

just flying goldfinch

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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 comes from Venetia, my Somerset correspondent, who turns out to be in Namibia at the moment.  She sent me this portrait of male and female Long-tailed Paradise Whydahs.  The males are in full display mode.

Long-tailed Paradise Whydah

Our welcome spell of fine weather continued today but with a reminder that we are still in the winter months in the shape of some early frost on the lawns.

The temperature was slow to rise and I was feeling a bit tired so I went back to bed after breakfast and read a book until midday.  It was very relaxing.

I got up into my cycling gear although it was still rather chilly unless you were out in the sun.  I gave Mrs Tootlepedal a hand in the garden for a while and then went in to make some lentil soup for lunch…

…and watch the birds of course.  There were plenty of shady characters hanging around the feeder.

shadowy chaffinch

After lunch, I had another wander round the garden and after I had visited the pond, where I found a pile of  frogs which had not been put off by the chilly morning…

three frogs get friendly

…I helped Mrs Tootlepedal set up the boards for one of our new fruit beds.  They are going to have cages on them this year to protect the crop from the birds.

I couldn’t pass by a particularly fine bunch of crocuses without my shutter finger twitching…

sunny crocus clump

…but I finally pulled myself together and got my bike out and went off for a pedal. It was genuinely warm in the sun and I passed a cyclist coming the other way in short sleeves and shorts.  I am glad that I had retained a few layers because by the time that I finished the ride and the sun was dropping in the sky, it felt pretty chilly.

My  route took me past two ruined cottages.  They are both getting more dilapidated with the passage of time not unlike the photographer.  The first one is only a couple of miles from home.

Blochburnfoot cottage

I couldn’t have asked for a better day for a pedal as there was hardly any wind and the sky was cloudless.

callister view sunny

It wasn’t quite hot enough to get the gorse flowers to smell of coconut though.

gorse flowers

A correspondent asked me recently if there were a lot of poles and pylons in our area and I thought that I would show that there are and that they cast a long shadow too.

view with pylon shadow

As I came down from Kennedy’s Corner onto the Solway Plain, I passed the second ruined cottage, which is now almost wholly holey.

ruined cottage

The tree beside it looks a lot better than the cottage does.

tree by cottage

Although the sky was blue and it was pretty clear in the hills, there was a very murky layer lying on top of the land below me as I looked ahead.  It didn’t look very appetising at all.

murky mist

When I got down that level, it wasn’t visible but it was colder.

There are telephone  and electricity poles along almost every road around us and quite often a pylon makes its presence felt as well….

pylon at the end of the road

…but if you choose the right road, nothing interrupts the view at all.

bent tree

There was quite a lot of traffic about today and I was passed by two low flying aircraft….

low flying plane

…and held up by a traffic jam near Glenzier.

traffic jam near Glenzier

The farmer told me that they were having to move the sheep out into the fields by day as it was too hot for them in the shed at the moment.  This was them going home to bed for the night.

When I got back after 30 gentle miles, Mrs Tootlepedal had finished planting out the raspberry canes in the new bed.  They are Malling Jewel and should fruit in midsummer (if we get one this year).

new raspberry bed

There are gooseberries and blackcurrants to be sorted out next.

I admired some hopeful wallflowers and went in to have a cup of tea and some ginger nuts (shop bought).

wallflower feb

I was just getting up to make a slice of toast after I had polished off the biscuits, when my eye was caught by movement under the feeder.

Our part of the town seems to have two resident partridges now…

partridge

…as neighbours on both sides of our garden have seen them perched on their fences.  I wonder where they are roosting for the night.

The day wound down with a shopping trip for me and then Mrs Tootlepedal created a delicious evening meal with the products from the shopping bag, a very satisfactory division of labour.

I was pleased to see that the proposed deterioration in our weather has now been put on hold for a day or two and we are being promised another sunny day tomorrow.  We are really being spoiled and will get a big shock when normal service is resumed.

A questing chaffinch obliged by posing as the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony.  As well as looking up at celestial wonders, he has also looked down and found a monster on the seashore.

monsters head (1)

I drove south after breakfast to visit my singing teacher.  She lives under the shadow of the north of England hills and the mist was just burning off when I got there.

misty penines

I had a second look at the tree in the foreground with its additional sheep.

misty tree hallbank gate

The mist depended on the direction and distance of the view.  This little tree covered mound was only a few hundred yards away and mist free….

trees on tump hallbankgate

…and the monkey puzzle tree in her garden was bathed in sunlight.

monkey puzzle hallbankgate

The singing lesson was very interesting and left me with a number of things to work on regarding breathing, posture, relaxation and sound production.  Now, if I can only remember all of them, I should get a lot better.  Or indeed, any of them.

On my way home, I stopped to look at the bridge over the river Irthing, near Brampton.

It was not surprising to find that it has got many metal ties on it as it is a very narrow bridge on a busy road and with sharp bends at each end, it has had many a battering from passing traffic over the years.

Irthing bridge

When I got home, I was welcomed by Mrs Tootlepedal who had had a very busy morning in the house and garden and by a frog in the pond who had been taking things quietly.

frog in wed

The garden was busy with bees…

bee in crocus

…visiting the crocuses.

And the air was busy with contentious birds…

goldfinches squabbling

…being rude to each other.

Goldfinches were shouting at other goldfinches and chaffinches…

birds bickering

…and chaffinches were going beak to beak with each other.

chaffinches beak to beak

Sometimes it all got a bit too much and they just threw up their wings in despair.

chaffinch in despair

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Dumfries with our neighbour Liz who had a hospital out patient visit arranged and appreciated the company.

I took my cycle out for a gentle spin round my customary Canonbie 20 mile circuit, keeping an eye for trees, either in groups…

three trees grainstonehead

..or standing alone…

Irvine house tree

…or posing another puzzle for monkeys.

monkey puzzle canonbie

I had a walk round the garden when I got back, hoping for an opportunity to take a better bee picture.  Sadly, it had got late enough in the day for all the bees to have gone home so I had to settle for some attractive white crocuses instead.

white crocus

The early daffodils are coming out and adding some fresh colour to the snowdrops and crocuses.

february daffodils

Mrs Tootlepedal returned safely having managed to call in at a garden centre for a cup of tea and a scone on the way back from Dumfries where she acquired a new rose as if by magic.

The rest of my day was musical, with first a visit from my flute playing friend Luke.  He has been practising and as a result we played one of our pieces better than ever before.  We were both very pleased.

Then after tea, I went and played three trios with Mike and Isabel, our first meeting for some weeks and all the more welcome for that.

We have one more day of warm, calm, sunny weather to go before things start to return to more standard levels of rain, wind and cold so I am going to do my best to really appreciate the last sunny day while it  is here.

Among all the shenanigans at the feeder, I did manage to catch one calm chaffinch and he is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony.  He has been looking up lately and as well as holes in clouds, he has seen the moon.

tony's moon

We had another fine sunny day here today and because the wind had dropped, it felt really warm and we were able to discard several layers of winter clothing.

We started the day with a visit to church to sing with the choir.  Because our local amateur operatic society was having a full day of rehearsals for their forthcoming show, we were a bit short of numbers but we gave it our best anyway.

When we got back to the house, we had a stroll round the garden.  I checked on the frogs and saw an odd sight…

two frog heads

…with two frogs looking as though they had been shot and mounted on a wooden board.  A second look showed me that they were in fact floating on top of a reflection of the bridge above them and if you look carefully, you can see the rest of their bodies under the water.

The rest of the pond was full of frogs.

frog panel

The garden is full of crocuses…

crocuses beside opath

…and other interesting things like a naturally dried sunflower head, a ladybird and the developing euphorbia.

sunflower, ladybird and euphorbia

I was just going about photographing things when I was hailed by neighbour Irving who was leaning over the garden fence.  He has been very poorly recently with a bad back and was keen to share some experiences with me as I have suffered from a bad back too in my time.

Irving on fence

He felt that after being ill, he was probably not at his best photographically and told me not to put his picture in the blog.  You can see that he is perhaps looking a little part worn still so I won’t use his picture.

During the day when she was between choirs, Mrs Tootlepedal completed the varnishing of the rocking horse.

rocking horse eyes

The dappling of a rocking horse is a very stylised business and she has settled for a fairly restrained version which I think is just the thing.

rocking horse varnished

We are waiting now for the arrival of the saddle, bridle, main and tail from the rocking horse shop and then the final stage of the work can begin.

We had a busy day at the feeder today with a good number of siskins flying in and out…

three flying siskins

…alongside the usual chaffinches and goldfinches…

three flying birds

…and a visiting starling showed off its iridescent colours.

starling on feeder

I had time for a short three bridges walk and spotted quite a few oyster catchers beside the river..

oyster catcher in sun

The sense of a spring day was heightened by the sight of the first blossoms on the trees which line the Esk between the suspension and the town bridges.

cherry blossom

At the Kilngreen, the crocuses are starting to come out along the banking and although they are not quite as showy as the Edinburgh display which I saw on Thursday…

kilngreen crocus bank

…they are not to be sniffed at.

kilngreen crocuses

I haven’t seen Mr Grumpy for some time, so it was good to see him back on guard beside the Ewes Water.

heron

I walked over the Sawmill Brig and walked up almost as far as the Lodge…

Lodge in Feb

…before crossing the Castleholm and taking the riverside path back towards the Jubilee bridge.  I was wondering if the spell of good weather might have tempted some hazel flowers to come out.

It had.

The catkins were open and if you look carefully, you can just see a little red female flower at the top of the picture.

hazel catkin and flower

This tree had several flowers out…

haxel flowers

…but I didn’t see any more as I walked along the path.  They have arrived early this year.  It has sometimes been almost a month later before I have seen them.

castelholm sunny feb

I called in on our friends Mike and Alison on our way home as Mike has been poorly with a chest infection.  I had seen him briefly on our way to church when he was on his way to buy a newspaper and looking far from well but he was much more cheerful by lunchtime and reported that he is on the mend.

When  I got home, I found the pond full to bursting with frogs.

many frogs in pond

I had time for a quick lunch and while I was  eating my soup, Mrs Tootlepedal noticed that a redpoll had arrived.  I put down my soup spoon and picked  up a camera and recorded this welcome arrival.

february redpoll

After lunch, we went off to Carlisle for a very hard working final practice before the Carlisle Community Choir goes to Manchester next week to compete in the Manchester Amateur Choir Competition.

Mrs Tootlepedal is not taking part this year so I will be going down by myself, except of course for the other eighty choir members who will be coming too.

I am hoping for good weather so I can wander about during the day taking pictures.

I had made a venison stew in the slow cooker in the morning and in spite of saying recently that we had used all the veg from our garden, I was happy to find that we still have some home grown turnips in store in our garage so one of them went in.  Thanks to the good summer, things have lasted well in storage this season.

The flying bird of the day was a lucky shot taken at the Kilngreen as I clicked my camera at random as a duck flew by down the river.  I must have moved it inadvertently at almost duck flying speed.

flyng duck

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