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Posts Tagged ‘goldfinch’

Today’s guest picture comes from Sharon, mother of Luke my flute playing friend.  She took this beautiful view of the Nith estuary from Glencaple near Dumfries.

glencaple view

It was a two choir day as usual on a Sunday and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time.  In church we sang several hymns with satisfying bass lines and then we had a short practice afterwards with promises of more enjoyable singing to come.

I found a coal tit in the plum tree when we got back.

coal tit in plum tree

It was a pleasantly sunny, pretty still morning so with the temperature at 4°C, I set out after coffee and a ginger biscuit  to see whether a short walk would make my foot feel better or worse.  On the whole, it made it feel better.

I looked at moss while I was pootling along pondering on medical matters.  There is rarely any shortage of moss to look at round here.

There was moss steadily colonising a wall, reaching up from below to meet another patch reaching down from above….

moss at springhill

…there were various mosses massed in a mound on top of the wall further along…

mixed mosses

…and still further along, more moss stretching out fingers to grab new territory…

moss stretching hand

…and among the trees, a mini forest of  moss…

tall moss

…as well as moss mixing with peltgera lichen on a wall…

peltigera lichnee and moss

…and pincushion moss sharing space with more lichen.

button moss and cup lichen

My route took me along Gaskell’s Walk and it was as nice a walk as you could hope for though I thought that one walker whom I passed going in the opposite direction and who remarked that it was like spring, was getting a bit ahead of herself.

gaskells walk january

I looked around and saw colourful fungus on the end of a fallen branch…

tree end fungus

…and any amount of rosebay willowherb lined the track.

rosebay willowherb

The track was largely in shadow but as I came to the last hill before the Stubholm, the sun was catching the electricity poles that carry the power down into the New Town.

electricity poles gaskells

They may not be the most beautiful of structures but they do bring a lot of brightness into our lives, literally and metaphorically so I am always happy to see them even if they do spoil a view every now and again.

It was a grand day and I was sorry not to have the time or legs to walk further…

view of whita over stubholm

…but after a couple more stops to note eye catching sights….

decorative tree barkspiky plant

…and a final nod to the world of moss….

moss table gaskells

…I made my way home.

In the garden, the hellebores are beginning to show a bit of colour..

hellebore buds

Inside the house, a pot of soup was bubbling on the cooker, showing that Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy while I was out.

I had time to eat some soup, watch a pair of restful goldfinches nibble on the sunflower seed…

two goldfinches

…while some chaffinches get a lot more excited about the situation…..

busy feeder

…and then it was time to head for Carlisle and the community choir practice.

The sunshine had gone by this time and it was grey and chilly by the time we got to the church where we meet.

The practice itself was very satisfactory as a reorganisation of the tenors meant that rather than sitting on the end of a pew not being able to hear the rest of the section, this week I had a strong singer beside me and more behind.  Together with the work that I have done at home over the past two weeks, this meant that I was able to sing with much more confidence and relaxation than previously.  I hope that we keep this new set up.

We got home safely, had the last portions of Mrs Tootlepedal’s vegetarian casserole and settled down to enjoy Les Miserables (as far as the subject matter permits of any enjoyment).

A chaffinch as flying bird of the day rounded off a day definitely entered on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

 

 

 

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Alert readers may remember a guest picture or two  showing the recent invasion of Derby by some rather scruffy members of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army.  My brother went to see the prince in the Derby Museum and Art Gallery and asked him not to invade Derby again.  Answer came there none.

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After the excitements of yesterday, we had a very quiet day today, Mrs Tootlepedal because she was a bit tired after a hard days work and me because I wanted to rest my foot after walking more than I should have done in Edinburgh.

I wasn’t missing any cycling as the temperature only just rose above freezing all day though we were very ice free and I did risk cycling as far as the Buccleuch Centre to buy a ticket for an evening show.

I also had to do a bit of walking from and to our local garage as we had noticed last night that one of our headlight bulbs had expired.  They kindly replaced the bulb very promptly and the car is back in action again.

Apart from a visit from Drospcone for coffee and the subsequent consumption of high quality treacle scones, I had a very peaceful time, occasionally looking out of the window.

It was frosty first thing…

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…but the sun came out and things brightened up.

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A chaffinch with a misplaced sense of humour mocked my ambition to catch a good flying bird of the day…

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…and a pigeon arrived which looked not to be any great need of more bird food.

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Mike Tinker came round for afternoon tea with ginger biscuits so we had good company both in the morning and afternoon.

The highlight of the day was the show for which I had bought a ticket earlier on (Mrs Tootlepedal was doing front of house duties and did not require a ticket).

The event was an illustrated lecture by Laurie Campbell, a wild life photographer who lives not too far from us in the Scottish borders.

He is a photographer of great skill and artistry and on top of that, he is an expert in putting together a show of 400 hundred varied images of which every one is interesting and delivering it at a speed which maintains the interest of the audience from first to last.  Add to that a very pleasant and graceful manner of delivery packed full of interesting technical details and a dry sense of humour and you have the recipe for a perfect evening.

Those interested can visit his website here.

As I had time on my hands today, I managed to find several flying birds of the day.

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A final question: can you have to many cute robin pictures?

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who took this charming view of St Paul’s  Cathedral across the river from the cafe outside the Tate Modern art gallery which she was visiting.

st pauls

We had plenty of sunshine here…

very sunny chaffinch

…and quite a few birds…

two sunny goldfinches

…on what would have been a grand day for a walk or even a pedal if I had wrapped up well enough but I was overcome by a most unusual outbreak of good sense and stayed at home instead.

I have been suffering from a rather sore right foot lately and have been trying to walk it off but by last night I had been reduced to limping.  This is not a satisfactory state of affairs because limping only makes things worse so I went for a day of complete rest today in an effort to get things on a better footing before going to Edinburgh tomorrow.  Time will tell if I have improved things but at least I can be confident that I haven’t made them worse.

As a result, I did many puzzles in the paper, put two weeks of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database, mooched around and put a good deal of effort into practising songs for church and choir.

I looked out of the window a lot too.

robin on chair

At this time of year, the feeder is in the shadow of either our or our next door neighbour’s house for most of the day so it may have been the lack of light that was making this goldfinch concentrate so hard on pinpointing the feeder perch.

concentrating flying goldfinch

The wrecking crew of peckers were back digging up the lawn again…

pecking wreckers

…and goldfinches and chaffinches were in perpetual motion at the feeder…

busy feeder

…sometimes getting in the way of good flying bird of the day shots.

flying goldfinch and flying chaffinch

Mrs Tootlepedal suggested that I might find making some ginger biscuits a useful way of spending some time and I took her up on that.  I also took her advice on exactly when to take the biscuits out of the oven and I am happy to say that it was very sound advice as you can see.

I managed to take this picture before all the biscuits had disappeared.

ginger biscuits

It was hard to lurk about inside when the day outside was so bright…

walnut tree

…but we are in for a run of weather from the north so the day gradually got colder as it went on in spite of the sun and it has got down to 2°C as I write this and it is going to freeze overnight which will be a shock after a spell of relative mildness.

I did find a fairly sunny flying bird of the day and a goldfinch makes a change from all the chaffinches.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony, proving that he can take in the bigger picture but not miss interesting detail at the same time.

tony's stone

Encouraged by the splendid picture of a loaf bread which our daughter Annie sent us, I checked the recipe which she had also sent me and decided that it might be within my capabilities to make a similar loaf.   It has an interesting method requiring no kneading at all and cooking in a Dutch oven so it was a journey into the unknown for me.

The result was pretty good for a first go and I would have had a picture for you if half of it hadn’t mysteriously disappeared already.  I can report that as it is made from what is virtually a batter rather than a stiff dough, it tastes much like a crusty crumpet and is very delicious, especially when it is still warm.  I will have another go.

I had plenty of time to look at birds this morning while I was cooking and for once, there were plenty of birds to look at…

busy feeder

…including another visit from our resident robin.

robin on chair

I liked these two goldfinches keeping a communal eye out…

two contrary goldfinches

..perhaps checking for siskins, one or two of which made a welcome re-appearance.

siskin

I did think of going for a cycle ride while the mixture was rising but a rather gloomy forecast persuaded me that a walk was a better option so I went along to check out the Becks wood.

It was reasonably warm but grey and windy so I resolved to try a few black and whites on my way.

bw bench

I thought that this old tree stump, entirely given over to moss deserved the full colour treatment….

moss covered stump

…as did this elegantly gesturing tree…

expressive tree

…but an old shack often looks better in monochrome.

shed bw

In among the hundreds of new trees in tubes in the recently felled Becks wood are some rather weedy looking survivors of the cull.  This one looked as though it was bending down to greet the newcomers.

bending tree bw

The wood has been thoroughly cleared of felled trees and brashings and the scale of the new planting is impressive.  Although some locals mourn the loss of the commercial conifer plantation, I for one look forward to the new deciduous wood and enjoy the much improved views in the meantime.

view down becks burn

I went through the wood, down the road and across the Auld Stane Brig before climbing up the lower slopes of Warbla on the far side of the valley.  I kept an eye out for interesting stones and was much struck by this one with lichens on it nearly as decorative as a Maori tattoo.

warbla stane with lichen

An old tree trunk posed for a picture.

rotting log

I had thought of taking the track to the top of the hill but when I looked around, I could see low clouds coming in from all sides…

mist coming down

… so I took a more direct route home through the Kernigal wood and along the Stubholm track..

bw wood walk

…before dropping down into the park and passing a favourite wall.

moss on wall

When I got back to our house, the snowdrops on the bank of the dam were out…

dam snowdrops flourishing

…as was much of the moss on the middle lawn which had been pecked by jackdaws…

lawn pecking

…and Mrs Tootlepedal who had gone off to an Embroiderers’ Guild meeting.

My timing was good as it started to drizzle as I got home and it kept it up for the rest of the day.

Left to myself, I baked the bread, did the crossword and settled down to trying to learn a Carlisle Choir song off by heart.  This was a thankless task because as soon as I had mastered one phrase, I found that I had forgotten the previous one.

Mrs Tootlepedal returned and in the evening, we went off to the Buccleuch Centre for one of the highlights of its annual programme.   Fresh from touring China and playing in Inverness, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, with 60 players, had come to play their Viennese New Year’s concert to a full house.  I cannot speak too highly of the privilege it is for us to get a full scale symphony orchestra playing in our town of 2500 inhabitants.  We sit so close to the orchestra that the experience is absolutely thrilling and the slightly dry acoustic, which the players find hard work, means that the audience can appreciate every note that is played by every instrument.

The conductor even told several very amusing jokes.

A grand night out in every way.

As we have a full singing day tomorrow, I am expecting the weather to take turn for the better.

Although there were a lot of birds, poor light made finding a good flying bird of the day hard work and this was the best that I managed.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from East Wemyss where it seems that the sun shines  frequently.  Our son Tony got a new camera for Christmas and sent me this picture to show that it is working well.

tony's trees

There was a complete lack of sun here today and after singing in the church choir and having an early lunch,  I went for a short walk which proved the point.

low clouds

When I started my walk the clouds had almost covered the town completely and as I walked on the clouds got lower…

very misty trees

…and lower….

eskdaill street in cloud

…so if I hadn’t had the flash on my camera, I would have been pushed to record anything much as I strolled along.

As it was, I could see a fine burst of lichen on a tree trunk…

cript lichen

…an old seed head…

old seed head

…and a promise of spring to come….

mew needles

…as well as some pixie cups on a post at the Auld Stane Brig…

cup lichen

…and a crop of curiously damp lichen on the bridge itself.

lichen with raindrops

In fact there was so much lichen about that at times it seemed almost to be dripping off roadside walls.

wall lichen

There was enough light to see the Auld Stane Brig itself,

auld stane brig

Considering  that many of our bridges are old and most are made of stone, it is hard to work out why this bridge got the name of The Auld Stane Brig in particular when it could have been applied to so many others.  Still, it is a bridge, it is old and it is made of stone so I shouldn’t grumble.

The clouds were soon back down again and the only colour of the day….

misty tree

…was provided by Mrs Tootlepedal’s developing crochet blanket on the kitchen table when I got home.

crochet

I look forward to a whole colour symphony when she is finished.

Peering out of the kitchen window during over lunch, I could see that there were more birds than usual about.

They were mostly chaffinches…

chaffinch arriving at feeder

…both male and female…

three chaffinches

…but sparrows and goldfinches put in an appearance too.

sparrow and arriving chaffinch

I didn’t have long for my walk or any bird watching as we had to go off to Carlisle for the first meeting of the year with the Carlisle Community Choir.  By this time, the clouds had really hit rock bottom and we needed both front and rear fog lights on the car to get us safely to the meeting.

We began work straight away on songs that we will take to a competition in Manchester in March and I will need to start learning my part off by heart as it takes me a long time to get songs to stick in my memory.

As I write this post in the evening, the clouds are still pressing down on the town and the air is full of the plaintive cries of pink footed geese as they circle overhead.  I hope that they finally find a safe landing.

In spite of the gloom, I did find a flying chaffinch of the day today.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows our son Tony’s dogs visiting the castle near his home in Fife.  I may have used this picture before (I can’t remember) but I have put it in regardless to remind myself that Mrs Tootlepedal and I stood in that exact spot last weekend.

dogs at wemyss castle

It was a day of mixed weather but it was dry when I took this shot of a visiting collared dove during coffee and treacle scone time in the company of Dropscone.

collared dove

These may well have been the last treacle scones of 2018 but I hope that there will be many more in 2019.

It had started to drizzle while we were sipping and it was still drizzling when I set off after coffee to put in twenty miles on my bicycle.  By the time that I had gone half a mile, it was raining steadily and I was pleased that I was wearing a peaked cap under my helmet to keep the rain of my glasses.  I persevered though and was rewarded when the rain stopped after twenty minutes.

I had gone out along the Lockerbie road to see if the second of the two repairs to the failing banking had been completed and was happy to find that it had…

second lockerbie road repair

…even if the road patching was a bit rough and ready.   Should we keep on getting inches of rain every week, it will be a tribute to the engineers’ skill if the fence stills looks so regular in the spring.

I went to the top of Callister and then turned back and went through Langholm and out of the other side.  Although the rain had stopped, it was still damp, with wisps of mist rising from little valleys…

misty valley terrona

….and on top of Whita, the monument was swathed in low cloud.

monument in mist

Mrs Tootlepedal was out at a festive lunch with ex work colleagues when I got back so I had a lonely lunch and checked on the bird feeder.

The seed had gone down and there were some lively goldfinches about….

busy goldfinches at feeder

Mrs Tootlepedal returned and set about cooking a plum pudding for our Christmas meal. I saw that the weather had brightened up a bit so I went for a short three bridges walk.

The clouds had lifted from the top of Whita…

whita late december

There are two bridges in this picture, neither of which I crossed.

…and I found a goosander swimming up the fairly turbulent waters of the Esk.

goosander swimming in esk

I love the goosanders’ jagged hair style.

gossander by bank

A gentle sunlight appeared as I walked up to the Town Bridge but I was concerned to see so much debris caught against one of the arches.

trees against langholm Bridge

Once I was on the town bridge, I was able to look up the Ewes Water towards the Sawmill Brig, my next target.  It was hard to remember how gloomy and damp the start of my cycle ride had been, only three hours previously.

Ewes and sawmill brig december

You can see a row of gulls on the posts in the picture above and I was hoping that one would take flight as I walked past them along the Kilngreen so that I could capture a flying bird of the day but they stuck resolutely to their posts.

black headed gull on post

It was really quite a nice day by the time that I had crossed the Sawmill Brig and started walking up the Lodge Walks, admiring this tree on the Castleholm as I went.

Castleholm tree

The little ‘tin church’ was looking very demure behind its picket fence…

Episcopalian church

…and it is just a pity that no use can be found for this charming building.

I continued up the Lodge Walks for a bit..

Lodge walks late december

…and enjoyed the sun picking out some fresh moss…

moss on lodge walks

…and I looked for little splashes of colour on lichen on a gate post.  The spots of red are so tiny that they are hardly visible to the naked eye.

lichen on gate Lodge walks

As I crossed the Castleholm on my way to the Jubilee Bridge, I looked up at my favourite lichen clad tree and wondered once again at the fact that a more or less complete coating of lichen doesn’t seem to affect its ability to produce seeds and new buds.

licheny tree

I didn’t linger too long though as the sun was getting low….

castleholm trees catch late sun

…and the clouds were re-assembling on the top of Whita.

monument in cloud later

Still, considering it is the shortest day of the year, I can’t complain as I had had scones, a cycle ride and a walk.

The only thing missing was a tootle in the evening but Mike Tinker came round to tell us that his wife Alison, my Friday night orchestra, has not sufficiently recovered from dislocating her shoulder to be able to play sonatas yet.  I hope that it will not be too far into 2019 before we can start playing again.

We had a test morsel of Mrs Tootlepedal’s plum pudding in the evening and it was delicious, light, fruity and very tasty.  I am really looking forward to Christmas day.

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

flying goldfinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo in Manitoba where they really know how to have a winter.  Her picture shows her cat contemplating the hard life that a rabbit has when it has to scratch up the snow in order to find a blade or two of grass.

cat and rabbit Manitoba

Although we have still got two days to go until the winter solstice arrives, the days still seem pretty short so it was a blessing to get a brighter day after yesterday’s pervasive gloom.  Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy day relating to her volunteering activities at the Buccleuch Centre but I idled about, drinking coffee and doing the crossword until I finally managed to get myself and my bicycle out onto the road.

In fairness, I was waiting for a text message to say when a parcel would be delivered.  They very kindly offered me a one hour slot for delivery but took four hours to tell me when that one hour slot would be which wasn’t entirely helpful.  On the plus side, it did give me time to stare out of the window in the hope of seeing some birds.

Things were very quiet again with a lone bashful goldfinch on the feeder and a single pensive chaffinch on the plum tree.

first birds

But there was more action after a while and a small flock of goldfinches flew in…

goldfinches come back

…soon to be joined by some chaffinches.

goldfinch and chaffinch reappear

I was hoping to catch a flying bird of the day at last but the goldfinches taunted me by doing their flying behind the feeder…

angel goldfinch

…and the chaffinches got in each other’s way.

scrappy chaffinches

The message about the parcel came at last and showed that I had time for a pedal so I pedalled.

It was around 6°C but the wind was light and there was even a promise of some blue sky ahead…

Callister

..though it was still grey on the top of Callister where the workers on the new Solwaybank windfarm were busy…

solwaybank wind farm workers

…preparing for the arrival of the turbines.  They are currently pouring concrete for the bases but  I read on their website that the turbines are not due until mid summer 2019 so I shall stop craning my neck to see if they have arrived yet every time I go past.

By the time that I had got to the bottom of the far side of Callister I could see a hint of sunshine at Crowdieknowe…

sdr

…and as I went along the road towards Gair, passing good looking trees…

gair road tree

…I found myself bathed in the weak sunshine which is all you can expect at this time of year,

I expect that the sheep were grateful too.

view from gair road

A clump of gorse certainly looked very cheerful.

girse near gair

Once I had got to Kirkpatrick Fleming and had turned for home, the sunlit beech hedges along the road were adding a welcome touch of colour to my trip.

beech hedge KPF road

I stopped to admire the very severe haircuts which the council men have given to the shrubs in the graveyard at Half Morton…

 

Half Morton kirkyard

…and took a little breather going up my last hill to enjoy the colour of the trees beside the busy main road.

A7 with larches

Although it was only early afternoon when I got back, the light was already fading and this was the best that I could do to capture a welcome late visit from a robin

dark robin

We also had visits from a coal tit, a blue tit and a collared dove.  This was cheering but there were still very few birds about in total and those that came didn’t linger so I am beginning to think that sparrowhawk activity might be a factor in our current bird scarcity.

My parcel arrived on time and that was the high spot of the rest of the day as by now it was almost dark.  Indeterminate indoor activity saw me through the unforgiving winter hours.

We had home grown turnips and potatoes with our tea.  This is not exactly self sufficiency but it is very satisfying none the less.

Mrs Tootlepedal has gone out to a well deserved small celebration of the work of the volunteers at the Buccleuch Centre as I write this so I shall take the opportunity to do a little singing practice while she is out.

I could only manage a very blurry flying bird of the day but any bird in the blog is better than none.

flying chaffinch gloomy

Tra la la.

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