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Posts Tagged ‘dunnock’

Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony and the kingdom of everlasting sunshine, East Wemyss.  If you look closely, you might see a seal on the rock in the foreground and perhaps a cormorant too.

wemyss seascape

After our recent sunny spell, we went back to rather grey and gloomy today, but the silver lining in the clouds was a rise in the temperature to above zero.  It was a curious day because in spite of the higher temperature, the dampness in the air made it feel colder and rawer than the recent much colder but drier days.

And although the thermometer had only gone up to two degrees, by lunchtime the roads and paths were miraculously cleared of frost and ice.

It was still slippery in spots in the morning so Mrs Tootlepedal had to take care when she cycled off to a meeting about the community land buy out and I had to go cannily when I cycled to our ex-corner shop for milk and a cauliflower.

I got back safely though and was able to welcome a determined goldfinch to the feeder.

goldfinch december

It stood its ground while chaffinches circled around.

busy feeder

We seem to have a pair of dunnocks in the garden at the moment, this one…

one of dunnock pair

…and this one.

other of dunnock pair

I think they must be a pair becuase I read that they are quite fractious birds and if it was two males, then they would be trying to chase each other away.

I couldn’t find any reliable guide to tell me how to distinguish a male from a female.

A blackbird made a face at me when I asked it to pose prettily.

blackbird making facw

I have had a sore back and have not been sleeping quite as well as I would wish so I had a very quiet morning, doing nothing more active than my visit to the shop and making some dull soup for lunch.  A toasted tea cake with my coffee kept me cheerful though.
(If you like tea cakes, I can thoroughly recommend Dan Lepard’s Top Tea Cake recipe from his book ‘Short and Sweet’.  His kneading method is brilliant for people with arthritic hands)

After a bowl of the dull soup (which was enhanced by some onion gravy granules to good effect), I went off for a walk.  Although I enjoy walking up hills, coming down them again doesn’t suit my feet at the moment so I stuck to the flat today, and did an extended three bridges.

I had it in mind to take a portrait of the handsome white duck that hangs about with the mallards at the Kilngreen if it was there.

It was there but it wasn’t co-operating.

diving white duck

However, after some preparatory preening…

preening white duck

…it finally posed for a portrait.

posing white duck

Mr Grumpy was not amused to find that he wasn’t the star of the show today.

grumpy heron

Then I focussed on trees.

This one looks green enough but the green is entirely moss and lichen with not a leaf in sight…

castleholm mossy tree

…whereas this one still had a great many leaves hanging on.

castleholm leafy tree

My final one, standing between the pheasant rearing houses, had neither moss nor leaves.

pheasant pen tree

Although there was no ice or white frost left on the track that I was walking along, there was still plenty to be seen on the branches of trees that had not seen the sun lately…

frosty branches

…and this little tree trunk looked as though it had been iced by a pâtissier

iced gtree trunk

…and a fungus beside the path was fully iced too.  Very curious.

iced fungus

I had thought that going along this track might put me in danger of slipping and falling but as it was, I could stride out with some confidence.  This was lucky because it was remarkably raw and I didn’t stop a lot for pictures, although hair ice is always a temptation.

haor ice Lodge

As I got near home, I could see that Whita had retained its own little cloud for the afternoon…

Whita in low cloud

…with the monument peeping shyly through.

monument in low cloud

On my way past his house, I called in at Mike Tinker’s to collect some photographs which he had been given to pass on to the Archive Group, and he returned the compliment an hour later when he joined Mrs Tootlepedal and me for a cup of tea and a toasted tea cake. (Tea cakes have a habit of mysteriously disappearing.  I made twelve on Saturday and the last one is going to a good home as I write this.)

Then Luke came round and we played a sonata by Hadyn and worked at a little Bach partita.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Buccleuch Centre to see a screening from the Old Vic of a performance by the National Theatre of Present Laughter by Noel Coward .  She enjoyed it thoroughly and I must say that this new idea of screening these London plays nationally is a very good one.

I found several moments during the day to practise choir songs but was left with a strong feeling that more practice is still needed.

The temperature is due to rise a little more tomorrow, so the prospect of a bicycle ride may not be too far off.

A chaffinch is the flying bird of the day again.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony’s recent holiday.  As well as waterfalls and wonderful views, he and Marianne also saw this.

alpaca from Tony

We had the coldest night of the year so far and woke to a frosty scene.

frosty leaves

It was chilly but the birds were active.  A dunnock looked in soon after breakfast.

dunnock

The ground was pretty hard but that didn’t discourage a small group of jackdaws from pecking vigorously at the middle lawn.

two jackdaws pecking

We left the jackdaws to it and went off to take part in the Remembrance Day service in the church.  It was an unusual day for the choir as the hymns were accompanied by the town band and not our organist but we had some rousing hymns to sing so we didn’t mind.

After the service, we watched for a while as wreaths were laid at the war memorial and then headed home.

After a cup of coffee, I went out for a short walk to see how my feet would behave.  I was a bit shocked by how sore they were yesterday so I hoped to find out that that was just an aberration…and take in some nice weather at the same time.

It really was a lovely day and the calm state of the Wauchope as it passed under the Kirk Brig shows how lucky we have been here when there has been so much rain not very far away.

kirk brig reflective

I passed the war memorial with its wreaths….

war memorial remembrance day

…and some tough minded wild flowers and an interesting stick…

two wild flowers

…on my way up to the track at the Stubholm.

The sun made the best of what autumn colour is left…

stubholm track november

…and picked out some very red berries on a mature holly tree beside the track.

holly berries

A little further along, a combination of very yellow leaves and the direct sunshine produced a dazzling display which was a delight to me but which completely threw the processor in my camera which couldn’t cope with it at all.

stubholm tracj dazzle

As my current pocket camera had resisted all entreaties to behave and continued to be very stubborn when it came to taking any pictures at all, I was carrying my old Lumix with me.  It is in poor condition and I only use it on cycle trips now. Still, it did its best today even if it couldn’t cope with the leaf/sun combination.

It noted a small crop of fungus on an old log on the ground…

fungus on old log

…and a curious flaky growth on a branch above my head.  I don’t know whether this is a fungus or a lichen.

fungus on branch

And it enjoyed looking back over the town from a vantage point.

view from stubholm bank

I walked along this very autumnal path…

top path at end of stubholm

…which took me down to the river bank and back home.  My feet behaved very well.  This was a relief.

When I got home, I ordered a new camera.  It may be possible to live without champagne and caviar, but it is impossible to live without a good quality pocket camera.   (The camera on my phone is not great at all unless conditions are perfect.)

After this, I had a little time to watch the birds and was pleased to see that the/a blue tit had visited again…

blue tit looking up

…and that a mixed bag of finches and sparrows was on the feeder (I had replaced the missing perch).

full feeder

I didn’t have time for a longer walk, a short bike ride or more bird watching as we went off to Carlisle straight after lunch because we wanted to do some shopping before going to our Carlisle choir.

Our choir conductor has just won a prestigious singing prize in a competition in London so she was in a very cheerful mood.  She communicated this cheeriness to us and we had a very enjoyable and progressive practice.

Among the things that I bought on our shopping trip was a swish new feeder for the birds.  I have put it out already so I will be very interested to see what they make of it tomorrow.  The store where I bought it is having a closing down sale so I got it at an advantageous price.

I didn’t have enough standing around time today to catch a flying bird so this one, which was flying half a second before I took the picture, will have to do as the nearly flying bird of the day.

nearly flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He lives in Derby, one of the places affected by the recent heavy rain and found his route home blocked.  Luckily another route was possible so he got home safely.

derby underpass

After two visits to two cities in two days, I was very happy to have a quiet day at home today.  This decision was helped by a low single figure temperature and a cool wind to go with it.

I  roused myself enough to make some onion and potato soup for lunch and wave Mrs Tootlepedal off as she went to an embroidery meeting.

There was quite a lot of bird traffic in the garden in the morning so when I wasn’t doing anything else, which was most of the time, I watched the birds.

The chaffinches are beginning to return in larger numbers and they were hiding behind the old sunflower stalk…

chaffinch on sunflower stalk

…trying to stand up straight like their mothers taught them…

straight back chaffinch

…and flying off when they had had enough seed.

chaffinch fly by

One of the perches on the seed feeder has become unscrewed and fallen out, as a goldfinch discovered when it tried to perch on it.

goldfinch missing perch

Later on another goldfinch mastered the art of hanging on to the rim of the feeder.

goldfinch hanging on

Mrs Tootlepedal has put down some wire netting to stop the birds trampling down the soil near the feeder and the dunnocks are quite happy to tread on it.

dunnock on wire netting

Our robin was back again, looking pensive today.

sparrow on edge of tray

We only see one greenfinch at a time at the moment and it is hard to tell if it is always the same greenfinch coming every time, or a string of different greenfinches coming once each.

lone greenfinch

There are definitely at least two blue tits about as I have seen them at the same time but whether the seed fancier and the nut fancier are one and the same bird, I leave for others to decide.

blut tit on seed and nuts

After I had eaten my soup, I decided that I ought to stretch my legs a little at least and maybe see if I could find something interesting to photograph, so I went for a walk.

Although I did see a lot of black headed gulls…

four gulls on Ewes

…the walk was not a success.  Firstly, my sore feet played up, cutting down the distance I could walk considerably, and secondly my pocket camera gave up the ghost.  I had got sand in the zoom lens mechanism during our holiday in North Berwick in the spring and the camera has been moaning and groaning every time that I have turned it on since.  Finally, it has all got too much for it and it is refusing to focus at all.  It stayed firmly in my pocket and as I had a bird lens on my other camera, taking pictures of anything close was impossible.

I took a long view of some fading larches…

fading larches

…and admired some late colourful leaves…

late leaves

…before walking very carefully home.

As it was a very gloomy day and what little light there had been had faded, I didn’t even walk round the garden when I got home, but went straight in and found something reasonably useful to do at the computer.

I made a sausage and onion stew with green peppers and mushrooms for tea and then we sat down to watch Strictly followed by some excellent racing from the Glasgow velodrome World Cup meeting.  Watching other people taking vigorous exercise was the best way to finish off a slightly disappointing day.

I did get several flying bird pictures though and because I didn’t take any interesting pictures on my walk, I have put in joint flying birds of the day today to fill the gap.

A flying mallard passed me while I was gull watching…

flying duck

…and a traditional flying chaffinch of the day took a dim view of the missing perch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She has combined some good autumn colour with a grebe.

grebe

My plan for the day was to leap out of bed early and go for a cycle ride and then go to see the physio for a check up.  I managed half the plan. The physio was very helpful and has discharged me with admonitions to keep doing the exercises but not to do do them too much.  I shall pay attention.

The high spot of the cycle free morning (I did not leap out of bed) was the arrival of a huge parcel which when opened, revealed its very modest contents.

big parcel small contents

I know this sort of thing makes sense to someone but it doesn’t make sense to me.

As it turned out to be a cold and windy morning with quite a lot of miserable drizzle about, I was quite pleased with the lack of leaping out of bed and enjoyed a gentle stroll round the garden to see what flowers are surviving…

surviving nasturtium

lamium november

poentilla november

…and to pick up a few more of the excellent walnut crop.

fallen walnut

Most of our colour will come from shrubs until the the spring bulbs arrive.

spireas

I watched the birds as well and recorded a crow in the plum tree, a rare visitor to our garden, though we do see quite a few rooks.

crow on plum tree

A chaffinch is a more regular sight.

chaffinch on plum tree

Under the feeder, a robin…

robin on ground

…and a dunnock kept a wary eye out for cats.

dunnock by feeder pole

While up above, a blue tit snatched a seed before flying off.

blue tit tucking in

There were plenty of birds about and a goldfinch seeing a fellow being assaulted by a greenfinch headed for safety.

busy feeder

A female chaffinch made a neat landing.

female chaffinch landing

After carefully checking on the trains, we drove across to Lockerbie and caught a reasonably punctual train to Edinburgh

Matilda’s parents went off to a parents meeting at her school and we had a very entertaining time with Matilda.  There was creative dance, shooting Grandpa with a bow and arrow, and games of Carcassone and Pelmanism.

Al and Clare returned with good reports of Matilda and we enjoyed another excellent meal before setting off home.

The train home was late and as we are setting off at the crack of dawn tomorrow to catch another train, this time to Glasgow, our fingers are firmly crossed.

This also explains this brief post.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch in a queue

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Australian correspondent Stephen.  He came across this striking flower on a walk in Sydney.  Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is a passion flower.  I looked it up and it is a Passion Flower caerulea – Passiflora.

australian flower

The original forecast for today had been for warm, calm and sunny weather but after some heavy overnight rain, the actual weather was warm, calm and wet.  Meatloaf sings that, “Two out of three ain’t bad,” but that was small satisfaction to one who had been hoping for a cheerful pedal.

As I went along to the monthly producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre, I heard a passer by describe the day as ‘dreich’ and I thought that he had hit the nail on the head there.

I filled my (Canadian) shopping bag with venison, liver, fish and honey and cycled home, drying off the saddle of my slow bike before doing so.

Once home I was able to pass some time doing the prize crossword and watching  the second half of a rugby game where the main tactic seemed to be to kick the ball up in the air and chase after it in the hope that the other side would make a mistake.  In the end though two smart tries late in the game put a satisfactory gloss on South Africa’s well deserved win.

By the time that the game had ended and we had had a cup of coffee, the forecast had begun to look a little better and I walked round the garden noticing that we had still got colour from various sources.  Because I like alliteration, I like to think of this as bloom, berry and bush.

bloom, berry and bush

I could have gone cycling there and then but the early gloom had knocked some of the enthusiasm out of me so I heated up some soup and had lunch instead.  Then iIwas distracted by seeing six collared doves in a row along our power line.  I didn’t have my six dove camera to hand so had to settle for two of them together and an individual portrait.

collared doves on wire

Down below, the feeders were busy and I was pleased to see a greenfinch…

greenfinch november

…though a sparrow, waiting its turn on Mrs Tootlepedal’s artificial tree, seemed less pleased to see me peering at it.

sparrow in bogus tree

The sun came properly out and lit up a dunnock…

dunnock under feeder

…and a chaffinch…

chaffinch under feeder

…both scavenging for seed knocked out of the feeder by birds above.

sparrow and goldfinch

Two sparrows on the plum tree tut tutted about wasteful eating habits.

two sparrows chatting

I saw a blackbird on a garden chair getting ready for action…

blackbird fluffing

…and taking the hint, I got my cycling gear on and set off up the Wauchope road, where the larches were being picked out by the sun.

larches at Bigholms

A few days ago, I had seen the vehicle carrying the ingenious device which paints white lines down the middle of roads driving through the town and off up the Wauchope road.  I hoped that this might be a sign that a very bad patch of potholed and rutted road eight miles away had been resurfaced.

Because I haven’t cycled that way for a long time as the surface has been so poor, I thought that it would be a good idea to check if this was the case.

I cycled over Callister hill and down the other side and found a transformation.

new road near quarry

Where there had been ruts and potholes, now all was smooth and serene.

I stopped to admire the road and a tree which looks down on it from the hillside above…

bare tree near quarry

..before pedalling on a mile or two, passing this ruined cottage…

ruin at quarry

…and arriving at Paddockhole Bridge, where I paused for a moment.

paddockhole bridge

It was such a pleasant day by this time that I thought of crossing the bridge and taking the long way home but I had started too late and the days are getting shorter now so I turned and rather unadventurously cycled back the way I had come.

I was going to take a little diversion to Waterbeck on the way but the road was closed.  I hope that this means that this road too will soon be resurfaced.  I haven’t cycled along it since I fell off when I hit an unexpected icy patch on a water filled rut a couple of years ago.

Going over Callister from the west is a stiffer challenge than from the east and I am always happy to stop to admire the view up the side valley….

winterhope view

…so that I can have a breather before tackling the rest of the hill.

road up callister

There was a nice tree on the other side of the road  to admire while I was there.

callister tree

The wind was very light and although it was in my face on the way home, I still managed to cover the last 6 mainly downhill miles back to Langholm at 17 mph without trying too hard.  This made for a good finish to a most enjoyable outing.

I was welcomed home by a cheerful calendula.  It may not last too long….

calendula november

…as Mrs Tootlepedal is clearing the front beds and planting them with tulips for next year.

tulip bed

I did think of going for a short walk but the sun went behind a cloud and it got too dark to take pictures so I had a shower and practiced some hymns for church tomorrow instead.

We had fish from the producer’s market for our tea and then settled down to watch Strictly to round off a gently enjoyable day.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow on its way to the feeder.

flying sparrow

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He encountered a much needed moment of reflection in these turbulent times while on a visit to Keddlestone Hall.

keddleston Hall

After our spell of frosty mornings and dry cool days, the temperature rose to greet the first day of November but unfortunately brought a lot of drizzle and rain with it.  The dampness persisted all day and as it was very gloomy, I found other things than cycling and walking to do.

After a leisurely breakfast and an entertaining crossword, I started the active part of the day with coffee and treacle scones with Dropscone.  After coffee, he kindly gave me a lift up to the town, where I did some Archive Group work.  Someone researching their family history had asked the group for a printout of an article concerning a woman from Canonbie who had died at the age of 96 with 158 living descendants.

I found the article and was much struck by the fact that the editor, faced with this potentially very interesting story, had chosen to use it as a chance to take a poke at Bishop Colenso instead of telling readers anything about the family.

canonbie woman

I hadn’t heard of the bishop but he turns out to be an interesting person who was very much in people’s minds in the 1860s.  I read about him here  and understood why he had upset the editor.  I cannot discover what the reference to the Natal Zulu method of counting signifies.

As I left the newspaper office where I was doing my research, I passed this recently installed elegant artwork on the wall of the building.

wall writing

The missing word at the end of the quotation is ‘heart’.

It was written by famous poet Hugh MacDiarmid, born and bred in Langholm,  and the full quatrain is:

The rose of all the world is not for me.
I want for my part
Only the little white rose of Scotland
That smells sharp and sweet—and breaks the heart.

The flowers in our garden may be past their best but Mrs Tootlepedal has been nurturing an African Violet on a windowsill inside the house and it has repaid her care.

afrian violets

Once I had done a little shopping and paid my bill at our corner shop, I made some onion and potato soup, using Mrs Tootlepedal’s homemade chicken stock, and while it was cooking, I looked out of the window to see what was going on in the garden and was delighted to find that the finches had finally found the feeder.

A small group of goldfinches were the pioneers…

first goldfinch of autumn

…and once they had got started, other birds began to eye up the feeder too.

sparrow

A collared dove looked down from above…

collared dove on wire

…and a blackbird wondered whether there would soon be fallen seed to scavenge.

blackbird on hedge

The feeder got quite busy for a while…

goldfinch on pole

…as a chaffinch joined the goldfinches.

chaffinch

A house sparrow preferred the nuts…

sparrow on nuts

..but a hedge sparrow (or dunnock) liked the seeds.

dunnock on feeder

The weather got steadily worse so I took this shot of a sparrow perched on Mrs Tootlepedal’s artificial tree….

sparrow on false tree in rain

…and after lunch, I was very happy to spend some useful time adding more of our index to the local paper to the Archive Group’s database.  As it was this online index which had sparked the enquiry that I had followed up in the morning, it was gratifying to know that our work is useful and appreciated.

After that, I sorted out my Carlisle Choir music folder which had been disturbed by our Glasgow trip and these simple tasks managed to comfortably fill the afternoon.  There was quite a bit of sitting down and reading papers and magazines too.

When the time came, I made a mild chicken curry, sweetened with sultanas and apple, for our tea and then depressed myself by watching the news of our election campaign creaking into action.  However, as President Trump has been kind enough to tell us who to vote for and what to do, we will have no need to think for ourselves at all.

It looks as though we might have a calm, warm and sunny day tomorrow.  This will be very welcome and I might get some sharper pictures of the birds if they come back to the feeder.

The flying bird of the day is a blue tit, zipping through the gloom and drizzle on its way to the feeder.

flying blue tit

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who, in spite of some grey weather, went down to the south bank of the Thames yesterday and enjoyed the view.

Thames

Here, our recent pattern of chilly mornings but dry days continued, although we didn’t get quite as much sun as we have had recently and as a result, it felt colder in the noticeable north easterly wind.

The bird feeder is failing as an avian magnet and no finches of any sort can be seen in the garden at the moment.  Fortunately, other birds are available and from the number of blackbirds about, it seems that we might be getting the first of our northern European winter visitors.

In the meantime, I spotted some old friends today…

dunnock, blackbird, starling

…and much to my surprise, Lilian Austin had waited for the chilly weather to arrive to make her farewell appearance of the year.

lilian austin late october

After morning coffee, I went off for a walk, leaving Mrs Tootlepedal in decorating mode with some cheerfully coloured paint, acquired at a very reasonable price from a DIY store which is closing down.

I started by going down to the river….

gull on rock in esk

…and then, as the river is low after our dry spell, I walked under the town bridge, looking back down the Esk as I did so.

from under town bridge

There was quite a contrast in mood when having climbed up the bank and crossed over the bridge, I arrived on the Kilngreen beside the placid Ewes Water.

ewes water calm

I walked over the Sawmill Brig and followed the track that goes along the little escarpment above the Ewes Water, passing the rugby club, a man digging out the ditch beside the track (ready for a certain prime minister perhaps?) and several fine bare trees.

I thought that under the clouds, this one might look well in black and white.

bandw tree

Beside the track, there is a wall and, as always, a wall is an interesting place.

interesting wall lichen

All this wall excitement was within a yard or two.

The clouds passed over as I walked and the day brightened up a bit, showing off the larches on the opposite side of the valley to advantage.

larches late october high mill

It is not only walls that have lichen.

hawthorn and oak lichen

I wanted to walk back on the opposite side of the river so I made my way down to the High Mill Bridge…

high mill brig

…which is coming up to a significant anniversary.

high mill brig date stone

By this time, the sun had come out so I made a little extension to my route by following the track north up the far side of the river once I had crossed the bridge.

In spite of the sun, the day was cool enough for there still to be ice on the puddles in shady spots.

icy puddle target burn track

I followed the track until I came to  this rather less substantial crossing of the Ewes Water, which I crossed…

bridge target burn

…and then recrossed and retraced my steps back to the main road.

It was a day for recrossing bridges as I also recrossed the Sawmill Brig on my way home via the Lodge Walks…

lodge walks late october

…and I was pleased to find this little crop of fungus beside the Scholars Field after I had crossed the Jubilee Bridge.

fungus beside scholars

Any walk with bridges, fungus and lichen is a good walk but throw in some bare trees, occasional wild flowers…

three wild flowers october

….and enough sunshine to make me take off my gloves and unzip my jacket, and a merely good walk becomes a really good walk.

I was very pleased to have had the full co-operation of my feet over the four miles of the walk.  My new insoles and exercises seem to be working well.

It was time for lunch when I got home and I quite impressed myself by having enough energy to get my bicycle out afterwards and go for a twenty mile cycle ride.  To be honest, it wasn’t really a twenty mile ride.  It was a ten mile ride which I did twice.

I didn’t want to spend too long cycling directly into the very chilly wind.

The sun only came out for a few minutes in the whole ride, just when I was turning at the five mile mark on Callister, but it was another golden moment…

view from callister october

…and I was welcomed home by a cheery primrose…

primrose october

…and Mrs Tootlepedal who had finished her decorating and had cleared the dahlia bed while I was out cycling.  She doesn’t keep the dahlias over winter but will start again from seed next year.  I approve of this as it gives me different dahlias to look at each year.

Yesterday’s roast chicken provided another tasty evening meal today and fortified by this, I went off to sing with the Langholm Choir.

Our conductor was poorly but we have a very good accompanist, and he provided us with an excellent practice in her absence.

That rounded off a day which was firmly inscribed on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

I even found a flying bird of the day, courtesy of the black headed gulls at the Kilngreen.

flying gull

 

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