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Archive for the ‘Singing’ Category

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 who noticed these sculptures of  full stop on a recent visit to the South Bank of the Thames.

full stop sculpture

Our day looked like this when I got up…

burst

…but it had become rather cloudy by the time that we got to church….

sunday cloud

…and it had disappeared entirely by the time that we got out.

sunday mist

Rather disappointingly, the foggy conditions remained in place for the rest of the day and the temperature hardly rose above freezing.

At the church, the minister remarked during his sermon that it might be a good idea to pray for the church choir.  We didn’t entirely know how to take this.

When we had got back from church and a cup of coffee had found a good home, I set out for a short misty walk with the intention of taking some moody pictures.  This plan would have gone better if I had put a card in my camera.

The short walk became a very short walk and I arrived home in a disgruntled mood which was not helped by the continuing absence of birds at the feeder.

quiet feeder

However, on this occasion things did improve, and a couple of minutes later the first birds of the day arrived…

feeder visitors

…and it was not long…

busy feeder

…until enough had arrived to cause queues to form.

chaffinch queueing

There was soon quite a rush…

goldfmnch queueing

…and even a hint of arguments developing….

siskin and chaffinch

…but the rush soon evaporated and a few lonely chaffinches were left…

hanging on by toenails

…practising landings.

chaffinch nearly landinf

Still, the thing about chaffinches is that they like spreading their wings and thus make good subjects for a feeder photographer.

four chaffinch anel;

After lunch, we went off through the chilly mist to Carlisle for the weekly meeting of our Carlisle choir.  At one stage the mist threatened to become thick fog but it relented and by the time we got to Carlisle, it was brighter and there was no mist.

Our musical director had suffered a tyre blow-out on the motorway in Glasgow on her way to lead the practice.  She hadn’t come to any harm but was unable to get to us so our accompanist took the task on, playing and conducting simultaneously with great verve.

We worked hard for her and as a result, we had a most enjoyable sing.

I was a bit worried that we might have to face freezing fog on the way home but although the temperature was hovering around zero, there was only one small patch of mist and the drive back was not too bad at all.

We are going away tomorrow for a few days to visit Evie, our younger granddaughter, so posts will be potluck from the phone.

In the meantime, I was happy to find a genuine flying bird of the day today, even though the misty conditions didn’t let me get a crisp picture.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She was impressed by Mary Sibande’s exhibition ‘I Came Apart at the Seams’ on a visit to Somerset House.  If this picture is anything to go by, I can see why she liked it.

Mary Sibande, Somerset House

We had another grey and drizzly morning here and I had to put my umbrella up as I walked to church.  Mrs Tootlepedal is more carefree than I, so she cycled as usual. I enjoyed singing in the choir as the hymns were provided with nice straightforward bass parts which I could sing without worrying.  We had 10 in the choir today and our organist is hoping to start practising from next week with a view to an anthem or two.

We had coffee when we got home and then I checked on the birds.  Once again, there was very little light but at least there quite a few birds about today, both waiting on the walnut tree….

goldfinches in walnut tree

…and feeding on the feeder. In fact there were enough birds on the feeder for queues to form…

full feeder goldfinches

…though I was often not quite quick enough with my shutter finger to catch them in the air.

goldfinchlanding

I have lent my tripod to a friend who has gone off in the hope of seeing the Northern Lights so I am hand holding the camera.  This means that every time I look up from the viewfinder to see if a bird is coming, I just miss the one that has sneaked in.

late landers

I had more luck with a dunnock on the ground.

dunnock on tray

It was still drizzling and I thought that this pair of slightly bedraggled goldfinches summed up the day well.

two gloomy goldfinches

As regular readers will know, I have got a new coat (with pockets) so I thought that this dreich day might the ideal time to take it for a walk and try it out.

It really was a miserable day with absolutely no gap at all between the clouds and the ground.

mist on the hill scotts knowe

I walked along the track to the Becks Burn and noticed that there was still a lot of fruit on this tree…

fruit on tree january

…while the nearby apples had shed all theirs.

fruit on ground january

The apples must be very sour to have been left in peace by birds and animals.

People in towns and cities are often vexed by CCTV surveillance.  We have other methods of observation in the country.

sheep with horns becks

I was hoping to see fungi but these two small outbreaks on a pile of logs were all that I noticed.

siggy fungus becks

I crossed the Becks Burn by the bridge and took the road home.  In the hedgerow there was any amount of lichen…

mossy hedge

…and some haws as well.

wet hawthorn

As I got near to Pool Corner, the loud singing of a bird made me stop and look at the river.  As I thought, it was a dipper marking out its territory in song.

dipper inw auchope

A little further on, I found a patch of peltigera lichen on the wall looking very healthy.

peltigera lichen

My new coat kept the drizzle out very well and the pockets kept my camera and phone dry, so it passed the test.  In fact its only fault was that, if anything, it was too warm and I got gently cooked on my walk.  That is a fault on the right side, as they say.

After lunch, we set off for Carlisle where the Carlisle community Choir was having its first meeting of 2020.   During the last few months, the committee have been putting a lot of effort into encouraging more men to come and sing, and this paid off today in the shape of two new recruits to the tenor section.  We hope that they both enjoyed themselves enough to keep coming back.

We have a good range of music to sing in the forthcoming months and I am looking forward to learning new songs.

The forecast for the next two days is terrible so patient readers might have to wait a bit for some cheerful pictures.

The flying bird of the day is a  goldfinch battling through wind and rain to get to the feeder.

flying goldfinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony in East Wemyss, the land of eternal sunshine. It is not the sharpest picture that he has ever taken, but I thought that it was unusual enough to fill the guest spot.

forth sunset

We had a cool but sunny day here. The temperature was near enough to freezing when we went to church in the morning to persuade me to walk rather than cycle. Mrs Tootlepedal was braver and pedalled.

The choir had rather an adventurous time with some unfamiliar and unrehearsed hymns but fortunately the new minister sang the hymns quite loudly with his microphone turned well up, so there must have been some doubt as to whether anyone heard us anyway.

It was still fine when we got home, and this gave me the opportunity to watch some birds while cooking lentil soup for lunch.

An old friend was present…

robin

…and at least two of our dunnocks have avoided the cat peril…

dunnock on hedge

…and were happy to pose for me.

dunnock on twig

Three hungry goldfinches turned up but they were the only ones to arrive while I was watching.

three goldfinches

A jackdaw dropped in but didn’t stay.

jackdaw on pole

After we had eaten some soup for our lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went for a walk.

At three miles and mostly along the flat, it was less testing than yesterday’s outing but I was still very pleased to find that my feet were in full working order and carried me along without complaint.

Mrs Tootlepedal had some embroidery stuff to deliver to a friend and our route to her house took us along the river. Mrs Tootlepedal walked boldly under some alarmingly sloping trees, looking for all the world like Little Red Riding Hood going to visit her granny (only in blue of course).

Leaning trees

We crossed the Duchess Bridge and walked along the low road to Holmhead…

low road in winter sun

…and then to the North Lodge where the parcel was delivered.

I took the chance to go a few yards further on so that I could enjoy the view up the Esk valley…

looking up from North Lodge

…and note possibly the barest bare tree that I have ever taken a picture of.

totally bare tree

We walked back along the path above the Lodge Walks, enjoying the pines that are left when the spruces are felled…

pines after felling

There are a good variety of conifers left and we liked the different cones. I think that the one on the left might be Western Hemlock but I am not good at identifying trees.

two conifers

As we were sheltered from the breeze by the woods on our right, it was a fine afternoon for walking. Whita was looking at its best when we came to the end of the trees and got a clear view.

whita from Pathhead

There is not much colour about at the moment apart from green and brown, but a vibrant dogwood in a garden did its best to brighten things up.

dogwood

We came down the hill to the Sawmill Brig, where I was hoping to see a dipper but this little robin on the mossy parapet was the only bird about.

robin on sawmill brig

I had seen two dippers on the rocks beside the Kirk Brig when I came out of church in the morning but of course I had no camera with me then. It was annoying but typical that when I had a camera, the dippers were conspicuous by their absence.

After a few rainy days earlier on, the water in the rivers has dropped a lot and only half of the Sawmill Brig was needed to deal with the flow today.

sawmill brig low water

The white duck was floating quietly on the Ewes water as we went along the Kilngreen.

white duck

There had been dark talk of snow in the forecasts but there was no sign of it in Langholm and this impressive cloud was the nearest thing to bad weather that we got.

dark cloud

As our Carlisle Choir is on holiday for the next few weeks and Strictly Come Dancing has finished for the year, we were a bit short of entertainment for a Sunday so we went to Carlisle and paid another visit to the pictures.

We saw a well reviewed film called Knives Out. I was a bit doubtful about it when I found that it lasted for two hours which is a long time to sit around. However, my fears were misplaced and the film was great fun from first to last and the two hours sped by. The film was chock full with ideas, but even at two hours there was not enough room to develop them all, so many promising threads were discarded along the way. It must have been tough for the writer/director to know what to throw away as the film developed.

With a few more cold days to come, I am hoping to get more walking practice in during next week. Strike while the iron is cold is my motto.

A chaffinch appears as the flying bird of the day. I might have to adjust the feeder so that birds approach it into the sun!

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia.  She was delighted to spot a squirrel in her garden.  She points out that it was so cold that the squirrel was using its tail to keep its ears warm.

venetia's squirrel

It rained heavily here over night but it had stopped by the morning and we got a relatively calm day.  Along with the gentler winds, the temperature had dropped too and it was just over 3 degrees C at breakfast time.

My back had decided to sulk and it took me some time to get it loosened up but this did give me a moment to watch the birds.

The robin auditioned for the Christmas card spot…

robin on stalk

…and chaffinches approached the feeder with great concentration…

angel flying chaffinch

…and sometimes even with suspicion.

sloped flying chaffinch

The goldfinches were eating elsewhere today and we got a siskin instead.

siskin and other bird

A blue tit proved to be less sunflower seed orientated than the other birds and tried the fat balls and the peanuts as well as the seed.

blue tit on nuts and balls

By midday I had eased off my back enough to go out for a gentle stroll.

Our new minister was going to be inducted to the parish in the evening and the church heating was on as I went by.  I could only just restrain myself from saying, “Holy smoke!” as I passed.

holy smoke

In spite of the heavy overnight rain, the river was not high when I got to it, although there was enough water going down to make a decent ripple….

water in esk

…and the line of debris on the far bank suggested that it might have been quite high earlier on.

I walked down the river and came to my favourite piece of fencing at Land’s End.  The fence itself is unremarkable but it is home to a beautiful lichen which is really enjoying the present weather.  This little patch, about an inch across, was on the edge of a  bottom bar…

fence lichen land's end

…and a few yards further on, I found a bigger patch covering the whole width of a top bar.

fence lichen land's end 2

I approached Skippers Bridge from the north…

skippers in December

…and when I had crossed over and begun my walk back up the opposite side of the river. the sun came fully out and lit up Timpen Hill.

timpen from murtholm

Everything looked more cheerful in the sunshine and I marvelled at the intricate tracery of oak branches on one side of the track….

oak banches

…and the intricate tracery of the iron gates of the farmhouse on the other side.

murtholm gate

The sunshine even made a big puddle in the field look quite beautiful…

murtholm puddle with fence

…and the bare trees at the far end of the Murtholm looked delightful too.

trees at end of murtholm

As I came into the wood, a pigeon stood frozen under the trees.  It was quite happy to sit still and let me take its picture so I suspect that it may not have been very well.

pigeon in wood

I had a quick lunch when I got home and after checking that the temperature was still safely above freezing (it was 3.8°C), I went out for a short cycle ride.

I had originally planned to go a bit further but the late start to my walk and the brief afternoon light kept me down to 11 miles.  The light was still good for a while and gave the bulls at Wauchope Schoolhouse a golden gleam.

bullocks in golden sunshine

It began to cloud over though and as I passed Westwater, only a patch of larches was getting any sun.

larches at Westwater

I didn’t hang about as it was pretty cold with the sun behind the clouds and I was satisfied that I had least got some stretch into my legs.

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had pruned the roots of the Christmas tree and put it into its pot.  We will let it rest in the garage now until Christmas Eve.

christmas tree in pot

When I went inside, I spent about quarter of an hour on my bike to nowhere in the garage to make up for my short outdoor excursion.  To be honest, I could quite easily have done the extra quarter of an hour outside if I had wanted to as Mrs Tootlepedal went out and cycled about the town quite happily for a bit of exercise after we had had a cup of tea.

In the evening we went to church for the service of induction for our new minister.  The small church choir of nine, enhanced by four members of Langholm Sings, sang the Hallelujah Chorus as a processional to start the service off and all things considered, it went pretty well.

The induction service itself was a serious business and a lot of ministers from other churches in in the presbytery had come along to lend their support.  I had never been to such an event before and didn’t realise that both the minister and the congregation had to make solemn promises about belief and good behaviour before the minister could start work.  I hope that everybody sticks to their word.

We are keeping our fingers crossed that the weatehr and train services will let us go to Edinburgh tomorrow and visit Matilda.  Neither are very reliable at the moment.  There is even talk of snow.

The flying bird of the day is a curious chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest comes from our son Tony.  In spite of the endless sunshine, Christmas does come to East Wemyss and Tony likes to make good use of a log or two to welcome it.

Ant's snowman

The day started with a trip to church where we sang some cheerful hymns chosen by a visiting minister and followed that with a practice of the Hallelujah Chorus with which we are going to welcome our new permanent minister on Wednesday.

Mike reported that the Langholm Sings concert last night had gone well.  I had missed it because I was in Carlisle with my other choir, so that was good to hear because I don’t like missing concerts if I can help it.

We had a coffee when we got home and then I had a moment to look at the birds.  A goldfinch pointed out the the feeder was not in a satisfactory state after all the rain so I went out to shake it down and fill it up…

hollow in feeder

…after having had a conversation with our resident robin about which was its best side, this….

robin looking right

…or this?

robin looking left

When I had filled the feeder, goldfinches were slow to return.  This was a bit annoying because…

lone goldfinch

…the light was slightly better today…

goldfinch close up

…and there were a lot of goldfinches perching on our walnut tree and not coming to the feeder.

goldfinchs in waknut tree small group

And I mean a lot.

goldfinchs in waknut tree large group

I made some potato soup for lunch and while it was cooking, I had a damp walk round the garden.

This really is the last of the summer flowers…

last daisy

…though there are welcome signs of things to come next year…

new shoots

…and in the absence of flowers, there is always the chicken to admire.

topiary chicken december

Inside the house, Mrs Tootlepedal’s African violets continue to thrive.

african violet december

There was neither the time or the weather for a walk after lunch, as we had to go back to Carlisle, picking up a fellow choir member on the way, to sing in the second of our Carlisle Community Choir concerts.

This was a repeat of yesterday’s concert so I was able to correct yesterday’s errors and make a completely new set of mistakes today.  Nevertheless, it was enjoyable and well attended so the double concert was justified as it let more people enjoy the music than would have been possible with just one performance.  All the same, with three concerts and a church service in the past three days, I was quite pleased to get home and have a quiet sit down without having to worry about what I was going to sing the next day.

There is still a promise of sunshine tomorrow in the forecast so I am keeping my fingers crossed for an outing of some sort.

In spite of all the goldfinches in the walnut tree, this was the best that I could do for a flying bird today.

flying goldfinch observed

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Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie.  She and Joe took Evie to the children’s zoo at Battersea Park but as Evie fell asleep, Joe and Annie did most of the animal watching for her.

annies animal

I started the day with a visit to the producers’ market at the Buccleuch Centre where I made purchases of fish, honey and meat and ordered a capon for Christmas.  While I was there, I turned down a kind offer of a cup of coffee from Mike Tinker on the grounds that I was going cycling and had no time to spare.

Having spurned the coffee, I had no alternative but to turn my words into action so I wrapped up well when I got home, and went of for a twenty mile pedal round my well worn Canonbie route.

It was grey but dry and the brisk wind was coming from the best possible direction and it helped me more than it hindered me as I went along.

I kept an eye out for trees along the way and saw several.

These are the remains of an old hedge.

3 trees raehills

And this one has seen better days.

blasted tree

This one lives on the edge of the first hill after the Solway Plain and as a result knows the local south westerly wind very well.

tree chapelhill

It wasn’t a day for views and I  could hardly see England at all.

view from Tarcoon

My final tree was this impressive specimen at Woodhouselees near Canonbie

Woodhouselees trees

The recent rain had lent impetus to a little tributary of the Esk at the Hollows….

spout at Hollows

…but it has been pretty dry recently after a prolonged period with an easterly wind, so there was not a great deal of water coming down the river.

esk at Hollows

There was enough though to keep the Archimedes Screw at the mill turning over sweetly, making green energy with little fuss.

archimedes screw

W hen I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had dug up the Christmas tree ready to be brought into the house when Christmas Eve comes for another festive scene .

Christams tree dug up

I had timed my bike ride well as the weather  got steadily worse as the day went on and by the time that we went to Carlisle in the afternoon for the first of our two choir concerts it had turned into a horrible day.

Luckily, as is often the case, the weather in Carlisle itself was better and we were able to get a little shopping done before going to the warm up and concert performance.  We usually have a primary school choir performing with us and this tends to add good numbers to our audience.  Unfortunately on this occasion the children weren’t able to be there as their conductor had suffered a family crisis and was called away.

Nevertheless we got a good audience (i.e. more than there were singers in the choir and we are a big choir) and they received our singing enthusiastically.  St Cuthbert’s Church is a good place to sing and as it is the custom of our choir directors to have short concerts, both the audience and the choir members left the church in a very good mood.  The choir are going to do it all again tomorrow afternoon in a different venue.

The Christmas lights outside St Cuthbert’s Church, which have been silver angels in previous years, are golden kings this year.

St Cuthberts Kings

I counted them and I think that there are three.

I think that the brisk wind must have kept the birds away from the feeder today as I hardly saw any birds at all, let along a flying bird, so a greedy goldfinch, trying to get a big beakful of seeds, is the non flying bird of the day today.

goldfinch

The weather forecast is terrible for tomorrow, Sunday, but we might get a bit of sun on Monday. 

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