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Posts Tagged ‘apple blossom’

The guest picture of the day comes from Gavin who has deserted the wild woods of Yosemite and taken to the groves of Academe at Stanford University.

stanford university

We were expecting wet weather today but in spite of a gloomy forecast, it remained pretty dry and this would have been more welcome if it hadn’t come with a drop in the temperature and a very nagging and cold wind.

Under these conditions I took my cue from the celebrated Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator, who became famous for hanging around doing nothing during the Second Punic War.  He was an amateur compared with me this morning.

I stirred myself a bit after lunch and went out into the garden where the sun was shining and Mrs Tootlepedal was quietly snoozing in the warmth of the greenhouse.

I looked at the tulips which were glowing in the sunshine.

tulips

Peered inside one.

tulip

Dark secrets

Admired the wide spreading petals of another group….

tulips

…but realised that in the prevailing brisk winds, this broadness is just a prelude to tulip death.

daff and tulip

A morose daffodil and wind blown tulip reminisce over those great days in the garden that are now gone for ever.

There are hundreds of daffodils in the garden and the cool weather means that they have lasted very well but there are still a lot that need dead heading every day so I did my rounds and then went back to see Mrs Tootlepedal.

I disturbed her by mowing the grass round the greenhouse.   When she emerged into the real world, we set about simultaneously narrowing the raspberry bed and widening the path beside it in the vegetable garden.

Having achieved this, we went inside for a cup of tea.

On my way, I had a check on the espalier apples.

apple blossom

It is nearly apple blossom time.

Unlike me, the birds were very active again today.

We had two very occasional visitors, a starling early in the day….

starling

…and a greenfinch a little later on.  It seemed to spend more time flying away than coming…

greenfinch

…but it managed to fit in a nibble or two.

greenfinch

While i was having my cup of tea in the afternoon, a flock of birds descended on the feeders.  I tried to see how many flying birds I could get in one shot.

busy feeder

Four and a half in this shot

busy feeder

Five in this shot

busy feeder

And seven in this shot

Several threatening clouds rushed by without raining on us so I thought that I would cycle round to the Jubilee Bridge to see if I could see the nuthatches.

When I got there, I could hear them but I couldn’t see them.

I spent so long waiting that the light had gone for taking any bird pictures by the time that I cycled back past the Kilngreen so I contented myself with a picture of the poplars on the river bank below the suspension bridge…

poplars

…and came home again.

The light perked up for a moment and I looked at the rosemary bush…

rosemary

A decent close up of the flowers still eludes but I will keep trying.

Mrs Tootlepedal went out to a celebration dinner for one of her ex work colleagues in the evening and I relaxed again.  I felt surprisingly tired considering my quiet day but the wind is going to drop tomorrow so I hope that my day of rest will have put me in good fettle for a cycle ride.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

siskin

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Today’s guest picture shows the wonderful “Trees” in the Gardens by the Bay, Singapore.  It was taken by Mike Tinker on his way home from NZ.

Singapore treesWe had a very welcome day with lots of sun and no rain.  It even felt pleasantly warm if you could get out of the wind.  The down side, as you will gather, was that the wind continued to blow.

I managed to get out out on the bike and I set off after breakfast with an elastic view of how far I might go.  After a week off the bike thanks to the weather, my knee wasn’t very happy at all at first but it soon remembered that it enjoyed cycling and settled down to some steady, painless work.  I was less happy than my knee though and after 12 miles of being buffeted by the wind, I gave up and came home.

I went out past Paddockhole and when I saw a bright yellow field there….

Paddockhole field…I thought it was some early buttercups but on examination, it turned out to be a field of dandelions.  They have really enjoyed the cool spring and are to be seen everywhere.

When I got home, I had a wander round the garden to see if the sunny day had brought on some flowers.  It had.

Rhododendron

Two Rhododendrons were out, one big and one small.

geum and clematis

Some geums are out under the feeder and the clematis at the back door is just starting to flower.

Established flowers were enjoying the sun too.

rhododendron and rosemaryBut the star of the day was one of the last of the tulips.

yellow tulipI had a check on the apple blossom and the insects were obviously embarrassed by making an old age pensioner go round with a brush yesterday so they were out in force today.

apple blossom

Plenty of pollen.

We have hung one of the old feeders on the variegated elder outside the sitting room window so Granny can enjoy watching the birds without me standing in front of her with a camera.  The birds soon found it…

granny's feeder…and she was well entertained.  Every now and again she would cry out, “Big bird!” and on one occasion, I managed to catch the big bird before it flew off.

rookRooks are very impressive and could easily rule the world if they were aware of their powerful image.

The starlings keep trying the new feeder but it doesn’t give them enough to hang onto and they have to flap like the clappers to stay on for long enough to get something to eat.

starlingMrs Tootlepedal made an excellent pan of mushroom soup for lunch which Granny enjoyed a lot.  After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal did some serious pruning of the potentillas along the back wall of the house and I helped by putting some of the prunings though our shredder.

The aubretia beside the dam is looking delightful.

aubretiaWhile I was going to and fro with the shreddings, I saw what I think must be a dunnock having a really good spring clean and shake out.

dunnockIt was too good an afternoon to hang around though so I pedalled off to the Kilngreen and Castleholm on the slow bike in pursuit of dippers.  I didn’t see  a single dipper and saw but failed to take a photograph of two nuthatches who were making a lot of noise on a tree near the bridge.  A chaffinch was sitting on a branch above my head and laughing at me.

chaffinchI pedalled on to the Jubilee Bridge and waited for a blue tit to appear at the nest hole.  This time I was more fortunate.

blue titTwo of them came and went several times but they tended to coincide with passers by engaging me in conversation and that was my best effort.

I cycled back to the Kilngreen, pausing for another fruitless dipper watch on the way.

Mr Grumpy was posing on the water’s edge…

heron…but there was not much else of avian interest so I looked up the Esk…

View of esk…and then cycled home, stopping on the town bridge to look down the Esk.

Suspension bridge in SpringTwo ducks were swimming upstream, feeding as they went.

ducksIn the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I left Granny to her own devices (watching the Chelsea Flower Show on the telly mostly) and went off to the penultimate rehearsal of our Langholm choir before our two concerts at the end of the month.

We worked hard and although our performances at the concerts will not be flawless, they will be all the better for a good two hour’s work tonight.

The flying bird of the day is a herring gull, high over the river at the Kilngreen.

herring gull

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Today’s guest picture is a very nice clematis in Manitoba sent to me from across the pond by Mary Jo.  She tells me that they are expecting snow.  It has not been a good spring here or there.

clematisWe had another fine day today but with a strong and chilly wind still very much in evidence.  I spent most of the day keeping out of the wind.  Dropscone helped me by dropping in for coffee and he was rewarded with several sticks of rhubarb of which is fond.

When he left, I girded up my loins and went outside to mow all three lawns.  I had just finished when I was visited by Mike Tinker, his son -in-law, Lorne and two of his grandchildren.  Sara and William immediately headed for the pond and were delighted to be able to surprise a frog while Mike, Lorne and I considered the state of the world in general and the lawns in particular.  I was bemoaning the fact that I no longer have the capacity to properly spike the lawn when Lorne offered to come down and spike it for me in the autumn.   It would be wonderful if he did.  Having a lawn spiked by someone called Lorne would be a clear case of nominative determination (and jolly useful too).

When they left, I had a wander round the garden.

lithodoraIn spite of things being very backward because of the cool spring, there is colour be seen and my currant favourite is this lithodora.  The blue flowers seem to float above the dark green foliage.

Brasher colours are to be seen too.

king cups and hyacinthSadly a couple of very cold mornings a week or so ago have put paid to two of our azaleas and killed off every bud.

azalea and rhodieSome have survived though and a rhododendron is just about to burst into flames.

After lunch, I spent a little time watching the bird feeders.

goldfinch

A goldfinch is thoroughly disgusted by another goldfinch doing acrobatic tricks with a siskin by perching on its beak.

goldfinches

Two calmer goldfinches itting for their portraits

Then Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Canonbie, where she had one or two items entered in a WRI competition and I went for a walk.  I was looking to see if the bluebells had improved at all but there were many other things to look at on the way.

Murtholm trees

The trees along the Murtholm fields.

swallows

Swallows flitting up the Esk. It is amazing what a difference a slight turn of the camera makes to the light.

The bluebells, when I got to them, were good but not great…

bluebellsbluebells…and I thought that the walk along the main road to get to them was just as rewarding visually.

A7I walked back over Skippers Bridge and took the obligatory picture.  This time, I looked downstream.

The EskAnd then I climbed up a path to the old railway line above the river.  There is a handy rail for the convenience of elderly walkers.

Skippers pathI took the path from the railway up towards the Round House…

Path to Round House…and then strolled back down the hill into the town.  Beside the track, I saw the first broom flower that I have seen this year. It was about to open.

broomA few yards further on, I saw two that had opened.

broomFurther on still, I had another look at the flowering nettle which I have photographed before without doing it justice.  This is one of those tiny flowers that you might well pass by without noticing it, if you hadn’t had your eyes opened by walking around with a camera.  I find it hard to capture yellow flowers well but this was my best effort yet.

nettleI went down to the river in the hope of seeing some interesting water birds on my way home but had to make do with some flowers beside the water.

cornflower and pinkbellWhite bluebells are quite common but I don’t think that I have seen a pink one before.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal had returned and I was able to eat a couple of slices of her third-prize winning tea loaf with my refreshing cuppa.  It was delicious.  The first and second prizewinners must have been really good stuff.  I was also pleased to see a bee hard at work among the apple blossom.

bee in apple blossomIn the evening, I went off by myself to the Buccleuch Centre to hear a band called Elbow Jane play.  There was much to admire about them; their sound level was very reasonable, the bass and drum players were efficient and discreet and the three front men were all good musicians.  On the other side of the coin, their set went on too long, and their singing was a bit relentless so in the end it rather felt as though you had been shouted at for two hours.  As well as their own songs, they covered Paul Simon, The Beatles, Credence Clearwater Revival and Joni Mitchell which gives a good indication of their influences and although it is music that I like, they never really managed to bring an involuntary smile to my face or get my toe tapping for long.  Still, a live concert 300 metres from your front door is always a bonus and I enjoyed myself.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.  The picture shows just how well balanced these birds are in the air while their wings are flapping furiously.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Mike Tinker’s visit to his grandchildren in New Zealand.  While there, he and Alison visited the Abel Tasman track.  It looks like a grand place to visit.Abel Tasman trailIt was a reasonably sunny morning but any joy at this was tempered by a mean minded and penetrating wind which made it feel more like March than May.  After a little light housekeeping, I went out for ride on the fairly speedy bike just to keep my legs working.  I hadn’t made up my mind how far I was going to go but after only managing five miles in the first half hour, my mind was made up for me by the wind and I turned back.  That the five miles back were accomplished at an average speed of nearly 23 mph gives some indication of how annoying the wind was when it was in my face.

The tree fellers have been doing such a good job….

tree felling up Wauchope…that there is very little shelter from the wind left.  They have certainly destroyed the charm of the wooded valley of the Wauchope along with the trees.

I took a look back from the top of the hill past Wauchope School….

View over wauchope School…just for the record.  I expect that the dark patch of tall trees that can be seen on the distance will go soon.

Mrs Tootlepedal (with a little help from me) has nearly finished putting everything away in its new home after the disruption of the great end wall saga.  The new rooms, upstairs and down, are very satisfactory and the complete lack of the sound of water dripping into buckets when wind and rain combine has made all the fuss feel well worth while.

We have also solved the mystery of the falling seed feeder.  Mrs Tootlepedal caught two rooks in the act of dislodging it and so I have come up with a working solution.

taped feederMrs Tootlepedal saw the two rooks back again this morning but after hanging around in a mystified sort of way staring at the tape, they went off and haven’t been seen again.

Other less destructive  birds arrived.

chaffinches

I liked this bright eyed pair of chaffinches

goldfinch

A goldfinch waits patiently until there is a spare perch on the feeder.

I had to go for perching birds because the flying variety were very uncooperative this morning, either not getting in to the frame fast enough for my itchy trigger finger…

chaffinch… or turning their back on the camera at the vital moment.

chaffinchThere are days like that.

Mrs Tootlepedal was working in the garden so I went out to have a look round.  There were signs of coming and goings.

pulsatilla allium

The pulsatilla going and the allium coming soon.

The apple blossom is superb this year…..

apple with insect…but this was the only visitor that I saw among the blossoms today.  More work is required. The bees were too busy visiting the dicentra which is always a favourite with them.

bee on dicentraThe ballerina tulips were perhaps at their peak today.

ballerina tulips….but I couldn’t decide which way was the best to take their picture to show them off properly so I took them twice just to be sure.

ballerina tulipsThe chief business of the day was a trip to Carlisle in the afternoon to sing at a concert with our Carlisle Community Choir.  Although we were only scheduled to sing for 20 minutes at the formal opening of a new arts venue in a converted old Fire Station, we left just after four and didn’t get home until just after nine.

We had  a rehearsal to get used to the venue first and then some of us found time for a quick meal at a chip shop nearby. (The owner obligingly kept it open for us although he was actually closing up as we arrived.)

Then it was back to the venue again for the opening.  We were subjected to a ‘humorous turn’ from a local radio celebrity which went on too long and wasn’t very humorous and then a speech from the council chief who had overseen the conversion of the venue.  As this contained the words, “responsible for taking our vision forward”, you can guess that it was too long as well.  Finally after a short (and interesting) few words from the mayor, we got to sing at last.

It went well as far as we could tell but as a lot of the people who had been invited to the opening were still in another room, talking loudly and drinking throughout the performance, it didn’t quite have the éclat that we had hoped for.  We choir members enjoyed it though and that is the main thing.

I should add that someone, obviously with great vision going forward, has named the venue “The Old Fire Station”.  I hope that they were well paid.  The mayor told us that the fire station was built on the site of a Victorian music hall.

We rounded off the day by doing some shopping on the way home as we are expecting visitors on Sunday.

The flying bird of the day is one of those chaffinches that didn’t quite get into the frame.

flying chaffinchI should mention that a polite note from Dr Barlow, the blog’s resident bird expert, tells me that yesterday’s supposed sighting of a female hen harrier was just a buzzard after all,  I must learn to read my bird book more carefully.  Sorry about the misinformation.  We definitely did see a male harrier though.

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