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Posts Tagged ‘great tit’

Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s Namibian adventure.  She came across one of their famous two headed giraffes and sent me this shot.  It may have more legs than the usual giraffe too.

giraffe

Our sunny weather came to an end today and we had grey skies and rather chillier temperatures but it remained dry so we didn’t have much to complain about at at all.

After breakfast, I noticed a red poll on our feeder…

redpoll late Feb

…and I also noted that not all the birds who come to our garden visit the feeder.  Some just lurk about on trees and bushes like this blackbird and these starlings.

blackbird and starling

I had to act as fill-in feeder filler for Sandy who was visiting his grandchildren and Mrs Tootlepedal came up to the Moorland Project bird hide with me to help.  We filled the feeders and then, while she scanned the hillside opposite the bird hide for signs of raptors (in vain), I sat in the hide and hoped for woodpeckers (also in vain).

There were a lot of great tits about…

great tits at Laverock

…and colourful pheasants as usual…

pheasant head

…but mostly there were chaffinches in large numbers.

We didn’t stay there long as the light wasn’t very good and it was chilly but instead of going straight home, we parked the car not far away and walked down towards the River Tarras  to see how the repairs to the road were going.

In December 2105, the road suffered from a landslip in a big storm…

tarras road landslip

…and the council has just got round to repairing it three and a bit years later.

It is a big job, requiring endless visits from quarry lorries…

tarras roadworks

…and they are of course damaging the surfaces of many of the roads over which they travel on the way to the site.

In the picture above, the compression of distance caused by the camera lens doesn’t show that the old road stops where the brown surface ends and they have cut away the banking below by a huge amount.

You can see the line of the old road on the right of the picture below and it gives some idea of the scale of the work needed for the repair.

tarras roadworks scene

How they are going to join the road back up to its original course defies my imagination.  I shall be interested to follow the work as it progresses.

While we were walking along  the road to and from the works, we saw a great many hazel catkins and I said to Mrs Tootlepedal that there might be hazel flowers too if we looked closely.

We looked closely.

hazel flower and catkins

They were were hard to see but once we got our eye in, we could see dozens of them.

hazel flower tarras road

As we left the work site, the keen eyed Mrs Tootlepedal spotted another blotch of red and thought that it was discarded orange peel.  A second look showed that it was a scarlet elf cap (Sarcoscypha coccinea), a fungus that likes damp spots and leaf litter.

Sarcoscypha coccinea

Further up the road, she stopped to look at a tree and I pointed out that if she looked down at her feet she would see another twenty elf cups all around.

Sarcoscypha coccinea elf cup

She was impressed.

What with the excitement of seeing the road works, the elf cups and the hazel flowers, we forgot about the absence of raptors and woodpeckers and arrived home in time for coffee in a very cheerful mood.

The frogs had left the pond so I looked around for flowers.  Some hellebores keep their heads up in a helpful way….

hellebore heads up

…but others call for crouching.

head down hellebore

Fresh primroses are blooming.

new primroses

Once we got inside and started on our coffee, I was able to enjoy some busy scenes at the feeder.

busy feeder

A siskin took a moment to survey the scene from the top of the feeder pole…

siskin on feeder pole

…while down below, it was all action in siskin world.

squalling siskins

It was good to see a dozen siskins at the feeder today, the most we have seen this year.

I made some soup for lunch while Mrs Tootlepedal considered the business of making a patchwork rug for the rocking horse.  She has time to do this because the crochet blanket has now been finished.

finished crochet blanket

It has provided a very welcome distraction during the long winter nights.

Then  it was time to go to Edinburgh and see Matilda.  We had our usual enjoyable time and another good evening meal before catching the train home.  Matilda told us that she would like to come and visit us for a change so I hope that this can be arranged in the not too distant future.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch who posed more carefully than any of the siskins.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s just picture comes from Mrs Tootlepedal’s brother, Mike.  He planted some daffodils to brighten the road verge opposite his house and is pleased that his work has born fruit.  Being 300 miles south of Langholm, his daffodils are already out.

Mike daffodils

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Carlisle after an early breakfast to help sort out the music library for  our Carlisle choir.  This is a big job with 130 copies of every piece of music we sing needing to be sorted and stored.

While she was gone I looked out into the garden on another grey day.

The feeder was busy…

busy feeder

…and on the mossy lawn, a pigeon was putting its best foot forward.

pigeon on lawn

I had put out some fat balls and they had attracted jackdaws.

jackdaws on feeder

There was no shortage of flying birds to be seen even if there was a bit of a shortage of light to see them by.

flying chaffinches and goldfinches

Sandy came round for coffee.  He was in an exceptionally good mood because he had just enjoyed a thoroughly good night’s sleep, a thing so rare as to be be priced above pearls.

While we sipped and chatted, we were joined by some greenfinches…

flying greenfinches

…and a very unusually marked jackdaw.  I have never seen one like this before.

speckled jackdaw

After coffee, we went up to visit the Moorland project feeders in the glade at the Laverock hide as it was Sandy’s day to act as feeder filler.  After filling the feeders, we lurked in the hide for a while.  There were plenty of birds about, mostly chaffinches but with a good number of great and blue tits too.

blue and great tits Laverock

As with my garden, there were no winter visitors to be seen at all.  This is a bit worrying as there seems to be no reason not see our usual migrants.  I hope it is a one off and  not a sign of things to come.

We didn’t stay too long and when Sandy stopped at the Co-op on our way back to buy a local paper (full of articles by Dropscone this week), I took the opportunity to get out too and walk home along the river in the hope of seeing something interesting.

The hope was amply fulfilled as I saw a goosander…

goosander

…two oyster catchers…

two oyster catchers

…three dippers…

dippers in esk

…and a single white duck.

white duck

It was still pretty grey and most of the birds were a bit too far away from the bank for good pictures but it was encouraging to see them.  I snapped the church too while I was passing…

church on a grey day

…and a bit of typical Langholm street life.  Dog walking is a popular activity in our town.

alan and dogs

When I got home, I made some soup and then dashed out into the garden when the sun came out.

sunny crocuses

I didn’t have time to enjoy the sunshine and go for a walk or a pedal though as I had to go off to drive to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh.

It was a day of sophisticated travel arrangements as Matilda and her family were flying back from a family party in Dublin over lunch and Mrs Tootlepedal planned to catch the train from Carlisle that I was aiming to catch 20 minutes later in Lockerbie.  It is on days like this that the mobile phone really comes into is own and the flight and train journey went smoothly as planned and we all met in Edinburgh on schedule.

Matilda then took Mrs Tootlepedal and me for a walk in the woods.  We scaled the heights…

sdr

…passed all sorts of interesting plants like this St John’s Wort…

dav

…and came out at the top of a small hill from which we could see Edinburgh Castle in the distance  over the roofs.

dig

The rest of the afternoon was spent in catching up on news of the trip to Ireland, being coached by Matilda in the proper use of the alphabet, watching clips from Matilda’s dancing school’s annual show on DVD and eating another tasty meal.

We got safely back to Lockerbie on the train and drove home as the temperature dropped back to freezing again.

It is supposed to be warm and sunny tomorrow after a chilly start.  I live in hope.

The flying bird of the day is one of the oyster catchers making off down river.

flying oyster catcher

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone and shows the bridge over the Tay.  He visited Dundee with his daughter Susan earlier this month.

Tay road bridge

We had another grey day here but marginally less grey than yesterday and as it was warmer, it was quite welcome.

After breakfast, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went up to the Laverock Hide at the Moorland feeders.  I was acting as a fill-in feeder filler for Bob who was away having festive fun with his far flung family.

The feeders needed filling and almost as soon as I had finished, they became very busy.  There may not be many chaffinches in our garden but there were a lot of them here.

There were a lot of pheasants too and this pair was having an ill-natured squabble outside the hide…

sparring pheasants

…which was causing some distress to a watching chaffinch.

wary chaffinch

Apart from the chaffinches, there were not a lot of other birds about, though I saw one distant woodpecker…

distant woodpecker

…and a small but noticeable selection of blue, coal and great tits.

moorland feeder great tit, blue tit and coal tit

I was very pleased to see a good number of birds about, even they weren’t very interesting but the light was rotten and if I had seen any interesting birds, I might not have been able to get decent pictures.  The flying birds were just a blur.

moorland chaffinches

We had coffee when we got back and then I went out for a short pedal.   It was breezy and I wanted to go shopping later in the afternoon so I settled for three seven mile repetitions in my outdoor gym, the road to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back.    This may sound a little boring but the challenge is to try to go a bit faster on each lap and I managed to increase my speed marginally on the outward uphill trips but the effort was too much for me and I was slower rather than faster on my third downhill leg and just failed to hit the magic (for me) 14 mph average speed.

Still, the challenge made the ride interesting and I didn’t waste any time trying to take good pictures in unsuitable light.

I had a look round the garden for any sign of colour when I got home but all I could find was this fairly bright box ball recovering from a severe pruning..

box ball

Mrs Tootlepedal had created a delicious duck soup for my lunch and after supping a bowlful and having a shower, I went off with her to do a bit of shopping in Carlisle.

I had in mind to replenish my stocks of dates and prunes and other dried fruit and would have done so if the shop we were visiting had been open but it wasn’t so I didn’t.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a particular shade of paint in her mind and we were quite excited when her shop turned out to be open but less enthusiastic when just about the only shade of paint that they didn’t have among hundreds on display was her desired one.

We drove home in a subdued mood but were cheered up by watching an excellent running of the King George VI steeplechase at Kempton Park on catch-up TV.  Mrs Tootlepedal’s fancy came a close second.

With both our choirs in recess at the moment, we were able to  have a quiet night in and the restful evening was very welcome.

No flying bird today, but a rather wary chaffinch from the Moorland Feeders is standing in.

Laverock hide chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is from our son Tony and shows that the temperature was lower in Fife than it was here this morning.

frosty wemyss walk

We had been promised a day of freezing fog so it was a pleasant surprise to find no fog and a temperature of two degrees above zero when we got up.   It was still too cold for cycling though as I am resolved not to risk hitting any icy patches this winter so I had a relaxing morning of chatting to Mrs Tootlepedal and making ginger biscuits.

I had a good deal of time to stare out of the window and was happy to see one or two birds making a welcome re-appearance at the feeder.

I caught a great tit in the plum tree…

great tit in plum tree

…a redpoll on the feeder…

redpoll in december

…and a blackbird on the ground below.

blackbird head

There were visits from a robin and a blue tit too but these went unrecorded as they were too quick for me.

The jackdaws were back again…

jackdaw on chimney

…but there was still not a great number of finches.  I met two neighbours this morning, one of whom reported that his garden was short of small birds and the other who had many sparrows but no finches.

It was still only 2°C at lunch time but it was such a nice day that a walk was in order even if cycling was not on the menu so after  a cheese and chutney sandwich, I set off to walk up to the monument.

There were no flowers to be seen except the occasional gorse bush but some bright lichen on a small bush beside the track caught my eye.

lichen on Kirk Wynd

I was resolved to see if I could walk up the hill to the monument without stopping but one or two views compelled me to pause for a second or two.

ewes valley december

This is what lay ahead.

up to the monument

Although the ground looks a bit rough, there is a path all the way to the top and I was soon looking back on the lower hills across the valley…Castle hill

…and it didn’t take me too long to get to the top of the hill and look over the wall across the Tarras valley.  The camera makes it all look rather flat but it would be very hard work to walk across the moor, down across the river and then up to that hill in the distance which is quite a bit higher than Whita.

tinnis hill

Looking out to the west, I could see Criffel, 30 miles away, rising above a sea of mist over the Nith estuary.   We were obviously getting the best of the weather.

Criffel above mist

Looking around I could see a mixture of commercial forest and sheep grazing grounds.  It seems as though we are going to have more forestry and less sheep round here in the future as the grants system makes timber more profitable than meat at the moment.

grazing and woodland

I took a zig zag route back down the hill as the direct route is steep and would have been hard on my knees and as I walked down the track towards the White Yett, the low sun picked out these heather clumps…

heather lumps

…and I cast a long shadow as I went.

big shadow on whita

I didn’t go right down to the road but followed the track that the riders come up at the Common Riding back down towards the golf course.

Below me, I could see that the woodcutters had left the pines standing when they otherwise cleared felled the wood at Hillhead.

pines left at Hillhead

I passed a small tree as i came down the hill.  Trees like this are very scarce where the ground has sheep on it but once the sheep are taken off, trees start to grow quickly.

tree on whita

A little cairn marked my route down the hill…

 

cairn on Birnie Braes

…and I came safely back to the top of the golf course with my knees intact.

Looking down towards England, I could see the Lake District hills in the distance, looming over the mist covered Solway plain.

mist over solway

We were still mist free and the golf course was very peaceful….

5th green

…as I walked down the side of the course without being disturbed by cries of “fore!” or being hit by a golf ball.

I timed my three and a half mile walk well as I got home just as the sun dipped below the hills and a distinct chill came over the town.

Once inside, a cup of tea and some delicious ginger biscuits refreshed body and spirit and I was fully recovered when Luke arrived for some flute playing.  We played the Loeillet sonata which we have been working on and it went very well, with some good ornamentation and some faster tempi.  Although practice hasn’t made us perfect yet, we are definitely making progress.

The forecast is once again offering us fog tomorrow so I hope that we end up with another sunny day like today.

We are well prepared for Christmas Day and intend to have a quiet but jolly time.  I wish all readers of the blog a Happy Christmas and I hope that they have held Santa’s hand firmly when presents were being considered so that nobody is disappointed.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch enjoying the sunshine.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who was out and about and saw skaters on the temporary ice rink at Somerset House.  It always looks a rather staid way of having fun to me.

Somerset house skating

We had a second sunny day today but the weather gods had another trick up their sleeve and kept the temperature between 0 and 2 degrees all day so when it came to cycling, the best that I could do was forty minutes on the bike to nowhere in the garage, a dull way to start the day.

Before I pedalled, I had a quick look round the garden to admire Jack Frost’s handiwork.

jack frost in garden

The blue pineapple is on the end of the vegetable garden railings and I think the the dangling flower head must be one of the last calendulas.

When I had finished the indoor pedal, Mrs Tootlepedal and I drove up to the bird hide at the Moorland Project feeders and while Mrs Tootlepedal sat in the car scanning the hillside for raptors, I sat in the hide watching smaller birds.  I got the best bargain I think because she saw one distant bird and I saw dozens.

There were some blue tits…

blue tit at laverock

..and great tits…

great tit at leaverock

…but there were more coal tits than the others put together.  I only saw this one siskin sharing the peanuts with the coal tits.

busy feeder at laverock

Two chaffinches made a charming tableau on the tree stump outside the hide…

two chaffinches at laverock

…and I was very happy to see a greater spotted woodpecker on the peanuts.

woodpecker at hide

When we got home, I made some lentil soup and looked out of the window from time to time.

A blackbird paused on the edge of the tray under the feeders for a peaceful portrait…

FEMALE BLACKBIRD

…while up above, it was all go for the sparrows with a goldfinch hoping to resist the invasion.

sparrows at feeder

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off on a shopping mission and I went for a walk.

I went over the Town Bridge and checked on a pair of black headed gulls who were deep in conversation at the Meeting of the Waters..

two gulls

…passed Santa who is making ends meet by doing a little bus driving until the busy period comes round….

santa busman

…crossed the Sawmill Brig, my second bridge and walked up the track past the Estate offices.

There is a fine row of trees across a field which I think looks like a hedge that got away some time ago.

overgrown hedge

I wasn’t wearing very suitable footwear but I took a chance and set off along a muddy track towards the High Mill Brig.

There were many puddles but luckily, there was enough frost in the ground to make it firm enough for me to make progress and keep my feet dry.

pathead track

And there was plenty of interest along the way.  Looking down, I saw frozen moss and three sorts of lichen within a few feet of each other on a wall,,,,

moss and lichen on wall

…and looking up,  saw about a hundred birds flying overhead.  From their formation, I thought at first that they might be geese…

birds in fligth

…but a closer look makes me think they were gulls….but I am not certain.

possible ducks

At the end of the track, I came to one of the useful gates that the Langholm Walks group have organised for the convenience of walkers following their marked routes.

langholm walks gate

Following the track along the edge of the field, I came down to my third bridge of the day, the High Mill Brig…

high mill bridge

…so called because of the mill which stood nearby for many years.  The mill has gone now but the bridge carries the main road north out of the town and is still busy.

I crossed the bridge and followed the road back towards the town, crossing the Sawmill Brig again and then walking round the Castleholm and crossing the Jubilee Bridge, my fourth and last of the excursion.

There was more interest as I went along.

berry fence laurel and moss

The circular pattern in the top right frame, is the sawn top of a fence post covered with ice.  It was cold but as the day was very still, it was a pleasure to be out and about even if the sun had been overtaken by some low cloud.

On my way back through the New Town, I stopped off at Mike and Alison’s house to enquire about the state of Alison’s recently dislocated shoulder.  This was not entirely a disinterested call as she is my Friday night orchestra and I am hoping that she won’t be out of action too long as I miss the playing.  She was remarkably cheerful and made a cup of tea while I chatted to Mike.  As the tea came with a delicious ginger biscuit, it was doubly welcome.

Alison has tried a little piano playing which is good news.

I didn’t stay long as they told me that Mrs Tootlepedal had called in when she had finished shopping but had not stopped because she didn’t want me not to find her in when I came back from my walk and worry about where she was.

When I got back to the garden, I found evidence that her shopping trip had been successful.  She had bought our Christmas tree for the next four or five years.

CHRISTMAS TREE

My flute pupil Luke sent me a message to say that he couldn’t come for the usual session because of a meeting in Dumfries so I had time for a quiet sit before making the tea and going out to play trios with Mike and Isabel.

The playing would have gone better if I had brought the right bag with my flute, music stand and music in it instead of quite a different bag with none of these essentials.  However, Mike and Isabel played some Vivaldi duets while I went off and got the right bag and then we played Quantz, Mozart and Telemann trios so we were all happy.

The flying bird of the day is a black headed gull above the Ewes Water at the Kilngreen.

flying gull

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s archives.  For some reason he came upon the picture from 2004 of certain young(ish) golfers enjoying a break in Majorca to get away from Langholm’s winter weather.  It snowed and I still have the umbrella that I had to buy while we were there.

majorca 2004

I don’t know what the morning was like because I made the mistake of lying down for a moment after breakfast and the next thing that I knew, it was lunch time.

Generally speaking the weather forecast had promised severe gales and rainstorms for Scotland and good weather for the north of England so for once, we were very pleased to considered English and we enjoyed a reasonably dry and warm day, though it was bit windy.

The light was very variable but I could see enough to recognise a great tit on the feeder…

great tit on feeder pole

…watch chaffinches fly in all directions…

chaffinches coming and going

…enjoy a blue tit visit….

blue tit on feeder pole

…and check out the differing styles of a greenfinch and a goldfinch.

greenfinch and goldfinch

The goldfinches gradually took over the feeder over lunch and had to compete among themselves for a place at the table.

goldfinch creeping up

As time went by there was a tiny glimpse of sunshine…

a snatch of sun on the plum tree

…and encouraged by this, I went for a walk in the afternoon.

There are still plenty of  rosebay willowherb seed heads about…

willowherb seeds

…and a lightening of the sky to the west behind this tree on the Becks track made me hopeful for a while…

becks tarck tree

…but things soon reverted to grey.

I had gone along the track in the hope that the forestry works in the Becks wood would have finished and I would be able to use the path down to the bridge across the burn.

When I got to the wood, everything was very neatly tidied up and the machines had disappeared.  I was able to walk through the felled wood upstream of the bridge and see the burn as it hasn’t been seen for many years…

 

becks burn bridge

…with new trees planted on all sides.

I could look down on the little cascade which I have photographed before…

becks burn cascade from above

…and because the trees have gone, there was enough light to let me take a reasonable picture from below the waterfall.

becks burn cascade

Luckily I had my wellies on so that I could stand on the middle of the burn to get the best angle.

I went back to the path and found that it was easy to cross the bridge, walk up the steps on the other side and look downstream towards the Wauchope valley.

 

 

Becks burn above cascade

I followed the road downhill, admiring the fine growth of catkins on every side.  It has been a good month for catkins.

catkins

There is no sign of autumn left now ….

auld stane brig

…but with only two weeks to go until the winter solstice, we are nearly on the way up towards the light again.

Another tree beside the road back to the town caught me eye…

springhill tree

…and as always, moss and lichen provided a bit of interest on a dull day.

moss and lichen

I didn’t have a great deal of time to sit around and think when I got home because it was soon time for an early tea and my second visit to Lockerbie in two days.  On this occasion, I picked up my fellow choir member Mike and we went over to sing in a Langholm Sings concert in the Episcopalian Church there.

It is a snug little church and it was very nearly full for our performance which was very gratifying.  The members of the audience were kind enough to say that they enjoyed the evening but no one could say that we were faultless and we are going to have another practice next week before we have a joint concert with the Parish Church choir in Langholm next Friday.  Practice makes perfect, we hope.

It was windy as we drove home but the threatened rain held off so the evening went as well as we could have expected.

The flying bird of the day, checking out a freshly filled feeder, is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture is a break with tradition and is in fact a pair of pictures as Bruce sent me a fairly standard view of the famous ‘Bridge over the Atlantic’ between the mainland and Seil Island…

seil bridge

…but also included his view from the bridge.  He was surprised to find that someone had painted a white line down the middle of the channel, presumably to keep marine traffic on the right track.

seil bridge view

I was listening to a radio programme about the Roman poet Horace today.  One of his most famous phrases was ‘Carpe Diem’ which might be translated as ‘make good use of your day’

We had a beautifully sunny and reasonably warm morning and if there ever was a dies that needing carping, this was it.  Sadly, as my knee still needs cossetting, the dies remained totally uncarped.

I looked at birds instead.

In the dark months, the shadow of our house looms over the bird feeder and so the brighter the sunlight is on the plum tree….

sunny chaffinch

…the darker the shadows are on the feeder…

coal tit profile straight

…though this can produce an interesting silhouette from time to time.

coal tit profile landing

It was about midday when the sun and birds both appeared on the feeder.  Once again there were not many birds about so this gave the blue, coal and great tits plenty of scope for visiting.

blue tit with seedcoal tit with seedgreat tit

A robin popped in and although I took a very poor picture of it just as we were going out, I have put it in for the record.

robin

While I was bird watching, I couldn’t help noticing the berberis….

berberis November

 

…and I went out for a closer look.  One part of the bush has gone bright red while the other remains fairly subdued.

sunny berberis

The perennial wallflower is a marvel.  We have two and the other has now given up but this one looks as though it is ready to go through the winter.

november perennial wallflower

The calendulas are very diminished but they are still trying to produce new flowers.

november calnedula

Apart from the berberis, the brightest thing in the garden was this stone ball wrapped in a blanket of moss.

mossy stone ball

I raised my eyes to the hills and sighed…

cattle on Castle Hill

…and went back inside for lunch.

Then we went to Edinburgh.  Our up train started late from Lockerbie but arrived on time in Edinburgh.  Our down train left Edinburgh on time but arrived ten minutes late at Lockerbie.  Variety is the spice of life!

We found Matilda in very good form and she absolutely trounced me at snap though I held my own in a game of Pelmanism.   We enjoyed other games as well and after an excellent meal, cooked by her father, Matilda ended our visit with a ballet display.  We went home feeling very cheerful.

I just managed to catch today’s flying bird by the merest fraction of a millimetre.

just flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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