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Posts Tagged ‘dunnock’

To make a change from endless pictures of moss, my guest picture of the day is a moose The picture came from Venetia, who saw the moose in Grand Teton National Park.

moose, in Grand Teton National Park

The wind is in the east at the moment, which often means sunnier days for us and this was the case today.

It also means cold mornings.

The frogs disappeared because of the cold morning but a daffodil appeared.

daffodil

And we did have wall to wall sunshine so after the frosty start, the temperature went up to a pleasing 7°C and this combined with a very light wind, opened the day to many possibilities.

After breakfast, the light was good enough to encourage bird shooting through the kitchen window.  Not all my efforts were entirely successful…

flying chaffinch

…but some were better than others…

flying chaffinch

…and some were quite action packed.

_DSC1501

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal turned to gardening and I took my walking poles in hand and went to the top of a hill and came down a again.

I had my camera with me for once.

I liked the contrasting colours as I walked up Meikleholm Hill…

View from Meikleholm Hill

…and I was surprised to see how much of the ground that I trod on was made up of mosses.

moss on Meikleholm Hill

You may think that the green hill on the right of the fence is grassy but in fact the pale grey patches are grass and almost all the green is moss.  Far from walking up a grassy hill, I was climbing a moss covered boulder.

moss on Meikleholm Hill

There was even a patch of moss clinging to the side of the concrete trig point on the top of Timpen Hill at 326m.

moss on timpen trig point

The view from the top was good.  That is the River Esk curling up the valley.

Esk from Timpen

On the far side of the Esk, I could see another example of tree felling followed by some very neat tidying up.

tree felling Longfauld

To the north, the Ettrick hills still had a little snow on their tops.

Ettrick Hills in background

Coming back down the hill, I stopped to admire the moss in one of the boggy patches.

bog moss

And of course, it is illegal to be out on the hill on a fine day and not take a picture of the town.

Langholm from Meikleholm

It is a very rewarding route for a walk of well under three miles.

I found Mrs Tootlepedal in delving mode when I got back and while we were chatting, we noticed a bird singing away in a very forceful manner.  We followed its flight on to the silver pear and I was very surprised to see it was a dunnock.

dunnock on pear tree

I usually see these creeping about silently in a very unobtrusive manner under the bottom of hedges so I can only assume that love must be in the air already and either mates are being attracted or rivals discouraged…..or both.

On my way round the garden, looking for exciting mosses, I saw these instead…

liverwort

…and Mrs Tootlepedal told that they are liverworts.

After a pause for recovery and lunch, I got the fairly speedy bike out and set off to see where my legs would take me.

They took me to the top of Callister Hill (223m) and back down again.  I was going to put some additional miles in when I was waved down by a passing motorist who turned out to be a friend who wanted my opinion on the reprehensible behaviour of our local landowner.

This led to an interesting and lively discussion, conducted while aeroplanes overhead combine to drag clouds across the sky….

con trails and cloud

…and left me with just time to get home as the sun went down and the shadows lengthened.

cycling shadow

Secretly, I was not at all upset to lose a mile or two from my trip as the morning’s hill walk had taken a little stuffing out of my legs.

I found Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden again when I got back and we went out to admire the work on the dam bridge repair.

dam bridge repairs
It is looking very neat and tidy with a waterproof membrane now stuck on top of the concrete beams and the sides of the bridge completed.   We are waiting for the pavement edge to be re-installed, a bit of fill to be added to each edge of the bridge and then the final tarmac can be laid.

I still haven’t heard from the Queen regarding the Grand Opening.

In the evening, I took my third trip of the day.

Sandy arrived and he drove us down to Canonbie, where he and I delivered an illustrated talk on the work of the Langholm Archive Group to the Canonbie Tractor Club in the Cross Keys Hotel.   We followed the talk by a showing of the Langholm Heritage DVD on the mills and railway in Langholm which members of the group made a few years ago.

This must have gone down quite well as I sold six copies of the DVD (all I had brought with me) to members of the audience after the showing.

Everything went very smoothly.  This was by no means a given considering that we were using a laptop, a projector, a screen, a sound bar and the visitors’ wi-fi connection of the Cross Keys Hotel, any of which might have been in a contrary mood.

It was a day which has been firmly entered on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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My South African correspondent, Tom, thought that it was time to make the blog more attractive to the wider public so he has sent me this delectable picture of bare flesh.  They have to put up with a lot of fine weather down there.

feet

There was once again no danger of sunburn in Langholm as the temperature stayed near freezing all day.

I had to go back to the health centre to get the dressings on my scratches from the bike crash changed again.  Things are healing up very nicely though and I should be be clear of sticking plaster by the end of the week with luck.

After his own spell of illness, Scott, the minister, proved that he had got his coffee radar working well again and appeared for a visit just as coffee was on the go.  He is a keen cyclist and in view of the continuing bad weather, he has taken out a gym membership and had been spinning away in the gym before he came to see us.  I am thinking about the possibility of going to the gym.  But only thinking about it.

We had a look at progress on the dam bridge repair while he was with us.

dam bridge repairs

The concrete has set well and the big concrete beams were being lowered into place.

After Scott left, I made some vegetable soup for lunch and kept an eye on the birds while it was cooking.

Sometimes I wonder if there are more interesting things going on round the back of the feeder than at the front.

chaffinches

I have put out some ground level food and it is beginning to attract some customers.

blackbird and dunnock

A blackbird and a dunnock test out the new treat.

Two greenfinches arrived and showed magnificent disdain for the attempt by a chaffinch to unsettle them.

blacgreenfinches and chaffinch

And we were pleased to see a random great tit.

great tit

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal set about stripping the old varnish off the dining room table and I went out for a walk.

I stopped at Pool Corner to show the sluice and caul that provide the water for the dam (and create the pool that gives Pool Corner its name)…

pool corner and the dam

…and while I was leaning on the wall and contemplating life, a dipper flew in and posed briefly for me.

dipper at Pool Corner

I walked up the Hallcrofts road to have a look at the progress of the felling at the Becks wood.  It is extensive.

Becks wood felling

You can click on the photo to get the bigger picture if you want.

A skilful combination of man and machine was adding to the already enormous pile of logs beside the road.

P1070286

On a wall nearby, I studied a strand of moss and thought how much it resembled a conifer tree in miniature.

moss strand

I had checked the forecast before I had set out and it offered only a very small chance of any rain and I suppose it was right in a way as I had dry spells and I also went through a couple of heavy hail showers but it never actually rained.

sunshine and hail

Taken a twenty minutes apart

At least the hail stopped and looked good on some clumps of moss.

hail on moss

Although I am mostly thinking about moss, I haven’t lost my taste for lichens and fungus.

The lichen on the fence post at the Auld Stane Bridge was looking very healthy.  The red spots are so tiny that I didn’t see them until I looked at the picture on my computer.

lichen

And there was a good set of birch polypores beside the river as I went along Gaskell’s Walk.

birch polypore

After the hail showers, i would have been more appreciative if the sun had shone on me rather than on nearby hills…

sun on hill

…but at least it stayed dry for the rest of my walk.

Following some recent advice I looked at the sori on the back of ferns…

fern sori

…and following my own inclinations, I was impressed by the variety of moss within a square yard on the park wall.

mosses

The dam bridge repairs are now a spectator sport…..

dam bridge repairs

…and they are a subject of considerable interest in our neighbourhood.

I was a little tired today after all the excitements of going to Manchester yesterday so I was not as unhappy as I might have been to find that the usual Monday evening trio playing had been cancelled.  My flute pupil Luke came though and we had an enjoyable time working on a sonata so it wasn’t a totally tootle free day.

We noticed with sinking heart a telephone engineer climbing the pole outside our house in the late afternoon and were very relieved when he did what he had to do without cutting off our phone line this time.

When the workers had left, I popped out to record their progress on the bridge repair.  They and their machines had worked hard today.

dam bridge repairs

The forecast is for more strong winds, low temperatures and possible snow so I don’t think I am going to be able to test my cycling appetite and abilities for a few days yet.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch in expansive mood,

flying goldfinch

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone, who has been doing more walking than golfing lately.   He went past the Round House recently, just before the snow came.

round house

We had rain overnight and the garden was clear of snow when we woke up.  I would like to have been able to report on the state of the snow on our hills but the clouds were so low that we could hardly see our chimney pots let along any hill tops.

I had to go back to the Health Centre this morning to get my dressings changed where I have scraped my arms on the bike when falling off.  As I also got some of the plasters off my face at the same time, i thought that this was a good bargain.

When I got home, I had a look at the dam bridge repair works.  The men have put a longer pipe on the pump from the coffer dam….

dam bridge repairs

…and it gurgles away in a very satisfactory way.

dam bridge repairs

It is surprising how much water comes though the pipe.  It provides a very good flow for the dam downstream.

dam bridge repairs

It has kept the water out of the works so well that the men have excavated all traces of the bridge with only our gas pipe left standing.

dam bridge repairs

There were signs of reconstruction starting as we left to go to Edinburgh after lunch but it was dark by the time that we got back so I don’t know what has happened yet.

Before we left to drive to Lockerbie to catch the train,  Mrs Tootlepedal made a sticky toffee pudding and some soup and while she worked, I watched the birds.

It was pretty gloomy but the birds didn’t seem to mind the light rain or the noise at the bridge.  A chaffinch gave me a cheery wave as it showed off a nifty one footed landing technique.

chaffinch and siskin

A bunch of mean looking greenfinches turned up and I was impressed by the sang-froid with which this one ignored an impertinent siskin.

goldfinches

It didn’t look very happy about it though.

goldfinches

Another siskin took the more sensible option of attacking from the rear and in this case it did dislodge the greenfinch, though I missed the actual moment of triumph.

goldfinches and siskin

In a separate incident, two goldfinches quarrelled aerobatically.

goldfinches

Other birds came and went under the feeder or in the plum tree.

There were black blackbirds…

blackbird

…and brown blackbirds.

blackbird

There were pigeons (and a dove which I missed)

pigeon

A couple of starlings dropped in.

starling

And a lone dunnock made a welcome appearance.

dunnock

The trip to Edinburgh went very well and we found Matilda and her parents on good form.

We had a display of balletic dancing from Matilda, games of snap and pelmanism and some very gentle and kindly jumping on Grandpa’s chest so tons of fun was had by all.

For our tea we had a very tasty selection of pizzas with home made toppings made  by Alistair.  This was followed by Mrs Tootlepedal’s sticky toffee pudding and the faint sound of groaning which we could hear in the background was being made by disgraced millionaire ex-executives of bankrupt building companies realising that all their ill gotten wealth couldn’t buy them a better meal than the one which we were enjoying.

The trip home went equally well.

The flying bird of the day is an ultra cool goldfinch doing its “Look mum, no hands!” routine.

goldfinch

When I see birds in this attitude, I am always irresistibly reminded of the Rev Walker skating on Duddingstone Loch, as painted by Raeburn.

Untitled-1 copy

 

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Today’s guest picture is a small bridge across one of the ditches on the River Derwent flood plain that my brother crossed on his walk.  The low sun ensured that his shadow never got far away from him!  (I am open for new guest pictures.)

derby bridge

We had a slightly colder and slightly greyer day today but it didn’t halt the very gentle progress towards recovery.  I am fine as long as I take things very slowly but Mrs Tootlepedal is still pretty flat and spending time in bed.

In another first though, I got the car running in the morning and drove down to the Co-operative Store  to do a little shopping, more for the sake of checking that the car was OK after a week of idleness than the urgent need for provisions.  We have been eating so little that we have both lost weight.  Under normal circumstances a bit of weight loss would have been very welcome but we don’t recommend catching flu as a sound dieting method.

As well as the shopping, I made some bread and cooked a pan of soup so I didn’t have much time to look at the birds.  This was no great loss as there were very few birds about today even when I did look.

The poor light led to poor pictures…

chaffinch

…so I didn’t waste a lot of time.

dunnock

I had to go and open up the Day Centre for an Embroiderers’ Guild meeting after lunch as Mrs Tootlepedal would normally do this.

I cycled up to the town to unlock the door and then cycled off up the Wauchope road  to keep my legs turning over.  It was a bit colder and windier than yesterday so I just went a bit slower today and got on not too badly.  Once again, I stopped from time to time to give my breathing a break.

I like the way that trees grow out of the banks of the small burns on the hillsides at a jaunty angle.

Earnshaw burn tree

I had parked the slow bike on the bridge when I walked up to take the tree picture and when I went back to it…

Earnshaw bridge

…I was very struck by the combination of lichen and moss on the bridge parapet.

Earnshaw bridge lichen

Life’s a jungle.

Earnshaw bridge lichen

Further up the road, I was brought to a halt by a perfectly upholstered stone in the wall beside the road.  It is most unusual.

wall moss

While I was stopped, I had a look at the next few metres of the wall.  It was a good place to spend a few minutes.

The colour of the day prize definitely went to a lichen with this very striking burst of yellow.

wall lichen Xanthoria parietina

It was so vivid that I might have thought that it was a paint spill at first sight but a closer look…

wall lichen Xanthoria parietina

…showed me that it is probably xanthoria parietina, a lichen I more usually see on concrete fence posts.

P1060647

Another elegant clump of moss could be seen and …..

moss

…a striking but pale lichen rounded off my inspection.

lichen

I could have picked many more lichens and mosses within a few yards but I didn’t want to stay standing around for too long as it wasn’t very warm.

I cycled up the Cleuchfoot road and lifted my eyes up from moss and lichen to admire the scenery.

Bigholms Burn

Cleuchfoot road

I went through the farm yard and took a picture just to show that not all our bridges are made of beautifully cut stones.

Cleuchfoot farm bridge

I like the valley beyond Cleuchfoot farmhouse.  There is something very restful about it.

Arisgill valley cleuchfoot

It is possible to ride up a track across the hill below the larch plantation which you can see ahead of me and come back to join the Wauchope road further along……

Arisgill valley cleuchfoot

…but that would have required more time and energy than I had so I turned round and eased gently back down the hill into town.  A circuit of the New Town brought my distance up to to 10 miles and I don’t know when I have been more pleased with a 10 mile cycle ride at 8mph.

And that, as they say, concluded the entertainment for the day.  I am going to see if I can sing tomorrow.

A perching bird of the day today.

robin

 

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Today’s guest post is the third and last of Tash’s portraits of Tony’s dogs beside the Forth.

Tony's dog

It was a cold but brighter day here today so there were no complaints but I had a slight chesty cough threatening so I abandoned a plan to wrap up well and go for a pedal and settled for a morning of light loafing about.

I kept an eye on the birds.

We had two greenfinches…

greenfinches

…many goldfinches…

goldfinches

…several dunnocks…

dunnock

…and robins on every perch.

robin

There were at least three robins and I could often see all three at the same time.  They seem to be mildly territorial but not very fierce about it so maybe there is room in the garden for all of them.

We went out for our midday meal as it was the day of the annual Archivists’ Lunch. It was at the Eskdale Hotel this year and a party of thirteen sat down for an excellent meal.

After the meal, I thought that I probably needed to shake the calories down so I went for a walk.  I also hoped that a bit of exercise might frighten away my incipient chesty cough.

It was crisp and breezy and a beautiful day for an outing on a hill so I left the Eskdale Hotel behind….

Eskdale Hotel

…and went up the Kirk Wynd on the opposite side of the market Place and headed straight up the hill to the monument on top of Whita.

It was warm enough for the puddles in the fields to be unfrozen….

Puddle

….but the brisk north wind which was rippling the water made it feel decidedly wintery.

I had hoped for splendid views as it had seemed quite bright when I was in the town but as I got further up the hill, it became clear that there was still a lot of moisture in the air…

View of langholm

…and both the town and the Ewes Valley…

misty ewes valley

…were rather fuzzy.

Still, there was always moss to look at, both on a wall…..

moss on wall

…and in big tussocks making some of the walk hard work.

moss tussock

It didn’t take me too long to get to the summit though as the nippy wind didn’t encourage much standing about and enjoying the view….

Monument

…but I did take a moment to look over the wall behind the monument and enjoy the view across the Tarras to Tinnis Hill.

 

Tinnis

And you can’t stand next to a wall without admiring the lichen.

lichen at Monument

It is exactly a mile from the Eskdale Hotel to the monument at an average  gradient of 16% so I was pleased to have taken exactly half an hour to get there. There is a nice neatness about it.

The sun was already getting a little lower in the sky so I didn’t dilly dally and was soon on my way down the track to the White Yett and the McDiarmid memorial.

McDiarmid Memorial

Beside the memorial there is a cairn with a cap of moss which invited a closer look.

cairn and moss

As I walked down the road to Whitshiels, the sun sank further and a gently golden light kissed the hills at the top of the valley.

Ewes valley sunset

As our friend Sue said the other day, the colours in winter can be just as rewarding as any other time of year.   If you choose the right day.

Ewes valley sunset

I kept an eye out for moss and enjoyed this collection of moss and lichen on a badly  decomposing fence post beside the road.

moss on fencepost

A group of horses caught the last rays of the sun as I  got near to the main road.

horses

I had hoped to be in time to take a picture or two of a rugby match at Miltown but the players were just trooping off the pitch as I came down the last stretch of hill.  A spectator leaving the game told me that Langholm had won by over 100 points.  Their opponents must have got quite discouraged.

The sun was on its last legs as I got back to the town but it gave me the chance for one last picture on my walk.

tree sunset

The walk turned out to be  exactly four miles and took me exactly an hour and a half so the whole excursion was mathematically very satisfying.

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had been very busy in my absence and the Christmas tree was back in its own home again.

Christmas tree

As it is Twelfth Night, that is as it should be.

The walk may have shaken down my lunch but sadly, although I thoroughly enjoyed the walk and didn’t cough at all, it didn’t do my chest much good so I am going for an early bed and hoping to get a good night’s sleep.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.  We had left for lunch before the sun got to the feeders so it is another impressionistic effort.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture, taken by Alistair, shows Matilda and her mother Clare enjoying a good book.

clare and matilda

The miserable weather gave us a break today and we even got a sunny spell.  It was quite a bit cooler but as it kept a few degrees above freezing, no one was complaining.

After some early dancing with Matilda at the keyboard and work at the keyboard while Matilda danced, I found a moment to fill the feeders and have a look at the birds.

The colder weather had brought them back in good numbers.

I can count thirteen waiting in the plum tree for a seed opportunity.

 

plum tree birds

There was no standing on ceremony at the feeder itself although as you can see there was some standing on chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

A starling got small reward for its visit.

starling

There was constant activity and the chaffinch rightly looked a little worried as a siskin bomb approached him.

chaffinch and siskin bomb

A dunnock wisely kept out of the way in a nearby bush.

dunnock in bush

Al and Clare took advantage of the better weather and went off for a walk and with Matilda politely keeping Mrs Tootlepedal engaged with some painting tasks, I took advantage of the better weather to go off for a bike ride.

I had to spend quite a bit of time before I left in cleaning my bike and getting rust off the chain.  The downside of winter cycling is the amount of maintenance a bike requires which is why many cyclists put their bike on a rack and retire to the gym at this time of year.

Still, I like fresh air and there was plenty of it about today after all the mist and clouds so I was happy to hit the road.

From the look of the hills, we had only just missed a white Christmas.

snowy hill

You might think from that picture that it was a rather wintery day but the more the camera pulls back to the bigger picture….

snowy hill

…the better….

snowy hill

…the day looks.

Wauchopedale

Although it was only 4°C, while the sun was out it felt pleasantly warm.  Sadly, the sun didn’t last all the way round but the roads were quiet and basically dry and the wind was light so it was a good day for a pedal.

I went round my usual loop to Canonbie and back and stopped at some familiar spots.

grainstonehead

Liddle viaduct

The viaduct is 1.2 miles away and proves what a good zoom the Lumix has.  The picture was hand held and is not cropped.

There was plenty of water coming down the Esk at the Hollows….

Esk at Hollows

..and plenty more joining it.

Esk at Hollows

I thought that if I cycled through the town when I got back and went a mile or two up the Ewes valley, I might get a snowy view of the hills but it was disappointing with only the highest hills in the distance showing white.

Ewes valley with snow

I managed to add 23 miles onto my annual total and I have now cycled more miles than last year which is satisfactory.   I have five days left to meet the target which I set myself at the start of the year but the forecast is not very encouraging with either frost or rain for the rest of the month.

In the afternoon, Al and Clare took Matilda off to visit the parents of Alistair’s best friend from his school days.  The friend now lives in California but his parents are always pleased to see Alistair and gave Matilda and Clare a warm welcome.

While they were out, I had another moment to bird watch and I liked the very smart reaction time of a chaffinch at the feeder.

chaffinch and siskin

The siskins were once again out in force.

siskins

We had an excellent evening meal of cold cuts, roast vegetables and small portion of sticky toffee pudding but only tiny inroads were made into the cheese mountain caused by some over optimistic purchasing by me.

I have had an email from my Manitoba correspondent, Mary Jo which included a picture of the sort of clothing needed for a cheerful walk when the temperature is miles below zero and I have joined it to a picture of the sort of cycling gear needed when the temperature is only just above zero.  It is hard to tell who is the more elegant.

Mary Jo and me

All right, it isn’t hard.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin looking for a perch.

flying siskin

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie, who has been out shooting night street scenes in Macao while working at the film festival there.

Macao

We had another bright and sunny day today but it was even colder than yesterday so we were very pleased to be one of the parts of the country that didn’t get any snow. That might have made driving difficult.

After breakfast, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing with the church choir and I made a venison stew for the slow cooker.

While I was cooking, I glanced out of the kitchen window from time to time.

A siskin added some colour to a frosty scene.

siskin

Down below, I asked a robin where its friend had gone.

robin

“Over there,” he replied.

robin

Once the stew was safely stowed in the slow cooker, I went for a short walk.  In spite of the low temperatures, the sunny weather has made sure that our pavements and paths are ice free for whihc we are grateful.

I was looking for gulls.

I soon found one which had lit on a lamppost thus become a lamplighter I suppose.

gull

It flew off and got into an argument with a friend about something.

gull

On Castle Hill, the cattle once again preferred the high ground.

cattle

As I walked along the Kilngreen I was very taken by an optical illusion which made this perfectly flat picnic table look as though it was bent into waves.

kilngreen bench

The low sun certainly increased my stature as a photographer.

If you were well enough wrapped up, it was a lovely day for a walk.

tree

And I enjoyed the view up the Lodge Walks….

Lodge Walks

…before turning to cross the Castleholm…

Timpen

…and heading for home…

…where the garden was frosty.

hedge

Once back inside in the warmth, I looked out again.   There was steady traffic at the tray under the feeder.

blackbird

dunnock

robin

Up above, the unfriendly light did the flying chaffinches no favours in their efforts to get the nomination for flying bird of the day.

chaffinches

Mrs Tootlepedal returned from church and we had a moment or two to enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice or two of toast before setting off to Carlisle for a final practice and the Christmas concert with the Community Choir.

The concert took place in St Cuthbert’s Church.  This church is one of those places which it is a pleasure to visit under any circumstances.

St Cuthberts Church

The concert was very well attended with the balconies and the main body of the church both being pretty well full.  The choir sang well and the guest school choir was very charming and accomplished.  Our choir needs more men badly and one of the reasons for our lack of men might have been seen in the fact that the primary school choir  had only a single boy in it.

Unless schools can instil a love of choral singing in boys, it is hard to see where adult male singers are going to come from in areas without a living tradition of male choirs.

It was -5° as we drove home but the road seemed to be ice free and we got home in nice time to enjoy the venison stew from the slow cooker.

There were only two gulls about today but they stopped quarrelling for long enough for one of them to make flying bird of the day.

_DSC9709

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