Posts Tagged ‘Caerlaverock’

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  With all that dog walking going on, the household wellies need somewhere to have a good rest when they get home.

welly rack

Our wintery weather continued with the temperature in low single figures all day.  We had been threatened with snow but got occasional sunny spells interrupted by heavy showers of rain and sleet instead.

I had a moment to watch the birds after breakfast.  There was blackbird about…

blackbird on chimney

…and the fake tree was drawing in customers waiting for a perch at the feeder.

chaffinch on fake tree

I took no pictures in the garden in the morning as I had to set off quite promptly to go to the hospital in Dumfries for my foot x-ray.

This was an entirely satisfactory process as the road over to Dumfries was very traffic free, I got a parking spot a few yards from the main entrance to the hospital (a very rare occurrence), was in and out of the x-ray department before my appointment time had even arrived, spent some useful cheese buying time in the farm shop which is just next to the hospital and where I also bought a packet of tasty parkin biscuits and finally took the scenic road home along the banks of the Nith Estuary.

There were some impressive rain clouds about when I looked down river from the dock at Glencaple where I had parked  to eat some of the parkins…

foreboding view from Glencaple

…and I could see small rain showers on the slopes of Criffel across the water…

criffel with rain shower

…but fortunately, the rain stayed away from where I was, Criffel emerged from the cloud..

criffel in sun

…and I had time for a very short stroll among banks of gorse…caerlaverock gorse

…past clumps of primroses…

caerlaverock primroses

…and through a delightful wood…

caerlaverock wood

…before a hint of rain sent me back to the car, encouraged by loud cries from passing flights of geese.

clouds with geese nith estuary

The drive home was largely free from traffic but I did have to battle through some sharp rain showers on the way.

Mrs Tootlepedal had had a very busy time helping out at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop as they had had over 60 people for lunch, and we were both happy to have a quiet moment or two when we got home.

The sunflower hearts are going down at great speed so I was happy to see some siskins trying the peanuts.  They had various styles of approach to getting at the nuts, vertical head down….

vertical siskin on nuts down

…vertical head up….

vertical siskin on nuts up

…and horizontal.

horizontal siskin on nuts

Meanwhile, competition for places at the sunflower seed feeder was intense.

very busy feeder

I had already filled the feeder once today.

Other forms of bird food were available.

blackbird and fat ball

The redpoll was back.


I took some advice on the little blue flower that has just come out and I can report that it is a brunnera.


I put in some work on practising two short sets of Scottish tunes to play on my descant recorder at the concert in the evening and was distracted by the ever rolling catastrophe of the Brexit reporting on the telly.  The reporting and the process are equally catastrophic in my view as the contradictions inherent in the process are still largely unacknowledged by those promoting various schemes and those who are ignoring the realities are largely unchallenged in all the excitement of who is up and who is down.

Still, it all makes for something to talk about and I had an entertaining discussion with my choir friend Mike when I gave him a lift up to the Langholm Sings concert at the Westerkirk WRI meeting.

The concert itself, considering that we had had no practice and were without an accompanist or conductor, went better than might have been expected.  There were ten singers and the choir did five four part songs while three members sang unaccompanied solos (very nicely), one recited Daffodils by Wordsworth (also very nicely) and one tootled away merrily.

The audience was very polite and appreciative and we got a quiz half way through the concert and  an excellent light meal afterwards, as you would expect from a WRI meeting so the evening was much more enjoyable than I had anticipated.

The black spot of the day was receiving a debit card through the post from a bank that I do not use.  This indicated that some fraudster had opened an account in my name and required phoning up the bank in question.  After registering my complaint and having it acknowledged that an unauthorised account had been opened, the bank said that I would have to talk to their fraud department.  Crooks must have been very busy lately as they couldn’t put me through because the lines were fully engaged but they promised that the fraud department would ring me back.  I am still waiting at the time of writing.  This sort of thing takes some of the pleasure out of life.

Flying birds of the day however, bring it back again.

flying chaffinch






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Today’s guest picture comes from ex-archive group member Ken, who now lives in the north east.  He spotted a mother gull teaching her children where food comes from if people are careless enough to overfill their bins.

scavenging gulls

We had a dry, often sunny but breezy day today and I might have gone for a pedal if I hadn’t had a hospital appointment in Dumfries to look into my hoarse voice.

There was time before we left, for Mrs Tootlepedal to start work in the garden clearing the flower beds beside the front lawn.  The combination of the passing of time and the strong winds and rain had left the mixture cosmos, cornflowers and poppies looking past their sell-by date…

border before

…even though some of the tallest cosmos haven’t even started to flower.

We left for Dumfries with enough time in hand to visit a garden centre near the hospital for lunch and for Mrs Tootlepedal to buy two plants for for next year’s garden.

The hospital appointment was very satisfactory, being bang on time and very short.  The consultant poked a tube up my nose and by some magic declared that my throat was free from any damage, other than, he said looking me in the eye, that caused by the ageing process.  Still, he is referring me to a speech therapist which was what I wanted to happen three months ago so I am very happy.

To make the most of the day out, we visited a farm shop near the hospital on our way out and made some judicious purchases.   Then we took a round about route home, starting with the road along the Nith estuary.

We parked the car and went down to the river’s edge…

Nith estuary shore

…or at least to where the river’s edge would have been if the tide had been in.

The breeze was ruffling the reeds nearby.

reeds in the wind

We drove down to the very corner of the estuary and walked through the Caerlaverock nature reserve.

We could hear the cry of a curlew but couldn’t pick it out against the marsh so I looked for fungus instead as we went along.  There was a good selection.

caerlaverock fungus

We mostly walked through an old wood but occasionally we could look across the marsh and the Solway Firth to the English side

caerlaverock view across solway

We ate a few blackberries as as we went along but weren’t tempted to try any of this rich bunch of elderberries.

caerlaverock elderberries

It is a place of big skies.

caerlaverock big sky

I enjoyed this notice beside the path as it was living up to its words and providing a temporary haven for a butterfly.

caerlaverock butterfly

The clouds scudded past overhead and the when the sun came out, the wood looked at its best.

caerlaverock wood walk

We went back to car and drove a mile or so onward until we came to Caerlaverock Castle, where….

caerlaverock castle view

…Mrs Tootlepedal sat in the cafe and enjoyed a cup of tea, while I took a brief tour round the premises.

The battery gave out on my phone as I approached the front door but luckily I had my phone in my pocket.

caerlaverock entrance

I love this castle and enjoyed my short tour of the inside…

caerlaverock big building

…and then a walk round the moat on the outside.

caerlaverock side views

caerlaverock moat

caerlaverock view across moat

I like the way that a late owner of the castle built a rather smart town house in the middle of the fortifications.

We left the castle and drove home in an unhurried manner and this enabled us to miss a sharp shower over the town, judging from the sodden state of the roads for the last few miles of the trip.

The sun was shining when we got out of the car and after a cup of tea, Mrs Tootlepedal went out to finish clearing the flower beds along the lawn.

border after

I had done a lot of shredding by the time she had finished.

I looked around in the evening sunshine.  There are still plenty of flowers left.

evening colour september

..but the stars tonight were two lots of ‘pretty in pink’.


Lilian austin rose

We had driven about eighty miles for a ten minute hospital appointment, but as we had fitted in a garden centre, a farm shop, a nature reserve and a castle, we felt that the day had been a genuine outing and very worthwhile.

I got out my bird watching camera when we went in but after a short spell of bird watching, the odds of seeing many more birds were greatly shortened by the arrival of a sparrow hawk…


…who reduced our resident population by one while it was there.

I cooked some of the purchases from the farm shop for tea and that rounded off the day very nicely.

The light was a not quite right for flying birds but quite a few tried to get into the picture before the sparrow hawk came so I have included them all.

four flying birds

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Today’s guest picture, sent to me by my friend Bruce, shows that Langholm has two experienced hole inspectors.  Here the results of recent heavy rain were under examination.

hole inspector

The wind had finally exhausted itself and we woke to a picture perfect day.  Well, nearly picture perfect as there were signs of frost in the garden but things warmed up slowly and I waited for the thermometer to reach 5°C  before setting out on a bike ride.

I had time for a glance out of the window.  Some birds tucked into the seed…

chaffinch and siskin

…and some birds wasted time quarrelling.

chaffinch and siskin

The thermometer came up to the required point exactly at the time that I might have been eating the treacle scones that Dropscone had offered to bring round but there are some days that are just so made for cycling that even a treacle scone has to give way and in the end, in spite of pangs, I didn’t regret my decision.

It is my plan (for as long as possible) to do at least one ride each year that contains as many miles as I have years.  My birthday is in November when the days are too short for long rides at the pace which I can sustain so I have to wait for a good day in spring.  This was that day and I set out with 75 miles as my target.  To help me reach this target, I chose an easy route that ran through the flat lands along the Solway shore…

Flat lands

…although, as the elevation for the route shows…

garmin route 24 March 2017 elevation

….you always have to climb a little to leave the town if you don’t go down the main road south and if you go down to the sea, you always have to climb a little to get home again.

Generally speaking though, my ride was undemanding and delightfully windless.

Although the verges are not full of wild flowers yet, the celandines are doing their best and in places they are quite spectacular.


I did put in a little climb before I got to Annan to avoid having to go right through the town and this took me up past the nuclear power station at Chapelcross, which is being very slowly dismantled.


In considering the mental gymnastics that politicians must go through when they wonder if their policies are at all consistent, I think that saying that we must have financial austerity because we don’t want to leave debts for our children to repay and being enthusiastic supporters of nuclear energy, which will require several generations of our children to keep on and on paying for decommissioning of reactors and storage of toxic waste for an energy source from which they will not have had any energy is a bit confusing.

I put this thought out of my mind and enjoyed the hill back down into Annan.

After Annan, I was cycling along the shores of the Solway for all but the last 14 miles of my journey and although the country through which I was pedalling is not very exciting, the view across the Solway was very rewarding.

Lake District snowy hills

I was more intent on cycling than taking pictures today but I did stop from time to time for a breather and tried to choose an interesting spot.

This is the bridge over the Lochar Water at Bankend….

Lochar Water

…and this is the ruined tower a little upstream.

Lochar Water

A mile or two further on, I came upon Caerlaverock Castle, an altogether better class of ruin.

Caerlaverock castle

I didn’t visit it, although it has a tearoom, because there is a cheaper tearoom with better food (in my experience) at the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust nearby so I went to that for my lunch.

Fortified by a very well cooked baked potato and an apple slice, I set off home.

Once again my plan was to stop at regular intervals for a breather and my first stop this time was at the Brow Well

Brow Well

…which used to be used as a source of allegedly therapeutic drinks for invalids.  It is a chalybeate spring, meaning that the water that dribbles from the spout low on one side contains significant concentrations of iron salts.  It is chiefly famous for helping to finish off the poet Robert Burns who was sent there just before his death.   They wisely don’t let the water accumulate in it now.  I like the little bridge beside the well.

The poet was also made to bathe in the Solway so I went to have a look but the Solway was out and nowhere to be seen and I contented myself with snapping an unusually creamy brown lichen and a thriving gorse bush…

brow well lichen and gorse

…before pedalling on.

My route took me past a field with a nice comparison of horse sizes…

powfoot horses

…and a small flock of what I take to be alpacas…

powfoot alpacas

….and then down to the shore at Powfoot.

The sea was still out but there was some very nice shining mud.

Solway mud

…and the Lake District on the far shore was still looking wonderful.

Lake District

I pressed on through Annan and got to Gretna just as the cafe in which I was hoping to get a cup of tea and a fancy cake, closed for the day.

I ate half a banana and some dates and sulked.

My next stop was to admire the church at Canonbie, which was looking at its best in the evening sun.

Canonbie Church

Although, I was quite perky, my bike was a bit tired so I gave it a last rest near Irving House and while it snoozed, I offered up some suitable thanks for a brilliant cycling day at the small sacred grove nearby.

Irvine House

When I got back to the town, I looked down at my bike computer and was suddenly overcome by decimal fever so I did a gratuitous tour of the New Town to bring my mileage exactly up to eighty miles.  This was more than satisfactory.

Mrs Tootlepedal had spent the day painting the bathroom door and doing a lot of gardening so we were both tired but happy.

More good weather is forecast for tomorrow.

I caught a flying bird before I left.

goldfinch and siksin

For those interested in these things, details of my ride can be found by clicking on the map below.   Thanks to the benign conditions, I did the eighty miles at a better average speed than I did the twenty miles in the wind yesterday.

garmin route 24 March 2017

It was cold at the start but much warmer by the end.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She took a trip down the river in glorious weather to visit the newly refurbished Queen’s House at Greenwich.

The Queen's House, refurbished and recently re-opened, Greenwich

We had another fine, calm day here, below freezing at the start and never getting very warm in spite of the sunshine.  I didn’t have the chance to do anything interesting after breakfast as I had to drive to Dumfries to visit the orthopaedic outpatients department at the Infirmary.  They had summoned me for a appointment without telling me why and I was interested to find out whether it was my new knee or my old hip which was of interest to them.

I was seen very promptly and it turned out that that my knee was the object of their concern but after an x-ray and a good chat with the head nurse, I was given the OK to carry on as I have been and I went off fairly relieved.

It is not far from the Infirmary at Dumfries to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Caerlaverock and as it has a cafe, I thought that I would see if I could spot a few birds and have my lunch there.

It is not hard to see birds at Caerlaverock as they have a large pond where they feed the birds twice a day.

Folly pond caerlaverock

They use the large funnel in the foreground when they want to collect birds for ringing.

In spite of the sunshine, there was still ice on the pond.

A whooper swan

A whooper swan among the icebergs

A whooper swan

Another whooper swan shows off its ring

But there was plenty of open water too which allowed for this….

Canada goose

A Canada goose creating a stir

…and this…

mute swan

A mute swan stretches its wings

…and this.

whooper swan flexing its muscles

And another swan flexes its muscles

And there were displays of goose yoga too.

canada goose

As well as the swans and geese, there were a lot of ducks about.  A lot of them were mallards but there were many widgeon too…


…which are very pretty birds.

There are good views of the surrounding countryside as well as the pond from the top floor of the hide.


I left the hide at the pond and walked down one of the long tracks….

Caerlaverock track

…which run between high banks to keep the paying customers from upsetting the wildlife.   There are occasional small hides along the way and from one of them, I got my first good look at just a few of the many thousand barnacle geese that overwinter at Caerlaverock.

barnacle geese

As I got near the hide at the end of the track, I was given a hard stare by a Hebridean sheep.

hebridean sheep

I was interrupting its lunch.

From the two storey hide at the end of the track, I could get a good view over the fields and marshes to the Nith Estuary with Criffel beyond….


….as well as another of the viewing points for visitors.

Caerlaverock Tower


I watched the geese in the fields for a while and looked in vain for a peregrine falcon which I was told was in the area and then walked back to the centre for a light lunch.

After lunch, I returned to the pond hide.

Other ducks were to be seen.

tufted ducks

Male and female tufted ducks

There were teal and scaup as well but not in range of my camera (or my eyesight).

By far the most numerous ducks were the widgeons which came and went in waves….



There was great excitement at the pond when the two o’clock feed took place.

feeding time at Caerlaverock

The seed tempted a widgeon to come out of the water near the hide.


At one moment, with a great roar like an aeroplane taking off, the barnacle geese rose from the field behind the pond in a great mass.

barnacle geese

I was reminded of the starlings at Gretna as they swooped and swirled about…

barnacle geese

…before flying off over our heads into fresh fields.

barnacle geese

I took the hint and made my way back to the car and drove home.

Mrs Tootlepedal, who had been volunteering at the Buccleuch Centre cafe over lunch, was watching the Powell and Pressburger film of the Tales of Hoffman when I got home but when Mike Tinker came round to enquire after the state of my knee, she joined us and we enjoyed a cup of tea and a Jaffa cake or two.

You may well feel that there have been a bit too many Caerlaverock pictures in the post but since I found that I had taken 170 shots when I put them on the computer, you have got off lightly but I had to spend a lot of time going through them and that took up the rest of the afternoon.

As I finished off with a splendid meal of bacon, eggs, baked beans and fried bread for my tea, I felt that I had made the most of what could have been a rather boring day driving to Dumfries and back.

No flying bird of the day today as there have been far too many already so a Canada goose stands in as the posing bird of the day.

Canada Goose

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The high spot of the day is captured in the guest photo which shows Dropscone on the summit of Ben Nevis in glorious weather.  He reports that going up was a breeze compared with the pain of going back down and I can quite believe that but he got up and down successfully and gets my deepest respect.

Dropscone on the Ben

It’s not often that you get a view like that from the summit.

We had another lovely day down here as well and people are beginning to walk round the town rather nervously wondering what has gone wrong.  But we are enjoying the best spell of weather in the year all the same.

We woke up to autumnal mists though and they took a bit of time to clear.  I had time to check on the new feeder….

blue tits

Still bringing in the blue tits

great tit

And great tits too.

…before walking along to the church with Mrs Tootlepedal who was going for a choir practice.

whita with mist

The mist clearing off Whita at ten o’clock.

When she had gone into the church, I stood on the suspension bridge and looked both ways up and down the river.  The views could hardly have been more different.

It is hard to believe that the two pictures were taken from the same spot at the same time.

It is difficult to believe that the two pictures were taken from the same spot at the same time.

Our main task of the day though was to pay a second visit to the Infirmary in Dumfries to check that Mrs Tootlepedal’s cataract operation had been successful.  Once again the ophthalmology department came up trumps and she was seen on schedule and given the complete all clear.

As Sandy had kindly offered to do my usual turn in the tourist information centre, we celebrated the good news by taking the long route home, stopping at Glencaple on the shores of the Nith estuary for lunch.  The mist had cleared here too and it was a glorious day.

Nith at Glencaple

Looking across the river

The lunch was nothing to write home about but the view from the cafe window more than made up for it.

Nith at GlencapleWe drove on down to Caerlaverock Nature reserve and got out for a walk on the excellent paths through the woodlands and reed beds on the edge of the marsh.

reedIt is hard for a camera to catch the pleasure of walking along the edges of the flat marshes and wide Solway Firth so I have focussed on some of the smaller things that we saw on our way.


Some marsh cattle added a bit of interest

floweracornThe sun had brought out countless damselflies which were warming themselves on the gravel paths and wooden walkways.

damselflydamselflyThe weather couldn’t have been better for a walk but we did get a bit over heated in the car on the sunny drive home and we were pleased to get into the cool interior of our house and enjoy a cup of tea when we got back.

I went up to see how Sandy had fared at giving advice to tourists and found that he had dispensed it at a rate of one item every half and hour so he was reasonably bored.  I locked up and he went off for a walk.

I took a walk round the garden….


A gaudy lily smiled at me

pink poppy

A simple pink poppy


And a very complicated one

I had time to mow the middle lawn before my flute pupil Luke came.  We are working on a set of duets just for the pleasure of playing them and his counting has improved so much that we make excellent progress each week.

In the evening, I went off to the first meeting of the season for our local camera club and it went well as the members had brought along a really varied and interesting set of pictures for us to look at.

I did find a moment to capture a flying bird of the day.

flying in chaffinch

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No kneed to worry

Today’s post will be briefish as in the absence of Mr Tootlepedal, the blog has been entrusted to the Tootlepedal editorial team and frankly managing to get photos from the photo library onto this blog post is a bit of a triumph.

Team Tootlepedal were up before dawn had cracked in any way, and after a quick but essential cup of tea and slice of toast, we departed for Dumfries, arriving safe and sound about 8.00am.  The very nice surgeon talked Mr T through the funfest ahead of him again and having drawn a comfortingly large and hard to miss black arrow on the right knee (which in this case was the left knee) he left us to say our farewells.  It occurs to me that a more prepared stand-in-blog-writer would have a picture of said knee and arrow, but alas, all our minds were perhaps on too many other things to think of photos.

Given that it’s an hour’s drive either way to the hospital we had decided we would lurk in the general area during the day,  before returning in the afternoon post operation to see how the patient was getting on.  So having said a temporary goodbye to Mr T, we had made a plan to visit the Caelaverock Wetland Centre to look at some birds, which somehow seemed about the right thing to do, especially as the pressure was on to find a flying bird of the day.  As might have been said before on this blog, the centre is well worth a visit.  It is currently home to several thousand Barnacle Geese, which travel from Svalbard in the Arctic Circle to spend the winter on the Solway Firth.

Caerlaverock geese

Geese take off at Caerlaverock

Of course as soon as we arrived, camera in hand, they mostly flew off to far flung fields as they are not trapped or penned in any way.  One of the advantages of arriving at opening time, however, was the opportunity to watch the 11.00am swan feeding session.  The centre does two of these a day and apart from giving the public the chance to see a wide range of Whooper swans (which travel here from Iceland), Mute swans and any number of ducks and other birds very close up, it allows them to eventually tempt the swans into a section they can close off so they can ring the birds and give them a health check.  Their ringing projects provide incredibly useful and detailed information on the habits of these precious species – the man leading the feeding session today (who you can see below) was able to tell us that a group of young swans who had just arrived that morning were the great grandchildren of a pair who used to winter at Caerlaverock.

There were quite a lot of swans and ducks…


Some parts of the centre were less busy with birds, but it was a peaceful and beautiful place to spend some time and think about Mr Tootlepedal waiting for his op.

Caerlaverock merse

The merse at Caerlaverock

All in all  was an excellent morning and after another refreshing cup of tea and bacon sandwich, Team Tootlepedal set off to explore the beautiful Solway coast a little more.    Our route took us past many photo opportunities, from Sweetheart Abbey to Southerness, but we eventually parked at Sandyhills and had a little stroll on the very pretty beach there.  Apparently there was some sea somewhere but it was a long way away.


The beach at Sandyhills

Sandyhills was much more picturesque than the above photo, which does not do it any justice.  We completed our drive round the coast in absolutely glorious sunshine and stopped at the handsome town of Castle Douglas for a toasted teacake.

At this mid-afternoon point the reader will be very pleased to hear that a text was received from Mr Tootlepedal to say that he was back on the ward, the operation had happened and he was smiling!

A short drive back to the hospital and we were able to see his smile for ourselves which was very nice indeed.  He’d been advised not have a general anaesthetic and that seems to have been an excellent decision as he really did seem on very good form.  We once again failed to take a photo to mark the occasion, but we will make amends for that tomorrow.  We left him in good spirits and looking forward to some supper, as he had not eaten anything except a handful of raisins since 6.30am.

For all the thousands of birds we saw today, it was surprisingly difficult to find a flying bird of the day, but we were very happy to see these two elegant swans cruise past overhead as we were leaving Caerlaverock.

DSC_0116-1It was a nice day despite all the worrying.

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Today’s picture shows a lovely sunny day in Langholm this morning…


…so needless to say, we had made a plan to leave the town as soon as possible.  This meant an early visit to the producers’ market to stock up on fish, cheese and venison mince followed by a rendezvous with Sandy at Wauchope Cottage.  Our scheme was to visit an exhibition by the Dumfries Camera Club in Dumfries and then see what the day might have in store.  The scheme went well and the result was an absolute avalanche of photographs so those readers with busy schedules should make an excuse and leave now.

Everything about the day went well from the very start.  Fish, cheese and mince were readily available and the weather for our drive across to Dumfries was glorious.  The road as it approaches Dumfries offers one of the finest views in our area and either Sandy or I would have been happy to demonstrate this if there was anywhere to park beside the busy road to let us take a picture of it.  There isn’t so we can’t.

We arrived at the Gracefield Arts Gallery safely and enjoyed both the camera club exhibition and a cup of coffee there.  As far as the photos were concerned, for my taste there were too many that showed too much effort on the part of the photographer to create a striking effect and the results seemed rather cold and heartless.  I see the camera as an instrument of spontaneity which makes it essentially different from the necessary processes required to make a painting or other hand created work of art.  Nevertheless there were enough lively works to please and the coffee was excellent.  There was also a video presentation of entries in a nation wide wildlife competition and there were some brilliant pictures there which were more to my taste.

As we left the gallery, Sandy noticed this planting on a bank nearby…

host of daffs

…it may not look much now but if you look carefully, you will see that soon there will be a host of golden daffodils.  By chance, the second art gallery on the same site was showing an exhibition of tapestries so we enjoyed looking at some interesting work there.   Mrs Tootlepedal lingered longest inside and Sandy and I were able to enjoy these very ornate fascia boards on the front of the building while we waited.

ffascia boards at Gracefield

We left Dumfries and headed along the Nith estuary until we came to Glencaple where we paused on the old dock to enjoy the views of the river.

The Nith: looking upriver

The Nith: looking upriver

There is a surprisingly large boat parked at the dock.  I deliberately say parked rather than moored because it doesn’t look as though it is going anywhere soon.

Boat at Glencaple

I put on a couple of filters and tried to capture the sun shining brilliantly on the river downstream.

Nith downstream

We got back in the car and followed the river downstream until we arrived at the spot where it flows into the Solway Firth.  Here there is a little nature reserve which we had never visited before so we took this chance to explore it.

We were just admiring the view of the marsh when Sandy spotted an egret.  This is not a common sight round here.


The walk through the nature reserve was delightful.  The path wound through an old oak wood.

Castle wood

It combined the ancient wood with views of the shoreline.


The sun was warm and there was little or no wind so the walk through the woods was lovely.


These purple catkins caught Mrs Tootlepedal’s eye

And she also spotted these fine bracket fungi.


From time to time we emerged from the wood into more open spaces and it was easy to see the direction of the prevailing wind.

trees on Solway shore

After a while we decided that a visit to the neighbouring wildfowl and wetlands trust reserve at Caerlaverock might be worthwhile so we retraced our steps and set out to drive the few miles further along the road.  The fact that it has a little cafe was an additional inducement.  The reserve is currently home to 5000 over wintering barnacle geese from Svalbarden and as we drove along we kept an eye for any geese grazing in the fields.  We soon saw a few.

Geese grazing

We were just taking a few peaceful photos when, with a noise like a departing jet plane, a flock took off from a nearby field.

flying geese

They circled around in front of us…

flying geese

..before coming into land in another field.

flying geese

We got back in the car and after a shot while, turned down the road towards the reserve.  Soon another flock of birds caught our eye.


This time though it wasn’t geese but lapwings and although they settled in field too far away for a good look, we could make out their distinctive crests.


When we first came to Langholm, these birds were very common round about but changes in farming have meant that they are rarely seen now so it was good to get this sighting.  We went on into the reserve and enjoyed a welcome cup of tea and a bite to eat.  Then it was time to meet the birds.  It was not hard to see a few.

swan pond

They feed the birds at these ponds and you can just see the roof of the cages where they occasionally drive the birds for ringing.

From the start of our drive from Langholm, the hills of the Lake District had been showing very clearly and the bird observation tower also gave me a good look across the Solway to the English side.


We walked down to the viewing hut beside the pond and had a look at the the geese, swans and ducks there.





I think the swans may be from Iceland

This was bird watching in luxury.

As well as the swan pond, the reserve has a large selection of fields and ponds stretching down to the Solway shore.

ponds at caerlaverock

Mrs Tootlepedal was giving another outing to the new hat…

new hat

…and it enjoyed the walk down the lane through the fields to the most far flung viewing tower.  On the way we passed an English longhorn.


This is a recent arrival at the reserve

From the viewing tower we could see about 1000 barnacle geese grazing several of the surrounding fields.

barnacle geese

For reasons of their own, they all seem to point in the same direction and move slowly along in formation like some giant lawn mower at work.

barnacle geese

Every field had a flock.  There was even a deer among the geese.


Far to the west and actually standing in the waters of the Firth, we could dimly make a huge windmill array.

windmill array

Leaving the tower, we walked back towards the car but at the last moment decided that we might as well call in at the swan pond on the way. It was a worthwhile visit.


Some of the swans were camera shy

Evening was drawing on and many of the geese and swans flew off the pond in small groups to other haunts.  It made a great show.

geese and swans

swans flying

swans flying

swans flying

Tufted ducks….

tufted ducks

…and widgeons stayed where they were.


Finally, we tore ourselves away and just as were leaving the reserve, the geese from the outlying fields began flying in.

geese coming in

The sky was criss-crossed with skeins.

geese coming in

It was a great spectacle.

The drive home was made interesting by an absolutely superb sunset behind us and some very interesting small compact cigar shaped clouds in front of us.  We were shot out by this time and so you will have to take my word for these.  We arrived home seven hours after we left without having felt that we had wasted a single minute of a beautiful day.  We shall keep it in our minds to cheer ourselves up when the weather turns nasty on Monday.

A perfect day was rounded off with a double helping of that fine Danish political drama, Borgen.  Heaven.

I’m sorry to have posted such a photo heavy blog but as Mrs Tootlepedal says, we did see a lot of stuff today and at least you haven’t had to look at the other hundred photos that I have thrown away.  Sandy says that he took about 300 pictures today so I am sure that his blog will repay a visit.

The chaffinches have had to make way for a larger flying bird of the day today.

flying swan solo

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