Posts Tagged ‘blackheaded gull’

In contrast to yesterday’s Antiguan sun, today’s guest picture shows a typical day in Derby.  My brother Andrew was suffering in the rain there a couple of day ago.


We had another very welcome dry day here today and things are even beginning to hint at drying out a little.  A bit more warmth would help the process.

A brisk wind also helps and we got that today, the downside being that it was a pretty chilly breeze and it made the day which was theoretically warm at 10°C feel a good deal colder.  Still, it was a useful day for a pedal and some gardening so we were happy.

My fairly speedy bike was still in the bike shop so I went out on the slow bike and stuck to skulking 18 miles twice up and down the Wauchope valley, as far out of the wind as I could stay.

I was impressed by the dedication of a flock of sheep to getting their strength up and stopped for a shot…


…and as I always look closely at a wall when I am leaning over one to take a photo, I took some lichen pictures while I was at it.

lichen on wall

I like the variations in colour, shape and style that the lichen on our roadside walls provides.

Otherwise, I kept my head well down in the crosswinds on the ride and didn’t take any more pictures.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal had completed some errands round the town and was busy gardening.

She is very pleased with the early crocuses this year and so am I.

There are some brighter ones about…


…but the bulk of the flowers are a delicate pale violet and I like them both for themselves and when they mingle with the snowdrops.


And because I like eating it, I was very happy to see that the rhubarb is looking very promising.


Then I went inside and looked out.  The kitchen makes a warm and comfortable bird hide and supplies good coffee too (Rwandan today).

I looked high…


…and low.


After lunch, I went off for a walk.  It had been gently sunny while I had pedalled along in the morning but the clouds had come over for my walk and it was a grey afternoon.

Pathhead track

Snowdrops provided some cheer both at the start and near the finish of my walk.


On grey days, I tend to keep my eyes on the foreground and ignore the views and there is always something to help to pass the time.

This wall provided a home for some luxuriant moss.

mossy wall

And a birch tree had a neat circle of script lichen.

script lichen

As always, walls are a never ending source of delight and today I came across a growth which I hadn’t seen before.  It is the coral like structure on the left in the panel below.  I think that it must be lichen but I am by no means confident about that.

lichen on wall

On the other hand, I am confident about this.


This is definitely cladonia lichen.

I had already stopped at a promising piece of wall before I had noticed the tiny spots of red so either my lichen radar is improving with practice or I was just lucky because I didn’t see any more along the the wall.


It really is very red indeed.

I started and finished my walk with a visit to the Kilngreen in the hope of seeing some oyster catchers.

There was a pair at the Meeting of the Waters when I was on my out but they flew off with a gull before I could get too close…

oyster catchers

And there was a pair (probably the same pair I would imagine) in the same place when I came back an hour later and they flew off again, first to further up the bank of the river…

oyster catcher

…and then again to join the gulls on the fence posts.

Luckily one of them flew right past me.

oyster catcher

When I saw that I wasn’t going to get close to them, I took a shot through an arch of the Langholm Bridge which gave me a lot of pleasure even on a grey day.

Langholm Bridge

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden again when I got back and I fell easily into a supervisory role.  It is a suitable role for me as it doesn’t involve doing anything else but walking around and saying, “That looks good.”

In the evening, I went to sing with our local choir and enjoyed myself not least because I am sitting next to my cello playing friend Mike who is an excellent singer and keeps me right.

He remarked that he and his wife have been enjoying the frog pictures on the blog so here is one from today, especially for them.


The flying bird of the day is a black headed gull which  flew by while I was tracking the oyster catchers.  It has almost got its spring black head.

black headed gull


Oh and the title of the blog refers to a telephone call which I received from the bike shop this evening to tell me that the fairly speedy bike has got a two inch crack in the frame so it is time to say farewell to an old friend. Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out that it is just as well to discover a crack like that when it is in the bike shop and not when you are going down hill at 30mph.

I don’t remember exactly when I bought the fairly speedy bike, a Giant SCR, but I must have had it for over ten years so it will have done about 40,000 miles at least.  It has been a good servant, comfortable and reliable and I will be very happy if my new bike turns out to be as good.

I am going to look at getting a replacement suitable for a elderly gentleman with no great bike handling skills but who enjoys getting a few miles in over a year. Like Two Ton Tessie O’Shea used to say about herself, it will be built for comfort more than for speed.  I know my limits now.


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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s visit to Madeira and shows ‘Autonomia’, a monument to celebrate Madeira’s regional autonomy in 1976.


It was another chilly but sunny morning here and it looked as though it might well be one of those days when a trip up a hill could be rewarded by some delightfully misty views below.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get our timing quite right and arrived at the White Yett to get an interesting view up the Ewes valley…

Ewes Valley

…with a hint of mist over the town….

Misty morning

…but even the sheep thought that there were better views to be had elsewhere and were heading off.

Whita sheep

The drive was a little nervous as Mrs Tootlepedal had reported that the car’s information system was claiming that she was using unfeasibly large amounts of petrol when she went to Lockerbie on Thursday.  A quick check today showed us that the car’s computer system thought that we had used seven miles worth of petrol to go three miles.  This was a bit alarming even though though there wasn’t any smell of leaking petrol so we took the car to the garage and left it there and walked home.

Looking back up at the hill from which we had just descended, it seemed that there might have been a good photo opportunity if we had waited a while….

Mist on Whita

…but a few minutes later, when we looked again, the mist had all but disappeared.

Mist on Whita
I was just telling Mrs Tootlepedal about the noisy dippers I had heard on the river a couple of days ago when she said, “What’s that?”

It was a noisy dipper, singing and dipping in the Wauchope.


We watched for a short time and then another noisy dipper came shooting down the river and both of them left in a hurry.  I still can’t make up my mind whether the singing is a love song or a war cry.  I would be pleased to get a view from any dipper savvy readers.

On our walk along the banks of the Esk, we saw Mr Grumpy catching a ray of sunshine in a gloomy spot….


…and a fine display of both male and female alder catkins.

Alder catkins

We had a cup of coffee and then I settled down to watch a bird or two.

There were two robins about today and I took several pictures of them but one robin looks very like another so you will have to say for yourselves whether this is two pictures of the same robin or two pictures of different robins.  (There definitely were two robins in the plum tree at the same time on one occasion but not sitting where I could photograph them together.)


Otherwise, it was a case of the usual suspects.


Although we had had to clear ice off the windscreen of the car before our trip up the hill, the roads were clear and when the thermometer showed 4°C at midday, I put on as much cycling gear as I could find….

Tootlepedal in the buff

…and went off to do 21 miles up and down the road to Wauchope Schoolhouse.  It was cold enough to make cycling less than an unadulterated pleasure and it took me some time to get the legs warmed up on the first  section uphill to Wauchope Schoolhouse but after that I kept a very steady pace and my bike computer told me that I did the three downhill, downwind sections of the journey within a few seconds of each other.

When I went out cycling, Attila the gardener went to work too and by the time that I got back, she had made a very neat job of the marigold bed at the end of the drive.

neat flower bed

I started to watch a bit of Andy Murray playing Milos Raonic in the ATP tennis semi finals but it got too much like hard work so as the sun was still out, I went for a short walk to see what I could find at the riverside.

Mr Grumpy had moved.


There were gulls on all sides.


And mallards on the Kilngreen


I walked home via the new path.  There are a pair of Noble Firs beside the path.  They have large cones which don’t fall off…

Noble fir

…but which are obviously on some creature’s dinner menu.

There was a bit of a stushie going on with loud cries and shouting when I came to cross the Jubilee Bridge but it turned out to be nothing more alarming than a game of football.

Langholm football

I watched for a bit but it was getting decidedly parky by this time so I didn’t linger too long and left just before the final whistle blew.

I was more than happy to have a slice of Mrs Tootlepedal’s walnut and banana loaf and a cup of tea from my new teapot to warm me up when I got home.

I then subjected myself to some cruel and unusual punishment by watching first Andy Murray play tennis and then Scotland playing Argentina at rugby.  In the end, they both held on to win very tight matches by the narrowest of margins so a day that started badly with the car needing attention, ended very well with national pride satisfied.

I had a very good look round the garden when I came back from my pedal to see what the frost and Attila the Gardener had left and found enough rather ragged blooms to make up a composite flower of the day.

November flowers

The flying bird of the day is a fierce goldfinch.

flying goldfinch



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Today’s guest picture comes from my Newcastle correspondent.  She tells me that her husband Mario met these attractive creatures at at Weetslade country park, another of the North East’s redeveloped former pit sites.

Mario's snails

I felt remarkably well when I got up but was quite pleased to find it was a grey and drizzly day which gave me an excuse for not doing too much in the way of outdoor activity.

I put the time to good use by putting a week and a bit of the newspaper index into the Archive Group’s database.  I have been very idle about this and I am still putting in some weeks of 1893 while Sandy is busy entering data for 1894.

I did do a bit of gardening in a dry spell when Mrs Tootlepedal was singing in the church and I took the opportunity to admire the poppies.  Mrs Tootlepedal’s packet of mixed seeds is beginning to show a bit of variety.

mixed poppies

My favourite poppy gets a solo portrait and it shows that there are plenty more poppies to come.


On the down side, one of the disappointing peony poppies added to its lack of attraction by causing a mess on the lawn.

poppy mess

I cheered myself up with a look at one of the cornflower patches.  They seem to last for ever.


With the bird feeder not in action, the garden is quite quiet as far as feathered friends go but there are still a few blackbirds to be seen every day.


When Mrs Tootlepedal returned from Church, we went off to do some shopping and returned in good time to watch the final stage of the Tour de France and the ladies’ race which preceded it.

As the real action doesn’t get going until the last few kilometres of the main event, I went out for a walk between the end of the ladies’ race and the end of the men’s stage.

It was still drizzling on and off and the light was poor but there was enough to see a good selection of birds.  On the Esk there were the usual oyster catchers and pied wagtails but today I saw a grey wagtail as well.

wagtails and oyster catcher

Lurking under an arch of the Town Bridge a few yards away was the familiar figure of Mr Grumpy in a reflective mood.


I walked over the bridge and through the Clinthead garden, where I saw a thrush hiding under a bush…


…and was entertained by many flying birds on the Kilngreen.

black headed gull and mallard

There were black headed gulls in the sky and mallards over the river but the most obvious flying bird was almost right under my nose.


I got quite a start when Mr Grumpy flew past me.  He had come to pose in better light for a portrait.


I walked over the Sawmill Bridge and onto the Castleholm, keeping an eye out for fungi.  I didn’t have to look very hard.

fungi on castleholm
Other creatures had obviously seen them first.

fungi on castleholm

On the other side of the Castleholm, a large patch of colour beside the race course stood out.


It was lesser knapweed.


It started drizzling again so I took the shortest route home over the Jubilee Bridge, stopping to look at a tree as I crossed.

Helicopter seeds

I used to love playing helicopters with seeds like this when I was a boy

It had stopped raining by the time that I got home so I peered over our hedge and saw the view of the garden that casual passers by get.

Garden from the road

Even on a very grey day, there is a colourful corner somewhere in the garden.

Ligularia, phlox and Bobbie james

Mostly Ligularia, phlox and Bobbie James

I got home on good time for the finale of the tour and wondered to myself what I will use as an excuse to be idle now that the three week race is over.  Perhaps I will have to lead a useful life.

Yesterday’s sausage stew provided us with another meal and that ended the entertainment for the day.

The shot for the flying bird of the day reveals the complicated arrangements that Mr Grumpy has to make when he comes into land.

heron landing




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Today’s guest picture comes from my Newcastle correspondent Fiona.  Her father is currently gadding about in California but she thinks that there is just as much fun to be had on Tynemouth Sands and who could disagree.

Tynemouth Sands

We woke to a perfect March morning.  The sun was out, the sky was blue, the frogs were purring in the pond  and there was a definite hint of spring in the air.

My first business of the day was a visit to the physiotherapist to see if she could put a bit more spring in my step by magically curing my hip pain.  She gave me a set of exercises and a month to do them.  Then we will see.   Her ankle exercises cured my ankle last year so I am approaching these hip exercises in a very positive frame of mind and that is more than half the battle.

This good start to the day was enhanced by the arrival of Sandy and Dropscone for coffee.  Dropscone had made a batch of scones at such short notice that they almost qualified as fast food.

 He is working very hard at mastering the rules of golf at the moment as he is shortly going to sit an exam in his quest to become a highly qualified official.  The rules of golf are not quite as simple as you may think – hit it up the middle, walk after it and hit it again – and contain many tricky points.  He may face multiple choice questions questions something like this:

A golfer hits the ball into a large puddle.  In bending to retrieve the ball, he is bitten by an alligator and falls on top of the ball burying it in mud.  In retrieving the ball, it is snatched from his uninjured hand by a passing heron and dropped into a nearby bunker.  In making his way to the bunker, he trips over his opponent’s clubs and falls headlong into the hazard, once again burying the ball.  He retrieves the ball, drops it correctly but strikes his opponent accidentally during his backswing, breaking his leg and as a result tops the ball back into the bunker.

What happens next?

A: The player is penalised two strokes and the game continues.
B: There is no penalty as all the events have been caused by an ‘outside agency’C: The player wins the match as his opponent is unable to continue.
D: The player wisely gives up golf and takes up billiards.

We wish him luck.

We were visited during the coffee break by a pair of bramblings in the plum tree (I caught them both)…


…and a pair of noisy and lumbering helicopters (I only caught one of them).


At coffee, Sandy told me that he had been out for some photography advice on Sunday from a very well known professional nature photographer and had learned some useful things.  I asked him if we would impart some of his learning to me and he generously agreed so we went off to the Kilngreen to see what we could see.

meeting of the waters

We saw ducks.

They were paddling…


…indulging in disgracefully sexist behaviour…


…taking off…




…and just thinking about stuff.


I saw a pied wagtail too.


We saw gulls.

blackheaded gull

And we saw lots of beautiful crocuses…



Some with added bees.

crocus and bee

Collecting pollen was the name of the game.

crocus and bee

As we left, Sandy told me that the soundest piece of advice he got was to come back to the same spot several times and try to take better pictures at each visit having learned from the previous efforts.

When I got home I found that fellow archivist Ken had delivered another letter from Scottish Power.  It said that they were baffled by the whole affair and might talk to me again in a month.  I rang up their amusingly titled ‘Customer Service’ department and expressed mild disappointment.  They said that they could quite see that I might be disappointed.

We have a visitor coming next week so Mrs Tootlepedal is currently very busy getting her painting and decorating done in time.  I have offered to help but it was explained to me, in a kindly manner, that the time taken to train me up to a half decent standard would be far greater than the time that I would save by helping so I went off for a pedal instead.

It was a good day for a pedal…


…especially on the way out where the wind was behind me.  I got to the bridge where I intended to turn round and was going to take a picture to add to my portfolio of ‘Pretty Stone Bridges of Eastern Dumfriesshire’ but decided that it wasn’t pretty enough.  However, where there is a stone bridge there is always some lichen on the parapet so I photographed that instead.


The bridge may not have been very pretty but the view from the bridge was striking.

past paddockhole

The trip back was  a bit less heavenly than the wind assisted outward leg and even though I pedalled like a ‘pipistrelle ex Averno’, I was two minutes slower on the easier return journey than I had been on the way out.

Still, the good weather this month means that at the half way point, I am well ahead of my monthly schedule.  Thanks to the earlier storms though, I am still behind my annual target distance by some way.

In the evening my flute pupil Luke came and we did some of that boring sort of practice that is necessary from time to time if technical progress is to be made.

Isabel and Mike were busy thinking high thoughts at a manse meeting so there were no trios in the evening.  I was secretly quite pleased because I shot the pictures at the Kilngreen in the morning in RAW format and processing RAW pictures takes a bit more time than just clicking the auto contrast button on a JPEG and I had plenty to look through.

One of them appears as flying bird of the day.  It features the aptly named black headed gull.

black headed gull

*The correct answer in the golf quiz is of course answer D

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Today’s picture is yet another from my brother and shows Mt Taranaki, an imposing hill in NZ.  It is a pity that someone seems to have made off with the very top bit of it or it would be even more impressive.

Mt Taranaki

I had intended to go cycling with Dropscone after breakfast but continuing feebleness of mind and dodgy joints persuaded me to let him have all the pleasure of pedalling into yet another strong easterly wind by himself….though I nobly helped him out with the eating of the girdle scones when he arrived for coffee after the pedal.

I am used to having these spells of tiredness and it will soon pass and I am hoping that the strong, chilly winds will have passed as well as the thought of cycling into them is not speeding up my recovery one little bit.

An idle morning gave me time to get more familiar with my new music software and the opportunity to take some bird portraits.  A number of my visitors agreed to sit for me.

greenfinch and goldfinch

Greenfinch and goldfinch

brambling and blackbird

Brambling and blackbird

female and male siskin

Female and male siskin

These portraits may be clicked upon to enlarge them. 

The little bit of seed falling from the female’s beak leads to large numbers of chaffinches waiting under the feeder for scraps from the table.  The birds all seem to crunch the seeds with the end or sides of the beak before swallowing them which gives rise to the falling fragments.

After all the pictures in previous days of siskins scrapping, I thought it only fair to post one of siskins sharing peacefully.

siskins sharing

Mrs Tootlepedal had had a choir practice in the morning and went to work in the afternoon so I was left to my own devices and after lunch I thought that I should take some exercise however slight so I packed the cameras and went for one of my usual walks.

Some signs of spring were to be seen but not many.

daffs and snowdrops

The daffodils should have been out long ago and the snowdrops should be well over by now.

However the birds are definitely getting that spring feeling and beginning to pair off.


Two ducks keep it clean.

Some single birds were to be seen as well.


The heron obliged me with a stately fly past as I walked along the riverside on the Kilngreen.

heron flying

heron flying

And I saw both a pair of wagtails…


One stopped for a moment

…and a pair of dippers….


Both of them stopped but only one was not in deep shade

…as I walked across the Sawmill Bridge.

Then I walked round the pheasant hatchery where furious building to house the new brood is taking place.

pheasant houses

They dismantle them and rebuild them in a different spot each year .

I would like to know more about lichens/moss and understand why this tree, standing among many others around it which are covered with lichen/mosses, has only this almost perfect circle to show.

lichen on tree

I found the River Esk in peaceful mood.


But then I walked on and sat beside the river  for a while on a convenient fallen branch and hoped for something exciting to pass me by.  Nothing did but I enjoyed this more active river scene while I waited.


I noticed, as I walked on,  that the Easter bunny was still in position, hoping that if it stood perfectly still that I wouldn’t see it.


I saw nothing else of note until I stopped to take a picture of a very fine member of the minister’s flock at the manse.


Someone must have been chucking bread over the wall because within seconds of stopping I was being approached by an ugly mob.


I made an excuse and left.

When I got home, the feeder was empty and the garden was birdless.  However, the birds must post sentries because within seconds of putting the feeder out again, the garden was full of birds which arrived so to speak out of thin air.


Then I started off some more sourdough bread and made my tea.

My flute pupil Luke came and showed me the handsome certificate he had received for passing his grade examination and we had a good practice.  The best thing about having a pupil as he or she progresses is that it gives you someone to play duets with and Luke and I are working on a piece by J B Loeillet which is coming along nicely.

I had expected to go and play some more music in the evening but this was cancelled and I was able to have a relaxing evening in.  The forecast is claiming that the wind will drop on Wednesday and I am hoping to be perky enough to cycle then.  Meantime, I am going to continue to do nothing much.

The flying bird of the day was a low flying gull.











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Today’s picture shows a slightly uninviting opportunity to sit outside a pub on the river in Barnes.  My daughter Annie sent it and tells me that she didn’t sit out today.  Wimp.


We had another day of mixed weather, starting with this…

snowy chaffinches

…but changing into this as the day went on.


I went across the river twice, once on the morning and once on the afternoon and took a picture each time.

View of Whita

Chalk and cheese as they say.

Even as I took the first of the pictures, the snow was melting on the other side of the river.

Elizabeth Street

No snow on the roofs this side of the river.

If you could get out of the biting wind and dodge the frequent flurries of snow, the sun was quite warm and it was a reasonable day.  If you couldn’t get out of the wind and the sun was behind the snow clouds, it was miserable with the temperature never rising much above zero except for a short while in the afternoon.

My first trip across the water was to visit the Archive Centre…

Archive Centre

…to consult with a couple of our experts who were working there this morning.  In spite of its grand name and impressive sign, the centre is nothing but a small ground floor room in an old shop equipped with microfiche readers and a computer which our group uses as a workspace.  These ladies are working on our newspaper database.  The one on the left (Nancy) is mining information from the microfiche of an edition of 1885 and the one on the right (Sandra) is entering data from other miners into the on-line database.  The pictures on the wall are from our extensive photo collection which is Sandy’s province.

My consultation successfully over, I returned home to see what was happening at the bird feeder.

chaffinch brutality

Not for the faint hearted.

Snow cover

Bramblings and chaffinches scrabble in the snow

I was still feeling rather tired so I resisted any slight temptation to do something energetic and sat and did the crossword and listened to the radio until Mrs Tootlepedal returned from work at lunchtime.

After lunch I did some more work with my music programs and started to feel that I knew what I was doing.  I was able to make some useful preparations for my flute pupil Luke.

Noticing that the sun was shining brightly and checking the temperature had risen a bit. I put on a coat and left Mrs Tootlepedal making costumes for the show that she is in next week while I went for a walk.

black headed gull

A black headed gull on a rock in the Esk


The Kilngreen heron

heron fying

It flew off in disgust when I didn’t feed it.

two herring gulls

Two herring gulls enjoyed the sun

 herring gull

They too flew off as I approached

oyster catcher

An oyster catcher who had obviously been digging for worms tried to creep by under my radar.

My objective was to look at the snowdrops at Holmhead but rather annoyingly they were in the middle of just about the only patch of snow that hadn’t melted.


My way home was interrupted by a rabbit which was hoping that I wouldn’t notice it if it stood stock still…


It nearly worked.

…and the sight of the start of the work in providing pheasants for next year’s shoots.

pheasant pens

The low sun made the trees look interesting (to me at any rate).

trees on the castleholm

moss and lichen

And there was plenty to look at on the trees too.

You can see that I am experimenting with the presentation of composite pictures.  It’s fun exploring what the photo editor has to offer.

In the evening my flute pupil Luke came.  He is going for an grade exam this week and should pass easily if he plays as well as he can.  I have told him not to be nervous because it won’t make him a better or worse player if he passes or fails.  He is making excellent progress and it is a treat for me to be able to play duets with him.

I had intended to go to Newcastleton for a meeting of the Liddesdale camera Club but Sandy rang up to say that it had been cancelled because of the weather.  We were secretly quite relieved as driving in sub zero temperatures along winding roads in the dark after a day of intermittent snowfall is not top of the lists of the things we like to do.

I had a big choice of flying birds today as you can see but I really like the twist in this chaffinch.


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