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Posts Tagged ‘forsythia’

Today’s guest picture is another from the Derby shopping centre insect infestation.  My brother tells me that you can talk to the insects but I wouldn’t know what to say to a stag beetle.

stag beetle derby

I didn’t have much confidence in a weather forecast that said that it wasn’t going to rain today but I was proved wrong and the weather stayed fair until  well into the evening.

It was only just above freezing when I set off on my slow bike to see our local vampire at the Health Centre and give a little blood.  This was a check to see if my anaemia is under control.  The process was prompt and painless as usual but the health centre computer server was on the blink so I wasn’t able to make a follow up appointment.  The poor staff were absolutely flummoxed as hardly anything is written down these days and they had no idea who was coming in for appointments.  Fortunately it was soon fixed and I made my appointment later in the day without trouble.

After coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal, and with the thermometer showing 4°C, I plucked up my courage, donned as many layers of clothing as I could and set off on my new bike to see how my legs were feeling.

I hadn’t been out on my bike this month so it was a bit of a shock to the system but the sun was out….

cleuchfoot valley

…my legs were very cheerful and the snow had retreated to distant hills so it wasn’t too bad to be out and about.

The wind was strong enough to make life hard when pedalling into it but the forecast gales hadn’t arrived.  I stopped to take a picture of one of those little corners that make cycling round here so visually interesting.

three cleuchfoot trees

And then I cycled to the top of Callister to see if there was any sign of the turbines arriving at the new wind farm.  There wasn’t and as the road was very muddy from quarry lorry traffic, I turned back and pedalled down to Langholm, through the town and out of the other side.  The snow was on distant hills there too.

ewes valley with diostant snow

On my way back through the town, I checked to see if the big gull was standing on its favourite rock.

It was.

gull on rock

I was pleased to manage 20 miles at a modest pace and after a walk round the garden when I got back…

three spring garden flowera

…where the forsythia is just coming out…

forsythia

…and some of the frogs spawn seems to have survived the frosty mornings…

frogs spawn

…I went in to find Mrs Tootlepedal making a nourishing pan of bean and vegetable soup for lunch.

It went down well.

After lunch I watched the birds for a while.  Goldfinches had got in early today under the watchful eye of a chaffinch…

goldfinches on feeder

…and there was no visit from the sparrow hawk to disturb them or this chaffinch’s moment of reflection beside a puddle in our drive.

reflective chaffinch

Against my expectations, the weather stayed fine in the afternoon so I went for a walk.  The wind was still nagging but otherwise it was a good day for sauntering about looking for signs of spring…

view from scotts knowe

…which weren’t hard to find.

dandelion march

There were signs of life on the larches…

larch

…and fresh flowers on the banks beside the track…

P1170432

…and best of all, many clumps of primroses on every side once I got near the Becks Burn.

primroses

I walked through the felled wood, across the burn and up onto the road on the other side of the little valley, where I found incipient honeysuckle…

honeysuckle leaf

…curious sheep looking down on me…

curious sheep

…and any amount of lichen on different stones on the same one metre  length of wall.

lichen on wall becks road

I visited the old curling pond and wished that it could be developed into a wild life area like the one near Lockerbie which we have visited before. It needs a real enthusiast with time and knowledge to a job like that though.

curling pond

I didn’t linger for long as my foot was starting to feel sore and I soon headed down the road back to the town.

I passed this fungus on a fallen tree trunk…..

fungus becks road

…and got right out of the way as this huge lorry passed me.  It had been delivering sheep to the farm at the end of the road.

big lorry becks road

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal at work in the garden and together we put in the new blackcurrant bush and, having exhausted my gardening skills, I gave her moral support while she planted out a new lupin and pruned a rose.

Then it seemed like a good time to have a cup of tea and a slice of toast so we did.

The day was rounded off by a visit from my flute pupil, Luke and we had a productive half hour showing that practice makes you, if not quite perfect, then certainly a lot better.  This is most satisfactory.

I don’t often watch Master Chef on the TV but this season, a young lady from Langholm is one of the contestants and it was very pleasing to see her do well and get through to the next round.  We will follow her progress with interest.

The forecast for the next couple of days is for 50 mph winds so it was a good thing that we got as much out of today as we did.  There are some sunny intervals promised so it might not be a total write off.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch with a determined air about it.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is a cheery looking cottage with a rather mournful sign.  My friend Bruce visited it in the village of Eyam in the Derbyshire dales.

plague cottage

Our spell of grey, cold and windy weather continued today and as I woke up with a pain in my side which had come from who knows where and wouldn’t go away, I got progressively gloomier as the day went on.

I started with a stroll round the garden to find the daffodil of the day…

daffodil…and then tested out the ability of the Lumix to take a bird picture through the kitchen window…

goldfinch

…and followed that by brief walk with Patricia to stretch her legs before catching the train back to London.  We walked along the river between the suspension bridge and the town bridge and then walked back along the other side.

I had hoped for some bird life to show our visitor and was pleased to see a dipper flitting about the river.  It did so much flitting that I couldn’t get a picture of it and once again had to settle for a more obliging oyster catcher.

oyster catcher

After coffee, we went off to Carlisle where Patricia caught her London train and Mrs Tootlepedal, after a brief burst of shopping and a light lunch, caught the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda.  Meanwhile, I visited the bike shop to organise the pedal specification for my new bike (still two weeks away) and then went home, passing the cathedral….

Carlisle cathedral

…and a splendid bank of municipal daffodils on my way back to the car.

carlisle daffs

Once home, I had time for a light lunch of soup and cheese before an old friend came round to get my help in booking flights to and from Barcelona.   As she has no access to a computer, she finds it impossible to do this for herself.   With a bit of a struggle, we managed to find suitable flights and booked them but as I don’t fly, it was all new and sometimes baffling to me.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that it all turns out right.

I gave my friend a lift home and then took a walk round the garden, looking both down…

scilla

…and up…

forsythia

..and managing to avoid the outstretched grasp of the silver pear in between.

silver pear

I did think about a cycle ride but my ribs were sore and the wind was biting so I went back indoors and watched the birds in a glum sort of way.

Once again, there were plenty to watch in spite of occasional (unsuccessful) fly throughs from the sparrowhawk.

busy feeder

The siskins were not here today but there were a lot of goldfinches so the seed still went down at a good speed…

busy feeder

…and the regular chaffinches were as anxious to make their feelings known as ever…

_DSC3173

…either behind the back or face to face.

_DSC3172

We have been getting visits from quite a few pigeons lately.  They always seem to have slightly pursed lips and a disapproving air about them.

pigeon

Having discarded thoughts of cycling, my gloomy mood kept me from walking too and I just slouched about the house looking mean, moody but far from magnificent for the rest of the afternoon.

In the evening, I picked up Susan and we drove to Carlisle where the healing properties of playing recorder music with a sympathetic group came to the fore and cheered me up enormously.

I was cheered even more by going to the station after finishing playing, to collect Mrs Tootlepedal from the Edinburgh train before coming back to Langholm

We are going to have a quiet day tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is one of the goldfinches.

flying goldfinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture was taken by Thomas, one of our new members, and shows the Camera Club  group posing for a picture at the meeting on Monday.

Camera Club 2017

The forecast was quite correct and we got a dry day today which was welcome but our rapture was modified by a brisk and chilly east wind which kept the temperature down and held any thoughts of spring at bay for the time being.

Sandy came round for coffee after he had gone to top up the Moorland bird feeders.  He was going off to Carlisle so sadly there was no chance of a walk later in the day.

When he left, I took a turn round the garden and tried to photograph the Forsythia again. The light was better but the flowers were still swaying wildly in the wind.

Forsythia

It is a cheerful sight.

The birds were not very cheerful.  They are ready to start a fight at the least provocation. The fact that there were perches freely available didn’t stop this siskin abusing an innocent chaffinch…

siskin and chaffinch

I don’t know what impulse drives the birds to be so aggressive when it would be better to take the time eating the seeds.

siskins

There was no shortage of perches during this spat either. The chaffinch top left has the right idea.

siskin

This siskin took off before any arguments could start

goldfinches and siskins

This determined looking goldfinch needed to shift an incumbent

A dunnock made an appearance under the feeders.

dunnock

It should have been a good day for flying bird pictures but the strong wind made approaching the feeders tricky and there was no gentle hovering to help me out today.

I had some homemade sardine pate for my lunch but the regular consumption of oily fish doesn’t seem to be having much beneficial effect on my brain power.  Luckily, I like sardines so I shall keep eating them regardless.  I even have allegedly beneficial grains and seeds in my bread recipe (the wonderfully named ‘Oh-My Megamix’) but they don’t seem to improve my crossword solving skills either.  Ah well, I live in hope.

I spent some time in the garden sieving a little compost.  The material in Bin D is in good condition and I hope to have it all sieved soon.  I filled Mrs Tootlepedal’s big red bucket of compost and then set about sawing up some more of the logs which Dropscone brought from his garden.  I like to do these jobs a little at a time and keep my back in reasonable condition.  It is tempting to do too much on a dry day.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and her parents and I put on many, many layers of cycling gear and braved the east wind for 21 miles.

When I went out a couple of days ago, there was a strong wind from the west and I went up the hill at 10mph and came back at 20mph.  Today, with the wind in the opposite direction, I went up the hill at over 13mph and came back at under 14 mph.   It can be a bit depressing to find yourself pedalling more slowly down a section of gentle gradient on your way home than you cycled up it on the way out.  The net result of the two days was an almost identical average speed.

I stopped for a tree picture…

Glencorf burn

Taken more for the position of the trees than their stature.

…and to admire the daffodils beside the road as I left the town.

Springhill Daffodils

I had a look at my bike when I got home and decided that it needed a good clean after some riding on wet and dirty roads so I set about it with soapy water, de-greaser and cloths and toothbrushes.  I won’t say that it was shining when I finished but it was a good deal cleaner.

I had another look round the garden.

Mrs Tootlepedal had remarked to me in the morning that it is very surprising to her that although she really only  likes daffodils that look yellow like this…

Daffodils

…or this…

Daffodils

…she has a lot of daffodils in the garden that look like this.

 Daffodils

I am not complaining though because I like both sorts.

There are a number of these cowslippy things coming out around the garden…

cowslips

… but the present chilly spell has slowed spring’s progress down to a crawl.

I made myself a sausage stew for my tea and then Susan arrived to give me a lift to Carlisle where we played quartets with our recorder group.  We had a fine variety of music to play and excellent tea and biscuits to follow so I enjoyed the evening.

We passed the lorry gritting the main road as we drove home.  Another cold night is in prospect.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, taken during the cloudy morning.

chaffinch

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I am glad to have another bright guest picture, this one of Regent’s Park taken by my sister Mary on her way to tennis this morning, as we had another photo unfriendly grey day here.

Regents park

The day turned out to be better than expected though in spite of its greyness and an unsettling start.

The unsettlement was caused by the sparrowhawk which made a very early appearance and nailed a chaffinch…

sparrowhawk

…and what you can’t see in the hurriedly taken picture is a second chaffinch just in front of the hawk, frozen stiff with fear and unable to move.  This allowed the hawk to deal with the first capture and then spring forward and nail the second bird too.

With so many visits from the predator over the last two days, I took down the bird feeders and tucked them away, feeling that I was exposing our visitors to unnecessary danger.  However, when I looked out of the window later on, the plum tree was still full of birds and the ground below the feeders still had a crowd searching for fallen seeds.

Thinking that they might as well get fed while waiting to dodge the hawk, I put the feeders out again and by coincidence, didn’t see the hawk again all day.

The birds were soon back on the feeders although they may have been a bit distracted…

siskin and chaffinch

…as one of the siskins, normally very neat fliers,  nearly missed the perch altogether.

I went off to the producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre which as usual flowed with fish, cheese and honey.   I am hoping to get some shots of windmills being delivered to a new site along the Wauchope road but the lady who sells meat at the market and who lives on the route tells me that they are being brought in between six and eight o’clock in the morning.  This may be beyond my capacity for early rising.

Sandy is much improved and came round for coffee under his own steam which was very welcome.  The forecast was for heavy rain all day but it was still dry by the time that he left so I got the fairly speedy bike and set off in the hope this happy state continuing.

It started to rain lightly as soon as I left the house though and by the time that I got to the top of Callister after six miles, it had become a steady downpour and I turned for home.  It was quite warm and calm so the rain was not as troublesome as it is on a cold and windy day.  When I got back to Langholm, it had dropped down to a very gentle drizzle again so I rode straight on through the town and out of the other side.  In an annoying fashion, when I got to to about the six mile marker on this road, the rain started to come down heavily so I turned for home again and this time, it kept on raining so I stopped when I got back to the house.

The birds were still coming to the feeder and the common enemy hadn’t engendered a feeling of togetherness at all.

chaffinch and goldfinch

I thought that the birds waiting in the plum tree were keeping a more wary eye out than usual.

chaffinches in plumtree

The rain continued until well into the evening and I spent the afternoon indoors, putting a week of the index into the Archive Group database, stumping about in a bored manner and generally not helping.  I did make one foray into the garden with the camera stuck up my jumper to check whether a patch of brightness under the walnut tree was a Forsythia in bloom.

Forsythia

It was.

I was quite excited by a tulip too..tulip bud

Fortunately a game of rugby turned up on the telly to help me pass the time and when it was over, I was in a better mood and it was time for tea and an outing.

We had received a flier telling us of a ‘Big Music’ night to held in the Masonic Hall to raise money for local charity fundraisers.  ‘Big Music’ nights had been a feature of town life twenty five years ago when they had been good fun.  The organisers had spread far and wide over the years and the nights had vanished from the scene with them.

The ‘Big Music’ nights were open to anyone who wanted to come along and sing, play or just listen and my daughter and I had played in several of them between us so Mrs Tootlepedal and I were interested to see whether the magic had lasted.

It had.  It was good to see old friends again and listen to an interesting programme of singing and playing.  It went so well that people thought that it may be possible to have another one in the future and if it is, I hope to be able to play.

The rain had stopped by the time we came out so we rounded off a far better day than we had expected by walking home in the dry.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch seen through the gloom.

chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my friend Bruce who seems to have popped up in Spain.   He had an excursion today to the monastery at Montserrat and found a statue there of interest.  He claims that its eyes followed him about wherever he went.  Look closely at the triptych which he took and you can see what he means.

MontserratI didn’t need to be followed anywhere this morning as I stayed firmly at home doing nothing more exciting than making some slow cooked lamb stew and a pot of coffee.  Sandy joined us for coffee on his way home from a fifteen mile cycle ride which put me to shame.

Mrs Tootlepedal was hard at work doing preparatory work for the final decoration of the downstairs room and I lent a small hand from time to time.

I did take a walk round the garden.   I found two small tortoiseshell butterflies trapped in a spider’s web in the garage and Mrs Tootlepedal came with her delicate fingers and freed them.  We were worried that they might be fatally injured but after a little basking in the sun…

butterfly…they both flew off looking quite chipper.

New flowers are to be seen.

tulip

The first of many tulips

forsythia

A few forsythia flowers

The tadpoles are beginning to roam free in the pond.

tadpolesSpurred into action by a sardine sandwich for lunch, I put on my walking shoes and walked up to the top of Timpen, a 1000 ft summit behind our house.  I had my cameras with me but I was more interested in walking than shooting so I took my walking poles along and hardly stopped until I had made it to the top of the hill.

Two brief photo ops detained me on my way up.

Hill cattle

With the hill cattle around, I had to be careful not to get between mother and calf.  They can be fiercely protective.

meadow pipits

I saw quite a few of these little birds on the hillside.

meadow pipits

They turned out to be meadow pipits.

There is a trig point with a bench mark on the summit….

benchmarkThe numbers do not refer to the height above sea level which is 1069 ft.  Another benchmark near our house in the town is at a height of 269 ft and this shows that I had climbed exactly 800 ft, as my route had not involved any loss of height.

It was another hazy day but I took a couple of shots from the top of the hill.

Langholm

The town just visible 800 ft below.

Craigcleuch

In the other direction I could see Craigcleuch, one of the houses built by mill owners in Victorian times.

The light was very variable but every now and again, a bit of sunlight penetrated the haze and lit up a view.

Castle HillI went (very carefully) down the steeper side of the hill towards the Bentpath road and could see the pheasant hatchery on the Castleholm laid out like a map plan below me.

CastleholmOnce back on the road, I crossed it and walked back to Langholm through the woods to the Duchess Bridge.  I was greeted by a very charming bunch of primroses.

primrosesThe recent dry weather has made the path much less muddy than usual and it was a pleasure to walk along it.

Duchess bridge walkThe bridge itself is very difficult to see because of the trees lining the riverside…

Duchess Bridge…and if I was the landowner, I would make sure that there was at least one gap in the trees so that walkers could admire this historic bridge.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal had reached a natural hiatus in her decorating tasks so we went for a nine and a half mile cycle ride up and down the Wauchope road in the the warm early evening sunshine.  The trees at the school are retreating ever further along the banks of the river.

Wauchope school treesWe turned for home at Westwater and had a quick look at the massive wooden circular construction there which will be used for a falconry centre there.   You can see a picture of it at the end of Gavin’s latest blog.

When we got home, Mrs Tootlepedal washed one of a pair of big velvet curtains from the front room in a large tub and I helped her to hang it out.  I question whether it will ever dry out but we can but hope.

I took a picture of a euphorbia before I went back in.

euphorbiaThe lamb stew turned out very well after my gravy chef had worked her magic and provided us with a good meal.  As I was feeling inexplicably snoozy, the rest of the evening saw no action of note at all.

Bird  action was very limited in the garden during the day but as I was waiting for the stew, I did see a late flying chaffinch.

chaffinch

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