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Posts Tagged ‘black headed gull’

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who was out and about and saw skaters on the temporary ice rink at Somerset House.  It always looks a rather staid way of having fun to me.

Somerset house skating

We had a second sunny day today but the weather gods had another trick up their sleeve and kept the temperature between 0 and 2 degrees all day so when it came to cycling, the best that I could do was forty minutes on the bike to nowhere in the garage, a dull way to start the day.

Before I pedalled, I had a quick look round the garden to admire Jack Frost’s handiwork.

jack frost in garden

The blue pineapple is on the end of the vegetable garden railings and I think the the dangling flower head must be one of the last calendulas.

When I had finished the indoor pedal, Mrs Tootlepedal and I drove up to the bird hide at the Moorland Project feeders and while Mrs Tootlepedal sat in the car scanning the hillside for raptors, I sat in the hide watching smaller birds.  I got the best bargain I think because she saw one distant bird and I saw dozens.

There were some blue tits…

blue tit at laverock

..and great tits…

great tit at leaverock

…but there were more coal tits than the others put together.  I only saw this one siskin sharing the peanuts with the coal tits.

busy feeder at laverock

Two chaffinches made a charming tableau on the tree stump outside the hide…

two chaffinches at laverock

…and I was very happy to see a greater spotted woodpecker on the peanuts.

woodpecker at hide

When we got home, I made some lentil soup and looked out of the window from time to time.

A blackbird paused on the edge of the tray under the feeders for a peaceful portrait…

FEMALE BLACKBIRD

…while up above, it was all go for the sparrows with a goldfinch hoping to resist the invasion.

sparrows at feeder

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off on a shopping mission and I went for a walk.

I went over the Town Bridge and checked on a pair of black headed gulls who were deep in conversation at the Meeting of the Waters..

two gulls

…passed Santa who is making ends meet by doing a little bus driving until the busy period comes round….

santa busman

…crossed the Sawmill Brig, my second bridge and walked up the track past the Estate offices.

There is a fine row of trees across a field which I think looks like a hedge that got away some time ago.

overgrown hedge

I wasn’t wearing very suitable footwear but I took a chance and set off along a muddy track towards the High Mill Brig.

There were many puddles but luckily, there was enough frost in the ground to make it firm enough for me to make progress and keep my feet dry.

pathead track

And there was plenty of interest along the way.  Looking down, I saw frozen moss and three sorts of lichen within a few feet of each other on a wall,,,,

moss and lichen on wall

…and looking up,  saw about a hundred birds flying overhead.  From their formation, I thought at first that they might be geese…

birds in fligth

…but a closer look makes me think they were gulls….but I am not certain.

possible ducks

At the end of the track, I came to one of the useful gates that the Langholm Walks group have organised for the convenience of walkers following their marked routes.

langholm walks gate

Following the track along the edge of the field, I came down to my third bridge of the day, the High Mill Brig…

high mill bridge

…so called because of the mill which stood nearby for many years.  The mill has gone now but the bridge carries the main road north out of the town and is still busy.

I crossed the bridge and followed the road back towards the town, crossing the Sawmill Brig again and then walking round the Castleholm and crossing the Jubilee Bridge, my fourth and last of the excursion.

There was more interest as I went along.

berry fence laurel and moss

The circular pattern in the top right frame, is the sawn top of a fence post covered with ice.  It was cold but as the day was very still, it was a pleasure to be out and about even if the sun had been overtaken by some low cloud.

On my way back through the New Town, I stopped off at Mike and Alison’s house to enquire about the state of Alison’s recently dislocated shoulder.  This was not entirely a disinterested call as she is my Friday night orchestra and I am hoping that she won’t be out of action too long as I miss the playing.  She was remarkably cheerful and made a cup of tea while I chatted to Mike.  As the tea came with a delicious ginger biscuit, it was doubly welcome.

Alison has tried a little piano playing which is good news.

I didn’t stay long as they told me that Mrs Tootlepedal had called in when she had finished shopping but had not stopped because she didn’t want me not to find her in when I came back from my walk and worry about where she was.

When I got back to the garden, I found evidence that her shopping trip had been successful.  She had bought our Christmas tree for the next four or five years.

CHRISTMAS TREE

My flute pupil Luke sent me a message to say that he couldn’t come for the usual session because of a meeting in Dumfries so I had time for a quiet sit before making the tea and going out to play trios with Mike and Isabel.

The playing would have gone better if I had brought the right bag with my flute, music stand and music in it instead of quite a different bag with none of these essentials.  However, Mike and Isabel played some Vivaldi duets while I went off and got the right bag and then we played Quantz, Mozart and Telemann trios so we were all happy.

The flying bird of the day is a black headed gull above the Ewes Water at the Kilngreen.

flying gull

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from our friend Bruce’s Highland tour.  It shows McCaig’s Tower in Oban, a prominent granite folly overlooking the town.

oban folly

It was a rotten day here, rainy, cold and with gusty winds.  It was hard to see the birds at the feeder…

coal tit with seed

…but much easier to see Dropscone coming round with scones in his hand.  He is going to Glasgow for a week’s holiday at the weekend so I was glad that he was able to fit a little coffee drinking in before he went.  We were drinking some of the ‘awful lot of coffee’ from Brazil today  and it went well with the scones.

Dropscone left but the rain kept coming….

chaffinches

…and I stayed indoors and made some sweet potato soup for lunch and did the crossword.

The rain eased off a little after lunch so I put on my wellies and a big woolly hat, picked up my golfing brolly and went for a damp walk over three bridges.

There was very little to see but against the general greyness, a gull stood out…

sitting gull

…and a bare tree too.

bare tree

Although it was only a degree or two warmer than yesterday and it was drizzling, somehow walking was more pleasant so I extended my planned walk and went along the road to the pheasant hatchery…

pheasant hatchery road

…before walking back along the riverside path, looking across the field to the misty slopes of Castle Hill.

misty trees castleholm

One advantage of winter is that bridges are more visible once the leaves are off the trees.

Duchess Bridge

I was quite ready for a warming cup of tea and a slice of toast when I got home.

Since outdoor activity was off the menu now, I made use of my time by putting a parish magazine from 1967 onto the Archive website.  Sandy is scanning and formatting these and I add them to our collection.  (Those with time to kill can wander through them here.)

Then I put a week of the newspaper index into the database.  It was not an entirely wasted day.

Mrs Tootlepedal made a nourishing pasta dish for our tea and then I went to the final rehearsal of Langholm Sings before our concert in Lockerbie on Friday.  We sang through the whole programme which was reassuring but it might be a slight exaggeration to say that we were note perfect.  Fingers crossed for the concert.

Flying birds of the day were very hard to come by in the rain and gloom so this goldfinch was the best that I could manage.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony’s walk round the Wemyss Estate.  As well as a parakeet in a tree, he came across a curious deer which was looking a bit lost.

wemyss deer

We were visited by storm Diana today.  I must say that the practice of giving passing weather fronts a name is obviously a bad idea.  They are getting ideas above their station and we got a lot of rain and some stiff winds in the afternoon.

It wasn’t too bad in the morning when Dropscone came round for coffee.  Sandy dropped in to pick up some keys for the new archive centre but he was busy and didn’t stay for coffee.  This meant that Dropscone and I could eat all the scones which was a stroke of luck as the scones were particularly tasty today.

Although it was raining lightly as Dropscone left, the forecast said that it would stop raining by twelve o’clock and then start again by one.  As it did actually stop raining at three minutes to twelve, I went out for a short three bridges walk.

I was detained for a moment by some cheerful calendulas in the garden before I left.

calendulas end of november

The clouds had lifted on the hills and I could almost see the monument.

misty monument

There was a touch of colour in the last willows which are fading away beside the town bridge.

last willow

And some of our resident ducks had found a calm spot for a paddle above the bridge.

floating ducks

I was very impressed by the amount of hay being transported by a single driver from the arable east coast to the pastoral west.

big hay

I passed more evidence of the activity of the Langholm Walks volunteers who have been putting new discs onto the walks signposts.

Langholm Walks signs

Walkers are spoiled for choice

The group is trying hard to encourage walkers to come to the town and sample the many delights of walking in our woods and hills.

As I went along the Lodge Walks, I discovered that the forecast had only said that it would have started raining by one o’clock.  It didn’t say when it would actually start and that turned out to be at about ten past twelve so I didn’t get very far on my walk before the rain came down.  Luckily I was well armed (or legged) with welly boots and a large golf umbrella.  As I was sheltered from the worst of the wind and there was plenty to look at, I still had a good walk.

I saw berries by a wall…

lodge walks berries

…and lichen on a tree…

lodge walks lichen

…as I went up the Lodge Walks.

Then as I crossed the Castleholm, I saw a tree with many, many branches…

castleholm bare tree

…a soggy gate…

soggy castleholm gate

…and a tree stump with a mixture of fungus and fallen leaves which were so well matched for colour that it was hard to tell them apart.

castleholm fungi and leaves

Round the back of the stump, there were more clear cut fungi.

castleholm fungi

As I walked back along the path to the Jubilee Bridge, I could see many hazel catkins…

castleholm catkin

…but by the time that I got to the bridge, the rain was coming down so steadily that I put my camera back in my pocket and concentrated all my energies on not letting my brolly get blown away by the wind.

By the time that I got home, it was a thoroughly miserable day and so dark and gloomy that I didn’t bother to get my bird watching camera out at all.

After lunch, I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and practised some singing for my various choirs.

Mrs Tootlepedal made another delicious evening meal and fortified by that, I ventured out into the wind and the rain to go to a Langholm Sings choir practice.  Some of the work that I had done in the afternoon turned out to be quite useful.

It had stopped raining by the time that we came out of the practice and this was just as well as the river was high and flowing fast as I crossed the suspension bridge.  We are promised more heavy rain tomorrow so riverside dwellers may be getting a bit nervous.

I didn’t try for a flying bird of the day today and a rather fuzzy perching gull is standing in for the position instead.

perching gull

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce who was heading to Oban on  the west coast today when he came upon this overfull river at Callander.

floods at callander

We got a better day here today with occasional brief sunny spells and no rain so we were grateful for that.  We didn’t make much use of it though as Mrs Tootlepedal had to do a lot of internet research into a costume she is making for our local pantomime and I was resting my leg.

As a result, the morning passed with very little discernible activity and even the birds were pretty quiet in sympathy.

There was a lot of posing from a pigeon…

lofty pigeon

…a blackbird…

blackbird

…and a chaffinch.

sunlit chaffinch

Even the feeding was rather sedate with a chaffinch being at the bottom of the pecking order today.

pecking order

The coal tits were back again…

hungry coal tit

…and rather to my surprise, they tended to chase each other.

sparring coal tits

I made some potato soup for lunch and then decided to test my leg with a short flat walk.

The sun was out when I started and gulls….

lonely gull

…were gleaming in its rays.

two black headed gulls

I crossed the town bridge and met an old friend on the Kilngreen.

standing heron

I don’t blame Mr Grumpy for being well tucked because as soon as the sun went in, a brisk wind made it feel quite chilly.

Among our ordinary mallards, there is one white duck.  I was hoping to shoot a sitting duck but it saw me coming and popped into the water before I could catch it.

sitting duck

The leaves are pretty well off all the trees now and the Lodge Walks are bare.  This does let the sun through to brighten things up though.

Lodge Walks december

With no leaves on the trees, the casual passer by can admire the moss….

moss on tree branch

…and the lichen which festoon many of the branches.

lichen on tree branch

As always, I paid attention to walls on my walk and the one at the head of the Scholars’ Field had wild flowers and ferns growing out of it in a very satisfactory way.

wild corydalis

little wild flower

harts tongue fern

My plan to have a gentle, flat walk and mildly exercise my stiff leg was a complete failure and I was back into heavy limping mode long before I got home.   Considering that I had done this walk a few days ago with no trouble, this was discouraging and tomorrow will have to be a serious day of doing nothing.  I have got plenty of useful things that I can do so I will do them and resist the temptation of a little walk ‘just to see how my leg is’.

I spent quite a lot of time when I got home choosing some pictures for a short presentation of images from Eskdale which I am giving next month.  I limited myself to those that I have taken in the last 12 months and have managed to make a preliminary selection of 100 with no flying chaffinches in at all.  This was quite hard.

The flying bird of the day today isn’t a chaffinch either.

flying gull

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Unusually, I have two guest pictures of the day from our son Tony.  The first shows that he got up at sunrise to walk his dogs…

wemyss dogs

…and the second shows what he saw.

wemyss seal

His new house gets our seal of approval.

Dropscone is away refereeing another golf tournament so there were no treacle scones today but there was ample consolation in the appearance of Sandy who came for coffee and biscuits.

I had a cycle ride in mind for sometime during the day after Sandy left but the weather was very unsettled with a combination of sunshine and rain, including one very sharp shower that came with added thunder and hailstones.

lawn with hail

I did go out in the sunny spells to see if butterflies had arrived but there were none so I took a picture of a Michaelmas daisy…

michaelmas daisy

…had a look at the vegetables..

onion, bean and courgette

…checked out the bees…

bees

…and went back in.

I spent a moment or two watching the birds.  A sunflower is growing uninvited behind the bird feeder and a chaffinch perched on one of its ample leaves to check out the seeds.

chaffinch on sunflower

Amongst the regular visitors, a very white bird appeared.  It was tricky to see what it was but I think it is  sparrow.

white sparrow

Mrs Tootlepedal was out on business in the morning and when she returned, a passing neighbour commented on the number of walnuts in the tree…

walnuts in tree

They are looking very impressive and we are hoping that they will ripen into a usable crop.

If I had been keen and watchful, I would have found a good enough spell of weather during the day to get out on the bike but I was not keen and instead of watching the weather, I spent time watching the European Games on the telly.

I was just going upstairs to admire a layout for a patchwork blind which Mrs Tootlepedal is making when the doorbell rang so I went back down and found my South African correspondent, Tom Elliot on the doorstep.

It was a pleasure to see him and we had a good chat.  I had to go up and fetch the car from the garage where it had been having a service and he was still chatting to Mrs Tootlepedal when I got back so we had a walk round the garden and he tested the new bench…

Tommy elliot

…and pronounced it fit for purpose.

He is a keen cyclist and is in training for a very hilly mountain bike marathon back home in South Africa.

When he left, I felt that I ought to make some good use of a day that had become very sunny again so I went for a short walk.

In spite of the heavy showers and quite a bit of recent rain, it is still basically quite dry and the river is low.

River Esk in august

I walked up one of Langholm’s narrowest streets…

George Street

…and came to the Kilngreen where there were a good number of black headed gulls about, some very active…

black headed gull flapping

…and some quite passive.

black headed gull on grass

Then I crossed the Sawmill Brig and headed up the Lodge Walks…

lodge walks

…hoping that the sunshine would last for long enough for me to get home dry.

I was keeping an eye out for fungus….

fungus august

…and signs of the season.

beech nutbrambletree fruitsCastleholm acornsbrown twig

Some black clouds loomed up so I didn’t dilly dally but had enough time to see some brighter colour once I got back into the town.

rowan, dahlia and honeysuckle

Rowan berries at the manse, astounding dahlias in Walter Street and honeysuckle in our hedge

I looked into our garden from the road and enjoyed Mrs Tootlepedal’s ranks of yellow crocosmia which surround the front lawn.

yellow crocosmia

There was more rain to follow the sunshine before it brightened up again just in time for Mike and Alison to arrive for their regular Friday evening visit.

Both Alison and I have been practising a bit so it came as no surprise when our playing was a bit more ragged than usual.  We were worn out before we started!  Still, playing duets is always a pleasure so we were not downhearted.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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

P1300183

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…

P1070894

…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.

P1070895

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….

P1070897

…until the bridge looked like this.

P1070901

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

siskin

goldfinch

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

chaffinch

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…

_DSC1878

…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…

mallards

…who seem to be pairing up for the spring…

_DSC1903

…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….

_DSC1902

…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….

P1070902

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

P1070904

…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 .

snowdrops

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.

P1070905

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.

P1070906

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 comes from my Langholm friends Jim and Sandra.  They are visiting Australia where they met some down under bird life.

australian bird

We enjoyed another chilly but sunny day and if you could keep in the sun and out of a relentlessly nipping wind, it was not too bad at all.

We had a quiet morning, mostly reading newspapers and listening to the radio.  I did a little bird watching every now and again.

The male blackbirds were chasing each other about when they weren’t posing or eating so I think that they must be our native blackbirds claiming their territory.

blackbirds

There were no siskins or goldfinches about today so the chaffinches had a free hand and flew about in every direction.

chaffinches

Dunnocks and robins made occasional appearances.

dunnock and robin

A greenfinch looked relatively happy today (by greenfinch standards).

greenfinch

Mrs Tootlepedal spent some useful time clearing up in the greenhouse getting ready for the new season and I made a pan of vegetable soup for my lunch.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal turned to cooking and made several fish pies and I wrapped up well and went out for a pedal.

I didn’t want to go too far from home as the wind would be against me on the way back and it was very cold so I went five miles up the road and back twice.  This is not as boring as it sounds and I enjoyed myself.

I stopped once or twice.

It was a lovely afternoon when the wind was behind you.

Westwater

I was going to take a picture of the gate at my turning point on Callister when I noticed a movement among the tussocks.  The head of a deer poked up…

gate and deer on callister

…but it sneaked away without letting me get a better shot.

I went along the river on a circuit of the New Town of Langholm as part of my route in the hope of seeing oyster catchers.  There were none about on the first pass but two had arrived by the time I went along the bank for the second go round.

oystercatchers

Good route choice.

And crocuses were almost out in the garden when I got home.

crocus

Mrs Tootlepedal was also out in the garden but she was finding it chilly too and came in.

The sun was still out though and it seemed too good a day to waste indoors watching Scotland getting beaten by England at the rugby (I am never optimistic about Scotland’s rugby chances) so I got changed and went out for a short walk.

I was hoping to see some black headed gulls and I was in luck and saw one straight away when I got to the river.

black headed gull

Then I saw ten more.

black headed gull

It was as good a day for walking as it had been for cycling, especially as I was reasonably sheltered from the wind.

sawmill brig

The sun was dropping in the sky and lit up the moss on the wall after the Sawmill Brig.

mossy wall

It is obviously a good place for  moss…

mossy wall

…which is thriving.

mossy wall

I always like the colour of the bark when low sun strikes a pine tree…

pine tree

…and the trunks looked good too as I went along the new path.

pine tree

An old tree trunk, now used as a bench had an interesting selection of colonists on it. One of the ‘helicopter’ seeds was actually rooting in a crevice in the wood.

moss and seeds

I had noticed that the moon was already high in the sky so I took a hopeful shot as I walked along and after a tweak in the photo editor, it came out surprisingly clearly.

moon

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal told me that against expectations, Scotland were leading in the rugby match.  I watched until half time and then, fearful of causing them any bad luck by showing excessive expectation, I started cooking our evening meal. I received messages of amazement from all of our three children during the half time interval.   Annie, our daughter, was watching the match in Berlin while attending the Berlin Film Festival.

In spite of my best intentions, I kept sneaking back in during the second half and taking a quick look.  England (dropping the ball, giving away penalties and getting a man sent off) were playing like Scotland and Scotland were playing very well.  It was all most unsettling.

In the end, we won.  The first victory over England for ten years.   Our daughter was watching the game with an England supporter in Berlin and he just couldn’t understand why she was still so worried when Scotland were 15 points up with only two minutes to go.  He obviously hasn’t seen what Scotland can do when it comes to losing matches in the last minute that they should have won.

Now that I know that they are going to win, I may well sit down and watch a replay of the whole match in comfort.

All in all, it turned out to be a better day in every way than I had anticipated.

The flying bird of the day is one of the gulls at full stretch.

black headed gull

 

 

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