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Posts Tagged ‘goldfinch’

Today’s guest picture comes from my camera club friend Simon who noticed these interesting additions to a pylon when he was out and about near Canonbie. They are going to renew the cables.

We had another beautiful day here today. As this was the first day of summer, there is a slight worry that summer can only go downhill from here on. It will be hard to get a better day day than this.

We had our morning street coffee off the street today, tucked round the corner beside the dam where two of our number could sit in the shade of Margaret’s shed, while Liz and and I sat in the sun holding umbrellas to provide our own personal shade. Passers by, used to finding us in the street, were amazed to find us on the grass looking for all the world like an impressionist painting by Monet.

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal did some work in the garden while I wandered about looking for new flowers. There were new flowers to be found.

The wiegela has started flowering.

A red geum has come to join the geum flock.

A new lupin is probably my favourite lupin now it has come out.

Both the red and white astrantias are not at their peak yet but full of promise.

And the stars of the show today are the silver lined irises.

Mrs Tootlepedal is pleased with the progress of the vegetable garden and I was able to snip some leaves from her cut and come again lettuce patch to have in a lettuce and marmite sandwich for my lunch.

After lunch, I looked at the feeder through an open window and saw a goldfinch there…

..and in the distance, I could see Mrs Tootlepedal putting the new bench to the very use it was designed for on a sunny afternoon.

it seemed to be a couple of degrees cooler than it had been yesterday, so I decided to mark the start of the summer months with a cycle ride. Wanting to avoid the Wauchope road where the tar was melting last time that I went that way, I headed south out of. Instead of crossing the river at Skippers Bridge, I kept on going down the east bank of the river and then crossed the Tarras and went through Claygate towards the Hollows.

This route is quite hilly and I was concentrating so hard on pedalling sensibly and not getting too hot that I forgot to take any pictures until I got to the shade of the old road at the Hollows.

I headed down to Canonbie, hoping to see the pylon devices that Simon had photographed but instead of the devices themselves, I saw workmen on another pylon getting ready to install them.

I heard a man on a news programme recently complaining that young barristers could only expect to earn as much as an electrician but I think that these super electricians deserve every penny that they get.

Away to my left, Canonbie Church looked at its best.

I pedalled on south and joined the main road for a mile or two at the end of the Canonbie by-pass. The traffic was still light and nowhere near back to pre-lockdown levels.

After a very unpromising winter, farmers must have feared the worst, but things have improved a lot recently as this field of waving barley near Longtown shows.

I left the main road here and turned up towards Milltown of Sark, crossing the border back into Scotland on my way. The last tree in England is also the last to get its leaves.

I looked back at the tree after I had passed it and you can see from the direction that the Gretna turbines are pointing that the wind was helping me up the hill here. I was grateful for the help but having the wind behind me and not blowing in my face meant that it was hot work for a mile or two.

Readers may have noticed how completely weed free the field of barley that I passed earlier was. I worry that this is part of the reason for the drastic drop in the number of insects about, so I was happy to see an uncultivated field full of buttercups further along my journey.

The wind continued to be helpful all the way home, and I arrived back after 26 enjoyable miles in perfect time to have a shower, a cup of tea (and a ginger biscuit or two) and join in the evening Zoom meeting with Mrs Tootlepedal and my siblings.

After the meeting, I watched the birds for a bit. Mrs Tootlepdal’s fake tree may not have any leaves but it is still a useful spot for birds waiting for a perch at the feeder to have rest.

We needed to have a queuing system as the feeder was busy.

I had time for another wander round the garden before scrambled eggs for tea and found another new flower out. This is the first of many foxgloves to come.

And I feel a bit guilty that I usually show the garage clematis en masse when the individual flowers are very pretty in themselves.

But if the silver lined irises were the morning stars, the evening star was Lilian Austin, a really lovely English rose.

The scrambled eggs (on toast) brought the first day of summer to a satisfactory close. I hope that there are many more like it as far as the weather goes, but mixed with overnight rain from time to time of course. We need rain badly.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony in sunny East Wemyss. He passed this delightful garden maintained by OAPs for the benefit of passers by.

We had another lovely day here with the only worry that it might get a bit too hot for us pallid northerners. One sign of the easing of the lockdown was the sight of several aircraft con trails across our otherwise blue skies. Like the increase in traffic, this is an unwelcome side of the return to ‘normality’.

I had a walk round the garden after breakfast and the crossword had been disposed of, and although there is not much startlingly new to be seen, it is always a pleasure to wander about among the flowers. And a white butterfly shared my enjoyment.

The blue lupins are going from strength to strength each day.

In the absence of the gaudy colour of the frost damaged azaleas, we are appreciating the more subdued corners in the garden.

I went back inside and noticed a goldfinch and a sparrow having a chat on the feeder…

…before Mrs Tootlepedal and I started a WhatsApp chat of our own with our son Alistair and our granddaughter Matilda in Edinburgh. Their south facing house is very hot at the moment but they found a cool spot where Matilda could read an amusing story about ‘Mr and Mrs Brown who are upside down’ to us. We also used another app that lets us play games at a distance and we passed a most enjoyable time with them. Alistair revealed that he had used technology to give an online Power Point presentation to 50 of his work colleagues. We were impressed.

After our chat, I made a beef stew for the slow cooker and then made lentil and bacon soup for our lunch. While it was cooking, I went out for another look round the garden.

Another rhododendron has started to come out in a shady spot in the back border…

…and a pink tinged rose caught my eye in a bush of otherwise white roses.

After lunch, I decided to brave the heat and go for a cycle ride. The temperature had hit 20°C which might have been a bit hot for a walk but cycling brings its own breeze with it. In the event, conditions were kind enough for me to enjoy a 30 mile ride. This was apart from the first five miles, where bad road surfacing had left the tar melting in little bubbles making the road very sticky and hard work. From then on, things improved.

The countryside is looking very green…

…and a calf had found some long grass to rest in.

I didn’t stop a lot as it seemed much warmer as soon as I lost the breeze of my own making. But I did want to record that the damage to beech hedges from the fateful late frost extends far beyond our Langholm.

There were brown patches on almost all the hedges that I passed. But plenty of buttercups in the verges made up for some loss of leaves in the hedges.

Mrs Tootlepedal had suggested that it would be wise for me to take things slowly in the heat and I had no difficulty in following her advice. My legs were content just to fill up the gap between my shorts and the pedals rather than to give me much help in the pushing department. Still, they have done a fair bit of work over the past few days so I can’t complain.

I got back in good time to join in the daily Zoom chat with my brother and sisters and then I had another chance to watch greenfinches on the feeder…

…and take another walk round the garden while the vegetables were cooking to go with the slow cooked stew.

I like the flowers in the late afternoon/early evening sun. It seems to sharpen them up.

…and bring out the colours better than when the full sun of the day is on them.

Especially on my current favourite lupin.

After our evening meal, we had a special treat, the better side of the easing of the lockdown, when Mike and Alison came round for their customary Friday evening visit for the first time for many weeks.

As they are not allowed to come into our house yet, there was no music playing, but there was beer and conversation (socially distanced) on the lawn. As it was a beautiful evening, with virtually no breeze, and as it has been too dry for the midges to breed, sitting out in the garden was very acceptable and we enjoyed this slight move back to life as it used to be.

Alison thought that the clematis over the garage was looking well.

The good weather is set to continue but with a bit more breeze and the temperature down a degree or two, it might be a good day for a walk tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch again.

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Today’s guest picture comes from one of my brother’s walks in his local area. The farmer has had to work round and old water tower to get his field planted.

There was a lot of noise in the garden this morning although as far as the weather went it was sunny and peaceful day. These tiny flowers were responsible for the racket.

They are on a cotoneaster and they were proving a big draw for bees. I had to crop the picture above just to take a picture of the bush with no bees in it.

I tried to get some decent bee pictures but I had the wrong camera in my hand so I went off to look for flowers instead. The latest rhododendron to flower has the reddest flowers in the garden I think (but see later in the post for a competitor).

There are also red astrantias coming out and doubtless they will soon be buzzing too as the insects like them a lot.

I stopped chasing flowers and went off to have socially distanced coffee with Sandy in his garden. The coffee turned out to be tea as there had been a cafetiere catastrophe earlier in the morning but it went down well as we chatted and watched blue tits busily flying in and out of the nest box on his shed.

Sandy’s foot is slowly improving after his operation and he has managed to go out for some short walks. He still has some way to go before he can go some way but he is feeling much more positive about life.

When I got back home, the street coffee morning was still going so I stopped and chatted there until I was distracted by the poppies beside the dam along the back wall of the house.

They are quite distracting.

There are other less conspicuous flowers along the wall too.

As you can see from the centre picture in the panel above, the fuschia is not in good condition at all but when I looked closely at it, I could see that there were some healthy flowers tucked away in it. A case for some severe pruning perhaps.

I went back into the garden, got out a different camera, and had another go at the cotoneaster. The resulting picture gives an idea of just how small the flowers on the shrub are.

There were so many bees that they were shoving each other out of the way.

Bumble bees were interested too.

I had a wander round, admiring old friends enjoying the sunshine.

New flowers are always arriving and today’s newcomer is an ox-eye daisy, the first of many all over the garden. It couldn’t attract a bee but it did have a small fly in its eye.

Other flowers were attracting other bees.

When I look back on my day today, thanks to a combination of old age and the warm sunshine the chronology has become rather blurred. I know that I mowed the middle lawn, made bacon butties for lunch, mowed the front lawn, edged both lawns and put decking oil on our new bench but I am by no means certain in what order these exciting events took place.

I also looked at our other cotoneaster and found that wasps were into cotoneaster flowers as well as bees.

The clock on my camera tells me that I took the wasp picture before lunch and this one of a young blackbird on our old bench at that time too.

It tells me that it was in the afternoon when I took this picture of the other contender for red flower of the day.

I do know that after all the activity, I sat on a seat to have a rest and was much entertained by a pair of pigeons on our power line. I don’t know much about pigeons but it seemed to me that this display of aerial acrobatics had more to with making love than making war.

It was the way that one of them sidled along the wire towards the other in a hopeful manner before the bursts of flying started that made me think that.

It was such a lovely day that in the end, I couldn’t think of a good excuse not to go for a short cycle ride in spite of feeling a little tired. It was a good decision with light winds and the temperature at 66°F.

The verges were full of cow parsley…

…sometimes mixed with buttercups.

After a couple of energetic days, my legs were not in full working mode today and showed a regrettable Achilles tendency to sulk in their tents instead of joining in the battle. The rest of me was in very good order though so I just pottered slowly along, enjoying the sun on my back and lots of beautiful green trees.

Mrs Tootlepedal thinks that May 20th is peak spring so this is just about as good as it gets.

When I got home, I had missed my evening Zoom meeting with my brother and sisters but there is always another day for that.

I put the sprinkler on the middle lawn while we were eating our tea, and then had my first look of the day at the birds on the feeder in the evening light.

They seemed pleased to have a bit of peace after a busy day in the garden.

My twenty mile cycle ride took me over 400 miles for the month. This is a very satisfactory effort for me these days. May has been my best month for distance covered this year and with some good sunny days still to come, I hope to increase the mileage before the thirty-first.

The flying bird of the day is a late evening goldfinch.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset corespondent Venetia. She was visited by a greater spotted woodpecker the other day.

We had a pleasantly sunny morning here, with enough wind to ensure that it didn’t get too hot for the morning street coffee meeting. We were greatly entertained as we sipped and chatted by a flying display from a small flight of swifts. They whistled past us great speeds.

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal settled down to some serious work in the garden while I mowed the front lawn and then wandered about looking at things.

That final tulip is reluctant go, laughing at frost, rain and high winds and it has been joined by our first white rose, ever more geraniums and Jacob’s Ladders…

…and things that come in bulk.

I spent quite a lot of time trying to catch visitors to the alliums…

….and was pleased to see the some of the Solomon’s Seal flowers have finally come out properly…

…before I started to see double…

…twice.

I was privileged to watch our resident blackbird doing its keep fit routine…

…before going in to heat up some soup and make bacon sandwiches for our lunch.

After lunch, I put some serious consideration into going out for a cycle ride, even going so far as to head upstairs to put on my cycling gear. When I got upstairs though and looked out of the window, all I could see were leaves thrashing about on trees and bushes as they were pumelled by a 25 mph wind.

I put on my walking socks instead and went for a walk.

Recently I did the first half of a walk from the Langholm Walks booklet but came back by road instead of cross country, so I thought that I would do the second cross country half of the walk (in the wrong direction) today and once more come back by road.

I set off towards Becks Farm, passing some fine clover….

…a recent addition to our road side verges.

The view as I got near the farm was good…

…and I was soon high enough up to get a view back over the town towards Whita Hill.

Once past the farmhouse, I followed a good track between fields before coming out onto open ground. I had to alter my projected route a little to avoid cattle grazing on the hill and soon found myself in tussocky country surrounded by bog cotton…

…of which there was plenty around.

Luckily, in spite of the recent rain, the ground is still very dry and I was able to bound over tussock, moss and small streams without coming to harm. When I say bound, I might be exaggerating slightly, but it sounds better than totter, stagger and stumble.

I disturbed a deer which really did bound away in front of me but stopped for a look back…

…before disappearing over the skyline.

Although it seemed quite a long way as I was crossing the rough ground into the brisk breeze, it didn’t actually take me too long to meet the Glencorf Burn…

…and soon afterwards to find myself at Wauchope Schoolhouse, ready to walk back down the road to Langholm. I paused on the bridge across the Wauchope Water to watch an oyster catcher on the rocks.

The bird had plenty of rocks to choose from as there was hardly any water in the river and when I stopped a little further on to look at one of my favourite cascades, it was a mere trickle running sideways down a channel in the rocks….

….rather than leaping over them as it was when I took this picture in June two years ago.

The walk down the road with the strong wind now at my back, was most enjoyable, with hardly a car passing me as I strolled along looking at wild flowers in the verges…

…admiring trees clinging to the hillside…

…and noticing that the conifers also seemed to have suffered from the recent frost.

The afternoon had been cloudy and when the sun came out just as I was near the end of my walk, I was grateful for the clouds as I might have been too warm if the sun had shone on me all the way round the nearly seven miles.

I got home in time to make a cup of tea and a marmalade sandwich before enjoying the regular Zoom chat with my brother and sisters in company with Mrs Tootlepedal.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy in the garden so I hadn’t been able to watch the birds at the feeder before my walk, so I had a quick look after our evening meal. I found a goldfinch with a greenfinch who was carelessly dropping seed.

My walk had been a good substitute for a cycle ride. All the same, I am hoping that the forecast of a calmer day tomorrow turns out to be true as I haven’t been out for a ride for several days because of strong winds.

The flying bird of the day is one of the elusive swifts from our morning coffee. They were either too quick or too high for me and my camera and this was the best that I could do. They are elegant fliers.

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Today’s guest picture is a fine Welsh tree spotted by my fine welsh correspondent Keiron.

keiron's tree

Finally we got some steady rain here overnight, and although it wasn’t a downpour, there was enough rain to leave the ground looking definitely damp when we got up in the morning.

It was deemed to be too cold and windy for an enjoyable outside coffee morning so we had to eat our chocolate biscuits and drink our coffee by ourselves indoors.

I did go out into the garden to see if the rain had sparked huge new growth but things were much as they had been yesterday, only a bit damper.

garden after rain

There didn’t seem much point in staying out so I went back in, waving at a hellebore as I did so.

hellebore

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy with work for the proposed community land buy out * and I found inessential ways to pass the time until lunch.

It was technically a cycling day, but it was grey, with a vigorous and blustery wind, and as there was also a promise of rain in the forecast, I thought that a walk with Mrs Tootlepedal would be a much better bet.

We took the path up the river past the Duchess Bridge.  Mrs Tootlepedal hadn’t been along this path for some time and was impressed by its mossy trees with lichen covered trunks surrounded by wild garlic.

duchess bridge walk

We emerged out of the woods and followed the road towards Potholm.

There was plenty to catch our interest along the way, a romantic tree, copious stitchwort and crosswort….

milnholm road

…two men planting trees in a felled area on the opposite bank of the river, lichen on the wall beside the road and a great heap of lambs.

The star of the show to me was some fresh hawthorn flowers in a hedge.

hawthorn flowers

Passing Milnholm farm we saw a potato field and more lichen on a branch…

milnholm hedge and field

…and signs of the recent frost in the shape of damage to a beech hedge on our left and then more damage all along the hedge to our right.

As we got near to the bridge over the Esk at Potholm, an oyster catcher tiptoed through a field, trying to avoid our scrutiny

oyster catcher potholm

Once across the bridge, we walked up the track into the woods…

climb past potholm

…passing fresh  ferns, poppies growing in wall and ajuga growing beside the track.

potholm wild flowerrs

At the top of the hill, we left the main track and walked up a minor track through the woods.

forest track longfauld wood

This was the track I had followed on a  recent walk but it was new to Mrs Tootlepedal who enjoyed the woods and the wild flowers in them.

wild flowers longfauld wood

We were interested to see that the recent frost had pretty well put paid the the yellow pimpernel but had left the tormentil unscathed.

We passed two very green spots, first what Mrs Tootlepedal thought was a moss like liverwort on a bank….

liverwort

…and then a grassy clearing at the end of the forestry track.

green in wood

We followed a bluebell lined path back to Holmhead…

path above north lodge

…and walked down to the road  through the snowdrop wood where we were brought up short by this magnificent soup plate sized fungus on a tree stump.

huge fungus holmhead

The road itself, with bluebells shimmering through the woods to our  left…

holmhead road

…brought us down to the Lodge Walks where we were happy (but a bit jealous) to find a fine azalea which had escaped frostmageddon.

azalea lodge walks

We walked across the dandelion covered football pitch…

soggy dandelion head

…crossed the Jubilee Bridge (after Mrs Tootlepedal had spotted a nuthatch) and made our way round the Scholars’ Field.  There I stopped to take a picture of the most common wild flower that we had seen almost all the way round out walk.

red campion

Mrs Tootlepedal was moved by the sight of the children’s play area, unused and neglected because of the virus.

deserted playground

We were both ready to polish of what was left of the boiled fruit cake with a cup of tea when we got home after a very varied and enjoyable five miles.  Although it had threatened to rain more than once as we walked, an added bonus was the fact that we got round dry, with even an occasional hint of sunshine.  In fact it didn’t start raining until quite a bit later in the day and I had plenty of time to watch the birds after the tea and cake.

Pairs of siskins (dropping food as usual) and goldfinches were joined by a lone siskin and a curious redpoll.

siskin, redpoll and goldfinch

Siskins and redpolls continued to appear…

flying siskins and redpolls

…and I watched them until it was time for us to Zoom with my siblings.

When she had first got up, Mrs Tootlepedal had seen a lot of birds feeding their young in the garden, but they were never there when I was looking, so I was pleased to see a young thrush in the plum tree right at the end of the day.

thrush in plum

It is due to be warmer and wetter tomorrow, with a fine warm day to follow on Wednesday, so I hope that things will really start growing in the garden.

The flying bird of the day is not a siskin or a redpoll but a traditional chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

*If you haven’t looked at it before and are interested, details of the proposed community land buy out can be found here, and Mrs Tootlepedal wants me to add that any contribution to the scheme, however modest, will be very warmly welcomed and much appreciated.  Our thanks go to those readers who have already helped us.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Sandy.  He has attached a bird box to his shed and is very happy to see that it is getting used by blue tits.

sandy's blue tit

The day started with a WhatsApp conversation with Annie and Joe and our granddaughter Evie.  Evie is ten months old now and very grown up.

We had another chilly morning here but it was sunny again and when I went out into the garden, I was happy to see a hoverfly visiting and allium.

hoverfly on allium

All seemed reasonably well with the world until I went across to look at the azaleas with the intention of getting some colourful shots.

Alas, it had been just too cold in the night and the azaleas (and rhododendrons) were ex azaleas (and rhododendrons) now.  Pretty well everyone of them was  damaged beyond repair.  We were told that it had been -3C overnight and that had been enough to finish them off.

six dead azaleas

Mrs Tootlepedal was very sad, to say the least.  Her garden comes on in a succession of spring waves; the snowdrops, the daffodils, the tulips and then the crowning glory, the azaleas.

Not this year.

Annoyingly, some of the tulips, which are at the very end of their useful gardening life, survived the frost.

last of the tulips

I didn’t really have the heart to look round for other flowers but the sight of iris buds was at least a promise of something to come…

iris bud

…and the magnificent poppy on the back wall of the house laughed at frost.

oriental poppy out

Instead of having a cup of coffee with the regular street gang, I took some Garibaldi biscuits up to Sandy and got some of his flapjack in return.  His foot is very slowly on the mend after his operation, but it is a slow business and he has been cooped up in his house for far longer than the rest of us.  Under the circumstances, he is still remarkably cheerful.

I met a butterfly on my way.

white butterfly

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal was increasing the wideness of her wider view and more box bushes had bitten the dust.

cut box

I gave a hand with some of the tugging and pulling needed to uproot the toughest of the bushes and had a look round while I did so.

A sparrow was on the look out for tasty vegetable shoots to plunder.

sparrow on fence

I tested out the new bench and found some lily of the valley nestling beside it.

lily of the valley

The morning slipped away and I went in to make lunch and watch the birds.

I saw a siskin socially distancing itself from a sparrow.

socially distanced siskin

After lunch, we had a video conversation with Clare, Alistair and our other granddaughter, Matilda and then we downloaded a clever app that let us play games with Matilda in real time.   It was nowhere near as good as seeing Matilda and her parents in person, but it was a lot better than not seeing them at all.

Then Mrs Tootlepedal went off in search of some more horse manure, and I went  for another very slow cycle ride round my Canonbie circuit.

For some reason, my breathing is not good at the moment, possibly the combination of pollen and dust after all our dry weather, and I didn’t have much get up and go at all so I was quite pleased to have managed to get out for a ride  however slow and I quite enjoyed it

I stopped to see a new addition to a local Belted Galloway herd…

belted galloway calf

…and when I looked up, I was rather alarmed to see a hole in the sky.

hole in te sky

However, nothing fell through it and I pedalled on unscathed.

I passed a field full of cows who were feeling much like I was from the look of them.

lazy cattle

I don’t think that I have ever seen so many collapsed cattle before.

As I got near to the Canonbie by-pass, I cycled by some fields that had been mown for silage.  I can’t feel that there has been much growth in the grass but maybe the farmer felt that it needed to be mown before it dried out completely.

mown field with crows

As I got near Canonbie itself, I noticed the first hawthorn blossom of the year in a hedge.

first hawthorn

I liked this copper beech among all the greenery as I got nearer home….

copper beech

…and there were wild flowers in the verges a little further on…

gernaium and red campion

…and fine new cones on a larch tree by the river on the bike path.

larch cones

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was still busy taking out more box bushes and shaping some of the ones that are left.  She should finish the task tomorrow.

Near what is left of the hedge, a cheery potentilla has started flowering.

potentilla

I said good afternoon to a blackbird making use of what is left of the hedge…

blackbird on hedge

…and went in for a Garibaldi biscuit and a cup of tea.

After my regular sibling Zoom conference, I made cauliflower cheese for tea and then finished a day of video conversations by calling our recorder playing friend Sue.  Living in England, she is now able to go and visit her daughter who lives not far away, and this has cheered her up immensely.

That sharp frost and the death of the azaleas has really cast a long shadow over the day, especially as the azaleas were looking in good shape after a poor season last year.  Ah well, gardening is a vale of tears.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

flying goldfi nch

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce.  Meeting a stranger while out on a recent walk, he engaged him in polite but socially distanced conversation but found him rather uncommunicative.

bruce's friend

I had a disturbing morning.  We had arranged a visit from our bench supplier to discuss a modification to the new bench and he arrived at nine in the morning.  This seriously upset my normal routine of letting breakfast, the newspapers and the crossword run almost seamlessly into getting dressed just before coffee time.  As a result of being dressed and shaved so promptly, I had two hours of wandering around wondering what I was supposed to do before we even got to coffee.

I did go out and look at flowers.   They were not hard to see.

six flowers

It was another decidedly chilly morning with a brisk wind so although we had our customary socially distanced street coffee morning with ginger biscuits, it didn’t last as long as usual, even in the sunshine.

Someone remarked that our tulips are nearing the end of the road, but they are not going out without a final show.

four old poppies

The droplets on the petals are not rain but more of the endless watering that we are doing every day.

New flowers are coming to replace the tulips so we won’t be wanting for colour.

iris, cornflower, geranium, polemonium

My favourite flower of the moment is the aquilegia.

aquilegia close up

There was plenty of bird action today with the feeder appealing to goldfinches and siskins…

siskins and goldfinches

…and an assortment of other birds posing round the garden.

blackbird, jackdaw, thrush and pigeon

The birds that were making the most noise were baby sparrows clamouring for attention from their parents.

sparrows feeding babies

A young blackbird was less successful.

_20S9629

After lunch, I went for a cycle ride.  This was a surprise to me, as the brisk chilly wind in the morning had been enough to make me think of having a day off.  It had warmed up under the sun though, and the wind had eased off quite a bit by the afternoon with the result that taking a spin up the main road north of the town felt like the right thing to do.

This was a good decision, with the Ewes valley looking at its best…

ewes valley view

…and Ewes Kirk, pretty as a picture when framed by green leaves.

ewes church

I was cycling into the wind so i wasn’t unhappy to pause to enjoy the view…

view from A7

…and I think that you may well agree that there might be worse roads to be cycling up.

A7 near Unthank

There was a bit more traffic than there has been lately but it was still pretty peaceful.

I cycled 15 miles north into the wind, and this brought me to the bottom of the hill that has this strange conical monument to the local poet and minister Henry Scott Riddell on it.

ridell monument

The people who spoil views with power lines have done superb work here!  And yes, that is a gull perching on the very top of the monument.

The return journey, with the wind behind, was glorious.

At one stage I was bicycling up a gentle hill though wooded country at exactly the same speed as the wind was blowing.  There was no a whisper of wind in my ears. The road surface was newly laid and silky smooth.  My bike has a superior hub gear and a belt drive so it has none of that loud clanking that goes with a chain and derailleur gear.  There was no traffic.

The upshot of these happy coincidences was that for a good few hundred yards, I was pedalling along in complete silence, in a world of my own, entirely at peace.

And then there was the rush down hill for the last ten miles of the trip, accomplished in just over half an hour.  What fun for an old man.

After a slightly unsatisfactory Zoom meeting bedevilled by technological mysteries and a very satisfying meal of scrambled eggs, baked beans and fried potatoes, the second shock to my well drilled lockdown life occurred.

The powers that be have decreed that we may now go out more than once a day for exercise, so Mrs Tootlepedal and I drove up to the White Yett car park and walked up to the monument.

track to monument

We had coats and gloves with us but while the sun was out, it was warm enough to keep the gloves in our pockets.

Mrs Tootlepedal scanned the moorland for signs of harriers and thought that she could see a couple of them flying in the distance below us…

view of tarras from whita

…but we were totally unprepared to see a bird of prey sitting on a fence not far in front of us.

Although it sat and let us watch it for some time, it was too far away for a definite identification, but looking at the picture when we got home, we think that it was a short eared owl rather than a hen harrier.

short eared owl

When we got to the monument, the view over the town was a reward for the climb…

langholm late evening from whita

…but Mrs Tootlepedal hadn’t come up here to see local views.  Her ambition was to take advantage of the currently unpolluted skies to see if she could see the Isle of Man, eighty miles away.

Quite amazingly, she could.  It wasn’t the clearest sighting but with her binoculars, the island could be seen.  She gave me a go, and I could see it too.

My camera was quite a bit less sucessful!!

iom

It’s out there somewhere.

It had better luck looking at the Lake District hills which are a lot closer than the Isle of Man.

lake district

The sun had gone behind clouds by the time that we walked back down the hill and it had got quite chilly.  A sheep suggested that we shouldn’t hang about.

sheep on whita

The shades of night were falling fast as we got back to the car.

evening view from white yett

Thanks to the wonders of technology, we are in constant communication with our families so we will be quite happy to remain very vigilant and homebound for the foreseeable future whatever the government may say.  The second daily outing for exercise will be welcome though.

The flying bird of the day is a lark which we saw on our way down the hill this evening.

lark in sky

You don’t believe me?  Here it is.

lark close up

You can spot it in the middle of the big picture just below the line of blue sky if you look very, very carefully!

In the end, it was not the early rise or the second walk that was the biggest surprise of the day.  It was putting that failed picture of the view towards the Isle of Man into the photo editor and finding out what the camera had really seen.

iom contrast

Now that was a surprise.

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