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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Dropscone’s niece Hilary.  It is of an Egyptian Vulture.  It was taken at Zurich Zoo on Saturday and makes Mr Grumpy look like a little ray of sunshine.

It is of an Egyptian Vulture. Taken at Zurich Zoo on Saturday.

Little rays of sunshine were in short supply here today as this was the view when we got up.

snowy garden

It wasn’t even good quality snow, just a soggy flump which turned to slush as it fell.

wet snow

It snowed quite a lot more during the day without adding to the sum total of snow on the ground at all.

Sandy came round for coffee as we are going to give an illustrated talk about the Archive Group in Canonbie tomorrow and we had to settle the details.  After he left, I walked through the slush up to the Archive Centre and made some copies of a DVD of the History of the Mills and Railway in Langholm.  We are going to show the DVD tomorrow and with luck, we might sell a copy or two for funds.

I had a look at the birds when I got back but things were still pretty gloomy.

goldfinch

The snow hadn’t stopped birds arriving but there weren’t very many.

busy feeder snow

I was pleased to see a couple of greenfinches.

greenfinches

After lunch, there was a moment when the sun came out so I put on my wellies and went for a short walk.

Whita snow

The hills looked better with a hint of sun on them…

snowy monument

…and if I had been feeling better, I would have rushed up to the monument while the going was good.

As it was, the recovery is still a work in progress so I settled for a very slow walk at a low level, taking my puffer before I set out and creeping up the only hill on my route.

Although it was very slushy rather than crisp, there was still a scenic view or two to be had.

Langholm Bridge snow

Sadly the sun didn’t make much of an effort and it soon clouded over.

Snowy scene

But snow brightens things up.

Ewesbank stream

It was an odd sort of walk.  There were fairly snowy bits….

Pathhead path

…with extensively snowy views to the left…

snowy whita

…but when I turned the corner at the end of the field, there was hardly a flake of snow to be seen.

path along top of woods

I was glad to have the shelter of the trees for the rest of my walk as it started to snow again and the wind got up so I would have been thoroughly wet if i had been in the open.

As it was, I kept my head down, admired a striking jelly fungus in the heart of the wood….

jelly fungus

…and got home, reasonably dry and content.

Even a short walk is lot to take on at the moment and I found myself fast asleep in front of the telly for most of the rest of the afternoon.

In the evening, I had to decide whether I was fit enough to sit through a live screening of Rigoletto from Covent Garden at the Buccleuch Centre.  Mrs Tootlepedal was not up for a night out yet so I hummed and hawed about going and in the end, at the very last moment, decided that it might be worth the trouble.

I make a lot of decisions of variable quality but this was one of the very best that I have made recently.

The first scene in this production is appalling, treating the audience as if they are incapable of any imagination and showing the actors no respect at all but thereafter, the brooding setting and singing of Dimitri Platanias as Rigoletto and Lucy Crowe as Gilda transformed it into an evening of wonder and emotional satisfaction for me.

And when I came out, the town was carpeted with a fresh blanket of crisp white snow.

Henry Street in snow

The flying bird of the day was a tricky proposition and the only one that I could find was hiding.

busy feeder snow

 

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Today’s guest picture is a Maltese bird.  Dropscone spotted it.

Maltese bird

It was a variable day, starting and finishing with steady rain and in between being broken up by some periods of unexpected sunshine and more rain showers.

I felt quite cheery when I got up in spite of the rain and spent some time printing out cards which the newspaper shops sells on behalf of the Archive Group.

The rain stopped so I looked out of the window from time to time.

There was plenty of activity….

busy feeder

…and then the rain started again but didn’t discourage the visitors.

greenfinch and chaffinch

Then it stopped and four siskins glowed gently in some thin sunshine….

siskin

…but a greenfinch looked as though it was expecting the rain to start at any moment.

siskin and greenfinch

In one of the sunny periods, I thought about a little cycle ride but with the weather so changeable, I didn’t want to get stuck out in the country in a shower so I went for a walk round Gaskells instead.

I set out feeling good and enjoying the lichens beside the river at the park….

lichen

…which have obviously liked our weather a lot.  The lichens in general are thriving.

However, as soon as I came to the short and gentle slope up to the Stubholm, I found that I wasn’t nearly as well recovered as I had thought and nearly ground to a halt going up the hill.

This was a real blow and I had to creep round the rest of the walk at a snail’s pace to stop my chest hurting.  I was really glad to have embarked on a low level and short walk and at least I completed it.  It would have been frustrating to have had to turn round and go home.

It was a pity because, for a while at least, it was a very nice day, though still cold and raw.

Stubholm

Meikleholm

I was concentrating on where I was putting my feet quite a lot as I didn’t want to add slipping over to my day but occasionally a bit of lichen intruded on my consciousness.

script lichen

peltigera lichen

And a tuft of moss too.

moss

I reached home in one piece, pleased to have had a bit of fresh air even if the exercise hadn’t amounted to much and was very cheered to find a fine clump of snowdrops in evidence on the bank of the dam behind the house.

snowdrops

Roll on spring.

The walk had showed that more rest was needed so I rested for the rest of the day.  In the evening, my flute pupil Like came and we had a productive lesson and I was able to blow a few notes on my own flute so the rest had done me good.

After tea, I went off to the first camera club meeting of the new year and although the turnout was on the small side, we had some very good pictures to look at and a new member from Canonbie to welcome so it was a worthwhile evening.

We had been asked to do a portrait and since I don’t like to take pictures of other people very much as I feel that I lack the skills to do them justice, I took a picture of an old man who was hanging around in the front room.

_DSC0798

It always comes as a shock to see just how old I am!  I am not like that on the inside.

One of our fellow camera club members showed us a wonderful picture of a flying nuthatch this evening.  He had found a moment of good sunshine for the shot. My flying siskin of the day in the rain is rather gloomy in comparison.

_DSC0775

 

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Today’s guest picture is a small bridge across one of the ditches on the River Derwent flood plain that my brother crossed on his walk.  The low sun ensured that his shadow never got far away from him!  (I am open for new guest pictures.)

derby bridge

We had a slightly colder and slightly greyer day today but it didn’t halt the very gentle progress towards recovery.  I am fine as long as I take things very slowly but Mrs Tootlepedal is still pretty flat and spending time in bed.

In another first though, I got the car running in the morning and drove down to the Co-operative Store  to do a little shopping, more for the sake of checking that the car was OK after a week of idleness than the urgent need for provisions.  We have been eating so little that we have both lost weight.  Under normal circumstances a bit of weight loss would have been very welcome but we don’t recommend catching flu as a sound dieting method.

As well as the shopping, I made some bread and cooked a pan of soup so I didn’t have much time to look at the birds.  This was no great loss as there were very few birds about today even when I did look.

The poor light led to poor pictures…

chaffinch

…so I didn’t waste a lot of time.

dunnock

I had to go and open up the Day Centre for an Embroiderers’ Guild meeting after lunch as Mrs Tootlepedal would normally do this.

I cycled up to the town to unlock the door and then cycled off up the Wauchope road  to keep my legs turning over.  It was a bit colder and windier than yesterday so I just went a bit slower today and got on not too badly.  Once again, I stopped from time to time to give my breathing a break.

I like the way that trees grow out of the banks of the small burns on the hillsides at a jaunty angle.

Earnshaw burn tree

I had parked the slow bike on the bridge when I walked up to take the tree picture and when I went back to it…

Earnshaw bridge

…I was very struck by the combination of lichen and moss on the bridge parapet.

Earnshaw bridge lichen

Life’s a jungle.

Earnshaw bridge lichen

Further up the road, I was brought to a halt by a perfectly upholstered stone in the wall beside the road.  It is most unusual.

wall moss

While I was stopped, I had a look at the next few metres of the wall.  It was a good place to spend a few minutes.

The colour of the day prize definitely went to a lichen with this very striking burst of yellow.

wall lichen Xanthoria parietina

It was so vivid that I might have thought that it was a paint spill at first sight but a closer look…

wall lichen Xanthoria parietina

…showed me that it is probably xanthoria parietina, a lichen I more usually see on concrete fence posts.

P1060647

Another elegant clump of moss could be seen and …..

moss

…a striking but pale lichen rounded off my inspection.

lichen

I could have picked many more lichens and mosses within a few yards but I didn’t want to stay standing around for too long as it wasn’t very warm.

I cycled up the Cleuchfoot road and lifted my eyes up from moss and lichen to admire the scenery.

Bigholms Burn

Cleuchfoot road

I went through the farm yard and took a picture just to show that not all our bridges are made of beautifully cut stones.

Cleuchfoot farm bridge

I like the valley beyond Cleuchfoot farmhouse.  There is something very restful about it.

Arisgill valley cleuchfoot

It is possible to ride up a track across the hill below the larch plantation which you can see ahead of me and come back to join the Wauchope road further along……

Arisgill valley cleuchfoot

…but that would have required more time and energy than I had so I turned round and eased gently back down the hill into town.  A circuit of the New Town brought my distance up to to 10 miles and I don’t know when I have been more pleased with a 10 mile cycle ride at 8mph.

And that, as they say, concluded the entertainment for the day.  I am going to see if I can sing tomorrow.

A perching bird of the day today.

robin

 

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Today’s guest picture shows a spectacular water meadow on my brother’s recent walk from his house in Derby.

flooded field

We had a slightly less gloomy day today both medically and meteorologically.  I felt quite positive, though still pretty wheezy and I noticed an improvement on Mrs Tootlepedal, though she thinks she is never going to get better!

I had an errand to run for Mrs Tootlepedal in the morning and a couple of bills to pay in the town as well so I made two excursions to the High Street and, very daringly, I went on the slow bike to discharge the business.

Although it was still chilly, the clouds were a lot higher and the wind was very light so it seemed like a pleasant day.

Certainly there was much better light for watching the birds when I got home.

Our little gang of robins are still skipping about and posing for the camera.

robin

And plenty of birds kept me busy refilling the feeder a couple of time during the day.

chaffinches

The better weather seemed to have calmed things down and there was no violence to be seen today.

siskins

There was no trouble in finding flying birds either.

flying chaffinches

In the absence of a lot of goldfinches and siskins, the chaffinches had a quiet day and I thought that the tableau below had the sober look of a Victorian gentlemen’s club.

flying chaffinches

The clouds got even thinner as the morning went on and there was even occasional glimpses of brightness so I took Mrs Tootlepedal up a light lunch and then got the slow bike out to see if my legs were up to a short excursion up the Wauchope road.

To say that I took things easily would be correct.  Indeed, I proceeded with such care up one short hill that my bike computer actually thought that I had stopped and went into pause mode.  I did stop and few yards further on and went down to look at the river.

Bessie Bells

You could almost say that the sun was shining but there was no blue sky, just moments when the clouds were so thin that the sun could shine right through them.

It made for kindly cycling though so I got back on and went as far as Mrs Tootlepedal’s old manure mine where I had another walk to break up the cycling.

Manure mine

It’s a grand spot for a walk, with interesting trees….

lichen and cones

cones

….a gate….

gate

…a delightful riverside path through a little wood….

Woodland walk

…with both moss….

mossy tree

…and lichen to add interest…

lichen

…and then another gate to bring you out of the wood and back into the field.

gate

Although it was well above freezing, there was still an icy patch or two in well sheltered spots….

field with icy puddle

…and these were surviving even though the puddles that had caused them had long since drained away from underneath them.

field with icy puddle

I have received a letter from the association of Langholm lichens complaining about my statement yesterday that the only colour on the go at the moment is being provided by mosses.  They felt that I was underselling the wonders of lichen so I was happy to stop a bit further up the road where there is a vibrant lichen display on a wall.

lichen

lichen

I got up to Wauchope Schoolhouse and then resisted the temptation, which was quite strong, to add a few more miles and turned and headed home.  I was very happy to find that I could do seven miles of gentle pedalling without any bad consequences and even had a little tootle on my flute to celebrate.

I added to the glory of the day by doing a load of washing and giving the car a rather superficial wash.  If all this seems to indicate a miracle cure, I would have to point out that everything was done at a snail’s pace with plenty of serious resting in between.  I have some way to go yet.

The New Hampshire Gardener asked whether the lichen on the plum tree which appeared a couple of posts ago might be a tree lungwort so I used the better light today to take another picture of it….

lichen

…and my book suggests that it might be Lobaria scrobiculata, the textured lungwort rather than Lobaria pulmonaria, the tree lungwort but since I know nothing, any lungwort wizard out there is welcome to put me right.

After a relatively lively day, I settled down to a very quiet evening in and Mrs Tootlepedal and I enjoyed a light meal of scrambled eggs on toast for our tea.

I am looking forward to a little more progress for us both tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day caught what brightness there was.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is rather small but that is how it was sent to me by my friend Sandra.  I have put it in because it shows some of her regular flock of long tail tits visiting her feeder.  It is a great benefit to live right on the edge of town if you want a better class of bird visitor.

long tailed tits

There is still a distinct lack of perkiness in the Tootlepedal household.  I am up and about but not at all active and Mrs Tootlepedal is still mostly in bed having lost all her get up and go.  We are both doing a lot of coughing.

This makes the house a somewhat gloomy place and the succession of grey days isn’t helping.   It looked for a while as thought we might get some sunshine this morning but by the time that I looked out at the birds, the skies were heavy with cloud again.

The robin was in a stand offish mood….

robin

…and the goldfinches were too busy eating to wave at me.

goldfinches

The chaffinches always seem to be getting a chilly welcome from…..

chaffinch and goldfinch

….goldfinch or siskin.

chaffinch and siskin

Although I had occasional visits to make with a hot drink or a slice of toast for Mrs Tootlepedal, I was getting increasingly bored and restless with sitting around doing crosswords and listening to the radio so I realised that this might be a good moment to get back to putting copies of the 1960s Langholm Parish Church newsletters into the Archive Group website.  We have a collection of these newsletters given to us by the widow of the minister of the time and I put a lot onto the website  at one time but I have neglected them over the last few years.

This seemed the right moment to get back to work on them.  It requires scanning, OCR and HTML formatting and as they are not very well printed in places, the scanning and OCR requires attention and time.   If you wish, you can see one of the months that I put in today here.  I don’t guarantee that it will be error free.

It is interesting to me that 20 years after the end of the war, the minister still drew a lot of his examples from the war experience.  You get little feeling from the newsletter that the cultural stirrings that were rippling through the country in the mid 60s were affecting life in Langholm, though I am sure that they must have been making themselves felt even here.

This task proved a very good decision as it was interesting in its own right and as it required a lot of concentration, I didn’t have so much time to feel sorry for myself and I ended up a good deal more rested and cheerful than when I started.

To give myself a break between editions, I went for a very slow walk across three bridges.  The light was very poor by this time but I was still pleased to see some old waterside friends.

waterside birds

And the moss once again offered a bit of colour on a grey day.

The parapet of the Sawmill Brig was home to a mossy contrast.

moss

moss

And there was more to see as I went round the new path.

moss

It wasn’t a day for colourful views….

Lodge

….so I kept an eye out for other points of interest.

ferny tree

catkin and seed head

I had plenty of time to look about because I was walking very slowly indeed.  In fact I was going so slowly at one point that I thought that I might even have been going backwards.

Still, I managed to cross the Duchess Bridge and combine moss and bridge in one shot.

mossy tree and Duchess bridge

This part of the river in is shade for most of the year and it is no surprise to find a lot of moss covered trees on its banks.

The most colourful moss of the outing was this fine curtain on the wall at the end of the Scholars’ Field.

moss on Scholars Wall

Mike Tinker was working in his garden when I passed and kindly offered me a cup of coffee but I had done more than enough by this time and headed home for a sit down.

I thought that it was about time to eat a more or less proper meal for my tea but in retrospect, this wasn’t a brilliant idea and a boiled egg and a finger of toast would have been better.

The quality of the flying bird of the day continues to be appalling.

flying chaffinch

We are promised our next sunny day on Saturday week so things may not improve until then.

 

 

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Today’s guest picture was taken by our younger son and shows his wife and daughter obediently saying “cheese” when requested.

Clare and matilda

There was continued slight movement on the road to health in the Tootlepedal household today with Mrs Tootlepedal feeling well enough to take in a little nourishment.  I wasn’t quite as perky as I had hoped to be but I was well enough to wander about the house moodily and I did walk up into the town as far as the chemist in the afternoon to replenish our stock of paracetamol.

Having said that, it was still a rather gloomy day all round both literally and metaphorically.

I took time out to peer at the birds.

Everyone seemed to be looking for something.

robin

blackbird

bendy chaffinches

Often it was chaffinches looking for a perch.

busy feeder

busy feeder

And sometimes it was siskins looking for a fight.

siskin violence

I don’t think that the male siskin above who can be seen putting the boot into a female is quite in touch with the spirit of the moment.

Our robins were scurrying about again.  It is very difficult to know whether you are photographing the same one all the time but there are definitely three birds in the garden and I think that I got two different ones today.

robin

plump robin

The cat scarer is a favourite perch but we think it is also working as a cat scarer as there haven’t been any cats lurking under the feeder trying to catch birds lately.  Maybe though, it is just the cold weather that is keeping the cats at home.  Time will tell when spring comes.

I took my camera with me when I walked to the chemist for the sake of having a picture on the blog which was not taken out of the kitchen window….

misty whita

…but it was a grey and raw day so I abandoned plans for taking the longer and more scenic route home.

All the same, as I know that many readers will be feeling that their lives are strangely empty because of the lack of moss pictures on the blog recently, I did take a very small diversion on my way back to visit the park wall.

I have been reading the moss book that our daughter gave me for Christmas and though it doesn’t help me identify mosses, it is helping me to learn how to look at them and when we get some better light I hope to get some better pictures.  For some reason, I hadn’t really thought of moss as having leaves but of course, that is basically what moss is, a collection of leaves and the occasional sporophyte.

moss

moss

moss

moss

For those who can take a moss leaf or leave it alone, I throw in a fern complete with sori, also from the park wall.

fern

I had a quick tour of the garden in pursuit of more moss when I got home and I was wondering of thus was moss or not….

moss

…but I got easily distracted by some fine lichen in the plum tree and photographed that instead.

lichen

lichen

One of the bad things about being poorly and mooching about is that it leaves me with any amount of time to listen to the radio and watch the TV and this can only have deleterious effects on my mind and body because it involves taking in the news of the day many, many times.

On the plus side, watching the poor Californians, having been plagued by fire, now being consumed by mud slides does make me count my blessings quite gratefully.

I was intending to go to Glasgow tomorrow to help Matilda and her parents clear their old flat but having actually listened to some sound advice, I am going to stay at home and try not to make myself worse.

Another grey day post impressionist flying bird today.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest post is the third and last of Tash’s portraits of Tony’s dogs beside the Forth.

Tony's dog

It was a cold but brighter day here today so there were no complaints but I had a slight chesty cough threatening so I abandoned a plan to wrap up well and go for a pedal and settled for a morning of light loafing about.

I kept an eye on the birds.

We had two greenfinches…

greenfinches

…many goldfinches…

goldfinches

…several dunnocks…

dunnock

…and robins on every perch.

robin

There were at least three robins and I could often see all three at the same time.  They seem to be mildly territorial but not very fierce about it so maybe there is room in the garden for all of them.

We went out for our midday meal as it was the day of the annual Archivists’ Lunch. It was at the Eskdale Hotel this year and a party of thirteen sat down for an excellent meal.

After the meal, I thought that I probably needed to shake the calories down so I went for a walk.  I also hoped that a bit of exercise might frighten away my incipient chesty cough.

It was crisp and breezy and a beautiful day for an outing on a hill so I left the Eskdale Hotel behind….

Eskdale Hotel

…and went up the Kirk Wynd on the opposite side of the market Place and headed straight up the hill to the monument on top of Whita.

It was warm enough for the puddles in the fields to be unfrozen….

Puddle

….but the brisk north wind which was rippling the water made it feel decidedly wintery.

I had hoped for splendid views as it had seemed quite bright when I was in the town but as I got further up the hill, it became clear that there was still a lot of moisture in the air…

View of langholm

…and both the town and the Ewes Valley…

misty ewes valley

…were rather fuzzy.

Still, there was always moss to look at, both on a wall…..

moss on wall

…and in big tussocks making some of the walk hard work.

moss tussock

It didn’t take me too long to get to the summit though as the nippy wind didn’t encourage much standing about and enjoying the view….

Monument

…but I did take a moment to look over the wall behind the monument and enjoy the view across the Tarras to Tinnis Hill.

 

Tinnis

And you can’t stand next to a wall without admiring the lichen.

lichen at Monument

It is exactly a mile from the Eskdale Hotel to the monument at an average  gradient of 16% so I was pleased to have taken exactly half an hour to get there. There is a nice neatness about it.

The sun was already getting a little lower in the sky so I didn’t dilly dally and was soon on my way down the track to the White Yett and the McDiarmid memorial.

McDiarmid Memorial

Beside the memorial there is a cairn with a cap of moss which invited a closer look.

cairn and moss

As I walked down the road to Whitshiels, the sun sank further and a gently golden light kissed the hills at the top of the valley.

Ewes valley sunset

As our friend Sue said the other day, the colours in winter can be just as rewarding as any other time of year.   If you choose the right day.

Ewes valley sunset

I kept an eye out for moss and enjoyed this collection of moss and lichen on a badly  decomposing fence post beside the road.

moss on fencepost

A group of horses caught the last rays of the sun as I  got near to the main road.

horses

I had hoped to be in time to take a picture or two of a rugby match at Miltown but the players were just trooping off the pitch as I came down the last stretch of hill.  A spectator leaving the game told me that Langholm had won by over 100 points.  Their opponents must have got quite discouraged.

The sun was on its last legs as I got back to the town but it gave me the chance for one last picture on my walk.

tree sunset

The walk turned out to be  exactly four miles and took me exactly an hour and a half so the whole excursion was mathematically very satisfying.

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had been very busy in my absence and the Christmas tree was back in its own home again.

Christmas tree

As it is Twelfth Night, that is as it should be.

The walk may have shaken down my lunch but sadly, although I thoroughly enjoyed the walk and didn’t cough at all, it didn’t do my chest much good so I am going for an early bed and hoping to get a good night’s sleep.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.  We had left for lunch before the sun got to the feeders so it is another impressionistic effort.

flying chaffinch

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