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Posts Tagged ‘brambling’

Today’s guest picture from our son Tony shows the East Wemyss dogs enjoying their day in the sun beside the Firth of Forth.

dogs in the sun

We had a pretty nice day here too, although a chilly wind reminded us that we still have some way to go before jumpers and coats can be light heartedly discarded.

Still, it was a treat to cycle to church in the sunshine and a selection of good hymns and an interesting address on the subject of ‘wheat and wine’ made for a good service.

We are just about at peak daffodil in the garden now and I took this picture of the middle lawn surrounded by them when we got back from church.

lawn and daffodils

Mrs Tootlepedal has a good variety of different daffodils on show and the six below are by no means all that we have.

six daffodils

On the other hand, the lawn itself, although it may not look too bad in the picture above, is in a very poor state, full of both moss and lichen…

moss and lichen lawn

…with not a lot of grass about.

I averted my eyes from the lawn and enjoyed the flowers.  The grape hyacinths are getting very blue….

grape hyacinths very blue

…and one of the perennial wallflowers has produced its first flowers.

perennial wallflower

Fritillaries have arrived in the back border and may well be candidates for the mirror treatment in the course of time.

first fitillary

Mrs Tootlepedal likes the matching colours of this flower and the shrub behind it…

cowslip and spirea

…and I like the little flowers themselves.

little cowslip

I went for a very short walk to take a picture of our friend Mike’s cherry tree as this may be its last year in his garden and on the way, I admired our neighbour Hector’s flowering currant….

hector currant

…and having taken the picture of the  cherry (I was late and it is just past its best as far as colour goes)…

mike's cherry

…I took this picture of our neighbour Liz’s forsythia.

Liz forsythia

We are fortunate to be surrounded by so much colour at no expense to ourselves!

On our lawn a jackdaw looked round, doubtless wondering who had taken all the wool mulch away from the flowerbeds.

questing jackdaw

The other jackdaws have taken it all.

At the feeder, there were plenty of siskins, some waiting for a spare perch…

two siskins on pole

…and others dropping in as soon as there was an opportunity.

diving siskin

Such was the pressure on the sunflower hearts that occasionally a siskin would try the peanuts.

siskin eating peanuts

I was happy to see a brambling, but once again, only one came.

lone brambling

After lunch, we went off to sing with our Carlisle Choir.  We combined the visit with a little shopping where Mrs Tootlepedal acquired a few more plants for the garden while I stocked up on coffee beans and cheese.

At the choir, our proper conductor was back after two weeks off and we had an excellent practice.  I enjoy all the songs that we are singing which helps.

I made a sausage stew when we got home and while it was cooking, I went out for a short walk in some lovely evening light (we have an extra hour on our hands in the evening now).  I noticed a new little blue flower in the back border….

little blue flower

…and then I left the garden and walked past the church….

church in low sun

…and down to the river where I found a gathering of about 30 oyster catchers.

They were lined up along the edge of the Esk and I couldn’t get them all into one shot.

20 oyster ctachres

One of them stood out though.

oystercatcher and dramatic river

The river was in shadow and it was too late in the evening to get a satisfactory flying bird of the day picture when the birds took off for short hops along the bank…

flying oyster catchers

…but I still quite liked this impressionistic view as a group headed for the suspension bridge.

impression of flying oyster catchers

The sausage stew turned out well and a little gentle telly watching rounded off the day.

A horizontal and streamlined goldfinch with its eye on the prize is the flying bird of the day.

horizontal flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She was visiting the Somerset Rural Life Museum with my Somerset correspondent Venetia not long ago when she came across this very patient horse.

mary somerset horse

It was a beautiful day today with not a cloud in the sky but as it was still below zero after breakfast, there was no chance of a cycle ride for me.  Unfortunately my foot was rather sore which was annoying so I didn’t think that a walk up one of our hills was a good idea either.

As a result, I hung around doing nothing much while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Carlisle in the bus to do some shopping.  In the end, I pulled myself together and went out to see if I could walk my sore foot off with a nice flat stroll.  I couldn’t but it didn’t get any worse and it was a lovely day for a walk so I wasn’t complaining (too much).

There were gulls dipping their feet in the icy waters of the river at the Kilngreen…

bathing gulls

…with others keen to join them.

gull landing in esk

Meanwhile there was a lot of gulls leaving their posts and flying past me both at low level…

flying gull 1

…and higher up too.

flying gull 2

I pottered on round the Castleholm and pheasant hatchery, enjoying frequent splashes of snowdrops as I went.

lodge gates snowdrops

The last time I walked this way, it was a very grey day and I took a black and white photo of the woods near Holmhead so I thought it only fair to show them in full colour today.

holmhead woods

I would have liked to be on the top of Timpen instead of looking up at it but…

timpen from pheasant hatchery

…there were interesting icy puddles to admire where I was….

frozen puddle mat and clear

…and a delightful view of a characteristic farm cottage…

breckonwrae

…colourful cones, fallen to the ground…

cones

…and quite a bit of hair ice too.

hair ice

The fungus which causes this phenomenon must be spreading as I am seeing more and more hair ice as I walk about.

As long as I was in the sunshine, it was a very kind day for a walk but in the shadows, the ground was still frost covered.

whita in sunshine and shade

The conditions underfoot were perfect, dry and ice free…

castleholm walk

…so I got home very content with my walk.   My foot was a different matter though and as I can’t work out what is wrong with it,  I will seek medical assistance next week unless it has magically cured itself.  Quite often just making an appointment with a doctor or a physio is sufficient to make ailments behave themselves.  I live in hope.

I had some soup for lunch and watched the birds for a while.  The goldfinches were back and I liked the beady eye that this one was casting on proceedings.

wary eyed goldfinch

A brambling appeared in the plum tree…

brambling in sun

…and since this is the third or fourth time that I have seen a single brambling lately, I am beginning to wonder if it always the same bird which has got detached from its friends.  Usually, if you see one brambling, you soon see more.

I had a walk round the garden and was pleased to see more signs of life, both potential….

peony shoots

…and actual.

first crocus

I would like to have made better use of such a fine day but apart from taking the car up to the garage in readiness for its MOT test tomorrow, I spent the rest of this fine day indoors.  At least I got some Archive Group work done so it wasn’t entirely wasted.

My flute pupil Luke came and we did some hard work on reading and playing demi-semi quavers.  They are not intrinsically hard to work out but it can be tricky working out how long you need to hold a crochet for when you have just been playing dozens of these little notes.

The rocking horse is still drying out upstairs and Mrs Tootlepedal has been visiting it and giving it a pat from time to time.

There is not one but two flying birds of the day today as the gulls flew past me in formation on my walk.

two flying gulls

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Today’s guest picture, in the absence of any alternative, is another welcome to the sunny shore of Wemyss.  Tony certainly has a grand spot for walking his dogs.

wemyss shore sunny

It was quite frosty here this morning…

frozen plant in garden

…and it stayed below zero all day.  There was very little wind though and the sun was shining when we got up so it seemed like a good day for a walk after breakfast.

Once again, the roads, tracks and paths were miraculously ice free so I walked down one side of the Esk as far as Skippers Bridge and came back on the other side.

I was hoping for some frosty trees but there hadn’t been enough dampness in the air to make for spectacular shots….

dav

…and almost as soon as the sun touched a frosty tree, the ice melted.

murtholm hedge

I didn’t take yet another picture of Skippers Bridge when I got to it but I did enjoy the reflections in the river on the other side on such a still day.

refelctions in esk below skippers (2)

I enjoyed them so much that I took two.

refelctions in esk below skippers

I walked up the banking onto the old railway and made my way home via the old oak wood…

oak wood

…and Hallpath.

I took a lot of pictures without getting any good results but I did end up with freezing hands in spite of having a couple of hand warmers with me.  They are quite old and may have lost a bit of their potency over the years.

When I got home, I had coffee and scones with Dropscone.  His younger daughter lives out in the country and was unable to get to work today as they had serious snow where she lives so we have been lucky with our modest fall.

While we were sipping and chatting, I noticed a brambling in the plum tree…

brambling

…and got quite excited.  It was the only one though and when it didn’t visit the feeder and soon departed, I calmed down again.

The sub zero temperatures had brought more than usual quantities of birds to the plum tree…

many bords in plum tree

…but still nothing like as many as in years gone by.

A blackbird appeared.

blackbird in plum tree

There were enough  birds about to make for stiff competition for perches.

battling chaffinches

While Dropscone and I were refreshing ourselves, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy with the gesso and the horse.  Here you can see her cleaning the eyes after the final coat of gesso had gone on.

dav

Several days will now elapse while the gesso dries and then it will be sanded and the painting will start.  It looks very promising.

dav

When Drospcone left, it was obvious that low mist was coming in over the town so I thought that this might be good moment to get to the top of a hill for a ‘mist in the valley’ photo opportunity.

I would have driven up to the White Yett, as speed is the essence in these situations, but before breakfast, I had taken the car up to the garage for a pre MOT check so it was not available.

Since it was walk or not go, I walked.

I headed for the track up to Warbla, the easiest of our hills to climb.

It was still cold…

frozen seed head

…and there was a mixture of sunshine and mist as I got on to the hill.

tree in fileld winter

Rather alarmingly from a photographic point of view, the mist seemed to be on top of the hills instead of lying above the rivers…

dav

…but I plugged on, propelled by my walking poles.  Although there was still mist above me, I could see blue sky above the mist so I was hopeful….

track up to warbla in mist

…but as I got near the top of the hill, I was still walking into mist instead of looking down on it…

track to warbla in snow

…and when I got there, the top of the communications mast at the summit was only just visible.

mist mast warbla

When I got to the trig point, all I could see below was mist and the photo opportunity was gone.  Still, as a consolation I did see a little mistbow right in front of me.  In fact it was so close that my camera couldn’t take it all in…

dav

…but I have crudely stitched two shots together to give an impression of what I saw.

dav

It was annoying to have no view when the blue sky was so close above my head and I waited in the hope that the mist would drop back into the valley.  I had no such luck and instead, more low cloud rolled in on top of me so I headed back down the hill before I froze solid.

The footing was amazingly secure but any chance of a landscape shot had gone so I had to be content with a sheep on a wall…

sheep on wall

…before I dropped back down the track into the park and home.

coming down in stubholm mist

I was very grateful when Mrs Tootlepedal heated me up a bowl of her fine mixed lentil soup for a late lunch.

My final walk of the day was to fetch the car back from the garage.  It will need a little work before it can pass its MOT so I will have to take it back again next week.

I ended my active day by cycling round to the corner shop to get some fishcakes for my tea.  It was -3°C so I wrapped up well even for this short trip!

The mist had totally enshrouded the town by this time and it was very gloomy so we pulled the curtains and had a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch looking keenly for a place at the table.

flying chaffinch

Note:  I walked five and a half miles today so although my foot, calf and knee are still sore they are obviously not that sore!

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Today’s guest picture, the very last from Bruce’s Highland tour shows the photographer and his wife casting long shadows beside the Crinan Canal near Lochgilphead.

Lochgilphead

It was a miserable cold and wet morning about which the less said the better.

Some winter visitors appeared in the shape of a siskin…

december siskin

…and a brambling.

december brambling

Having ignored the morning, we set off for Lockerbie after lunch to catch the train  to Edinburgh and we were very pleased to find the the rain had eased off.  By the time that we got to Edinburgh, the day was dry although the light has already gone by the time we get to Matilda’s house at this time of year..

We had a lot of fun of fun.  Matilda spent a good deal of time shooting me with a bow and arrow and to be fair, I spent some time shooting her too.  She is a better shot than me.  We were well armoured with cushions to avoid any lasting injury.

After the bow and arrow session, Matilda obliged with a short ballet demonstration in front of the splendid Christmas tree which has appeared in her sitting room.

mde

The performance ended with an elegant bow and then we had a nourishing meal of soup and a two bean, pepper and chipotle sauce stew cooked by Matilda’s dad.

Once again a visit to Matilda provided us with first rate entertainment and a quality meal.  Who could ask for anything more?  Trains that run on time perhaps but that may be asking too much.

No flying bird today as it was too gloomy so two sitting chaffinches are standing in.

two chaffinches side by side

We might see a drop of golden sun tomorrow.

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony and shows his efforts to teach his dogs to appreciate a fine sunset over the Forth last night.

wemyss dogs at sunset

We got a frosty morning without the benefit of any sunshine here and the temperature hardly rose at all for the rest of the day.  Still, as everyone remarked, at least it wasn’t raining.

The chilly weather was encouraging birds to come to the feeder…

chilly feeder

….and I poked my nose out into the garden after breakfast to enjoy Jack Frost’s work.

garden frost

Sandy came round for coffee and we discussed Archive Group business.  He is busy cleaning and scanning a large set of photographic glass plates which are more than 100 years old and he is finding the results very interesting.  They will appear on our website in due course.

While we were chatting, an unexpected flash of colour caught my eye and I leapt up to see a brambling in the plum tree,

brambling in Plum tree december

This is the second one of the season but like the first, it seemed to be a lone bird and didn’t stay long.

Unlike the brambling, the dunnocks are permanent fixtures at the moment and are obviously managing to avoid the marauding cats which haunt our garden.

dunnock on chair

Otherwise the traffic was much as usual.

chaffinch and goldfinch frosty day

After coffee, I gave my spare laptop and the Archive Group projector a trial run and then went along to the Buccleuch Centre with them where I was able to prove that there is such a thing as a free lunch.  Not only did I get some excellent soup and sandwiches at the patrons’ lunch but I was allowed the privilege of showing the other patrons 100 of my photographs.  They put up with this without any complaint and I enjoyed showing a selection taken from every month from December 2017 to December 2018.

Mrs Tootlepedal was helping with the catering both for our lunch and the other customers in the coffee bar and she had a very busy time.  She was still working hard when I went home.

The afternoon was very still and I would dearly have liked to have gone for a quick cycle ride, as days with little wind are at a premium.  However, the thermometer was still only showing 2 degrees C so I allowed good sense to take control.  I really do not want to hit a patch of ice on my bike this winter and even if the road is 99% ice free, it is the other 1% that can do the damage.

I went for a walk.

It turned out to be a good decision because although the going underfoot was good, not only were there plenty of icy puddles…

icy puddle

…but there was also a rawness in the air that made it feel very cold so cycling would not have been fun at all.

When I got to the park, I found that someone had been improving on nature…

baubles in park tree

…and when I had passed through the park, I found that others had gone to the trouble of sweeping (or blowing) all the leaves off the path through the Beechy Plains.

swept beechy plains

This is the sort of thing that brings a smile to your face even when your nose and ears are tingling with the cold.

I walked along the Murtholm track, looking for points of interest on a grey day, such as a bright bramble leaf

winter bramble leaf

…and drops of water suspended on every square of the sheep fencing the whole way along the track….

droplets on sheep wire

…and evidence of the recent strong winds…

fallen branches

…and a very fresh and green looking shrub.   I am open to suggestions as to what it might be.  Some sort of ivy perhaps?

ivy

I looked up at Warbla where I had been standing in the beautiful sunshine yesterday…

Warbla on a frosty day

…and was very glad that I wasn’t up there today.

It was growing increasingly misty as I went towards Skippers Bridge and when I got to it, the view downstream from the bridge was gloomy.

misty from skippers

Where there is a bridge parapet or a wall, there is always lichen and there was a good selection on the bridge itself and the wall along the main road as I walked back.

skippers brodge lichen

There as lichen of a different sort on a wooden fence beside the path further on and one or two defiant daisies to add a touch of colour to my walk.

lichen adn saisy

I was surprised to see a very healthy looking fungus up a tree outside the back entrance to the Co-op store….

co-op fungus high

…and some more lower down the tree.

co-op fungus low

I was pleased to have managed to get a two mile walk in before the light completely faded but I was even more pleased to get home and into the warmth with a cup of tea and a slice of toast.

Waiting on my doorstep when I got back was a bottle of red wine. It turned out to be a present from Bob, the organiser of the patron’s lunch.  I found a good home for it while I was eating my evening meal and I am writing this post in a consequently very cheerful mood.  (Mrs Tootlepedal had a glass too.)

It is supposed to get progressively warmer over the next two days but as it is going to rain as well, this is not much consolation.

The flying bird of the day is outlined against the frosty lawn.

flying chffinch frosty

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who was on my brother Andrew’s birthday trip at the end of last month.  This is the Severn at Worcester.

River Severn at Worcester

We had a beautifully sunny morning here.  There was still a bit of snow around and as I had to go up to the Moorland Feeders to act as a fill-in feeder filler, I was a bit worried about icy roads and parked the car and walked the last section.

I needn’t have worried as the road was pretty clear…

Broomholmshiels road

….but with views like this….

Broomholmshiels view

…it was a pleasure to be on foot anyway.

The bright sunlight brought warmth to a zero degree morning and shone through the window when I sat in the hide after filling the feeders…

moorland feeders

…but it was no help at all for taking photos so I snatched a shot of a blue tit…

blue tit

…and headed home.

It was easier to watch birds there and I was pleased to see the return of a brambling. It conveniently perched in front of a male chaffinch in the plum tree so that readers can get an idea of the similarity and the difference between the two.

brambling

Then it politely moved on for an individual portrait.

brambling

I spent some time taking badly lit pictures of flying chaffinches…

flying chaffinches

…and finally found a chaffinch and (the same?) brambling who were kind enough to find a little sunshine for me.

chaffinch and brambling

The dam bridge repairers had got their pump going and had installed a pipe to take water over the works.

Dam bridge repairs

They have set up a little coffer dam on the upstream side of the ex-bridge and when there is enough water behind it, the pump leaps into action and sends it over the road and on its way.

After lunch, the sun disobligingly went in but Mrs Tootlepedal and I still went out.

We chose a three and a half mile route through the town, up Hallpath past a very mossy wall indeed…

mossy wall

….(where I could happily  spend time poking about on another walk) and then along the path above Skippers Bridge….

Skippers Bridge

…through the oak woods….

Oak trees

….then down through the birch woods…

Birch trees

…past all sorts of exciting things….

hair ice and liverwort

Hair ice and liverwort

…until we got back onto the road beside the Esk.

We passed a gate which has a very ornamental stone surround but no wall at either side of it.   It must have been a meaningful gate at one time as we noticed that it has a benchmark engraved into its surround.

Old gate and benchmark

I took  the inevitable picture….

Skippers Bridge

…and then we crossed the bridge and walked home along the Murtholm track, which is well supplied with catkins.

catkins

Then we took Easton’s walk, which had a small but elegant icicle patch…

icicles

…and finally, we went through the park and got home.

After a cup of tea, we settled down for a quiet time.

When the working party had gone home for the evening, I nipped out to check on the progress on the bridge.

Dam bridge repairs

Bridge?  What bridge?

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Buccleuch Centre for a screening of Tosca and I went to the Day Centre for the first meeting of the year of Langholm Sings, our community choir.

Another tenor has joined the choir so I took the opportunity to sneak off and join the basses.  I had a good time, particularly because I was sitting next to my cello playing friend Mike.  He is an excellent fellow to sit beside as he is very musical and sings well.  I could relax and follow his lead.

On the minor injuries front, I can report good progress.   My face has healed up enough to let me have a shave today.  This was very welcome.

Through the good graces of Photoshop, I managed to find a bit of colour on one of the chaffinches from this morning and he is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinches

As you can see, the lawn is still covered with snow.

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s recent walk.  He met an old quarry.

quarry

It depends on how you look at things.  If you catch my good side, I look pretty well undamaged.  From the other side, I am still a mess but fortunately my good looks seem to be all that has been damaged as I was able to walk up to the town after breakfast and then go to the producers’ market to do some shopping without any trouble.

As far as I can see (which I admit is not very far because my good eye is a bit swollen), the only bad result of my careless moment is a stiff neck and a sore cheek so I count myself very fortunate.

I did think it wise to have a quiet day at home today and in this I was helped by some grey and drizzly weather which didn’t encourage frolicking about outdoors.

It left me with time to watch the birds and there were a lot of birds to watch today.

busy feeder

Chiefly goldfinches and siskins….

siskins

….but we had a visit from a brambling, the first I have seen in the garden this year…

brambling

…though Mrs Tootlepedal saw one earlier in the winter when I was out.  I hope it comes again with some friends as bramblings are very handsome birds.

brambling

I was pleased to see two robins at the same time as they have been a bit scarce lately and I always worry that visiting cats may catch them as they robins seem to like walking about as much as flying.

robin

The constant activity at the feeders led to some head to head confrontations.

chaffinch and siskin

goldfinch and siskin

goldfinch and siskin

I noticed a very brown blackbird….

blackbird

…and in fact it was so pale and brown that I wondered if it really was a blackbird but I think that it is.

My favourite shot of the day was two goldfinches in the plum tree.

goldfinches

My afternoon didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped as I made the mistake of watching Scotland trying to play rugby.  After a very promising autumn series, they reverted to type today and dropped the ball on every possible occasion.

Still, I had been able to purchase ample supplies of cod’s roe at the market in the morning so I cheered myself up with a large plate of my  favourite food for tea. Fried lightly in a bit of butter and sprinkled with a little salt, there is no better meal to be  had than cod’s roe.

Mrs Tootlepedal is bearing up as well as can be expected considering that she is living with a gargoyle and I was reminded of the poem that goes

For beauty I am not a star,

There are others more perfect by far,
But my face I don’t mind it,
For I am behind it,
It is those in front that I jar.

How true.

This poem is often attributed to Woodrow Wilson, who quoted it a lot, but it was written by man called Anthony Euwer.

You can tell that I am bit bored.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

 

 

 

 

 

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