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Posts Tagged ‘great tit’

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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As well as looking for fossils, my Newcastle correspondent Fiona likes to take her family to interesting places and today’s guest picture shows the ruins of Finchdale Priory which she visited with them a week or two ago.

Finchdale Priory

We had a warm and calm day today, ideal for cycling.  Hmmm.  I didn’t even have company for coffee as both Dropscone and Sandy were away from home.

As a result, I had a lot of time to watch the birds and fortunately, there were a lot of birds to watch.

Although we mostly had the usual suspects seen here hanging around in the plum tree…

birds in plum tree

Finches on the top branches.

great tit in plum tree

A great tit further down.

dunnock on ground

And a rather fierce dunnock on the ground below.

…we did get some unusual visitors too.

A small brown bird with an unremarkable back view….

redpoll from behind

…revealed itself as a redpoll when it turned round.  They are winter visitors and cheer the gloomy days up.

redpoll on feeder

There were a few of them around and while some sat in the plum tree looking demure…

redpoll in plum tree

…others got on with the business of terrifying chaffinches…

redpoll attacking

…which are much bigger than them.

However the real surprise of the morning was a visit from a greater spotted woodpecker which suddenly appeared in the plum tree as if by magic.

greater spotted woodpecker in tree

Although I often see them up at the Moorland feeders, we hardly ever see one in the garden and especially not one so happy to pose for me.

greater spotted woodpecker in garden

However, it didn’t pose for long and soon flew off, not to be seen again.

A curiosity of looking at pictures of the birds when the feeder is busy is to see flying seeds everywhere.  How did the seed in the top of the picture below get there?

flying food

I got a visit from my part time neighbour Ken, a fellow cyclist.  He is in the opposite situation to me and after being poorly earlier in the year, he is now getting some good miles in.  I was very envious of him as he had been of me in the spring.

The morning drifted away but after lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal set to work in the garden and that galvanised me into action, or at least into as much as I could manage without flexing my leg.

I took a leisurely photographic tour in search of colour.  There are flowers about if you look hard enough.

november flowers

The perennial wallflowers in the bottom left frame above started flowering in April and been in bloom ever since.  That is what I call value for money.

The warm summer has encouraged roses to produce hips this year.  Although the rosa Gallica (on the left) always produces some rather subdued hips, we have never seen hips on the Goldfinch (on the right) before.

november rose hips

In the absence of flowers, the spireas are a source of pleasure at this time of year.

november spirea

I did a little shredding and sieved some more of the compost from Bin D as Mrs Tootlepedal is planting out bulbs and needs compost.  I know that readers have been eagerly awaiting compost pictures so here is the result of sieving Bin D.

bucket of sieved compost

And if that wasn’t exciting enough, I also turned a very full Bin A into Bin B and took a picture of Bins A to D.

compost bins a to d

Mrs Tootlepedal is responsible for the plastic bin on the left of Bin A and I have no idea what is in it.  It is a closely guarded secret.

The next task will be to finish the little bit of sieving left in Bin D and turn Bin C into it.  It is good for a man to have a purpose in life.

While I was having fun, Mrs Tootlepedal was preparing for next year.

fern dug up

She removed a fern from a spot where, if all goes well, a fine display of tulips will appear in spring.

I had made a lamb stew in the slow cooker in the morning and while I played duets with my flute pupil Luke,  I left the sous-chef to fettle up the gravy.  She did an excellent job and we had a tasty evening meal.

To end the day, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.  We played Mozart, Telemann and Quantz and that was the perfect way to forget the many little inconveniences that come to all of us with advancing years.

The flying bird of the day is another ‘just-in-time’ chaffinch.

just flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from regular reader, Edward Winter from Sheffield.  As is appropriate to someone from that city, he likes metal sculptures and has recently acquired this Jason Heppenstall work created mainly from saw blades (the wings) and eating forks (on Eagle’s head).  I can see shears lower down too I think.

Eagle Jason Heppenstall

The weather gods finally lightened up a bit and we had a fine but chilly day today.  I was still taking things gently so most of the morning passed without anything to record other than the standard crossword and coffee routine but after coffee, we ventured out into the garden to see what was still standing after the recent frosts and a night with some heavy rain.

There were still a few rather battered flowers about…

four flowers November 1

…and plenty of raindrops among the petals.

four flowers November 2

It was pleasantly warm if you were in the sunshine and Mrs Tootlepedal’s field beans have thrived in all weathers and are growing well.

field beans Nov

The nasturtiums were finally condemned as over and in spite of one or two valiant flowers defying the odds, the whole lot got the heave-ho and ended in the compost bin.

This stimulated me to do a bit more sieving of the contents of Bin D and the results were very satisfactory as it has been a good year for compost.  I will have to think about starting the whole bin transfer business soon.

When we went in, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to work on her winter project, the restoration of our rocking horse, and I watched the birds.

As soon as I put out a couple of fat balls these days, the jackdaws get to know and are on the scene within minutes.

This one was waiting patiently in the plum tree while others nibbled away.

jackdaw in plum tree

The jackdaws don’t bother with the seed though, which leaves plenty for the smaller birds like this coal tit.

coal tit in the sun

A great tit looked interested too.

great tit on the pole

The strong low sunlight makes getting ‘clean’ shots of flying birds a lottery unless you have plenty of time to spare.

shady chaffinch

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and I tested out my leg with a very flat and short cycle ride on the slow bike.

I cycled over three bridges and then round the New Town, stopping very occasionally for a picture.

There are still spots of autumn colour about….

November tree colour 1

…but for every tree with colour, there are two or three with bare branches.

November tree colour 2

The trees on the banks of the Esk below the mission hall show every stage.

 

November tree colour 3`

I cycled up to Pool Corner but the sun had gone in and the larches were dull…

pool corner Nov 1

…but a few minutes later, the glow was golden.

larches in November

The cycling went very well as far as my leg went and was pain free.

I was encouraged.

Walking was still tricky but at least I could get about now.

I had promised to prepare some of the Archive Group’s ‘Mills and Railway’ heritage DVDs in readiness for an event later in the day so I put my bike aside and copied the disk box labels and then cycled up to the town to use the disk copier in the Archive Centre.  This would have gone better if I had remembered to take some blank disks with me.  As it was, I got some extra cycling in as I had to go back home to get the disks.

At one stage on this double trip, a sudden halt in the traffic flow made me stop and put a foot down.  Without thinking, I pushed off when things got going again and as soon as I had done it, I realised that I had used my wrong leg and in an instant, I was back where I was two days ago.

I was discouraged…

…as much by my foolishness as by the discomfort.  Still, I was still able to cycle home and then walk along to the Buccleuch Centre to the official launch of a book about Langholm’s Textile industry’s history.  This was based on the work of my sadly departed friend Arthur Bell, a mill owner himself and an enthusiast for the industry in Langholm.

There was an excellent turnout for the launch and as everyone present seemed to have bought at least one copy, the two editors of the book must have been very pleased.

I shall be more careful about my movements tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch with its head and body in the sun and its wings in the shadows.

flyinch chaffinch with dark wings

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