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Posts Tagged ‘hellebore’

Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s African trip.  She met a number of alarming animals as she went along.

Nile crocodile

My day started with a visit to the doctor to inquire about the possibility of a miracle cure and consult about the blood test results following my mild anaemia.  The blood results could not have been better as all my levels were just about as good as they could be.  The doctor declared that I was in perfect health and I was almost embarrassed to mention my foot trouble and show her my swollen foot.

Her diagnosis was osteoarthritis due to wear and tear and the miracle cure was thus not available.  She has sent me off for an x-ray though in case I have got some other damage in my foot.  As that will probably take two weeks to happen, I shall continue to hobble around muttering balefully meanwhile.

It was a lovely day though so that cheered me up when I got back into the garden, especially when I found out that Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy putting a neat edge on the middle lawn.

edged lawn

Nothing makes a lawn look better than a neat edge.

I did the edges of the front lawn and then took a look round.  In the pond, the tadpoles are still in a heap but they are looking quite healthy and should start swimming around soon.

tadpoles

It was such a perfect day that I thought that I might test out the idea that had been put into my head by Stan at our last camera club meeting and try what a mirror could do.

The dog tooth violet seemed like a good subject as it hangs its head down so I stuck the mirror underneath it and had a go with my little Lumix.

violet with mirror

The result was very satisfactory in that I got a shot which I don’t think that I could have got by any other method without picking the flower.

violet in mirror (2)

I got my Nikon out, put the macro lens on and tried a few other flowers with the mirror technique.

A hellebore…

hellebore in mirror

…a scylla…

scylla in mirror

…and back to the violet again.

violet in mirror

I am grateful to Stan as it is obviously a really promising idea….though if I am seen walking through the woods with a shaving mirror in my hand, I may get some odd looks.

While I had the macro lens on, I peered at the euphorbia…

euphorbia in sunshine

…the doronicum…

doronicum

…and the nameless little white flowers.

two little white flowers

I noticed the very first dicentra of the year…

first dicentra

…and Mrs Tootlepedal noticed that there were several ladybirds about too.

ladybird in garden

Mrs Tootlepedal went in to cook some sticky toffee pudding and I stayed out in the garden and was very pleased to get a visit from a man from the power company who had come to inspect our wobbly electricity pole,  He gave the bottom of the pole some savage whacks with a hammer and decided that the telephone men had been wise not to climb up it.  It has to go and after some consideration of the possibility of digging trenches through three gardens (as the pole serves three houses), he decided that putting up a new pole would be the way to go.  To avoid wrecking Mrs Tootlepedal’s garden, the hole for the pole will be hand dug.  This will make for interesting work for the apprentices whose job it will be to dig the hole.

In the end, as we were going to Edinburgh as usual to visit Matilda, I had to leave the garden reluctantly and make a little lunch.  I watched the birds as the soup heated.

In spite of a free perch on the other side of the feeder, a lady chaffinch thought that it was quite all right to trample on an innocent goldfinch.

chaffinch stamping goldfinch

To try to tempt some different birds to come to the feeders, I have put out some peanuts.  Mrs Tootlepedal saw a blue tit visit but the only bird I saw nibbling on the nuts was this siskin.

siskin on peanuts

On the whole, the sunflower hearts seem much more attractive than the peanuts and the birds were jumping at the chance to get a seed.

siskin landing

The trip to Edinburgh was delightful, with the train on time and the countryside looking at its best in the sun.

When we got there, Matilda was away from home practising a dance routine for a forthcoming competition so I had a moment to take a very short stroll through the nearby Botanic gardens.

It was a good place to be.

sdrsdrdigdav

Matilda returned and we had time for a chat before a meal of asparagus and lemon linguine cooked by Al and Mrs Tootlepedal’s sticky toffee pudding.  Al and Clare are in the middle of moving to their new house and we hope to be able to see it with the furniture and floors in soon.

The journey home went well so apart from still having a sore foot, it was a very satisfactory day.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s recent walk along the canals of Birmingham.

birmingham canal

We kept our dry weather today but there was no sign of sunshine so the temperature was at a more natural level for the first of March.

Following on the experience of the garden playing host to a partridge (though not in a pear tree), we saw the arrival today of two doves (though collared and not turtle).

two doves

Now we are expecting three foreign hens (though probably not from France).

In the absence of three French hens, I was happy to welcome Dropscone with some of his very best treacle scones at coffee time.  After coffee and conversation, he left to discuss the problems of installing a water meter in premises with no water supply with a man from the water company who wanted to install a water meter in the old Archive premises which don’t have a water supply.   I wished him luck.

Meanwhile, the siskins had got busy back in our garden.

A chaffinch sensibly kept its head done while two siskins squabbled…

siskin and siskin cinfrontation

…and a goldfinch did its best to ignore some challenging behaviour.

siskin and goldfinch confrontation

There were enough birds about to make putting out a second feeder seem like a good idea but in no time at all, both were being monopolised by more siskins.

siskins at both feeders

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Buccleuch Centre for lunch with two of our neighbours and I made some ginger biscuits to give to a friend of ours as a birthday gift.

Once the biscuits were cooked, I went out and  sieved some compost.  The gentle back exercise involved had a very beneficial effect on my feet.  They had been rather sore after pounding the streets of Edinburgh yesterday.  As a result, when Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her lunch and gave the biscuits the thumbs up, I went out for a short walk.

The pale hellebores in the garden had taken note of my complaints about them hanging their heads down and had made an effort to look up a bit.

pale hellebores

I walked down to the river and was happy to see that the trees along the bank between the bridges were bursting into flower…

riverside blossom

…and below them, the daffodils are starting to make a show.

riverside daffodils

It is beginning to feel like spring.

There were no gulls or oyster catchers about at all but I did see a dipper standing on a rock below the town bridge.

dipper below bridge

And along the Kilngree, a female mallard was doing the same.

duck on a rock

I crossed the Sawmill Brig and was impressed by the fruitful mosses on the wall.

four mosses

Instead of walking along the Lodge Walks, I headed up the hill and walked along the top of the woods, passing this gate on the way….

pathhead gate

…and seeing two unusual sheep in the field behind the gate.

varied sheep

As I walked along the top track, there was a hint of blue sky…

blue sky

…but it was not enough to bring the sun out as the blue sky was over there =>  and the sun was over there <=. along with a lot of clouds.

Although the individual snowdrops are going over fast, there are still enough about at Holmhead to make a delightful scene.

snowdrops Holmhead

There was not a lot of peace and quiet on the walk as the birds are getting the spring spirit and I was serenaded all along my route.

black bird

The many hazels along the river bank as I walked back to the town were dripping with catkins and covered in the tiny red flowers but I resisted the temptation to take yet another hazel flower picture and settled for this white flower growing on the wall at the top of the Scholars’ Field.

wild flower

As I passed my old school, I was saddened to see that the windows are not being maintained.  Although it is unoccupied and unused, it is still sad to see a building going to seed.

school window

I dropped in on Mike and Alison on my way home to enquire about their health and was offered a cup of tea and a ginger biscuit, which I accepted.  When I left, Mike came out into the garden to show me his dog’s tooth violets which are looking very pretty.

dog tooth violet

After tea, Mrs Tootlepedal and I set off in the car with some of our home cooked ginger biscuits, tastefully wrapped in a special bag which Mrs Tootlepedal had sewn while I was out walking.  They were to be a gift for our recorder playing and choir friend Sue who was having a birthday meal with her daughter.  Her daughter had secretly organised an after meal invasion by Sue’s friends and Sue took it very well when more and more people kept appearing through her daughter’s front door.

We had a very enjoyable and social time talking to Sue and her friends and eating the snacks provided by her daughter.

In a break from the endless line of flying chaffinches, the (only just) flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

just flying goldfinch

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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 is another from Ada’s trip to Tenerife.  She saw lots of this attractive tree heather while she was there.

Tenerife tree heather

It was another day when we couldn’t see much here as once again it was very grey and drizzly.  It has been reasonably warm though and there are flowers just waiting for a sunny day to spring into action.

soggy flowers

As I was walking round the garden in search of flowers, I heard a familiar purring sound and when I looked towards the pond, I saw that the frog clock was working well and they had returned on schedule.

frog in pond from behind

They are amazingly punctual.  I checked on past years and found that they seem to arrive within a two or three day window each year.  Day length rather than warmth or rain must be the determining factor.

They had got to work pretty smartly.

frogspawn

It wasn’t very attractive standing around getting rained on so I went back in and watched the birds.  My timing was off and I caught this chaffinch half a second too late.

landing chaffinch

It was a lot drier looking at the hellebore through the kitchen window.

hellebores from kitchen

This shot summed the morning up.

drips

It got a little drier and I nipped out to have another look for frogs.  There were half a dozen visible in the pond but this was the only one who hung around for a portrait shot.

frog in pond

After lunch, we set off to catch the train to Edinburgh and as we travelled, the weather improved until by the time that we got to Edinburgh, the sun was out, the wind had dropped and it was a very pleasant day.  The neat and regular houses in the New Town were looking handsome…

dig

…and the view across the Forth from the top deck of the bus as we went down the hill from Queen Street was worth the journey on its own.

dig

When we were walking from the station to catch the bus, we passed a splendid show of crocuses in Princes Street Gardens…

dig

…although a tourist was clashing with the muted colours of the flowers.

We arrived at Matilda’s house just as she got back from nursery and for the next three hours we had fun.  First Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda did their now famous dishwashering dancing as they filled the dishwasher and set it off and then Matilda and I played throwing and catching, setting Grandpa’s feet on fire (“It’s only pretend Grandpa, it won’t hurt.”) and then Matilda enjoyed being trapped and released by both Granny and Grandpa in turn. Matilda is growing up fast and gave me a sound thrashing at a bout of arm wrestling.  This was all very energetic so it was lucky that once again Al and Clare provided us with a splendid meal to restore our strength before we caught the bus back to the station.

Very unusually, our trains, both up and down, were bang on time.   Long may this continue.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch seen from an upstairs window for a change.

flying chaffinch from above

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Today’s guest picture, sent to me by her father, shows Matilda in pensive mood earlier this week.  As she was in Ireland at the time, maybe she was pondering the tricky Irish border question.

pensive Matilda

After yesterday’s glorious sunshine, we were back to grey and windy weather today.  It was theoretically quite a warm day with the thermometer showing a mellow 11°C but any warmth was utterly dependent on keeping out of  the very chilly wind.  As it was one of those winds that follow you round corners and blow up your trouser legs and down the back of your shirt, it was hard to get away from it.  I stayed indoors a lot.

I spent the morning reading the papers, doing the crossword and looking out of the window as chaffinches approached the feeder.

chaffunch landing

A goldfinch looked to be in line for a surprise.

chaffinch coming up on goldfinch

I was pleased to see a siskin among the birds on the perches…

busy feeder with a siskin

….and doubly pleased to see two.

busy feeder with two siskin

I had enjoyed my pain free bike ride yesterday so I resolved to see how walking went today and after lunch, I set off to walk about a mile to see how things were.

I nodded to a new daffodil doing its best to come out in the garden…

new daffodil

…and took a route that I hoped would take me past some water side birds.

I soon saw an oyster catcher…

one oyster catcher

…and then two more…

two oyster catchers

…and finally, three in a row.

three oyster catchers

One oyster catcher looks remarkably like another one to the untrained eye so I can’t tell if it was just the same birds flying about…

flying oyster catchers

…and landing in front of me or six separate birds.

Among the oyster catchers, a herring gull stood out.

gull

The walk was a great success as far as seeing birds went but it was a failure in terms of foot comfort so I cut it as short as I could and went home, passing the bush of pink snowberries beside the river on my way.  I love their Sunday name: Symphoricarpos.

pink snowberries

Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy in the garden while I was tottering about and she took me round to see the useful tidying up that she had accomplished.  Among other things, she had cleared some infected leaves from the hellebores and that gave me a photo opportunity which I took.

hellebore

Once back indoors, I settled down to work on choir songs and when it came to tea time, I made myself a dish of kidneys in a spicy wine, pepper and mushroom sauce on a bed of rice and followed that up with some semolina pudding for both of us.  The day might have been a bit disappointing but the evening meal saved it from disaster.

The flying bird is an eager looking goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who is on holiday in Wales.  He took the opportunity to see one of the most famous engineering feats of Thomas Telford, a local Eskdale hero.  The picture shows the magnificent Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which carries the Langollen canal through the skies over the river Dee.

telford aqueduct

We had a slightly warmer day here today but not much warmer so after having checked the weather forecast (grey but dry) I idled a couple of hours away after breakfast to let the temperature rise before getting out on my bike.

I spent some of the time watching birds.

full feeder

Goldfinches had come back today but my attempts to find a flying bird were generally less than successful with chaffinches either hiding behind the feeder…

chaffinch behind feeder

…or sneaking up before I was ready…

chaffinch approaching feeder

…and the goldfinches weren’t much more helpful.

goldfinch approaching chaffinch

I liked this pair with the sparrow in the role of Esau (my brother Esau is an hairy man…) and the chaffinch posing as Jacob (…but I am a smooth man).

chaffinch and sparrow

I set off on my bike, full of hope and with an ambitious itinerary in mind.  This lasted all of five miles because when I looked down into the Esk valley from the top of the Kerr hill, all I could see was rain, and heavy looking rain at that.

Within a minute, the rain had swept over me too and I was under fire from some painful, sleety raindrops which were being propelled by a strong and gusty wind.

I turned tail and tried to beat the rain.  I succeeded within a mile or so and instead of resting on my laurels and heading for home when I got to the Wauchope road, I set off to the top of Callister instead.  This was a bad mistake and the pedal home back down the hill was a full on experience of getting thoroughly wet.

Still, 17 miles was better than nothing and a hot shower restored my equilibrium.

Of course it had stopped raining by the time that I had got out of my shower so I went for a short walk.

There was even the odd glimpse of sunshine…

Town Bridge wet February

Telford worked on this bridge as an apprentice.

…but everything was very wet…

raindrops on park tree

…wherever you looked…

wet needles

…and as there were ominous clouds building up and my foot was hurting a bit, I took a quick stroll along the park wall where the pixie cup lichens ….

big cup lichen

…were to be seen on every side.

pots of cup lichens

The lichen stained bark of a tree caught my eye…

park tree bark

..but I had got discouraged so I headed home and looked for flowers in the garden.  The crocuses looked a bit discouraged too…

wet crocus buds

…but a hellebore was looking well and even had a fly for company.

hellebore feb

I lifted the head up to show that it was in good health.

hellebore held up

Once I got in, the weather brightened up but I was fed up by then and I did some singing practice, had a cup of tea and a biscuit with Mike Tinker who dropped in and made a beef stew for my evening meal.

While I was doing these things, Mrs Tootlepedal was continuing with her crochet blanket (the end is in sight) and doing some detailed work on the rocking horse as part of the preparations for painting it (a lot of work to go).

After tea, I went off for the first meeting of 2019 for the Langholm Community Choir.  There had been worries that the membership might drop off but there was a very good attendance with a new member on hand.  Mary, our director, in consultation with the committee, has settled on fewer new works this session and as they are fairly easy arrangements, we had a relaxed session.  I think this is a good plan as we ought to be able to sing  the material very well by the time our concert comes round without any stress.

The best flying bird of the day that I could find was this chaffinch, just out of focus.  It matched my efforts to read the weather correctly.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Sharon, mother of Luke my flute playing friend.  She took this beautiful view of the Nith estuary from Glencaple near Dumfries.

glencaple view

It was a two choir day as usual on a Sunday and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time.  In church we sang several hymns with satisfying bass lines and then we had a short practice afterwards with promises of more enjoyable singing to come.

I found a coal tit in the plum tree when we got back.

coal tit in plum tree

It was a pleasantly sunny, pretty still morning so with the temperature at 4°C, I set out after coffee and a ginger biscuit  to see whether a short walk would make my foot feel better or worse.  On the whole, it made it feel better.

I looked at moss while I was pootling along pondering on medical matters.  There is rarely any shortage of moss to look at round here.

There was moss steadily colonising a wall, reaching up from below to meet another patch reaching down from above….

moss at springhill

…there were various mosses massed in a mound on top of the wall further along…

mixed mosses

…and still further along, more moss stretching out fingers to grab new territory…

moss stretching hand

…and among the trees, a mini forest of  moss…

tall moss

…as well as moss mixing with peltgera lichen on a wall…

peltigera lichnee and moss

…and pincushion moss sharing space with more lichen.

button moss and cup lichen

My route took me along Gaskell’s Walk and it was as nice a walk as you could hope for though I thought that one walker whom I passed going in the opposite direction and who remarked that it was like spring, was getting a bit ahead of herself.

gaskells walk january

I looked around and saw colourful fungus on the end of a fallen branch…

tree end fungus

…and any amount of rosebay willowherb lined the track.

rosebay willowherb

The track was largely in shadow but as I came to the last hill before the Stubholm, the sun was catching the electricity poles that carry the power down into the New Town.

electricity poles gaskells

They may not be the most beautiful of structures but they do bring a lot of brightness into our lives, literally and metaphorically so I am always happy to see them even if they do spoil a view every now and again.

It was a grand day and I was sorry not to have the time or legs to walk further…

view of whita over stubholm

…but after a couple more stops to note eye catching sights….

decorative tree barkspiky plant

…and a final nod to the world of moss….

moss table gaskells

…I made my way home.

In the garden, the hellebores are beginning to show a bit of colour..

hellebore buds

Inside the house, a pot of soup was bubbling on the cooker, showing that Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy while I was out.

I had time to eat some soup, watch a pair of restful goldfinches nibble on the sunflower seed…

two goldfinches

…while some chaffinches get a lot more excited about the situation…..

busy feeder

…and then it was time to head for Carlisle and the community choir practice.

The sunshine had gone by this time and it was grey and chilly by the time we got to the church where we meet.

The practice itself was very satisfactory as a reorganisation of the tenors meant that rather than sitting on the end of a pew not being able to hear the rest of the section, this week I had a strong singer beside me and more behind.  Together with the work that I have done at home over the past two weeks, this meant that I was able to sing with much more confidence and relaxation than previously.  I hope that we keep this new set up.

We got home safely, had the last portions of Mrs Tootlepedal’s vegetarian casserole and settled down to enjoy Les Miserables (as far as the subject matter permits of any enjoyment).

A chaffinch as flying bird of the day rounded off a day definitely entered on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

 

 

 

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