Posts Tagged ‘hazel’

Today’s guest picture is the final one from Venetia’s Moroccan trip.  It shows a gecko basking in the sun.


It was another grey day here but slightly warmer and not actually raining as I walked to church in the morning.  Our bus driving organist had been called to do an an extra shift owing to shortage of staff in Edinburgh but a late replacement appeared so we had accompanied hymns even if they were not the ones that we expected.

I went out into the garden when I got home to check on frogs.  Once again there were none to be seen so I had to make do with a pulmonaria and a bit of colour on a viburnum…

pulmonaria and buds

…and some lawn talk with my neighbour over the garden hedge.  Another sign of spring.

Things in the garden are developing very slowly in the continuing damp, grey and cool weather.

I went back in and watched the birds for a while.  There has been a brisk demand for seed over the past few days and I have been kept busy refilling the feeder.

A siskin watched a queue of chaffinches filing past…

siskin watchinmg chaffinches

…and although this siskin has got its head stuck into the seed, its tail and wing position show that it is fully aware of the incoming chaffinch.

chaffinch and siskin

A bird needs to be alert as there is no knowing when a passing chaffinch might decide to give you a hefty kick.

all action siskins

Quieter scenes were also available.

chaffinch on pole

In both directions.

siskin on pole

We had a second helping of tomato soup for lunch and I printed out 200 more envelopes and covering letters for Mrs Tootlepedal.  These are going to go down to Canonbie where other people will deliver them.

When I looked, I saw that the seeds had dropped below the top perch level and a helpful chaffinch had to explain to a pal that the seed was down here now.

chaffinch too high

Mrs Tootlepedal hadn’t come to church as she was busy again delivering brochures in the town for the proposed community buy out.  She is not alone in this work and one of the team came round to collect more envelopes.  While she and Mrs Tootlepedal mulled over the work in hand, a heavy shower of rain swept through the garden and by the time that they had finished talking, it had gone.  Good timing.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off in the car to deliver envelopes to some of the outlying houses in the area and I didn’t go with her to help as I wanted to go cycling.  There was alarming talk on the news websites of old people in the UK being made to remain in their homes for a long period in the not too distant future so I wanted to get some exercise while I still could.

I got my cycling gear on and just as I was going to go out, it started to rain. In normal circumstances, I might have got fed up and stayed a home but having told Mrs Tootlepedal that I couldn’t help her, I thought that I ought to actually go for a bike ride, so I set off.

I chose a route up the Ewes valley as this meant that I would start with the wind and rain at my back and not get discouraged too soon!

The rain persisted but never came to much so I quite enjoyed my wind assisted cycle up the hill to Mossspaul.

I wasn’t intending to stop for pictures in the rain but this unusual little waterfall in the middle of a field caught my eye.

unexpected oxbow waterfall ewes

When I looked at the scene more closely, I could see that I was watching a geography lesson in action.  All the makings of the formation of an oxbow lake were before me.

oxbow lake ewes

It is not often that you see that.

There was plenty of water running off the hillside and every little stream was busy.

stream at mosspaul

When I stopped at Mosspaul  after ten miles, I took a moment to enjoy this pine tree…

pine at Mosspaul

…before setting off back down the hill to Langholm.  I had feared that it might be an unpleasant battle with wind and rain but the rain had eased off and the wind came round a point or two and was often more across than in my face.

All in all, it was a much more enjoyable ride than I had expected when I started out, and as I managed to average just over 14 mph for an outing for the first time this year, I was a happy man when I greeted Mrs Tootlepedal who had returned from her post outing and was busily folding the letters which I had printed earlier.

She didn’t need any help so I went for a short  walk.  The day had dried up and there was even a hint of sunshine.

monument in late sun

Waterside birds are paired up.

three bird pairs

And other signs of spring are to be seen.

three sings f spring

The birds still look as though they are finding life…

oyster catcher in esk

…a little chilly…


…but the crocuses on the Kilngreen are certainly brightening things up.

kilngreen crocus panel

The sun didn’t come out so I didn’t dilly dally but willow and moss made me pause for a moment or two…

willow and moss

…and I went to check on the hazel catkins beside the Esk on the Castleholm.  When I last looked, there were several female flowers but very few catkins.  Today, there were a lot more catkins but I had to look very hard to find a flower and in the end, I only saw one and it was nowhere near the catkins.

The weather seems to have confused the hazels.

hazel catkin and flower

I made some corned beef hash for tea and we settled down for a quiet night in.  It had been strange to have no Carlisle Choir to go to but at least we had got the delivery work and a cycle ride done between us so we hadn’t wasted the day.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, approaching the feeder with the confidential manner of a head waiter at a posh restaurant.

flying goldfinch

Footnote:  The Coronavirus news is everywhere. 

Yesterday I read a headline that said “Borders Shut” so I thought that we had been closed down without us knowing about it.  It turned out to be about the closure of international borders in Europe not the border counties of Scotland.  Phew.

Today it said “UK over 70s to be confined to home for a long period”.  That was most unwelcome.  Closer reading showed that in Scotland, us old folk will be allowed some freedom to toddle about outside if we are prepared to ca canny, which we definitely will do.  Phew again.

Don’t think that we aren’t taking this seriously, because we are. 

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony.  He has been looking up lately and as well as holes in clouds, he has seen the moon.

tony's moon

We had another fine sunny day here today and because the wind had dropped, it felt really warm and we were able to discard several layers of winter clothing.

We started the day with a visit to church to sing with the choir.  Because our local amateur operatic society was having a full day of rehearsals for their forthcoming show, we were a bit short of numbers but we gave it our best anyway.

When we got back to the house, we had a stroll round the garden.  I checked on the frogs and saw an odd sight…

two frog heads

…with two frogs looking as though they had been shot and mounted on a wooden board.  A second look showed me that they were in fact floating on top of a reflection of the bridge above them and if you look carefully, you can see the rest of their bodies under the water.

The rest of the pond was full of frogs.

frog panel

The garden is full of crocuses…

crocuses beside opath

…and other interesting things like a naturally dried sunflower head, a ladybird and the developing euphorbia.

sunflower, ladybird and euphorbia

I was just going about photographing things when I was hailed by neighbour Irving who was leaning over the garden fence.  He has been very poorly recently with a bad back and was keen to share some experiences with me as I have suffered from a bad back too in my time.

Irving on fence

He felt that after being ill, he was probably not at his best photographically and told me not to put his picture in the blog.  You can see that he is perhaps looking a little part worn still so I won’t use his picture.

During the day when she was between choirs, Mrs Tootlepedal completed the varnishing of the rocking horse.

rocking horse eyes

The dappling of a rocking horse is a very stylised business and she has settled for a fairly restrained version which I think is just the thing.

rocking horse varnished

We are waiting now for the arrival of the saddle, bridle, main and tail from the rocking horse shop and then the final stage of the work can begin.

We had a busy day at the feeder today with a good number of siskins flying in and out…

three flying siskins

…alongside the usual chaffinches and goldfinches…

three flying birds

…and a visiting starling showed off its iridescent colours.

starling on feeder

I had time for a short three bridges walk and spotted quite a few oyster catchers beside the river..

oyster catcher in sun

The sense of a spring day was heightened by the sight of the first blossoms on the trees which line the Esk between the suspension and the town bridges.

cherry blossom

At the Kilngreen, the crocuses are starting to come out along the banking and although they are not quite as showy as the Edinburgh display which I saw on Thursday…

kilngreen crocus bank

…they are not to be sniffed at.

kilngreen crocuses

I haven’t seen Mr Grumpy for some time, so it was good to see him back on guard beside the Ewes Water.


I walked over the Sawmill Brig and walked up almost as far as the Lodge…

Lodge in Feb

…before crossing the Castleholm and taking the riverside path back towards the Jubilee bridge.  I was wondering if the spell of good weather might have tempted some hazel flowers to come out.

It had.

The catkins were open and if you look carefully, you can just see a little red female flower at the top of the picture.

hazel catkin and flower

This tree had several flowers out…

haxel flowers

…but I didn’t see any more as I walked along the path.  They have arrived early this year.  It has sometimes been almost a month later before I have seen them.

castelholm sunny feb

I called in on our friends Mike and Alison on our way home as Mike has been poorly with a chest infection.  I had seen him briefly on our way to church when he was on his way to buy a newspaper and looking far from well but he was much more cheerful by lunchtime and reported that he is on the mend.

When  I got home, I found the pond full to bursting with frogs.

many frogs in pond

I had time for a quick lunch and while I was  eating my soup, Mrs Tootlepedal noticed that a redpoll had arrived.  I put down my soup spoon and picked  up a camera and recorded this welcome arrival.

february redpoll

After lunch, we went off to Carlisle for a very hard working final practice before the Carlisle Community Choir goes to Manchester next week to compete in the Manchester Amateur Choir Competition.

Mrs Tootlepedal is not taking part this year so I will be going down by myself, except of course for the other eighty choir members who will be coming too.

I am hoping for good weather so I can wander about during the day taking pictures.

I had made a venison stew in the slow cooker in the morning and in spite of saying recently that we had used all the veg from our garden, I was happy to find that we still have some home grown turnips in store in our garage so one of them went in.  Thanks to the good summer, things have lasted well in storage this season.

The flying bird of the day was a lucky shot taken at the Kilngreen as I clicked my camera at random as a duck flew by down the river.  I must have moved it inadvertently at almost duck flying speed.

flyng duck

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Today’s guest picture comes from former Archive Group member Ken who has gone back to the east coast where he is celebrating the twentieth birthday of the ‘Angel of the North’.

angel of the north

It didn’t snow today.  This was quite unexpected but to make up for it, a shrewd and biting wind made going outside a bit of a trial.

I had to go out after breakfast for a final visit to the health centre for a look at the scratches and grazes on my arms from the bike tragedy.  Like my face, they have healed up well and I was pronounced fully cured and discharged.  Hooray, I can have a bath or shower at last.

It was sunny when I walked across the suspension bridge on my way to the centre and I spotted four white dots on the river gravel.  I only had my phone with me and this is what it saw.

oyster catchers

If you look carefully at the end of the gravel, you can just make out that the white dots are four oyster catchers, the first that I have seen this year.

To our great relief, the bridge builders returned and started work….

dam bridge repairs

…..and to our great amazement, a new tea shack and office appeared as well.

dam bridge repairs

Upon enquiry, it turned out that the junior worker had broken the key in the door yesterday and so great was the security of the triple lock that the whole container had to be taken away to get it opened up again.  Meanwhile, a substitute had been delivered.

On my way back into the house, I walked past a pile of stones in our back garden which had come from the repairs to our house wall three years ago.  It shows how well moss grows in our climate.

moss in garden

The roads were still icy in places so I stayed in and got my bigger lens out and peered at the birds through the kitchen window.




A lot of siskins turned up after a while and started quarelling.


Rather annoyingly, our water supply first reduced itself to a trickle and then gave up entirely.  Water is one of those things that you don’t realise how much you need until you don’t have them.

We naturally assumed that it was the bridge builders who had done it since they cut the pipe not long ago but they protested their innocence and it was true that the pipe looked untouched.  In the end, a water board man came round in the early evening and solved the problem by turning on a stopcock which a person or persons unknown had turned off at the end of our road.   First our phone and then our water.  Can we put out a plea for people not to turn off our utilities.

Anyway, while we were waiting for the water board man to come, I went shopping in the town and then took a diversion on the way home.

I got a rather distant view of a single oyster catcher as I went along the river.

oyster catcher

I was disappointed that the other three had gone somewhere else.

I am learning how varied mosses are and trying to find out what to look for in a moss so I was pleased to find a good example of two different sporangia side by side on the Castleholm wall.

moss  sporangia

The ones on the left, standing up and brown and the ones on the right, hanging down and green.    I still can’t tell you what the mosses are but it is a start.

There were ferns on the wall too.

fern sporangia in sori

This might be a broad buckle fern but there are a lot to pick from.

Later on, I saw some ferns on a tree.  They look similar but when you look again, you see that they might be different.

fern and sori

This might be Dryopteris carthusiana,  spinulose woodfern, but then again, it might not be.

I am having a lot of fun looking at mosses and ferns and lichen.

I realise that not all readers might share my enthusiasm but when you are retired, you have plenty of time to look around.


Oh look, some more mosses, one creeping along the wall with stealthy fingers and one standing up straight with interesting cups.

It was pretty chilly….

snow on Timpen

….so I didn’t dawdle too much but I did stop for some snowdrops near the Lodge….

snowdrops castleholm

….and a hint of spring.

hazel catkin and bud

We were very pleased when our water came back on and we were able to do the washing up and make a cup of tea.

I went out as usual to take a picture of the bridge works at the end of the working day.  They are busy preparing to connect the bridge to the existing road.

dam bridge repairs

In the evening I drove to Carlisle to play with our recorder group.  Susan didn’t come with me as she is preparing to go to Ireland with her father and some of her siblings for a holiday tomorrow.   I hope to get a picture of two from them while they are away.

The recorder playing was most enjoyable as Heather brought her keyboard round with her and we played sonatas for two or three players and B.C. instead of our usual consort music.

It made a refreshing change.

I was so busy peering closely at the birds today that I forgot to take a good flying bird of the day and this was the best that I could find when I looked on the camera card.

flying chaffinch

And I cycled two hundred yards to the shop and back, the first time I have been on a bike for a fortnight.  The shop was closed by the time that I got there but I enjoyed the cycle ride!


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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony, who was working under the shadow of the Forth Railway Bridge today and kindly sent me this fine picture of the noble structure.

Forth Bridge

I had a day of constant but gentle activity with little time for staring out of the window or visiting the pond so the usual number of frog and battling siskin pictures is greatly reduced.

It was a fine dry day with quite a bit of sunshine but this was balanced by a brisk wind.

I discovered just how brisk the wind was when I went out on my bike at ten o’clock.  I had hoped to pile a few miles on but in the event, I had to lower my expectations considerably after the first ten miles took me just on an hour battling into the wind.  You might think that battling into the wind is always rewarded by being pushed home but my course was a sort of square and I ended up with one quarter against the wind, two quarters with cross winds and only a quarter with the helpful shove.

I managed thirty miles in the end but at a very slow speed indeed.

I didn’t have the mental energy to stop and take a lot of pictures so I settled for one of a fine gorse hedge near Gair….

Gorse hedge

…and one of a gang of English trees gossiping across the road near Battenbush.

Two trees.

I just had enough time for a shower and lunch when I got back before I had to go out to a meeting with Sandy and the lady who is project manager for the scheme for a community takeover of our local newspaper.  She was hoping to involve the Archive Group in her planning and we explained what we might be able to do (not much unfortunately but we will try our nest to help)

Sandy and I arranged a walk after the meeting and I cycled home, took a quick look at the garden where the crocuses have revived a bit…


…and the tadpoles are developing well….

…before walking along to the Town Bridge, where I paused to admire a gull on a rock and a goosander doing some fishing.

Gull and Goosander.

Looking from the other side of the bridge, I could see Sandy patiently waiting for me to arrive on the Kilngreen.


He tells me that he was sitting and thinking and not just sitting.

We took a moment to admire the bird life…..

Ducks and heron

Mr Grumpy is looking is age.

…and the riverbank crocuses


…before crossing the Sawmill Brig and touring the Castleholm.

The wall beside the bridge has a lot of blue green algae on it and I finally managed to get a definitive picture which confirmed what the New Hampshire gardener had showed me.  Our algae is strangely furry just like his.


A bit different when you look really closely

We were looking at the cones on a Noble Fir when strange blue objects caught our eye.  Research tells us that these are the male flowers of the fir.

Noble fir flowers.

We could hear a nuthatch singing in the tree beside the Jubilee Bridge but it took a passing walker to point it out to us.  It was too far off for a good picture but it is satisfactory to know that it is there.

All round our walk, we could hear robins singing and we saw quite a few as we went along.


This is just a sample. The one in the middle has lost a lot of feathers somehow.

We looked at flowers, both big…


…and small.


A hazel flower on a hairy twig.

We pottered round the pheasant hatchery and enjoyed this omnivorous tree eating fence wire of all sorts.

Tree with wire

After crossing the Duchess Bridge, we made our separate ways home and I was impressed by the colourful show of Mike and Alison’s cherry tree.

Mike and Alison's cherry tree

I took a moment to look out of the kitchen window when I got in…

siskin and chaffinch

A tiny siskin gives a chaffinch some advice about going elsewhere.

siskin and goldfinch

The goldfinch is in for a shock.

…and then went out to see what Mrs Tootlepedal had been up to in the garden while I was walking.   She is very happy with the neat appearance which our neighbour’s new fence gives to the vegetable garden.


It makes the plot look much more purposeful.  We will have to wait and see whether it will make the vegetables grow better.

I then made a risotto for my tea and went off to a choir practice with our local choir.  The choir is working well at the moment and the practice was most enjoyable so it rounded off a day of continuous pleasure and hard work.

I did catch a flying bird of the day during my brief look out of the window.


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Today’s guest picture shows Scarborough Bay where my brother was enjoying enough sun to bask  (but not enough to swim).


I had carefully studied the weather forecast for today and it suggested that if I rose early, ate my breakfast promptly and got out on the bike in good time, I would enjoy pleasant sunshine and light winds…and then when I had gone twenty miles to the west, I would be able to turn for home and have a strengthening wind behind me for the trip home.

It sounded too good to be true.

These plans are easy to make and easy to break but for once, I actually followed this one to the letter.  The morning sunshine made the old gravel pits at Longtown fairly sparkle.


The road at Gretna was lined with celandine.


And when the time came to change direction at Annan, the wind duly strengthened and blew me home under the little railway viaduct at Kirtlebridge.

kirtlebridge viaduct

Although the traffic was light and I hardly saw a lorry all day, the back roads were busy with tractors making the most of the good weather.  I saw my first rolled field at Eaglesfield, always a good sign of spring.

rolled field

Altogether it was a very good ride and the 45 miles had the added benefit of taking me over 400 miles for the month.  This is a psychological boost with a few days still to go.

Those interested can find more details of the outing by clicking on the map below.

garmin 25 Mar 2016

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal was also making good use of the weather and had spent the morning in the garden on a major tidying and re-organising mission in the bed at the end of the drive.  She is going to plant it with flowers for cutting for the house this year.

I did my bit by digging out the last of the old kitchen compost and distributing it on various beds in the vegetable garden.

The birds were as busy as Mrs Tootlepedal.

busy feeder

I had a look round for some flowers and found some old…

hellebore and crocus

…and some new.


There are a lot of other flowers almost out so I hope to get some more photographic excitement the next time we see the sun.

Leaving Mrs Tootlepedal to her toiling, I went for a short walk in the hope of seeing some of the riverside birds.

Before I saw any birds, my eye was taken by a sprig of delightful blossom beside the river.

cherry blossom

I didn’t need to go very far before I saw a pair of oyster catchers on the stones beside the Esk.

Oyster catchers

For once, they didn’t scamper off and this time they let me get quite close.

Oyster catcher

I like the subtle contrast in colours between the legs, the beak and the beady eye.

On the other side of the town bridge, a wagtail was wagging its tail on a rock in the Ewes.

pied wagtail

As I was snapping away at the wagtail, a pair of dippers flew past me but they were gone before I could turn round.

I shot a duck by way of consolation.


I continued my walk onto the Castleholm.   There was lots to look at.

moss and heather

hazel and bramble

I crossed the Castleholm and walked up one side of the river, over the Duchess Bridge and back down the other side.

Esk paths

It was a lovely spring day as you can see.

Mrs Tootlepedal was still slaving away when I got back and she might have been there still had not Dropscone arrived in the hope of a cup of tea and bearing a very competitively priced turnip which he had bought this morning as a gift for the household.  He is a thoughtful chap.

During the day, I had rung up Sandy to find out how he was and received some disappointing news.  He had been all ready to leave hospital but as he got ready to go, he was attacked by such a burst of pain that the doctors out him back to bed again.  I am going down to fetch him home tomorrow if all goes well.

Talking of medical matters, my younger son thinks that I ought to have mentioned that he has been laid low by a terrible cold and has been quite poorly.  I make up for that omission now. Aaah.

In spite of the sunshine, the frogs seem to have deserted the pond for the moment and this was the only one I saw all day.


The frog spawn seems to be developing well though and I hope to have tadpole shots before too long.

For some reason both Mrs Tootlepedal and I felt a little tired after tea and we spent the evening sitting very quietly and  doing nothing.

The flying bird of the day is the two obliging oyster catchers.

flying oyster catchers

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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…


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

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


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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