Posts Tagged ‘catkins’

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….


…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.


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


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

Potential hellebore….


…actual 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.


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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Today’s guest picture is another from Ada.  She thought that a good burst of almond blossom might cheer us up.  She saw it on her recent holiday in Tenerife.

Almond blossom

We have got a bit of blossom indoors here at the moment.  Mrs Tootlepedal brought some snowdrops in from the garden and was amazed by how quickly they opened out.


As usual on a Sunday, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir and I set about making a lamb stew in the slow cooker.  I used some rolled shoulder which Mrs Tootlepedal bought last week at our producers’ market and I was a bit worried that it might be too fatty but when we came to eat the stew in the evening, it was delicious and it really suited the slow cooker’s treatment.

Following my thoughts about the following wind discouraging birds from landing on the feeder, I changed the feeder to the other side of the pole so that they could land upwind and perhaps for this reason, chaffinches arrived in force.

chaffinches landing

A goldfinch sneaked onto the feeder and sat there unruffled by chaffinches arriving…

chaffinch and goldfinch

…until the he feeder got too busy.

chaffinch and goldfinch

Sometimes very busy indeed.

chaffinches landing

I like to try to get out for a cycle ride on a Sunday morning but it was very cold and a boisterous easterly wind made it feel even colder so I settled for a walk down to Skippers Bridge and back, keeping as sheltered as I could.

The clouds were high and if you could keep out of the wind, it was quite pleasant….

Church bridge and Caroline Street

…but if the wind caught you, it brought a tear to the eye.  In general the walkers that I passed were very well wrapped up and keeping their heads down.

I had my head well down when I noticed this splendid lichen display on the arm of a metal bench beside the river.


I was crouching down to examine a tree stump a little further along when a passer by shouted cheerily at me, “Taking an arty shot eh”

I had to admit that I was and this was it.

tree stump at Land's end

I showed it to him and he was mildly impressed.

I was impressed by the amount of ivy clinging to a tree by the waterside.


When I got to Skippers Bridge, I slithered down the banking and had another look at the works….

skippers bridge

…but they didn’t seem to have got much further than last time that I looked.  Maybe it has been too cold for them.

The scaffolding is an elaborate construction….

skippers bridge repair

…and it looks as though they have dropped in a big rock to help anchor it.  Even on a calm day like today, there is plenty of water coming down towards the bridge…

skippers bridge River Esk

…though it looks peaceful enough on the far side of the bridge.

skippers bridge River Esk

You can see clearly where the bridge was widened in 1880

I scrambled back up the banking and continued my walk home.

I passed clouds of catkins and crowds of ducks….

catkins and mallards

It was rather gloomy and the automatic flash on my camera must have been triggered by the poor light judging by the curiously bright eyes on these two mallards.


My last picture was of a tall tree.


While  was walking along, I heard and saw two oyster catchers, those noisy harbingers of spring, swirling across the fields beside the river.  It was great to see and hear them but not having my ‘birds in flight’ camera with me, I couldn’t record their first appearance of 2017.

There was just time for a little song practice and some lunch when I got home before we had to set off to Carlisle for our community choir practice there.  We combined singing with a little shopping and both were very satisfactory.

We are going to Manchester in a fortnight for a competition with the choir so we worked very hard again today under our regular conductor.  Luckily the songs have some very rewarding lines to sing so the hard work was also enjoyable and the enjoyment was enhanced by the feeling that we had made some good progress.  We won’t win the competition but we would like to think that we will present the choir at its best.

It rained heavily as we drove home but the stew, as I said, turned out well so a cold and wintery day passed pretty satisfactorily.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.


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Today’s guest picture is another from Dropscone’s southern venture and shows a row of bathing huts on the Isle of Sheppey. He was not tempted to use one and go for a dip.

beach huts sheppey

We had another sunny but chilly day today so I went for a walk in the morning after waving at a visiting robin.


In spite of the good sunshine, it was rather hazy…


…and the conditions meant that there were a lot of persistent vapour trails from passing aircraft which spoilt what should have been a clear blue sky.

I enjoyed my walk even though there wasn’t a great deal to catch the eye.  I caught the eye of two sheep in a field as I passed.


I walked down through the woods, across the Becks Burn and up the other side.  The sun shining through trees at any time of the year always seems beautiful to me.

Becks wood

Some trees may be a bit past their best though.

hallcrofts tree

I walked down the road from Hallcrofts to the Lockerbie road, enjoying the view of Whita…


and noting that the frost was still lying where the sun’s rays hadn’t rested.

There were catkins all around, these two on the left of the road…


…and a big flourish of them at the gate of a house on the other side.


Down in the bottom of the valley, things were icier…


…though the lichen on the right seemed totally unaffected.

A log covered with moss was really catching the sunshine and glowing like gold.

mossy log

The little patch of red near the tip of the log looked worth a closer examination.


I pottered back along Gaskell’s Walk but had to keep my eyes well down as there were many icy patches along the way and as I had been warned about them by a fellow walker in passing, I thought that I would look very silly if I slipped and fell on one of them.

I stopped and admired the view over the town when I got near the end of the walk.

Castle Hill

I walked past Stubholm farm house and went down to the Murtholm before coming back along the river.  A flash of green turned out to be a honeysuckle, one of the first plants of the year to put out leaves.


I wanted to check to see if I could find the the tree with the script lichen again.  I could.

script lichen

As I had walked along, I had been serenaded by many birds which were either invisible in spite of sounding to be quite near me or were too quick for my camera but when I came to rover near the church, I could miss a dipper standing on a rock singing loudly.


I wish I could find one standing in some sunshine and not quite so far away as my collection of indifferent dipper photos is now far too large.  But they are always fun to watch and to listen to.

I spent the afternoon hunched over my computer making notes for a Burns Supper which I am attending with Mrs Tootlepedal this evening.  In a foolish moment, I agreed to be chairman for this function, proving as a friend remarked the other day, that apparently you can never have enough fuel for the furnace of self esteem.  In spite of the strain of trying to remember what I should do, I will enjoy the evening but as it will go on late into the night, I am posting an early blog today in case I am not back home before tomorrow!

The flying bird of the day is an unmasked chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my son Al and shows Matilda enjoying one of her Christmas presents.  As our daughter Annie gave it to her, she will be happy too.

Matilda in the present

We had another grey day here today but at least the geese had managed to find the way home by the time that I got up.  They had had to wait until dawn before they went on their way.

We had a gentle morning with a leisurely breakfast,  a lot of garden talk between Mrs Tootlepedal and Annie with a sharing of seeds, a cup of coffee and some occasional feeder watching.


A robin is not just for Christmas

goldfinch and chaffinch

Light traffic

After coffee, Annie borrowed her mother’s bike and I got out the slow bike and we enjoyed a very gentle eight mile pedal up to Cleuchfoot and back.  Mrs Tootlepedal spent her time on her bike to nowhere while we were out.

It was warm and the wind was light so in spite of the low clouds…

Cleuchfoot in clouds

…and some occasional drizzle, it was a good day for a pedal.    We were well wrapped up…

Annie cycling

…so we took no harm.

We were in no rush so if anything caught our eye, we stopped and looked at it.  Regular readers will not be surprised to find out that my eye was caught by some striking lichen.

lichen at Blochburnfoot

It was on the roadside wall at Blochburnfoot and once we had stopped to look at it, it was hard not to notice a complete lichen gallery on the wall in the space of a very few yards.

lichen at Blochburnfoot

Half way up the road to Cleuchfoot, we had stopped to look at some catkins when another fine lichen demanded to be photographed.


The catkins came off second best….

moss and catkin

…and only got a shared frame.

I was going to take a picture of the gate at our turning point but Annie’ sharp eyes noticed some mossy jewels on the top bar of the gate so I took a picture of them instead.

moss on gate

We had a light lunch when we got back and then, while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do some food shopping, Annie and I went for a walk hoping to see some waterside birds.

We saw the grand total of one, a dipper at the sawmill bridge.


It was still pretty gloomy….

suspension bridge on a gloomy day

…so in the absence of views and birds, we walked on hopefully but didn’t see much to tempt the shutter finger.

Some neat hedge clipping did merit a click.

Langholm Lodge hedge

And a buzzard flew lazily by as we walked along the Castleholm…


…but it was still too quick for me and I could only get a parting shot.

There was a vociferous crowd watching a football match on the Scholars’ Field and I noticed the sometimes the players lined up facing one way…

football match

…and sometimes they lined up facing the other way.  It was very exciting.

To make up for the lack of wild birds, we stopped to admire the ministers chickens…


…and we also found out that the local sparrows are all in a neighbour’s garden.

Sparrows in Wauchope Place

Even after a gentle pedal and a quiet stroll, there is need for some sustenance so it was fortunate that the supply of crumpets hadn’t run out and we were able to keep our energy levels up.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and Annie went off to attend the annual new year concert of Viennese music given by the Royal  Scottish National Orchestra at the Buccleuch Centre.  We had been too late to book tickets for this sold out concert but sadly for them and luckily for us, Mike and Alison Tinker had got tickets which they couldn’t use so they kindly passed them on to us.

In spite of the crumpets, I was not feeling great so I was happy to stay at home and make some bread rolls while they had fun.

The flying bird of a grey day is a reliable chaffinch.

flying chaffinch




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Today’s guest picture is from the files and shows the Rotunda Geological Museum in Scarborough.  It was taken by my sister Mary during my siblings visit to the town back in December.The Rotunda Geological Museum

The new year continued in excellent form today with another bright and sunny day, cold but not freezing, and with a light breeze.

This made the job of acting as substitute feeder filler at the Moorland Feeders a great pleasure.  Mrs Tootlepedal came up with me and sat in the car looking over the moorland in the vain hope of seeing interesting raptors while I filled the feeders and then sat in the hide.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s raptor viewing chances may have been severely handicapped by the loud banging of guns nearby as shooters popped away at the poor pheasants.  Inside the feeder area, the pheasants were more secure…


…with a different sort of shooting being the order of the day.

I saw a jay and one or two woodpeckers….

jay and woodepeckers

…at a good distance from the hide and several smaller birds rather closer.

great tit, siskin and coal tit

Unlike my garden feeders, the moorland site was very busy and I had a lot of fun watching hordes of chaffinches.


It was time for coffee when we got back and then, since it was still a really fine day, I popped down to the river in search of a dipper in some good light.  When I got to the suspension bridge, I was nearly deafened by two robins in neighbouring trees belting out their songs at full volume.

riverside robins

I didn’t see a dipper though so I walked along to Mary Street and had a look at the river there.  Mr Grumpy and gulls were both in evidence….

heron and balck headed gull

…but I was reconciled to the lack of dippers by the presence of a goosander, standing on a rock giving itself a good wash and brush up.  After a while it was satisfied…


A good hair day

…and left its rock and swam off upstream.


I got home in time for a look at the garden feeder….

goldfinch and greenfinch

Goldfinch and greenfinch. It was the first time that I had seen a goldfinch venture into the fat ball cage

…and a light lunch.

After lunch, I set out again to make good use of the fine day, this time with Sandy for a walk to the top of Warbla to take in some more rays.

We passed horses well wrapped up against the chilly wind….

Stubholm horses

…interesting fungus and lichen…

fungus and lichen

…and made it out onto the open hillside and enjoyed the views.

We looked across the Wauchope….

Craig windmills

…up towards the mast, our destination…

Warbla summit

…and back down on the town below when we got there.

Langholm from Warbla

Looking around from the summit, Sandy remarked that we live in undulating country.  I don’t think anyone could argue with that.

Castle Hill and Ewes valley

We took a direct route down from the summit passing some mountaineering sheep on our way…

Sheep on warbla

…as well as a decorative bare tree…

Warbla tree

…and some unintentionally arty catkins.


We got home after our two and a half miles quite ready for a cup of tea and a biscuit and we were joined by Mrs Tootlepedal who had been busy stripping wallpaper while we were out.

I had taken a tremendous number of photographs on all these outings so I had to spend quite a lot of time after our tea making testing decisions, trying to decide for example which of thirteen goosander shots was the least worst.  This sort of thing makes your head hurt so I broke up the task by taking a moment or two to practise some songs for our Carlisle choir which starts again this Sunday.

This is always a bit of a gamble because you can never tell whether the conductor is going to settle on the song that you are practising or not.  Just because it is in our music poke, it doesn’t mean that it is  going to make the cut.  However, it must be a good thing to practise any song so it is probably not time wasted whatever happens.

The flying bird of the day is a garden chaffinch.

Flying chaffinch

I can recommend a visit to Sandy’s blog.  He got some much better hair ice pictures yesterday than me and there are some very good pictures from his recent trip to Mexico there too.

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Today’s guest pictures were taken by my daughter and show that lichen can get anywhere, even onto a south London post box.

lichen post box

It was dry but breezy this morning and it was my intention to put this to good use by getting a decent pedal in.  I was too optimistic.  The breeze turned out to be very fierce by the time that I had got out of the shelter of the town and it proved too much for me and I threw in the towel after 14 miles, not being able to face another battle into the wind, even for a measly three miles.  I was a bit alarmed that I felt so feeble but there are some days when you are just not at your peak and this was one of them as far as I was concerned so I just had to lump it.

The chaffinches seemed to be about as cross as I was.


Only the frogs seemed happy.


There were a lot of them about, smiling at nothing much in the pond.


After lunch, I went round the same walk that I had done yesterday but this time in company with Mrs Tootlepedal. I took my zoom lens with me in the hope of finding a field full of herons at the Murtholm but there were none to be seen and I had to content myself with a rather distant picture of the two oystercatchers.


They were catching worms rather than oysters.

Mrs Tootlepedal has often been round this walk in her dog walking days and she drew my attention to a fine old oak tree on the middle of the woods.

oak tree

The king of the Kernigal.  The trunk must be 18ft in circumference.

I drew her attention to two stones beside a stream which I hadn’t noticed yesterday.


Lichen art

The wood is full of green carpeted glades…


…and there were catkins everywhere. Individually…


…and in mobs.


I saw fungi that I had missed yesterday, near the ground on a tree stump…


…and up in the air on the end of a dead branch.


There was a different horse posing for the camera as we came down to the Stubholm.


The green fairways of the golf course stood out on the lower slopes of Whita as we looked across the valley.

golf course

We finished our walk by going through the park and a patch of vivid green moss on the wall almost made it look as though the sun was shining.

park wall

The tree stump which you can see in the picture above was covered with a fine display of slime mold.

slime mold

When we got back, I walked round the garden.  There are a lot of crocuses to be seen but they are waiting for a bit of sun before they are going to open their petals.


By accident, I turned on the telly while the rugby international between Italy and Scotland was being broadcast.  I had meant not to watch the game as I have no confidence in the team’s coach and it is depressing to see good players losing matches because of incomprehensible tactics.  I was about to switch off when Scotland scored an excellent try….and then they scored another.  Things got back to normal when they gave away a try through lack of concentration and I was resigned to another defeat when they scored in the last minute to snatch a very rare but welcome victory.

Mrs Tootlepedal had cooked a chicken and mushroom casserole in the slow cooker and it turned out very well.  The surplus will go into the freezer and will do for quite a few meals.

As I write this, the wind is howling round the house and the rain is battering the end wall.  I am glad that I have an electric blanket to keep me warm in bed.

There were few other birds than chaffinches in the garden because of the high winds so a chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.


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