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Posts Tagged ‘crocus’

The guest picture of the day is a curious sculpture of a bicycle on a  railway line which Bruce encountered on his recent Annan walk.

Bruce's bike at annan

We had a splendidly sunny day today but from a cycling point of view, it wasn’t as useful as it might have been as it was also very cold for several hours in the morning, with too much of a risk of ice for a unworried pedal.

Under the circumstances, I was more than usually happy to see Dropscone arrive for coffee with treacle scones.  We managed to eat all the scones ourselves with perfect timing just before we were joined by our neighbour Liz who had been walking her dog and Mrs Tootlepedal who had been putting another coat of paint on her horse.

As we sipped our coffee, the conversation, as conversations among people of more than three score years and ten tends to do, turned to the many and various strains and stresses that come with the turning of yet another page on the calendar. The upshot of the discussion was a firm injunction from the rest of us to Liz to seek medical advice today as she won the competition for the most serious immediate ailment by some distance.

When the coffee group broke up, I went for a stroll round the garden.  Although the shady parts were still frosty, the sun had encouraged the crocuses…

clump of crocuses

…with some even popping up uninvited among the moss and grass on the middle lawn.

crocuses on lawn

The snowdrops along the back path are almost at their peak and don’t seem to mind the frosty mornings at all.

back path snowdrop zenith

A euphorbia is showing welcome signs of spring.

euphorbia

I went back in and did the crossword and ate some soup and waited in vain for some birds and the sunshine to come to the feeder.  Birds were scarce but in the end a siskin arrived before the sun.

siskin in shade

Occasional chaffinches joined in but annoyingly for the would be photographer, kept getting their heads into the shadow of the feeder.

siskin and chaffinch 2

In the end, the thermometer rose enough to make cycling a pleasure so I left the birds to it…

siskin and chaffinch

…and went out to see how far my legs would take me.

I was very pleased to find that the potholes on the muddy road past the site where the new wind farm will be on the top of Callister had been repaired and the road cleaned, so I was able to cycle down to the valley of the Kirtle Water in comfort and safety.

I had my eye on bridges today and stopped at the second one over the Kirtle Water that I crossed.

kirtle water bridge near Waterbeck

As well as the bridge, I looked at trees…

tree at between the waters

…on both sides of the river.  These three are being undermined by burrowing creatures.

three trees Waterbeck

I stopped for the next bridge at Sprinkell…

kirtle water bridge sprinkell

…and then stopped again in the village of Eaglesfield to show another side of the gaily painted bus shelter there.

eaglesfield bus stop 2

From Eaglesfield, I headed south to Gretna, very pleased to get away from a chilly and nagging headwind that had made progress a rather slow business.

The wind had been stronger than I had expected and I would have been much happier when it gradually dropped to a mere whisper, if this hadn’t coincided with a change of direction in my route so that now it was behind me but hardly helping at all.

Still, it was a sunny day and it was a treat to be out and about with my ankle giving me no trouble as I pedalled along….and of course there were more bridges to cross.

This one was over a little tributary to the river Sark, just a short distance from the border between Scotland and England.

sark tributary bridge

There was a very inviting path along the stream…

riverside walk Sark

…but I didn’t have time to follow it as my slow progress meant that I needed to get home before it got too dark and cold for comfortable cycling.

I pressed on as fast as my legs would let me and after a very short visit to England, I returned to Scotland and got back to back to Langholm with thirty eight and a half miles showing on my bike computer.  I was seized by a decimal obsession and emulated Mrs May’s Brexit tactic by going round in ever decreasing circles without getting anywhere until the 40 miles finally came up on the screen.  At this point I stopped.

I was just having a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal when our neighbour Liz dropped back in to report that she had followed our advice and actually gone to the Health Centre to see the practice nurse.  She now has an appointment with a doctor.  We were mildly surprised but very delighted with this outcome as her joints are giving her no peace at the moment.

Having discussed pain over coffee in the morning, now we discussed death in the afternoon over tea.  You can see what fun old people have when they get together.  Actually both conversations were very cheerful and interesting, all things considered.

 

I am glad that I got out for a cycle ride today because when I look at the forecast tonight, it tells me that we will be back to windy weather tomorrow.

I did manage to catch one chaffinch in the right time and the right place over lunch, so it is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

For those interested, clicking on the map of the ride below will bring up further details.   It should have felt warm at 56 degrees but the wind was cold and I was happy to be well wrapped up.

garmin route 15 Feb 2019

 

 

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Today’s just picture comes from Mrs Tootlepedal’s brother, Mike.  He planted some daffodils to brighten the road verge opposite his house and is pleased that his work has born fruit.  Being 300 miles south of Langholm, his daffodils are already out.

Mike daffodils

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Carlisle after an early breakfast to help sort out the music library for  our Carlisle choir.  This is a big job with 130 copies of every piece of music we sing needing to be sorted and stored.

While she was gone I looked out into the garden on another grey day.

The feeder was busy…

busy feeder

…and on the mossy lawn, a pigeon was putting its best foot forward.

pigeon on lawn

I had put out some fat balls and they had attracted jackdaws.

jackdaws on feeder

There was no shortage of flying birds to be seen even if there was a bit of a shortage of light to see them by.

flying chaffinches and goldfinches

Sandy came round for coffee.  He was in an exceptionally good mood because he had just enjoyed a thoroughly good night’s sleep, a thing so rare as to be be priced above pearls.

While we sipped and chatted, we were joined by some greenfinches…

flying greenfinches

…and a very unusually marked jackdaw.  I have never seen one like this before.

speckled jackdaw

After coffee, we went up to visit the Moorland project feeders in the glade at the Laverock hide as it was Sandy’s day to act as feeder filler.  After filling the feeders, we lurked in the hide for a while.  There were plenty of birds about, mostly chaffinches but with a good number of great and blue tits too.

blue and great tits Laverock

As with my garden, there were no winter visitors to be seen at all.  This is a bit worrying as there seems to be no reason not see our usual migrants.  I hope it is a one off and  not a sign of things to come.

We didn’t stay too long and when Sandy stopped at the Co-op on our way back to buy a local paper (full of articles by Dropscone this week), I took the opportunity to get out too and walk home along the river in the hope of seeing something interesting.

The hope was amply fulfilled as I saw a goosander…

goosander

…two oyster catchers…

two oyster catchers

…three dippers…

dippers in esk

…and a single white duck.

white duck

It was still pretty grey and most of the birds were a bit too far away from the bank for good pictures but it was encouraging to see them.  I snapped the church too while I was passing…

church on a grey day

…and a bit of typical Langholm street life.  Dog walking is a popular activity in our town.

alan and dogs

When I got home, I made some soup and then dashed out into the garden when the sun came out.

sunny crocuses

I didn’t have time to enjoy the sunshine and go for a walk or a pedal though as I had to go off to drive to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh.

It was a day of sophisticated travel arrangements as Matilda and her family were flying back from a family party in Dublin over lunch and Mrs Tootlepedal planned to catch the train from Carlisle that I was aiming to catch 20 minutes later in Lockerbie.  It is on days like this that the mobile phone really comes into is own and the flight and train journey went smoothly as planned and we all met in Edinburgh on schedule.

Matilda then took Mrs Tootlepedal and me for a walk in the woods.  We scaled the heights…

sdr

…passed all sorts of interesting plants like this St John’s Wort…

dav

…and came out at the top of a small hill from which we could see Edinburgh Castle in the distance  over the roofs.

dig

The rest of the afternoon was spent in catching up on news of the trip to Ireland, being coached by Matilda in the proper use of the alphabet, watching clips from Matilda’s dancing school’s annual show on DVD and eating another tasty meal.

We got safely back to Lockerbie on the train and drove home as the temperature dropped back to freezing again.

It is supposed to be warm and sunny tomorrow after a chilly start.  I live in hope.

The flying bird of the day is one of the oyster catchers making off down river.

flying oyster catcher

 

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Today’s guest picture is a follow up to the recent guest picture from Dropscone which showed the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct seen from below.  This is the view from above.  Dropscone walked over the aqueduct.  It would need a team of wild horses to get me across.

Telford aqueduct

We enjoyed a delightfully sunny day today with the only drawback being a frosty morning and a reluctance from the thermometer to rise above 5 degrees.  I would like to have gone for a walk but foot resting is still the order of the day so I spent a quiet morning in waiting for the temperature to rise to safe cycling levels.

I was well entertained by birds while I waited.

Camera shy chaffinches tried to sneak past me undetected….

chaffinch hiding

…while down below, a blackbird eyed up the possibility of fallen seed…

blackbird at feeder

…and a robin took a view from a garden chair.

robin on chair

In the midst of the usual scrum of goldfinches and chaffinches, a splash of yellow caught my eye.  A siskin had arrived, the first for some weeks.

siskin on feeder

It posed for me with a goldfinch to show just how small a siskin is.

siskin and goldfinch

I took a turn round the garden and the sun had encouraged some flowers to do their best, although the first daffodil of the season needed some support to hold its head up.

garden flower feb 11

The garden is amazingly dry considering the amount of rain recorded in  Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge over the past few days.

rain gauge Feb

I made some vegetable soup for lunch and then set off for a short ride on my slow bike.

I stopped a lot to take pictures.

I like this dangly larch branch…

larch in winter

…and there was no shortage of dangly catkins too.

catkins two

The bullocks were taking a rest from playing king of the castle when I first passed them…

sitting bulls

…but ten minutes later, they were full of fun again.

bullock on mound

My trip took me up the valley of the mighty Wauchope Water and to give the reader some context, I include a map of the three mile long river and its tributaries, with some markers to put the pictures in place.

Wauchope catchment

!. This is the spot where the Wauchope Water descends through narrow rocks to make my favourite little cascade.

bessie bells cascade

2. A view of Logan Water….

logan water

…just above where it joins the Bigholms Burn…

bigholms and logan water

…to become the Wauchope.

3.  A view of the junction of Collin Burn and Glentenmont Burn which together make up the Bigholms Burn.

bigholms burn

When you see these small and gentle streams, it is surprising that they can collect enough water between them to make the Wauchope look like this only five miles away.

wauchope in flood

The Wauchope last week as it meets the Esk

I was detained by some lichen on a bridge and more on a concrete fence post on my way home.

lichen on brodge and post

Altogether I managed to pedal twelve and a half miles between taking the pictures so it was a satisfactory outing.  While I was pedalling, Mrs Tootlepedal was doing good work in the garden and greenhouse so we were both pretty cheerful as we sat down for a refreshing cup of tea as the light began to fade.

A second helping of Mrs Tootlepedal’s excellent fish pie once again rounded off a day on the credit side of the great ledger of life.  I have made an appointment with a physiotherapist for later in the week and as I am expecting a miracle cure, I hope to be back walking very soon.

As the goldfinches were in a co-operative mood, I have gone overboard and used two of them for the flying bird of the day.

flying goldfinch

flying goldfinch (2)

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by one of my ex teaching colleagues, Ada.  She has been on a walking holiday in Tenerife, which looks from her picture to have been an excellent choice.

Tenerife

I must apologise to regular readers who might justifiably expect a little variety every now and again in my posts but things are conspiring against me to a certain extent and life is a bit dull just now.

I can’t get my foot sorted out so walking is a bit of a pain and the weather has been unhelpful when it come to long cycle rides so there hasn’t been much new in the way of views or even exiting lichens.  On top of that, the supply of birds in the garden has been almost entirely limited to chaffinches…

chaffinches coming and going at feeder

…either at the feeder or approaching it.

flying chaffinch (3)

And although it is mildly amusing to see a chaffinch miss its footing on a perch…

chaffinch missing perch

…one flying chaffinch looks very much like another….

flying chaffinch

…and that was all I saw today.  The goldfinches were hiding behind the feeder when they did arrive.

chaffinches at feeder

There was some excitement when I got a visit in the morning  from Dropscone, bringing treacle scones with him and heard tales of his holiday in Wales.  This was entertaining for me but mostly I looked out of the window and watched chaffinches.

flying chaffinch (2)

After more overnight rain and wind, things calmed down during the day as storm Erik drifted away to the east and although the brisk wind made it feel quite chilly, it was really not a bad day for February.

I am back to trying to rest my foot before going to see a physio as soon as I can next week so my only expedition outside was a tour round the New Town on my slow bike in the hope of seeing something interesting in the way of waterside birds.

There were none about.

Pool Corner was looking peaceful after the storm.

 

pool corner Feb

In the garden, Mrs Tootlepedal had showed me a double snowdrop and I lifted its head to get a better view.  It had been a bit battered by the splash from the rain.

double snowdrop

The crocuses were enjoying the sunshine but they too need a little time to recover.

open crocuses

As I had nothing to better to do, I made the mistake of watching Scotland play Ireland at rugby in the afternoon.  As Scotland played very well intermittently but for the rest of the time ran through their well practised repertoire of forward passes, dropped balls, line out errors and poor choices, this was not the best way to spend time.  We lost.

Still, the days are definitely getting longer and my foot will sort itself out in the course of time so I hope that patient readers will not have to wait too long before something interesting appears in the blog.

In the meantime, here is yet another flying chaffinch of the day.

_DSC9873

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Alistair and shows the indomitable Matilda scootering to infinity and back.

Matilda scootering

It is a rather hasty post tonight as it is late as I write this after a full day.

The weather gods relented and let me get out for a dry cycle ride today.  Perhaps they were fearful that if they rained on me again, I might go over to the dark side and take up cycling indoors.

Two days ago I passed a rook playing king of the castle, today it was bullocks.

cattle king of the mountain

Although I had a good day for a pedal, it was quite chilly and there were still clouds about which led me to having a few nervous backward glances…

Bloch view with cloud

…though the clouds made a good backdrop for my favourite tree…

Bloch tree

…and stayed away fro most of the journey.

As we were going to Edinburgh in the afternoon, I didn’t have time to take many pictures while I went round my 20 mile Canonbie circuit but as I have been short of bridges lately, I stopped for this one at Irvine House.

Irvine Hosue bridge

Mrs Tootlepedal had made soup for lunch and as I waited for it to finish cooking, I noticed a bird showing that I had had to deal with quite a brisk breeze while I had been cycling.

fluffly flying chaffinch

Mostly the birds consisted of chaffinches looking down at other birds.

supervising chaffinch 3supervising chaffinch 2supervising chaffinch 1

In the garden, a bit of sunshine had persuaded a crocus to come out.

early crocus

More colour is provided by cotoneaster berries on the wall of the house.  I don’t know why they aren’t attractive to birds.

cotoneaster berry

After lunch, we drove over to Lockerbie and caught the train (ten minutes late) to Edinburgh.  The weather was lovely as we whizzed along but once again the hills seemed to be attracting the clouds.

Tinto hill from train

When we got to Edinburgh, we caught a bus down to the flat where Matilda and Co are staying until their new house is ready and on the way, we caught a glimpse of a fine rainbow over the Edinburgh rooftops.

rainbow in Edinburgh

Once at Matilda’s, I had a chastening time being thrashed at Pelmanism and Snap by the diminutive demon.  In my defence we were using very small cards with very small pictures on them and her eyesight is much sharper than mine.

We had another excellent Persian meal for our tea and then Matilda demonstrated a dance routine that she is learning for a possible dance school competition.  When I think how hard it is for me to learn new songs, I can only marvel at her ability to remember complicated moves after only one lesson.

I took a picture of the National Gallery in Princes Street when we got off the bus back to the station.  The fine frontage is usually covered with banners advertising exhibitions so it was good to see it almost as the architect intended for once.

National nGallery

The train home was on time and a very tricky crossword meant the the journey flashed by.  The drive home was comfortable with no rain, snow, ice or fog.

As an added bonus, Sandy sent me a message to say that Joe had appeared on a television show talking about his film earlier in the evening and we were able to watch it on catch-up when we got in.

That rounded off a cheerful day.

I have a gender balanced flying bird of the day portfolio today.

Ladies first.

flying chaffinch febflying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who is on holiday in Wales.  He took the opportunity to see one of the most famous engineering feats of Thomas Telford, a local Eskdale hero.  The picture shows the magnificent Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which carries the Langollen canal through the skies over the river Dee.

telford aqueduct

We had a slightly warmer day here today but not much warmer so after having checked the weather forecast (grey but dry) I idled a couple of hours away after breakfast to let the temperature rise before getting out on my bike.

I spent some of the time watching birds.

full feeder

Goldfinches had come back today but my attempts to find a flying bird were generally less than successful with chaffinches either hiding behind the feeder…

chaffinch behind feeder

…or sneaking up before I was ready…

chaffinch approaching feeder

…and the goldfinches weren’t much more helpful.

goldfinch approaching chaffinch

I liked this pair with the sparrow in the role of Esau (my brother Esau is an hairy man…) and the chaffinch posing as Jacob (…but I am a smooth man).

chaffinch and sparrow

I set off on my bike, full of hope and with an ambitious itinerary in mind.  This lasted all of five miles because when I looked down into the Esk valley from the top of the Kerr hill, all I could see was rain, and heavy looking rain at that.

Within a minute, the rain had swept over me too and I was under fire from some painful, sleety raindrops which were being propelled by a strong and gusty wind.

I turned tail and tried to beat the rain.  I succeeded within a mile or so and instead of resting on my laurels and heading for home when I got to the Wauchope road, I set off to the top of Callister instead.  This was a bad mistake and the pedal home back down the hill was a full on experience of getting thoroughly wet.

Still, 17 miles was better than nothing and a hot shower restored my equilibrium.

Of course it had stopped raining by the time that I had got out of my shower so I went for a short walk.

There was even the odd glimpse of sunshine…

Town Bridge wet February

Telford worked on this bridge as an apprentice.

…but everything was very wet…

raindrops on park tree

…wherever you looked…

wet needles

…and as there were ominous clouds building up and my foot was hurting a bit, I took a quick stroll along the park wall where the pixie cup lichens ….

big cup lichen

…were to be seen on every side.

pots of cup lichens

The lichen stained bark of a tree caught my eye…

park tree bark

..but I had got discouraged so I headed home and looked for flowers in the garden.  The crocuses looked a bit discouraged too…

wet crocus buds

…but a hellebore was looking well and even had a fly for company.

hellebore feb

I lifted the head up to show that it was in good health.

hellebore held up

Once I got in, the weather brightened up but I was fed up by then and I did some singing practice, had a cup of tea and a biscuit with Mike Tinker who dropped in and made a beef stew for my evening meal.

While I was doing these things, Mrs Tootlepedal was continuing with her crochet blanket (the end is in sight) and doing some detailed work on the rocking horse as part of the preparations for painting it (a lot of work to go).

After tea, I went off for the first meeting of 2019 for the Langholm Community Choir.  There had been worries that the membership might drop off but there was a very good attendance with a new member on hand.  Mary, our director, in consultation with the committee, has settled on fewer new works this session and as they are fairly easy arrangements, we had a relaxed session.  I think this is a good plan as we ought to be able to sing  the material very well by the time our concert comes round without any stress.

The best flying bird of the day that I could find was this chaffinch, just out of focus.  It matched my efforts to read the weather correctly.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She was visiting the Somerset Rural Life Museum with my Somerset correspondent Venetia not long ago when she came across this very patient horse.

mary somerset horse

It was a beautiful day today with not a cloud in the sky but as it was still below zero after breakfast, there was no chance of a cycle ride for me.  Unfortunately my foot was rather sore which was annoying so I didn’t think that a walk up one of our hills was a good idea either.

As a result, I hung around doing nothing much while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Carlisle in the bus to do some shopping.  In the end, I pulled myself together and went out to see if I could walk my sore foot off with a nice flat stroll.  I couldn’t but it didn’t get any worse and it was a lovely day for a walk so I wasn’t complaining (too much).

There were gulls dipping their feet in the icy waters of the river at the Kilngreen…

bathing gulls

…with others keen to join them.

gull landing in esk

Meanwhile there was a lot of gulls leaving their posts and flying past me both at low level…

flying gull 1

…and higher up too.

flying gull 2

I pottered on round the Castleholm and pheasant hatchery, enjoying frequent splashes of snowdrops as I went.

lodge gates snowdrops

The last time I walked this way, it was a very grey day and I took a black and white photo of the woods near Holmhead so I thought it only fair to show them in full colour today.

holmhead woods

I would have liked to be on the top of Timpen instead of looking up at it but…

timpen from pheasant hatchery

…there were interesting icy puddles to admire where I was….

frozen puddle mat and clear

…and a delightful view of a characteristic farm cottage…

breckonwrae

…colourful cones, fallen to the ground…

cones

…and quite a bit of hair ice too.

hair ice

The fungus which causes this phenomenon must be spreading as I am seeing more and more hair ice as I walk about.

As long as I was in the sunshine, it was a very kind day for a walk but in the shadows, the ground was still frost covered.

whita in sunshine and shade

The conditions underfoot were perfect, dry and ice free…

castleholm walk

…so I got home very content with my walk.   My foot was a different matter though and as I can’t work out what is wrong with it,  I will seek medical assistance next week unless it has magically cured itself.  Quite often just making an appointment with a doctor or a physio is sufficient to make ailments behave themselves.  I live in hope.

I had some soup for lunch and watched the birds for a while.  The goldfinches were back and I liked the beady eye that this one was casting on proceedings.

wary eyed goldfinch

A brambling appeared in the plum tree…

brambling in sun

…and since this is the third or fourth time that I have seen a single brambling lately, I am beginning to wonder if it always the same bird which has got detached from its friends.  Usually, if you see one brambling, you soon see more.

I had a walk round the garden and was pleased to see more signs of life, both potential….

peony shoots

…and actual.

first crocus

I would like to have made better use of such a fine day but apart from taking the car up to the garage in readiness for its MOT test tomorrow, I spent the rest of this fine day indoors.  At least I got some Archive Group work done so it wasn’t entirely wasted.

My flute pupil Luke came and we did some hard work on reading and playing demi-semi quavers.  They are not intrinsically hard to work out but it can be tricky working out how long you need to hold a crochet for when you have just been playing dozens of these little notes.

The rocking horse is still drying out upstairs and Mrs Tootlepedal has been visiting it and giving it a pat from time to time.

There is not one but two flying birds of the day today as the gulls flew past me in formation on my walk.

two flying gulls

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