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Posts Tagged ‘chaffinch’

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone.  The golf course is closed at the moment so he is going for walks and he passed one of my favourite trees  a day or two ago.  He thinks that it is a bit like us, just hanging on by the skin of its teeth.

tree above whitshiels

It was colder today and the wind was stronger so when the sun stopped shining, it didn’t feel like spring at all.

But when the sun was shining in the morning, nothing could have looked more cheerful than this delicately outlined beauty.

outline primrose

Slightly less elegant is the comfrey but any flowers are welcome.

comfrey

There were even one or two chaffinches at the feeder…

male chaffinch

…though they wouldn’t visit when I was looking.

female chaffinch

There was tidying up work in the garden again as Mrs Tootlepedal did more work on the log store and I attacked an innocent bush with the hedge trimmer.  There was a lot of shredding too.  Then I did some shopping but failed to see any interesting waterside birds on my way home.

Mrs Tootlepedal knocked up some lentil soup for lunch and afterwards I went for a walk.

I had ambitious plans to walk over some rough country and up a steep hill (and on my way to see some interesting things).

I did see a distant dipper at the Sawmill Brig…

fuzzy dipper

…but it flew off before I could get a clear shot.

And I noticed that the peltigera lichen on the wall had got white edges which looked interesting so I looked closer.  They were interesting.

peltgera lichen

I walked along the track north, admiring the trees and looking at the grey clouds…

tree and grey clouds

…and wondered whether, in view of the very strong and chilly north wind, a walk up a steep hill was a good idea.  I had just decided that it was a really good idea when I got a stroke of luck.

One of the minor deities in charge of the Celestial Department for Making Sure that Old People Don’t Make a Fool of Themselves (SOPPYDATES) sent a short but very savage hailstorm towards me accompanied by very heavy gusts of extra chilly wind.

It didn’t take me long to change my mind and head back towards more sheltered and level paths.  To reward my good sense, the minor deities then arranged for some blue sky to arrive and make me feel good about the choice.

blue sky

It wasn’t long before the sun came out, and sheltered from the cruel wind, I enjoyed a stroll through the woods…

sunshine above hlmhead

…taking a track which I had not followed before…

path in woods

…though I stopped when I got to the bottom of this hill and left this to be explored on another day…

track in woods

…while I dropped back down to the track above the river which I had followed on my last outing.

veiw from Longfauld

I had to be careful to look where I was treading as I took that picture of the view up the valley.

fuzz

I have had some discussion with my Somerset correspondent as to whether the bird in the plum tree in yesterday’s post, which we thought might be a meadow pipit, was in fact a song thrush.  As a result, I was interested to see some birds in a field today which looked like meadow pipits to me as they seemed too small to be thrushes.

meadow pipit 2

I was carrying two cameras and took a picture with both of them as the Lumix could see closer but not so clearly as the Nikon.

meadow pipit 1

Perhaps they were thrushes too, I find it hard to tell.

I followed the track round the pheasant hatchery….

tree at tip of castleholm

…and dropped down to the riverside to enjoy the clear water running over the stones in the river bed.

clear water dowies pool

The minor deities intervened again at this stage, as they thought that I had been out long enough.  A smattering of hail was sent down to encourage me to get home without wasting any more time.

I did see the nuthatch on the Castleholm again but it was too far up the tree for me to get a photograph and I didn’t want to hang about on the off chance of a better view in case of more hail.

I got home after a much more pleasant three and a half mile walk than I would have had if I had been battling the winds on the open hill.

I was looking at last year’s posts for this month and saw that we had our first tulip out on the 30th March in 2019.  It is going to be a close run thing but as it is going to be cold again tomorrow, I don’t think that these are going to be out by Monday this year.

potential tulips

I will be happy to be proved wrong.

Once I was safely indoors, the sun came out again.

sunlit evening flowers

Our resident blackbird stood on our fence to take up his position as non flying bird of the day.

resident blackbird

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Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie.  It shows some early peach blossom.

annie's peach blossom

We were promised wall to wall sunshine today by the forecasters with some confidence so it was disappointing to get up to a cloudy day with the standard chilly wind.  Still, it didn’t rain and I was able not only to have a walk round the garden, after coffee with our Archive Group treasurer Nancy, where I could enjoy the first tulip bulb of spring…

first tulip bud

…but I was also able to get the mower out, and while Mrs Tootlepedal slaved over a hot computer again, I gently pressed the moss on the middle lawn.

first pressing of moss

Grass had been growing through the moss though and I took quite a lot off.  This should encourage more grass growth, I hope.  The light green patch at the far end of the ‘lawn’ is solid moss.

As well as the mowing, I did some more compost sieving and when Mrs Tootlepedal came out and attacked a buddleia….

buddleia compst

…we shredded the cuttings and I put my share into compost Bin A and Mrs Tootlepedal used her share as mulch for one of her hedges.

I noted that we are at the start of the days of the daffodils now.

daffodil panel

After lunch, we drove up on to the Langholm Moor.

Mrs Tootlepedal hoped to see a hen harrier and we did see one.  It was hovering over the hill rather too far away for even my long lens to get a good shot of it.

hen harrier march

I hoped to see goats and we saw lots.  In fact we had to be careful not to run them over as they were right beside the road.

A little kid had a drink…

goat kid having milk

…and a bigger kid gave me a look…

large kid goat

…and an older goat with a stunning kiss curl gave me a profile.

goat close up

Some of the wild goats looked wilder than others.

bedraggled goat

Although these are genuinely feral goats, they are neither aggressive or afraid and they munched away quite happily as I took my pictures.

We left the goats and motored on across the Tarras Water and up to the county boundary.

Looking back I could see the monument….

 

monument from county boundary

…and looking down to the Solway, shining in the distance, I could see the past and present of power generation.  On the near shore, I could see the now defunct Chapelcross Nuclear Power Station which I passed on my bike a couple of days ago, and very faintly behind the chimneys in the middle of the firth, I could just make out the rows of turbines of the Robin Rigg wind farm, currently making power in the brisk wind.

Chapelcross and Solway array from moor

We didn’t stop at 1000ft for long as the wind was chilly and we soon headed back down to the shelter of the Tarras valley, where we parked the car and went for a walk.

I checked out the wall behind the car park and found that it was rich with lichen.

tarras car park lichen

We had been along this road not long ago in a howling gale so it was a big improvement to walk along it today, well sheltered from the breeze.

There was less water running down the Tarras and this suited the little cascades down which the river proceeds in leaps and bounds.

tarras cascade hdrtarras cascade light flow

We strolled along, serenaded at times by flocks of meadow pipits, for about a mile and a half until,we came to this point, where after a look further up the valley…

view towards cooms

…we turned for home.  We had the breeze behind us now, and as the sun came out, it felt positively spring-like as we went back down the valley to the car, passing little gullies…

tarras gulch

…and tenacious trees.

tarras tree

When we got back to the car park, I went forward to take a picture of the road bridge that we would cross to get home…

tarras bridge

…and as I looked at the bridge, I could see that the goats were still on the road beyond it.

Once again, they were happy to hang about for a photo opportunity….

twogoat pairs on road

…which I took.

goat looking up

Although it was only a short drive and a short walk, it had been a very satisfactory outing and we were well satisfied as we sat down for a cup of tea when we got home.

Mrs Tootlepedal prepared a chicken cacciatore for our tea and while it was cooking, Evie and her mother Annie gave us a video call.  If the world had been better organised, we would have been going to London by train today to visit them, so this was a welcome substitute for a real meeting.

The chicken turned out very well and we felt that with a good gardening morning and a successful outing in the afternoon,  we hadn’t done too badly at all in spite of not going to London.

There were very few garden birds about and I was lucky to find this chaffinch willing to be the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He went for one of those walks which risky older people are encouraged to take in these troubled times.  He tells me that in his photograph you can see Derby City at the top right, the village of Breadsall in the top middle, and his suburb, Oakwood, in the top left corner.andrew's walk

We had another sunny day here today, but with another chilly start to it.  I went out into the garden after coffee, and although the sun was shining brightly, the thermometer was stuck at a stubbornly low 4°C and with a brisk north wind blowing, it didn’t feel like a terrifically good day to welcome the vernal equinox.

That equinox has rather crept up on us this year because it remained so grey, cool and wet for so long that the lengthening days didn’t really register. It has taken these last couple of better days to bring home that it is finally that time of year.

Still, I mustn’t sniff at a sunny day and the hellebores did look stunning

hellebore

New things are appearing and along with a doronicum and a euphorbia, other mystery plants are developing.

doronicum, euphorbia, bergenia and mystery

I know what this.

primula

I put my coat, hat and gloves on and while Mrs Tootlepedal slaved away over a hot computer on buy-out business, I sieved a little compost.

My set up is basic and low tech but it does produce some good looking results.

compost sieving

Mrs Tootlepedal stopped work for a while and came for a garden stroll.  We were pleased to see another frog had arrived in the pond.

frog equinox

We have seen very few frogs this year compared with previous years.  Perhaps they haven’t enjoyed the weather any more than we have.  We should have had a dozen or more daily by now.

I cycled round to the shop to get milk and rolls and on my way, I stopped to admire the oyster catchers by the Esk.  There days, it is a little further to the shop since it moved, but the chance to see the oyster catchers makes up for it.

two oyster catchers esk

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal directed my attention to some Rip van Winkle daffodils that have just come out.  They have interesting petals but I will have to wait for a less windy day to do them justice.

daffodil rip van winkle

After lunch, I spent a few moments looking at the birds but there were very few to be seen and this busy moment was quite untypical.

busy feeder

The siskins have left and there were no goldfinches either today.

In the absence of any birds to watch, I bit on the bullet, ignored the continuing low temperature and keen north wind, and went out for my third bicycle ride in three days.

I resolved to ride straight into the wind for as long as I could manage, and then swoop home, wind assisted.  I set off up the Ewes valley.

The view made me forget the cold and the wind.

ewes valley view

Although there were plenty of clouds about, they mostly passed me by, leaving me pedalling in the sun and enjoying the views to the side of the road…

fiddeton view

…until I got to the head of the valley.

Here, I had a choice of continuing on the main road up a long, steady hill through a narrow pass down which the wind would be whistling, or I could turn right and follow a narrow road along a beautiful stream for a mile or two.

top of ewes view

I took the easy option and crossed this bridge…

ewes bridge

…and passed this tree…

carretrig road tree

…as I went along beside this tumbling burn…

carretrig burn

…below this hill…

hills near carretrig

…until I got to this bridge which is at the bottom of a very steep hill…

Carretrig bridge

…where I wisely turned round and headed home.

It had been a slog up the hill and into the wind and my first ten miles took me almost exactly an hour of hard work.  I got my reward on the way back to Langholm and I covered the second ten miles of my journey in 34 minutes, whistling merrily as I zoomed along.

In fact, I felt so happy when I got back to Langholm that I added another six miles to my trip by going  to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back.  Here the opposite effect was achieved and the wind pushed me up the hill almost as fast as I managed to come back down again, pedalling like fury this time.

I adopted an emollient manner towards my legs and they responded in a friendly manner and as a result, I achieved a more respectable average for the same distance of 26 miles than I did yesterday.  (The fact that I had had less climbing to do might also have had an effect.)

It has been a good week for cycling and I have done almost as many miles (102) in the last three days as I did in the whole of the month of February.

I wasted quite a lot of time in the evening trying to set up a new blog for the use of camera club members.  In the good old days, starting a WordPress Blog was a piece of cake.  They gave you the digital equivalent of a piece of blank paper and left you to it.  Now they are trying to be so dashed helpful that it is a nightmare to get what you want if it isn’t what they think that you ought to want.  I will persevere.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Mary Jo’s trip to New Zealand.  It shows South Taranaki Bight, a fierce place, Mary Jo says.  She is back in Canada and having to spend a fortnight ‘self isolating’ on her return to the country.

South Taranaki Bight

We were promised a dry day and we got one so that was a bonus and then a woodpecker appeared on the plum tree after breakfast, a very rare occurrence indeed…

woodpecker on plum tree

… so that was another bonus.  It was altogether a very good start to the day.

On the down side, it was only 6°C and with a brisk wind blowing, it felt pretty chilly for mid March.  I was determined to go for a cycle ride, but I wasted some time on doing the crossword and looking at goldfinches and redpolls on the feeder….

feeder picture

…while vainly hoping that it would get warmer.

After I had had a cup of coffee and it became apparent that it wasn’t going to get any warmer, I finally set off on my cycle ride.

I was hoping to go a reasonable distance and my plan, in the face of the brisk west wind, was to go as far west into the wind as my legs would stand, and then to get blown home again.

This plan took me past the Chapelcross Nuclear Power station near Annan.  It is being decommissioned very slowly.

This was it in 2010….

chapelcross1

…and this was it today.

chapelcross

When I got to Annan itself, I was intending to take a moody shot of the high water running under the bridge over the River Annan but I got distracted by rabbits and shot them instead.

rabbits at annan bridge

I left Annan and followed the coast road to Powfoot where I hoped to see the sea.  However, following Mary Jo’s example, the sea was self isolating.  Indeed, it was so far out that it looked as though it might be quite possible to walk to America.

sea at powfoot

I looked across the Nith Estuary towards Criffel…

criffel from powfoot

…noted a daisy and some salt marshes…

daisy and marsh powfoot

…ate a honey sandwich and headed for home.

Battling into the wind, which was gusting at 25mph, had kept my outward speed to a measly 11.2 mph.  Floating home with the wind behind was a much more sprightly affair and I was happy to stop to record my first sighting of blackthorn blossom this year…

 

blackthorn

…and a generous clump of lesser celandine beside the road.

celandine

I was even more happy to stop to admire the church at Kirkpatrick Fleming as it is halfway up a steep hill.

 

kpf church

I had two more convenient stops, the first with the barrier of this motorway bridge to rest my bike against…

motorway brodge kpf

…and the second with these steps set into the churchyard wall at Half Morton to rest my bottom on while I had my second honey sandwich.

wall at half morton

After that, it was a case of pressing on, though I did make one last stop to record an outbreak of lambs at the Hollows.  You don’t often see lambs in jackets but it has been cold and wet so perhaps it is a wise move from the farmer.

lambs at Hollows

I was able to up my average speed thanks to the kindly wind and I managed 14.1 mph on the way home.  This meant that I just squeezed under four hours of cycling time for my 50 miles journey by a few seconds.

It was still only 6°C when I got back.  I had hoped for a little warming sunshine on my trip but it remained cold and grey and I was pleased to have been well wrapped up.

The sun did come out after I got home.  Mrs Tootlepedal was out too and she had left me a note to say that she was up on the moor looking for hen harriers.  She got back soon afterwards but with no sightings of harriers at all.  She had done some useful gardening while I had been off cycling though.

I watched some more reliable birds.

warring birds

It was a pleasant evening so after I had had a shower, I went for a little three bridges walk.

I expected blossom and there was blossom beside the river….

blossom beside esk

…and I hoped for interesting waterside birds but there were only ducks.

They are paired up at the moment and I saw a hopeful third party getting short shrift when he tried to muscle in on a spoken for lady.

two pairs of ducks

As I crossed the sawmill Brig, I noticed that it hadn’t taken very long for lichen to start to colonise the new parapet stones which were installed in 2016..

lichen on sawmill brig

I liked this moss which looked as though it was gently snoozing on a more established wall a few yards further on..

moss on wall

It was still cold but the evening sunshine made it feel more cheerful than it actually was.

sunny castleholm march

When I got home, we had venison stew for our evening meal and we both felt that we had earned it.

Reducing our social interactions drastically has not been so bad for me because I have always got Mrs Tootlepedal to talk to.  Of course it is not so satisfactory for her as she has got me to talk to.  I managed to irritate her  so much at one time yesterday that she looked at me witheringly and summoned up the worst insult she could think of. “You’re just like Boris Johnson!”

I was chastened.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

For those interested, details of the ride can be found by clicking on the map below.

garmin route 18 march 2020

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone.  He has discovered a fresh treacle mine.  Unfortunately, the discovery comes right at the time that Friday coffee and treacle scones might have to be put on hold, but that is life as it is just now.

treacle mine

We woke to some very welcome sunshine.  Apart from the usual brisk wind, it was definitely a day when you could think that it might be spring.

All the same, it took me a bit of time to get going.  I certainly didn’t spring into action after breakfast, so I didn’t make the best use of the sunshine.

I did pop round to the shop to do more some panic buying (another bottle of milk and some bananas) and then I watched the birds.

A dunnock was trying out the fake tree….

dunnock in fake tree

…and a redpoll was sampling the seed.

redpoll staring

For once the feeder wasn’t full of siskins and the chaffinches were making the most of their day in the sun…

chaffinches busy

…though concentration was still needed to make a safe landing on a feeder which was rocking in the wind.

chaffinch landing

After coffee, I went out into the garden and was pleased to find the ‘maincrop’ daffodils had come out…

three daffodils garden

…and the first of the chionodoxas was looking very fresh and cheerful.

chionodoxa

The tree peony is developing…

tree peony developing

…and the crocuses had stopped lying down and crying, and had opened their arms to the warmth.

crocuses open

Altogether, it was a pleasure to be in the garden amid the smiling faces.

daffodil garden

I did think of a bike ride but it was too windy for my taste.  Mrs Tootlepedal was still busy with her work so I went out for a walk while she went off to deliver the very last of the brochures in the town.

I checked on the daffodils at Pool Corner and was surprised but delighted to see the first bee of the year in action.

bumble bee

There seemed to be enough pollen about to make waking up worthwhile for it.   I think that this is a tree bumble bee.

Although the forecast had promised rain in the afternoon,  there were enough clouds about at midday to make me think that a brisk walk might be a good idea.  I was right.  As I went on, the sky clouded over and it was raining lightly by the time that I got home.

I took a picture or two on my way.  The moss on the wall at Pool Corner was looking very perky, and the lichen continues to enjoy the weather.  There was not much to see in the way of fungus but a fallen branch offered a little taste.

moss, lichen, fungus

I was looking for signs of spring, but I had to look pretty hard to see any.  The tree trunk pattern has nothing to do with spring but I liked it, so I have put it in regardless.

four things on Gaskells

As you can see, any flower, leaf or bud has to poke through moss or lichen to be seen

When I got back home, I checked on the pond.  There were no frogs to be seen but in spite of some chilly mornings, some potential tadpoles were about.  I will keep an eye on them.

tadpole potential

With a final glance at these encouraging flowers…

primroses garden

..I went in and combined watching some rather depressing news conferences and parliamentary committees with occasional looks at the birds before the serious rain started.

There are different ways of approaching the feeder.  A goldfinch took the high road….

high flying goldfinch

…while a chaffinch zoomed in low from behind.

stylish chaffinch

The kung fu siskin was back again…

kung fu siskin

…but the light got very bad so I stopped looking out of the window.

The day was punctuated by calls and texts cancelling our social life in the weeks ahead and now, like everyone else, I daresay, we have a calendar with nothing on it for the foreseeable future.  I should have been playing recorders with our group this evening but that was cancelled too.

On the plus side, the weather forecast is looking decidedly more cheerful over the next few days so I may be able to get a few cycling miles in, and that might take my mind off the rather gloomy prospects that stretch ahead.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

Footnote:  I would like to take this opportunity to express the hope that all the readers of the blog come through the days, weeks or months of the life of this virus without taking any hurt.  It is a worrying time but I am going to try not to dwell on the negatives too much in future posts.  There is enough gloom about without me adding to it.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my camera club friend Simon.  He was walking along the Esk near Canonbie when he saw these people having fun.

canoeists

It was a better day here today with outbreaks of sunshine and no rain until the evening.  Unfortunately, the persistent strong wind was on the go again and it made things feel very chilly unless you could find a sheltered spot in the sunshine and out of the wind.

I had a busy morning, starting with a visit to the shop to panic buy a bottle of milk.  Fortunately, there were quite a lot of bottles to choose from as the people of Langholm are keeping very calm.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy on envelope business as more addresses appear which need deliveries.  I went off to visit Sandy and take him some newspaper index sheets to put into the Archive Group database.  He has two weeks to go before the plaster comes off his leg so he was quite pleased to get something to occupy his time.  I was quite pleased to get an excellent cup of Brazilian coffee and a ginger biscuit or two (or three).

I couldn’t stay long as the final business of the morning was to go with Mrs Tootlepedal to the funeral of a man with whom I used to play in the Town Band and who was the father of one of our daughter’s first friends when we came to Langholm.

When we got home from church, we set about copying more inserts and stuffing them into yet more envelopes.  Luckily another member of the team arrived to take a load to deliver to Canonbie.

While this was going on, I had a moment to watch the birds.  There were plenty about.

busy feeder

Including quite a lot of chaffinches….

flying chafinches

….one of whom made a very stylish approach to the feeder.

flying chaffinch with style

I tried to take a few posing birds for Mrs Tootlepedal’s pleasure but the strong wind was making perching on the fake tree a tricky business.  This greenfinch was hanging on to a wildly swaying twig for dear life, its feathers thoroughly flattened.

greenfinch hanging on

A siskin enjoyed a lull in the wind.

siskin posing

While a greenfinch…

greenfinch on stalk

…and a redpoll found more stable perches.

I think that this one may be a female…

quizzical redpoll

…and this one is a male with its courting court on.

red redpoll

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off in the car to deliver some brochures to far flung houses and I went for a walk.  I had hoped for a cycle ride but it was far too windy for cycling to be fun.

I walked down the Esk and was pleased to see a male goosander, even if it was too far away for a good picture.

male goosander

As I walked up Hallpath, I saw a bird of a different feather, or rather no feathers at all, as it is another of the fine wood carvings that grace the town.

wooden peacock

I was walking out to the Laverock bird hide to see if the planned felling of the diseased larch plantation there had begun.

It is a frequent walk but I never tire of it.  I noticed this tree which in its ample girth was strangely reminiscent of the photographer.

P1030989

The path was muddy in places but not nearly as wet as I had expected after another four inches of rain last week.

jenny noble track

The oak wood looked as inviting as ever…

oak wood

..but I plugged on past this fine gorse bush…

gorse on broonholmshiels track

..pausing to look back at the view up the valley…

view from Broom holm

…before getting to the hide.

The plantation was still there and although the bird feeders have been taken down, there were still a lot of birds about, particularly a large flock of chaffinches.    It will probably take them a bit of time to realise that the feeders are not going to magically reappear.  I hope that they find a new source of food soon.

On my way back to Langholm (down the road) I noticed something odd in a pylon.  A closer look showed that it was a man with a good head for heights.  Considering that the wind was blowing briskly, I was very glad that it was him and not me up there.

man up pylon

On my way back down the hill, I passed my favourite wall covered with moss which comes in many styles…

A small forest.

moss forest

A waving meadow.

moss meadow

And a mini mountain.

moss mountain

I crossed over Skippers Bridge and walked home along the west bank of the Esk.  The hazel catkins are flourishing at last and I was able to see both catkins and flowers close together today.

hazel flower and catkin

Mrs Tootlepedal had just got back before me and we enjoyed a well earned cup of tea and a slice of fruity malt loaf after our endeavours.

My flute playing friend Luke arrived on cue and we had a very successful play.  We are trying to develop a bit more style in our playing so a contrasting set of pieces, an arrangement of Easy Winners by Joplin, a slow movement form a trio sonata by J J Quantz, and a couple of fiddle hornpipes certainly gave us something to work on.

I made a simple evening meal of baked potatoes and then Mrs Tootlepedal and I sat down to try to make some sense out of the news.  It was hard work.

I thought that I had detected the hand of the prime minister’s special adviser in last week’s bold plan to let a lot of old people die in order to provide acquired immunity for the young and fit.  Today, I sensed that the sudden dawning on the prime minister that the age of the average Tory voter might not make this an election winning plan could have caused this week’s volte face, and the sudden concern for the health of the elderly.   We wash our hands.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.  As long as there is seed, they are content.

flying chaffinch

Footnote: I took my cycling computer in my pocket for today’s walk and it tells me that I did 5.7 miles at just over 4 miles an hour, though I did spend an additional  half an hour taking pictures along the way.

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Today’s guest picture is the final one from Venetia’s Moroccan trip.  It shows a gecko basking in the sun.

gecko

It was another grey day here but slightly warmer and not actually raining as I walked to church in the morning.  Our bus driving organist had been called to do an an extra shift owing to shortage of staff in Edinburgh but a late replacement appeared so we had accompanied hymns even if they were not the ones that we expected.

I went out into the garden when I got home to check on frogs.  Once again there were none to be seen so I had to make do with a pulmonaria and a bit of colour on a viburnum…

pulmonaria and buds

…and some lawn talk with my neighbour over the garden hedge.  Another sign of spring.

Things in the garden are developing very slowly in the continuing damp, grey and cool weather.

I went back in and watched the birds for a while.  There has been a brisk demand for seed over the past few days and I have been kept busy refilling the feeder.

A siskin watched a queue of chaffinches filing past…

siskin watchinmg chaffinches

…and although this siskin has got its head stuck into the seed, its tail and wing position show that it is fully aware of the incoming chaffinch.

chaffinch and siskin

A bird needs to be alert as there is no knowing when a passing chaffinch might decide to give you a hefty kick.

all action siskins

Quieter scenes were also available.

chaffinch on pole

In both directions.

siskin on pole

We had a second helping of tomato soup for lunch and I printed out 200 more envelopes and covering letters for Mrs Tootlepedal.  These are going to go down to Canonbie where other people will deliver them.

When I looked, I saw that the seeds had dropped below the top perch level and a helpful chaffinch had to explain to a pal that the seed was down here now.

chaffinch too high

Mrs Tootlepedal hadn’t come to church as she was busy again delivering brochures in the town for the proposed community buy out.  She is not alone in this work and one of the team came round to collect more envelopes.  While she and Mrs Tootlepedal mulled over the work in hand, a heavy shower of rain swept through the garden and by the time that they had finished talking, it had gone.  Good timing.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off in the car to deliver envelopes to some of the outlying houses in the area and I didn’t go with her to help as I wanted to go cycling.  There was alarming talk on the news websites of old people in the UK being made to remain in their homes for a long period in the not too distant future so I wanted to get some exercise while I still could.

I got my cycling gear on and just as I was going to go out, it started to rain. In normal circumstances, I might have got fed up and stayed a home but having told Mrs Tootlepedal that I couldn’t help her, I thought that I ought to actually go for a bike ride, so I set off.

I chose a route up the Ewes valley as this meant that I would start with the wind and rain at my back and not get discouraged too soon!

The rain persisted but never came to much so I quite enjoyed my wind assisted cycle up the hill to Mossspaul.

I wasn’t intending to stop for pictures in the rain but this unusual little waterfall in the middle of a field caught my eye.

unexpected oxbow waterfall ewes

When I looked at the scene more closely, I could see that I was watching a geography lesson in action.  All the makings of the formation of an oxbow lake were before me.

oxbow lake ewes

It is not often that you see that.

There was plenty of water running off the hillside and every little stream was busy.

stream at mosspaul

When I stopped at Mosspaul  after ten miles, I took a moment to enjoy this pine tree…

pine at Mosspaul

…before setting off back down the hill to Langholm.  I had feared that it might be an unpleasant battle with wind and rain but the rain had eased off and the wind came round a point or two and was often more across than in my face.

All in all, it was a much more enjoyable ride than I had expected when I started out, and as I managed to average just over 14 mph for an outing for the first time this year, I was a happy man when I greeted Mrs Tootlepedal who had returned from her post outing and was busily folding the letters which I had printed earlier.

She didn’t need any help so I went for a short  walk.  The day had dried up and there was even a hint of sunshine.

monument in late sun

Waterside birds are paired up.

three bird pairs

And other signs of spring are to be seen.

three sings f spring

The birds still look as though they are finding life…

oyster catcher in esk

…a little chilly…

heron

…but the crocuses on the Kilngreen are certainly brightening things up.

kilngreen crocus panel

The sun didn’t come out so I didn’t dilly dally but willow and moss made me pause for a moment or two…

willow and moss

…and I went to check on the hazel catkins beside the Esk on the Castleholm.  When I last looked, there were several female flowers but very few catkins.  Today, there were a lot more catkins but I had to look very hard to find a flower and in the end, I only saw one and it was nowhere near the catkins.

The weather seems to have confused the hazels.

hazel catkin and flower

I made some corned beef hash for tea and we settled down for a quiet night in.  It had been strange to have no Carlisle Choir to go to but at least we had got the delivery work and a cycle ride done between us so we hadn’t wasted the day.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, approaching the feeder with the confidential manner of a head waiter at a posh restaurant.

flying goldfinch

Footnote:  The Coronavirus news is everywhere. 

Yesterday I read a headline that said “Borders Shut” so I thought that we had been closed down without us knowing about it.  It turned out to be about the closure of international borders in Europe not the border counties of Scotland.  Phew.

Today it said “UK over 70s to be confined to home for a long period”.  That was most unwelcome.  Closer reading showed that in Scotland, us old folk will be allowed some freedom to toddle about outside if we are prepared to ca canny, which we definitely will do.  Phew again.

Don’t think that we aren’t taking this seriously, because we are. 

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