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Posts Tagged ‘goldfinches’

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. It shows all the cakes that he and my sister Susan didn’t eat when they visited a garden centre cafe. They are both models of restraint.

cakes

I was woken in the middle of the night by a tremendous rattling on the windows, and thinking it was another rainstorm, went back to sleep expecting to see high water in the morning again.

In fact, the noise was made by a brief hailstorm and little rain fell overnight.  As a result there had been a marked alteration in the state of the River Esk by the time we went to church at ten o’clock.

IMG_20200216_095108

This was quite surprising but very welcome.

It was still windy and although it was dry, we were pleased to have our coats on when we walked home after the service.

I stooped to look at the first hellebore of the season…

first hellebore

…before going in for a coffee.

The picture is a bit of a cheat as I had to hold the head of the flower up to get the shot.

After coffee, I spent a moment looking at the birds.  In a contrast to the usual state of affairs, it was hard to take picture today that didn’t have a flying bird in it.

flying birds everywhere

I finally managed to get a flying bird free shot, but as you can see from the nervous look on the face of the goldfinch..

Goldfinch looking round

…it didn’t take long for another flier to appear.

flying goldfinch

I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal that it would be a good idea to go for a walk  The wind was still very brisk so we chose a spot which we thought would be sheltered and drove over the hill to the road along the Tarras Valley.  There is a handy car park there beside the river…

Tarras car park view

…and the road is quiet and perfect for a walk.

the road up Tarras

We headed up the valley with the strong wind behind us.  It wasn’t quite as sheltered as we had hoped.

The Tarras Water trips over many little cascades as it heads down to join  the Esk and even on a chilly winter’s day, this is a delight to cascade lovers like myself.

tarras cascade 1

tarras cascade 2

tarras cascade 3

I tore myself away from the waterside and we walked on until we came to the flatter section of the valley where Arkleton Cottage Stands beside some elegant bends in the river and road.

Arkleton Cottage

On the hillside beside the cottage, there are walls within walls.

walls within walls

As we walked along, Mrs Tootlepedal kept an eye out for interesting raptors and any sign of other wild life.

She didn’t see any raptors, but she did spot some interesting looking boulders.  When the boulders started to move around, we could see that they were in fact some of the the wild goats which roam these hillsides.

wild goats Tarras

Often they looked like indeterminate lumps among the long grass but when one lifted its head, we could see what they were.  It was extremely difficult to take pictures of them because they were quite far away and the wind was so strong that it was hard to stand up straight.  The Lumix did what it could.

As you can see from the goat pictures, the weather was changeable and we did have the occasional glimpse of sun but by the time that we got to the cottage, which can be approached by a ford…

Arkleton Cottage ford

..or a footbridge…

Arkleton Cottage bridge

….it had started to rain, so we thought it wise to head back to the car.

We were delayed for a moment by some excellent lichen on a boulder…

lichen tarras road 1

..or two…

lichen tarras Road 2

…and talking to a passing cyclist with three dogs who was heading back down the road into the teeth of the very strong wind.  He was very relaxed and this turned out to be because he was on a very serviceable electric mountain bike with fat tyres and low gears.  This was enabling him to face the wind with equanimity.

He pedalled off into the distance and we followed after him, very much slower and battling into a fierce wind which made walking difficult.  The sleety rain in our faces did not help.

All the same we were able to spot another small group of goats.  I rested my camera on a roadside salt container and was just about to take a good shot when the dratted beast stuck its head down behind a tussock and started munching.

wild goat tarras

I had to make do with another cascade further down stream…

Tarras cascade

…and then we followed the river back to the car.

Although we had walked less than two miles, it had felt quite adventurous thanks to the battle against the elements and we drove home very satisfied with our little outing.

Tarras Water

The sun came out when we got back and the birds settled down too.

four goldfinches

Mike and Alison very kindly brought round a cot for the use of our granddaughter Eve, who is coming to visit next week (with her mother) and then we drove off to Carlisle for a choir practice.

We were somewhat nervous about what we might find from flood and storm damage on the way, but the sun came out, the road was dry, and there was no debris at all.  A stranger might have found it very hard to believe that a storm had passed over us at all let alone that there were flood warnings out all over the rest of the country.  Once again, we have been very lucky.

The choir practice had enjoyable moments but in one piece the tenors, who were lacking a few of their competent singers today, found themselves rather exposed by some tricky harmonies.  The need for some serious home work is indicated.  All the same, in our defence, I would like to say that it is very hard to come in on a G when everyone else is singing an A and there is no help from the piano accompaniment. At least, I think it is.

I had put beef stew in the slow cooker in the morning and Mrs Tootlepedal cooked some vegetables to go with it when we came home.  I counted seven vegetables in the meal in total so it was probably quite healthy as well as being tasty.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia.  She felt that as I had been a bit lacking of flying birds recently, she should help me out.  She visited RSPB West Sedgmoor on Saturday and saw a great many teal.

RSPB West Sedgemoor teal

My first picture of the day was taken very early in the morning indeed.  As I went to bed last night,  I was surprised to see that the moon was out and although it was lightly covered by a very thin cloud, I thought that I should celebrate being able to see it at all in the midst of our bad weather. This was six minutes after midnight.

full moon February

When I woke up this morning, the day was remarkably peaceful and dry.  After breakfast I got a call from fellow archivist Nancy to say that one of our microfiche readers wasn’t working and I was able to walk up to the Archive Centre without getting wet.

The Wauchope was unrecognisable from the river that we had seen on our way to church just a day ago and Mr Grumpy had found a quiet pool to stand in behind a bush.

calm after storm

After some head scratching and with a bit of a “let’s try that” technique, we got the reader to read again and I left Nancy to her work and walked home.  In spite of the improved weather conditions, the continuing brisk wind made me grateful for the warmth of my new coat.

In the garden I found the (small) host of daffodils had survived, a starling was doing some supervision…

in the garden after storm

…a first flower had appeared on the winter honeysuckle and Mary Jo’s rain gauge showed that quite a bit of rain had fallen.

The wind was no discouragement to the birds today though and enough goldfinches arrived to start a fight…

squabbling goldfinches

…though experience has led me to believe that sometimes two goldfinches are all you need to have a scrap.

Peace did break out and we got a collection of siskins and goldfinches that swapped places from time to time.

two triples on the feeder

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do some business and shopping  and I made some lentil soup for lunch.

Fortified by the soup, eaten with bread and cheese, we drove down to Canonbie to have a walk.  There were spots of rain as we drove down but luckily, the rain stopped when we got to the Byreburn Woods, and so we started our walk.

Our plan was to keep among the trees for as much of our walk as possible because the wind was very cold and the excellent path took us along in the shelter of some very tall conifers.

Byreburn Wood walk 1

Here is Mrs Tootlepedal giving a sense of scale.

Byreburn Wood walk 2

When we came out of the trees, some well constructed steps took us the steepest part of the hill….

Byreburn Wood walk 3

…and a handy bench provided us with a resting place at the top.

Byreburn Wood walk 4

The path is part of the Council’s Core Path Network and is well signposted and well maintained.

As we got to the most exposed part of the walk, there was a hint of sunshine…

Byreburn Wood walk 5

…which was fully realised as we came out of the wood and walked down the road…

Going down to Byre Burn

…to the modest bridge over the Byre Burn.

bridge at top of Byre Burn

We crossed the bridge and took the track which goes back down the hill alongside the Byre Burn itself.

fairy loup track

Here we spotted the only fungus we saw all walk…

fungus fairy loup track

…enjoyed the glowing moss on the bank above the track being picked out by the sun…

moss in sun fairy loup track

…and listened to the music of the burn…

cascade fairy loup track

…as it chattered over the little cascades on its way to the Fairy Loup and the River Esk.

cascade fairy loup track 2

We had to stop to take the obligatory picture of the Fairy Loup when we came to it, although the view would be greatly improved if someone would come along and trim the trees in front of it.

fairy loup february

When we got to the road at the bottom of the track,  we crossed this much more impressive bridge.  It carries the road which used to be the main Carlisle to Edinburgh trunk route.

Byreburn bridge A7

We had done two miles by the time that we got back to the car.  Although this was not a long walk, it had had a lot of variety on the way which had made it most rewarding.

When we got back to Langholm on our way home, it was obvious  that it had been raining in the town while we had been away.  This greatly added to the pleasure that we felt from our walk through the woods.

In the garden, there were signs of things to come.

crocus and hellebore promise

Mike Tinker’s tea radar was finely honed and he arrived just as the teapot was put on the table and we a good chat.  The Langholm Walks Group is planning to add a route from Canonbie to Langholm to its collection of waymarked walks and he told us that one section of this will go through the Byreburn Wood.

In the evening, my friend Luke came round with his flute and we had a go at a Quantz sonata.  We haven’t played it for some time and although we played a couple of movements, it was clear that we will need to practise a bit harder if it is to go smoothly.

Storm Ciara has treated us very lightly considering what happened not far from us.  There were damaging floods in Hawick and Appleby, Carlisle had floods again and the west coast main line railway was closed because of floods.  Meanwhile, I have been able to get out for a walk every day even if it has been too windy to cycle so I can’t complain.

This may change though, as the forecast for the week ahead is very uninviting and next weekend is due to bring us another very deep Atlantic depression.  The Norwegian forecast for our area is once again slightly better than the BBC’s so I think we will settle for the Norwegian arrangement and keep our fingers crossed.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, probably looking for a fight.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Gunta and shows that although her siskins on the west coast of the USA are not quite the same as ours, they do behave in a similar manner.

pine_siskins-24

We had a very windy day here today and there was frequent rain too, so Sandy did well to find a dry moment to walk down and have coffee with us.  His luck didn’t last though and I had to drive him back home through a downpour.

While we were drinking coffee, we were entertained by the desperate efforts of a jackdaw to hang onto a walnut tree twig in the stiff wind.

jackdaw flapping

(I think it is a jackdaw, it might be a crow.)

When I came back from taking Sandy home, it was time to take down the Christmas decorations as it was Twelfth Night today.  The Christmas tree, cleared of its tinsel and lights, was put out to get used to being outside again.   It will go back into a bed when the weather is better.  It is lurking in the shelter of the wheelie bin to protect it from the wind.

christmas tree outside

I went back in and watched the birds.

A robin was checking to see whether there was anything interesting up there.

robin peering

Perhaps it was counting goldfinches.

four goldfinches

I was happy to see any birds in the wind and rain but it was a rare moment when all the perches were in use on the feeder.

two siskins two goldfinches

And with the wind rocking the boat, birds had to hold on tight down here too.

goldfinch hanging on

It was a day for doing things indoors so I made some leek and potato soup for lunch and after lunch, I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.  Then I practised some choir songs.  We are going to have to learn songs off by heart so an early start is essential for me as I find retaining words and music very difficult.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that there won’t be clapping too.

Mrs Tootlepedal bravely cycled off to the shops and when she returned, she reported that the rain had stopped so I put on my new coat and took it out for a walk.

There were a lot of ducks about.  This bold bunch were swimming in the Esk through the waves below the Town Bridge…

esk ducks rough

…while this squad sailed in smoother waters nearer the bank.

esk ducks smooth

I crossed the bridge and found even more ducks resting on the banks of the Ewes Water.

kilngreen duck bankers

The light had got very gloomy by this time so I tried to sneak past the ducks without disturbing them.

I was spotted though.

white duck hiding

On the far back of the river, a familiar figure stood guard.

heron

At this point, the rain started again and got steadily heavier, giving my new coat a good test which it passed with flying colours.

The rain then stopped before I got home so I was quite dry when I joined Mrs Tootlepedal and our friend Mike, whose tea radar was once again finely honed, for a refreshing cup and some shortbread.

After Mike had gone, my flute pupil Luke turned up and we had fun playing.  The persistently damp weather doesn’t do our breathing any favours and we ran out of puff from time to time, but we did our best.

Because of the lack of colour in recent posts, I thought that I should take advantage of the Christmas season to put in two cut flower pictures, the first a gift from Clare and Alistair which is lasting well…

christmas flowers

…and the second a bunch of Alstroemeria which Mrs Tootlepedal bought to brighten the house.  They have repaid the purchase price handsomely.

alstroemeria

Flying birds were at  a premium in the gloom today and this was my best effort.

flying goldfinch

It is a mark of what the day was like that it almost seemed brighter after dark when the rain and wind subsided than it had been during the day.  The forecast is for tomorrow to be even worse .

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Today’s guest comes from our son Tony.  In spite of the endless sunshine, Christmas does come to East Wemyss and Tony likes to make good use of a log or two to welcome it.

Ant's snowman

The day started with a trip to church where we sang some cheerful hymns chosen by a visiting minister and followed that with a practice of the Hallelujah Chorus with which we are going to welcome our new permanent minister on Wednesday.

Mike reported that the Langholm Sings concert last night had gone well.  I had missed it because I was in Carlisle with my other choir, so that was good to hear because I don’t like missing concerts if I can help it.

We had a coffee when we got home and then I had a moment to look at the birds.  A goldfinch pointed out the the feeder was not in a satisfactory state after all the rain so I went out to shake it down and fill it up…

hollow in feeder

…after having had a conversation with our resident robin about which was its best side, this….

robin looking right

…or this?

robin looking left

When I had filled the feeder, goldfinches were slow to return.  This was a bit annoying because…

lone goldfinch

…the light was slightly better today…

goldfinch close up

…and there were a lot of goldfinches perching on our walnut tree and not coming to the feeder.

goldfinchs in waknut tree small group

And I mean a lot.

goldfinchs in waknut tree large group

I made some potato soup for lunch and while it was cooking, I had a damp walk round the garden.

This really is the last of the summer flowers…

last daisy

…though there are welcome signs of things to come next year…

new shoots

…and in the absence of flowers, there is always the chicken to admire.

topiary chicken december

Inside the house, Mrs Tootlepedal’s African violets continue to thrive.

african violet december

There was neither the time or the weather for a walk after lunch, as we had to go back to Carlisle, picking up a fellow choir member on the way, to sing in the second of our Carlisle Community Choir concerts.

This was a repeat of yesterday’s concert so I was able to correct yesterday’s errors and make a completely new set of mistakes today.  Nevertheless, it was enjoyable and well attended so the double concert was justified as it let more people enjoy the music than would have been possible with just one performance.  All the same, with three concerts and a church service in the past three days, I was quite pleased to get home and have a quiet sit down without having to worry about what I was going to sing the next day.

There is still a promise of sunshine tomorrow in the forecast so I am keeping my fingers crossed for an outing of some sort.

In spite of all the goldfinches in the walnut tree, this was the best that I could do for a flying bird today.

flying goldfinch observed

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia.  She was checking out a potential walk route when she came across this charming bridge and kindly thought of my fondness for bridge portraits.  The bridge spans the Brue, canalised in the 13th century.

venetia's bridge

We had another depressingly unphotogenic day here today.  It didn’t rain all day but once it had started, it didn’t stop and a very strong wind made going out unattractive even when it wasn’t raining.

I have learned from experience that if you are going to catch a train to Edinburgh from Lockerbie, it may well pay to check the rail company’s on-line information to see if the train is running late or even if it is running at all.

I was intending to visit Edinburgh in the afternoon to enjoy the light show that the Botanical Gardens there puts on in company with Matilda and her father so a check was in order.

I discovered that an earlier train had been cancelled but was pleased to find that mine was running and was due to be more or less on time.  Luckily, I delved a bit further and found that although my up train was there, the train I would need to catch to get back had been completely cancelled.  The next train would be two hours later and would lead to me getting home near midnight. As the alternative would involve ninety miles of driving to Tweedbank in very poor weather conditions, I rang Alistair up and told him that Matilda and he would have to have illuminated fun without me.  He was sad but understood.  He added that the weather in Edinburgh was not too bad.

With nothing better to do, I checked on the birds and was pleased to find that a small gang of goldfinches had turned up.

goldfinches on a windy day 1

The feeder was less than half full…

goldfinches on a windy day 2

…and a bit of a queue had formed…

goldfinches on a windy day 4

…so I wen t out and filled the feeder and put out some fat balls too.

I went back in and readied the camera for a charming collection of avian action shots.

I didn’t see another bird all day.

This may have been because the wind was getting even stronger and when I looked out of the back door at lunch time, I could see smoke from a neighbour’s chimney being blown horizontally off the top of the stack.

garden on a wet day

I couldn’t see any of our hills at all.

Still, I was getting a bit fidgety and when I checked again after lunch and found that it was only raining lightly, I did a full John and went for a walk.

It was gloomy and the wind gave me a few vigorous buffets as I walked up the hill towards the Becks track.  It wasn’t a very promising day….

miserable afternoon

…and it promptly got worse as it began to rain malevolently.  It stayed that way until the end of my two mile walk.  I was well waterproofed so I was comfortable enough but my new camera stayed safely in pocket except for one moment when I was well sheltered by an overhanging bank…

becks burn on a gloomy day

…but to be honest, I was more concerned with getting home than taking pictures anyway.

When I did get home, Mrs Tootlepedal told me that our son had rung up to say that the bad weather had reached Edinburgh and the Botanical Gardens had cancelled the illuminating event so the decision not to drive 90 miles through tempest, storm and flood began to look like one of my better ones.

We are hoping that we may get to go next week instead (weather permitting)

I put some of the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive Group database while my trouser cuffs dried off.

The reason that I was going to Edinburgh by myself was that Mrs Tootlepedal’s community land purchase group had arranged a public consultation meeting for this evening.  She went off worrying as to whether anyone would come out to be consulted in such vile weather.  As she has not come back by the time that I write this though, I can only assume that people did turn up.  I hope so because an immense amount of work has been done by the group.

I nearly got a flying bird before the goldfinches went off when I filled the feeder.

goldfinches on a windy day 3

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Today’s guest picture is another from the East Wemyss riviera where the sun always shines it seems.  Our son Tony sent us this shadowy portrait of one of his dogs.

shadowy wemyss dog

The run of cool, dry weather continued today and we needed a coat to keep us warm as we cycled to church after breakfast to sing in the choir.  There was a very good attendance as it was a baptism service, the second in a row.  To my surprise, our ex-minister Scott came down from Glasgow to conduct the service.  It was a great pleasure to meet him again and I was very envious when he told me that he had taken part in an 85 mile cycle sportive yesterday.  He was feeling rather stiff as he has not had the opportunity to a lot of training but he managed very well when he was left holding the baby during the baptism.

After we got home, I had a cup of coffee and a walk round the garden.  My feet had been very sore yesterday so I put Sunday to good use by making it a day of rest today and the walk round the garden was as far as I went.

The cool weather has put growth on hold but there are occasional signs of what is to come and the apple blossom is doing well regardless.

four red-pink flowers

I always like nature’s attention to geometry and my eye was caught by the diagonals on the Solomon’s seal…

solomons seal diagonals

…and the design of the cow parsley.

cow parsley geometry

One rhododendron bud remained tightly furled..

rhododendron bus

…while another had opened up to interested visitors.

inside a white rhododendron

A Welsh poppy didn’t look as though it had attracted any pollinators yet…

welsh poppy may

…and the garden did not have many bees about at all.

One plant that is enjoying the weather is the Lithodora which has never looked so good.

lithodora May

It did attract a bee but it flew off before I could catch it on camera.

Pulsatillas are rewarding little flowers because not only are they pretty when in bloom, but they also look rather dashing when their seed heads appear.

pulsatilla seed head

I didn’t stay out long as it was rather chilly.

The feeder was busy again and goldfinches and siskins were playing copycat.  First it was ‘who could give the best sideways look’…

sideways glances

…and then it was ‘who could stand up straightest’.

standing up straight contest

Some birds were bad losers and resorted to violence.

goldfinch arrowing in on siskin

A sparrow made an attempt to get some seed and got the usual cheery welcome from a siskin.

flying sparrow unwelcome

After lunch we went off to Carlisle in the zingy little white thingy.   As it is an electric car and we are new to driving it, we spend a lot of time watching the meter which tells you how many theoretical miles you have left in the battery and comparing it to how many miles we have actually done..

This encourages very smooth driving with a light touch on the accelerator.  It is early days yet but if the battery continues to behave, it looks as though we will have  a range of comfortably over 100 miles as long as we are not in a hurry.  This is all we need for our normal use.

When we got home after another excellent afternoon’s singing with our Carlisle choir, we plugged the car into the wall socket and it was feeding time at the Zoe.

feeding time at the zoe

As the plug goes right into the nose of the car, it feels a lot like putting a nosebag on a horse after a hard day pulling a carriage.

The flying bird of the day is the sparrow, still trying to find a way to get some seed.

flying sparrow

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He came across this wonderful cave on one of his walks.  Thor’s Cave (also known as Thor’s House Cavern and Thyrsis’s Cave) is a natural cavern located at in the Manifold Valley of the White Peak in Staffordshire,

thor's cave

I got up quite early for me but an early bird had got up even earlier.

partrisge at breakfast

A partridge was out after seed rather than worms.

After breakfast I drove our Kangoo down to Carlisle where I traded it in for a smaller little white thingy which we hope is going to carry us about but need a lot less in the way of running  repairs.

I checked that the new car was going to be fit for purpose by stopping off on the way home to buy a big bag of bird seed.  The car carried it well.

Mrs Tootlepedal couldn’t come with me as she had to stay at home as the garage doors were being painted and she was waiting for a gas engineer to arrive.  The gas engineer had not arrived by the time that I got back and I had time to look at a bee on a dicentra..

bee on dicentra

…the trillums, which continue to do well in a shady corner…

trillium

…and signs of good things to come.  The first flower on the strawberries, the first row of lettuces and some broad beans waiting to be planted out.

strawb, lettuce and beans

The painter finished the undercoat and the gas engineer arrived.  He came to service the boiler which had developed a fault. He discovered that the boiler needs  a new part and we need a new thermostat and as he didn’t have either, he will come back tomorrow and fit them then.

After lunch, we tested the new little white thingy to see if it was up to Mrs Tootlepedal’s requirements by going off to collect some wood chippings to cover paths between the new beds in the vegetable garden.  We filled up the boot with buckets of chippings and we were nearly home, when I forgot that the new car is an automatic and stood heavily on the brake thinking that it was the clutch.  This brought the car to a sudden stop and tipped all the buckets of wood chips over.  What fun we had clearing the chippings out.

I will have to practice driving without a clutch and gear stick.

I sat down to watch the birds for a while and to recover from all this excitement.

The birds were rather dull.  First a set of goldfinches…

four goldfinches

…and then a more varied selection.

siskin, repoll goldfinch

But there weren’t many and so I went out and looked for bees in the garden.  They were quite a few buzzing about, visiting the apple blossom…

bee on apple

…and hanging out on the rosemary with well filled pollen sacs.

bee on rosemary

Back on the feeder pole, a blackbird issued a challenge to all comers…

blackbird speaking

…and waited to see if anyone would take him up.

blackbird silent

In the early evening my flute pupil Luke came and we had a useful session, concentrating on musicality and phrasing to good effect.

After he left, I got my bike out and went off to see if my feet were up to a few miles pedalling.

It had been a beautiful sunny day but I hadn’t got far before the clouds gathered together to blot out the sun .  However, it was warm and dry so I enjoyed my ride.

clouds assembling

I stopped to look at two lambs…

two lambs

…which were bleating loudly.  I soon found out that this was because they were part of a small group of lambs on one side of a little stream and their parent were on the other side, also bleating loudly.

lost lambs

The lambs got safely back across though and by the time that I came past on my way back, the families were reunited.

While I was taking these pictures, I was passed by a couple of young ladies out for a bike ride themselves.  Seeing them whizzing up the road, I thought that I ought to try a bit harder too and although I couldn’t catch them up, I pedalled a lot more quickly than I usually do.  Luckily they turned off before I killed myself but all the same, my average speed for my little 12 mile ride was considerably faster than of late.  Pride is a great motivator.

Mrs Tootlepedal had cooked an tasty meal and I was pleased to sit down and eat it when I got home.

We are expecting the painter, the gas man and an electrician tomorrow so it will be a full day.

Flying birds were few and far between and this one nearly got a way before I could catch it.

flying siskin

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