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Posts Tagged ‘catkins’

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She encountered this impressive prancing beast at Covent Garden.  It is doing some serious strutting but as it seems to be standing in the sledge it is supposed to be pulling, it looks like a bit of a freeloader to me.

covent garden

It was cold, grey but dry today and I was happy to have a cup of coffee with Sandy while the thermometer crept up a degree or two but after he left, I stiffened my sinews and summoned up my blood and actually got my bike out and went for a pedal.

There were hints of breaks in the clouds as you can see from this picture of this fine tree near Waterbeck…

tree between the waters

…but the sun remained stubbornly hidden behind a low bank of cloud to the west and I was glad that I had several layers on as a nipping wind blew across me or into my face for most of the thirty miles that I covered.

I stopped for a banana near Kirkpatrick Fleming and looked wistfully at hints of sunshine behind a phone mast…

phone mast KPF

…and with wonder at a tree beside the motorway which was positively dripping with catkins.

vatkins at KPF

I made a final stop with three miles to go to have a drink of water and a wall inspection.

It was a good wall with lots of moss…

irvine house moss

…and more moss with added lichen…

irvine house moss lichen

…and even more moss with added lichen and ferns….

irvine house moss lichen fern

…and there was lots of lichen too….

irvine house falt lichen

…of many different varieties.

irvine house cup lichen

I like walls.  When I was very young, there was a slogan that stated “Walls have ears” to discourage talk that might be useful to an enemy agent during the war.  After several years of close examination of walls, I can safely say that they may have many interesting things on them but I have never seen any ears.

As Mrs Tootlepedal had been cooking some delicious biscuits while I was out pedalling, no weight loss has been involved in today’s activities.

The light wasn’t too bad when I got home and I half thought of adding a walk to the day’s entertainment but cycling in a chilly wind is tiring so I had a look at the birds….

peaceful goldfinches

…where once again goldfinches were ruling the roost…

angry goldfinches…and then I had a short walk round the garden where I noticed the last survivor of the sweet rocket still hanging on….

sweet rocket Dec 12

…and then I went back inside and had a warming bath instead of taking any more exercise.

Mrs Tootlepedal has brought a little bit of the garden inside and one of the geraniums that flowered well outside is now on the windowsill….

geranium indoor

…alongside an African violet, a present from a friend for our wedding anniversary in January, which has been flowering for several months.

indoor plant

In the evening, Luke came round and we played a Loeillet sonata.  We are going to take this sonata seriously and try to put the correct ornaments and playing style into place.  This will require me to do some learning for myself as I have always been a bit hit and miss when it come to trills, turns and mordents.

I spent some time in the evening watching political events unfold and I am very interested to see if the politicians who voted against Mrs May and lost will now take the advice which they have been freely offering to those on the losing side of the recent referendum and respect the fact that they lost the vote and shut up.   It would be a blessing.

I am not holding my breath.

The flying chaffinch of the day is very angry about the whole thing too.

angry flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan.  She was told by our brother Andrew that she might find an interesting house in Chiswick.  This was it.

London House

As we are going to have a very long day in a bus going to Manchester to sing in our choir competition tomorrow, I had a very easy day today to try to get myself in good condition.  My face has got a lot better over the week so I won’t look quite such a fright when I am standing on stage.  This is a relief.

I had a lie in after breakfast and finally got round to topping up the bird feeder after coffee.  This stimulated a lot of action.

chaffinch and goldfinch

But the nearest that a robin got to it was peeping out from behind a leaf some distance away.

robin

After a rainy start to the day, the weather cleared and there was even a little sunshine to encourage the birds.

busy feeder

I rather think that the chaffinch approaching the feeder is more concerned about getting his photo taken than shifting the siskin.  He certainly seems to be checking on where the cameraman is.

The bridge repairers turned up early and poured some concrete in the rain.  I don’t know much about concrete  (I don’t know anything about concrete to be more truthful) so I hope that getting wet doesn’t bother it.

Dam bridge repairs

You can see the ‘in’ and ‘out’ pipes on the pump in the picture and how close the bridge is to our house.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to a meeting of her Embroiders’ Guild branch and I went for a short walk which included getting some snacks for tomorrow.

There was not much in the way of views as the sun had gone in and it was rather grey so I kept my eyes down today.

There were plenty of opportunities to look at mosses….

mosses

…and for once, the light seemed to be just right for looking at catkins and tree buds.

catkin and bud

The alder catkins are colouring up well.

alder catkins

I liked this oak branch near the old distillery.  There is some wood under all that lichen.

branch with lichen

The retaining wall on the far bank of the river looks as though it might need a little work.

Wall damage

I crossed Skippers Bridge and walked back on the town side of the river.  There is a fence on the way which had some good lichen on it last time that I passed and it was still looking good today.

The yellow lichen is absolutely tiny and needed a really close look look.

lichen on fence

I did my shopping and continued home.  When I was walking up Caroline Street, I noticed a quartet of ducks all having a siesta.

headless ducks

And on my side of the river, a little patch of jewelled moss caught my eye.

wet moss

Just down the road from our bridge, there is a pile of concrete beams and I presume that these are going to make up the new bridge once the concrete has set.

dam bridge repairs

I walked along the dam and crossed it by stepping stone and went through the gate into our garden.  As I went past the drying green a lone crocus stood out among the grass….

crocus

…though when I looked at the picture later, I saw that it was actually standing out in the middle of a lot of moss with hardly a blade of grass to be seen.  Did I mention that it has been a very wet year?

Looking up at the walnut tree before I went into the house, I could see a good number of starlings perched on the highest branches….

starlings

…and knowing that they like pink pellets, I put some out.  In less than ten minutes, they had scoffed the lot.

starlings

Three collared doves also visited us and I was quick enough to catch one today.

collared dove

Once inside, I settled down to catch up on the Winter Olympics and the rugby and in this way, the rest of the day slipped by.  I did take time out to practise the songs for tomorrow and make some bread for sandwiches to eat during the day.

We have got to get up not long after six in the morning tomorrow so it will be an early night for us tonight.  I am not expecting to have the opportunity to post anything as we won’t get back until late.

Not one but two flying birds today, both of them goldfinches, neither of them very good pictures.  I couldn’t choose between them.

flying goldfinch

flying goldfinch

 

 

 

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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 is another from the delightfully sunny walk near Little Eaton that my brother took recently.  Here he was looking across the Derwent valley.

Derwent Valley

By contrast, we were more than a little surprised to find our garden covered in snow when we woke up this morning.

snow

There had been some loose talk of possible light snow during the day but this was a good solid inch or so.

It was delightful snow, firm and crunchy and a pleasure to walk on but I expect that the team working on our dam bridge repair didn’t find it such a treat…

dam bridge repairs

…but they were soon hard at it and didn’t stop all day.

The noise of the machines when they started up kept the birds away for a while but they soon got used to it and the plum tree became very busy.

snowy plum tree chaffinches

Maybe it was the snow but the birds didn’t seem entirely sure of the best way to go at  times.

goldfinch and siskin

Dropscone walked over to join us for a cup of coffee (and a scone) and managed to find his way to the house without crossing the bridge.  His scones were excellent today.

After he left, Mrs Tootlepedal got ready to go to the Buccleuch Centre to help with the coffee shop lunches and I went to look at the snow.

The snow had stopped and it was very still so walking was a pleasure.

I thought that I would go and see how the tree felling at the Becks wood was coming along.  I passed a gate….

snowy gate

….and found that a lot of trees had gone when I got to the wood.  I walked down to the Wauchope road and then back up the Hallcrofts road to look at the wood from the other side.  I was passed on the narrow road by a fully loaded timber wagon.  Luckily because of the snow, it was going very cautiously and I had plenty of time to squeeze into the hedge and let it past.

They have put a new road into the middle of the wood and I could see a vehicle carrying felled trees across the Becks Burn and up to the the stacking point.

Becks wood

These drivers are skilled operatives!   Higher up the wood the tree eating machine was busy organising more piles of logs to be fetched.

Becks wood

The forwarder arrived at the log pile shortly after me.

Becks wood

As you can see, there was snow everywhere but it wasn’t as thick on the hills as I had thought it would be judging from the amount we had in the garden.

There was a lot to look at….

snow

….and I took a great number of pictures as I walked back down the road and up the hill on the other side of the Wauchope Water.

catkins

The sun threatened to come out but it didn’t quite manage it so the views, when I got up the hill, were a bit dull for the camera (but very enjoyable for me).

snowy view

I looked at the turbines just over the top of the nearest hill and I was surprised to see them positively  whizzing round…

windmills in snow

…because there was hardly a breath of wind where I was standing.  I still can’t work out why I was so perfectly sheltered but it made my walk very comfortable and I even got a little too warm as I puffed up the hill.

I came back down through the park and was pleased to find a bit of moss that hadn’t been covered up by the snow.

moss

Mrs Tootlepedal had returned from the Buccleuch Centre just before I got home and we had a light lunch.

I had put the car into the garage for its MOT yesterday but it had needed some new parts and they had told us that it might be some time before we got it back so we were pleased when they rang up to say that it was ready.

Mrs Tootlepedal combined collecting the car with a little shopping and I watched a goldfinch paying close attention to hitting the perch exactly right…

flying goldfinch

….and enjoyed a greenfinch looking as serious as only a greenfinch can.

greenfinch

I should have gone for my walk in the afternoon as the sun came out then…

whita with snow

…but as it was,  I just looked at the view from an upstairs window and sighed a little.

The workmen on the bridge were very busy and when they left, I went out to see what they had been up to.

There is not much of our bridge left, just a steel joist on one side….

dam bridge repairs

…of a big hole in the road and two pipes on the other side, one of which has our gas supply running through it.

dam bridge repairs

During the day a large pump had been delivered….

dam bridge repairs

….and we think that they are going to use it to pipe the dam over the works as they rebuild the bridge. The water is needed by a sheepskin treatment factory  further downstream.

We shall watch with interest.

Apart from my “beauty face”, I have got off very lightly from my fall but there is no doubt that it shook me up a little so I was happy to have a quiet end to the day.

We did pop out into the street in the early evening to watch the International Space Station flying over the town across a clear sky.  Although we have often seen the ISS, we still retain our sense of wonder at being able to watch an easily visible man made object flying across the sky more than two hundred miles above our heads and going at a speed of 17,000 mph.

I found a moment to watch a flying chaffinch during the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is a snapshot of the weather in Manitoba.  It was sent to me by Mary Jo.  It makes even a very gloomy winter’s day in Langholm look toasty.  As Mary Jo said, it provided an excellent excuse for a prolonged lie-in. These are degrees C.

Manitoba weather

Shakespeare posed the rhetorical question, “O, who can hold a fire in his hand / By thinking on the frosty Caucasus?” so although I felt a great deal of sympathy for Mary Jo’s deep freeze, it didn’t make our miserable day here seem any better.

It was above freezing and much of the snow had melted but there was enough slush about to make walking an activity which required attention and the low mist didn’t make being outside attractive anyway.

We had a quiet morning indoors and even watching the birds wasn’t much of a distraction as there weren’t many about today and the light was appalling.

If they sat very still, I could catch them…

siskin

robin

siskins

….but there was no much point in wasting time with a camera.

After lunch, we were promised a slight lift in the gloom and when it came, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went out for a stroll with a bit of shopping thrown in.

The walking turned out to be less problematic than we feared and there were  parts of the walk where the snow and slush had almost disappeared.

Stubholm

A bright spot on a dark day was a burst of flame in the heap at the stables on the Stubholm.

fire

When we got to the Murtholm, it was almost possible to believe that it hadn’t snowed yesterday at all….

Murtholm

….but a look up at the  slopes of Warbla told a different story.Warbla with light snow

We crossed Skippers Bridge for the last time in 2017….

 

Langholm Distillery

…and as usual were impressed by the detail in the lichen on the parapet of the bridge…

skippers lichen

…and I took the last photograph of the bridge for the year as we walked back to the town.

Skippers Bridge

There was a promise of brighter skies behind the trees on the opposite bank…

trees

….but it was only a promise and it soon faded back to grey.

We did our shopping and then walked home, happy to have had some exercise and to have met some friends on the way.

The little Lumix which sits in my pocket when I go for walks is a marvel of technology but it has odd quirks and one that came to the fore today is its positive dislike of catkins.  I saw some very chirpy reddish hazel catkins in the hedge while we were talking to a friend whom we had met on our walk so I got up close and tried to take a picture of them.

The Lumix simply wouldn’t focus on them.  It didn’t focus on anything else but just wouldn’t focus on them.  It claimed it was focussing on the catkins but it was lying.

catkins

There is just something that it doesn’t like about catkins.  It’s a great mystery to me and I sometimes think that I have spent the best part of my later life trying to get a decent catkin picture.

We had a quiet evening in.

Fortunately, it is going to be a degree or two warmer tomorrow so we shouldn’t be troubled by frozen slush but unfortunately, it is going to be wet in the morning and  a lot windier in the afternoon so it looks as though 2017 is going to end in a way that will typify the whole year….with rotten weather.   We are investing a lot of hope in a better year in 2018 as Mrs Tootlepedal has big gardening plans and I want some enjoyable cycling days.

This was the best effort at a flying bird of the day that I could manage.

goldfinches

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is another blast of sunshine from my sister Mary’s visit to Bath.

The river Avon at Pulteney Bridge

We had some sunshine of our own today and very welcome it was.  It was still chilly in the morning in spite of the sun and my cold has not given up yet so I was happy to stay in for a cup of coffee with Sandy.  Later in the morning we got a visit from our old friend Dr Cat Barlow who used to mastermind the Moorland Project and was responsible for the comfortable hide at the Moorland Feeders which I often visit. She is working with golden eagles now.

In this way, the morning passed very sociably and I rounded it off by making some potato and carrot soup for lunch.

I did look out of the window from time to time.

The sparrow with white markings was back.

white headed sparrow

And I had put out some fat balls which attracted a beady eyed jackdaw.

Jackdaw

We have had blue tits and great tits in recent days and today we added a coal tit (or possibly two).

coal tit

I liked this sparrow trying to blend into the background on a bush while waiting for the feeder to be free.

sparrow

On the whole though, there weren’t many birds about again.  There must be plenty of food in the countryside still.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to catch the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and her parents.  I thought it best not to pass on my cold to others and stayed at home and went for a gentle walk in the sun.  It would have been a perfect day for a long cycle ride as it was warm, sunny, dry and almost windless but a rare outbreak of good sense kept me off the bike while my chest was not in good condition.  That and Mrs Tootlepedal  saying, “How many people have said, ‘Oh, I am perfectly fit’ and gone out running or cycling with a cold and dropped dead.”

My walk was a treat so I didn’t mind too much.

I walked through the town and up the Kirk Wynd….

Kirk Wynd gate

When I got to the hill, I turned along the Quarry track which contours along the face of the hill.  It offers lovely views back over the golf course and the town.

Viw of langholm from Whita

You will notice that the windmills on the hill are absolutely stationary, a very rare thing this year and as a result, I had to unbutton my jacket as I walked along as I was too hot.

I like the rolling nature of our hills and the low autumn sun picks the contours out well..

rolling hills

As always, I was observed.

sheep

The track is provided with benches where a man may take his ease for a while and admire the countryside….

whita benches

…but the clocks have gone back and evening comes very early now so I kept going.  I crossed the wall at the quarry by the excellent stile…

quarry stile

This is looking back after I had climbed over the stile.

And followed the path down the open hillside to the woods at the Round House.

oak woods

There is another bench at the Round House….

round house

…and although I didn’t sit on it, I did stop beside it for long enough to enjoy the view over the town that I would have got if I had sat down.

view from Round House

I walked down to the river at Skippers Bridge and in spite of the recent wet weather, the water was low enough to let me get a good look at the bridge from the upstream side….

skippers bridge in shadow

…although the sun had sunk far enough to leave the river in the shade by this time.

There was still a fair bit of water about.

River Esk

I walked home along the Murtholm and saw a dipper on the far bank of the river.  Sadly, the light was too far gone for me to be able to photograph it but it was good to see it all the same.

I did photograph some ivy and the first catkins that I have noticed this autumn.

ivy and catkins

On the bank above the river there was just enough light left to let me have a look back at the Round House, tucked in among the trees.

Round House from Murtholm

On my way home, I dropped in to tell Nancy some archive news and she and Bob kindly invited me in for a cup of tea and a slice of cake so between the views, the gentle exercise and the hospitality, I felt that the afternoon had gone very well.

I was welcomed home by an Icelandic poppy.

icelandic poppy

The hillsides are getting pretty bare now but I had seen two flowers on my walk…

whita flowers

…but these were the only two.  I shall have to look out for others on my next walk.

The espalier apples are the gift that keeps giving and I had stewed apples for my tea. I am determined to eat as many of our apples as I possibly can this year.

As I write this, Mrs Tootlepedal has just arrived back from Edinburgh and that has rounded off a very good day.  I even think that my cold might be a bit better.

A flying chaffinch with a gleam in its eye modestly takes its place as the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture came from our daughter who is at the Berlin Film Festival.  She saw these birds and wondered what they are.  They look a bit like crows to me.

German birds

My day started slowly and continued at that pace but it was not dull or empty.  The sun was out but the east wind was blowing so I was happy to have coffee with Sandy while the thermometer crept up a degree or two.

When he left, I watched the birds for a short while….

blackbird

…although there were not many to watch.

Then I had a couple of slices of bread and paté, got my cycling gear on and set off on the same plan as yesterday, keeping out of the wind as far as possible by staying in the valley bottom.  As I was a bit pushed for time,  I limited myself to twenty miles today.

The wind had shifted slightly and was not as gusty as yesterday so I had a more relaxed ride and was able to go downhill faster than uphill.  I stopped once or twice….

Glencorf Burn

…on my favourite short stretch of road to admire the little streams that keep me company as I pedal.

Logan Water and Glencorf Burn

And an alder standing beside the stream.

Alder

I caught an early glimpse of the shy and retiring ‘often spotted gardener’ hard at work when I got home…

gardener

…and she drew my attention to some very encouraging signs of spring which had been brought on by the sunny morning.

Potential hellebore….

hellebore

…actual crocuses…

crocuses

…and some splendid snowdrops in full flower along with…

daffs and snowdrops

…enough golden daffodils to qualify as a small host.

There was even a winter aconite and a definite hint of promise in a lilac bud.

winter aconite and lilac

It was all very heartening.

After a cup of tea and a tangerine, Sandy reappeared and he and I drove to the Kilngreen and set off on a walk.

As long as you kept out of the wind, and we did, it was a glorious day for a winter walk.  We had to ration our stops to take pictures or it would have been dark by the time we had got half way round.

These are some of things that I saw near the start of the walk.

Moss on a wall at the Estate Offices glowing in the sunshine.

moss on wall at Ewesbank

A curtain of catkins on the way up to Pathhead.

catkins

Then we followed the track to the north above the rugby ground…

Pathhead track

…checking out a tree in the field below Castle Hill…

Tree below castle Hill

It looked as though it was throwing its arms up and dancing a Highland fling.

…and taking a look at the woods across the Ewes water…

Whitshiels wood

…until we dropped down to the High Mill Brig…

High Mill Brig

….which we crossed.

We turned left immediately after crossing the bridge and followed the track up the river until we came to Far Whitshiels Cleuch, more commonly known as the Target Burn because in times past, targets were set up at the foot of the burn for rifle practice.

We boldly crossed the burn….

Sandy crossing target burn

…and walked up through the woods until we came to the open hill.

At this point, the only disappointment of the day came because, more or less exactly as we hit the open ground, the sun began to disappear, taking the views with it…

Ewes valley

…although to be fair, it was rather hazy anyway and they might not have been very good if the sun had stayed out.

The sun was soon reduced to peeking through small holes in the cloud cover.

sun and clouds

There were still things to see…

lone tree target burn

…but we had reached the part of our walk where walking rather than looking around was the main business….

Target Burn walk

…and we plodded over rough ground and followed the wall until it met the hill road.

By the time that we had got to the road, the light was beginning to fade so we settled for the most direct way home and followed the road down the hill.

There was just enough light for a black and white picture of the tree(s) of the day…

trees on Whita

…but by the time that we had got back to the car we had exhausted both the available daylight and our energy and we were pleased to sit down.

At just under four miles, it was not a long walk but the terrain was testing and the views varied and interesting throughout so we had a real sense of achievement, a feeling that we had just done something good.  We had done a shortened version of Walk 8 of the Langholm Walks Project which offers many walks that I can thoroughly recommend to any blog readers who have not already tried them.

I was more than ready for my tea when I got home but the lamb stew perked me up enough to give me the energy to have a sing through one of our choir songs with Mrs Tootlepedal after the meal.  I have almost learned it.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch at full stretch.

flying chaffinch

 

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