Posts Tagged ‘blackbird’

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

aberdeen postbox

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

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

canonbie cow

canonbie cow

And my favourite….

canonbie cow

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

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

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

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

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

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


And a lot of frogs spawn.


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

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

blackbird on windowsill

On a nearby bench, another blackbird expressed concern.


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

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

chaffinch and siskin


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


The colour will be very welcome.

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

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

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

chaffinch and siskin








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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who came across this frozen tableau in Regents Park yesterday.

Regent's Park frozen fountain 004

It must have been a good bit colder in London than it was here but my sister tells me that it was 9°C there today and all the snow has disappeared.

Our snow is creeping away more slowly….


…..and the most we managed here was a measly 3°.

The slight thaw meant that it was possible to walk to the church choir in the morning wearing shoes and not boots and to drive to the Carlisle choir in the afternoon with confidence in the state of the roads.

Our church choir was neatly balanced with three sopranos, three altos, two tenors and two basses and our organist thought that this was quite enough for us to sing Mozart’s Ave Verum as an anthem.  He is ever optimistic but we managed pretty well which was a relief.

When we got back from church, I took a moment to look at the birds as it was too grey and miserable to go for a quick walk.

The birds were  a bit discouraged too and mostly stayed away but there were three male blackbirds about….


…not fighting with each other and this  gave me the chance to take a few blackbird portraits.

My ability to differentiate between individual blackbirds is not great so these may all be pictures of the same bird.





I was not so successful in taking pictures of the chaffinches though…


…and just missed a great opportunity here.

The robin unsportingly stayed too far away from my lens…


…but a lone goldfinch brightened things up…


…and at least one chaffinch turned up when I had the camera ready.


After lunch I went off to the Carlisle choir on my own as Mrs Tootlepedal had other things to do and was pleased not only to find that the main road was drivable but  also that our conductor and accompanist had managed to get down to Carlisle from Glasgow in spite of the railway line being blocked.  They had caught the replacement rail bus and were remarkably cheerful under the circumstances.

As all his Glasgow choirs have been cancelled for the last few days because of the snow, Andrew was as pleased to see us as we were pleased to see him and we had an excellent practice.  I sang the Ave Verum with this choir too but with about 70 singers in attendance, it was a different experience altogether.

The forecast is for warmer weather for the next ten days but in the absence of much in the way of sunshine and temperatures in single figures C, we are not getting too excited about spring yet.

The best flying bird of the day I could get was this….


…and you may rightly regard that as a pretty poor effort but I am not a purist and a few minutes work in the photo editor produced an image which I thought was worthy of the title of flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch


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Today’s guest pictures (there are two of them) show that snow was spread from London to Edinburgh today.  They come from our son Tony in Edinburgh and our daughter Annie in London.

Edinburgh snow

Edinburgh at 8am

London snow

London at 9 am.

And to fill up the sandwich, here is Langholm at midday.

John Street in snow

In the end, we got more snow than either Edinburgh or London and rather surprisingly finished up with 6 inches by the afternoon.

It snowed on and off all day.

WARNING FOR BUSY PEOPLE:  There are far too many pictures in today’s post so just take note of the snow and get on with your life.

I had to put on the full set of waterproof clothes and boots to go up to the town for a cup of tea and a meeting with a mover and shaker on a possible call for the Archive Group to be involved in an arts project.  It is all very much up in the air at the moment but the mover and shaker is very articulate and persuasive so funds may appear and the thing take off.  It sounds quite exciting.

On my way home, I went over the Langholm bridge but it was snowing hard enough to spoil the view.  I noticed that it was cold enough to have ice forming on the river’s edge.

meeting of the waters

We used to have more snow I think,when we first came to the town forty years ago and looking in the records, I see that the last serious snow fall here was in January 2016 and the one previous to that was quite late in the spring of 2013 so today’s minor blizzard was a bit of a novelty.

I spent a lot of the day watching birds.  Mrs Tootlepedal kept an eye out too and noticed a single brambling while I was out.  She took a shot on her camera and as there were a lot of other birds about, I have tinkered with her picture to pick out the brambling.


The brambling is on the right of the picture.  The rest are chaffinches.

She also saw a lot of starlings and unlike the brambling which didn’t come back, they returned.


We also had a visit from a song thrush, a very rare visitor to our garden. It sat on the plum tree for a while, assessing the situation and then…

song thrush

….returned to try out the feeder.

song thrush

Sadly it couldn’t get organised to grip the perch in such a way as to get its beak into the seed opening so it perched on the feeder pole for a while…

song thrush

…and then went off sulking.

All through the day there was always a small crowd of chaffinches under the feeder…

chaffinches in snow

…as well as a flock in the plum tree…

plum tree with chaffinches

…and a usually a whirlwind round the feeders themselves.

busy feeder

We could count thirty or forty birds at a time.  The odd goldfinch turned up too…


…but it was mostly a chaffinch day.

On the ground what looked like a dropped glove….

blackbird in snow

turned out to be a blackbird which was digging for buried food.

And a small black blob turned out to be a robin, perfectly spherical to beat the chill.


A dunnock shrugged its shoulders against the wind.


And the blackbird found a better placed food block on the chimney pot.


Sometimes birds seem to be a stupid as people and in spite of there being several empty perches, this chaffinch thought it best to gratuitously stamp on another one.

battling chaffinches

I hope it gave itself a sore toe.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal decided that a walk down to the Co-op would be a good excuse for taking a little exercise and as it had actually stopped snowing, we got well covered up and went off.

I took a camera of course.

Langholm bridge and trees

When we had done a little shopping, Mrs Tootlepedal headed for home and I walked on to Skippers Bridge in the hope of some winter wonderland pics.

I was quite glad of the exercise, which was strenuous not least because when they plough the roads to get the snow off, they just push it onto the footpath and this makes for smooth running for vehicles and heavy going for elderly pedestrians.

A7 in snow

As I walked, the snow got heavier and heavier and this put paid to any picturesque shots of Skippers Bridge…

skippers bridge in snow

…so I settled for a close up of catkins among the snow as I walked back on the other bank of the river.

snow and catkins

The snow eased off and I followed these two walkers up to the Stubholm…

Stubholm track

…and then went back home by way of a diversion along Gaskell’s Walk from which I got this view of a snowy Eskdaill  Street.

Eskdaill Street in snow

I had to be careful not to knock the bushes beside the path…


…but I enjoyed looking across at the snowy trees at Pool Corner.

Pool Corner with snow

On my way along the road from the Auld Stane Bridge, I passed a scientific snow depth measuring device….

snow on fence post

…and an ice covered pool at Pool Corner.

Pool Corner iced over

The temperature stayed around 1 degree all day today and it is to be colder tomorrow so with a bit of luck, we will have avoided the icy conditions that come with thaw and freeze.  Still, if need be, I have an old pair of Yaktrax which can be called into service.

Mrs Tootlepedal was hoping to go to the Buccleuch Centre in the evening to watch a ballet performance of The Winter’s Tale but sadly and with dramatic irony, the Winter’s Tale was cancelled by real winter conditions and the Buccleuch Centre was forced to stay shut.

There are warnings of more snow tomorrow so we will just have to wait and see.  If there is more snow, I hope it comes with some sunny spells to keep a snapper happy.

Today’s flying bird is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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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.


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


Dunnocks and robins made occasional appearances.

dunnock and robin

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


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.


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.


Good route choice.

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


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.


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

angel of the north

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

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

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

oyster catchers

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

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

dam bridge repairs

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

dam bridge repairs

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

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

moss in garden

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




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


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

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

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

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

oyster catcher

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

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

moss  sporangia

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

There were ferns on the wall too.

fern sporangia in sori

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

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

fern and sori

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

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

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


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

It was pretty chilly….

snow on Timpen

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

snowdrops castleholm

….and a hint of spring.

hazel catkin and bud

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

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

dam bridge repairs

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

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

It made a refreshing change.

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

flying chaffinch

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


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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who went to Margate to visit the Turner Gallery, which can be seen in the background of her  shot.

Margate sands with Turner Contemporary Art Gallery in the distance

I had the job of being the stand in feeder filler at the Moorland bird hide today and it was dry but chilly when I drove up to the feeding station.  The roads were very icy in places so I went with great care.

I filled the feeders and sat in the hide for a while, enjoying the busy comings and goings of the residents.

The chaffinches went for the tall feeder….


…while blackbirds and siskins preferred a little shelter from possible raptors…

siskins and blackbirds

…and the tits went nuts.

tit collection

I tried to catch one of each of the resident tit varieties.  This is a great tit…

great tit


….this is a coal tit…..

coal tit

…and this is a blue tit.

blue tit

We get long tailed tits around the town too but I have never seen any at the Moorland feeders.

As I sat there, I noticed that it had begun to snow and since I thought that the roads were quite tricky enough already, when the snow started to come down more seriously, I upped sticks and went home.

It didn’t take long before we were back to this again…

snowy garden

….so I settled down to work on my computer indoors for the rest of the day.

I put a couple of parish magazines, which Sandy had formatted for me, into the Archive Group website and checked on a couple of other things while I was there.

Then I caught up on my correspondence and turned my attention to hymns.  I have recently joined the church choir and since I don’t know the bass parts, I find it very awkward to put the music and words together for hymns, especially when the music is on one page and the words are on another.  As a result, I am experimenting with producing my own versions with music and words as close together as is possible to see if this helps.

Outside, the workers on the dam bridge seemed to be packing up although the work is by no means complete.  At one stage, a large lorry appeared and removed the container that they had been using as office and canteen.

dam bridge repairs

They were very brisk an efficient and had it swung up and on the back of the truck in no time.  The next time that I looked out, I caught a last glimpse of it as it went off down Henry Street at the bottom of our road.

dam bridge repairs

We are interested to see what is going to happen next.

In the early evening, Peter from our camera club turned up and we spent a frustrating three quarters of an hour unavailingly trying to get one or other of my laptops to talk to his projector via an HDMI cable.  There were plenty of suggested solutions available on the internet but sadly, none of them worked.  Such are the joys of tech.

On a more cheerful note, we switched off the computers and went off to sing with Langholm Sings, our local community choir where Peter is one of the tenors.  We are preparing for a concert with our local orchestra and as a result, we are singing a lot of songs which we know quite well.  This makes for a relaxing evening.

The forecast suggests that we might get a better day after a wet start tomorrow.  I hope so.

There was an almost complete absence of birds in the garden today for some unknown reason so the flying bird(s) of the day come from the Moorland feeders and are the best that I could do on a gloomy day.

Moorland feeder in snow

There was at least one walking bird about in the garden though.

footprints in the snow

It was almost certainly a wood pigeon.


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Today’s guest picture comes from my ex-colleague Ada.  She has been enjoying the sun in Tenerife and sent me this picture to torment me as we watched the snow come down here.

Down below is the busy resort of Playa de Las Americas

Down below is the busy resort of Playa de Las Americas

Here is the contrasting view from our bedroom window this morning.

snowy garden

And it kept on snowing for some time…

chaffinch in snow

…leading to some poor manners at the ground feeding station.

blackbird and robin

Dropscone dropped in for coffee, not only bringing the traditional scones but also rich gifts of sardines which he had picked up at a very reasonable price on his way back from a meeting up the borders last night.  He is an expert at finding very good ‘end of day’ offers at supermarkets.

The price of the sardines reflected the fact that today was their last use by date so Mrs Tootlepedal and I enjoyed pan fried sardines for our lunch.  They were very good.

The snow stopped and the day brightened up a lot….

starlings and goldfinches

A couple of starlings joined our usual visitors

….so when Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help out at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop, I put on my wellies and went for a walk.

I checked on the bridge as I set out.

dam bridge repair

The men had only worked for a relatively short time this morning but whether that was because of the snow or because they are waiting for things to set, I don’t know.

I left the bridge and headed for the top of Warbla, hoping to get there before any new snow showers appeared.

In fact, as I walked up the hill, the skies cleared and the sun came out, first on nearby hills….

snow on the hills Arkleton

…and then, as I followed the advice of the pheasants to go this way…

pheasant print in snow

…on the track where I was walking.

Warbla in snow

Even more pleasingly, it stayed out for the rest of my walk and I was able to enjoy a view across the valley to the felled Becks Wood which I visited a  day or two ago.  They have been very busy tidying the felled trees up.

pBecks wood from Warbla

At the top of the hill, there is an old trig point, elevation 276m, which showed which way the wind was blowing this morning…

Warbla trig point snow

…and some good views.

Esk valley with snow

By this time, the sun had removed all the snow from the lower slopes.

langholm with surrounding snow

I met a man in a car at the summit, where there are several masts, who told me that he was working for EE.  As EE is the telephone company that provides my mobile reception, I was pleased to see that they were on the job even in snowy conditions.

I used the phone connection while I was up on the hill to show that my face is pretty well back to normal after the ugly business of 12 days ago.

selfie on Warbla

I put the fairly rapid healing down to liberal use of arnica.

I thought that the redundant stile at the top of the hill was looking good but went through the new gate beside it on my way down.

stile on Warbla

I had noticed as I had come up the hill, that the telephone engineer’s car had stopped several times and the driver had got out for some curious reason.  As I followed it back down the hill….

EE car on Warbla

…it stopped several times again.  The mystery was solved when I saw the driver get out and take photographs.  It was good to know that he was enjoying the views as much as I was.  He kindly offered me a lift but it seemed like too good a day not to walk.  Besides, I wanted to take more photos.

Looking across the valley, I could see three timber wagons waiting to pick up logs from the enormous pile at the Becks Wood.

Becks wood timber wagons

When I got to the wood at the bottom of the hill, I stopped to look at the moss on the wall.  Although moss often looks rather short and stumpy on a wall, if you pull a single strand out, it turns out to be longer and thinner than expected.


Once again, there were a lot of different sorts of moss close together.


I passed a very sunny horse….

sunny horse

…and made my way back to the garden where I got quite excited by a daffodil bud.

daffodil bud

I had made a lamb stew in the slow cooker in the morning and Mrs Tootlepedal cooked some potatoes and green veg to go with it and the resultant evening meal made a good ending to day which turned out to be a lot better than it had looked likely to be when we woke up in the snow.

The flying (jumping) bird of the day is one of the starlings leaving the feeders.

flying starling

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