Posts Tagged ‘greenfinch’

In contrast to yesterday’s Antiguan sun, today’s guest picture shows a typical day in Derby.  My brother Andrew was suffering in the rain there a couple of day ago.


We had another very welcome dry day here today and things are even beginning to hint at drying out a little.  A bit more warmth would help the process.

A brisk wind also helps and we got that today, the downside being that it was a pretty chilly breeze and it made the day which was theoretically warm at 10°C feel a good deal colder.  Still, it was a useful day for a pedal and some gardening so we were happy.

My fairly speedy bike was still in the bike shop so I went out on the slow bike and stuck to skulking 18 miles twice up and down the Wauchope valley, as far out of the wind as I could stay.

I was impressed by the dedication of a flock of sheep to getting their strength up and stopped for a shot…


…and as I always look closely at a wall when I am leaning over one to take a photo, I took some lichen pictures while I was at it.

lichen on wall

I like the variations in colour, shape and style that the lichen on our roadside walls provides.

Otherwise, I kept my head well down in the crosswinds on the ride and didn’t take any more pictures.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal had completed some errands round the town and was busy gardening.

She is very pleased with the early crocuses this year and so am I.

There are some brighter ones about…


…but the bulk of the flowers are a delicate pale violet and I like them both for themselves and when they mingle with the snowdrops.


And because I like eating it, I was very happy to see that the rhubarb is looking very promising.


Then I went inside and looked out.  The kitchen makes a warm and comfortable bird hide and supplies good coffee too (Rwandan today).

I looked high…


…and low.


After lunch, I went off for a walk.  It had been gently sunny while I had pedalled along in the morning but the clouds had come over for my walk and it was a grey afternoon.

Pathhead track

Snowdrops provided some cheer both at the start and near the finish of my walk.


On grey days, I tend to keep my eyes on the foreground and ignore the views and there is always something to help to pass the time.

This wall provided a home for some luxuriant moss.

mossy wall

And a birch tree had a neat circle of script lichen.

script lichen

As always, walls are a never ending source of delight and today I came across a growth which I hadn’t seen before.  It is the coral like structure on the left in the panel below.  I think that it must be lichen but I am by no means confident about that.

lichen on wall

On the other hand, I am confident about this.


This is definitely cladonia lichen.

I had already stopped at a promising piece of wall before I had noticed the tiny spots of red so either my lichen radar is improving with practice or I was just lucky because I didn’t see any more along the the wall.


It really is very red indeed.

I started and finished my walk with a visit to the Kilngreen in the hope of seeing some oyster catchers.

There was a pair at the Meeting of the Waters when I was on my out but they flew off with a gull before I could get too close…

oyster catchers

And there was a pair (probably the same pair I would imagine) in the same place when I came back an hour later and they flew off again, first to further up the bank of the river…

oyster catcher

…and then again to join the gulls on the fence posts.

Luckily one of them flew right past me.

oyster catcher

When I saw that I wasn’t going to get close to them, I took a shot through an arch of the Langholm Bridge which gave me a lot of pleasure even on a grey day.

Langholm Bridge

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden again when I got back and I fell easily into a supervisory role.  It is a suitable role for me as it doesn’t involve doing anything else but walking around and saying, “That looks good.”

In the evening, I went to sing with our local choir and enjoyed myself not least because I am sitting next to my cello playing friend Mike who is an excellent singer and keeps me right.

He remarked that he and his wife have been enjoying the frog pictures on the blog so here is one from today, especially for them.


The flying bird of the day is a black headed gull which  flew by while I was tracking the oyster catchers.  It has almost got its spring black head.

black headed gull


Oh and the title of the blog refers to a telephone call which I received from the bike shop this evening to tell me that the fairly speedy bike has got a two inch crack in the frame so it is time to say farewell to an old friend. Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out that it is just as well to discover a crack like that when it is in the bike shop and not when you are going down hill at 30mph.

I don’t remember exactly when I bought the fairly speedy bike, a Giant SCR, but I must have had it for over ten years so it will have done about 40,000 miles at least.  It has been a good servant, comfortable and reliable and I will be very happy if my new bike turns out to be as good.

I am going to look at getting a replacement suitable for a elderly gentleman with no great bike handling skills but who enjoys getting a few miles in over a year. Like Two Ton Tessie O’Shea used to say about herself, it will be built for comfort more than for speed.  I know my limits now.


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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who spotted some fearless workers inspecting Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.

Brave workmen inspecting Nelson's column

We were promised warmer, wetter weather and we got it.  It rained on and off all day and it was never lighter than ‘very gloomy’ inside and outside.

As a result, I was very happy to idle a morning away reading papers, drinking coffee and making soup.

I looked out of the window from time to time.

We had a good selection of visitors, many of whom looked a bit grumpy with the weather…

greenfinch and goldfinch

…including a sparrow among the usual suspects.  For some reason, the sparrows, of whom there are many in the town, visit a bush in the corner of our garden but don’t come to the feeder so this was a novelty.

sparrow and siskin

A robin and a blackbird made a brief appearance each.

robin and blackbird

…and the chaffinches arrived in an orderly fashion.


Out in the pond there was new frog spawn and a few frogs.

frog and spawn

Mrs Tootlepedal went off and did a little shopping and then went out again after lunch, this time to a meeting of her embroiderers’ group.

I thought about a short pedal when the rain stopped but the weather remained untrustworthy so I went for a walk instead.

As I walked along the edge of the park, I spotted all sorts of lichen and mosses…

moss and lichen

I am always pleased to see a red topped Cladonia as they are very small and I need a bit of luck to notice them.

This was my favourite among the mosses.


Of course, you have to be a real moss and lichen detective to see any moss round here!

mossy wall

I left the park wall behind and walked up into the Kernigal wood.  It was gloomy there too but as it was warmish and it wasn’t raining, I was quite happy strolling along the track.


It is often worth giving a tree stump a second look.

lichen and fungus

At one point, I could see a bright red light in the distance.  Although it doesn’t look like it in the picture, the light is on top of a communications mast on a hill and can be seen from miles around. It seems to be on night and day and has caused a lot of interest in the town.   Some think that it might be sending out secret mind control waves while others more prosaically link it to the arrival of 4G phone reception on the area.

mast light

When I came out of the wood, I followed the track down to Skipeprscleuch….

Road to skippers

…where the felling of the wood beside the track has opened up views of Warbla.


With the felling at the Becks Burn in mind, readers have asked if these felled woods are replanted and the answer is that they are.  The timber is a cash crop and I could see both new spruce trees and some hardwoods in plastic tubes too which are planted to encourage wildlife.

new planting

This was my favourite tree of the walk.

bare tree

I walked past a cottage and noted the old plough in the garden…

old plough

…and a few yards further on, I came across another well appointed wall.

moss and lichen

When I got down to the main road just before Skippers Bridge, I noticed that the passing  traffic had made sure that there was no moss on the road side of the parapet of the bridge over the sike  but a look  over the other side of the parapet showed that there was no shortage of moss there.

A7 bridge

We don’t have many brick buildings in Langholm and I enjoyed the gentle colours of the building at the bridge.

garage door

I crossed the bridge and noted the wooden steps that are part of the walks network…

steps at skippers

…and I took another photograph of Skippers Bridge itself but as it was no different from the many I have taken before, I leave it to the readers’ imagination to picture it.

At this point, it started to rain, first gently and then heavily so I kept the camera in my pocket and scuttled home.

Mrs Tootlepedal had enjoyed a delightful demonstration of steampunk embroidery given by two ladies from Dumfries and I had enjoyed my walk so in spite of the gloomy weather, we had a good afternoon.

My enjoyment was increased by the fact that my walk had (deliberately) stopped me watching Scotland play Ireland at rugby.  I had had bad feelings about the likely result and had saved myself much mental agony by not watching the inevitable unfold.  Scotland struggle to win a match away from home but they are not unique in this.  Only two matches out of the eleven so far this year in the Six nations tournament have been won by the away team.

To cheer up a gloomy day, we had fish and chips from the chip shop for our tea and as I arrived at the counter at exactly the right moment to get freshly cooked fish straight out of the fryer, our meal was delicious.

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’s trip to Yellowstone.


Although when we woke up, there was still a lot of snow about in the garden today…

snowy garden

…with a bit of luck there will be a lot more green about when we wake up tomorrow as the temperature hit 7°C by the afternoon and should stay above freezing all night.  If the forecast rain arrives, most of the snow should be gone soon.

I was able to walk up to the Archive Centre after breakfast to do a meter reading without treading on any snow in the streets and Dropscone also did the same when he came round for coffee.  He had used some Irish flour left over from his holiday for his scones and it produced very tasty results.

During the morning, the dam bridge was the scene of great activity.

First men cleared the snow…


…and then they trampled about in a reflective way before deciding that the hard core laid by the builders before the snow had now belied its name and become so soft that it all had to be dug up.


This didn’t take long and soon a large lorry was disgorging barrow loads of tarmac which were spread, rolled,  spirit levelled and rolled again….


…until the bridge looked like this.


All it needs now is some railings and we will get our street back again.

During the morning, we also got some birds back in the garden in spite of the noise from the bridge builders.

After some almost totally chaffinch days, we got a better variety of visitors.

green finch



There were quite a few chaffinches still, with this one looking a bit disgruntled about the fair weather visitors, I thought.


The amount of wet weather that we have had over the recent years can be gauged by the quantity of moss on the plum tree branches.  The whole garden is getting gradually covered in moss.

A number of chaffinches both female….

flying chaffinches

…and male…


…made spirited efforts to win the coveted title of flying bird of the day.

After lunch, I rang up Sandy to suggest a walk only to find that he had been laid low by a bad cold.  I had had an ambitious walk in mind but under the circumstances, I just went out for my familiar short three bridges stroll.

I had hoped to see herons, dippers, wagtails, ducks and gulls but in the end only saw mallards…


…who seem to be pairing up for the spring…


…and a good supply of black headed gulls, some of whom are beginning to show where they get their name from.

Most of them were playing musical fence posts….


…but some flew about in a more helpful way.

black headed gull

It is interesting (to me) to see how differently coloured the same sky is when photographed  from the same spot within minutes.  A few degrees of turn from the photographer is all it takes.

The thaw is producing odd results.  In this view….


…the grass was green and the hill was white but further along my walk….


…the grass was white and hill was green.

The hint of blue sky in the first picture was just that, a hint and didn’t come to anything sadly.

Snowdrops along the Lodge walks have emerged more or less unscathed from under the snow .


I didn’t linger long on my walk as the going was often rather unattractively slushy underfoot so I passed up many moss opportunities but this lichen garden on a single branch stopped me in my tracks.


When I got home, I noticed that, like the snowdrops, a daffodil in our garden which had been in flower before the snow came had survived to bloom another day.


I was unaccountably tired when I got in and was not as disappointed as I would normally have been to find that our usual Monday night trio playing had been cancelled as Isabel, like Sandy, had a cold.

We really need some warm, sunny weather and soon.

My flute pupil Luke came and he too was suffering a bit from the long spell of miserable weather and we were not at our best.

In spite of the efforts of the chaffinches, a black headed gull appears as flying bird of the day.

black headed gull




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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s American adventure.  No prizes for guessing the name of this animal.


We woke to an unexpected scene this morning….

snowy garden

…though it was only unexpected as it had arrived sooner than I was expecting.

There wasn’t that much of a snowy scene though when I walked down to the river after breakfast….

River Esk snow

…and although it was only just above freezing all day, the snow tended to fade away as quickly as it had come.

While it was there, it made a good background for a greenfinch on the feeder….


…and the brighter light showed off the rich colours on the back of a dunnock which often looks like a rather dowdy bird.


It is one of my favourite garden birds.


I also like blue tits so I was pleased to see one in one of the sunny patches that interspersed the day.   You can see the nippy wind ruffling its  feathers.

blue tit

Because the wind was blowing briskly from the ‘wrong’ direction, the birds couldn’t hover when visiting the side of the feeder where I usually catch my flying visitors and there were very few birds today anyway, not surprising when this sort of thing happened.


I stopped trying to get a FBotD shot and went off to have lunch at the Buccleuch Centre with Mrs Tootlepedal in an effort to forget the weather.  It worked well as we had an excellent meal.

After lunch, I settled down to work at my computer and time fairly flew by.  When I looked up, the sun was out again so I put on my coat and went for a short walk.  I was hoping to see river side birds and I wasn’t disappointed.

Mr Grumpy was catching some late afternoon rays…


…and the ducks were doing likewise.


Crossing the Sawmill Brig, I looked down in the hope of seeing a dipper.


The Lumix did exceedingly well considering that it was quite far below me and in shadow.

The moss on the wall had survived the snow….


…and I was impressed by the enthusiasm of this clump which had managed to find a place to grow between two cut logs.


On the side of one of the logs, I could see the the seed holding cups of another moss.  The brown ones are empty (I think) and….


…the green ones are still in business.


In spite of the low sunshine, it was very nippy and the clouds behind Whita were beginning to look threatening…


…so I took a picture of some fine pines…


…put my camera in my pocket and headed home without stopping again.

I got in just as it started to snow.

It is promising to be colder and to snow more tomorrow.  What fun.  All the same, there are many parts of the country both to the south and north who are having a harder time than us so we mustn’t grumble.

Under the circumstances there is no flying bird of the day so the dunnock creeps into the frame instead.



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Today’s guest picture is a beautiful shot of the little lake in Regents Park.  My sister Mary took it on her way to play tennis at the weekend and remarked that it looked very spring-like in spite of being partially frozen.

Looking spring-like in spite of partially frozen lake

We had another dry, chilly day here without much sun to cheer us up so it felt cold.  There were even one or two desultory snowflakes but they came to nothing.

The dam bridge repair man was back and busy and by lunchtime, the bridge looked like this…

dam bridge repairs

…ready for the final finishing touches in the next day or two, weather permitting.

The forecast is very dramatic, talking of low temperatures and deep snow but at present our part of the country looks as though it might get off lightly.  We live in hope.

After breakfast, I cracked open my piggy bank (into which I put small denomination coins which otherwise would put an intolerable strain on my trouser pockets) and was able to take a couple of pounds worth of coppers round to our local shop who still need them for change.

I had a moment to look out of the window after that.

A goldfinch appeared but it was the only one that I saw today…


….and a greenfinch flew in.


Then it was time to welcome Dropscone for coffee.  He has returned safely from his holiday in the very south of Ireland where he and two of his children had had a good time going about and seeing the sights.

Not only was he welcome back in his own right but the fact that he brought scones with him was the metaphorical icing on the cake.  I had butter and blackcurrant jelly on mine.

While we were sipping and chatting, we had another visitor.


The fact that the sparrowhawk stopped for a picture meant that it had successfully nipped one of our other visitors off the feeder.  I have cropped the picture because it is too sad to view the reality however much it is just part of the natural cycle.

Later on, after coffee, I saw a most unusual burst of colour in the plum tree.  A closer look showed me that it was a male bullfinch.  It stayed on the plum tree for long enough for me to get the big lens and take its picture.


You might well think that such a magnificent little bird would be welcome but what it is doing in the plum tree is pecking off the shoots and eating them.

bullfinch panel

Left alone a bullfinch and its pals will strip a tree so rather ungratefully after taking its picture, I went out and shooed it away.  I like bullfinches but I like plums more.  This particular bird, having taken off a shoot, had the cheek to drop it as you can see in third picture in the panel above.

I spent some time after all this avian excitement in not quite getting a flying chaffinch picture right.

flying chaffinches

I took a stroll round the garden and was impressed by the hardiness of our small bunch of early daffodils.  We will need a few more before they can be considered a ‘host of golden daffodils’ but they are trying.


The crocuses were keeping themselves to themselves, huddled against the cold but I liked the picture that this small bunch on the drying green made.



After lunch, I went out for a short ten mile bike ride on my slow bike.   My plan was to go as slowly as was reasonable to avoid increasing the wind chill factor too much.

Although it was very chilly, the roads were dry and there was no danger of frost.  At one point on my way up the road, I heard a clink, as though something had fallen off my bike but a quick check told me that my bike was still all there. It was only when I went to look in my mirror before turning at Callister that I realised that it was the mirror that had fallen off.

I put my failure to notice this down to the extreme cold which had obviously numbed my brain.

I turned and pedalled back looking anxiously for any trace of the mirror but I fear that a passing car must have run over it and spun it off into the verge because there was no sign of it at all.

Ah well.

I made a tomato, potato and feta bake for my tea to cheer myself up

And to make things even better, I had a musical evening as first my flute pupil Luke came and then, after tea, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.   The trios were great fun and I hardly noticed the cold as I walked home.

I did catch one flying chaffinch without a feeder in front of it and it is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch



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Today’s guest picture comes from my Langholm friends Jim and Sandra.  They are visiting Australia where they met some down under bird life.

australian bird

We enjoyed another chilly but sunny day and if you could keep in the sun and out of a relentlessly nipping wind, it was not too bad at all.

We had a quiet morning, mostly reading newspapers and listening to the radio.  I did a little bird watching every now and again.

The male blackbirds were chasing each other about when they weren’t posing or eating so I think that they must be our native blackbirds claiming their territory.


There were no siskins or goldfinches about today so the chaffinches had a free hand and flew about in every direction.


Dunnocks and robins made occasional appearances.

dunnock and robin

A greenfinch looked relatively happy today (by greenfinch standards).


Mrs Tootlepedal spent some useful time clearing up in the greenhouse getting ready for the new season and I made a pan of vegetable soup for my lunch.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal turned to cooking and made several fish pies and I wrapped up well and went out for a pedal.

I didn’t want to go too far from home as the wind would be against me on the way back and it was very cold so I went five miles up the road and back twice.  This is not as boring as it sounds and I enjoyed myself.

I stopped once or twice.

It was a lovely afternoon when the wind was behind you.


I was going to take a picture of the gate at my turning point on Callister when I noticed a movement among the tussocks.  The head of a deer poked up…

gate and deer on callister

…but it sneaked away without letting me get a better shot.

I went along the river on a circuit of the New Town of Langholm as part of my route in the hope of seeing oyster catchers.  There were none about on the first pass but two had arrived by the time I went along the bank for the second go round.


Good route choice.

And crocuses were almost out in the garden when I got home.


Mrs Tootlepedal was also out in the garden but she was finding it chilly too and came in.

The sun was still out though and it seemed too good a day to waste indoors watching Scotland getting beaten by England at the rugby (I am never optimistic about Scotland’s rugby chances) so I got changed and went out for a short walk.

I was hoping to see some black headed gulls and I was in luck and saw one straight away when I got to the river.

black headed gull

Then I saw ten more.

black headed gull

It was as good a day for walking as it had been for cycling, especially as I was reasonably sheltered from the wind.

sawmill brig

The sun was dropping in the sky and lit up the moss on the wall after the Sawmill Brig.

mossy wall

It is obviously a good place for  moss…

mossy wall

…which is thriving.

mossy wall

I always like the colour of the bark when low sun strikes a pine tree…

pine tree

…and the trunks looked good too as I went along the new path.

pine tree

An old tree trunk, now used as a bench had an interesting selection of colonists on it. One of the ‘helicopter’ seeds was actually rooting in a crevice in the wood.

moss and seeds

I had noticed that the moon was already high in the sky so I took a hopeful shot as I walked along and after a tweak in the photo editor, it came out surprisingly clearly.


When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal told me that against expectations, Scotland were leading in the rugby match.  I watched until half time and then, fearful of causing them any bad luck by showing excessive expectation, I started cooking our evening meal. I received messages of amazement from all of our three children during the half time interval.   Annie, our daughter, was watching the match in Berlin while attending the Berlin Film Festival.

In spite of my best intentions, I kept sneaking back in during the second half and taking a quick look.  England (dropping the ball, giving away penalties and getting a man sent off) were playing like Scotland and Scotland were playing very well.  It was all most unsettling.

In the end, we won.  The first victory over England for ten years.   Our daughter was watching the game with an England supporter in Berlin and he just couldn’t understand why she was still so worried when Scotland were 15 points up with only two minutes to go.  He obviously hasn’t seen what Scotland can do when it comes to losing matches in the last minute that they should have won.

Now that I know that they are going to win, I may well sit down and watch a replay of the whole match in comfort.

All in all, it turned out to be a better day in every way than I had anticipated.

The flying bird of the day is one of the gulls at full stretch.

black headed gull



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Today’s guest picture is a reflective study from my brother Andrew.


There are too many pictures in today’s post so I will try to keep the wittering to a minimum.

It was another mainly sunny, dry day with a chilly wind and a frosty start.  As long as it keeps dry, we are trying not to complain too much about the cold.

As it was too cold to cycle or garden, the plan was to visit the Larch Cottage garden centre nearly 50 miles away to the south of Penrith, have lunch, buy plants and then come home via somewhere interesting.

As a plan it went well.

There was time before we left to drop some money from sales and donations round to the Archive Group treasurer Nancy.  She asked me whether I had lost a woolly hat on my walk up Timpen the other day.  When I thought about it, I realised that I had.  Nancy told me that she had found it and put it on a post up the hill.  As it was a nice day and I was rushing off, she said that she might go up and retrieve it for me and when we got home from our outing, I found that she had kindly posted it through our letterbox.  This is the kind of friend that an old forgetful man needs.

I also took a quick look out of the kitchen window.


greenfinch and chaffinch

The drive down the motorway went as well as any drive down a busy road can go and we got to Larch Cottage with enough time to have a look round before lunch. In spite of the sunshine, the snow on the hills reminded us that it was still chilly.

Larch Cottage is run by a man with a sense of humour and a great love of old stone.

P1070638Larch CottageLarch Cottage

The cafe, which is in one of the original buildings, was cosy and the food was good.


Mrs Tootlepedal bought plants and I took the occasional picture.  I liked a euphorbia a lot but was slightly less impressed by the customer service sign.

Larch Cottage

It is probably  no coincidence that London and the government are exactly 300 miles away.

However, since the staff were uniformly helpful and cheerful, we had no complaints.

We set off home by way of Brougham Hall and Brougham Castle.  We approached the hall by the road under this bridge.

Brougham Hall

The bridge gives access to this….

Brougham Hall

…from this.


Brougham Hall is more impressive than the modest name might suggest and it has a fine entrance for visitors…


…and a rather small back door.

Brougham Hall

There is a broad courtyard inside the walls…

Brougham Hall

…with many buildings in various states of repair.  A local group is restoring what they can and several artists and craftspeople have small studios and shops.

We went through the buildings to see the other end of the bridge to the chapel…


…avoided purchasing any pottery or jewellery and left by the door through which we had entered.


We were sorry to see that a large walled garden nearby had been let go.

Brougham Hall

I liked the notice on the door of one of the hall’s smaller buildings.  It should help those who don’t know the name to understand how it is pronounced


And the lion looked quite cheerful.

We drove on in the hope of visiting Brougham Castle which is not far away…

Brougham Castle

…but as it turned out that it is only open at weekends at this time of year, I took a picture of the A66 crossing the River Eden and we went on our way.

Brougham bridge

For those who think that these two buildings deserve more pictures and information, my sister Susan visited them last year and wrote about them in her blog. You can find that post  here.

It is very interesting.

The drive home passed without incident and we got in just in time for  a cup of tea.

I walked round the garden first though…..

daff and crocus

…and I did think that I might go for a short bike ride but a cold wind and no sunshine persuaded me to stay indoors.

I had a look out of the kitchen window while the tea was brewing.

dunnock and robin

I spent a happy hour or two on my computer, learning some new tricks from my score writing programme.  It has a feature that will automatically tie words of songs or hymns to the right notes in a score when you add them.  I haven’t used this before but it turns out to be very handy.

Our cold dry weather is set to continue but there are murmurs of impending snow next week.  That will not be welcome.

The flying bird of the day is a reliable but angry chaffinch.

flying chaffinch




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