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Posts Tagged ‘chaffinches’

Today’s guest picture comes from my camera club friend Simon.  He is offsetting the disappointment of the disappearance of all his normal work thanks to the coronavirus by taking healthy walks along the beautiful Esk between some humdrum jobs which he has taken to fill the gap.

Jocks Pool Simon

I took a walk in the garden after breakfast.  It had been frosty when we woke but the sun made things feel quite pleasant…

forsythia

…and a scilla had added a little more colour to springtime.

scilla

There was shopping to do, so while Mrs Tootlepedal combined shopping and business, I pedalled round to the corner shop passing the oyster catchers at their regular spot beside the river on the way.

two oyster catchers

I like a reliable bird.

After coffee, we went out into the garden where Mrs Tootlepedal did some vegetable bed preparation and I did some compost sieving.  The compost, from the back end of last year, was some of the best that I have made and I put this down to some careful attention to layering green and brown material in the original bin and not letting it get too wet.

We checked on the forced rhubarb and decided that it looked good enough to pick a stalk or two. Its colour was wonderfully fresh.

forced rhubrab

Although it was warm enough to garden comfortably in the sun, the morning cold was not gone and when I tipped some rainwater out of the wheelbarrow, the evidence of the underlying chill was plain.

ice from barrow

A glittering starling serenaded us from the top of the holly tree as we  worked.

starling on holly tree

We went in and Mrs Tootlepedal settled down to some administrative work on the computer while I made some lentil soup for lunch.

And kept an eye on the birds.

perching chaffinch on stalk

I got an unusual view of a wood pigeon.

back vire pigeon

There were no siskins in the garden at all today and not many goldfinches either.  This left the field clear for the chaffinches, who gathered on the plum tree…

two male chaffinches sun

…and flew into the feeder uninterrupted by the hostility of siskins.

Both male…

flying chaffinch male panel

…and female chaffinches  took advantage of the peace and quiet.

flying chaffin female panel

I had been waiting for the day to warm up a bit before going cycling but even though the sun was still out after lunch…

chionodoxa and crocus

…and there was a crowd of chaffinches basking in it on the plum tree…

chaffinches in plum tree

..the thermometer refused to rise above 6°C so I put on several layers of bike clothing and then went back in and put on some more when I saw this cloud looming up over the town.

clouds over Langholm

A few drops of rain fell as I set out but I persevered, and the clouds, although still quite impressive,  looked a bit more friendly as I approached Callister.

clouds over callister

And by ten miles, they looked more friendly still.

cloudscape gir road

Out of the sun, it felt chilly but there always seemed to be a bit of sunshine ahead.  Here it was lighting up the pylons that I would follow for the next few miles.

pylons in the sun

Things didn’t look quite so good when I got over the hill and headed down towards the Solway Plain, but the rain shower was a good few miles away so I cut my intended route short, turned away from the dark clouds, and headed for home.

clouds over gretna

It looked like a good decision as I passed this pastoral scene at Half Morton…

half morton

..but life is seldom perfect and I had to pedal through a few miles of light rain not long afterwards.

However, it didn’t last too long and it certainly didn’t dampen my spirits.  This was because my spirits had been considerably dampened already by arguments with my legs.

They were in a very uncooperative mood and I got into trouble with OFFLEG (The office of the regulator of Leg use by Elderly Gentlemen.)  It turns out that in this day and age of politeness, you are no longer able to call your legs “Old Celery Sticks” or “Soggy Spaghetti” when they refuse to help you get up hills.  Ah well, I will be nicer to them when I go out next and hope that that makes them work better.

Still, I managed 26 miles at a very modest pace and that has taken me almost to 600 miles for the year.  After the appalling weather in February, that is not too bad so I shouldn’t complain.

Mrs Tootlepedal roasted the rhubarb with a little sugar coating for a dessert with our evening meal.  The colour was an attractive translucent pink and the taste, enhanced by some custard which I made, was not bad either.

We should have been visiting Matilda in Edinburgh today but we had to make do with a video call in the evening instead.  Matilda and her parents seem to be surviving ‘house arrest’ very well.  Al and Clare are both working from home and they are making use of on line material and help from her school to keep Matilda entertained and learning at the same time.

I had a choice of flying birds of the day but I chose this back view of a male chaffinch to fill the role.

flying chaffinches

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who saw this pink elephant but swears that she hadn’t touched a drop of drink all day.  I believe her.

pink elephant

It is going to be a rushed post today as I went to Carlisle to sing with our Carlisle choir at the local music festival in two classes and as there were eight choirs in the first class and seven in the second, it turned into a long evening and I haven’t even had my tea yet.

I had two visitors in the morning, a frog in the pond among potential frogs…

frog and tadpoles

…and Sandy who dropped in for coffee and to give me advice on getting my printer to print satisfactory pictures for the forthcoming exhibition.

His advice was sound and I spent most of the rest of the morning printing out pictures, a very slow business.

I did have time to walk round the garden.  The daffodils are looking better all the time…

clump of daffodils

…and some of the fancy ones are coming out too.

fancy daffodil

There was a brisk traffic at the bird feeder.

busy feeder

After lunch I went for a walk on my slow bike by which I mean that I bicycled slowly along a route which I would normally have walked as I am trying to rest my sore foot.

Signs of spring are all around, with the ducks pairing up…

two ducks

…and daffodils nodding their heads at the vigorous ripples on the Ewes Water.

dafodils beside ewes

It was sunny but windy and there was occasional rain so I thought that this little scene on the Castleholm summed the day up well.

puddle on castleholm

There were more signs of spring as I crossed the Jubilee Bridge and headed home.

tree budsanother dandelion

I liked the way that the shadows of the playing field fence lay so neatly on the path.

scholars fence shadow

When I got home, I had time to cut a couple of mounts for my exhibition pictures before I left for Carlisle and the choir competition.

I had given myself plenty of time and I had a few minutes to walk round the city centre before going to the warm up.

I noted the old town hall, now a tourist information point…

dav

…the old guildhall, now a restaurant….

dig

…and the very old  cathedral which is still a cathedral.

burst

We sang well at the music festival but the competition sang even better so we  we had to relinquish our grip on the trophy that we won last year.  My heart sank a bit at the prospect of sitting through 13 other choir performances but in the event, it was an entertaining evening with lots of variety in the choirs (everything from a male voice choir to several school ensembles) and lots of variety in the musical offerings (everything from Bruckner to ‘Blame it on the Boogie’).

The winning choir, an all ladies ensemble, was sensational and well worth being beaten by.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch with its eye on a free perch.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Canada.  Lucie, who sent it to me, is scratching her head as to why she can’t find people anxious to share a cup of tea with her on her patio when there are such comfortable looking cushions to sit on.

Lucie's snowy pergola

At least Lucie has had some sunshine.  We got another grey day today but not as windy as it has been for which we were grateful.

The sunshine in my life was metaphorical in the form of Sandy who came round for a coffee in a very cheerful mood.  His foot is a lot less sore and he has been sleeping exceptionally well so no wonder he was smiling.

As well as Sandy, we had plenty of other visitors today and I had to fill the feeder twice, a rare occurrence this year.

The siskins have wasted no time in making their presence felt as can be seen by this picture of a diminutive siskin blowing an incoming chaffinch away.

chaffinch blown away by siskin

A chaffinch did manage an unimpeded landing a little while later.

elgant chaffinch

Meanwhile the siskins took to creeping round the feeder to surprise goldfinches.

siskin sneaking past feeder

After Sandy left, I decided to go for a cycle ride as the forecast offered a few dry hours before the rain came.   It was still pretty breezy with gusts of up to 20 mph so I took things easy as I went round my customary Canonbie 20 mile circuit and kept my eyes open for things to photograph…

…like trees shaped by the prevailing wind…

bare tree chapelhill

…and more trees with some branched pruned by the passing winds…

bare tree Canonbie road

…and even more trees, this time standing in a relatively sheltered spot.

bare tree neat Canonbie

When I came to bridges, I stopped.

This is the Canonbie Bridge, low and wide…

Canonbie bridge

…and this is the Hollows bridge a mile or two up the road, high and handsome.

hollows bridge arch

Landowners grossly neglect their responsibility to provide uninterrupted views of river bridges for passing photographers as you can see from the Hollows bridge and this picture of another good looking bridge, a mile or two up the road which is almost submerged in trees and bushes, whereas….

old A7 bridge

…this ugly road bridge a few yards away is as clean as a whistle (and they have been cutting down more trees near it).road bridge

There is no justice….

…and bridges are not the only cause of photographic dissatisfaction.  Road furniture is a pest too as you can see from the junction at Canonbie where a lovely bank of snowdrops has been overwhelmed by clutter.

snowdrops and road signs

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy helping out at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop so I took a look around and noticed that she has got the Christmas tree out of the greenhouse and is getting it acclimatised for life in the garden.

christmas tree in garden

In the ‘signs of spring category’, new life on a rose was encouraging.

rose leaf

I went inside where I had a late lunch, battled with the crossword and did a little bird watching.

The stalk of the sunflower makes a convenient stopping place for birds waiting for a vacant perch on the feeder.

chaffinch on sunflower stalk

Some birds didn’t wait but made straight for the feeder…

horizontal chaffinch

…while others did their best to remove those who had got there first.

chaffinchs attack

Mrs Tootlepedal returned from a very busy session at the coffee shop and had a restorative cup of tea.  It must have been strong tea because as soon as she had downed it, we went off for a short expedition by car to the White Yett and then by foot up the track to the Monument.

Even on a dull day, the Ewes Valley is worth a look…

ewes valley

…and on any day at all, the lichens on the boulders beside the track and what I think is algae on the monument itself are very eye catching.

lichen and algae

Mrs Tootlepedal had brought her binoculars with her and took a moment at the summit to scan the skies for interesting birds…

Mrs T bird watching on whita

…in vain.

I looked down on the town, eight hundred feet below…

Langholm from Whita

…and then we went back down the track to the car before we got caught in the rain which was threatening to arrive.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went back to the Buccleuch Centre to watch a screening of a performance of Don Quixote by the Royal Ballet company while my friend Susan arrived to take me to Carlisle where we had an excellent evening of tootling.  The ballet was very good too, Mrs tootlepedal reported.

It was raining lightly as Susan and I drove down to Carlisle and it was very wet as we drove home so I was lucky to get my cycle and walk in before the rain arrived.  Sometimes the weather goods relent and give a man a break.  However, it does say that it is going to rain all day tomorrow so it was just a small break.

Another horizontal chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my ex colleague Marjorie who sent me this picture of a misty Schiehallion taken during her highland break over the festive season.

schiehallion

We woke to another chilly grey day here but the weather forecast suggested that a little sunshine might be available in the afternoon.  This turned out to be one of the forecasters little jokes but it didn’t matter as we had our own little ray of sunshine today in the form of a visit from our friend Sue.

She came in time for a coffee and not only were we pleased to see her, but we were pleased to see a small flock of birds at the feeder to entertain us as we sipped and chatted.

busy feeder

There was a constant coming and going for a while…

birds coming and going

…with visits from jackdaws to the fat ball feeder as well.

jackdaws in elder

In order to work up an appetite for lunch, we went for a walk to the top of Whita Hill after coffee.  Well, in fact, we went for a drive up to the White Yett and then walked the three quarters of mile up the easy track…

sue and mrs t on whita

…to the summit.

The track has a fine collection of boulders with colourful lichens at the bottom….

lichen at mcdiarmid memorial

…and an even more colourful set of lichens on the wall at the top.

lichen at whita summit

I took a worm’s eye view of the lightning conductor that is embedded in one side of the monument…

worms eye view of monument

…looked over the wall at the mist shrouded valleys to the south….

view over tarras

…and then we walked gently back down the track and admired the MacDiarmid memorial outlined against the Ewes Valley.

mcdiarmid memorial and ewes valley

The memorial celebrates the life and work of Langholm’s most famous poetical son, Hugh MacDiarmid.

mcdiarmid memorial

The sculpture is in the form of an open book and is constructed in Corten steel and bronze. Corten is a weathering steel which oxidises on the surface; it forms a protective skin and therefore requires no maintenance and to my eye, it looks thoroughly at home among the hills which MacDiarmid loved.

When we got home, Sue tried out our new bench and declared it to be very comfortable even in January.

 

sue and mrs t at bench

We marvelled at the rosemary, which thanks to the protected spot that it lives in, is still in flower…

december rosemary

…and then we went in to a lunch of curried parsnip soup and cheese flan provided by Mrs Tootlepedal.

Sue is one of the recorder group with whom I have played for many years and after lunch, she and I played a selection of duets while Mrs Tootlepedal got on with the crochet blanket she is making.

All too soon, it was time for Sue to head for home and while Mrs Tootlepedal continued with her crochet, I made an unavailing effort to solve the Saturday prize crossword.  Usually these crosswords yield to concentrated effort but today’s one has got me baffled.  I shall sleep on it and try again tomorrow.

All being well, we shall see Sue again tomorrow as she sings in our Carlisle choir and it meets for the first time in 2019 tomorrow afternoon.  I am looking forward to it.

There are not one but two flying birds of the day today which is cheering.

two flying goldfinches

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Today’s guest picture from my brother Andrew shows what was on the other side of the lake at Locko Park.

Locko Park (2)

It was zero degrees when we got up and -1 when I came to write this post.  In between it crept up to +1 in the middle of the day.  I didn’t go cycling.

I thought that the chill might bring in more birds and there were a few chaffinches about..

two chaffinches

..but not many.

straight up chaffinch

For one reason or another, we had a very lazy morning with a late coffee.  Then I made a pot of vegetable soup for lunch and I ate a lunch of soup, bread and cheese.  Then, since the sun was shining, I thought that I ought to go for a short walk just to stretch my legs after yesterday’s hilly effort.

It was almost windless and the pool at Pool Corner was a reflection of that state of affairs.

reflections at Pool Corner

The contrast between the cheerful sun shining through moss on a tree branch…

sunshine through moss

..and a frozen fence post beside the road to the Auld Stane Brig was very marked.

icy fence post

As a result, I thought that it might be just the sort of day to find hair ice  if I knew where to look.

hair ice gaskells (2)

I didn’t find much but there were a couple of really good examples.

hair ice gaskells

I could see the cattle that I had avoided yesterday enjoying the sunshine on Meikleholm Hill across the valley…

cattle on Meikleholm

…but on the whole, it was too chilly to spend a lot of time looking round so I took a picture of some dilapidated fungus on a tree and headed home.

decrepit fungus

The reason for the short walk was to make time for a shopping visit to Carlisle to buy supplies to fill up the serious date and prune gap in our storage cupboard.  Mrs Tootlepedal took the opportunity to acquire some crochet hooks as she is going to learn to crochet this winter.

I took a couple of pictures of chaffinches before we set off to Carlisle and I got my camera setting badly wrong and wasted this rare opportunity to get a respectable flying bird of the day…

noisy flying chaffinch

…but I quite liked the pointillist effect that I got by accident.

misty flying chaffinch

The sun was still shining when we arrived back in Langholm so before we went home, we drove up to the White Yett to see if we could see anything interesting.  The light was pretty mellow as we looked up the Ewes Valley on our way up the hill….

burst

…and it was absolutely gorgeous when we got to the top and looked over the moor towards Tinnis Hill.

dig

We dropped down into the Tarras valley in the hope of seeing some of the wild goats but saw none.  Our reward was to see the sun sinking behind the monument as we drove back home…

dig

…well satisfied with our little excursion in spite of the absence of birds.

Although the setting sun made it feel like evening, it was only mid afternoon when we got in and we sat down to a nice cup of tea and a slice or two of sourdough bread which had fallen into our shopping bag while we were out.

Sandy has been hard at work and I put a couple of 1967 Langholm Parish Church magazines, which he has scanned and formatted, into the Archive Group website.  I note that 448 people attended the communion services in November 1967 and yet the minister was still inclined to complain about poor church attendance from time to time.

It looks as though we are in for a pretty cool spell of weather in the coming days but with little or no rain about,  a good deal more walking than cycling may well occur.

I did manage to get the camera more or less correct on one occasion this morning so there is a flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is from my sister Mary who visited the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

Tragalgar Square

It was a sunny day here when we got up but far too cold to be able to risk a cycle ride with frost about so I pottered about until Sandy arrived with some Archive Group documents and we had a cup of coffee.  He and Nancy did a great job in moving Archive Group to their new premises with the help of a very obliging pair of ‘moving men’ and we hope that our data miners will soon get used to the new surroundings.

Dropscone has been  our landlord in our old premises for many years and we hope that he will be able find a good use for them now that we are gone.

When Sandy left, he took the sunshine with him and the day got progressively gloomier as it went on.  I decided to cook some tea cakes, using a method that is easy but time consuming in  the preparation of the dough so I had time to look out of the window at the passing show.

It was perching time for the goldfinches.

goldfinches perching

goldfinch on feeder

Once again, the old sunflower stalk was a handy staging post.

goldfinch on sunflower

Sometimes goldfinches waited for sparrows to move….

goldfinch and sparrow

…and sometimes sparrows encouraged goldfinches to move….

goldfinches and sparrow

…and sometimes chaffinches managed to get a look in too.

chaffinces staring at goldfinch

The tea cake method involves very light stretching of the dough rather than heavy kneading but it has gaps of a quarter of an hour between stretches so I had many looks out of the window while waiting for the next stretch and as well as birds at the feeder, I saw a dunnock…

dunnock

…and a blackbird scavenging for fallen seeds on the ground.

blackbird below

After a while, the dough was ready for its first rising so I had lunch and then while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to see a screening of a Degas exhibition at the Buccleuch Centre, I went off to collect my new bicycle from the bike shop where it had been having a service.  Although I had taken it in to the Carlisle branch, they had kindly brought it back to the shop in Longtown for me to collect it so I didn’t have far to go.

When I got home, I divided the tea cake dough into balls for the second rise and considered my options.

The day had got very gloomy by this time, with a brisk breeze and a hint of rain so once again I neither walked nor pedalled but went to work on my computer until Mrs Tootlepedal got back from her screening when we had a cup of tea.

Then it was time to bake the tea cakes and since the recipe is generally fool proof, they came out quite well.

dav

They enlivened with currants and raisins and spiced with cinnamon and ginger.

In the evening, one of the tenors from Langholm Sings came round and we did a little practising.  We shall see if it pays off when we meet tomorrow for our next rehearsal.

The forecast for tomorrow is appalling so I don’t think that there will be any chance of a pedal on my newly serviced bike.

In fact, November has not been kind to me from a cycling point of view recently.  I see that I only did 58 miles last year in the whole month because the weather was very poor and I had a persistent cold and so far I have only done half that distance this year with three days to go.  I might have to take issue with the poet who thought that April is the cruellest month.

The flying bird of the day is two goldfinches showing off their flying skills.

Flying goldfinches

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our older son Tony.  He took a suitably black and white shot of his black and white dogs.

wemyss dogs

In theory today was very much the same temperature as yesterday but in practice it felt much colder because of a rawness in the air and as a result I was quite happy to have a lot of singing and no cycling to do.

The singing started in church.  The choir had had no notice of the hymns in advance which was unusual but didn’t matter in the case of two of them which had simple harmonies.  One of the others in particular defeated me entirely even though it was sung in unison.  However, we had a enjoyable practice afterwards and in the end, we had a good morning of singing.

While this was going on, Sandy and Nancy were supervising the removal of the Archive Group’s furniture and equipment to the new base for the group.  The removal was in the hands of a couple of every competent fellows and Sandy and Nancy reported that everything had gone smoothly.  I hope to visit the new premises tomorrow and see the results.

When I got home, I had time for a quick walk round the garden with my new phone in hand.

There are still flowers about (just).

In some cases, it is a question of hanging on by the skin of the teeth…

edf

…but others are defiantly still flowering freely…

edf

….even if conditions are a bit soggy.

edh

I can’t get over how cheerful the perennial wallflower still is.

edf

As well as flowers, there is always moss about in the garden and this morning there was some additional fungus among the moss on the elder.

edf

At the bird feeder, it was very much a chaffinch day….

chaffinch activity

…though other birds were about as well.  There were pigeons on the lawn…

pigeon on lawn

…and jackdaws in the elder…

waiting jackdaw

…and one on a chair showing off its white feathers.

white feathers jackdaw

The chaffinches were queuing up to get to the sunflower hearts…

chaffinch queue

…but when they got there, some preferred arguing to eating.  Perhaps they were politicians in a former life.

chaffinch head to head

There was no shortage of pushy behaviour.

chaffinch starmash

After lunch, we went off to sing with our choir in Carlisle.  Ellen, our usual conductor, had other commitments and our accompanist was marooned in Motherwell by a late train cancellation so we had both a substitute conductor from Glasgow and a member of the choir at the keyboard.

As it turned out, they were more than able to provide us with a satisfactory practice and as is so often the case, a new face in front of the choir provided us with fresh insights into performing  better.  As there were only three tenors present this week, our department had to work hard to make itself heard.

When we got home, I made some cauliflower cheese for tea and followed that off with an iced bun so all in all, it was a very satisfactory day.

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

flying chaffinch

 

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