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Posts Tagged ‘blue tit’

Today’s guest picture(s) shows the wonderful flowers organised by Valeria, Joe’s sister-in-law, for Joe and Annie’s recent ceremony …..

cake

….some of which turned out to be entirely edible, pot and all.  There were made by the Botanical Baker.

cake cut

We had another fine day here and we are in danger of getting so used to good weather that it will come as a nasty shock when it starts raining again.

In the meantime, we are enjoying it.

We spent the morning in the garden, Mrs Tootlepedal working, and I wandering  about.  It was she who spotted the visitors though.

We usually have to wait until next month before we see a small tortoiseshell or….

small totoiseshell butterfly on chionodoxa

…a peacock butterfly…

peacock butterfly on chionodoxa

…so I don’t think that I can have ever taken a picture of a butterfly visiting scillas before.

And although the sight of a small tortoiseshell butterfly warming its wings in the sun on a paving stone is quite familiar…

small totoiseshell butterfly sunning

…I am pretty sure that this is my first ever shot of a peacock on a daffodil.

peacock butterfly on daff

To add to the garden of delights, a little flock of blue tits passed through and one sat one enough to get its picture taken.

bue tit in garden

At different times I took my pocket camera out to admire the flowers….

pulmonaria, buttercup, fritillary, scilla

…and my bird camera to do the same, though on this occasion my shot of the scillas was photobombed by a butterfly.

daffs, primrose and tortoiseshell

I spent some fruitless time trying to catch any of the many bees that were buzzing about but they would visit the hellebores and disappear into the down facing flowers.

The tidying up bug was in evidence again today, and we added a second shelf to our library of logs…

log library

…I finished the transfer of Bin B to Bin C (and an overflow to Bin D)…

compost in progress

…and Mrs Tootlepedal tidied up the greenhouse sufficiently to give her somewhere to have a rest after all the activity.

Mrs T resting

For the first time this year, it was positively warm in the garden and there was no need for a coat.

Once again, birds didn’t come to the feeder but the garden wasn’t entirely birdless by any means.  We have resident blackbirds and dunnocks.

blackbird and dunnock on fence

I made some brown lentil soup for lunch.  This was a triumph because to make brown lentil soup you both have to remember to soak the lentils over night, and then crucially, to remember that you have got soaked lentils ready for soup making the next day.

After lunch and a bit of a rest, I went out for my permitted exercise of the day.  (Mrs Tootlepedal is taking her exercise in the garden.)

As I had cycled yesterday, I walked today, and was quite happy to do so as by this time, the wind had got up and, coming from the north as it was, there was a distinct nip in the air at times.

Still, in sheltered spots, it was warm and I chose a few sheltered spots to pass through on my way.

Walk 2 Duchess Bridge

I was following the route of Walk 2 of the Langholm Walks, though in the ‘wrong’ direction.

wood at Breckonwrae

When I got out of the woods and onto the road to Potholm, the views of the woods…

Potholm hill ridge

…and hills on the far side of the river…

Potholm Hill

…..were quite good enough to make me ignore the breeze.

And if I got bored with the views, the famous two headed lambs of Milnholm were always a distraction.

milnholm lambs

I crossed the river by Potholm Bridge and and walked up the hill to the track back to Langholm,

This seat came in handy after the climb up the hill from the river and I rested there for a moment.

bench above potholm

There were plenty of clumps of wild primroses beside the track…

primroses Langfauld

…and views back towards the road that I had walked along earlier…

Looking back over Milnholm

…and I got back to the Castleholm in good order.  I spent some time there trying to see if I could spot the nuthatch that I saw the other day, but it wasn’t playing today so I went home.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy while I was out and had made another shelf for the log library.  We will fill it up tomorrow.

We had baked potatoes for tea followed by the forced rhubarb, glazed and roasted and served with custard for afters.

Once again a standing bird is standing in for the flying bird of the day.  In saw this lone oyster catcher as I came along the Esk  at the end of my afternoon exercise.

evening oyster catcher

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He visited Kedlestone Hall in Derbyshire on one of the better recent days.

kedlestone hall

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to yet another meeting after breakfast and inspired by her vigour, I managed to get myself into my cycling gear and out of the house before coffee time.  Admittedly, I was helped in this by the knowledge that the forecast for the afternoon was very poor and it was now or never as far as comfortable cycling went.

There are now some definite signs of spring as I go round my customary 20 mile Canonbie route with daffodils out beside the road in several places.

daffs on cycle tour

Rather annoyingly, the brisk breeze was back again but one of the reasons that I like my Canonbie route so much is that it protects from the worst of a westerly wind and I get some help going home.  All the same, I had to keep my head down and pedal quite hard at times so I didn’t stop a lot.

When I did stop, the Canonbie cows were too busy to look up.

two canonbie cows

The sun came out as I was pedalling home, and with the wind behind me there were moments when it almost felt warm.

The sun picked out this dramatic tree near Irvine House.

tree a Irvine house

Mrs Tootlepedal was still out when I got home so after a quick check on the pond…

frogs

…and an inventory of growth in the garden…

garden growth

…I went off to cadge a cup of coffee and a ginger biscuit or two from Sandy.

He is remaining remarkably cheerful in spite of the tedium of being housebound for several weeks.  He has some entertainment though, as a pair of blue tits have settled into the nest box on his shed.  I caught a glimpse of one them today.

sandy's blue tit

On my way home, I was struck by these dark shapes in a tree.  They turned out to be a pair of rooks considering  redecorating the sitting room in their nest in the rookery.

two rooks holmwood

I got home in time for lunch and was joined by Mrs Tootlepedal.  Her meeting had extended itself into taking important visitors up on to the moor, where they had seen two hen harriers and several goats and kids.  Everyone had enjoyed this a lot.

After lunch, I had a moment to watch the birds.

Unlike yesterday’s neat eater, today’s siskin shows much more typical behaviour.

siskin dropping food

Goldfinches flew in from every angle…

flying goldfinches

…and once ensconced on the feeder, they looked both this way and that.

goldfinch contrast

Having checked the forecast again, I discovered that I might just have enough time for a walk before the rain started so I set out for a short walk over three bridges.

I had had the best of the day on my cycle ride. The cold was now colder, the sky was greyer and the wind was stronger but there were still definite signs of spring along the waterside on both sides of the Langholm Bridge.

signs of spring by the river

And a good supply of birds posing for the camera.

riverside birds march

The ducks have paired off for spring and these two were getting their heads together over some tasty snack just under the surface as I went over the Sawmill Brig.

ducks getting heads together

I walked up past the Estate Offices and admired the wall beside the road.  It is the stone wall with everything: ivy, peltigera lichen, hart’s tongue fern and any amount of moss.

growths on wall above ewesbank

In fact, I was quite surprised to be able to see some stones at one point.

wall above ewesbank

You see a lot more colourful sheep in the fields these days than you did when white wool was a big source of the sheep farmer’s income.

grey sheep

I went along the top of the wood and then dropped down through the snowdrops at Holmhead.  They are still looking good.

snwodrops holmhead

On my way back to the lodge, I passed a couple of sawn off tree stumps.  I imagine that recent rain and strong winds had made them unsafe so that they were cut off before they fell down completely.  The inside of the trunks didn’t look too healthy, I thought.

felled trees

The forecast had been right.  I didn’t have too much time before the rain came.  Unfortunately, because I had stopped to take so many pictures, my time ran out and the rain came on well before I got home.  I stopped taking pictures, put up the hood on my new coat which I had prudently worn, crossed the Duchess Bridge and hurried home….

…stopping only for this lovely burst of blossom beside the river behind the school.

blossom behind school

Mrs Tootlepedal had gone out for another meeting so once again, I took the hint from her industriousness and settled down at the computer to tax our car (cost £0 thanks to it being electric) and catch up on some correspondence with two old friends who had  written to me out of the blue.  As I had promised to reply in a couple of days to the one who wrote to me in January , it was none too soon to get to work.  Still, as I hadn’t seen him for nearly fifty years, a few weeks probably wouldn’t make a lot of difference.

Mike Tinker dropped in for tea and Mrs Tootlepedal returned (soaked) from her business and joined us.

Then it was time for flute playing with Luke.  He is between jobs at the moment so he has had time to practise and this has had a very good result.  I will be taking lessons from him soon.

After tea, I put most of a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database before turning to the production of this post.  It has been a full day.

The flying bird of the day is an angry goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from our neighbour Liz’s walk with Riley,  As well as the waterfall, she saw some very early primroses, sheltering beside the stream.

liz's primroses

We saw the return of grey and windy weather today which was a disappointment after our dry week, but at least the forecast rain didn’t arrive until after dark.  This meant that I was able to walk to the producers’ market at the Buccleuch Centre without getting wet.

Mrs Tootlepedal was already there when I arrived, as she and her fellow worker Margaret had set up a stall and were canvassing support of the community land buy out  They were being successful at enrolling more supporters and I purchased meat and fish so we were all quite happy.

When I left, they were still working hard and I thought that I should follow their example and do some work too when I got home, so I put another week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.

Then I made some lentil soup for lunch and while it was cooking, I had time to watch the birds.

The feeder was quite busy…

busy feeder siskins

…although the strong winds were making life hard for this goldfinch on its stalk.

ruffled goldfinch

Heading straight into the wind, another goldfinch aimed for aerodynamic perfection.

determined goldfinch

The bright red breast on this redpoll was another sign that spring is definitely here in spite of the gloomy weather.

redpoll in mating colour

I took this picture to show that the redpoll is a tiny bird, the size of a siskin and much smaller than a goldfinch.

redpoll goldfinch siskin

There was the usual amount of siskin squabbling going on and I liked the pained expression on the face of this chaffinch as he had to put up with more gratuitous abuse…

shocked chaffinch

…though I suppose that bad manners and tweets are no novelty these days.

For lunch I enjoyed some haggis from the market with my soup and Mrs Tootlepedal enjoyed some somosas.  Then, as it had still not started to rain, we got into the car and drove up to the Laverock bird hide.  The larch glade at the hide has been threatened with felling because of larch disease, but it is still standing and while Mrs Tootlepedal scanned the cloudy sky for raptors (in vain), I went in to look at smaller birds.

I could hardly hear myself think because of loud noises and when I checked, I could see that frogs were busy in the small pond beside the hide.

two frogs laverock

The peanut feeder had been freshly filled and I was entertained by a steady stream of great tits, blue tits and coal tits.

great tit, coal tit, blue tit laverock

A greater spotted woodpecker landed on a nearby pole and started giving it a good pecking.

woodpecker laverock hide

I could easily have sat there longer with so much to look at…

tits at laverock hide

…but I had promised Mrs Tootlepedal a walk, so we left the car at the hide and walked off along the road down to the river.road from laverock hide

Even at this time of year, there are subtle colours in the trees to enjoy…

tints on trees in winter

…and the road soon enters a wooded section with a fresh set of colours…

woods beside rashiel road

…and tantalising glimpses of old walls across the valley.

view across tarras

And where there are trees, banks and walls, there are interesting things to look at…

lichen, moss, fern rashiel road

…so even on a grey and windy day, it was not a dull stroll.

The Tarras water was very calm when we got to it.

Tarras wter near Rashiel

When the road got to the bridge across the river, we kept to the same bank and walked along the track towards Rashiel.

There is a curious mound near the house which might be an esker, left after the ice age…

mound at rashiel

…or might be a man made construction.  It is hard to tell.

It is in the middle of an otherwise flat area.

tree at Rashiel

We retraced our steps to the hide where I showed Mrs Tootlepdal the frogs.  The light on the ruffled water made it look as though the frog had been frozen in plastic and was struggling to get out.

frog in rough water

Mrs Tootlepedal was much struck by the endless procession of small birds to the feeder…

laverock feeder

…but in the absence of any more obliging woodpeckers, we didn’t stay too long and got home in time for a nice cup of tea.

The recent windy weather has battered our little fruit cages quite a lot, so Mrs Tootlepedal, with some help from me, went out to stiffen their resolve with a screwdriver.

After that, there was nothing for me to do but practice hymns and songs for the choirs tomorrow and try not to get too upset while watching snatches of the rugby on the telly.

The wind is howling and the rain is hammering down as I write this, but it is supposed to stop before tomorrow morning so I am hoping that the forecast is right this time.

A chaffinch, keeping its head up in case of a rude siskins, is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo’s Australian trip.  Her husband used his phone to take this shot of a big flock of bats.

Mary Jo's bats

We woke to brilliant sunshine and we were easily able to ignore a crisp temperature and a nippy wind.  Not having rain and a gale were quite enough to keep us happy.  The crocuses were ignoring the chill too and had opened their petals to greet the sun at an unusually early hour.

daff, crocus and rain gauge

Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge showed that we had had another four and a bit inches of rain recently so it is remarkable that the crocuses haven’t thrown the towel in.

And talking of towels, Mrs Tootlepedal thought that the best thing about the morning was that she could hang the washing out without it coming back in wetter than when it went out.

washing march

Dropscone, back from his Northumbrian holiday, arrived with scones and our friend Gavin kindly dropped in to help us eat them as we drank our coffee.

Dropscone had enjoyed his break with his two daughters and his granddaughter in spite of some very windy days.

After coffee, I spent some time pretending to be a man who was going cycling but actually watching birds instead.  (It may have been sunny but the wind was far from kind.)

The birds tended towards sneaking in from behind the feeder today.

chaffinch round the back

Both chaffinches and siskins were at it.

siskin round the back

And a blue tit escaped before I could catch it.

blue tit leaving

It was thin pickings for my camera but fortunately some chaffinches were prepared to co-operate.

This one came in at a perfect height…

chaffinch too low

…but this one was all too conscious that it was bit too high for comfort.

chaffuinch too high

In the end, I couldn’t waste any more time so I pumped up my tyres and set off into the unforgiving breeze.

The government was keeping an eye on my progress.

low flying plane

I was thinking of doing 30 miles, heading into the wind for 15 miles and then being blown home, but the sun had long gone and there was a sort of rain hanging about in the air and annoying me.  After only three miles both uphill and into a twenty mile an hour breeze, I thought better of it and turned left and headed for my twenty mile Canonbie circuit instead.

I kept my head down and didn’t stop much as I didn’t want to get chilled.  However, this fine tree caught my eye after five miles so I stopped for it…

tree at raehills

…but I didn’t stop again until I got back to Langholm.  In fact I didn’t even stop when I got to Langholm because, out of the blue, the sun had come out and things looked a lot brighter so I pedalled on through the town.

I still wasn’t intending to take any more pictures but the Ewes Valley mugged me.

ewes view in sunchine

And then I stopped again to record a common sight these days, a puddle that has become a pond.

ewes puddle

And with the sun making stopping a little less chilly business, I allowed a tree to detain me…

ewes tree

…and thought that I ought to record Ewes Church, my turning point for home…

ewes church

…and a nearby bridge (with an additonal gate as a bonus).

ewes church bridge

Some black clouds rolled over me as I pushed into the wind on my way back home but I sneaked past a rain shower and got home dry, having coincidentally having done exactly the 30 miles that I had set out intending to do.

Gavin had seen some young wild goats yesterday so when I got home,  I asked Mrs Tootlepedal if she would like to see if we could find them too.  She thought that this was a good idea, and we scooped up Mike Tinker who had come or a cup of tea but got potential goats instead, and set off up the hill in the Zoe.

As we turned onto the hill road a mini blizzard started and we got some rather odd views as went we went up the hill.  We could see a sunny Ewes Valley through a curtain of hail.

snow and the Ewes valley

The hail and snow got worse as we reached the moor and we were just beginning to think that our trip was ill advised, when the clouds blew over and a rainbow appeared.

snowy rainbow

We got down to the Tarras and sure enough there were two goats with kids.

This pair turned their backs on me…

goat with kid

…but this proud mother was more accommodating…

goat checking me out

…and waiting to make sure that I had taken her good side…

goat profile

…then got her children to pose prettily for the camera.

goat with kids

The snow had passed without a trace and the light was lovely as we looked up the Tarras Valley before we headed for home.

tarras view

A busy day wasn’t over yet, as first my flute playing friend Luke arrived for some duets and then, after tea, Mrs Tootlepedal cut my hair.  This was a load off my mind.

She had been able to get out into the garden for some tidying up work while I was out cycling, so we had made good use of a better day between us.

The flying bird of the day is one of those accommodating chaffinches, eyeing up its approach to the feeder.

flying chffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who is on holiday on the Northumberland coast.  He saw a boat temporarily going nowhere.

dennis' boat

I should have mentioned in yesterday’s post that since it was Shrove Tuesday, Mrs Tootlepedal made some delicious pancakes for our tea which we ate with lemon and castor sugar.  They disappeared so quickly that I didn’t have time to take a picture of them.  This was why I forgot to mention them.  I have got so used to taking pictures these days that if I haven’t got a picture, then it probably didn’t happen.

What definitely did happen today was that the sun shone.  All day.  It was accompanied by a very chilly and quite strong wind but we didn’t care.

I started my active day off by walking up to Sandy’s for a cup of coffee and a chat. The route took me up the hill to Holmwood and I could look back over the sunlit town, take in a touch of spring…

town, spring holmwood yellow crocus

…wonder why such a fine house as Holmwood House is still derelict and admire an eye popping burst of yellow crocuses on Jimmy’s Brae.

Sandy was remarkably cheerful for a man confined to barracks for several weeks.  As he has a supply of ginger biscuits, I will certainly be back.

When I got home, there was no time to rest as Mrs Tootlepedal had agreed to a walk and chosen the Langholm Moor as the way to go.  We drove up the hill, and when we parked the car at the White Yett, we could see snowy hills across the Esk, the pylon helicopter parked at its base, (it was probably too windy for it too fly), and my favourite sunlit view up the Ewes Valley.

helicopter turbines ewes

I took a closer look at the snow capped hills.

snow up ewes

It was a good day to be up and about.

We crossed over the col between the Esk and the Little Tarras Valley and saw more snowy hills at the top of Tarras.

tarras valley snow

Our walk was a simple one, down this road for a bit…

road to harrier corner

…and then back up it again.

I enjoyed the winter colours…

tarras valley browns

…and Mrs Tootlepedal scanned the skies for a sight of a hen harrier.  She was very happy when she spotted one through her binoculars, and even though it was far too far away to photograph, I could see it with the naked eye as it ranged across the moor looking for food.

On our way back up the road, we were struck by some very green moss beside the road.

It was Polytrichum Communale (I think) and it was positively glowing in the sunshine.  You can see it in the centre of the panel below.  Nearby, we saw a clump which had been pushed over.  You can see it on the left in the panel below and it shows just how long the stems of this moss are.  Somehow I don’t expect moss to have stems that long.  My moss book says that they can be 40 cm long.

mosses on whita

On the right of the moss panel, you can see some of the sphagnum moss which we expect to find all over our moorland.

When we got home, it was time for lunch and hot soup and bread and cheese was just what was required after experiencing the chilly wind on our way back to the car.

After lunch, I thought about cycling but carelessly managed to think about the very chilly wind too so I watched the birds for a bit.

I was happy to see a blue tit on the feeder…

blue tit

…and I had a good time watching birds enjoying the sunshine.  I especially liked the blackbird sunbathing on the hedge.  Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree continues to be popular.

birds in sun

There was plenty of action but my conscience got the better of me..

birds in shadow

…and I left the birds to it and got changed for cycling.

I went out into to the garden and wasted a bit more time being distracted by crocuses…

crocus panel

…which were enjoying the sunshine too.

open crocus

This is what a hellebore would look like if I was lying on the ground looking up at it…

hellebore from below

…but as I am too old and stout to creep under a hellebore, the shot above was taken by sticking my hand under the flower with a camera in it and hoping for the best.

I finally managed to get out on my bike. It was theoretically about five or six degrees celsius but the wind chill factor brought that down to zero or one degree and I made slow progress up the hill against the twenty mile a hour breeze.

It looked as though my sunny day might come to end as I went up Callister but the brisk wind at least had the merit of blowing these clouds away before they could rain on me.

clouds over callister

To add a couple of miles to my trip, I took a diversion up the Cleuchfoot road, both on my way up and my way back.  It is a gentle little valley with the Logan Water running down the middle of it.

cleuchfoot valley

I found my tree of the day there.

tree cleuchfoot road

I managed a slow but enjoyable twenty miles and this took me over 100 miles for the month.

Once again, I didn’t have much time to rest when I got home becuase I had arranged with Mrs Tootlepedal to combine some recycling at Longtown with a view of the starling murmuration there.  This was very time dependent and we got to Longtown to find the starlings in full flow over the High Street.

longtown starlings 26 feb 5

And i mean in full flow.  You had to be very careful when you looked up not to get an unwanted present in the eye.

There were times when the sky was full of starlings…

longtown starlings 26 feb 4

..making pretty patterns.

longtown starlings 26 feb 2

There were at least two separate flocks and I kept hoping that I would be able to record some of the twisting patterns which are characteristic of these murmurations but either I was too close or the starlings were not in the mood

longtown starlings 26 feb 3

The starlings are right over the centre of the town and the locals are probably quite fed up with having to wash their cars all the time and look carefully where they are stepping.

As it grew darker, the birds got lower in the sky…

black starlings

and soon they were diving down into the trees where they will spend the night.

longtown starlings 26 feb 1

It is quite a sight.  One moment the sky is alive with thousands of birds, and the next, they have all disappeared completely with a sudden whoosh.

I will have to wash the car tomorrow but it was worth it.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chafinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  It is a horrible evening here so I was pleased to find his cheerful picture of life on the river at Chester last week.

chester

We were promised a visit from Storm Brendan later in the day so it was good to find a quiet, dry morning when we got up.

The birds didn’t seem very interested in getting some food in before the storm came though and all that was to be seen was a goldfinch on the feeder and a crow in the walnut tree.

goldfinch and crow

I cycled up to the town to do some Archive Group business and called in at our not so near corner shop of the way home to stock up on a few necessities.  Then it was time for a coffee and finally, I got out for a walk.

I did think about a cycle ride but the prospect of a strengthening wind made a 5 mile walk more attractive.

I had only got as far as the back wall of the house when I had to stop to note snowdrops almost out beside the dam.

dam snowdrops

I hadn’t got much further before I was detained by a dipper which was living up to its name by doing some vigorous dipping in the Wauchope above the Kirk Brig.

dipping dipper

They can stay under water for an amazingly long time.

In the end, I had to go on and I walked through the town and along to the track to the oak woods and the Moorland Project bird hide.

It was muddy and slippery, so I had to keep more of an eye on where I was walking than interesting things but this fallen tree was large enough to attract my attention.

felled tree with fungus

And the oak trees are hard to miss when you get to them.

oak tree near jenny noble

I didn’t want to hang about too much in case the threatened rain came in before schedule so I pressed on to the bird hide.  I had heard at second hand that the hide was closed as a result of the larch disease which will lead to the trees at the hide being felled soon.  I wondered if this meant that the trees had already been felled but when I got there, the hide and trees were still there and the notice on the hide door read as follows:

laverock hide notice

I was in time, the hide was still open and the feeders had been filled by one of the volunteers.

I sat in the hide for a few minutes and was rewarded with a good supply of peanut eaters.

Among the crowd, there were two coal tits….

two coal tits

…two blue tits…

two blue tits

…and a great tit with a chaffinch with other things on its mind.

great tit and chaffinch

A green finch arrived and checked to see if the peanuts on the other side of the feeder were any tastier.

inquisitive greenfinch

There were plenty of puddles about and a pheasant was happy to use one as a drinking fountain.

drinking pheasant

There had been some sunshine om my walk out but the clouds were coming up from the west so I didn’t stop long and was soon on my way home along the road.

It is hard to convey the sheer pleasure that can be got from contemplating our hills while out on a walk and I don’t have the camera or the skills to do them full justice but even in the middle of winter, this is a very pleasant prospect.

view from Broomholmshiels

In hot weather, the sheep that you can see in the field in the foreground of the picture above often make use of the shade of a tree beside the road.  Looking at the exposed roots of the tree, I wondered if the sheep were responsible for these scratches.

sheep scraped root

On my side of the fence there was a good show of xanthoria parietina lichen.

xanthoria parietina lichen

I set off down the hill at a good pace and I wasn’t intending to stop again but when a cladonia lichen winks at you from a wall across the road, it would be rude not to stop.  This one was so big and bright that it looked like a flower.

british soldier lichen

The river had dropped enough to let me take a picture of Skippers Bridge when I got there.  As the light was dull, I thought that it would make a change to show the bridge at work instead of the usual still life portrait.

I feel slightly nervous when I see lorries of this size crossing the bridge as they seem vastly too big for it….

skippers bridge with lorry

…but the bridge has stood up well to fairly constant traffic for over 300 years and will doubtless outlast us all.

I got home before the weather broke and had lunch with Mrs Tootlepedal.  She went out on business in the afternoon and was not as lucky as me, as it was raining very heavily by the time that she bicycled home.

Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea and my flute pupil came in the early evening.  Mike got wet but Luke was lucky to find a gap in the rain when he came.

As I write this in the late evening, the wind is soughing round the house but the rain has stopped, temporarily at least.  Weather reports show severe gales on exposed western coasts but we are on the very edge of the storm so we are quite lucky so far.  Long may this continue.

The flying bird of the day is that dipper, pushing off low over the river to find more food.

flying dipper

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Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony.   Just to show that the sun doesn’t always shine in East Wemyss, he has sent me this lovely picture of one of his dogs on a walk in the dark.

burst

We had a chilly but not freezing day here, and as it didn’t rain, we looked on the bright side.

It was cold enough to persuade me that it might be a good idea to catch up on some archive work while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to stuff brochures with the spring programme of events into envelopes at the Buccleuch Centre.  The centre currently has 33 volunteers helping out, a testament to the value which the town puts on having such a good resource.

I added another parish magazine to the Archive Group website and then put a week of the newspaper index into the database.  This edition covered the death of Queen Victoria, a historic moment if ever there was one.

In between times, I watched the birds and was pleased to see a few siskins at the feeder.

two siskins

Mrs Tootlepedal left a few sunflower stalks standing near the feeder when the flowers were over, and the birds are very grateful to her because the stalks make a good place to stand and ponder, as this chaffinch is doing.

chaffinch on stalk

There were a great many flying birds at one particular moment but the reflections of a glimmer of sun in the window made the resulting picture look rather odd.

many flying birds

Jackdaws like the fat balls but don’t find it easy to get a grip on the feeder and get beak to ball.

jackdaw at fat balls

After lunch, I went out for a walk.  I could have gone cycling, as it was probably just warm enough not to have icy patches on the roads, but with a forecast of thirty mile an hour gusts and a very chilly wind, it wasn’t an attractive option.

I have been working hard in the last few months on doing exercises to improve my back and foot joints so I thought that instead of taking things easily after walking five miles in Saturday and three miles on Sunday, another briskish five mile walk today would be a good test to see if things really had got better as far as walking went.

I set out with the intention of not stopping until I had got out of the town but the sight of these severely cropped shrubs still carrying a good crop of berries made me pause for a moment.

berries on pruned bushes

Someone had told me that they had seen a lot of woodpeckers knocking about at the Moorland Project bird hide, so I thought that the hide would make a good target for my walk.  I had walked in much the same direction on Saturday but this time I went round the circuit in the opposite direction, and took the usual path through the woods instead of venturing onto the hill.

The path was muddy but fairly level so I made good progress…

track to round house

…and I especially enjoyed the oak wood from start…

oak wood near jenny nobles

..to finish…

end of oak wood

…not least becuase the sun came out.

When I got to Broomholmshiels, I turned left and walked up the road towards the bird hide.  You can see the trees where the hide is on the horizon.

road to bird hide

My informant may have seen a lot of woodpeckers on her visit but I didn’t see a single one on mine. I did see great tits…

great tit

…blue tits …

coal and blue tit

and coal tits enjoying the peanuts…

coal tit

…and chaffinches and goldfinches having fun at the seed feeder.

chaffinch and goldfinch laverock hide

I believe that the trees here are soon to be felled as they are larches and have got signs of a disease which means the compulsory clearance of trees affected so I took a picture of the hide, the clearing and the comfortable bench inside the hide where I sat to watch the birds.

laverock hide triple panel

I didn’t stay long in the hide because although the sun was out, it was already getting low in the sky.  Soon I was on the road that leads down to the Esk.

road above Broomholm

Once again, I pressed on, trying to give my feet a good workout, but the mossy wall can’t be ignored entirely…

pixie cup on mossy wall

…and I passed another of the little stone cairns which carry a welcoming message for walkers.

Buccleuich walking cairn

These welcoming signs have been overtaken by events as thanks to a recent law, one can walk anywhere one likes on open land in Scotland as long as you behave sensibly and don’t damage crops or interfere with the legitimate activities of others.

I couldn’t pass Skippers Bridge for a second time without taking a picture…

skippers bridge mid december

…and an old  friend and an interesting log detained me for a moment or two.

heron and fungus

Just as I was crossing the bridge, a motorist hooted at me and I was just going to scowl at the car for interrupting my peaceful walk when I saw that it was Mrs Tootlepedal returning from getting her new specs adjusted in Longtown.  I waved cheerily instead and walked home along the Murtholm.

The light had gone by this time so I didn’t stop to take any more pictures but the dying sun tempted the camera out of my pocket just as I got to our front gate.

sunset december

The walk was about five and a quarter miles and because I am boringly interested in these sort of things, I can report that it took me 43 minutes to walk the two and a half miles up hill to the bird hide and 53 minutes to walk the two and three quarter miles back down the hill to the town.   I should have been able to go back more quickly than I went out but the eleven minutes that I spent sitting on the comfortable but hard wooden bench in the bird hide made my feet hurt far more than the walking to get there.  A lesson learned; don’t sit down in the middle of a walk.

Mrs Tootlepedal had beaten me home and I had just made a pot of tea when the finely honed tea radar of Mike Tinker clicked into action and he appeared bang on cue to join us.  We sipped and chatted and not long after he left, my flute pupil Luke arrived and he and I had an encouraging half hour of musical enjoyment.

As Mrs Tootlepedal had been making a fish pie for tea and her fish pie is a thing of joy when it comes to an evening meal, the day finished on a very good note.

The only fly in the ointment was the news that the train company that takes us to Edinburgh on a Thursday had introduced its new timetable today with such efficiency and competence that half its trains were either cancelled or horribly late.  We just hope that things are going to get better by Thursday.

A daring chaffinch effecting a handbrake turn is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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