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Posts Tagged ‘blackbird’

Today’s guest picture was taken by our younger son and shows his wife and daughter obediently saying “cheese” when requested.

Clare and matilda

There was continued slight movement on the road to health in the Tootlepedal household today with Mrs Tootlepedal feeling well enough to take in a little nourishment.  I wasn’t quite as perky as I had hoped to be but I was well enough to wander about the house moodily and I did walk up into the town as far as the chemist in the afternoon to replenish our stock of paracetamol.

Having said that, it was still a rather gloomy day all round both literally and metaphorically.

I took time out to peer at the birds.

Everyone seemed to be looking for something.

robin

blackbird

bendy chaffinches

Often it was chaffinches looking for a perch.

busy feeder

busy feeder

And sometimes it was siskins looking for a fight.

siskin violence

I don’t think that the male siskin above who can be seen putting the boot into a female is quite in touch with the spirit of the moment.

Our robins were scurrying about again.  It is very difficult to know whether you are photographing the same one all the time but there are definitely three birds in the garden and I think that I got two different ones today.

robin

plump robin

The cat scarer is a favourite perch but we think it is also working as a cat scarer as there haven’t been any cats lurking under the feeder trying to catch birds lately.  Maybe though, it is just the cold weather that is keeping the cats at home.  Time will tell when spring comes.

I took my camera with me when I walked to the chemist for the sake of having a picture on the blog which was not taken out of the kitchen window….

misty whita

…but it was a grey and raw day so I abandoned plans for taking the longer and more scenic route home.

All the same, as I know that many readers will be feeling that their lives are strangely empty because of the lack of moss pictures on the blog recently, I did take a very small diversion on my way back to visit the park wall.

I have been reading the moss book that our daughter gave me for Christmas and though it doesn’t help me identify mosses, it is helping me to learn how to look at them and when we get some better light I hope to get some better pictures.  For some reason, I hadn’t really thought of moss as having leaves but of course, that is basically what moss is, a collection of leaves and the occasional sporophyte.

moss

moss

moss

moss

For those who can take a moss leaf or leave it alone, I throw in a fern complete with sori, also from the park wall.

fern

I had a quick tour of the garden in pursuit of more moss when I got home and I was wondering of thus was moss or not….

moss

…but I got easily distracted by some fine lichen in the plum tree and photographed that instead.

lichen

lichen

One of the bad things about being poorly and mooching about is that it leaves me with any amount of time to listen to the radio and watch the TV and this can only have deleterious effects on my mind and body because it involves taking in the news of the day many, many times.

On the plus side, watching the poor Californians, having been plagued by fire, now being consumed by mud slides does make me count my blessings quite gratefully.

I was intending to go to Glasgow tomorrow to help Matilda and her parents clear their old flat but having actually listened to some sound advice, I am going to stay at home and try not to make myself worse.

Another grey day post impressionist flying bird today.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Sue who sent me this shot of a Christmas visitor to her bird feeders.

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Either my eyes are getting dimmer (and my camera’s sensor too) or the cloudy days are getting greyer and greyer.  It was a really miserable day today with very little light filtering through from above so it was just as well that there were things to do indoors while the rain pattered down outside.

Mrs Tootlepedal did some serious clearing out of our utility room and I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.

I did look out of the window from time to time but there was not much to see.  Just a lot of raindrops…

raindrops

…a soggy looking siskin…

wet siskin

….and a clueless coal tit.

coal tit

The utility room clear out led to many agonising decisions regarding throwing away things that had sat unused and unloved at the back of the same shelf for thirty years but which were still obviously entirely necessary for the well being of the house and/or far too good to throw away.

We managed to get rid of quite a lot of stuff.

After lunch, the weather improved to the extent that it actually stopped raining but it was still tremendously grey.  Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do some shopping and I got out the slow bike again and set off for a short spin.

Although it looked very gloomy when I started, it improved a little and I got an hour of gentle pedalling in before I thought it was dark enough to come in again.

I did take a camera with me but it wasn’t a day for cheery scenic photographs so I concentrated on some water shots and visited a couple of my favourite little cascades on the mighty Wauchope.

wauchope cascade

After the rain, there was a fair bit of water coming down the river…

wauchope cascade

…with more rushing to join it from across the road.

wauchope cascade

I did basically the same ten mile trip up to Callister and back as I had done yesterday but put in a diversion to Cleuchfoot to add an extra couple of miles.   This took me across the Glencorf Burn…

Glencorf burn

…which has a handy sheep catching gate.

Glencorf burn

There was not much to see today but a couple of well furnished fence post tops caught my eye.

My lichen grip is sketchy but this might be Parmelia sulcata or a similar lichen

lichen on fence post

It looked very striking on a dull day.

The second fence post was more varied and seems to have two different sorts of lichen on it.

lichen on fence post

I put one of these images into the Google image search and it suggested that it might be a lilac!  Maybe AI still has a bit to go.

When I got home, we were visited by Mike Tinker, who had enjoyed his walk yesterday too.  When we told him that Mrs Tootlepedal had been doing some heavy  “spring cleaning” in winter, he told us not to mention it to his wife Alison under any circumstances.  Mike likes a quiet life.

If you read this Alison, it was just a little decluttering, nothing serious at all.

My ambition to eat a bit less has been hampered by the fact that I keep on eating more.  I am afraid that 12 miles on the slow bike won’t do much good but it can’t do any harm so I will continue to take any small window of cycling opportunity that appears in the gloom and hope for some better light to go with it.

No chance at all of a flying bird of the day today so a paddling blackbird will have to do instead.

paddling blackbird

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Irving who found a place without trees at Castle O’er.  Not an easy thing to do.

Castle O'er

After deciding a couple of days ago  that I wasn’t going to take part in the annual New Year’s Day “Whisky Run” because of the snowy conditions, I changed my mind entirely when the snow disappeared as quickly as it came.  As a result, I leapt out of bed this morning to greet the new dawn, put on my walking shoes and set out after breakfast.

The Whisky Run is a friendly affair that accommodates both serious runners and gentle walkers, the only condition being that you should try to start out at a time that will bring you to the Market Place in Langholm as near 11 o’clock as possible.

The main route takes the participants up the road on the west side of the River Esk, crosses the river at Burnfoot and then brings them back by track and road on the east side of the river along the Langfauld and then finishes along Langholm’s High Street.  At just over 8 miles, it is the longest walk that I have done (as far as I can remember) since I did the same event last year.

I left myself plenty of time to do the walk and got round in two and a quarter hours, having paused to take a few picture on the way.

By the time that I had got to the far end of the route and had turned for home, the sun had made an appearance and picked out the windmills on the far side of the valley..

P1060398

I looked back across the river at our local racehorse trainer’s track.

P1060401

I got near to the Gates of Eden but didn’t go through them.

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I liked the way that the sun had picked out a single field further down the valley.

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The track was in better condition than I had feared and I stopped and looked back at Golf and Bauchle Hills behind me…

P1060408

…and across to my favourite spot in the whole valley.

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I passed a merry group of walkers who had gone for the shorter five mile option, including Mike Tinker on the right in the green,.  He was one of the founders of this popular event more years ago than he cares to remember.

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I stopped to look back at a view…

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…which I had seen in very different circumstances only three days ago.

View of Potholm from Langfauld

I continue to be amazed at the swift disappearance of so much snow so quickly.

I arrived a bit early and was able to watch bands of runners enjoying making the finish….

P1060416

…and after a while I got the opportunity to take a group photo of some of the runners and walkers…

P1060427

…and watch Alison, my Friday night orchestra, present the prize to the winner, flanked by the second and third placed runners.

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While we waited for the prize giving, we were entertained by the Town Band which was doing its annual New Year’s Day perambulation of the town.  It paused to play for us….

P1060422

…and then proceeded with further perambulating.

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Mrs Tootlepedal, having arrived at the Market Place ready to help Alison with the finish, found enough volunteers already in place and went off to bicycle round the five mile route herself.

I made some potato and leek soup and peered about to see of any birds had survived the Hogmanay celebrations.

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The goldfinches were back, though the arrival of an argumentative siskin caused a little bafflement on the perch.

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There are still plenty of blackbirds in the garden.

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The day was mild enough at 5°C for Mrs Tootlepedal to brave the occasional short shower and do some digging in the garden as a start to her 2018 great gardening improvement scheme and it seemed a pity to me not to make use of a possible cycling day myself so while she delved, I pedalled off on my slow bike.

My major plan for the start of the new year is to lose some of the unwelcome weight that two slack months in November and December have piled on.

The best way to lose weight for me is to eat a little less and exercise a little more but since I like eating a lot, it tends to be a bit of a problem if the weather is not co-operative.  Ten miles on the slow bike is not much but it is better than nothing….and I only had a small plate of fish pie for my tea.

I saw a few things on my way.

P1060433

It was lunchtime at the cow cafeteria.

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Moss and a fungus on an old tree stump.

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Alder catkins.

I took the New Hampshire Gardener’s advice after failing to get a good picture of the catkins on the tree and picked this twig off and laid it on a wall stone to get a better contrast with the background.

Then I looked at the wall stone and took a picture of it as well.

P1060440

 

I avoided any showers and had a most enjoyable leisurely ride.  When I got home, I prepared a cycling spreadsheet for 2018 and entered my first few miles into it.  Having narrowly failed to make 4200 miles last year, I will try again this year so there are just 4190 miles to go. Here’s hoping for some good weather!

One of my resolutions for the new year is to go on more exciting outings with Mrs Tootlepedal.  We just didn’t do enough in the  way of getting out and seeing things last year, mainly because of the weather so I am determined to do better in 2018.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

_DSC0544

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is a glimpse of the Regent Canal at Camden, kindly sent to me by my sister Mary.

Regent's canal at Camden Town

We had been threatened by heavy rain and gales in the morning, courtesy of storm Dylan but once again we got off very lightly with no more than a stiff breeze and no rain at all when we got up.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I were able to cycle off to sing in the church choir after breakfast with no danger of being blown off our bikes or getting soaked.

We got back from church in time to see a robin…

robin

….and welcome our last visitor of 2017, the recorder playing, choir singing, container lady and good friend, Sue.

Mrs Tootlepedal had made fish pie and there was plenty of cheese about so we had a nourishing lunch and from time to time, we looked out of the window at a flock of goldfinches which had come to the feeder.

goldfinches

Every perch on both feeders was taken by goldfinches and more waited their turn.

goldfinches

The collective name for goldfinches is a charm and it was indeed charming to see so many in our garden.

Although we had been promised rain in the morning and a dry afternoon, it started to rain quite heavily while we ate our lunch….

blackbird

…and things dudn’t look promising as far as a walk went at all.

We had just settled down in the sitting room after the meal, ready to spend an hour or so in quiet conversation, when I spotted a ray of sunshine.

We leapt up and looked for boots.  Sue’s were in her car and while she was outside fetching them, she saw a wonderful rainbow.   I grabbed a camera and went into the garden.

rainbow

The sunshine was fleeting though and by the time that we had put our boots on, the sun and the rainbow had gone.

Still, we had our boots and coats on so we set off for the walk, more in hope than expectation of keeping dry.

It did seem as if it was raining as we went through the park but it was probably just water dripping off the trees.

dripping needles

And when we got into open country, the rain had gone and we did the rest of our walk in breezy but dry conditions.

My daughter Annie has given me a book on moss for Christmas so I will have to pay more attention to moss in 2018.  There is plenty about.

mossy wall

When you walk with different people, you see different things and I would have passed two stones without a second glance but Mrs Tootlepedal, who likes the history contained in rocks, thought them interesting enough to stop and examine them.

stones

Sue liked the colour combination of the hawthorn berries and the tree lichens beside the track.

haws and lichen

My camera didn’t do it justice.

I took the next picture to reassure doubters that there is indeed intelligent life on the earth.

two wise women

It was pausing to enjoy the view as we climbed up Warbla.

The view when we got to the top was sombre and although there were a few gaps in the clouds, the sun never found one to shine through.

gloomy view of Langholm

Proof that we made the summit.

Warbla with women

I took this picture of the town bridge, a mile away and on a very gloomy day just to impress Sue with the abilities of the Lumix.  She was impressed.  It is not cropped.

bridge

Sue has been studying lichens at her plant classes so naturally we stopped to look at the park wall on our way home.

lichen

And as we walked round the garden when we got back, I realised that I hadn’t taken a tree picture on the walk and looked at our walnut tree.

walnut tree

There was still a little light left in the west and Sue decided to make the most of it by heading home before it got dark.

We had been more than pleased both to see her and to get a walk in and we would have been thoroughly delighted with the visit even if she hadn’t brought some very tasty home made biscuits with her.

Alison and Mike had brought biscuits with them when they visited us on Friday so the end of the year has been very well be-biscuited.  These are the sort of friends you want.

Once again it was generally too gloomy for flying birds but the burst of sunshine which brought the rainbow also brought a very fine perching starling of the day.

starling

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the patient readers who have ploughed through another year of these posts and wish you all a very happy new year.   Special thanks goes to those who have sent me guest pictures (keep them coming) and those who have been kind enough to offer the comments on the posts which are always appreciated.

Thank you and good night.

 

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Today’s guest picture from Irving, taken earlier on,  shows the Black Esk reservoir, the source of our drinking water these days.

Black esk

After yesterday’s crisp and sunny weather, we could hardly have had a more different day today.  It was soggy, grey, cloudy and cold…

…but there were compensations.

snowy garden 2017

The view from an upstairs window in the morning

snowy garden 2017

Untrodden snow on the drive

It was a winter wonderland.  Or at least, it would have been a winter wonderland if there hadn’t been a persistent damp drizzle and if the clouds had lifted to reveal the hills.  As it was, it was somewhat of a damp squib of a day.

The birds really appreciated the feeder and there were dozens on the ground, on the feeder, on the plum tree and even more waiting off stage on the walnut tree.

snowy birds

Some birds seemed quite happy as more snow fell…

chaffinch, goldfinch, siskin

…but some just couldn’t contain their impatience.

chaffinches

I got out a shovel and cleared a path along the drive and some of the pavement outside the house and then after a look around…

snowy garden 2017

…went back in.

The day took a turn for the better when Dropscone came round with some traditional Friday treacle scones and my coffee blend worked out well.

We caught up on Dropscone’s golfing adventures and his family news and then he walked off through the snow again.

It had stopped snowing by this time so I thought that I ought to take a bit of exercise.  I strapped the Yaktrax to my wellies and set out to see where my fancy would take me.

It took me past the church…..

parish church snow

…with its details neatly picked out by the snow.

Then I passed the Meeting of the Waters, presenting a marked contrast to the sunny scene when we were here feeding ducks with Matilda a couple of days ago.

meeting of the waters snow

There was no golden winter light today and a rather ghostly scene appeared when I looked at the trees across the Castleholm.

snowy trees

Individual trees had been picked out by the falling snowflakes.

snowy trees

I met a jogger on the Lodge Walks.  She was running rather gingerly on the icy surface but remarked as she passed that the conditions on the track to Potholm further back had been more comfortable.

My fancy turned to the track to Potholm.

It would mean a five and a half mile walk in total but the lure of snowy scenes and good conditions underfoot led me on and I pushed ahead, ringing Mrs Tootlepedal first to stop her worrying about a longer absence than was expected.

The decision turned out to be a good one.

There were plenty of snowy scenes.

View of Potholm from Langfauld

And excellent walking on the track through the Langfauld wood.

Langfauld

The bridge at Potholm marked the furthest point of my walk.

Potholm Bridge

I met a second jogger coming towards me on the road from Potholm.

jogger on Potholm road in snow

The scene was white enough to make a sheep look quite grey by comparison.

sheep in snow

The snow and the grey sky made a good backdrop for this tree at the Breckonwrae.

tree in snow

And I finished up taking the same shot a the end of my walk as I had taken at the start of our walk yesterday.

Today:

langholm in snow

Yesterday:

View from Scott's Knowe

Both walks had been really enjoyable.

I got back in time to have a very late lunch and enjoy a robin in the snow….

robin in snow

…and a couple of the many blackbirds scavenging under the feeder.

blackbirds

Because the weather was expected to be rather inhospitable later in the evening, Mike and Alison came round for the usual Friday evening visit in the afternoon.  Alison and I enjoyed playing pieces by Rameau, Loeillet and Woodcock and then we sat down with Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal to a cup of tea, some excellent home made (by Alison) mince pies and a few ginger biscuits to dunk in the tea.  It was a good way to round off the Christmas holidays.

Now we are preparing for the New Year.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch once again.  They are very reliable birds if you don’t have a lot of time to look out of the window..

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  He has been out and about enjoying the bright lights of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh

We had no bright lights here this morning.  In fact it was hard to discern any light at all as it was the gloomiest day imaginable, cold and wet and very miserable.

As we are on a break from our Carlisle choir, I decided to join Mrs Tootlepedal and sing with the church choir here.  The organist and choirmaster had extended an invitation to go and sing with them on an ad hoc basis so I was sure of a welcome.

Getting to church proved a tricky business as the cold rain on top of some very cold ground had made our roads and pavements into a sheet of ice and we tottered along very delicately, holding on to anything we could find for support as we went.

The church choir was very enjoyable, though trying to sight read a tenor part while following the words on the opposite page of the hymn book was testing.  Luckily, Mike, my cello playing friend, was standing beside me  and being a very sound singer, he kept me right.

After we got home, I peered through the rain to see if there were any birds at the feeder.

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They looked pretty fed up and who can blame them.

siskin

blackbird

Of course, there is one bird that never seems to be weighed down by life.

robin

I made some soup for lunch and kept an eye out for more birds.

There was a steady stream of chaffinches coming….

siskin, goldfinch and chaffinch

…and sometimes receiving an unfriendly welcome.

siskin and chaffinch

I very much liked a little cameo performance by a robin and a siskin.

siskin and robin

My turn………………………………..your turn…………………………..er….whose turn now?

We have blackbirds with yellow beaks and blackbirds with black beaks.

blackbird

I don’t think that our cat scarer is much good at cat scaring but it does make a nice perch for you know who.

robin

After lunch, I waited for the rain to stop and then got ready to go for a walk.  The rain had started again by the time that I got to the back door but I needed some exercise so I took a brolly in hand and set out anyway.

The weather had warmed up quite a bit and the roads were free from ice but a test walk on a rough path showed that every puddle concealed a skating rink so I turned back and stuck to the roads.

It was very misty when I got to the river…

misty church

…and there was no sign at all of any hills behind the town.

Whita in cloud

As I crossed the town bridge, a ripple in a pool below spread out and in the middle of it, a dipper suddenly appeared.  I spent a minute or two watching it live up to its name and dive down and reappear after a surprisingly long spell under water.

dipper

I saw it fly off and walked over the bridge and on to the Kilngreen where I was delighted to find the dipper again, this time perched on a rock and serenading me with full voice.

dipper

On a second glance, I found that I was probably not its intended audience.

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Whether it was trying to woo the second dipper or telling it to get out of its space, I am not qualified to say.

Nearby, the mallards were lined up on the river bank…..

mallards

…though there is always one who can’t obey simple instructions.

mallards

As I walked over the Sawmill Brig, the clouds began to lift from the hills and as the rain stopped too, I had a quietly enjoyable walk.

misty hill

The light was still rotten so there wasn’t much of a chance to take pictures…

tree

…though just as I was getting near the end of the stroll, a little blue sky appeared over the trees.

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Too late.

I walked home via the High Street and took the opportunity to show you the fine Christmas tree in front of our town hall.

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By the time that I got home, the light had almost faded and that concluded the action for the day.

Mrs Tootlepedal is continuing to try out new recipes so we ate baked squash stuffed with fruit and vegetables for our tea.  It was a curious but not unpalatable dish but the combination of flavours took me by surprise and it will take another go before I feel comfortable with it.

There was a little sticky toffee sauce left over and we disposed of it with some ice cream for afters.  I was very comfortable with that.

A flying bird of the day was hard to come by in the gloom and rain.

goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture come from Mike Tinker.  It was sent to him by the owner of a cottage in Wales where Mike and Alison often spend a week on holiday (but not when it is as snowy as this).

Highbrook snow 2017

The deep snow in Wales is a reminder of how lightly we in Langholm have been touched by winter so far this year.

It was another dry and occasionally sunny day here today but once again the thermometer only just crept over zero and any chance of gardening or cycling remains in the future.

Still, the chilly weather gives me a good excuse for getting up late and idling about.  I did fill the bird feeders and look out of the window.

The blackbirds were very prominent again today.  I thought this one looked rather shifty as it searched for seed in the tray under the feeder.

blackbird

There was a discussion on the radio about Christmas round robins but I don’t think they had this one in mind.

robin

There were a lot of goldfinches flying in and throwing their weight about…..

goldfinch and chaffinch

…and generally looking appalled at the behaviour of lesser breeds.

goldfinches and siskin

I was pleased to see a sparrow on the feeder.  Although there are a lot of sparrows in our area, they don’t seem to like sharing our feeder with finches.

sparrow

Judging by what other people who  feed birds  have told me, there must be ‘sparrow gardens’ and finch gardens’.

 

 

After coffee, I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal to go for a walk and we went carefully in case of ice but found the going good in general.

The scene was frosty again….

Meeting of the waters

…but with none of the sparkle brought by a good hoar frost.  There were some examples…

frozen holly

…but they were few and far between.

As we crossed the Sawmill Brig, I recorded the fact that the new stones built into the parapet after the damage caused by a falling tree, are already showing an admirable tendency to provided a home for lichen.

lichen on sawmill brig

I was glad that Mrs Tootlepedal had come on the walk as her sharp eyes spotted some hair ice on a branch in a ditch.  I debated the wisdom of clambering into the ditch for a close up but decided to walk on.

Avoiding the ditch was a sound idea because we saw lots more hair ice as we went along.

hair icehair ice

It looks as though it is made of threads but touch it and it melts in your hand as it is pure ice.

It wasn’t hard to spot as there was an example on a fallen twig or branch every fifty yards or so but we were bowled over when we saw this magnificent display cascading down the trunk of a rotten tree.

hair ice

Nearby, a patch of frozen fungus caught the ye.

frozen fungus

Although the tree branches are not covered in white, for some reason the local gates are very attractive to Jack Frost.

frozen gate

I was thinking of another walk after lunch but our neighbour Liz told us that she had a chimney sweep coming and we asked her to see if he would come across the road when he had finished with her chimneys and do ours before he went.

She did, he would and he did.  He was amazingly quick and efficient and left without leaving a speck of soot behind him.  We will see him again next year.

While I was waiting for him, I looked at the birds.

If the goldfinches are going to be as bossy as this one, you can see why sparrows might look for somewhere calmer.

goldfinch and chaffinch

We had a flying visit from some starlings but they only stayed for a few seconds before moving on.

starlings

When the sweep had gone, I lit a fire to celebrate and then  settled down to putting some music on the computer to practise as we are going to a competition in Manchester in February and it will be hard work again.

Meanwhile, Mrs Tootlepedal was gainfully employed making potato and parsnip gnocchi for our tea.  Like the sticky toffee pudding, this was a first go for her and like the pudding yesterday, it was entirely successful so we had a very good evening meal of gnocchi and baked beans followed by a second helping of the sticky toffee pudding.  Once again, that banging noise you can hear is pampered billionaires banging their heads against the wall and wondering why they can’t eat as well as us.

In the evening, we went to our parish church to listen to a concert by Emily Smith, a very talented singer from Dumfriesshire with two friends to back her up on fiddle and guitar.  The trio were delightful and gave us a varied programme of carols, Christmas songs and a nice mix of her own and other writers’ world.

I may have remarked before that we are very fortunate to have constant treats in Langholm and with the community pantomime last night and this excellent professional performance tonight, any thoughts of cold, dark days have been put away for a while.

By chance, I managed to catch a flying chaffinch outlined against the frosty lawn and I was pleased to be able to use the shot as flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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