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Posts Tagged ‘chaffinch’

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who noticed these sculptures of  full stop on a recent visit to the South Bank of the Thames.

full stop sculpture

Our day looked like this when I got up…

burst

…but it had become rather cloudy by the time that we got to church….

sunday cloud

…and it had disappeared entirely by the time that we got out.

sunday mist

Rather disappointingly, the foggy conditions remained in place for the rest of the day and the temperature hardly rose above freezing.

At the church, the minister remarked during his sermon that it might be a good idea to pray for the church choir.  We didn’t entirely know how to take this.

When we had got back from church and a cup of coffee had found a good home, I set out for a short misty walk with the intention of taking some moody pictures.  This plan would have gone better if I had put a card in my camera.

The short walk became a very short walk and I arrived home in a disgruntled mood which was not helped by the continuing absence of birds at the feeder.

quiet feeder

However, on this occasion things did improve, and a couple of minutes later the first birds of the day arrived…

feeder visitors

…and it was not long…

busy feeder

…until enough had arrived to cause queues to form.

chaffinch queueing

There was soon quite a rush…

goldfmnch queueing

…and even a hint of arguments developing….

siskin and chaffinch

…but the rush soon evaporated and a few lonely chaffinches were left…

hanging on by toenails

…practising landings.

chaffinch nearly landinf

Still, the thing about chaffinches is that they like spreading their wings and thus make good subjects for a feeder photographer.

four chaffinch anel;

After lunch, we went off through the chilly mist to Carlisle for the weekly meeting of our Carlisle choir.  At one stage the mist threatened to become thick fog but it relented and by the time we got to Carlisle, it was brighter and there was no mist.

Our musical director had suffered a tyre blow-out on the motorway in Glasgow on her way to lead the practice.  She hadn’t come to any harm but was unable to get to us so our accompanist took the task on, playing and conducting simultaneously with great verve.

We worked hard for her and as a result, we had a most enjoyable sing.

I was a bit worried that we might have to face freezing fog on the way home but although the temperature was hovering around zero, there was only one small patch of mist and the drive back was not too bad at all.

We are going away tomorrow for a few days to visit Evie, our younger granddaughter, so posts will be potluck from the phone.

In the meantime, I was happy to find a genuine flying bird of the day today, even though the misty conditions didn’t let me get a crisp picture.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from a Welsh correspondent Keiron.  He saw this fine tree in Ystradgynlais a day or two ago and thought that I might like it as I am fond of trees.

Ystradgynlais tree

It was a sunny day here today, but as it was also freezing when we got up, we were in no hurry to get the active part of the day going and sat and read the papers after breakfast until it was time for coffee.

The birds were not very active either, and the only birds that came near the feeder in the morning were a pair of chaffinches.

frosty chaffinch

Stimulated by our cup of coffee, we leapt gently into action and went for a walk.  We did think of a drive to a start point but we couldn’t think of one which we both fancied so we settled for the walk from the town up the River Esk to Potholm and back again.

We had done this walk three weeks ago an a very gloomy day so this time we decided to go round it in the opposite direction, starting by crossing the river by the Langholm Bridge.

There were plenty of gulls to be seen on the river when we looked from the bridge….

view from Langholm Bridge

…and I had my bird camera with me, so we stopped for a moment to enjoy the black headed gulls in flight and on the ground.

four gull panel

It was a grand day for a walk, and if you could get out of the chilly wind, there was even a hint of warmth from the sun.

Although we were walking a familiar route, it didn’t stop us enjoying the sights as we went along through the woods…

road to Holmhead

…over culverts….

bridge on Longfauld track

…and past tree plantations.

young spruce in winter

The views up the valley were delightful in the sunshine.

view of Milnholm

Rather to her surprise, Mrs Tootlepedal had read recently that beech tree leaf litter is slow to rot and does not contain much in the way of useful nutrients  and with that in mind, the clear ground under the beech trees which we passed was explained.

beech wood longfauld

I have always liked the openness of beech woods but I had never understood that the beech leaves themselves were probably suppressing the competition on the forest floor.

There was not a lot of fungus to be seen but I liked this colourful clump on a tree stump at Potholm..

tree stump fungus

…and this pale outbreak on a growing sapling near by.

fungus on sapling

As I had my bird camera with me, we kept an eye out for buzzards on the way.  The sharp eyed Mrs Tootlepedal spotted quite a few, but they were circling high in the sky and my 300mm lens could not get very close to them.

two high buzzards

At one time, we could see five at the same time, but all them out of range.

A robin in a tree at Potholm as we came down to the bridge was more co-operative and sang loudly to make sure that we didn’t miss it.

robin at Potholm

On the bank below the robin, snowdrops were talking about spring.

snowdrops at Potholm

We stopped at the bridge for a small snack…

potholm bridge

…and then we headed homewards along the road.  The fields were astonishingly green.

green fields milnholm

A  young cow regarded us with curiosity.

cow on potholm road

And the wall beside the road offered a feast of lichen.

six lichen on potholm road wall

At the end of the Potholm road, we joined the main road back into Langholm.  It is lined with concrete posts which hold the metal bars which stop errant cars falling down the steep slope into the river below.  Two of the posts caught my eye.

two concrete fence posts B709

We got home after 5.4 miles, quite ready for a cup of tea.  Mrs Tootlepedal had enough strength left to cycle down to the Co-op to do some shopping so that she could make a dahl for our evening meal and I had enough strength left to eat it.  It was very good and rounded off a peacefully pleasant day very well.

One of the Kilngreen gulls is the flying bird of the day,

flying gull

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo in Manitoba.  She was unimpressed by my flimsy  footwear in a recent picture on the blog and sent me this shot of real boot quality in her latest pair.

Mary Jo's socks

The ‘wet day’ marmalade which I made yesterday has set well, and this morning I put the caps on the jars and used some rather fancy labels.

2020 marmalade

(My handwriting was never good and has got steadily worse with the advent of keyboards and computers.)

The day was remarkably calm after yesterday’s strong winds and I was able to stroll down to sing with the church choir wearing a light jacket and a cheerful smile.  The hymns were a mixed bunch with an African tune, a Jewish melody and some old faithfuls and we had an enjoyable sing.  After a quiet time, we are going to start singing introits and anthems again so we had a practice after the service.  We were ready for coffee when we got home.

The birds were in no hurry to come to the feeder today but the walnut was playing host to jackdaws.  Jackdaws pair for life and we often see pairs of them sitting and chatting amiably among the branches of the tree.

jackdaw pair

As the welcome sun came round to the feeder, some dunnocks appeared on the ground..

dunnock

…and a pigeon landed on the electricity wire above…

pigeon on wire

…and finally a redpoll actually came and ate some seed.

redpoll on feeder

A siskin arrived too….

sisking on feeder

…but it was a very quiet morning for bird activity.  A small heap of feathers on the lawn showed that a sparrowhawk had visited earlier in the day so that possibly explained the lack of visitors.

I was pleased to see that our robin had not been the victim.

robin on wire

After our coffee, we took a quick walk round the garden.  We were delighted to see the first signs of snowdrops.

first snowdrop

We have occasionally seen them fully out by this time, so I hope it will not be long before a flower appears.

We left the garden and headed out for a visit to the river.  The rivers had fallen a lot since Gavin took his picture yesterday…

new course of wauchope

…and the Esk looked very calm…

Esk after flood

…but the lines of leaves on the bank showed just how near the road the river had been at its height.

tide mark esk after flood

It had brought down a good load of sand and gravel with it and this has blocked off the flow of the Wauchope through the second arch as it comes under the Kirk Bridge.

sandbank at mouth of wauchope

We crossed the suspension bridge and walked down the river towards Skippers Bridge.

Because we go to Carlisle for our other choir on a Sunday afternoon, we didn’t have a lot of time to spare.  Mrs Tootlepedal kept up a brisk pace and I only took a  few pictures as we went along.

The heavy rain had left fungus on a bench and lichen on a fence untouched….

fungus and lichen waterside

…but the river was high enough and the rocks slippery enough to make me think that a glimpse of Skippers Bridge through the trees was probably as close as it was sensible to get today.

skippers through trees

Although it was now a lovely day and it wasn’t much after midday, the long shadows across the field at the Murtholm reminded us that there is still a lot of winter to go.

murtholm winter shadows

And the reflective fence posts recalled yesterday’s rain.

fence post relections

It is curious that the left and right fence posts are reflected straight up and down but the centre post is at a marked angle.

The forecast for the next couple of days is appalling, with a named storm coming our way but today really was the calm before the storm.  It was a lovely day for a walk.

view of timpen january

As we walked along the Stubholm track, we passed some fine trees.  Mrs Tootlepedal gives a sense of scale to this one.

big tree at stubholm

The walk finished with a quick look at fungus and lichen on trees and walls round the park.

four lichens park wall

After a light lunch we added a useful visit to the recycling facilities in Longtown on the way to the Carlisle choir.

As we drove down, we were able to listen to the edition of Gardener’s Question Time on BBC Radio 4 which had been recorded last month in the Buccleuch Centre.  Among others, they used my question on the show so now I am famous.

The question asked for suggestions for flowers which the panel thought might make good photographic subjects.  Mrs Tootlepedal has taken up one of the recommendations and if all goes well, you will be able to see the results in the blog in the course of time.  I am not going to say what it is.  It will be a surprise.

At the choir, we found that yet another tenor had come to sing with us. That made three new members in two weeks.  The hard work of the committee in trying to attract new men to the choir seems to have paid off.

We had a very hard working practice, with three new songs to learn.  Fortunately our choir director was in fine form and she drove us along at a good pace so we got a lot done.

The weather stayed good for our drive home and as we weren’t in the mood for heavy cooking, we had boiled eggs with soldiers for our tea.  As good as a feast any day.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother’s visit to Liverpool.  He bumped into a bunch of lads on the street but they  gave him the cold shoulder.

beatles

Just as I was going to bed (rather late) last night, I was tempted to look out of the window and a bright and almost full moon made me go and get my camera.

moon nearly full

It is a pity that the skies are not clear tonight as not only is the moon full but there is a lunar eclipse which would have been fun to watch.

Still, you can’t have everything and I did start the day off with coffee and treacle scones as Dropscone arrived bearing gifts.  He also brought a very sad tale with him.

He told me that he had lost nine balls in one round while playing golf recently.  I was shocked and worried that he had forgotten how to play properly.  However, it turned out that it wasn’t incompetence but a thieving crow (or crows) that was responsible for the mayhem.  The Langholm Golf Club has been plagued by crows brazenly stealing golf balls from the middle of the fairway for the last couple of weeks.

Dropscone estimates that as many as 100 balls may have been pilfered.  Somewhere around the town, there must be a huge stash but no-one has been able to pinpoint its whereabouts yet.

I checked some of my informants.

This goldfinch claimed that it knows nothing.

goldfinch close up

And a green finch was insulted by even being asked about it.

greenfinch staring

And a dunnock ignored my questions entirely.

dunnock on kerb

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I decided on a walk.  It had been freezing in the early morning but the temperature had got up to 4 degrees C, too cold for worry free cycling but fine for a winter walk.  I had a stroll round the garden before we went, and liked the droplets on the perennial nasturtium.

nasturtium with droplets

Many of the hills round the town had low cloud down on them as we drove off in the car but when we parked near the top of Callister five miles away, there was sunshine to greet our walk along the forestry track.

westwater walk

We last walked along this track three months ago and this second visit was well worth while as the track is home to all sorts of interesting things, such as pixie cup lichen growing on flat ground, not a common sight…

pixie cup lichen on ground

…and self seeded Christmas trees along the verge…

self seeded xmas tree

….as well as some very bright red moss sporangia.

red moss sporanges

We had to look where we were going when we got to a shady section of the track higher up the hill as there was still some snow lying…

snow on westwater track

…but at least we were in the sunshine while neighbouring hills still had their heads in the clouds.

clouds on hills

We could see the Ewe Hill Wind farm on the horizon at our turning point…

ewes windfarm from westwater track

…where we paused for a moment and wondered whether we should go down a steep hill in the hope of finding a different way back to the road.

clouds and blue sky

As you can see from the picture above, there was plenty of blue sky about but you had to look straight up to see it.  We decided against going down the hill and retraced our steps.

There was a nippy wind blowing in our faces as we went back towards the car and I was pleased to have my new jacket with a capacious hood to protect me from the chill.   Mrs Tootlepedal kindly took a picture of the jacket in action in reply to request for a picture from a couple of readers.

new jacket

Although my ankles may look a bit exposed, they are well covered by water and windproof socks which do a good job of keeping my feet warm, and my shoes are waterproof too so I was very snug

Another wind farm at the Craig came into view on our way home and as the sun had down a good job of clearing snow from the track….

viw of craig windfarm from westwater track

…I was able to have a good look for lichen…

three sorts of lichen

…as we walked back into the sun towards the car.

Mrs Tootlepedal had her big coat on too.Mrs T westwater track

Although it wasn’t a long walk, it had felt very good to be out and about and we enjoyed it thoroughly, especially as the weather tomorrow looks as though it is going to be quite bad with rain and a gale, and not suitable for outdoor life at all.

After our long day yesterday, we were happy to have a quiet time once we got home and we let the rest of the day drift away peacefully.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Gunta, who sent me this charming photo of snowy plovers resting in horse hoofprints on a beach.

snowy_plovers-5753

We had a day with plenty of birds about and some dry and occasionally sunny weather…

plum tree of birds

…which came with the first sign of snow of the year when I looked out of an upstairs window.

monument with light snow

As it was our day to go to Edinburgh and the recent timetable changes require us to leave home shortly after coffee, I had no time to explore the snow and stuck to a quick tour of the garden where I saw the winter jasmine and..

winter jasmine january

…that first daffodil bud that Mrs Tootlepedal had noticed yesterday..

first daffodil bud

I noticed that there were quite a few blackbirds about too but they were shy and I only just caught this one before it disappeared.

blackbird january

A jackdaw hung about for a bit longer.

jackdaw chaecking things out

By the time that we got to Lockerbie Station, the sky was blue…

lockerbie town hall

…but a pile of snow on the platform bore witness to a heavy shower of sleet earlier in the day…

snow lockerbie station

…and there was plenty more snow to be seen when the train got into the hills.

snow on train to edinburgh

We had had time to admire the pile of snow on the platform before we left as the train was quarter of an hour late.  However, it bustled up the line and got to Edinburgh only a few minutes behind schedule.

We popped across the road from the station and enjoyed a light lunch in an art gallery cafe and, having lunched, we enjoyed three free exhibitions in the gallery itself.  The best of the the three was of the work of Mary Cameron.  She was quite unknown to us but we really enjoyed her work and felt that we should have known about her earlier.

burst

She had a wonderful range of subjects in the exhibition, including such a harrowing picture of horses after a bull fight that the French government made a postcard of it which it then used in its public campaign to discourage bull fighting in France.

We went back across the station to do a little shopping and catch the bus to Matilda’s.

The station was busy and we watched the London train roll into the platform to pick up passengers for the trip south.

burst

Matilda was in good form and we were joined by her other grandparents and her aunt and cousin for our evening meal.  Alistair cooked a delicious feast, this time a lentil and dahl, and we all tucked in.

After the meal, we caught the bus back to the station.  Knowing the railway comany’s unreliable habits, I had carefully checked that the incoming service from Lockerbie was running and would arrive in time to take us back to Lockerbie.  We were pleased to see it roll into the platform as we got to the station.

To say that we were therefore a bit stunned to see on the departure board that our train south had been cancelled is a bit of an understatement.

It turned out, as far as anyone could tell, that they were going to keep this train to act as the next train two hours later and if we wanted to get to Lockerbie meanwhile, there was a bus waiting outside the station to take us there.

We took the bus.  And arrived at Lockerbie an hour behind schedule which is why this post is hurried, I haven’t answered yesterday’s comments and I am not going to read any posts tonight.  I will try to make up for these omissions tomorrow.

On the plus side, the bus was remarkably smooth and comfortable, the driver competent and cheerful and motorway traffic light, so the actual bus journey, though long, was not too bad at all.

I took a flying goldfinch picture which didn’t come through the editor quite as it should have, but I liked it all the same so it has sneaked in…

flying goldfinch

…but the official flying bird of the day is this chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from a recent visit to Liverpool by my brother Andrew.  He found it in a colourful mood.

liverpool

After some very grey days, we had a much more colourful day here today.  The sun shone and the wind dropped and it looked liked a good day to go outside.

As usual, I found a number of things to do indoors before getting organised, and of course, the birds needed watching.

I hadn’t had to fill the feeder for a couple of days, and although it was getting near the bottom today, it was still of interest to the chaffinches.

chaffinch panel

Seeing these two pecking at the last of the seed made me go out and change the feeders over.

two chaffinch little seed

The new feeder, well filled, proved attractive to chaffinches too.

chaffinches at full feeder

I finally ran out of excuses and got my bike out and set off up the Wauchope road.  I passed a man with a tractor with a flail attached, and found out that he had been doing quite a lot of violence to anything that he could reach beside the road.  It was lucky that he was on one side of the road and I was on the other as I might have had some difficulty getting past the debris that he left behind.

flailings on road

I decided to turn off at the first opportunity and I was soon heading uphill, away from the carnage and with my favourite view behind me.

Blocxh view january

Although the 40 mph winds of yesterday had subsided, there was still a brisk breeze left behind and I had to battle my way down the hill to Gretna Green where I was happy to take a rest and look at the clasped hands sculpture at the Old Blacksmith’s Shop tourist centre.

gretna handshake

There wasn’t a tourist to be seen today as I took a picture of the art work.  I can see what it is supposed to symbolise and newly married couples often have their picture taken under its arch, but it always looks rather creepy to me as though someone has been buried under ground and is praying to be let out.

But there are some very decorative berries in the hedge at the entrance.

gretna berries

Ignoring the cross winds, I pedalled down the new road beside the motorway into England and when I reached the outskirts of Carlisle, I turned and headed back towards Greta, going through Rockliffe.

The wind was still across but now it was marginally behind me so I made good progress.

This tree in a field at Rockcliffe looks as though it has had some battles with strong winds itself.

rockliffe tree

The wind was certainly ruffling the waters of the Esk as it flowed under the railway bridge before it meets the Solway.

troubled esk at metal bridge

Once I had reached Gretna, the way home was plain sailing as I cycled up the main roads to Canonbie with the very helpful wind pushing me along.

I turned off onto the old main road to Canonbie which has triple delights, like these three trees at Grainstonehead…

three trees grainstonehead

…and the three shaggy cows in the field, two of whom were more interested in eating than having their picture taken…

two cows at canonbie

..but one was in a more accommodating mood.

one cow at canonbie

I took one last stop for a drink and snack before getting back to Langholm and noticed some healthy peltigera lichen on the wall against which I had propped my bike.

peltigera lichen irvine house

I saw that I had done 43 miles by the time that I got back to the town and was pedalling on up the main road, thinking happily that 50 was a nice round number when we had a vote and my legs voted for stopping.  I am a democrat so I turned back and ended up with a satisfactory 45 miles for the outing.

Mrs Tootlepedal had also made good use of the better weather by going for a good walk and getting some light gardening done while I was out.  She was very cheered by seeing an actual bud forming on a daffodil in the garden.  There may be light at the end of the tunnel.

Still, we needed to replace a little of the energy expended and very fortunately she had bought some cream which, when whipped up, went perfectly with meringues.

A goldfinch arrived at the new feeder.

goldfinch at full feeder

I had a shower and then went out to investigate a claim from a blog reader that there is a small murmuration of starlings in Langholm.  The claim turned out to be quite true.

starlings over esk

By some murmuration standards, it is a small flock but it still had about a couple of hundred birds in it at its busiest.

starlings over esk 2

The starlings circled round above the Esk at the Town Bridge and from time to time, other things caught me eye.

Ducks and gulls took to the air, Mr Grumpy supervised more ducks on the river and the moon shone in the background.

duck, gull, heron and moon

In order to capture the moon, I had to make the sky dark but as you can see in the picture below, it wasn’t really as dark as that.

After they had finished murmuring, the starlings fell out of the sky in dramatic fashion and disappeared into a remarkably small bush in front of Greenbank.

starlings landing

I got home in perfect time to have a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal.  Our friend Mike dropped in for a cup and helped us out by eating one of the remaining meringues.

There is talk of snow on the hills tomorrow morning but I will only believe that when I see it.

The flying bird of the day is one of the chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s recent musical outing.  As well as singing with sackbuts, she saw an angel playing a trumpet.

venetia's weathervane

We are strictly rationed to only one fine day at a time at the moment, so it was no surprise to wake to a very gloomy morning with additional drizzle today after yesterday’s sunshine.

For some reason (Mrs Tootlepedal suggests that it may have to do with too many birthdays) I was a bit tired and took a long time after breakfast in my dressing gown to get up, make coffee and visit the corner shop.

I had hoped to go for a walk in the late morning and give my new coat an airing but the drizzle was of that particularly depressing kind which discourages enterprise.  I stayed in and spent time sorting music for church and Carlisle choirs tomorrow.

And occasionally looking at the birds.

We are not getting a lot of birds at all which is concerning.  I see that I was complaining about the lack of winter birds last year too so it is not just a passing phenomenon.  There were some birds today, goldfinches, siskins and chaffinches.

three birds on feeder

The light was poor and I had a struggle trying to get a flying bird of the day, though I thought that this effort was pleasingly reminiscent of Woodstock, the bird in the Peanuts cartoon strip

diving goldfinch

For a decent flying bird, I need to to have enough birds so that queues form for the perches.  When there are vacant perches, as was the case today, the birds arrive very quickly and I was usually too late…

rising goldfinch

…and the birds had got too close to the feeder.

nearly flying goldfinch

The drizzle eased off and I had a look round the garden for signs of life.

new growth

There is still plenty of potential leek soup out there.  Mrs Tootlepedal tries to keep exposed soil well mulched over the winter.

old leeks

She had used her new vegetable chopping device to help make some very tasty vegetable soup for lunch and after I had enjoyed eating some with bread and cheese, I went out for a cycle ride.  It had stopped raining completely by this time.

The wind hadn’t stopped blowing though and I found the first few miles straight in to the breeze very hard work.  I sensibly turned off and with the wind now across and slightly behind, I pedalled happily across the hill and down into the Esk valley.

The wind was in the perfect direction and helped back up the hill into Langholm.  It was very gloomy and I only stopped once to add another tree to my collection.

tree

Once I got home, I felt that I had done enough for the day and passed from afternoon tea and the last of the Christmas cake into an evening meal of fishcakes and broccoli without noticeably moving at all.

Because of the lack of sunshine and photographs today, I am going to break with tradition and use a photograph from yesterday which escaped from my filing system to fill out today’s post.  This was the sky at dawn.

sunset

We are going to London in a couple of weeks and I booked the railway tickets today.  The route has recently been transferred from one operator to another, and although I had received a reassuring email from the new operators saying that the changeover would be seamless as far as booking went, I feared the worst.  Oh ye of little faith!  Everything went perfectly smoothly and the tickets are booked.  This is not the same company that runs the Lockerbie train.

I gave up on goldfinches for the flying bird of the day and  looked to the heavens to catch a jackdaw in the walnut tree instead.

flying jackdaw

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