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Posts Tagged ‘goldfinch’

Today’s guest picture is the second portrait of Tony’s dogs by Tash.  It looks as though the dogs had had a New Year’s splash even if Tony hadn’t.

Tony's dog

We were promised better weather today and we got it but it took some time to arrive as we were covered in mist for most of the morning.

I had an early start as I had to take our car to the garage.  It had been sending us intermittent signals of distress through the dashboard display recently.  Intermittent distress signals can be very annoying as they always disappear as soon as you take a car to the garage and that is what happened on this occasion.  The garage’s diagnostic machine though is very smart and can tell what a car was thinking yesterday as well as today so the garage was confident that they could get to the bottom of the trouble.

I walked home and had breakfast and then there was a pause in the day as I waited for the mist to go.  It was too thick for safe cycling and at 2°C, it was a bit chilly anyway.

This gave me a chance to do a tricky crossword and occasionally look out of the window.

The robin was upset by being substituted by a chaffinch in a recent post so it made sure I got its best side today.

robin

The other birds weren’t posing.  They were too busy trying to get at the seed.

busy feeder

Although the picture is not of good quality, I liked this shot of a siskin sizing up its chances of knocking a goldfinch off a perch.

siskin

The mist thinned enough after coffee for me to put my cycling gear on and get the fairly speedy bike out.  Mrs Tootlepedal went out to do some gardening and after putting away some bread and marmalade and a banana as fuel, I went off up the road, hoping that the mist would clear.

It took its time and while I was going along the valley bottom, things looked a bit gloomy…

Mist over the wauchope

…but as soon as I turned up into the hills, things brightened up and I got above the mist.

Misty windmills

Soon, I could look back and see the mist lying along the Wauchope valley that I had just cycled through.  It looked denser from above than it did when i was in it.

Mist in wauchope valley

Once I got over the hill and looked down into the Esk valley, more mist was to be seen.

Mist in Esk valley

And the windmills at Gretna were up to their knees in it.

Misty windmills gretna

Looking across from Tarcoon, Whita Hill was an island in a sea of mist…

Misty Whita from tarcoon

…and looking ahead to where I was going, a solid bank of mist lying along the Esk made it look as though there might be dangerous conditions for cyclists when I got down to the river.

Mist from tarcoon

But once again, the mist wasn’t as bad when I was in it as it looked from above and although my favourite trees at Grainstonehead  had a misty background….

Misty trees grainstonehead

…by the time that I had gone a couple of miles further, the mist had gone and the river was bathed in sunshine.

Esk at Byreburnfoot

As was the tower at the Hollows…..

Hollows Tower

…and the Ewes valley when I had cycled through the town and out of the other side.

Ewes valley

Having cycled a bit along all our three rivers, I felt that it was time to give my ice cold feet a break and head for home and a bit of warmth.  It was still only a meagre 3°C in spite of the sunshine.

When I got back, I had a look at Mrs Tootlepedal’s new path….

garden path

…and went in for a late lunch, pretty happy with 26 miles on such a chilly day.

Mrs Tootlepedal had got some useful gardening in while I was out.

I kept an eye on the birds while I had my lunch.

I could see seven blackbirds round the feeder at one time but couldn’t get them all in one shot so I took some individuals.

blackbird

One popped up onto a hedge to make things easier for me.

blackbird

The goldfinches had given up fighting and were concentrating on eating.

goldfinch eating

goldfinch

While Mrs Tootlepedal went and fetched the car from the garage (it got a clean bill of health), I had time for a shower and some singing practice and then Mike and Alison came round for their regular Friday visit.  They usually come in the evening but once again, we had something to do in the evening so an afternoon visit with music, conversation, tea and shortbread was arranged instead.  All four were very enjoyable.

Making music in the home is always a pleasure but in the evening, we went to the Buccleuch Centre and got real musical joy in spades.

It was the annual visit to the Buccleuch Centre of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for their New Year Viennese Gala.   We are incredibly lucky to get this treat on our doorstep as the Buccleuch Centre concert is their only appearance in the whole of the  south of Scotland, the other three appearances on this tour being in Dunfermline, Inverness and Stirling.

They don’t stint either, bringing a 60 piece orchestra to play a programme designed to bring joy to the hearts of a full house.

The orchestra’s players are not particularly fond of playing in the Buccleuch Centre because they find the acoustic dry and don’t get the feedback that they would wish but I love listening to an orchestra here because of the superb clarity of the music.  Sometimes a big orchestra just makes a big noise but you can hear every instrument in its place here and the excitement of having a 60 piece orchestra playing only a few yards away from you is immense.

As an ex schoolboy viola player myself, I took a particular interest in the viola players in the Roses from the South, a piece we played with our school orchestra.  It seems a bit extravagant in a way to bring a bunch of talented players down and then just make them go “rest, bom, bom” on the same note for bars on end.  But that’s orchestral music for you and it was wonderful to listen them all.

The flying bird of the day is a crowd.

busy feeder

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Down came the rain

Today’s guest picture is the first of three starring our son Tony’s dogs.  They were taken by his partner’s daughter Tash on the shores of the Forth and you can see the famous bridges in the background.

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It was a rotten day among rotten days today.  It was raining  when we got up,  it was raining when we drove to Carlisle after breakfast, it was raining while we were in Carlisle and it was raining  as we drove back after lunch.

It rained all afternoon and it was still raining when I sat down to write this in the evening.

It was quite a wet day on the whole.

As a result there wasn’t much to say about it.

We went to Carlisle so that Mrs Tootlepedal could help with organising the music for the new session of our Carlisle choir and I could stock up on necessities like tea, coffee, dates, prunes and raisins.

I tried peering out of the window when we got back but it was hard work.

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The camera could just see the feeder but only just so I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to get a good shot.

The afternoon was cheered up for Mrs Tootlepedal by the arrival of a parcel containing a new steam mop for the kitchen floor and for me by the arrival of a parcel containing a sparkling new food mill for making soup.

I will make a pan of delicious soup tomorrow on a very clean kitchen floor.

I did think about putting on many layers of wet weather gear and going for a pedal but it was just too miserable because as well as being wet, it was fairly chilly too.  In the event, I spent a very quiet afternoon and evening, mainly sitting down.

The two bright nutritional spots of the day were a very good toasted teacake in Carlisle and a tasty evening meal of a thick parsnip and potato pancake embellished with saag aloo.  Mrs Tootlepedal put secret ingredients into them both which worked their magic.

We are promised better weather tomorrow.

A couple of goldfinches competed for the title of flying bird of the day.

goldfinches

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie, who met one of the Grumpy clan chatting with a friend, while she was on a walk in Regents Park with a friend of her own.

LOndon heron

We were promised a day of rain today after the latest storm passed over us during the night.  The storm knocked our electricity out just before we went to bed and after scrabbling about finding candles and torches and worrying about the freezer, the lights came back on again after about half an hour and we could sleep a bit more easily.

Right enough, it was raining when we got up and I had a rather soggy visit to the Moorland bird feeders to act as a fill-in feeder filler.  It was far too damp and gloomy to take pictures but I nearly had to push this pheasant….

pheasant

…off its perch before it would let me take the feeder down to fill it.

When I got home, the weather improved a bit and Dropscone was able to walk round with a bag of scones to have a cup of coffee.  He is going to Malta soon for a short holiday and hopes that he will get better weather there.

It was raining again as he left.

It stopped again not long afterwards and I got the slow bike out and set off up the road in the hope of getting twelve miles in without getting wet.

Because I was anxious to get my miles in before it started raining again, I only stopped once on my way but I took two pictures.

lichen

Lichen on a bridge parapet.

Winter sunshine up Wauchope

The only sunshine I saw while I was out.

I did get the twelve miles in but I did get a bit wet in the middle of the ride.  I also met Mrs Tootlepedal who was having a ride herself.  She was going in the opposite direction but I knew that she would turn for home soon so after a while, I turned back and joined her for the last mile home.

By the time that we got back, the light had improved again so I looked out of the kitchen window.

In the absence of a suitable robin, a chaffinch posed on the chimney.

chaffinch

A coal tit was busy flying to and from the feeder.

coal tit

And the goldfinches were very busy and dominated the feeder again, though a chaffinch and a greenfinch did try to get a look in.

goldfinches

Sandy had rung up  to ask about a walk so after a light lunch, I met him at the top of Jimmy’s Brae and we walked along to see how the felling of the Becks Wood was going.

We got a little sunshine on the way….

Becks track

There was no action at the wood but the logs had been piled up very neatly.

Becks wood

We walked down the field beside the Becks Burn as it snakes towards the Wauchope Water.

Becks burn

And then we walked back to the town along Gaskell’s Walk.

I was keeping an eye out for moss as we went.  There was any amount to see….

moss

…and many different varieties.

moss

Some small…

moss

…and some large.

moss

It will take some research even to start to get a grip on all this.

moss

Thanks to our damp climate, there is no shortage of learning opportunities.

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In these dark days, it was a cheerful moment when I spotted these.

daffodil shoots

Sandy came on for a cup of tea and a golden biscuit courtesy of a Christmas hamper from our son Tony.  They really are golden.

Then I went off to the health centre to get two injections, one regular and the other to protect me against shingles. The government recently introduced a policy to immunise the elderly against the effects of shingles and I have just come into an age category where I qualify for the jab.  Shingles is a nasty ailment so I was happy to get an extra hole in my arm.

When I got home, I was quite tired for some reason and fell asleep listening to the evening news on the radio.  Considering the state of the news these days, this was probably a sound move.

I did find a flying bird of the day (or two).

flying chaffinch and flying goldfinch

Moss is not always easy to photograph, being a bit green on green so I was playing about with one of today’s not very successful pictures….

moss

…and did this by accident.

moss

I thought it worked out quite well.

You can see Sandy’s take on the walk here.  He took some jolly good pictures.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Irving who found a place without trees at Castle O’er.  Not an easy thing to do.

Castle O'er

After deciding a couple of days ago  that I wasn’t going to take part in the annual New Year’s Day “Whisky Run” because of the snowy conditions, I changed my mind entirely when the snow disappeared as quickly as it came.  As a result, I leapt out of bed this morning to greet the new dawn, put on my walking shoes and set out after breakfast.

The Whisky Run is a friendly affair that accommodates both serious runners and gentle walkers, the only condition being that you should try to start out at a time that will bring you to the Market Place in Langholm as near 11 o’clock as possible.

The main route takes the participants up the road on the west side of the River Esk, crosses the river at Burnfoot and then brings them back by track and road on the east side of the river along the Langfauld and then finishes along Langholm’s High Street.  At just over 8 miles, it is the longest walk that I have done (as far as I can remember) since I did the same event last year.

I left myself plenty of time to do the walk and got round in two and a quarter hours, having paused to take a few picture on the way.

By the time that I had got to the far end of the route and had turned for home, the sun had made an appearance and picked out the windmills on the far side of the valley..

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I looked back across the river at our local racehorse trainer’s track.

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I got near to the Gates of Eden but didn’t go through them.

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I liked the way that the sun had picked out a single field further down the valley.

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The track was in better condition than I had feared and I stopped and looked back at Golf and Bauchle Hills behind me…

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…and across to my favourite spot in the whole valley.

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I passed a merry group of walkers who had gone for the shorter five mile option, including Mike Tinker on the right in the green,.  He was one of the founders of this popular event more years ago than he cares to remember.

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I stopped to look back at a view…

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…which I had seen in very different circumstances only three days ago.

View of Potholm from Langfauld

I continue to be amazed at the swift disappearance of so much snow so quickly.

I arrived a bit early and was able to watch bands of runners enjoying making the finish….

P1060416

…and after a while I got the opportunity to take a group photo of some of the runners and walkers…

P1060427

…and watch Alison, my Friday night orchestra, present the prize to the winner, flanked by the second and third placed runners.

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While we waited for the prize giving, we were entertained by the Town Band which was doing its annual New Year’s Day perambulation of the town.  It paused to play for us….

P1060422

…and then proceeded with further perambulating.

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Mrs Tootlepedal, having arrived at the Market Place ready to help Alison with the finish, found enough volunteers already in place and went off to bicycle round the five mile route herself.

I made some potato and leek soup and peered about to see of any birds had survived the Hogmanay celebrations.

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The goldfinches were back, though the arrival of an argumentative siskin caused a little bafflement on the perch.

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There are still plenty of blackbirds in the garden.

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The day was mild enough at 5°C for Mrs Tootlepedal to brave the occasional short shower and do some digging in the garden as a start to her 2018 great gardening improvement scheme and it seemed a pity to me not to make use of a possible cycling day myself so while she delved, I pedalled off on my slow bike.

My major plan for the start of the new year is to lose some of the unwelcome weight that two slack months in November and December have piled on.

The best way to lose weight for me is to eat a little less and exercise a little more but since I like eating a lot, it tends to be a bit of a problem if the weather is not co-operative.  Ten miles on the slow bike is not much but it is better than nothing….and I only had a small plate of fish pie for my tea.

I saw a few things on my way.

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It was lunchtime at the cow cafeteria.

P1060434

Moss and a fungus on an old tree stump.

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Alder catkins.

I took the New Hampshire Gardener’s advice after failing to get a good picture of the catkins on the tree and picked this twig off and laid it on a wall stone to get a better contrast with the background.

Then I looked at the wall stone and took a picture of it as well.

P1060440

 

I avoided any showers and had a most enjoyable leisurely ride.  When I got home, I prepared a cycling spreadsheet for 2018 and entered my first few miles into it.  Having narrowly failed to make 4200 miles last year, I will try again this year so there are just 4190 miles to go. Here’s hoping for some good weather!

One of my resolutions for the new year is to go on more exciting outings with Mrs Tootlepedal.  We just didn’t do enough in the  way of getting out and seeing things last year, mainly because of the weather so I am determined to do better in 2018.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

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Today’s guest picture is a snapshot of the weather in Manitoba.  It was sent to me by Mary Jo.  It makes even a very gloomy winter’s day in Langholm look toasty.  As Mary Jo said, it provided an excellent excuse for a prolonged lie-in. These are degrees C.

Manitoba weather

Shakespeare posed the rhetorical question, “O, who can hold a fire in his hand / By thinking on the frosty Caucasus?” so although I felt a great deal of sympathy for Mary Jo’s deep freeze, it didn’t make our miserable day here seem any better.

It was above freezing and much of the snow had melted but there was enough slush about to make walking an activity which required attention and the low mist didn’t make being outside attractive anyway.

We had a quiet morning indoors and even watching the birds wasn’t much of a distraction as there weren’t many about today and the light was appalling.

If they sat very still, I could catch them…

siskin

robin

siskins

….but there was no much point in wasting time with a camera.

After lunch, we were promised a slight lift in the gloom and when it came, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went out for a stroll with a bit of shopping thrown in.

The walking turned out to be less problematic than we feared and there were  parts of the walk where the snow and slush had almost disappeared.

Stubholm

A bright spot on a dark day was a burst of flame in the heap at the stables on the Stubholm.

fire

When we got to the Murtholm, it was almost possible to believe that it hadn’t snowed yesterday at all….

Murtholm

….but a look up at the  slopes of Warbla told a different story.Warbla with light snow

We crossed Skippers Bridge for the last time in 2017….

 

Langholm Distillery

…and as usual were impressed by the detail in the lichen on the parapet of the bridge…

skippers lichen

…and I took the last photograph of the bridge for the year as we walked back to the town.

Skippers Bridge

There was a promise of brighter skies behind the trees on the opposite bank…

trees

….but it was only a promise and it soon faded back to grey.

We did our shopping and then walked home, happy to have had some exercise and to have met some friends on the way.

The little Lumix which sits in my pocket when I go for walks is a marvel of technology but it has odd quirks and one that came to the fore today is its positive dislike of catkins.  I saw some very chirpy reddish hazel catkins in the hedge while we were talking to a friend whom we had met on our walk so I got up close and tried to take a picture of them.

The Lumix simply wouldn’t focus on them.  It didn’t focus on anything else but just wouldn’t focus on them.  It claimed it was focussing on the catkins but it was lying.

catkins

There is just something that it doesn’t like about catkins.  It’s a great mystery to me and I sometimes think that I have spent the best part of my later life trying to get a decent catkin picture.

We had a quiet evening in.

Fortunately, it is going to be a degree or two warmer tomorrow so we shouldn’t be troubled by frozen slush but unfortunately, it is going to be wet in the morning and  a lot windier in the afternoon so it looks as though 2017 is going to end in a way that will typify the whole year….with rotten weather.   We are investing a lot of hope in a better year in 2018 as Mrs Tootlepedal has big gardening plans and I want some enjoyable cycling days.

This was the best effort at a flying bird of the day that I could manage.

goldfinches

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture from Irving, taken earlier on,  shows the Black Esk reservoir, the source of our drinking water these days.

Black esk

After yesterday’s crisp and sunny weather, we could hardly have had a more different day today.  It was soggy, grey, cloudy and cold…

…but there were compensations.

snowy garden 2017

The view from an upstairs window in the morning

snowy garden 2017

Untrodden snow on the drive

It was a winter wonderland.  Or at least, it would have been a winter wonderland if there hadn’t been a persistent damp drizzle and if the clouds had lifted to reveal the hills.  As it was, it was somewhat of a damp squib of a day.

The birds really appreciated the feeder and there were dozens on the ground, on the feeder, on the plum tree and even more waiting off stage on the walnut tree.

snowy birds

Some birds seemed quite happy as more snow fell…

chaffinch, goldfinch, siskin

…but some just couldn’t contain their impatience.

chaffinches

I got out a shovel and cleared a path along the drive and some of the pavement outside the house and then after a look around…

snowy garden 2017

…went back in.

The day took a turn for the better when Dropscone came round with some traditional Friday treacle scones and my coffee blend worked out well.

We caught up on Dropscone’s golfing adventures and his family news and then he walked off through the snow again.

It had stopped snowing by this time so I thought that I ought to take a bit of exercise.  I strapped the Yaktrax to my wellies and set out to see where my fancy would take me.

It took me past the church…..

parish church snow

…with its details neatly picked out by the snow.

Then I passed the Meeting of the Waters, presenting a marked contrast to the sunny scene when we were here feeding ducks with Matilda a couple of days ago.

meeting of the waters snow

There was no golden winter light today and a rather ghostly scene appeared when I looked at the trees across the Castleholm.

snowy trees

Individual trees had been picked out by the falling snowflakes.

snowy trees

I met a jogger on the Lodge Walks.  She was running rather gingerly on the icy surface but remarked as she passed that the conditions on the track to Potholm further back had been more comfortable.

My fancy turned to the track to Potholm.

It would mean a five and a half mile walk in total but the lure of snowy scenes and good conditions underfoot led me on and I pushed ahead, ringing Mrs Tootlepedal first to stop her worrying about a longer absence than was expected.

The decision turned out to be a good one.

There were plenty of snowy scenes.

View of Potholm from Langfauld

And excellent walking on the track through the Langfauld wood.

Langfauld

The bridge at Potholm marked the furthest point of my walk.

Potholm Bridge

I met a second jogger coming towards me on the road from Potholm.

jogger on Potholm road in snow

The scene was white enough to make a sheep look quite grey by comparison.

sheep in snow

The snow and the grey sky made a good backdrop for this tree at the Breckonwrae.

tree in snow

And I finished up taking the same shot a the end of my walk as I had taken at the start of our walk yesterday.

Today:

langholm in snow

Yesterday:

View from Scott's Knowe

Both walks had been really enjoyable.

I got back in time to have a very late lunch and enjoy a robin in the snow….

robin in snow

…and a couple of the many blackbirds scavenging under the feeder.

blackbirds

Because the weather was expected to be rather inhospitable later in the evening, Mike and Alison came round for the usual Friday evening visit in the afternoon.  Alison and I enjoyed playing pieces by Rameau, Loeillet and Woodcock and then we sat down with Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal to a cup of tea, some excellent home made (by Alison) mince pies and a few ginger biscuits to dunk in the tea.  It was a good way to round off the Christmas holidays.

Now we are preparing for the New Year.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch once again.  They are very reliable birds if you don’t have a lot of time to look out of the window..

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture was taken by a guest, our son Al, of a guest, his daughter Matilda.

Matilda

We didn’t really enjoy our extra 11 seconds of daylight today.  There were two reasons for this, firstly because it was so gloomy that it was hard to tell daylight from night and secondly because we were very busy.

Mrs Tootlepedal was back on her feet but we had got a bit behind on our Christmas preparations and with family due to arrive in the evening, there was a lot to be done.

We did it.

I had a couple of minutes to look out of the window and was pleased to see the robin warming up for its Christmas day appearance.

robin

Al and Clare arrived on schedule and in no time at all Matilda got busy decorating the Christmas tree.

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She was kind enough to pass on some tips to Mrs Tootlepedal.

Matilda

We had an excellent meal and then, as we were all quite tired, everyone retired to bed at a very respectable hour.

No flying birds but two perching birds of the day today.

siskin and goldfinch

 

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