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Posts Tagged ‘blackbird’

Today’s guest picture comes from my Australian correspondent Stephen.  He came across this striking flower on a walk in Sydney.  Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is a passion flower.  I looked it up and it is a Passion Flower caerulea – Passiflora.

australian flower

The original forecast for today had been for warm, calm and sunny weather but after some heavy overnight rain, the actual weather was warm, calm and wet.  Meatloaf sings that, “Two out of three ain’t bad,” but that was small satisfaction to one who had been hoping for a cheerful pedal.

As I went along to the monthly producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre, I heard a passer by describe the day as ‘dreich’ and I thought that he had hit the nail on the head there.

I filled my (Canadian) shopping bag with venison, liver, fish and honey and cycled home, drying off the saddle of my slow bike before doing so.

Once home I was able to pass some time doing the prize crossword and watching  the second half of a rugby game where the main tactic seemed to be to kick the ball up in the air and chase after it in the hope that the other side would make a mistake.  In the end though two smart tries late in the game put a satisfactory gloss on South Africa’s well deserved win.

By the time that the game had ended and we had had a cup of coffee, the forecast had begun to look a little better and I walked round the garden noticing that we had still got colour from various sources.  Because I like alliteration, I like to think of this as bloom, berry and bush.

bloom, berry and bush

I could have gone cycling there and then but the early gloom had knocked some of the enthusiasm out of me so I heated up some soup and had lunch instead.  Then iIwas distracted by seeing six collared doves in a row along our power line.  I didn’t have my six dove camera to hand so had to settle for two of them together and an individual portrait.

collared doves on wire

Down below, the feeders were busy and I was pleased to see a greenfinch…

greenfinch november

…though a sparrow, waiting its turn on Mrs Tootlepedal’s artificial tree, seemed less pleased to see me peering at it.

sparrow in bogus tree

The sun came properly out and lit up a dunnock…

dunnock under feeder

…and a chaffinch…

chaffinch under feeder

…both scavenging for seed knocked out of the feeder by birds above.

sparrow and goldfinch

Two sparrows on the plum tree tut tutted about wasteful eating habits.

two sparrows chatting

I saw a blackbird on a garden chair getting ready for action…

blackbird fluffing

…and taking the hint, I got my cycling gear on and set off up the Wauchope road, where the larches were being picked out by the sun.

larches at Bigholms

A few days ago, I had seen the vehicle carrying the ingenious device which paints white lines down the middle of roads driving through the town and off up the Wauchope road.  I hoped that this might be a sign that a very bad patch of potholed and rutted road eight miles away had been resurfaced.

Because I haven’t cycled that way for a long time as the surface has been so poor, I thought that it would be a good idea to check if this was the case.

I cycled over Callister hill and down the other side and found a transformation.

new road near quarry

Where there had been ruts and potholes, now all was smooth and serene.

I stopped to admire the road and a tree which looks down on it from the hillside above…

bare tree near quarry

..before pedalling on a mile or two, passing this ruined cottage…

ruin at quarry

…and arriving at Paddockhole Bridge, where I paused for a moment.

paddockhole bridge

It was such a pleasant day by this time that I thought of crossing the bridge and taking the long way home but I had started too late and the days are getting shorter now so I turned and rather unadventurously cycled back the way I had come.

I was going to take a little diversion to Waterbeck on the way but the road was closed.  I hope that this means that this road too will soon be resurfaced.  I haven’t cycled along it since I fell off when I hit an unexpected icy patch on a water filled rut a couple of years ago.

Going over Callister from the west is a stiffer challenge than from the east and I am always happy to stop to admire the view up the side valley….

winterhope view

…so that I can have a breather before tackling the rest of the hill.

road up callister

There was a nice tree on the other side of the road  to admire while I was there.

callister tree

The wind was very light and although it was in my face on the way home, I still managed to cover the last 6 mainly downhill miles back to Langholm at 17 mph without trying too hard.  This made for a good finish to a most enjoyable outing.

I was welcomed home by a cheerful calendula.  It may not last too long….

calendula november

…as Mrs Tootlepedal is clearing the front beds and planting them with tulips for next year.

tulip bed

I did think of going for a short walk but the sun went behind a cloud and it got too dark to take pictures so I had a shower and practiced some hymns for church tomorrow instead.

We had fish from the producer’s market for our tea and then settled down to watch Strictly to round off a gently enjoyable day.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow on its way to the feeder.

flying sparrow

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He encountered a much needed moment of reflection in these turbulent times while on a visit to Keddlestone Hall.

keddleston Hall

After our spell of frosty mornings and dry cool days, the temperature rose to greet the first day of November but unfortunately brought a lot of drizzle and rain with it.  The dampness persisted all day and as it was very gloomy, I found other things than cycling and walking to do.

After a leisurely breakfast and an entertaining crossword, I started the active part of the day with coffee and treacle scones with Dropscone.  After coffee, he kindly gave me a lift up to the town, where I did some Archive Group work.  Someone researching their family history had asked the group for a printout of an article concerning a woman from Canonbie who had died at the age of 96 with 158 living descendants.

I found the article and was much struck by the fact that the editor, faced with this potentially very interesting story, had chosen to use it as a chance to take a poke at Bishop Colenso instead of telling readers anything about the family.

canonbie woman

I hadn’t heard of the bishop but he turns out to be an interesting person who was very much in people’s minds in the 1860s.  I read about him here  and understood why he had upset the editor.  I cannot discover what the reference to the Natal Zulu method of counting signifies.

As I left the newspaper office where I was doing my research, I passed this recently installed elegant artwork on the wall of the building.

wall writing

The missing word at the end of the quotation is ‘heart’.

It was written by famous poet Hugh MacDiarmid, born and bred in Langholm,  and the full quatrain is:

The rose of all the world is not for me.
I want for my part
Only the little white rose of Scotland
That smells sharp and sweet—and breaks the heart.

The flowers in our garden may be past their best but Mrs Tootlepedal has been nurturing an African Violet on a windowsill inside the house and it has repaid her care.

afrian violets

Once I had done a little shopping and paid my bill at our corner shop, I made some onion and potato soup, using Mrs Tootlepedal’s homemade chicken stock, and while it was cooking, I looked out of the window to see what was going on in the garden and was delighted to find that the finches had finally found the feeder.

A small group of goldfinches were the pioneers…

first goldfinch of autumn

…and once they had got started, other birds began to eye up the feeder too.

sparrow

A collared dove looked down from above…

collared dove on wire

…and a blackbird wondered whether there would soon be fallen seed to scavenge.

blackbird on hedge

The feeder got quite busy for a while…

goldfinch on pole

…as a chaffinch joined the goldfinches.

chaffinch

A house sparrow preferred the nuts…

sparrow on nuts

..but a hedge sparrow (or dunnock) liked the seeds.

dunnock on feeder

The weather got steadily worse so I took this shot of a sparrow perched on Mrs Tootlepedal’s artificial tree….

sparrow on false tree in rain

…and after lunch, I was very happy to spend some useful time adding more of our index to the local paper to the Archive Group’s database.  As it was this online index which had sparked the enquiry that I had followed up in the morning, it was gratifying to know that our work is useful and appreciated.

After that, I sorted out my Carlisle Choir music folder which had been disturbed by our Glasgow trip and these simple tasks managed to comfortably fill the afternoon.  There was quite a bit of sitting down and reading papers and magazines too.

When the time came, I made a mild chicken curry, sweetened with sultanas and apple, for our tea and then depressed myself by watching the news of our election campaign creaking into action.  However, as President Trump has been kind enough to tell us who to vote for and what to do, we will have no need to think for ourselves at all.

It looks as though we might have a calm, warm and sunny day tomorrow.  This will be very welcome and I might get some sharper pictures of the birds if they come back to the feeder.

The flying bird of the day is a blue tit, zipping through the gloom and drizzle on its way to the feeder.

flying blue tit

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who, in spite of some grey weather, went down to the south bank of the Thames yesterday and enjoyed the view.

Thames

Here, our recent pattern of chilly mornings but dry days continued, although we didn’t get quite as much sun as we have had recently and as a result, it felt colder in the noticeable north easterly wind.

The bird feeder is failing as an avian magnet and no finches of any sort can be seen in the garden at the moment.  Fortunately, other birds are available and from the number of blackbirds about, it seems that we might be getting the first of our northern European winter visitors.

In the meantime, I spotted some old friends today…

dunnock, blackbird, starling

…and much to my surprise, Lilian Austin had waited for the chilly weather to arrive to make her farewell appearance of the year.

lilian austin late october

After morning coffee, I went off for a walk, leaving Mrs Tootlepedal in decorating mode with some cheerfully coloured paint, acquired at a very reasonable price from a DIY store which is closing down.

I started by going down to the river….

gull on rock in esk

…and then, as the river is low after our dry spell, I walked under the town bridge, looking back down the Esk as I did so.

from under town bridge

There was quite a contrast in mood when having climbed up the bank and crossed over the bridge, I arrived on the Kilngreen beside the placid Ewes Water.

ewes water calm

I walked over the Sawmill Brig and followed the track that goes along the little escarpment above the Ewes Water, passing the rugby club, a man digging out the ditch beside the track (ready for a certain prime minister perhaps?) and several fine bare trees.

I thought that under the clouds, this one might look well in black and white.

bandw tree

Beside the track, there is a wall and, as always, a wall is an interesting place.

interesting wall lichen

All this wall excitement was within a yard or two.

The clouds passed over as I walked and the day brightened up a bit, showing off the larches on the opposite side of the valley to advantage.

larches late october high mill

It is not only walls that have lichen.

hawthorn and oak lichen

I wanted to walk back on the opposite side of the river so I made my way down to the High Mill Bridge…

high mill brig

…which is coming up to a significant anniversary.

high mill brig date stone

By this time, the sun had come out so I made a little extension to my route by following the track north up the far side of the river once I had crossed the bridge.

In spite of the sun, the day was cool enough for there still to be ice on the puddles in shady spots.

icy puddle target burn track

I followed the track until I came to  this rather less substantial crossing of the Ewes Water, which I crossed…

bridge target burn

…and then recrossed and retraced my steps back to the main road.

It was a day for recrossing bridges as I also recrossed the Sawmill Brig on my way home via the Lodge Walks…

lodge walks late october

…and I was pleased to find this little crop of fungus beside the Scholars Field after I had crossed the Jubilee Bridge.

fungus beside scholars

Any walk with bridges, fungus and lichen is a good walk but throw in some bare trees, occasional wild flowers…

three wild flowers october

….and enough sunshine to make me take off my gloves and unzip my jacket, and a merely good walk becomes a really good walk.

I was very pleased to have had the full co-operation of my feet over the four miles of the walk.  My new insoles and exercises seem to be working well.

It was time for lunch when I got home and I quite impressed myself by having enough energy to get my bicycle out afterwards and go for a twenty mile cycle ride.  To be honest, it wasn’t really a twenty mile ride.  It was a ten mile ride which I did twice.

I didn’t want to spend too long cycling directly into the very chilly wind.

The sun only came out for a few minutes in the whole ride, just when I was turning at the five mile mark on Callister, but it was another golden moment…

view from callister october

…and I was welcomed home by a cheery primrose…

primrose october

…and Mrs Tootlepedal who had finished her decorating and had cleared the dahlia bed while I was out cycling.  She doesn’t keep the dahlias over winter but will start again from seed next year.  I approve of this as it gives me different dahlias to look at each year.

Yesterday’s roast chicken provided another tasty evening meal today and fortified by this, I went off to sing with the Langholm Choir.

Our conductor was poorly but we have a very good accompanist, and he provided us with an excellent practice in her absence.

That rounded off a day which was firmly inscribed on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

I even found a flying bird of the day, courtesy of the black headed gulls at the Kilngreen.

flying gull

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia who took it while  flashing past Stonehenge on a double decker bus.  There was no time to stop as she was off to London for a march to demand a second referendum.  One of my sisters, my brother and his two sons also attended the march so it was an important affair.

stonehenge

It was a bright and calm morning here today but it was also decidedly chilly and I was in no hurry to get my bike out until the temperature reached at least 7°C.  This gave me time for coffee and the crossword as as it was after eleven o’clock before the target was reached.

Mrs Tootlepedal advised me that blackbirds were bathing in the dam behind the house and there might be a photo opportunity.  I went to check but found a blackbird that was waiting on the edge but not willing to take the plunge.

blackbird by dam

I put on a great many layers of cycling clothing and finally got going.  When I got to ten miles and stopped for a drink of water, I noticed that a tree which had had leaves last Friday but which had lost them now.

tree no leafs

But it was a fine day and as you can see there was so little wind that the turbines at Minsca were not turning at all.

still windmills

I had a lot of clothes on and just turning my legs over was quite a task in spite of the still conditions but I plugged away and passed trees with leaves on near Eaglesfield….

trees with leafs eaglesfield

…and stopped for a buttered roll with honey under the cavernous motorway bridge near Kirkpatrick Fleming (my bike ignored the no parking sign)…

motorway bridge KPF

…and paused for a smaller bridge near Gretna.

bridge over burn near gretna

The bridge’s arch was framed with bright red berries.

red berries

As I got back on my bike and was just getting going, another fairly elderly cyclist passed me without stopping for some civil conversation.  Just to annoy him, I caught him up and pedalled along silently a few yards behind him.  He knew I was there and occasionally pushed a bit harder to try to shake me off but he couldn’t and in the end I passed him …with a few civil words about the lovely weather.  I could see him in my mirror, hanging on about twenty or thirty yards behind me even when I pushed a bit to try to shake him off.  Mercifully we took different routes at the first junction we came to, and we could both relax.

I had taken my route in the hope of seeing migrating geese near the border and a loud honking directed my attention to a big flock foraging in a field.

geese at Englishtown close up

There were a lot of them.  I think that they are greylag geese

geese at Englishtown

I waited for a while, hoping that they might take off and give me a flying shot but they remained firmly on the ground.  Resisting the temptation to say boo to a goose, I pedalled on home.

The wind had got up enough to make the wind turbines at Gretna turn very slowly but it was mostly behind me by this time so I was able to do my 40 miles with two minutes in hand before the three hour mark arrived.

I had put a mixture into the bread maker earlier in the morning and Mrs Tootlepedal had taken it out while I was pedalling.  The bread maker had done a fine job and some vintage plum jam was on hand if needed.

bread machine triumph

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy gardening so I heated up a mug of celery and Stilton soup and went out to see what was going on while i drank it.

In spite of the chilly morning, the roses were going on very well.

Crown PrincessRosy Cheeks

A rudbeckia was looking a little part worn but as it has been looking like that since it first started flowering several weeks ago, I think it deserves credit for trying.

rudbeckia

I saw a dunnock…

dunnock on edge

…and nearly caught a flying dunnock of the day but it was too sharp for me.

flying dunnock

Honeysuckle berries and nasturtiums caught my eye…

honeysuckle and nasturtium

…and the perennial wallflower and the lamium look as though they will never go over.

perennial wallflower and lamium

My flute pupil, Luke turned up and mindful of the truth that if a pupil is having difficulty with something, it is the fault of the teacher, I upped my game a bit and we made some serious progress in counting.

After tea, I went off to the camera club meeting where Sandy helped me to set the projector and screen up.

Once again we had a rather small but very select group of keen photographers and once again we had some most enjoyable images to look at.  With pictures from a royal palace in St Petersburg and raptors from a park in Keswick, local wild life and memories of our trip to Beamish in the summer, we were well supplied with things to enjoy.  One of our members had been having a very creative time with his photo editor and he produced results which defied belief.  All in all, it was a satisfactory meeting and we agreed to meet again next month, with the hope of a few more members turning up.

The flying bird of the day is that reluctant swimmer.

flying blackbird

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Today’s guest picture comes from Simon, a camera club member who is working on the continent.  Knowing that I like bridges, he sent me this historic example by which one can cross the border between Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Swiss border bridge

I had such a dull day that I was very tempted to copy the famous occasion on 18th April, 1930 when the BBC news reader announced that there was “No news today” and played music for the rest of the bulletin.

But I cracked.  So here is a very little news.

It was a wet, windy and miserable morning.  I am still not sleeping very well and Mrs Tootlepedal had gone out to an all day Embroiderers’ Guild workshop so I saw no good reason to get up until after lunch.  I watched a good game of rugby on the telly with New Zealand showing how the game should be played before lunch and then I watched an exciting horse race from Ascot where the hot favourite was beaten a centimetre after lunch.

I finally got enough interest in real life to go out into the garden in a fine drizzle and sweep the leaves off the lawns and pick up some walnuts.

I did a little shredding and welcomed Mrs Tootlepedal back from her meeting.  We had a walk round the garden which tried its best to cheer me up…

rosy cheeks roselush fuchsiawinter jasmine

…and then we went in and had a cup of tea.

I watched a rather glum blackbird perching in the rain…

blackbird in the rain

…and then, in the search for thrills, I drove down to Co-op to recycle our old newspapers and cans and do a little shopping while I was there.

The recycling went well and the shopping would have gone better if I had taken any money with me.

The second visit was more successful.

And that was the day.

There were hardly any birds about in the garden today and those that were there were keeping a very low profile.  In desperation, I looked up and saw two passing rooks so I do have a double flying bird of the day with which to end a dull post.

two flying rooks

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo.  She escaped just in time from the Manitoba snow storm and arrived in London to find that it was raining a lot instead.  In the end the rain stopped for long enough for her to visit Kew Gardens where she encountered these  splendidly prickly plants.

kew

After our short spell of better weather, the weather gods had decided to bring us back down to earth today and it was raining heavily when we got up.   Mrs Tootlepedal bravely cycled off in the rain on business after breakfast while I did the sensible thing and stayed at home and arranged to have coffee with Sandy and Dropscone.

Dropscone brought his usual supply of good scones and we sconed, sipped and chatted away as the rain fell.

Mrs Tootlepedal came back from the town and we squeezed another cup from the pot for her.

After coffee, I had time to do the crossword and start a tarte tatin off before we had lunch,  After lunch, the rain finally eased off and I was able to get out into the garden.

There were birds posing for me all over the place.

The rather scruffy male blackbird is looking better…

blackbird improving

…even though the female doesn’t think much of him yet.

fierce balckbird

The sparrows often have a bath in the dam behind the house and then, like this one, flit up up onto the lilac to have a flutter and a shoogle to get dry again.

fluffy sparrow

A bird skulked in the shadows on the fence…

dunnock on fence

…before flying up into the rowan tree to reveal that it was a dunnock or hedge sparrow.  It is obviously a bit slow in learning the difference between a fence, a tree and a hedge.

dunnock in rowan

As you can see, the sun had come out by this time, so I took a quick look at some clematis…

two clematis

…and a fuchsia which is coming out ridiculously late for the first time this year, together with a dahlia which is hanging on very well after looking as though it was well past it.

fuchsia and dahlia

Then, as it was too good a day to miss by now, I got my bike out and checked to see how my legs were feeling after two busy days.

It turned out that they were feeling fine and they carried me round my customary twenty mile Canonbie circuit slowly but without complaining.

There is a spot along the way where the grass always turns golden brown at this time of year.

brown hillside Kerr

I didn’t stop for many pictures as this is a well documented ride already but I needed a breather after 15 miles so I took a look up stream from the Hollows Bridge…

view from hollows bridge october

…and a bit later on was much struck by the golden colour of some bracken on the old A7

bracken old A7

The sun is getting low in the sky all day now and the trees on the far bank were casting interesting shadows on the old distillery building as I crossed Skippers Bridge.

Distllery from Skippers october

When I got home, I turned out the tarte tatin and while Mrs Tootlepedal made a pot of tea, I cut a couple of slices of the tarte to go with it.  I added some ice cream to my slice and in my view, it would be hard to find a better after-ride refreshment.

I was so refreshed indeed that after I had had a shower, I went out for a short walk.  I was motivated partly by the tarte, partly by the lovely evening light and mostly by the fact that my physio has told me to walk more.

It is not long until the clocks go back so evening walks at this time of day will disappear for some months so I was pleased to able to enjoy such a beautiful light today.

The shadows were falling fast but I had time to enjoy some gentle autumn colour on my way.  The pictures speak for themselves, I think.

tree at church

Esk in evening light

looking up esk

trees by A7 kilngreen

lodge october evening

By the time that I had crossed two bridges and was approaching the third, the sun was ready to sink behind the hill and the shadows were lengthening…

castleholm october evening

…until the monument was in the sun but most of the New Town was in the shade.

Whita in sun town in shadow

I swept  a lot of walnut leaves off the front lawn when I got home.

We had courgette fritters for tea and then I went to sing with the Langholm choir.  Because of some illness going round, we had a select turnout, but we had a most enjoyable sing all the same.

As the sun went down on my walk in the afternoon, it began to feel a little chilly and I was wondering if we would have a frost tonight.  However, it was still quite warm when I walked home from the choir and when I looked at our thermometer a moment ago, it said that it is 9 degrees C.  The forecast claims that it won’t get lower than 5 degrees overnight.  We have been very lucky to have kept our flowers for so long and it looks as thought they may still be there tomorrow.

No flying bird of the day today but I was happy to see a starling back perching on the holly tree again.

starling back on holly

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After yesterday’s glorious sunrise at Wemyss, today’s guest picture goes to the opposite extreme.  Lucie has sent me this scene as Canada’s Thanksgiving Day approaches in Manitoba.  She tells me that my regular Manitoba correspondent Mary Jo has wisely popped over to London to avoid this sort of thing.

Manitoba snow

We had neither a glorious sunrise nor a heavy fall of snow here today.  The day started out being very grey and got steadily worse as it went along.

It was dry enough to cycle to church where we had a modest choir turnout and  a vigorous and interesting visiting minister to lead the service.

Then it was still dry as we cycled home but that happy state lasted about half an hour before the drizzle started.

I nipped round the garden just to record the state of the flowers

The argyranthemums in the chimney pot outside the kitchen window laugh at rain.

argyranthemum

The sedums came out too late this year to be of much interest to bees and butterflies but they are still adding good colour to the flower beds.

sedum

The transplanted nerines obviously like their new home.

nerine

Begonias are soldiering on.  On our walk yesterday we met a lady whose entire stock of begonias had collapsed.  She lives a little higher up the hill and in an exposed position so we are lucky to be in the shelter of the town.

begonia

Rosy Cheeks doesn’t love the rain but can cope with it.

rosy cheeks rose

And the fuchsias seem to be totally waterproof.  They would like a little more sunshine though.

wet fuchsiasa

Calendulas glow whatever the weather.

calendula

Although they are hanging their heads a bit, these cosmos flowers continue to thrive.

cosmos

The red astrantias have given up completely, but the white ones seem to grow a bit more beautiful each day.

astrantia

I am surprised to see the honeysuckle on the fence still producing flowers…

honeysuckle

…but not so surprised about the nasturtiums.  They will keep flowering until the very last.

wet nasturtium

Crown Princess Margareta has not given up entirely but she does seem to have lost heart and colour a bit.

rose washed out

And the dahlias are getting depressed as well.

washed out dahlia

All the same, there are a lot of flowers still to enjoy so we are not complaining.

The leeks are not complaining either.

leeks

In the afternoon, we went to Carlisle to sing with the community choir and nearly suffered from a full car park for the second day running.  There was a lot of sports activity going on in the rain at the school where we meet and the car park was absolutely full.  Luckily, on this occasion I did find a spare space round a corner.

Our proper conductor was back in action and we had a good practice.

We had stopped on our way to the choir to stock up on cheese and I had made a slow cooked lamb stew after breakfast and some wholemeal bread so we were well supplied with nourishing food when we got home through the rain.

The flying bird of the day is a blackbird which looks as though it might not have the oomph to fly at all.  It did take off though, as soon as I had finished taking its picture.

dishevelled blackbird

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