Archive for the ‘Tootling’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from our neighbour Bruce.  He had ventured as far as Aberdeen where he saw this pillar box.  Reading the crest on the front which says Edward VII,  he reckons that it has been standing there for over 100 years.

aberdeen postbox

After some slightly warmer weather, we reverted to type and it  struggled to get over 5°C and because the air was quite damp and the wind was coming from the north east, it felt quite chilly all day.

But it was dry and the wind was light so I got out the fairly speedy bike to have a last ride on it before it went in for its service.  We had plans for the afternoon so I rather boringly went round my customary short 20 mile run through Canonbie.  Since the route was familiar and the skies were leaden, I didn’t intend to stop to take pictures but I almost always carry my camera and I couldn’t pass these characters at Canonbie without stopping for a snap.

canonbie cow

canonbie cow

And my favourite….

canonbie cow

…there is an eye there if you look very closely.

I had just arrived home when the minister, with his coffee radar in perfect working order, arrived.  He told us that he had done a 60 mile sportive in Yorkshire on Saturday and considering that he has done hardly any miles on his bike this winter, he was very pleased to have got round in good shape and at a decent speed.  Kudos to him.

When he left, I had to clean my bike to make it respectable enough to go to the bike shop and then I cleaned the bird feeders and then took a moment or two to look around.

However, the light was so poor and the flowers in such a sulk that there was nothing to see so we went off for our outing.  We combined dropping off the bike at the bike shop with a visit to a garden centre for lunch and then a bird feed emporium to buy more seed.

I took the opportunity to buy a new helmet when I was in the bike shop.  I tried many helmets on but they didn’t fit at all well and woggled about on my pointy head.  In the end, the only one that fitted well and was light and comfortable was also among the most expensive.  I bought it anyway because a comfortable and light helmet is worth a lot

When we got home, I had another look around and this time there were many frogs to be seen.


And a lot of frogs spawn.


Mrs Tootlepedal embarked on some gardening work and I tested the compost in Bin D to see if it would sieve.  It did and I was able to spread a little about on one of Mrs Tootlepedal’s new beds.

Mrs Tootlepedal reported that the sparrowhawk had paid three visits to the garden in the morning so it was not surprising that there weren’t a lot of birds about today.  One blackbird caused a stir when it flew up on to the kitchen windowsill and stuck there, frozen into immobility.  Even the arrival of the window cleaners couldn’t persuade it to move and in the end Mrs Tootlepedal went out and shifted it by hand.

blackbird on windowsill

On a nearby bench, another blackbird expressed concern.


I don’t know what had happened to it.  It wasn’t trembling and I wonder if it had seen its own reflection in the window and was baffled about what was happening and where to go.  It flew out of Mrs Tootlepedal’s hand so it wasn’t fatally injured.

The few male chaffinches which came to the feeders were looking very bright.

chaffinch and siskin


But they were not as bright as some gaudy primroses which Mrs Tootlepedal purchased the other day and which are waiting to go into the garden.


The colour will be very welcome.

In the evening, my flute pupil Luke came and we had a good time playing a Haydn sonata.

After tea, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel and although as Isabel put it, we had some room for improvement, we enjoyed the playing a lot.

The absence of birds and the gloomy light made finding a flying bird of the day very hard and this was the best that I could manage.

chaffinch and siskin








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Today’s guest picture puts our recent snow here into perspective.  It was sent to me by Lucie from Manitoba and it shows an unwelcome late and heavy fall of snow which was making life hard for birds on her feeder.

snow in manitoba

We had another chilly day today but it didn’t rain and the sun came out for a while so we were quite pleased about that.

As Sandy is a bit poorly at the moment, I took his turn to fill the feeders at the Moorland Project feeder station.  Mrs Tootlepedal came with me and while she sat in the car and scanned the skies in vain for hen harriers, I looked for smaller birds from the hide.

tits at Laverock hide

Great tit, coal tit and blue tit complete a set.


The one glimpse of a woodpecker that I got


A male chaffinch


And another one

flying chaffinch

And one of a lot of flying chaffinches catching the morning sun

Mrs Tootlepedal may not have seen any raptors but she did get a good view of an impressive cloud behind Whita.


We got home in good time for a cup of coffee and a slice of walnut and banana loaf and then I did the crossword until the day had got warm enough to make for inviting cycling.

The garden birds were not as co-operative as the moorland birds had been and indeed, some of them indulged in behaviour that can only be described as very, very childish.

birds' bums

There is no need for that sort of thing at all.

I left them to themselves and went to look for frogs.  There were a lot in the pond.


For some reason the light was perfect for reflections today.

Although it wasn’t very warm and the sun wasn’t very bright, the crocuses were responding to the better weather.

In the end, I ran out of excuses for not cycling and wrapped myself up as warmly as I could and set out to do a thirty mile circle avoiding as many potholes as I could.

I paused for a moment by a bridge not far from home to adjust a wrinkle in my many layers and was impressed by the variety of life to be seen on it.


There was still a lot of snow beside the back roads….

gair road

…and indeed there is more piled up there than in the neighbouring fields.


But the roads were mostly dry and while the sun was out, it was a pleasure to be cycling.  Once the sun went in before the halfway mark, it was much chillier and I kept going rather than stopping to take a lot of pictures.

At 17 miles, I was thinking that I wasn’t anything like as fit as I would have liked to be but when i turned for home, I discovered that I had been so well wrapped up that I hadn’t realised just how strong the wind was.  It blew me home in a very satisfactory manner.

By the time that I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal had gone off to catch the train to Edinburgh to see Matilda.

I made a sausage stew for my tea.  That sounds a bit basic but if you dignify it with the name of sausage casserole or even sausage cassoulet (it had beans in it), it sounds a bit classier.  It tastes just the same though.

The reason that I did not go with Mrs Tootlepedal to Edinburgh was that it was a recorder day and in the evening, Susan came round and she drove us to Carlisle where we enjoyed a good evening of music with our recorder group.

This has been a rather perfunctory description of a very enjoyable day but it was quite late by the time that we got back from Carlisle and I am a bit tired so I apologise.

Because the garden birds were so uncooperative, I did think of using a frog as the flying bird of the day today just to teach them a lesson…


…but I found that I had got a reasonable flying chaffinch from our morning visit to the Laverock Hide.

So here it is, the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch



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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia’s trip to Yellowstone.


Although when we woke up, there was still a lot of snow about in the garden today…

snowy garden

…with a bit of luck there will be a lot more green about when we wake up tomorrow as the temperature hit 7°C by the afternoon and should stay above freezing all night.  If the forecast rain arrives, most of the snow should be gone soon.

I was able to walk up to the Archive Centre after breakfast to do a meter reading without treading on any snow in the streets and Dropscone also did the same when he came round for coffee.  He had used some Irish flour left over from his holiday for his scones and it produced very tasty results.

During the morning, the dam bridge was the scene of great activity.

First men cleared the snow…


…and then they trampled about in a reflective way before deciding that the hard core laid by the builders before the snow had now belied its name and become so soft that it all had to be dug up.


This didn’t take long and soon a large lorry was disgorging barrow loads of tarmac which were spread, rolled,  spirit levelled and rolled again….


…until the bridge looked like this.


All it needs now is some railings and we will get our street back again.

During the morning, we also got some birds back in the garden in spite of the noise from the bridge builders.

After some almost totally chaffinch days, we got a better variety of visitors.

green finch



There were quite a few chaffinches still, with this one looking a bit disgruntled about the fair weather visitors, I thought.


The amount of wet weather that we have had over the recent years can be gauged by the quantity of moss on the plum tree branches.  The whole garden is getting gradually covered in moss.

A number of chaffinches both female….

flying chaffinches

…and male…


…made spirited efforts to win the coveted title of flying bird of the day.

After lunch, I rang up Sandy to suggest a walk only to find that he had been laid low by a bad cold.  I had had an ambitious walk in mind but under the circumstances, I just went out for my familiar short three bridges stroll.

I had hoped to see herons, dippers, wagtails, ducks and gulls but in the end only saw mallards…


…who seem to be pairing up for the spring…


…and a good supply of black headed gulls, some of whom are beginning to show where they get their name from.

Most of them were playing musical fence posts….


…but some flew about in a more helpful way.

black headed gull

It is interesting (to me) to see how differently coloured the same sky is when photographed  from the same spot within minutes.  A few degrees of turn from the photographer is all it takes.

The thaw is producing odd results.  In this view….


…the grass was green and the hill was white but further along my walk….


…the grass was white and hill was green.

The hint of blue sky in the first picture was just that, a hint and didn’t come to anything sadly.

Snowdrops along the Lodge walks have emerged more or less unscathed from under the snow .


I didn’t linger long on my walk as the going was often rather unattractively slushy underfoot so I passed up many moss opportunities but this lichen garden on a single branch stopped me in my tracks.


When I got home, I noticed that, like the snowdrops, a daffodil in our garden which had been in flower before the snow came had survived to bloom another day.


I was unaccountably tired when I got in and was not as disappointed as I would normally have been to find that our usual Monday night trio playing had been cancelled as Isabel, like Sandy, had a cold.

We really need some warm, sunny weather and soon.

My flute pupil Luke came and he too was suffering a bit from the long spell of miserable weather and we were not at our best.

In spite of the efforts of the chaffinches, a black headed gull appears as flying bird of the day.

black headed gull




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Today’s guest picture is a beautiful shot of the little lake in Regents Park.  My sister Mary took it on her way to play tennis at the weekend and remarked that it looked very spring-like in spite of being partially frozen.

Looking spring-like in spite of partially frozen lake

We had another dry, chilly day here without much sun to cheer us up so it felt cold.  There were even one or two desultory snowflakes but they came to nothing.

The dam bridge repair man was back and busy and by lunchtime, the bridge looked like this…

dam bridge repairs

…ready for the final finishing touches in the next day or two, weather permitting.

The forecast is very dramatic, talking of low temperatures and deep snow but at present our part of the country looks as though it might get off lightly.  We live in hope.

After breakfast, I cracked open my piggy bank (into which I put small denomination coins which otherwise would put an intolerable strain on my trouser pockets) and was able to take a couple of pounds worth of coppers round to our local shop who still need them for change.

I had a moment to look out of the window after that.

A goldfinch appeared but it was the only one that I saw today…


….and a greenfinch flew in.


Then it was time to welcome Dropscone for coffee.  He has returned safely from his holiday in the very south of Ireland where he and two of his children had had a good time going about and seeing the sights.

Not only was he welcome back in his own right but the fact that he brought scones with him was the metaphorical icing on the cake.  I had butter and blackcurrant jelly on mine.

While we were sipping and chatting, we had another visitor.


The fact that the sparrowhawk stopped for a picture meant that it had successfully nipped one of our other visitors off the feeder.  I have cropped the picture because it is too sad to view the reality however much it is just part of the natural cycle.

Later on, after coffee, I saw a most unusual burst of colour in the plum tree.  A closer look showed me that it was a male bullfinch.  It stayed on the plum tree for long enough for me to get the big lens and take its picture.


You might well think that such a magnificent little bird would be welcome but what it is doing in the plum tree is pecking off the shoots and eating them.

bullfinch panel

Left alone a bullfinch and its pals will strip a tree so rather ungratefully after taking its picture, I went out and shooed it away.  I like bullfinches but I like plums more.  This particular bird, having taken off a shoot, had the cheek to drop it as you can see in third picture in the panel above.

I spent some time after all this avian excitement in not quite getting a flying chaffinch picture right.

flying chaffinches

I took a stroll round the garden and was impressed by the hardiness of our small bunch of early daffodils.  We will need a few more before they can be considered a ‘host of golden daffodils’ but they are trying.


The crocuses were keeping themselves to themselves, huddled against the cold but I liked the picture that this small bunch on the drying green made.



After lunch, I went out for a short ten mile bike ride on my slow bike.   My plan was to go as slowly as was reasonable to avoid increasing the wind chill factor too much.

Although it was very chilly, the roads were dry and there was no danger of frost.  At one point on my way up the road, I heard a clink, as though something had fallen off my bike but a quick check told me that my bike was still all there. It was only when I went to look in my mirror before turning at Callister that I realised that it was the mirror that had fallen off.

I put my failure to notice this down to the extreme cold which had obviously numbed my brain.

I turned and pedalled back looking anxiously for any trace of the mirror but I fear that a passing car must have run over it and spun it off into the verge because there was no sign of it at all.

Ah well.

I made a tomato, potato and feta bake for my tea to cheer myself up

And to make things even better, I had a musical evening as first my flute pupil Luke came and then, after tea, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.   The trios were great fun and I hardly noticed the cold as I walked home.

I did catch one flying chaffinch without a feeder in front of it and it is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch



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Today’s guest picture comes from former Archive Group member Ken who has gone back to the east coast where he is celebrating the twentieth birthday of the ‘Angel of the North’.

angel of the north

It didn’t snow today.  This was quite unexpected but to make up for it, a shrewd and biting wind made going outside a bit of a trial.

I had to go out after breakfast for a final visit to the health centre for a look at the scratches and grazes on my arms from the bike tragedy.  Like my face, they have healed up well and I was pronounced fully cured and discharged.  Hooray, I can have a bath or shower at last.

It was sunny when I walked across the suspension bridge on my way to the centre and I spotted four white dots on the river gravel.  I only had my phone with me and this is what it saw.

oyster catchers

If you look carefully at the end of the gravel, you can just make out that the white dots are four oyster catchers, the first that I have seen this year.

To our great relief, the bridge builders returned and started work….

dam bridge repairs

…..and to our great amazement, a new tea shack and office appeared as well.

dam bridge repairs

Upon enquiry, it turned out that the junior worker had broken the key in the door yesterday and so great was the security of the triple lock that the whole container had to be taken away to get it opened up again.  Meanwhile, a substitute had been delivered.

On my way back into the house, I walked past a pile of stones in our back garden which had come from the repairs to our house wall three years ago.  It shows how well moss grows in our climate.

moss in garden

The roads were still icy in places so I stayed in and got my bigger lens out and peered at the birds through the kitchen window.




A lot of siskins turned up after a while and started quarelling.


Rather annoyingly, our water supply first reduced itself to a trickle and then gave up entirely.  Water is one of those things that you don’t realise how much you need until you don’t have them.

We naturally assumed that it was the bridge builders who had done it since they cut the pipe not long ago but they protested their innocence and it was true that the pipe looked untouched.  In the end, a water board man came round in the early evening and solved the problem by turning on a stopcock which a person or persons unknown had turned off at the end of our road.   First our phone and then our water.  Can we put out a plea for people not to turn off our utilities.

Anyway, while we were waiting for the water board man to come, I went shopping in the town and then took a diversion on the way home.

I got a rather distant view of a single oyster catcher as I went along the river.

oyster catcher

I was disappointed that the other three had gone somewhere else.

I am learning how varied mosses are and trying to find out what to look for in a moss so I was pleased to find a good example of two different sporangia side by side on the Castleholm wall.

moss  sporangia

The ones on the left, standing up and brown and the ones on the right, hanging down and green.    I still can’t tell you what the mosses are but it is a start.

There were ferns on the wall too.

fern sporangia in sori

This might be a broad buckle fern but there are a lot to pick from.

Later on, I saw some ferns on a tree.  They look similar but when you look again, you see that they might be different.

fern and sori

This might be Dryopteris carthusiana,  spinulose woodfern, but then again, it might not be.

I am having a lot of fun looking at mosses and ferns and lichen.

I realise that not all readers might share my enthusiasm but when you are retired, you have plenty of time to look around.


Oh look, some more mosses, one creeping along the wall with stealthy fingers and one standing up straight with interesting cups.

It was pretty chilly….

snow on Timpen

….so I didn’t dawdle too much but I did stop for some snowdrops near the Lodge….

snowdrops castleholm

….and a hint of spring.

hazel catkin and bud

We were very pleased when our water came back on and we were able to do the washing up and make a cup of tea.

I went out as usual to take a picture of the bridge works at the end of the working day.  They are busy preparing to connect the bridge to the existing road.

dam bridge repairs

In the evening I drove to Carlisle to play with our recorder group.  Susan didn’t come with me as she is preparing to go to Ireland with her father and some of her siblings for a holiday tomorrow.   I hope to get a picture of two from them while they are away.

The recorder playing was most enjoyable as Heather brought her keyboard round with her and we played sonatas for two or three players and B.C. instead of our usual consort music.

It made a refreshing change.

I was so busy peering closely at the birds today that I forgot to take a good flying bird of the day and this was the best that I could find when I looked on the camera card.

flying chaffinch

And I cycled two hundred yards to the shop and back, the first time I have been on a bike for a fortnight.  The shop was closed by the time that I got there but I enjoyed the cycle ride!


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My South African correspondent, Tom, thought that it was time to make the blog more attractive to the wider public so he has sent me this delectable picture of bare flesh.  They have to put up with a lot of fine weather down there.


There was once again no danger of sunburn in Langholm as the temperature stayed near freezing all day.

I had to go back to the health centre to get the dressings on my scratches from the bike crash changed again.  Things are healing up very nicely though and I should be be clear of sticking plaster by the end of the week with luck.

After his own spell of illness, Scott, the minister, proved that he had got his coffee radar working well again and appeared for a visit just as coffee was on the go.  He is a keen cyclist and in view of the continuing bad weather, he has taken out a gym membership and had been spinning away in the gym before he came to see us.  I am thinking about the possibility of going to the gym.  But only thinking about it.

We had a look at progress on the dam bridge repair while he was with us.

dam bridge repairs

The concrete has set well and the big concrete beams were being lowered into place.

After Scott left, I made some vegetable soup for lunch and kept an eye on the birds while it was cooking.

Sometimes I wonder if there are more interesting things going on round the back of the feeder than at the front.


I have put out some ground level food and it is beginning to attract some customers.

blackbird and dunnock

A blackbird and a dunnock test out the new treat.

Two greenfinches arrived and showed magnificent disdain for the attempt by a chaffinch to unsettle them.

blacgreenfinches and chaffinch

And we were pleased to see a random great tit.

great tit

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal set about stripping the old varnish off the dining room table and I went out for a walk.

I stopped at Pool Corner to show the sluice and caul that provide the water for the dam (and create the pool that gives Pool Corner its name)…

pool corner and the dam

…and while I was leaning on the wall and contemplating life, a dipper flew in and posed briefly for me.

dipper at Pool Corner

I walked up the Hallcrofts road to have a look at the progress of the felling at the Becks wood.  It is extensive.

Becks wood felling

You can click on the photo to get the bigger picture if you want.

A skilful combination of man and machine was adding to the already enormous pile of logs beside the road.


On a wall nearby, I studied a strand of moss and thought how much it resembled a conifer tree in miniature.

moss strand

I had checked the forecast before I had set out and it offered only a very small chance of any rain and I suppose it was right in a way as I had dry spells and I also went through a couple of heavy hail showers but it never actually rained.

sunshine and hail

Taken a twenty minutes apart

At least the hail stopped and looked good on some clumps of moss.

hail on moss

Although I am mostly thinking about moss, I haven’t lost my taste for lichens and fungus.

The lichen on the fence post at the Auld Stane Bridge was looking very healthy.  The red spots are so tiny that I didn’t see them until I looked at the picture on my computer.


And there was a good set of birch polypores beside the river as I went along Gaskell’s Walk.

birch polypore

After the hail showers, i would have been more appreciative if the sun had shone on me rather than on nearby hills…

sun on hill

…but at least it stayed dry for the rest of my walk.

Following some recent advice I looked at the sori on the back of ferns…

fern sori

…and following my own inclinations, I was impressed by the variety of moss within a square yard on the park wall.


The dam bridge repairs are now a spectator sport…..

dam bridge repairs

…and they are a subject of considerable interest in our neighbourhood.

I was a little tired today after all the excitements of going to Manchester yesterday so I was not as unhappy as I might have been to find that the usual Monday evening trio playing had been cancelled.  My flute pupil Luke came though and we had an enjoyable time working on a sonata so it wasn’t a totally tootle free day.

We noticed with sinking heart a telephone engineer climbing the pole outside our house in the late afternoon and were very relieved when he did what he had to do without cutting off our phone line this time.

When the workers had left, I popped out to record their progress on the bridge repair.  They and their machines had worked hard today.

dam bridge repairs

The forecast is for more strong winds, low temperatures and possible snow so I don’t think I am going to be able to test my cycling appetite and abilities for a few days yet.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch in expansive mood,

flying goldfinch




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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew, who found some nice light in a quarry on a walk at Little Eaton.

Andrew's quarry

The main excitement of the day was caused by the arrival of workmen who are going to replace the bridge over the dam in the street outside our house. Our road will be shut for a month.

Dam bridge repair

The road is closed to traffic and pedestrians and it gives us a great talking point.

They soon got to work outside and in the meantime, Mrs Tootlepedal got to work inside the house on giving the kitchen a thorough clean.

Under these circumstances, I thought it better not to get in anyone’s way and went off for a walk.  It was dry, reasonably bright and just above freezing so it was a good day for me to check to see if my recent bike folly had given me any aches and pains that hadn’t come to light yet.

I chose a three mile route with a little uphill road work and some gentle contouring round a hillside and this let me know that all my moving parts were in very good order.

This was a relief.

It also gave me the opportunity to have a look around as I went along.

There were gulls….


….and interesting walls, fence posts and some hair ice as I walked along the main road.

moss and hair ice

Once I turned up hill on the Newcastleton road,  I began to get views…

View of ewes in winter

….with the occasional glimpse of snow and windmills….

View of esk valley

….which were made better by seeing that down below to the south, The Solway was swathed in mist.

mist over Solway

I kept an eye on fence posts for interesting mosses and lichens but in the end, the most interesting thing that I saw was a fence post….

knothole with moss

….though it was amazing that moss had  found space to grow in the tiny cracks in the knothole.

I walked along the hill.

It is a mystery that while some hawthorns have been stripped of berries, others remain with a good crop still attached.


I had a look down at the town….

Langholm from Whita

….and then walked towards it.

As I came off the hill to go past the golf course, my eye was drawn to a mossy wall.

mossy wall

Closer examination revealed that there was a lot of lichen on the wall as well as moss…

lichen and moss

…and by far the most striking thing to be seen was a bright red display of cladonia lichen.

cladonia lichen

I think this is British Soldier lichen, Cladonia Cristatella.


The views were still good as I came down the Kirk Wynd and the sun came out to make it very pleasant day.

Looking towards Peden's view

I thought that I had seen some unusual moss on a stone but when I looked again, it seemed more likely to be some sort of sedum.


By the time that I got home, the bridge mending team had got well stuck into the task.

dam bridge repair

The disturbance from the work had kept the birds away in the early morning but as I made some soup for lunch, they returned to the feeder….

busy feeder

….in enough numbers to  make some shouting inevitable.


After lunch, I had to visit the health centre to get some modest scrapes checked to see that they were healing nicely.  They were but another visit later in the week is still needed.

When I got home again, I found that the eager bridge repair men had dug so vigorously that they had cut through our water pipe.  Mrs Tootlepedal had warned them about where it was but they had preferred to rely on the water board’s view that it was somewhere else.

A water board man appeared and mended the pipe.  Mrs Tootlepedal felt slightly smug.

I visited a neighbour with a bird feeder for her to try out, as she has found that jackdaws eat all her bird food almost as soon as she puts it out.  I got rewarded with a cup of coffee and two chocolate biscuits.  I may have to go back soon and check how it is doing.

In the evening, my flute pupil Luke came and we had a play.  I was pleased to see that I was able to play the flute even though I had bruised my mouth a bit and so after tea,  I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.

None of the three of us are in peak condition at the moment so we didn’t play at our best by any means but the session was still very enjoyable.

The flying bird of the day really is a flying bird today.  It is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch



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