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Posts Tagged ‘crocus’

Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia’s recent trip to America.  As well as wild life in Wyoming, she saw still life in Thousand Oaks.

Thousand Oaks

We had a second fine sunny day today, frosty at dawn but warm enough for the rest of the day to make being outside a pleasure.

So it was a pity that it coincided with the one day of the week where thanks to choirs, we spend a lot of time indoors but these things  can’t be helped so we enjoyed the singing and we enjoyed the sun.

After the church choir, Mrs Tootlepedal made a chicken stew in the slow cooker and then found some time for gardening while I sneaked out for a dozen miles on the slow bike just to keep the miles ticking over while the sun shone.

I stopped for a view at the Bigholms…

view at Bigholms

…and as well as admiring the fine tree in the view…

tree at Bigholms

…I took a picture to show how thin the soil is under our scenery.

peat at Bigholms

The dark layer is peat.

While I was stopped for the view, I looked at a concrete fence post beside the road as I don’t like to waste a stop if I can help it.

lichen at Bigholms

I had a look round the garden when I got in and noted that a little bunch of the miniature Tete a Tete daffodils has come out…

jetfire daffodil

…though we are still waiting for the main daffodils to do their thing.

The crocuses were enjoying the sun…

crocuses

…but there was nothing new to see so I went inside, had a shower and set up the camera at the kitchen window.

The feeder had been unoccupied while Mrs Tootlepedal worked nearby but when she came in, visitors arrived.

chaffinches

They were mostly chaffinches, flying in….

flying chaffinch

…from the plum tree and…

_DSC2560

…sometimes getting into arguments with each other.

flying chaffinch

Sometimes a goldfinch stood in their way…

flying chaffinch

…and sometimes a greenfinch…

flying chaffinch and greenfinch

..but it was good to see the feeder busy.

I didn’t catch a flying greenfinch but I did notice one of the few goldfinches arriving.

flying goldfinch

I didn’t have long to enjoy the birds though as the moment to leave for Carlisle and our choir came all too soon.

We had our substitute conductor again this week as our musical director was busy with one of his many other duties and she gave us a thorough workout.  It was made all the harder from my point of view as my voice, which had been a bit husky in church, took a turn for the worse and I croaked my way inelegantly through the practice.

By the time that we had got home, I was even croakier and wondered whether I had picked up some unhelpful ailment but a couple of paracetamols and a plate of Mrs Tootlepedal’s excellent chicken stew improved things a lot.  I am hoping that all will be well in the morning.

I was even more perked up when I discovered that I had got a worthy contender for the position of flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture come from ex-archivist Ken who tells me that this odd structure is designed to filter pollutants to the  equivalence of up to 300 trees. It is situated at Haymarket at a busy junction close to the bus station.

mechanical tree

Spring arrived  today and even if it is, as they used to say on the posters outside theatres, “For Two Days Only”, it was very welcome.

There was sun all day, no wind at all in the garden, no hint or threat of rain and a reasonable temperature.

Mrs Tootlepedal was very happy and got a power of work done in the garden and I was pretty cheerful too.   There had been a light frost overnight so I waited for the temperature to hit eight degrees before I set out on my slow bicycle.

This gave me time to admire a goldfinch on the feeder….

goldfinch

…and walk round the garden.

There were bees on the crocuses…

bees

… and frogs in the pond…

frogs

…getting ready for the start of a handicap race (though one contestant may have got distracted).

This was my individual pick of the day.

frog

Talking of crocuses, I noticed that the camera had recorded two quite different colours on a set of crocuses growing side by side…

crocus

…even though they are exactly the same colour.  Light is a funny thing.

And of course, if I ever get bored there is always plenty of moss to look at in the garden.

garden moss

Just a small sample.

I was quite happy to delay setting off on my slow bike as I wasn’t aiming for a long ride because pushing the slow bike along is hard work and my knees are feeling the recent efforts a bit.

It was a grand day for a slow pedal though and I enjoyed my thirty miles a lot.   I had noticed a sign regarding road improvements near the end of the Winterhope road so I took a short diversion to investigate.  Things looked promising as I found a brand new pothole free surface but sadly, it didn’t go on for long…

Winterhope road

The end of the road

…and I was soon on the old road again.  I went far enough to take a picture….

Winterhope road

….and then turned back and joined the Callister road again where I stopped to take a picture of the bridge at Falford which I often cross.

As it is at the bottom of a steep hill, I am usually going too fast to think about stopping but after my diversion today, I was going at a more suitable stopping speed.

Falford bridge

The gorse along the road to Gair is always out early and it is looking good already this year.

gorse

I went up to Kennedy’s Corner where I enjoyed the variable geometry of these three roofs.

red roofs

From there my route was downhill onto the Solway plain and I could look over the Solway Firth to the Lake District hills beyond as I came over the top of the hill.

view of skiddaw

On my way down to Chapelknowe, I passed a unusual lamb.  I think that these two are Jacob sheep.

lamb

Once through Chapelknowe, I headed down to Corries Mill and on my way, I met a rush of traffic.

pony cart

I was happy to pause while it passed my by.

Mrs Tootlepedal has been reading an interesting book about our end of the border between Scotland and England called ‘The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and England’ written by Graham Robb, so I was happy to sneak over the border into England on my way and get a picture of the tower and church at Kirkandrews-on-cycEsk  in part of the Debatable Lands.

Kirkandrews tower and church

It was still a lovely day when I got home and unsurprisingly, I found Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work in the garden.  I took a look round and was very pleased to see that the hellebores were still looking good,  the fancy primroses had more or less survived the frosty nights and the sun had brought the winter aconites out.

flowers march

I think that the crocuses look at their best in the late afternoon sunshine…

crocus

…and I like a semi circle of them which Mrs Tootlepedal has arranged round the foot of the silver pear.

crocus

Our friends Mike and Alison have returned from seeing their grandchildren in New Zealand and Mrs Tootlepedal laid on a pot of tea and a fancy iced cake or two to welcome them back.  They had gone through a rather alarming experience when a cyclone had pushed a high tide under the floor of the beach house where they were staying but other than that, they had had a wonderful time.

I will have to practise my flute now as regular Friday night music should resume.

We are hoping for another sunny day tomorrow and perhaps on Monday too but after that we are back to cool weather with the threat of rain and even snow again.  Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.

A goldfinch, the flying bird of the day, is rather different from the usual chaffinch.

flying goldfinch

 

 

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Thanks to all those who have sent guest pictures.  I start with these two exotic encoutnered by Jim and Sandra who certainly haven’t been on holiday in Blackpool.

jim and sandra

Hamilton Island                                         Komodo Island

After a sub zero night, it warmed up briskly and there was no hint of frost to be seen.  The temperature didn’t get above itself though and remained safely in single figures all day, not wanting us to get too optimistic about spring.

The fact that it was the vernal equinox today was neither here nor there apparently.

The better weather meant a very much worse attendance at the feeders today but this gave the dunnocks some space to shine.

dunnock

_DSC2436

There were several about, intent on giving each other a hard time.

Other visitors appeared from time to time.

dove, robin and greenfinch

The round robin shows that it was still pretty chilly.

I was pleased to see two blue tits but they too were intent on chasing each other off so I only got a fleeting glimpse of them.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a dentist’s appointment in the afternoon and kept her mind off it by indulging in a whirlwind round of household tasks in the morning and I had to look pretty sharp to avoid being tidied away into a cupboard under the stairs.

At midday, she went off to help at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop and I had a very early lunch and got the slow (currently my only) bike out and went for a pedal.

The snow has almost all disappeared but in the shade of a wall here and there, the remains of drifts can still be seen.

snowy wall

The temperature was about 7°C and the wind was chilly but luckily the sun stayed out for the duration of the ride and I was well wrapped up so it was a good day to be pedalling.

I stopped near Waterbeck to admire the handsome bridge over the Kirtle Water…

kirtle water bridge

….its good looks are slightly spoiled by a fallen tree branch and a tatty sheep catcher.

I looked around while I was there and got three trees for the price of one…

Trees at Waterbeck

…and noticed an extensive stretch of white race track fences which indicate a horsey establishment.

Albie stud

I have cycled over the bridge many time without ever noticing them before.

The slow bike lived up to its name and for the first ten miles, which are quite hilly and into the wind, I needed an hour and three minutes.  The next two sets of ten miles took 50 and 51 minutes respectively, helped by some down hill and a bit of wafting from the now favouring breeze.

I enjoyed the views as I went.   Some were extensive like this one over the fields to Gretna with  the English hills beyond…

view of english hills

…and some more intimate like this little valley near Chapelknowe where two stream meet.

view near chapelknowe

The marks in the field in the foreground were made by a tractor spreading fertiliser and I was able to see him homeward plodding his weary way.

tractor leaving

As I got near to Canonbie, I passed this inviting farm sign

Mouldyhills

You might think that it would need a very optimistic farmer to take on this place but of course the  “mould” of mouldyhills has nothing to do with being mouldy, but is instead an ancient English word for loose earth or turned-over soil.

As I went along the old road to Canonbie, I passed Canonbie’s Caledonian coos again

canonbie cows

I showed the picture of the one with the fetching fringe from the blog of a week ago  at the camera club last night and a member piped up, “That’s one of my sister-in-law’s cows.”  It turned out that she had been given a Highland cow for a Christmas present after saying that she particularly liked Highland cattle.  She found it in the garage tied up with a pink ribbon on Christmas Day.

I should perhaps mention that I particularly like Ferraris.

One can live in hope.

Nearer Langholm, I stopped for a look at the fishermen’s steps at Broomholm.

fishermen's steps at Broomholm

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was at the dentist so I parked the bike and took a picture of two of the best things in life, a bicycle and and a large heap of manure.  Who could ask for anything more?

bike and manure

Mrs Tootlepedal returned from the dentist in a very good mood, having had some painless treatment.  Meanwhile I had taken a short walk round the garden.

The crocuses had appreciated the better day….

crocus

…and other promising signs were to be seen.

spring flowers

I failed to take a sharp picture of an opening blackcurrant bud but quite liked the result which I thought summed up our hesitant approach to spring quite well.

blackcurrant leaf

A honeysuckle had a rabbit hiding behind its leaves.

honeysuckle leaf

The low sun and a blue sky overhead made for an interesting frog picture.

blue frog

At least the days will be longer than the nights now and that always lifts the spirits which considering the news in general certainly need a little lifting.

The flying bird of the day is like spring, rather elusive.

flying blue tit

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In contrast to yesterday’s Antiguan sun, today’s guest picture shows a typical day in Derby.  My brother Andrew was suffering in the rain there a couple of day ago.

Derby

We had another very welcome dry day here today and things are even beginning to hint at drying out a little.  A bit more warmth would help the process.

A brisk wind also helps and we got that today, the downside being that it was a pretty chilly breeze and it made the day which was theoretically warm at 10°C feel a good deal colder.  Still, it was a useful day for a pedal and some gardening so we were happy.

My fairly speedy bike was still in the bike shop so I went out on the slow bike and stuck to skulking 18 miles twice up and down the Wauchope valley, as far out of the wind as I could stay.

I was impressed by the dedication of a flock of sheep to getting their strength up and stopped for a shot…

sheep

…and as I always look closely at a wall when I am leaning over one to take a photo, I took some lichen pictures while I was at it.

lichen on wall

I like the variations in colour, shape and style that the lichen on our roadside walls provides.

Otherwise, I kept my head well down in the crosswinds on the ride and didn’t take any more pictures.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal had completed some errands round the town and was busy gardening.

She is very pleased with the early crocuses this year and so am I.

There are some brighter ones about…

crocuses

…but the bulk of the flowers are a delicate pale violet and I like them both for themselves and when they mingle with the snowdrops.

crocuses

And because I like eating it, I was very happy to see that the rhubarb is looking very promising.

rhubarb

Then I went inside and looked out.  The kitchen makes a warm and comfortable bird hide and supplies good coffee too (Rwandan today).

I looked high…

greenfinch

…and low.

dunnock

After lunch, I went off for a walk.  It had been gently sunny while I had pedalled along in the morning but the clouds had come over for my walk and it was a grey afternoon.

Pathhead track

Snowdrops provided some cheer both at the start and near the finish of my walk.

snowdrops

On grey days, I tend to keep my eyes on the foreground and ignore the views and there is always something to help to pass the time.

This wall provided a home for some luxuriant moss.

mossy wall

And a birch tree had a neat circle of script lichen.

script lichen

As always, walls are a never ending source of delight and today I came across a growth which I hadn’t seen before.  It is the coral like structure on the left in the panel below.  I think that it must be lichen but I am by no means confident about that.

lichen on wall

On the other hand, I am confident about this.

cladonia

This is definitely cladonia lichen.

I had already stopped at a promising piece of wall before I had noticed the tiny spots of red so either my lichen radar is improving with practice or I was just lucky because I didn’t see any more along the the wall.

cladonia

It really is very red indeed.

I started and finished my walk with a visit to the Kilngreen in the hope of seeing some oyster catchers.

There was a pair at the Meeting of the Waters when I was on my out but they flew off with a gull before I could get too close…

oyster catchers

And there was a pair (probably the same pair I would imagine) in the same place when I came back an hour later and they flew off again, first to further up the bank of the river…

oyster catcher

…and then again to join the gulls on the fence posts.

Luckily one of them flew right past me.

oyster catcher

When I saw that I wasn’t going to get close to them, I took a shot through an arch of the Langholm Bridge which gave me a lot of pleasure even on a grey day.

Langholm Bridge

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden again when I got back and I fell easily into a supervisory role.  It is a suitable role for me as it doesn’t involve doing anything else but walking around and saying, “That looks good.”

In the evening, I went to sing with our local choir and enjoyed myself not least because I am sitting next to my cello playing friend Mike who is an excellent singer and keeps me right.

He remarked that he and his wife have been enjoying the frog pictures on the blog so here is one from today, especially for them.

frog

The flying bird of the day is a black headed gull which  flew by while I was tracking the oyster catchers.  It has almost got its spring black head.

black headed gull

END NOTE

Oh and the title of the blog refers to a telephone call which I received from the bike shop this evening to tell me that the fairly speedy bike has got a two inch crack in the frame so it is time to say farewell to an old friend. Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out that it is just as well to discover a crack like that when it is in the bike shop and not when you are going down hill at 30mph.

I don’t remember exactly when I bought the fairly speedy bike, a Giant SCR, but I must have had it for over ten years so it will have done about 40,000 miles at least.  It has been a good servant, comfortable and reliable and I will be very happy if my new bike turns out to be as good.

I am going to look at getting a replacement suitable for a elderly gentleman with no great bike handling skills but who enjoys getting a few miles in over a year. Like Two Ton Tessie O’Shea used to say about herself, it will be built for comfort more than for speed.  I know my limits now.

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mrs Tootlepedal and shows two fragments of the steampunk embroidery that she enjoyed so much yesterday.  The artist is Jan Johnson.

steampunk embroidery

We had the first genuinely warm and sunny day of the year and it was ideal for gardening and cycling so it was unfortunate that it coincided with our Sunday day of two choirs with no time for anything else but singing.

It was very welcome all the same and gave a really good lift to our spirits.

In between the church choir and the Carlisle community choir, there was time to look out of the window and walk round the garden.

Once again the garden was full of siskins….

siskins

…but among the familiar sights and sounds, the first redpoll of spring appeared as well.

redpoll

Out in the garden among the crocuses…

crocuscrocus

…fresh buds are a pointer of things to come.

spring buds

….and today we had many added bees…

bee on crocus

bee on crocus

…and the frogs in the pond were purring away.

frogs and spawn

They had been busy.

frog and spawn

Some were all for togetherness…

frogs

…while others preferred to hide their light under a bushel.

frog

We had to work hard in both choirs as two of the hymns in the morning had no less than seven verses and it was the last practice before a competition for our Carlisle choir in the afternoon.

The forecast says that we should keep clear of frost for the next few days so I am hoping to get out and about on the bike but it will have to be on my slow bike as the fairly speedy bike is going in for its annual service tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is one of the frequently flying siskins.

siskin

 

 

 

 

 

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

snow in manitoba

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

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

tits at Laverock hide

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

woodpecker

The one glimpse of a woodpecker that I got

_DSC2007

A male chaffinch

chaffinch

And another one

flying chaffinch

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

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

cloud

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

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

birds' bums

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

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

_DSC2019frog_DSC2020

For some reason the light was perfect for reflections today.

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

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

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

lichen

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

gair road

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

tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

frog

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

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

flying chaffinch

 

 

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

cave

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

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

siskins and goldfinch

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

siskins and chaffinch

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

dunnock

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

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

The rain started again.

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

Bloch view

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

snow at Tarcoon

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

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

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

crocuses

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

frog

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

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

It was on trees, piles of stones….

garden moss

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

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

dam bridge repairs

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

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

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

moss on wall

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

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

becks burn bridge

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

becks burn wood

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

P1070943

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

… it was looking at this.

P1070945

Not the most exciting view in the world.

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

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

becks burn wood steps

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

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

track

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

We passed this rather  artistic tree stump on our way.

mossy tree stump

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

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

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

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

chaffinch and siskin

 

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