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Posts Tagged ‘goldfinches’

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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Today’s guest picture comes from my ex colleague Marjorie who sent me this picture of a misty Schiehallion taken during her highland break over the festive season.

schiehallion

We woke to another chilly grey day here but the weather forecast suggested that a little sunshine might be available in the afternoon.  This turned out to be one of the forecasters little jokes but it didn’t matter as we had our own little ray of sunshine today in the form of a visit from our friend Sue.

She came in time for a coffee and not only were we pleased to see her, but we were pleased to see a small flock of birds at the feeder to entertain us as we sipped and chatted.

busy feeder

There was a constant coming and going for a while…

birds coming and going

…with visits from jackdaws to the fat ball feeder as well.

jackdaws in elder

In order to work up an appetite for lunch, we went for a walk to the top of Whita Hill after coffee.  Well, in fact, we went for a drive up to the White Yett and then walked the three quarters of mile up the easy track…

sue and mrs t on whita

…to the summit.

The track has a fine collection of boulders with colourful lichens at the bottom….

lichen at mcdiarmid memorial

…and an even more colourful set of lichens on the wall at the top.

lichen at whita summit

I took a worm’s eye view of the lightning conductor that is embedded in one side of the monument…

worms eye view of monument

…looked over the wall at the mist shrouded valleys to the south….

view over tarras

…and then we walked gently back down the track and admired the MacDiarmid memorial outlined against the Ewes Valley.

mcdiarmid memorial and ewes valley

The memorial celebrates the life and work of Langholm’s most famous poetical son, Hugh MacDiarmid.

mcdiarmid memorial

The sculpture is in the form of an open book and is constructed in Corten steel and bronze. Corten is a weathering steel which oxidises on the surface; it forms a protective skin and therefore requires no maintenance and to my eye, it looks thoroughly at home among the hills which MacDiarmid loved.

When we got home, Sue tried out our new bench and declared it to be very comfortable even in January.

 

sue and mrs t at bench

We marvelled at the rosemary, which thanks to the protected spot that it lives in, is still in flower…

december rosemary

…and then we went in to a lunch of curried parsnip soup and cheese flan provided by Mrs Tootlepedal.

Sue is one of the recorder group with whom I have played for many years and after lunch, she and I played a selection of duets while Mrs Tootlepedal got on with the crochet blanket she is making.

All too soon, it was time for Sue to head for home and while Mrs Tootlepedal continued with her crochet, I made an unavailing effort to solve the Saturday prize crossword.  Usually these crosswords yield to concentrated effort but today’s one has got me baffled.  I shall sleep on it and try again tomorrow.

All being well, we shall see Sue again tomorrow as she sings in our Carlisle choir and it meets for the first time in 2019 tomorrow afternoon.  I am looking forward to it.

There are not one but two flying birds of the day today which is cheering.

two flying goldfinches

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary and shows that she was in the right place at the right time to catch the sun illuminating a dogwood in Regents Park.

burning bush

December ended as it has been going on recently with a dry, mostly grey and reasonably warm day.  I was taking a break from cycling so I enjoyed the final coffee and scones of 2018 with Dropscone.  He had not lost any of his scone making skill over the holiday period so this was a good way to end the social year.

Along with Dropscone, we were visited by more birds than we have been seeing lately which was also welcome.

Goldfinches were queuing up to get a seat at the table…

many flying goldfinches

…and competing fiercely for the privilege.

flying goldfinches

Sometimes they let their good manners slip in their anxiety to snatch a sunflower heart from the feeder.

stamping goldfinch

And all too frequently, seeds went flying in the midst of all the excitement.

flying bird seed

Although it was pretty grey, it was a pleasant day so after Dropscone left, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went for a walk in the woods.  To give ourselves a good start, we drove a mile or so out of the town and parked next to a large fallen tree that had been sawn up and left beside the road.

Where the trunk had split, it was covered  in white fungus.

rotten tree

We walked up the track past the Longwood fields and passed many trees, some that stood proudly…

Longwood tree

…and some that were curiously knotted and twisted.

twisted tree

When we got to the woods, there was fungus, both big and small to be seen…

fungus in woods

…a dingly dell to cross…

dingly dell

…and a track through the old oak wood to follow.

oak wood

We were only out for a short walk so as soon as we got to the top of the oak wood, we headed back past a river of moss….

river of moss

…and made our return journey downhill through a birch wood that has grown up beside the oaks.

birch wood

We were going to take a diversion on our route back to the car by going along the old railway line, but fallen trees provided an obstacle….

old railway

….that was too low to crawl under and too high to jump over so we retraced our steps and went back by the path along the field.

This gave us the chance to enjoy the sight of a chestnut tree standing in a very neat pool of its own leaves.

chestnut with leaves

When we got back to the road, I took a moment to check out a favourite mossy wall…

mossy wall

…which was rich in interest…

lichen and moss on wall

…for those who like this sort of thing, among whom is numbered yours truly.

We had a walk round our garden when we got home and I was pleased to find that the sweet rocket had managed another flower or two, a single snowdrop was showing a touch of colour and a groundsel was growing in the drive.  The groundsel pleased me for its little patch of colour…

three late flowers

…but Mrs Tootlepedal was not so happy about it and it soon suffered from being comprehensively weeded.

After lunch, the last of the duck soup, a weak sun appeared for a while and illuminated a dove and a pigeon in the plum tree.

dove and pigeon

It also lit up the holly in our neighbour’s garden.

bright holly in garden

I did think of going for another walk to take advantage of the sun but I dithered a bit and by the time that I came to make a decision, the sun had gone and the clouds were grey again.

This was the moment that a robin came out.

robin on chair

I spent so much time thinking of things that I might do in the afternoon and so little time in actually doing anything useful that it was time for the evening meal before I knew it. Still ending the year on a restful note was no bad thing and I should be full of pep when 2019 arrives tomorrow.  Here’s hoping.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the patient and forbearing readers of these posts over the past year for their company which makes writing and taking pictures very rewarding.  I would like also to express special gratitude for those who add their many kind, amusing and useful comments.

The honour of being the final flying bird of the year has fallen to this goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

I don’t usually end with a quote but I think think Robert Burns speaks for many when he wrote to the wee. sleekit, timorous mouse words which apply just as well to the politics of 2018 and 2019:

“But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!”

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Today’s guest picture from my brother Andrew shows the Christmas skating rink in Derby.  These seasonal rinks have become very popular and we passed one in Edinburgh on Thursday.  I would think that skating on a wet day like this would encourage the skaters to stay upright at all costs.

derby skating rink

It was calm and misty when we got up and the goldfinches on the plum tree were outlined against the greyness.

misty godlfinches

Although we are still short of finches, there are larger birds about all the time.  This collared dove seems to have missed out as it came down with two other doves and they made faces at it and flew off.

collared dove

We flew off ourselves, although it was low level flying by bicycle as we went to church for the Sunday Club’s nativity service.  The mist was lying over the town as we got to the river.

sdr

The nativity service was charming so we enjoyed the service although there was not much for the choir to do.

When we got home, more large birds were about in the shape of a small platoon of jackdaws pecking away at the lawn and making holes in it.

jackdaw right foot up

They were putting their best foot forward.

jackdaw left foot up

I was very happy to see a couple of coal tits back collecting sunflower seeds but there was no sign of blue or great tits about.

coal tit

Mike Tinker tells me that they have had blue tits visiting but they have not had a great number of finches at their feeder.

We had moments of action today but the feeder is still going down very slowly.

busy feeder

After a cheese and tomato toastie for my lunch, courtesy of the George Foreman grill, I left the birds to it and spent an hour on my bike.

It was the first day for sometime with little wind and I enjoyed myself by visiting this tree twice, making for a fourteen mile ride.

Wauchope schoolhouse tree

I was extremely pleased to manage 14 miles in just under an hour but even with only a light wind, I found myself getting chilly and losing feeling in my fingers in spite of my warm gloves so I stopped after two turns up the road and went for a walk with Mrs Tootlepedal instead.  We did three bridges.

The hardy hill cattle weren’t feeling the chill and were chomping away on the very top of Castle Hill.

cows on top of Castle Hill

There was plenty of water coming down the Esk…

ripple in river

…and the black headed gulls were back on their posts at the Kilngreen.  A reader has asked what benefit they get from perching on the posts and I had to admit that I have no idea why they like it there.

Maybe it is just that it gives them a good view of the passers by.

gulls on posts

We had a look for dippers or other birds as we paused on the Sawmill Brig but there were none to be seen so I looked at lichen instead.

lichen on Sawmill Brig

We took the new path round the Castleholm and stopped to looked at the pair of noble firs at the corner of the path.  I have tried to find out about these trees.  One of the pair has a lot of these under every new set of needles…

noble fir flowers

…and I think these are the male strobili.  The other tree seems to bear the female cones and few if any male strobili but I don’t know if this is just an accident or a normal thing when there are two trees close together.

We found a cone that was well past its best.

noble for cone

Following Joe’s very fine picture of our daughter standing in a loch which appeared in yesterday’s post, I tried to encourage Mrs Tootlepedal to stand in the middle of the river today so I could try for a similar shot.

She was not enthusiastic and headed for home.

Mrs T stepping out

The cold was settling down on the Castleholm and a fine mist covered the cricket ground as we headed for our final bridge.

mist on cricket pitch

We were pleased to get into the warmth of the house where our one metre high Christmas tree has been decorated by Mrs Tootlepedal.

christmas tree decorated

I like a reflective bauble.

christmas tree baubles

We discovered that we had missed the delivery of our Christmas fare from the butcher while we were out.  I had got muddled and thought it was due tomorrow.  We were rather alarmed by the thought of just plain bread and butter for Christmas dinner but fortunately a phone call caught the driver before he had left the town and the situation was saved.

Sandra's woodpeckerIn answer to my question as to whether other local bird feeders were short of birds, I was sent this picture of a visitor to her feeder by Sandra who lives on the edge of town and gets regular visits from nuthatchesand the woodpeckers.

Another reader from the country tells me that that they too are getting woodpeckers and nuthatches, while a correspondent from Canonbie says that they have been short of birds this last week.  It seems that though there are plenty of bigger birds about, finches have seriously dropped in numbers for the moment at least.

 

I did manage to find some goldfinches on our feeder today and here is one of them as flying bird of the day.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He was watching this team of rowers battling into a very strong wind during the recent storm when he heard unsympathetic onlookers on the bank shouting, “Faster!”

nottingham rowers

The wind had dropped here today but it was still raining when we got up.  I looked at Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge in the evening and found that there has been three inches of rain this week.

I went along to the producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre after breakfast and replenished our supplies of cheese, honey and fish and meat.  There were plenty of stalls and a good crowd of buyers so every one seemed happy.

When I got home, I peered at the birds and found that most of our visitors were goldfinches again…

_DSC8869

…with the now familiar coal tits in evidence…

_DSC8871

…and the jackdaw with the white feathers too.

_DSC8874

The rain persisted all morning but I had a stubborn crossword to struggle with so the time passed and after lunch, the rain eased off and I got ready to go out for a cycle ride.

I was just leaving when my neighbour Liz phoned and told me to look at her garage roof.

I looked and saw two partridges.  The partridges are birds that are put out for shooting parties to take pot shots at so these two had sensibly got out of the woods and into the town where they will only be subject to people shooting them with a camera.

_DSC8879

I hoped that when I got back from my cycle ride that I would find them in the pear tree in our garden and thus solve the Christmas present question.

There were still a few drops of rain about when I set off up the road but it wasn’t too cold, the rain soon stopped and the wind was behind me so I was contented enough.

The light didn’t improve though and I only stopped once on my 12 mile ride.

P1150754

A quick walk round the garden when I got back also only produced a single shot. The snowberries seemed appropriate for the first official day of winter.

P1150756

The partridges were in our garden when I cycled in, but I alarmed them and they scurried off so I didn’t get a chance to put out seed to tempt them into the pear tree.

I didn’t have long to get changed.

The town’s Christmas lights were due to be switched on and our choir had been asked to go and sing carols with a group of players from the Langholm Town Band.  Mrs Tootlepedal came with me and we squeezed onto this little platform outside the Town Hall, looking for all the world like a Punch and Judy show.

P1150758

We sang twice and in between efforts, I sneaked along the road to see the reindeer in the yard of the Buck Hotel, regular visitors to his event.

P1150764

This one was getting a feed of lichen.

The High Street was very festive with a good crowd out to welcome Mrs and Mrs Santa Claus, listen to the band and see a variety of entertaining turns as they gathered outside the Eskdale Hotel waiting for the  big switch on.

P1150769

The lights came on right on schedule and the Christmas tree looked very fine.

mde

Cars had to make their way carefully between the throng…

sdr

…and there was some of the fun of the fair for younger people.

sdr

There was even a flurry of snow but it has to be said that this came from two ingenious snow guns.

P1150774

It was a very cheerful event.

I enjoyed a small fillet of sea bass for my tea, a fish that I had never cooked before.  I will certainly cook it again as it extremely easy to cook and it turned out to be very tasty.

The varied activities, combined with unusually interesting programmes on the telly in the evening, left me feeling that winter hasn’t been bad so far.  Long may this happy state of affairs continue.

The flying bird of the day wasn’t available so a posing partridge is standing in.

_DSC8876

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is from my sister Mary who visited the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

Tragalgar Square

It was a sunny day here when we got up but far too cold to be able to risk a cycle ride with frost about so I pottered about until Sandy arrived with some Archive Group documents and we had a cup of coffee.  He and Nancy did a great job in moving Archive Group to their new premises with the help of a very obliging pair of ‘moving men’ and we hope that our data miners will soon get used to the new surroundings.

Dropscone has been  our landlord in our old premises for many years and we hope that he will be able find a good use for them now that we are gone.

When Sandy left, he took the sunshine with him and the day got progressively gloomier as it went on.  I decided to cook some tea cakes, using a method that is easy but time consuming in  the preparation of the dough so I had time to look out of the window at the passing show.

It was perching time for the goldfinches.

goldfinches perching

goldfinch on feeder

Once again, the old sunflower stalk was a handy staging post.

goldfinch on sunflower

Sometimes goldfinches waited for sparrows to move….

goldfinch and sparrow

…and sometimes sparrows encouraged goldfinches to move….

goldfinches and sparrow

…and sometimes chaffinches managed to get a look in too.

chaffinces staring at goldfinch

The tea cake method involves very light stretching of the dough rather than heavy kneading but it has gaps of a quarter of an hour between stretches so I had many looks out of the window while waiting for the next stretch and as well as birds at the feeder, I saw a dunnock…

dunnock

…and a blackbird scavenging for fallen seeds on the ground.

blackbird below

After a while, the dough was ready for its first rising so I had lunch and then while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to see a screening of a Degas exhibition at the Buccleuch Centre, I went off to collect my new bicycle from the bike shop where it had been having a service.  Although I had taken it in to the Carlisle branch, they had kindly brought it back to the shop in Longtown for me to collect it so I didn’t have far to go.

When I got home, I divided the tea cake dough into balls for the second rise and considered my options.

The day had got very gloomy by this time, with a brisk breeze and a hint of rain so once again I neither walked nor pedalled but went to work on my computer until Mrs Tootlepedal got back from her screening when we had a cup of tea.

Then it was time to bake the tea cakes and since the recipe is generally fool proof, they came out quite well.

dav

They enlivened with currants and raisins and spiced with cinnamon and ginger.

In the evening, one of the tenors from Langholm Sings came round and we did a little practising.  We shall see if it pays off when we meet tomorrow for our next rehearsal.

The forecast for tomorrow is appalling so I don’t think that there will be any chance of a pedal on my newly serviced bike.

In fact, November has not been kind to me from a cycling point of view recently.  I see that I only did 58 miles last year in the whole month because the weather was very poor and I had a persistent cold and so far I have only done half that distance this year with three days to go.  I might have to take issue with the poet who thought that April is the cruellest month.

The flying bird of the day is two goldfinches showing off their flying skills.

Flying goldfinches

 

 

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