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Posts Tagged ‘hazel flower’

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 guest picture comes from Irving who has been fishing in the Highlands.  He doesn’t tell me if he caught any fish but at least he made this very nice capture of the old bridge over the River Oykel.

oykel bridge

I had a varied day today including cycling, walking and singing and among the skills required was an ability to work out when it was going to rain and then to avoid being caught out when it had started.

It looked as though a morning bike ride would be best so I set off to go round my familiar Canonbie twenty mile route while hoping for the best.  It was not warm at about 6°C and a brisk north westerly wind made it feel cooler still but I was well wrapped up and enjoyed the ride, especially the bit that was downhill with the wind behind.

While I was at the highest point of the circuit, I remembered that my neighbour Liz had seen a ditch full of frog spawn on the hill while she was on one of her recent morning walks so I stopped to look at a water filled ditch beside the road and found that this too was filled with frog spawn.

frogs spawn

Sadly for the prospect of tadpoles, it looked as though the morning frosts may have been too harsh but there were certainly a lot of possibilities as the ditch was full of spawn for about twenty yards.

I didn’t stop again until my legs called for a break at Irvine House.  Cycling downhill and downwind may be fun but the reverse is hard work.

I had time to admire the walls on both sides of the road while I got my breath back.

mossmoss

Once I got home, I wasn’t surprised to find Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work on her new bench area project and after a quick look at some cheerful flowers…

bright flowers

…I made a record of the work in progress.

new bench

Over lunch, I had a look for some bird action but there wasn’t a lot going on and this blackbird was the only good shot that I had.

blackbird

Rain showers came and went and then it seemed dry enough to go out so Mrs Tootlepedal went back to the bench project and I took a little walk to look for riverside birds.

Almost as soon as I had set out, the clouds thickened and light rain appeared as if by magic so although I could see the welcome sight of the first daffodils along the river bank…

daffs by Esk

…the fidgety ducks, gulls and oyster catchers didn’t make good subjects and I had to look for something that was closer and standing still.  Regular readers will know that I find it hard to walk past a wall.

spleenwort

moss

I walked up to the Lodge and was impressed as I always am by this fine hedge.

Robbie's hedge

 

The rain had stopped but it was still cloudy although there was some sun catching a hill over there…

sun on Clark Fell

…and catching a branch down there…

mossy branch

…but not where I was walking.

The path along the river to the north looked deceptively inviting with the promise of sunshine…

Pheasant hatchery path

…but I went the other way into the clouds because I was on a mission to look for these….

hazel catkin

…and having found them to look for these too.

hazel flower

This is a female hazel flower and it is tiny so I was pleased to see not one but two…

hazel flower

…but these were the only two that I could find.  There are very few catkins at the moment so maybe there won’t be many flowers this year either.

It soon started raining again and I found a damp blackbird looking a bit fed up when I got back to the house.

wet blackbird

As it was raining, even Mrs Tootlepedal could be tempted into the house for a cup of tea and a biscuit and while we were inside, I set up the camera at the kitchen window.  The RSPB had published the results of their garden bird watch this morning and there had been a lot of talk about how well goldfinches had done in the count as they have become adept at using garden feeders.  I was therefore hoping to some on our garden today and I wasn’t disappointed.

goldfinch

They were not backward in coming forward to have words with any siskins in their way…

goldfinch and siskin

…but a siskin doesn’t take kindly to this sort of thing…

goldfinch and siskin

…and one of them soon resorted to violence to make the point.

goldfinch and siskin

The rain stopped and Mrs Tootlepedal went out again and not ,long afterwards, I went out too to record very satisfactory progress.

new bench

This is only a preliminary sketch as the paving has to be completed and a new bench is on order to replace the old one which has come to the end of its time.  All we will need then is some good weather to let us sit out on the bench and look at the garden.

I had an appointment at the health centre and it rather summed up the day that I cycled up to the town in bright sunshine and cycled back in a combination of bright sunshine and quite heavy rain.

And there was no rainbow.

In the evening I went to a Langholm Sings practice and had a very enjoyable time going over some familiar songs which we are digging  out for our summer concerts.

It wasn’t raining as I walked up and it wasn’t raining as I walked back but the oyster catchers who had been too quick for me in the afternoon were flying overhead and laughing loudly at me.

The flying bird of the day is not a goldfinch but a chaffinch wearing an identification ring.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from my brother Andrew’s visit to Nottingham.  As well as bridges, he saw this wheel.  Your town or city is unappealing if you don’t have a big wheel these days it seems.

Nottingham wheel

After a lonely breakfast, I checked on the vigour of the wind outside and decided that this would be a good day to stay indoors for a while and catch up on putting some of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.  I have been very slack lately and have not been doing my fair share of the work.

It took me quite a bit of time as there were one or two existing entries in the database that needed editing and by the time that I had put my week in, gone to the corner shop to get some milk and done the crossword there was not a lot of time to look out of the kitchen window.  It was fun when I did look out.

siskins and chaffinch

Some birds who were on the feeder were shouting at others as they approached….

goldfinch and chaffinch

…and others who were approaching were shouting at those who were on to get off

I went for a walk round the garden too.  The crocuses were looking very pretty.

washing green crocuses

white crocus

The pond was humming with frogs again today.

frogs in pond

Sandy rang up and we made an arrangement to meet for a walk in the afternoon.  Time was a bit tight so I made a quick leek and potato soup for lunch and then popped out for a short test run to see how the new rear gear mech was working on the fairly speedy bike.

It worked very well but the very brisk wind made testing it quite a trial.  I pedalled five miles up to Callister and in spite of trying quite hard, it took me 31 minutes.  By contrast, the return journey back to town took me 14 minutes.  I had time for a battle back up the road to Cleughfoot and another 20mph glide back home to complete 18 miles.

I topped my fuel up with a cup of tea and a roll and honey and was just changed and ready as Sandy appeared.

We walked along Gaskell’s and The Becks, starting along the river beside the park.

mossy wall at park

The glowing green of the wall at the park made me moss conscious and we looked for a few more examples as we went round.  They were not hard to find.

Moss on gaskells

Sandy’s sharp eye caught sight of a scarlet elf cup in a ditch near the Auld Stane Brig….

scarlet elf cup

…and I knew another place later in the walk where we should see more if they were out.  I was right and the example on the left is from Sandy’s ditch and the two on the right are from a large crop in the Becks wood.

The light was good enough for big views at the start of the walk….

Castle Hill

Castle Hill

…but the sun went in as we walked along and once we were in the wood, it was hard to get the cameras to focus.  We saw some bootlace fungus on a dead log and lots of hazel flowers in a dark corner.

bootlace fungus and hazel flowers

On the whole though, it was a better day for stretching the legs than taking pictures.

I did stop to take yet another picture of the Auld Stane Brig, just because I could…

Auld Stane Brig

…and a splendid gnarly tree beside it.

tree at auld stane brig

On our way back along the track after crossing the Becks Burn and coming up through the wood, we saw equines of various sizes…

pony

…some with very cheerful associates.

Ramsay and horse

When we got home, Sandy stayed for a cup of tea and a biscuit or three and then I made a  really delicious dish of baked eggs in a bed of spinach with a cheese sauce topping.  This is a recipe with so many variables (how much mustard in the sauce, how long to cook the spinach, has the cheese got enough bite, is the sauce too thick, too thin, are the eggs cooked properly or like bullets) that when you get them all right by sheer accident, eating it is like dining with the gods.  Tonight was such a night.

I had a shower and a shave and went off to the Langholm choir practice in a very good mood after such a generally pleasant afternoon of cycling, walking and eating.

The choir practice was enjoyable as well and it rounded off a day which was as good as any day without Mrs Tootlepedal in it can be.

There is a frog of the day….

frog

…and a flying bird of the day to go with it.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is an unusual shot of a new part of the town with the seventh hole of the Langholm Golf Club in the background.  It was taken by Dropscone.

Langholm

We woke up to another glorious morning but it proved to be something of a false dawn as there was a very cold wind blowing and the day clouded over during the morning.

The frogs were still out in strength.

frog

Following the sound advice to go back and try and take a better picture, Sandy and I had a cup of coffee and went off to the Kilngreen to look at ducks and crocuses again. We went down to the Skippers Bridge first, as we had received a report that otters might be seen there…..not by us today though so we went back to the ducks.

The sun was still shining when we got there.

I almost saw a pair of oyster catchers…

Oyster catchers

…and I did see a lot of ducks.

mallards

The colour of the water was as pretty as the colour of the ducks.

I had to do some smart ducking to avoid being knocked over by flying mallards…

mallard in flight

mallard in flight

…but there were some more restful moments too.

mallards

I tried to take some crocus pictures but it was too windy as you can see from this ruffled gull and they wouldn’t stand still…

black headed gull

…so I settled for some gull chasing instead.

black headed gull

As you can see from the background to that last shot, the sky had clouded over so Sandy and I left the Kilngreen and walked over the Castleholm on a hazel flower hunt.  They are hard to spot unless you know where to look.  Even when you see one, they tend to look like a tiny red dot and it takes a clever camera to see their full beauty.

hazel flower

For the technically minded, I held the twig in one hand and used the other to take the picture with the Lumix.  One handed cameras are good value.

We kept a desultory eye out for nuthatches but with the sun gone, it was too chilly to hang about for long in the mean wind and we soon packed up and headed for home.

Mrs Tootlepedal was still busy painting and decorating when I got there so I made her a light lunch and then spent some time considering whether a grey day with a biting wind was a good day to go out for a pedal or more suitable for taking a day’s rest.

I spent so long considering this that the decision was made for me and I did a little business on the computer instead of cycling.

I may not have been very busy but for some reason, the bird feeder has attracted a huge amount of traffic lately and I counted over 50 birds on and around it at one time this afternoon.

busy feeder

In the air…

chaffinches

…and on the ground below as well as in the plum tree above.

There were almost too many birds about for a good photogrpah.

chaffinches

Mike Tinker came round later in the afternoon with his useful electric chain saw and sawed up a large hawthorn trunk which Mrs Tootlepedal had spent several weeks trying to uproot.  I didn’t think that she would ever manage it but like that ram and that dam, she had high hopes and they were realised.  Once the trunk was sawn up, it was soon made into logs ready for our stove.

In the evening, we went to the Buccleuch Centre to see our local amateur operatic society put on a performance of Sunshine on Leith, a musical based on the songs of the Proclaimers.  We had enjoyed watching the film but had never seen the stage show before.

We thoroughly enjoyed the evening.  The acting was very competent and the pace was  good enough so that the jokes made you laugh and the pathos made you feel sad.  You can’t ask for anything more than that.

The music of the Proclaimers is deceptively simple but somehow, for me at least,  it has real depth as well and the words and music complement each other with very effective results.  The singing of the principals was excellent and the playing of the small band did the music justice.

I saw two unusual things during the day.  One was a blue tit on the feeder, only an occasional visitor these days…

blue tit

…and the other was Jim waving furiously at me from the town bridge.  Some people will do anything to get their picture in the blog.

Jim on the Town Bridge

You wouldn’t believe that the bridge is slap in the middle of the town from this shot.

The flying bird of the day is an obliging gull which staged a fly past on the Kilngreen this morning.

black headed gull

 

 

 

 

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