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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony.  As well as looking up at celestial wonders, he has also looked down and found a monster on the seashore.

monsters head (1)

I drove south after breakfast to visit my singing teacher.  She lives under the shadow of the north of England hills and the mist was just burning off when I got there.

misty penines

I had a second look at the tree in the foreground with its additional sheep.

misty tree hallbank gate

The mist depended on the direction and distance of the view.  This little tree covered mound was only a few hundred yards away and mist free….

trees on tump hallbankgate

…and the monkey puzzle tree in her garden was bathed in sunlight.

monkey puzzle hallbankgate

The singing lesson was very interesting and left me with a number of things to work on regarding breathing, posture, relaxation and sound production.  Now, if I can only remember all of them, I should get a lot better.  Or indeed, any of them.

On my way home, I stopped to look at the bridge over the river Irthing, near Brampton.

It was not surprising to find that it has got many metal ties on it as it is a very narrow bridge on a busy road and with sharp bends at each end, it has had many a battering from passing traffic over the years.

Irthing bridge

When I got home, I was welcomed by Mrs Tootlepedal who had had a very busy morning in the house and garden and by a frog in the pond who had been taking things quietly.

frog in wed

The garden was busy with bees…

bee in crocus

…visiting the crocuses.

And the air was busy with contentious birds…

goldfinches squabbling

…being rude to each other.

Goldfinches were shouting at other goldfinches and chaffinches…

birds bickering

…and chaffinches were going beak to beak with each other.

chaffinches beak to beak

Sometimes it all got a bit too much and they just threw up their wings in despair.

chaffinch in despair

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Dumfries with our neighbour Liz who had a hospital out patient visit arranged and appreciated the company.

I took my cycle out for a gentle spin round my customary Canonbie 20 mile circuit, keeping an eye for trees, either in groups…

three trees grainstonehead

..or standing alone…

Irvine house tree

…or posing another puzzle for monkeys.

monkey puzzle canonbie

I had a walk round the garden when I got back, hoping for an opportunity to take a better bee picture.  Sadly, it had got late enough in the day for all the bees to have gone home so I had to settle for some attractive white crocuses instead.

white crocus

The early daffodils are coming out and adding some fresh colour to the snowdrops and crocuses.

february daffodils

Mrs Tootlepedal returned safely having managed to call in at a garden centre for a cup of tea and a scone on the way back from Dumfries where she acquired a new rose as if by magic.

The rest of my day was musical, with first a visit from my flute playing friend Luke.  He has been practising and as a result we played one of our pieces better than ever before.  We were both very pleased.

Then after tea, I went and played three trios with Mike and Isabel, our first meeting for some weeks and all the more welcome for that.

We have one more day of warm, calm, sunny weather to go before things start to return to more standard levels of rain, wind and cold so I am going to do my best to really appreciate the last sunny day while it  is here.

Among all the shenanigans at the feeder, I did manage to catch one calm chaffinch and he is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from camera club member Simon.  He suggested the theme for tonight’s meeting and then found that he couldn’t come.  He sent me this contribution  in lieu.  Prizes (token) for telling me where he was.

IMG_0007

Yet another grey and windy day welcomed us when we woke.  Everybody I met had the same thought in mind, “Why does it feel so cold when the thermometer says it should feel fairly warm?”  A brisk and mysteriously chilly south wind, which should be bringing up warm air, was the culprit.

After breakfast, there was a brief sunny interlude. I had to go and collect a key for the camera club meeting and was pleased to spot oyster catchers beside the river on my way back.

P1160973

We have got quite a number now, circling above the town with their strident calls.  Those who live along the banks of the rivers have mixed feelings about the oyster catchers as the birds often fly around in the middle of the night, waking the residents up with their piercing shrieks.  It is a high price to pay for the coming of spring.

Talking of spring, I saw the first blossoms appearing on the riverside trees…

P1160974

…and the daffodils are starting to come out in earnest in the garden.

P1160975

I fixed up an appointment with my physiotherapist for the afternoon and settled down to do the crossword, have coffee, practise a song or two and watch the birds.

A plump greenfinch turned up…

seated goldfinch and plump greenfinch

…and looked to be rather aggrieved at the seeds on offer.

plump greenfinch

Several siskins also arrived and hung about on top of the feeder…

siskins on top of feeder

…while below, a greenfinch threatened a goldfinch’s peace of mind.

greenfinch and goldfinch

The siskins soon got down and dirty and joined in the fun.

siskin and chaffinch at feeder

I thought that I ought to test my foot so that I could givea good explanation of where it was hurting to the physio so I went for a short stroll.

My foot was sore but usable so I pottered round Gaskell’s Walk.  It was getting greyer all the time and the views weren’t very exciting….

dull whita scene

…so I kept my head down and looked for a variety of mosses.  They weren’t hard to find.

Top left and right were growing on walls, bottom left on the ground and bottom right on a tree stump.

four gaskell mosses

I couldn’t pass the lichens by without a nod in their direction.

Top left and right on a fence post, bottom left on an old tree stump and bottom right on a wall.

four gaskells lichens

As I got to the end of my walk, the white duck flew past and settled in the Wauchope.  He had a conventionally coloured lady friend with him but they flew off before I could take the pair of them together.

white duck in wauchope

The theme for the camera club meeting was street scenes so George kindly posed for me with the dog who was talking him for a walk to the park.

George with dog

It wasn’t long after I got home that it started raining but it didn’t come to much so when I had to drive to Powfoot to see the physio after lunch, driving was no great trial and the rain had stopped by the time that I got to the sea shore.  I did see a few birds with my binoculars but they were too far off to photograph.

powfoot seascape

The physio listened to my report, shook her head in a rather thoughtful way and decided that some traction might be a good idea.  I have suffered from a niggling back for many years so a little traction usually does me some good and I was happy to get stretched out on her infernal machine.  It certainly made my back feel a lot better and only time will tell if it has had a beneficial effect on my foot but I feel a visit to the doctor coming on if things don’t improve.

I hadn’t been home long before Mrs Tootlepedal called out that there were big birds in the garden.  She was right.

Two partridges were pecking about under the feeder.  The partridge shooting season is over now so these birds can feed without running into danger.  This one looked as though it might have difficulty getting off the ground.

partridge in garden

While I was away, Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy with her paint brush.

horse with paunted ears

Dappling is the next thing on the rocking horse restoration menu.  This is a nervous business and Mrs Tootlepedal is giving it a lot of thought.

My flute pupil Luke came.  He is still recovering from a bad cold so we took things easily after missing a couple of weeks.  It was good to be back playing duets again.

After tea, I went off to the camera club where we had an excellent selection of pictures once again.  Most of the other members had taken the theme a lot more seriously than me and as they are a well travelled lot we had street scenes from Majorca, Tenerife, Madagascar, Cuba, Edinburgh, India, Thailand and more.  In addition we had some beautiful pictures of local scenes in the recent snow so we were very well entertained.

And there were biscuits.

Mrs Tootlepedal made some home made ginger biscuits during the day so any chance of losing a little of my additional winter weight has gone out of the window for the time being.  They are delicious.

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

flying chaffinch

 

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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, brightening a gloomy day here, was sent to me from sunny Barbados by my namesake and near neighbour Tom who is on holiday there.  He is to be seen waving in the picture as he stands behind the remains of one of the biggest guns ever built, the product of the HARP project.

HARP gun Barbados

We had one of those days today about which the less said the better so I shall try and match my blog to it.

It had rained very heavily overnight and was still raining when we woke up.  Our neighbour Liz popped in for a moment and stayed for coffee and a vigorous and enjoyable political discussion which kept our mind off the weather for a bit.

It had stopped raining by the time that she left so I went out on my slow bike to have a quick check on the state of our rivers on my way to our corner shop..

The Wauchope was lively….

wauchope in flood

…and the Esk was pretty full…

river in spate

…though it still had some room to spare.

After lunch, I decided to brave the strong winds which were battering the town courtesy of storm Erik and go for a walk.

Apart from the wind, it was quite a reasonable day by now….

suspension bridge light flood

…and although the river had gone down a bit, there was still plenty of water rushing under the Town Bridge, not to mention the odd small tree trunk.

downstream town brodge in flood

I am always impressed by how well designed the bridge is to stand up to the pressure of water that hits it on days like these.  The water on the upstream side of the bridge is a lot higher than on the downstream side.

up stream town bordge in flood

The strong wind made it feel very cold and inhospitable and as my feet were not at their best, I cut my intended walk short and soon headed home.

A look round the garden showed our first daffodil trying valiantly to flower but wind and rain have bent it double and it is destined to bloom  largely unseen.

drooping daffodil

On the other hand, there are winter aconites beginning to stick their heads above ground so that is very cheering.

winter aconite

The rest of the afternoon was spent putting some music by Boismortier onto the computer and then trying to play it as fast as I could. As this was not very fast, there is room for improvement.

More wind and rain are forecast overnight and tomorrow so the air of general gloom pervading this post may well continue.

The buffeting breeze discouraged any small birds from coming to the feeder in the garden and I didn’t get my flying bird camera out at all so today’s flying bird of the day turns out to be three ducks floating very carefully right at the side of the river.

ducks on wauchope in flood

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew, who was visiting Nottingham University when he took this picture of the main buildings in the background behind the lake and a very interesting looking mini golf course with giant acorns.

andrew nottingham

We woke to a sunny day but as the thermometer had dropped several degrees and a very biting northerly wind was blowing, I wasn’t tempted to go further than the garden before church.  In spite of the cold, definite signs of spring are all about.

crocus, daff, sarcococca

The church choir, though small in number, sang away heartily at the hymns and a short anthem and at the practice after the service we agreed to try something a little more ambitious for Easter.  Time will tell if we have bitten off more than we can chew but our organist and choirmaster is so enthusiastic that it will be fun trying.

When we got home, I fortified myself against the chill with a cup of coffee and went for a walk. Yesterday’s day of rest had made my sore foot worse if anything so I thought that perhaps exercise might be a good idea.

I aimed for a route which would have the wind at my back when I was exposed and which would find me in the shelter of hedges and the valley on my way home.    This took me along the track to the Becks Burn and back along the road.  It worked out well.

When I read other people’s blogs, I often long for some context for their pictures and words so I took the chance to show Wauchope Cottage tucked into the heart of the new town of Langholm

wauchope cottage from scotts knowe

Our white front door can be seen in the centre of the picture with the walnut tree in front of the house.

A little further up the hill, I could now see the new town in the foreground with the old town behind and Whita Hill providing the backdrop.

view from scotts knowe

I noticed a healthy looking polypody fern on a wall near Holmwood.

fern front and back

If you could get out of the wind and into the sun, it was a pleasant day for walking.

becks track

Although the fields along the track are still fairly green…

becks track field

…the rough pasture on the hills is losing its colour and we won’t get our green hills fully back now until May.

warbla from becks track

The felled trees in the wood provided some pretty patterns.

felled tree stump

I was passed by a jogger after I had crossed the Becks Burn and was impressed as he sped up the hill on the far side.

jogger in becks wood

The road back down into the valley was richly dressed with catkins in the hedge…

catkin panel

…and when I got down to the Wauchope road, I had a good time looking at various very healthy lichens on the walls.

four lichens

I filled the feeder when I got home and watched the birds for a while.  Two male chaffinches showed off their fine colouring in the sunshine…

two colourful chaffinches

…while a female looked unavailingly for a free perch.

chaffinch approaching goldfinches

This goldfinch had found one and was keeping a close eye on it as he approached.

goldfinch looking for a perch

Another goldfinch had a friend who was kindly keeping the sun off him as he ate.

slave goldfinch

After lunch, we drove down to Carlisle in glorious sunshine to attend our community choir there.  The wind was gusting at 40 mph so for once I wasn’t at all unhappy not to be cycling on a sunny day.

Unlike the church choir, the Carlisle choir was very well attended with about 100 members enjoying an excellent and productive practice.  My time spent trying to learn the songs for our Manchester competition paid off and I found that I was fairly confident in the two that we sang today.  It was lucky that we didn’t sing the third one, as I have a lot of work to do on that still.

We paused outside the chip shop in Langholm on our way home for long enough for a poke of chips to insert itself into the car as if by magic and eating the chips with the last of my tapsi flavoured sausage stew brought a satisfactory day to a close.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, applying the brakes and looking keenly for a free space at the feeder.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony’s series of perfect weather in East Wemyss.

wemyss view

We were promised good weather by noon and as it was still a bit chilly in the morning, I was more than usually happy to see Dropscone arrive (with traditional Friday treacle scones) for a cup of coffee or two.  I treated him with more than my customary respect as he has had an article printed in our local newspaper this week.  It concerned the great number of shops that there used to be in the town in the days when almost all the money earned in Langholm was spent in Langholm.

After he left, I looked for some bird action on the feeder and although I did catch a robin…

robin on feeder january

…and a coal tit…

coal tit on feeder january

..it was a very quiet day birdwise with only the odd bickering chaffinch to show.

squabbling chaffinches

The temperature crept up to 7°C but sadly the sun did not make its forecast appearance so I had to wrap up well again for my cycle ride.  On the plus side, the wind was very light so I was able to do 33 easy miles, but on the minus side, both the weather and my route were pretty dull so the camera stayed in my back pocket except to take notice of this handsomely decorated concrete bus shelter in Eaglesfield.

bust stop at eaglesfield

The bus shelter is utilitarian and perfectly serviceable without its decoration and Plato may have taken the view that utility is beauty but then he was probably sitting having an ouzo beside the beach in Greece when he thought that and not standing in the cold on a gloomy day in Scotland.  I like the decoration.

The only other picture I took was a colourless view up the River Esk at Irvine House just to show how grey the day was….

esk at irving house

…and I had to wait until I got home to get a glimpse of something more encouraging in the shape of the first daffodil bud of the year.

daffodil showing

Mrs Tootlepedal was working in the garden when I got back and she tells me that she has potted on our Christmas tree into a bigger pot.  It is still getting conditioned to life outside by sitting in the greenhouse for the moment.

There are snowdrops about but to save me crawling about on my hands and knees, I took a picture of two that the gardener has brought into the house.

two snowdrops indoors

It didn’t take long for darkness to fall outside and I settled down to looking at the hymns for church on Sunday while Mrs Tootlepedal made further progress on her crochet blanket.

crochet blanket part two

She has two winter projects ongoing, the blanket for the hours of darkness and refurbishing her childhood rocking horse for the short daylight hours.

She has taken the whole assembly to bits and cleaned, sanded, repaired and varnished the base.  She has fashioned an ingenious method for holding it all tightly together as the glue dries during re-assembly.

rocking horse repairs

You can see the cleaned and sanded horse waiting patiently in the background for its turn to come,  This will involve gesso I am told.

During the day, I did my vocal exercises with the straw and a glass of water a couple of times and I think that they are already having a beneficial effect.  I will persevere.

There was no Friday evening music as my accompanist is still getting treatment for her damaged shoulder which is taking longer to heal than expected.  Still, as I have had five pedals, two tootles and a choir this week, I can’t complain.

I didn’t get a very satisfactory flying bird of the day as what chaffinches there were insisted on approaching the feeder from the wrong direction.  Some birds have no gratitude.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows an ingenious planter which my brother Andrew encountered on the platform of Penrith Station…..

penrith station

…where he also met my sisters Mary and Susan.  More about that later.

We had another generally fine day with just the merest touch of rain in the early evening but the sun was not so hard working as yesterday and it felt a good deal cooler.

I had intended to embark on a bicycle ride of some length but my legs had other ideas so instead I was happy to welcome Dropscone for a cup of coffee.  We sampled some of Mary Jo’s Canadian jam with his scones and found that it went very well.

Dropscone brought with him a small gift of crusty rolls which he had acquired at an extremely reasonable price from a Hawick supermarket just before it shut for the day as he passed through on his way home from a  golfing meeting late last night.  In return, we sent him off with a bag of rhubarb stalks.

I mowed the drying green and the greenhouse grass and then had a walk round the garden.

There is no shortage of things to look at.

The anemone is among my favourite flowers.  Its hand painted look appeals to me.

anemone

The white bluebells are looking strong.

bluebell

And the good weather has the tulips opening their petals to the world.

tulip hearts

At noon, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help out at the Buccleuch Centre Coffee shop and I went in to have lunch and keep an eye on the birds.

Goldfinches appeared to be unhappy about something.

goldfinches

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal reappeared and I got out the new bike and went off for a gentle and short run down to Canonbie by my usual route.  I don’t have any pictures to show from the trip as most unusually for me, I did the whole twenty miles without stopping at all, except on the two occasions when I had to cross the main road.   I have added a pannier to the set up and the bike coped with this without difficulty.

Since I hadn’t taken any pictures on the cycle ride, I took a few in the garden when I got back….

bees on dicentra

Two colours of dicentra both acting as bee magnets

garden ferns

A ferny corner of the back bed

strawberries

Ornamental and edible strawberries both in flower

lamium, tulip and rhododendron

Lamium, tulip and rhododendron

daffodil

The daffodil of the day (not many left)

azalea

This is the dawning of the age of azalea (with more to come)

…and then, as it was sunny for a bit,  Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to see the bluebells.  Unfortunately we had left things just a moment too late and by the time that we got to the bluebells, the sun had gone in again.  There was plenty to see on the way through the park and along the river…

park trees

Blossom in the park

…but the most surprising thing that we saw was several young rabbits scuttling across the grass at the far end of the park and disappearing into holes in the banking.  We stopped to watch them scamper about and one rabbit felt mistakenly that it was well enough hidden…

park rabbit

…to avoid the inquisitive lens.

We walked on.

wild garlic

wild garlic along the path

easton ferns

ferns everywhere

P1100090

bluebells and more wild garlic

When we got to them, the bluebells were at their best…

bluebellsbluebells

…but the clouds had thickened up and the dull weather didn’t do them justice.  However, the scent from the flowers was not affected and gave our walk special pleasure.

We came home along the Stubholm track…

Stubholm track

…and walked back through the park, passing stitchwort by the Stubholm track and…

stitchwort and white wild flower

…and an unknown white flower in profusion at the park bridge.

We didn’t have long to wait after we got home before my brother Andrew drove up bringing Susan and Mary, my two eldest sisters with him.   Andrew is on a holiday in north Lancashire, my sister Susan had been staying with friends in Cumbria,  my sister Mary had joined them for a short break in the Lake District based in Penrith and all three had come to Langholm to test the new bench, marvel at the new bike and have a meal at the Douglas Hotel with us.

The test, the marvelling and the meal all went off well and we waved them goodbye as the light began to fade at the end of a good day.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch showing strong shoulders as it approaches the feeder.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

 

 

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