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Posts Tagged ‘blackbird’

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary, who visited  Dulwich Park opposite the Dulwich Art Gallery in South London today.  It is an oasis of peace in a busy world.

Dulwich Park, opposite the Picture Gallery

We had another chilly morning followed by another dry day with a north wind.  More tulips fell under the heavy hand of the cold but some survived…

tulips

…and new tulips have come to join them.

tulip

I killed a bit of time while I was waiting for the thermometer to rise to 7°C by looking at sitting birds in the sunshine from an upstairs window.

goldfinch

siskins

… and when the temperature finally got there, I went off on the fairly speedy bike to test how strong the north wind was.   It was brisk but tolerable and blew me down to the bottom of the Canonbie by-pass at a very satisfying rate of knots.

Of course the  return journey, uphill and into the wind, wasn’t quite so carefree but it was far from being just a slog and I enjoyed my ride a lot.  I only stopped once, on the bridge at The Hollows, to show the gradual greening of the landscape.

River Esk at Hollows

Downstream

River Esk at Hollows

Upstream

The river level is very low, a testament to the dry spell that we have had lately.  A couple of warm wet days wouldn’t be entirely unwelcome.

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work in the garden and after a shower, a quick lunch and a look out of the kitchen window….

redpolls

More redpolls seem to appear every day.

…I joined her.  I employed myself as usefully as I could by doing some dead heading of daffodils, which have suffered from the cold and are getting to the end of their lives anyway, some sieving of compost, which is needed for planting out the early vegetables, and mowing the middle lawn, which wasn’t really needed because of the chilly weather but I like mowing lawns.

And of course, I looked at flowers.

It was surprising to me how some flowers seemed untouched by the cold mornings.  This lamium is thriving….

lamium

…and a new anemone came out today…

anemone

…and the curious tulips seem unaffected by the frosts….

tulip

…though it might be a bit hard to tell.

We are getting very excited by a trillium which should be open soon.

I was pleased to see a bee or two about….

marsh marigold with bee

This one was on a marsh marigold in the pond

…because fruit flowers will need all the attention that they can get.

gooseberry and blackcurrant

The gooseberry has a wasp at work and the blackcurrant is producing flowers in spite of a bad attack of ‘big bud’

apples

The espalier apples are starting to flower

The cold weather has held plants back a bit but there are hopeful signs.

lupin

The lupins are looking healthy.

I spent some time trying to catch more sitting birds to please Mrs Tootlepedal who finds constant flying birds rather fidgety.  The next two pictures were taken with my Lumix while I was outside int he garden which is most unusual for me.  The birds were sitting on the feeders very calmly as I approached.

redpoll

siskins and goldfinch

When I went in, I looked out again.

redpoll

It was a redpoll heavy day today.

I put in a bit of time preparing an MP3 file of a tenor part for one of our Carlisle songs to send to a fellow singer.  It is a tricky number and there are fears that the conductor might try to make us learn it so a practice aid will be helpful.

I noticed a blackbird outside as I came through into the kitchen after emailing the music file.

blackbird

By now, it was time for tea and I cooked myself a nourishing corn beef hash with added onions and mushrooms and fortified by this, I then went off to sing with our Langholm choir.

 

It was one of those evenings when the songs we sang were songs that by and large I could sing and the three tenors in the choir were in good humour and sang well together as a team so that by the time the two hours were up, I was on a musical high and came home in a very cheery mood indeed.  Singing is wonderful when it is going well.

The flying bird of the day is looming more than flying.

flying chaffinch

Note:  A helpful correspondent pointed out that yesterday’s post came without a comments facility.  I don’t know how that happened and I will try to make sure that there is one today.  If there isn’t, I apologise.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary’s walk in Kenwood Park today.   She came across this glorious azalea display.

Azaleas

The day here didn’t work out to plan at all.  After reading the forecast at lunchtime yesterday, I thought that the wind would drop and it would be dry all day, ideal for cycling.  In fact, although the wind did drop, it drizzled almost all day.  As I woke up feeling a bit below par with a sore throat and a slight headache, that put paid to any idea of making good use of the day.

Apart from walking 200 yards to get milk from the shop and filling the feeders now and again, I showed no visible sign of life all day.   As a result though, I now feel a lot better than I did in the morning so perhaps the drizzle was useful in its own way.

I did manage to peer out of the back door to record the damage being done to the lawn by the jackdaws.

Azaleas

We originally thought that they were taking the moss for nest building but Mrs Tootlepedal spent some time observing the jackdaws at work and concluded that they are not picking up the moss but pecking at food in the soil underneath, probably leather jackets.

Some starlings joined in.

starlings

It is good to have biological pest control.

I saw a male blackbird with the starlings and a female under the feeder…

blackbirds

…so perhaps we will have tiny blackbirds to look at in the course of time.  A blue tit paid us a single off the record flying visit but otherwise the bird visitors were the usual suspects.

siskins and goldfinches

Some birds didn’t come to eat but just did their Muscle Beach keep fit routines instead.

goldfinch

Others came to make trouble.

siskins and goldfinch

Tomorrow looks like a rather soggy day according to the forecast so I may have another chance to recover from my slight cold but I will at least try to get out for some fresh air.

I have been rather overstuffing my blog with photos lately so I hope that readers will appreciate this more slender offering.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Nottingham where my brother Andrew discovered another bridge which may be a little past its use-by date.

Nottingham bridge

I had a very quiet day today.  If I had had my fairly speedy bike to hand, I would probably  have made better use of some good weather but as the bike was in the bike shop, I managed to persuade myself to fritter the morning away doing some high quality idling.

I went to the producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre after breakfast and made some good purchases but was very upset to find the cheesemonger wasn’t there this month.  I had been holding back on cheese buying recently just so that I could stock up from his fine selection so I was rather put out.  However, I found out that he has had a recent operation so that is a good enough excuse and I will just have to buy inferior cheese elsewhere.

I didn’t even manage to look out of the kitchen window in a meaningful way when  I got home.   I put the camera up on a tripod and clicked away from time to time but when I came to look at the results, I found that I hadn’t adjusted the focus correctly and I had a small collection of worthlessly fuzzy shots.

I managed to take one siskin in the air by accident (it was nearer than I thought)…

siskin

…and one blackbird on the ground on purpose.

blackbird

I had one quick look round the garden and saw a Hellebore.  Hellebore pictures tend to be a bit of a lottery as I am too old to lie on the ground so I just stick the camera down and point it upwards while hoping for the best.

hellebore

The rain and frost have not been kind to it but it is surviving

Things perked up a bit after lunch when we went out into the garden again.   It was a really nice day by this time and I cleared the old raspberry canes away while Mrs Tootlepedal planted out some Sweet William.
I was distracted by the noise from the pond…

frogs

…where numerous frogs were very busy.  Mostly they dived for cover when they saw me coming but one frog kindly consented to pose for  me.

Frog

Mrs Tootlepedal was distracted by the unexpected buzzing of bees and when I went to look, I saw that there were quite a few bees enjoying the crocuses.

bees

We got some early bees last year but subsequent frosty weather set the bee popularization back quite a bit so we hope that these aren’t out and about too early.

The crocuses were looking very cheerful, if a bit battered by recent weather.

crocuses

crocus

I  find gardening, which involves a lot of bending, very hard work so I left Mrs Tootlepedal to her labours and went off on my slow bike to take the road less travelled….

Barngliesh road

…and some pictures as I pottered along.

As long as the sun was out, it was a great day for pedalling and I had been able to discard several layers which made cycling much more pleasant than the recent chilly and windy outings.

I passed cows….

cow

…bridges…

Tomshielburn bridge

Tomshielburn

…large puddles…

puddle near Raehills

puddle near Raehills

…and a splendid tree of the day.

tree near Raehills

At the start or my trip, I visited my favourite little cascade on the Wauchope as I thought that the light might be quite interesting.  It was quite interesting but it turned out to be possibly a bit too interesting for the camera that I had with me.

Wauchope cascade

Near the end of my ride though, the camera coped very well with another dramatic light situation as the clouds came over.

Clouds over the Kerr

It looked quite threatening but it came to nothing and I got home in dry conditions.

Although my ride was only 14 miles, going on the slow bike and taking my time to look around as I went  made the journey very satisfying.

And that concluded the excitement for the day.  With the sun gone, it got dark quite early and I went back to quality idling and joined Mrs Tootlepedal, who had finished her gardening, in watching the European Indoor Athletics Championships.  We very much enjoyed the sight of Laura Muir scooting round the track to demolish the field in the 1500m.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.  I don’t know how it got into focus at all.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture come from Mike Tinker.  Knowing my fondness for taking photos of pheasants, he sent me this picture to remind me of how they start out.

pheasant chicks

The planning for the day revolved around someone being at home to greet the gas man when he arrived to give our boiler its annual service.  Since we had been given a six hour window, this entailed quite a lot of hanging around, complicated by Mrs Tootlepedal spending two hours volunteering at the Buccleuch Centre and my anxiety to put a fine day to good use by cycling.

It was sunny but far too cold to cycle after breakfast so I was happy that I had arranged a dentist’s appointment followed by scone sampling with Dropscone over coffee. It had warmed up enough after coffee for Dropscone to go off to play golf while I walked round the garden…

azalea and tree peony

Things are busting out all over.

Elder lichen and moss

A garden in itself on an elder branch.

…and watched the birds.

We started in a yellowish sort of way with  siskins and a goldfinch…

siskin and goldfinch

…and then things got greener when a greenfinch arrived on the scene.

siskins and greenfinch

Greenfinches always look rather imperious even when they are sitting quietly in the plum tree.

greenfinches

Their motto might well be: Wha daur meddle wi’ me

A pair of blackbirds were busy feeding on the ground below the feeders.

blackbirds

They struck some good poses.

There was also a pair of robins and as they weren’t chasing each off the premises, they may be a couple which would be good.  I could only catch one of them at a time though.

robin

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Buccleuch Centre and I sat beside the phone in case the gasman called.  Some of the sitting was more metaphorical than actual as I made some dough for rolls in the breadmaker, hung out the washing and ate some soup and cheese for my lunch as well.

When Mrs Tootlepedal returned, I was already changed into my cycling gear and after a quick scout round the garden….

crocus and rhubarb

Progress

…I was soon cycling up the Wauchope road in chilly but windless conditions.  The sun was out and how ever much I may have been charmed by the bridges of Manchester, the views of Wauchopedale trumped them by far.

wauchopedale

This picture should enlarge a bit if you click on it.

I cycled to the top of Callister but didn’t want to get too far from home while the Mrs Tootlepedal Rescue Service was waiting for the gasman so I turned, appropriately enough, at an entrance to one of the valves on the main natural gas pipeline into our town…

gas valve puddle

…which pretty accurately reflected our recent changeable weather.

Having climbed Callister to get to my turning point, I now had the pleasure of the gravity assisted return journey….

Callister

…back down the hill.

I stopped to admire the lichen on a concrete fence post beside the road a little further on.  It was glowing in the sunshine.

concrete lichen

I had done 15 miles by the time that I got back to Langholm and seeing that the gasman had arrived and was at work, I nipped back up the road to Wauchope Schoolhouse to add another six miles to my total.

I stopped on the way back to add to my collection of winter trees….

tree

…though at not much more than three metres in height, this one may be regarded as more of a bush than a tree perhaps.

On the other side of the road, the afternoon sun provided a very mellow gate scene for me.

Wauchope road gate

There was still enough light when I got home for Mrs Tootlepedal to point out first a robin and then a dunnock, both perching on a bush outside the kitchen window.

robin and dunnock

Although they were only a small distance apart on the same bush at the same time, the double portrait above shows them in typically contrasting style.  The robin likes to survey the world from on high while the dunnock likes to peer at it cautiously from a bit of cover.

I was just shaping the bread roll dough into rolls when Mike Tinker dropped by to see how we had done in the singing competition.  He stopped for a cup of tea while I went off for a relaxing soak in the bathtub.

As I looked out of my bedroom window, I could see some lovely evening light on Whita so I opened the Velux window and took a picture of the hill and the monument over the roofs of Henry Street.  Quite by accident, I included the window as well and rather liked the result.

reflections of henry street and whita

Since it was Shrove Tuesday, Mrs Tootlepedal made some delicious pancakes for our tea and when the rolls had risen and been baked,  the day came to a very satisfactory end.

The morning scones with the conversation and coffee had all been interesting, the washing had dried in the sun, the rolls had come out round and brown, the pancakes had been flat and tasty and the cycling had been most enjoyable and on top of all that, the gas boiler had survived for another year in fine condition.  All is good.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture came from our daughter who is at the Berlin Film Festival.  She saw these birds and wondered what they are.  They look a bit like crows to me.

German birds

My day started slowly and continued at that pace but it was not dull or empty.  The sun was out but the east wind was blowing so I was happy to have coffee with Sandy while the thermometer crept up a degree or two.

When he left, I watched the birds for a short while….

blackbird

…although there were not many to watch.

Then I had a couple of slices of bread and paté, got my cycling gear on and set off on the same plan as yesterday, keeping out of the wind as far as possible by staying in the valley bottom.  As I was a bit pushed for time,  I limited myself to twenty miles today.

The wind had shifted slightly and was not as gusty as yesterday so I had a more relaxed ride and was able to go downhill faster than uphill.  I stopped once or twice….

Glencorf Burn

…on my favourite short stretch of road to admire the little streams that keep me company as I pedal.

Logan Water and Glencorf Burn

And an alder standing beside the stream.

Alder

I caught an early glimpse of the shy and retiring ‘often spotted gardener’ hard at work when I got home…

gardener

…and she drew my attention to some very encouraging signs of spring which had been brought on by the sunny morning.

Potential hellebore….

hellebore

…actual crocuses…

crocuses

…and some splendid snowdrops in full flower along with…

daffs and snowdrops

…enough golden daffodils to qualify as a small host.

There was even a winter aconite and a definite hint of promise in a lilac bud.

winter aconite and lilac

It was all very heartening.

After a cup of tea and a tangerine, Sandy reappeared and he and I drove to the Kilngreen and set off on a walk.

As long as you kept out of the wind, and we did, it was a glorious day for a winter walk.  We had to ration our stops to take pictures or it would have been dark by the time we had got half way round.

These are some of things that I saw near the start of the walk.

Moss on a wall at the Estate Offices glowing in the sunshine.

moss on wall at Ewesbank

A curtain of catkins on the way up to Pathhead.

catkins

Then we followed the track to the north above the rugby ground…

Pathhead track

…checking out a tree in the field below Castle Hill…

Tree below castle Hill

It looked as though it was throwing its arms up and dancing a Highland fling.

…and taking a look at the woods across the Ewes water…

Whitshiels wood

…until we dropped down to the High Mill Brig…

High Mill Brig

….which we crossed.

We turned left immediately after crossing the bridge and followed the track up the river until we came to Far Whitshiels Cleuch, more commonly known as the Target Burn because in times past, targets were set up at the foot of the burn for rifle practice.

We boldly crossed the burn….

Sandy crossing target burn

…and walked up through the woods until we came to the open hill.

At this point, the only disappointment of the day came because, more or less exactly as we hit the open ground, the sun began to disappear, taking the views with it…

Ewes valley

…although to be fair, it was rather hazy anyway and they might not have been very good if the sun had stayed out.

The sun was soon reduced to peeking through small holes in the cloud cover.

sun and clouds

There were still things to see…

lone tree target burn

…but we had reached the part of our walk where walking rather than looking around was the main business….

Target Burn walk

…and we plodded over rough ground and followed the wall until it met the hill road.

By the time that we had got to the road, the light was beginning to fade so we settled for the most direct way home and followed the road down the hill.

There was just enough light for a black and white picture of the tree(s) of the day…

trees on Whita

…but by the time that we had got back to the car we had exhausted both the available daylight and our energy and we were pleased to sit down.

At just under four miles, it was not a long walk but the terrain was testing and the views varied and interesting throughout so we had a real sense of achievement, a feeling that we had just done something good.  We had done a shortened version of Walk 8 of the Langholm Walks Project which offers many walks that I can thoroughly recommend to any blog readers who have not already tried them.

I was more than ready for my tea when I got home but the lamb stew perked me up enough to give me the energy to have a sing through one of our choir songs with Mrs Tootlepedal after the meal.  I have almost learned it.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch at full stretch.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is a steam train at Carlisle Station.  My neighbour Gavin saw it not long ago.  They seem to be running regular steam excursions to Carlisle at the moment.  We saw one when I put Mrs Tootlepedal on the London train last weekend.

steam train Carlisle

It was a very dull day on the whole today.  It was raining when I got up and it rained all day until about 7 o’clock in the evening.  By way of a little variety, sometimes it rained quite gently and sometimes it rained quite heavily.

Under the circumstances neither walking nor cycling held out much appeal for me so I did neither.

Sandy came for morning coffee and Mike Tinker dropped in for afternoon tea and between these two welcome diversions, I looked out of the window a bit.

blackbird

Blackbird with raindrops

pigeon

A pigeon with raindrops

chaffinch and siskin

Chaffinch and siskin with rain

chaffinch in rain

A chaffinch with heavier rain

You can see that there is quite a theme developing here but the rain didn’t stop the siskins trying to throw their weight around.

siskin and chaffinch

A chaffinch sneaking up behind a siskin seemed a bit disapproving of the siskin’s untidy eating habits.

siskin and chaffinch

We always end up with a pile of seed on the ground when we have siskin visitors.

When I wasn’t staring out of the window, I was doing the crossword or practising songs for the Carlisle Choir.  I find it really hard trying to learn them off by heart.  I will have to try and develop a better method than I am using at present.  My present method is singing through a song three or four times and then trying to sing it from memory and subsequently bursting into into tears when I can’t get past the second page.  It is not a good method.

In the evening, I went off to the Buccleuch Centre for a screening of Il Trovatore from the Royal Opera House.  The singing was very good, especially the mezzo-soprano, Anita Rachvelishvili.  All her singing was excellent but her quiet singing was really sensational.

This was a ‘modern’ production with machine guns and so on and the setting was like the curate’s egg.  It worked well sometimes but it was also rotten in parts.

Fans of the old TV Comedy series “‘Allo, ‘Allo” will know why I was a bit distracted by the fact that one of the parties in the conflict had a little tank..

The perennial trouble is that the producers and designers have all seen these operas far too often and it would be boring for them to put on a production which the composer might recognise.   I have only seen this opera once before, in an amateur production, so I would have quite welcomed a ‘traditional’ setting.

The subtitles are very helpful and make the opera come alive but they do put some absurdities into your mind in passing.  When a singer sings, ‘I have no breath, I cannot speak’ and goes on singing for several more minutes, I can’t help raising an eyebrow.   Such is opera though.

I should say though that I enjoyed it a lot, as Verdi’s music when sung well is always a  great treat whatever the producer does.

There was a rather gloomy flying bird of the day today.

flying chaffinch in rain

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is a fine railway bridge, built in 1898, which was spotted by Dropscone when he was in Hastings on his recent holiday.

Hastings bridge

We had another subzero (just) morning today so I was happy to wait for the arrival of Dropscone bearing scones to go with a cup of coffee.  He had got back safely from his holiday in Kent where he combined sightseeing with his daughter Susan and catching up with his eldest son who lives down there.

He visited many of the places that I used to visit when I was a child there.  My memory has become very selective though and although I must have passed under that bridge several times, I have no recollection of it at all.

We enjoyed our coffee and conversation and when he had departed, I spent some time waiting for the temperature to rise above 2°C while looking out of the window.

There were bright eyed birds on the ground…

blackbird and robin

…and less frequent visitors up above.

sparrow and blue tit

There are sparrows in great numbers in many of the hedges and gardens near our house but for some reason, they don’t often visit us in the winter.  Maybe they can find better feeders nearby.

The chaffinches kept rolling in again today…

chaffinches

…and the light got better as time went by.

In fact this pigeon looked a bit surprised to see some sunshine.

pigeon

I stopped staring and made some lentil, carrot and bacon soup for my lunch.

We had plenty of siskins which arrived around lunchtime….

siskins

…and one of them got into an argument with a chaffinch.  It expected that a sharp word would dislodge the chaffinch but got an equally sharp word back.

siskin and chaffinch squabbling

They kept up the sparring for quite some time before realising that there wasn’t going to be a winner and settling down to eat some seed.

The afternoon temperature only rose to a miserable four degrees in spite of the sunshine and I felt that worrying about the danger of an icy patch in a well shaded spot would make cycling a wearisome business rather than a pleasure so I went for a walk instead.

I drove to the top of Callister and walked three miles round a circuit through Kirtleton Forest.

Some of the walk was on rough ground…

Kirtleton Forest

…but as you can see, some kind person had been along with a quad bike or a buggy and had flattened a path for me to follow.

Most of the walk was on forestry tracks and although there were occasional icy stretches in well shaded places, the going was mostly very good and I had plenty of time to look around as I went.

The forest is mostly commercial planting, some felled and replanted and some mature which I could hear being felled as I was walking around but there are several little patches of deciduous trees to be found…

Kirtleton Forest

…all the more welcome for being colourful islands in a uniform sea of dark green.

There were small things to please the eye too.

jelly fungus

I think this is jelly fungus

There is a little pond beside the track but there was no sign of life today as it was frozen over.

kirtleton forest pond

There are lots of little streams running through the trees and some are significant enough to have a space of their own.

kirtleton forest

My sunshine was gradually being overtaken by the many vapour trails in the sky.  Living under a main road for aeroplanes can be a nuisance even if they are flying so high that we don’t usually hear them at all.

Where the  trees were too high for views, I looked beside the track instead.

Nature was working hard.  There was colourful moss, in a two metre wide clump..

moss

…and delicate lichen on a ten centimetre pebble…

lichen

…intricate design work on a tiny tree…

tree

…and a work of art.

lichen on boulder

It is entitled “Trapped”. You can see what you like in this conceptual piece, maybe a native American in a head dress or perhaps a barnacle encrusted seal.  Like all good modern works of art however, the viewer is left to do all the hard work.

Inside the densely planted conifer forest, it was too gloomy for colour.

p1080977

As I came out of the woods, I walked a little way up a track which was made when the gas pipeline was laid about thirty or forty years ago.  I was on the last range of hills before the country descends to the Solway plain….

Solway Plain

…which is the main reason why we are such a popular spot for wind turbine installers.

I was nearly back to the car by this time and my last shot was of a tall grass beside the track.

kirtleton grass

Considering that it was a cold day with a chilly east wind blowing, I had a very comfortable walk and even got too warm.  The route turned out to much more sheltered from the wind than I expected and while the sun was still out, it was almost spring like.

Compared with last year when we had a succession of gales, we have been very kindly treated this winter so far, even if I haven’t quite got in the cycle miles that I would have liked.   At least I have had many enjoyable walks.

In the evening, my flute pupil Luke came and we considered the responsibility of the player for phrasing.  Modern music is stuffed with phrasing indicators as the composer likes to have his/her music played just has he/she wrote it but in the early music that we mostly play, the player is left to decide  how things should go.  This is quite a responsibility for a young learner.

After my tea, I went off to play with Mike and Isabel.  We often start with a chat before we play and on this occasion the political temperature became so warm that it was lucky that we had some charming pieces to play to cool us down again.  We had an excellent hour and a half of hard work.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch at full spread just entering the shadow zone of the feeder..

chaffinch flying

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