Posts Tagged ‘chaffinch’

Today’s guest picture shows Langholm exile Tom getting ready to set off on the Capetown Cycle Tour  a few days ago.  He tells me that it is 109 kms around the peninsula, with great views but the route is hilly.

Tom biking in SA

He suggested that it might be just the thing for me next year but I fear that the bus fare to get there might be a bit steep too.

I should have been able to excite readers with a selection of exciting bird and frog pictures but I took the card out of my camera and put it down somewhere so sensible that I can’t find it all.  You will have to imagine the birds and frogs and this shouldn’t be too hard as they will be much the same as ever.

I had a quiet morning as Mrs Tootlepedal went off early  to visit Matilda in Edinburgh and I retired to bed until lunch time as I had had  a very poor night’s sleep.

The fact that it was raining all morning as well as being cold and windy made staying in bed seem like a really good idea.

In the afternoon, I went to Carlisle and discussed bikes with the bike shop man.  He showed me a picture of the crack in the fairly speedy bike…

cracked bike

…which looked quite serious to me.   It is possible to get an aluminium frame crack welded but I am not going to do it because if one has appeared, it seems likely that another one might follow it.  The bike has been bumping over our rotten roads for many years on high pressure tyres and I feel that it doesn’t owe me anything and can be gracefully retired.

Besides, it is exciting to be contemplating a new bike, even at my age.

Oh, Mrs Tootlepedal has just come in with the camera card which needed her skills to be found.  Here is a late bird and frog show.

A happy frog…


…a cautious chaffinch…


…and a chaffinch catastrophe.  Ouch.


Back to the story in Carlisle:

After doing the new bike contemplation, I went to the station to meet Mrs Tootlepedal.  She had had a day of misfiring transport links with late buses and a missed train but had still managed to have an enjoyable lunch with Matilda and her father.

The reason for the early start and return was the need to be present as our Carlisle choir sang in the Carlisle Music Festival.  We were entered in two classes for open choirs, one with seven entries and one with four.  Rather to our surprise, we won the larger of the two classes and came second in the other.

The shield for the winning choir was enormous….

choir at Carlisle music festival

…which was only fair because our choir is enormous too.

choir at Carlisle music festival

This is about half of them.

Our very talented conductor can be seen in the back row looking justifiably proud of his work.

What with considering a new bicycle and singing in the choir, the day ended a great deal better than it had begun.

I even caught a flying bird of the day while I was having my sardine sandwich for lunch.




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Today’s guest picture comes from our neighbour Bruce.  He had ventured as far as Aberdeen where he saw this pillar box.  Reading the crest on the front which says Edward VII,  he reckons that it has been standing there for over 100 years.

aberdeen postbox

After some slightly warmer weather, we reverted to type and it  struggled to get over 5°C and because the air was quite damp and the wind was coming from the north east, it felt quite chilly all day.

But it was dry and the wind was light so I got out the fairly speedy bike to have a last ride on it before it went in for its service.  We had plans for the afternoon so I rather boringly went round my customary short 20 mile run through Canonbie.  Since the route was familiar and the skies were leaden, I didn’t intend to stop to take pictures but I almost always carry my camera and I couldn’t pass these characters at Canonbie without stopping for a snap.

canonbie cow

canonbie cow

And my favourite….

canonbie cow

…there is an eye there if you look very closely.

I had just arrived home when the minister, with his coffee radar in perfect working order, arrived.  He told us that he had done a 60 mile sportive in Yorkshire on Saturday and considering that he has done hardly any miles on his bike this winter, he was very pleased to have got round in good shape and at a decent speed.  Kudos to him.

When he left, I had to clean my bike to make it respectable enough to go to the bike shop and then I cleaned the bird feeders and then took a moment or two to look around.

However, the light was so poor and the flowers in such a sulk that there was nothing to see so we went off for our outing.  We combined dropping off the bike at the bike shop with a visit to a garden centre for lunch and then a bird feed emporium to buy more seed.

I took the opportunity to buy a new helmet when I was in the bike shop.  I tried many helmets on but they didn’t fit at all well and woggled about on my pointy head.  In the end, the only one that fitted well and was light and comfortable was also among the most expensive.  I bought it anyway because a comfortable and light helmet is worth a lot

When we got home, I had another look around and this time there were many frogs to be seen.


And a lot of frogs spawn.


Mrs Tootlepedal embarked on some gardening work and I tested the compost in Bin D to see if it would sieve.  It did and I was able to spread a little about on one of Mrs Tootlepedal’s new beds.

Mrs Tootlepedal reported that the sparrowhawk had paid three visits to the garden in the morning so it was not surprising that there weren’t a lot of birds about today.  One blackbird caused a stir when it flew up on to the kitchen windowsill and stuck there, frozen into immobility.  Even the arrival of the window cleaners couldn’t persuade it to move and in the end Mrs Tootlepedal went out and shifted it by hand.

blackbird on windowsill

On a nearby bench, another blackbird expressed concern.


I don’t know what had happened to it.  It wasn’t trembling and I wonder if it had seen its own reflection in the window and was baffled about what was happening and where to go.  It flew out of Mrs Tootlepedal’s hand so it wasn’t fatally injured.

The few male chaffinches which came to the feeders were looking very bright.

chaffinch and siskin


But they were not as bright as some gaudy primroses which Mrs Tootlepedal purchased the other day and which are waiting to go into the garden.


The colour will be very welcome.

In the evening, my flute pupil Luke came and we had a good time playing a Haydn sonata.

After tea, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel and although as Isabel put it, we had some room for improvement, we enjoyed the playing a lot.

The absence of birds and the gloomy light made finding a flying bird of the day very hard and this was the best that I could manage.

chaffinch and siskin








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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who spotted some fearless workers inspecting Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.

Brave workmen inspecting Nelson's column

We were promised warmer, wetter weather and we got it.  It rained on and off all day and it was never lighter than ‘very gloomy’ inside and outside.

As a result, I was very happy to idle a morning away reading papers, drinking coffee and making soup.

I looked out of the window from time to time.

We had a good selection of visitors, many of whom looked a bit grumpy with the weather…

greenfinch and goldfinch

…including a sparrow among the usual suspects.  For some reason, the sparrows, of whom there are many in the town, visit a bush in the corner of our garden but don’t come to the feeder so this was a novelty.

sparrow and siskin

A robin and a blackbird made a brief appearance each.

robin and blackbird

…and the chaffinches arrived in an orderly fashion.


Out in the pond there was new frog spawn and a few frogs.

frog and spawn

Mrs Tootlepedal went off and did a little shopping and then went out again after lunch, this time to a meeting of her embroiderers’ group.

I thought about a short pedal when the rain stopped but the weather remained untrustworthy so I went for a walk instead.

As I walked along the edge of the park, I spotted all sorts of lichen and mosses…

moss and lichen

I am always pleased to see a red topped Cladonia as they are very small and I need a bit of luck to notice them.

This was my favourite among the mosses.


Of course, you have to be a real moss and lichen detective to see any moss round here!

mossy wall

I left the park wall behind and walked up into the Kernigal wood.  It was gloomy there too but as it was warmish and it wasn’t raining, I was quite happy strolling along the track.


It is often worth giving a tree stump a second look.

lichen and fungus

At one point, I could see a bright red light in the distance.  Although it doesn’t look like it in the picture, the light is on top of a communications mast on a hill and can be seen from miles around. It seems to be on night and day and has caused a lot of interest in the town.   Some think that it might be sending out secret mind control waves while others more prosaically link it to the arrival of 4G phone reception on the area.

mast light

When I came out of the wood, I followed the track down to Skipeprscleuch….

Road to skippers

…where the felling of the wood beside the track has opened up views of Warbla.


With the felling at the Becks Burn in mind, readers have asked if these felled woods are replanted and the answer is that they are.  The timber is a cash crop and I could see both new spruce trees and some hardwoods in plastic tubes too which are planted to encourage wildlife.

new planting

This was my favourite tree of the walk.

bare tree

I walked past a cottage and noted the old plough in the garden…

old plough

…and a few yards further on, I came across another well appointed wall.

moss and lichen

When I got down to the main road just before Skippers Bridge, I noticed that the passing  traffic had made sure that there was no moss on the road side of the parapet of the bridge over the sike  but a look  over the other side of the parapet showed that there was no shortage of moss there.

A7 bridge

We don’t have many brick buildings in Langholm and I enjoyed the gentle colours of the building at the bridge.

garage door

I crossed the bridge and noted the wooden steps that are part of the walks network…

steps at skippers

…and I took another photograph of Skippers Bridge itself but as it was no different from the many I have taken before, I leave it to the readers’ imagination to picture it.

At this point, it started to rain, first gently and then heavily so I kept the camera in my pocket and scuttled home.

Mrs Tootlepedal had enjoyed a delightful demonstration of steampunk embroidery given by two ladies from Dumfries and I had enjoyed my walk so in spite of the gloomy weather, we had a good afternoon.

My enjoyment was increased by the fact that my walk had (deliberately) stopped me watching Scotland play Ireland at rugby.  I had had bad feelings about the likely result and had saved myself much mental agony by not watching the inevitable unfold.  Scotland struggle to win a match away from home but they are not unique in this.  Only two matches out of the eleven so far this year in the Six nations tournament have been won by the away team.

To cheer up a gloomy day, we had fish and chips from the chip shop for our tea and as I arrived at the counter at exactly the right moment to get freshly cooked fish straight out of the fryer, our meal was delicious.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch






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Today’s guest picture puts our recent snow here into perspective.  It was sent to me by Lucie from Manitoba and it shows an unwelcome late and heavy fall of snow which was making life hard for birds on her feeder.

snow in manitoba

We had another chilly day today but it didn’t rain and the sun came out for a while so we were quite pleased about that.

As Sandy is a bit poorly at the moment, I took his turn to fill the feeders at the Moorland Project feeder station.  Mrs Tootlepedal came with me and while she sat in the car and scanned the skies in vain for hen harriers, I looked for smaller birds from the hide.

tits at Laverock hide

Great tit, coal tit and blue tit complete a set.


The one glimpse of a woodpecker that I got


A male chaffinch


And another one

flying chaffinch

And one of a lot of flying chaffinches catching the morning sun

Mrs Tootlepedal may not have seen any raptors but she did get a good view of an impressive cloud behind Whita.


We got home in good time for a cup of coffee and a slice of walnut and banana loaf and then I did the crossword until the day had got warm enough to make for inviting cycling.

The garden birds were not as co-operative as the moorland birds had been and indeed, some of them indulged in behaviour that can only be described as very, very childish.

birds' bums

There is no need for that sort of thing at all.

I left them to themselves and went to look for frogs.  There were a lot in the pond.


For some reason the light was perfect for reflections today.

Although it wasn’t very warm and the sun wasn’t very bright, the crocuses were responding to the better weather.

In the end, I ran out of excuses for not cycling and wrapped myself up as warmly as I could and set out to do a thirty mile circle avoiding as many potholes as I could.

I paused for a moment by a bridge not far from home to adjust a wrinkle in my many layers and was impressed by the variety of life to be seen on it.


There was still a lot of snow beside the back roads….

gair road

…and indeed there is more piled up there than in the neighbouring fields.


But the roads were mostly dry and while the sun was out, it was a pleasure to be cycling.  Once the sun went in before the halfway mark, it was much chillier and I kept going rather than stopping to take a lot of pictures.

At 17 miles, I was thinking that I wasn’t anything like as fit as I would have liked to be but when i turned for home, I discovered that I had been so well wrapped up that I hadn’t realised just how strong the wind was.  It blew me home in a very satisfactory manner.

By the time that I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal had gone off to catch the train to Edinburgh to see Matilda.

I made a sausage stew for my tea.  That sounds a bit basic but if you dignify it with the name of sausage casserole or even sausage cassoulet (it had beans in it), it sounds a bit classier.  It tastes just the same though.

The reason that I did not go with Mrs Tootlepedal to Edinburgh was that it was a recorder day and in the evening, Susan came round and she drove us to Carlisle where we enjoyed a good evening of music with our recorder group.

This has been a rather perfunctory description of a very enjoyable day but it was quite late by the time that we got back from Carlisle and I am a bit tired so I apologise.

Because the garden birds were so uncooperative, I did think of using a frog as the flying bird of the day today just to teach them a lesson…


…but I found that I had got a reasonable flying chaffinch from our morning visit to the Laverock Hide.

So here it is, the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch



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Today’s guest picture is an impressive sea cave from Dropscone’s Irish holiday.


Our thaw continued and there was no snow to show on the lawns when we woke up.  It was still fairly chilly and grey with occasional rain so we are not breaking out the spring champagne yet.

It took the siskins a bit of time to get to the garden this morning but there were plenty of them when they finally arrived….

siskins and goldfinch

…with the occasional goldfinch and chaffinch trying to gatecrash the party.

siskins and chaffinch

There were no blackbirds or robins in sight when I looked out of the kitchen window but I did see a lone dunnock.


I don’t know if the low level birds are put off by the siskins, who are quite noisy or whether they have found somewhere else to go for the time being.  Life is full of inexplicable mysteries.

After coffee, I girded my loins and got my cycling gear on and of course, it immediately started to rain.   I had a marmalade sandwich while I waited and when the rain stopped, I set off.

The rain started again.

But it didn’t last and by the time that I was three miles up the road, things looked a lot brighter.

Bloch view

I thought that this narrow back road over the hill down to Canonbie might be clear of snow so I pedalled on cautiously and apart from some wind-formed snow sculptures beside the road at Tarcoon…

snow at Tarcoon

…there was little snow to see let alone to worry about.  As the sun had come out, it wasn’t a bad day for a pedal at all, though the brisk and chilly wind made me grateful to be very well wrapped up even in the sunshine.

I was quite keen to get home before any more showers arrived so I didn’t stop for any more pictures.  Although the skies clouded over before I got to Langholm, I arrived home dry and cheerful

A quick walk round the garden revealed crocuses trying their best…


…and a pond full of frogs.  They all dived under the water as I approached except this one who waited for a portrait.


It is a source of wonder that a frog’s eye is so prominently reflected on the surface of the pond but it can be a bit annoying for the happy snapper.

It wasn’t hard to see a lot of moss almost everywhere I looked in the garden.

It was on trees, piles of stones….

garden moss

….paths and lawns.  It sometimes feels that if we don’t get a good long dry spell sometime soon, we will gradually be engulfed under an inexorable tide of moss.

After lunch, a man arrived and hitched up the dam bridge repairers’ tea shack and office to his pick up…..

dam bridge repairs

…and drove off with it.   The road closed signs were also removed during the morning so we are almost back to normal again.  Just the railings to come.

It was a bit gloomy outside in the afternoon so Mrs Tootlepedal thought that a walk might be more cheerful than scratching around in a cold, damp garden and we went off to view the felled wood at the Becks Burn.

Of course, there was moss to look at on a wall as we walked along…

moss on wall

…and we liked the very vivid green of the expanding layer around the edge of this clump.

As we walked up through the field from the road, we could see that the Beck’s Burn was running freely with a combination of melted snow and rain…

becks burn bridge

…and Mrs Tootlepedal, who hasn’t visited the felling before, found that the view ahead was dramatically changed.

becks burn wood

We went up for a closer look, passing a striking tree stump on the way.


A bench had been placed on the edge  of the felled area.  If it was me, I would have turned it towards the view of Warbla to the left but as it was…becks burn wood

… it was looking at this.


Not the most exciting view in the world.

As it started to rain, the prospect was even more gloomy than usual.

On the far side of the burn, Mrs Tootlepedal spotted the steps and railing that were part of the walk through the wood before the tree eaters arrived.

becks burn wood steps

I wonder if they will try to re-instate the walk when the felling has finished.

We didn’t stop to explore further because of the drizzle but as soon as we turned for home, it brightened up again…


…and we got home just before the rain re-started.

We passed this rather  artistic tree stump on our way.

mossy tree stump

We had paused to chat to a friend in the street outside the house when we were interrupted by a huge flurry of wings and an entire flock of siskins rose out of our garden and flew off.  It was an impressive sight as there must have been well over 50 birds.

In the evening, I went off to sing with Langholm Sings, our local community choir.  We spent the evening singing operatic choruses in preparation for a concert with our local orchestra next month.  These are fun and quite difficult to sing really well (perhaps because everyone thinks that they know them and they don’t pay enough attention to the score) but they are not as satisfying as singing ‘proper’ choir pieces in four part harmony.

There is a possibility of more snow overnight but we hope that if it does snow, it won’t come to much.  Fingers crossed again.

It was too gloomy for good solo flying bird of the day shots so a sparring duo has got the honour instead.

chaffinch and siskin


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Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie’s recent working trip to Berlin where she spotted a familiar landmark.


Aided by temperatures just above freezing and some overnight rain, the snow continues its retreat from the garden.

lawn with snow melting

I had to go to the dentist after breakfast but it was only for a check up and I was passed fit for duty and no work was required.

I had look round the garden when I got back. There are signs that given a bit of sunshine, the crocuses may have survived the snow…


…and there was a clump of what looked like fresh frog spawn in the pond.

frog spawn

It was a drizzly sort of morning but it was enlivened by a large flock of siskins which invaded the garden.

They sat on top of the walnut tree and made a fearful racket with their chattering…


…they flew down and filled the plum tree…


…and they crowded together to pick up fallen seeds below the feeder.


There are always plenty of fallen seeds when siskins are about as they are messy eaters.  It is not necessarily their fault as they are tiny birds and the sunflower hearts are quite big.

busy feeders

There were a few chaffinches and goldfinches about too but the vast majority of the visitors today were siskins.  I counted over fifty of them at one time.

They did some steady eating in the rain…


…and a lot of quarrelling…


…and were not afraid to put the boot into a much larger goldfinch if one stood in the way.

siskin attacking goldfinch

Sometimes the goldfinches fought back…

goldfinch attacking siskin

…but there were also moments of ecumenical avianism.

busy feeder

Mrs Tootlepedal was helping at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop over lunch so I hoped for the best weather wise and went to see if the Wauchope road was snow free on my fairly speedy bike.

The road was clear but the weather wasn’t…

Callister road

…and after five miles up to Callister in the rain, I got fed up and went home and had lunch.

Mrs Tootlepedal returned from the Buccleuch Centre and when we took a turn round the garden, it was plain that the rain had stopped so rather to my own surprise, I got my bike back out and went off and did another ten miles up to Callister and back in grey but dry conditions.

Loyal readers may remember that the rear view mirror fell off my slow bike on a ride a few days ago before the snow came and I was unable to spot it in the grass beside the road on my way home.

I was hopeful that the snow might have flattened the grass enough to make the mirror visible as I went up today and my hope was justified.  I saw the mirror lying on the verge.

I was pleased with that fact that I had spotted it but less pleased to find that a car had run over it and it was broken beyond repair.  I have ordered a new one.  Thanks to general decrepitude, I can’t bend my head round to look behind me without falling off my bike and a mirror is thus a necessity.

The bridge builder had been busy all morning on the the dam bridge repairs and by the afternoon, the bridge was open to traffic.

dam bridge repairs opening

We are still waiting for some new railings but that is merely cosmetic so it seemed only right to have a grand opening ceremony.

I hadn’t heard anything from the Queen in London and the Scottish First Minister is busy arguing about Brexit so we had to make do ourselves…

….and you can see what an impressive occasion it was.

The two nymphs of Wauchope Street, Mrs Tootlepedal and Mrs Ewart held the ceremonial ivy while the Queen of Wauchope Street, Mrs Margaret Hogg did the honours with the kitchen scissors.  Riley, the terrier, kept a watchful eye on proceedings to see that protocol was fully observed.


The ivy was cut and Liz presented Margaret with a grand bouquet of flowers…

dam bridge repairs opening

…before the procession moved off over the bridge…

dam bridge repairs opening

…in pursuit of a nice cup of tea and a biscuit in Wauchope Cottage.

We may have to do it all again when the new railings come.

After this excitement, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do some more helping out at the Buccleuch Centre and the rest of us had a much needed rest.

It looks as though we are going to avoid any more serious snow for the next few days but with light rain almost every day and temperatures no higher than 7°C until the middle of the month, we are not stocking up on sun tan lotion just yet.

The flying bird of a rather gloomy day is one of the many siskins.







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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia’s trip to Yellowstone.


Although when we woke up, there was still a lot of snow about in the garden today…

snowy garden

…with a bit of luck there will be a lot more green about when we wake up tomorrow as the temperature hit 7°C by the afternoon and should stay above freezing all night.  If the forecast rain arrives, most of the snow should be gone soon.

I was able to walk up to the Archive Centre after breakfast to do a meter reading without treading on any snow in the streets and Dropscone also did the same when he came round for coffee.  He had used some Irish flour left over from his holiday for his scones and it produced very tasty results.

During the morning, the dam bridge was the scene of great activity.

First men cleared the snow…


…and then they trampled about in a reflective way before deciding that the hard core laid by the builders before the snow had now belied its name and become so soft that it all had to be dug up.


This didn’t take long and soon a large lorry was disgorging barrow loads of tarmac which were spread, rolled,  spirit levelled and rolled again….


…until the bridge looked like this.


All it needs now is some railings and we will get our street back again.

During the morning, we also got some birds back in the garden in spite of the noise from the bridge builders.

After some almost totally chaffinch days, we got a better variety of visitors.

green finch



There were quite a few chaffinches still, with this one looking a bit disgruntled about the fair weather visitors, I thought.


The amount of wet weather that we have had over the recent years can be gauged by the quantity of moss on the plum tree branches.  The whole garden is getting gradually covered in moss.

A number of chaffinches both female….

flying chaffinches

…and male…


…made spirited efforts to win the coveted title of flying bird of the day.

After lunch, I rang up Sandy to suggest a walk only to find that he had been laid low by a bad cold.  I had had an ambitious walk in mind but under the circumstances, I just went out for my familiar short three bridges stroll.

I had hoped to see herons, dippers, wagtails, ducks and gulls but in the end only saw mallards…


…who seem to be pairing up for the spring…


…and a good supply of black headed gulls, some of whom are beginning to show where they get their name from.

Most of them were playing musical fence posts….


…but some flew about in a more helpful way.

black headed gull

It is interesting (to me) to see how differently coloured the same sky is when photographed  from the same spot within minutes.  A few degrees of turn from the photographer is all it takes.

The thaw is producing odd results.  In this view….


…the grass was green and the hill was white but further along my walk….


…the grass was white and hill was green.

The hint of blue sky in the first picture was just that, a hint and didn’t come to anything sadly.

Snowdrops along the Lodge walks have emerged more or less unscathed from under the snow .


I didn’t linger long on my walk as the going was often rather unattractively slushy underfoot so I passed up many moss opportunities but this lichen garden on a single branch stopped me in my tracks.


When I got home, I noticed that, like the snowdrops, a daffodil in our garden which had been in flower before the snow came had survived to bloom another day.


I was unaccountably tired when I got in and was not as disappointed as I would normally have been to find that our usual Monday night trio playing had been cancelled as Isabel, like Sandy, had a cold.

We really need some warm, sunny weather and soon.

My flute pupil Luke came and he too was suffering a bit from the long spell of miserable weather and we were not at our best.

In spite of the efforts of the chaffinches, a black headed gull appears as flying bird of the day.

black headed gull




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