Posts Tagged ‘hazel catkins’

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.


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 guest picture was taken by my sister Mary in the Japanese Garden in Holland Park, London, England a few days ago. That is a nice international medley of names to go with a delightful picture taken on a dull day.

Japanese Garden Holland Park

After our very brief burst of springlike weather yesterday, we were back in the groove today with ten tenths cloud, occasional rain and a cold and uncharitable wind blowing.  It was rather disappointing.

However, there was plenty of activity going on to keep my mind off the missing sunshine.

I started with a walk after breakfast and I enjoyed the daffodils along the river bank in Caroline Street.  They brought a welcome touch of colour to a dull day.

daffodils on Wauchope

And for my daffodil of the day, I chose one from the clumps along the banks of the Esk between the bridges.


I was hoping to catch the goosanders but had to make do with an oyster catcher again.

oyster catcher

It wasn’t very inviting walking weather so I did more leg stretching than looking around just to keep myself warm but I couldn’t help noticing a rather strange set of fungi on a fallen tree by the river bank.


They are just normal bracket fungi but the way that they sat on the tree trunk made it look as though they were floating.

I did look to see if there were any more hazel catkins and flowers about but once again I saw few catkins and only two flowers.

hazel catkin and flower

It is hard to say whether more will arrive with some warmer weather or if this is all that there will be in such a miserable spring.

There were occasional signs of life elsewhere among the lichen covered branches of the trees.

lichen and buds

And I passed a party of cheerful Tuesday walkers who had stopped to pay their respects to a small dog.


I was pleased to get home and a have a cup of coffee but I did take a quick look round the garden first….

tree peony

…where the tree peony is looking healthy and I at last got a half decent picture of the pulmonaria flowers.


I also took a moment to check on the birds.

There were a lot about.

siskin and greenfinch

A chaffinch needed only a one footed attack to dislodge a fellow from the feeder.


After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal, Patricia, our guest, and I went off to Hawick in the car to visit a small exhibition of work there by Mrs Tootlepedal’s Embroiderers’ Guild group.  She hadn’t been able to go to the opening as she was visiting her mother at the time.

The exhibition had been very well mounted…

EG exhibition Hawick

…in a small gallery in the Textile Towerhouse.  It had gone down so well with visitors that a notice pointing out that the exhibits were not for sale had had to be put up.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a couple of old favourite pieces in the show and one of her newer pieces figured on the poster which was pleasing.


Stumpwork on the left and the new piece at the bottom right of the poster. 

We had an excellent lunch, rather surprisingly accompanied by live string playing from students of Trinity College, London.

We walked back to car, passing many bridges in the town….

hawick bridge

…both old….


…and new…


…and then drove home by way of Whitrope Summit and Hermitage, passing another bridge…

Copshaw road bridge

…Hermitage Castle…

Hermitage Castle…and a cottage at the back of beyond.

Hermitage road

In spite of the heavy clouds hanging low on the hills or perhaps even because of them, it was  a peaceful and picturesque drive.

It would have been nice to get out of the car for a walk but it really was cold and unpleasant even though the rain had stopped so we were happy to go straight home.

The birds had been busy and I filled the feeders again as the lowering of the seed level was leading to regrettable behaviour.

chaffinch stamping on goldfinch

I had hoped to go for a cycle ride when we got back from our outing but the wind was far too brisk to make cycling anything else but a chore so I found useful things to do indoors until Patricia kindly took us out for a meal at the Douglas  Hotel in the evening.

The food was excellent as usual.  It is not often that we eat out at all so to get two good meals out on the same day was a great treat.  It hasn’t done my slimming regime any good though.  My new bike when it comes will be a kilogram and a half heavier than the old fairly speedy one so I need to lose a couple of kilograms from my body weight to make up the difference.  This is proving hard in the cold weather when a bit of comfort eating is always likely.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, probably looking for someone to kick.

flying chaffinch


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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He came upon this bridge over the River Dove when he was out with his walking group.  He points out that it is  unusual in that the later two lane bridge, to save costs, has been built on top of the old medieval one lane one.

River Dove bridge

We had a day of sunshine and showers here today and the trick was to choose the right moment to get the weather appropriate to your desired activity.  I started with finding a dry moment to cycle up to the Day Centre to get a key for the camera club meeting in the evening.

Then I entertained Dropscone to coffee (he brought the scones) and pondered about cycling when he had left.  Dropscone had found it pretty chilly when he had cycled through so that gave me pause for thought.

The sun was out and I walked round the garden while I thought some more about cycling (it was rather windy).

scilla and daffodil

The flowers were grateful for a dry spell.

Then I went back inside and considered things a bit more while I watched the birds.

Chaffinches approached the feeder in their own way.

chaffinch approaching feeder

Getting up close

chaffinch approaching feeder

Taking the long view

Some birds waited calmly…

chaffinch and siskin

On the pole or on the plum tree

…while others wasted time on the feeder by discussing politics.

chaffinch and goldfinch

Finally I thought that the weather looked sufficiently set fair and the wind just quiet enough for a ride so I got my cycling gear on and set out on the fairly speedy bike.

The wind turned out to be pretty fierce after all and I adopted my usual strong wind plan and skulked about in a cowardly way, going up and down the four miles in the sheltered  valley bottom to Cleuchfoot and back.   This may be a bit dull but it does mean that I get a regular break from pedalling into the wind and three trips gives me a 25 mile ride which is not to be sniffed at in testing conditions.

It also gave me chance to look for some female alder flowers which the New Hampshire gardener had told me that I ought to find as the male catkins were opening.  He was right of course.

I stopped at the alders beside the Glencorf Burn…

alder alders Glencorf Burn

…and there were the flowers.

alder flowers

On my second lap, I stopped for some hazel catkins and flowers….

hazel catkins

…and on my third and last lap, the lichens got my attention.


I also stopped to see how much water was going over my favourite cascade on the mighty Wauchope.

Wauchope cascade

Not quite as much as I had expected.

It looks from the pictures as though I had unbroken sunshine on my trip but there were some good looking clouds still about…


…and on the second lap,they produced a sharp and painful hailstorm in the middle of the most exposed section.  The temperature dropped and the wind got up and I was beginning to consider a shortened expedition when thanks to the brisk wind, the clouds and hail rapidly blew away and I was quite warm and dry by the time that I got home.

The trip took my distance to over 300 miles for the month and with ten days still to go, that is  very satisfactory.

When I got in, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal and our  neighbour Liz were planning a trip to the council dump.  Some people have all the fun.

When I went to put my bike back into the garage, I discovered a frog hopping about inside.  We left the door open and went away and the frog soon hopped out again and posed for a moment…


..before disappearing into the log pile.

With a view to taking a picture suitable for transforming into a monochrome flower study for the camera club meeting, I had a quick walk round the garden…


…and enjoyed the colour of the new spirea leaves..


..before going inside for a late lunch.

I waved Mrs Tootlepedal off on her joyride, promising to keep an eye on the washing which was drying in the garden but almost as soon as she had left, it started to rain so I had to jump up and get the washing in.  It was just as well that I did because the rain soon changed to pelting hail and then back to rain again, coming down in stair rods.  The temperature dropped three degrees C in a handful of minutes.

I had timed my bike ride well.

The rain didn’t improve the birds’ tempers and a chaffinch rudely booted a siskin off the feeder to the horror of the onlookers.

chaffinch and siskin squabble

By the time that Mrs Tootlepedal and Liz returned from the dump, the sun was out again.

In the evening, my flute pupil Luke came and played the pieces which he is using for an exam later this week.  He has been learning these at school and he must have been practising very hard because he played them very well.  If all goes as it should, he ought to pass the exam.

Later on, I went to the Camera Club meeting and a good attendance of members had an excellent evening with a number of very interesting images to enjoy.  The monochrome flower challenge had brought out some innovative ideas and at the end, we agreed that a good time had been had by all.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin which almost squeezed into the frame.






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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Bruce.  He ordered 28 litter pickers from two different sources.  24 of them came in the small box at the front of his picture.  The other four from Amazon came in one enormous box each.  This is the economics of madness.

litter pickersIt was sunny when I woke up this morning.  I was so surprised that I had to have a little lie down.  In fact, it was sunny and misty at the same time and I had hopes that the mist would lift and we would have a fine day so I got the fairly speedy bike out after breakfast.

Instead of my usual westerly route, I pedalled northwards today.  It is a fine cycling route but I don’t use it very often because the first few miles are appallingly surfaced and it is very bumpy.

Things looked promising as I looked over the Esk valley soon after the start.

Gates of EdenIt looked as though the clouds would soon be gone but the further I went along, the more the clouds thickened up and by the time that I was half way round, all signs of blue sky had disappeared.

Still, I had some sunshine left as I pedalled up to Bailliehill, looking down on the River Esk below me.

River EskI stopped to take a photograph of the meeting of the White and Black Esk rivers just past Bailliehill.

The White Esk

The White Esk, this was the one I would be following for the next part of my ride.

The Black Esk

The Black Esk. This is dammed further up for a reservoir which provides Langholm with its water supply.

Just a few yards upstream, the Black Esk is crossed by a striking bridge, obviously very popular with birds.

Black Esk bridgeI cycled on towards Eskdalemuir, following the route of the Eskdale Prehistoric Trail.  I didn’t visit any of the sites as it would involve too much walking and I was on a tight schedule. The only site that you can see from the road is this one…

EPT, Over Rig…at Over Rig.  It is described in the leaflet accompanying the trail as a unique and perplexing site – fascinating but mysterious.  There is a good deal of speculation about the site but the leaflet ends its entry by asking, “What was it? Will we ever know?”  In my case, the answer to the second question is, “No.”

The road to Eskdalemuir through Castle O’er is one of my favourites and even the final disappearance of the sun couldn’t diminish my pleasure as I pedalled quietly along It.  The road back to Langholm on the other bank of the river…


Prehistoric Trail

 ….is less interesting and has a steep hill near the start but with a long descent to ease the muscles after it.

I was stopped in my tracks near Bentpath by the sound of bleating.  It was the first lamb of the year.

lambAlthough shorter than yesterday’s ride, today’s effort had quite a bit more climbing and I was pleased to arrive home in good order.  I had taken things very easily up all the hills partly because I wanted to be sensible and partly because I had little oomph in my legs anyway so my average speed was in the stately class.

When I got home, I had a tour round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal.  We were impressed by a pond full of purring frogs…

three frogs…and the crocuses, which have been looking very battered,  were impressed by the warmer weather.

crocusescrocusesI spent a little time watching a very feisty lady chaffinch seeing off all comers.

chaffinchAfter lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Carlisle to purchase some building supplies and I went to a meeting about the forthcoming Tourist Information season for which I am a volunteer.  There are exciting plans afoot with new premises planned and all we need now is some tourists.

After the meeting was over, I got the slow bike out and revisited the Kilngreen and the Castleholm hoping to get some better pictures of dippers and tree creepers now that the light was a bit better even though it was still cloudy.  Needless to say I didn’t see a dipper or a tree creeper today but on the plus side, I saw a wagtail….

wagtail…and got some better picture of catkins and flowers of the hazels by the river.

catkinshazel flowersThe pictures gives no clue to how tiny the elegant female flower is compared to the showy males  catkins.

I was quite tired after two days energetic cycling but I had enough energy to admire the chimney pot which was first capped and then completed during the day.

chimneyIt suits the house very well.  The builders are finishing the inside work and the end wall will be wet dashed (like the chimney) at the weekend so the end really is in sight now.

In the evening, we went to our local community choir, Langholm Sings.  We are working towards two concerts at the end of May so we have plenty to do at our practices.

The flying bird of the day is a duck which nearly knocked me over on the Kilngreen.

flying duck

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