Posts Tagged ‘hyacinth’

Today’s guest picture is another captured by our son Tony’s new camera, showing that it (and he) can take close ups as well as the larger picture.


It was bright and chilly when we got up and after breakfast, I went out to look for the lost perch from the feeder.  I found it easily enough and screwed it back in place and then sat back and waited to see some obliging bird land on it.

I waited in vain.

empty feeder

It was a very quiet bird day indeed and I had to look hard to see a single chaffinch in the plum tree.

lonely chaffinch

In the end, I gave up bird watching and had a cup of coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal and then went out bicycling.  The thermometer had scraped up to 5°C but the wind was light so I took a more adventurous route than usual and headed up the road to Bentpath.

This involves a sharp climb at the start of the ride but does provided some excellent views like this favourite, looking towards the Gates of Eden just after the first climb.

gates of eden

Our hills are generally rounded and smooth but there are occasional outcrops and those who know tell me that if I was patient enough, I might see a peregrine falcon on this crag near Bentpath.

crag at benty

I continued on through the village and headed up the Esk valley towards Bailliehill.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of the tree planting tubes which the foresters use to protect deciduous trees when they plant them and I was interested to see how well they do their job.  Almost every tube in this group seemed to have a healthy tree sticking out of it.

new trees in tubes

Conifer forestry was very evident too as I cycled up the river and I took this shot to show the impact that farming has on the view.  Where there is a flat place by the river, a ‘holm’ as it is called round here, there is always a field on it, usually with added sheep….

filed beside esk near king pool

…but where there is no holm , the uncultivated ground runs right down to the river and is often planted with spruce and/or larch.

esk looking back to lyneholm

I took these contrasting two shots from the same spot, looking first up and then down the river.

When I got to the top of the hill at Bailliehill, I turned south to go over the watershed between the Esk and the Water of Milk.

I stopped at a cattle grid for a drink and a banana.

cattle grid

The cattle grids are necessary to keep stock in the right place on unfenced roads and they can fairly rattle your teeth if you go over them too fast.

There were no cattle about today so I didn’t have to worry about bumping into one on the road but I had to keep an eye out for potholes, though the road was in better condition than this view back along it makes it look.

road from bailliehill

Although it looks a bit desolate on the top of the hill, I had not gone more than a mile further before the countryside had changed and I was cycling among pleasant green pastures and there was enough water about to make the Water of Milk recognisably a river in the making.

water of milk

I was able to look across at the Ewe Hill wind farm and check the wind direction.  Happily it showed that I would be helped home by the breeze.

ewes hill windfarm

I left the Water of Milk when I crossed the bridge at Paddockhole….

paddockhole bridge

…and headed back towards Callister Hill and Langholm.

I stopped on the way up Callister at a spot where a good view up towards Winterhope and a chance for a breather on a steep climb are equally welcome.

view from back of callister

I was now looking at the wind farm from the other side.

The last time that I took this route was on a cold and sunny day early last year and on that occasion, I made a choice to extend my trip by taking a diversion from the direct route home, met an ice filled pothole and hit the deck.

Under the circumstances, I thought long and hard about taking another diversion this time but as the temperature was a couple of degrees higher, the roads were drier and my legs were very cheerful, I risked turning off three miles short of Langholm and going over the hill to join the main road at Canonbie, adding ten miles to the journey.

Needless to say, I hadn’t gone far along my diversion before the sun ducked behind some clouds….

looming clouds

…although it was by no means as gloomy as the camera makes out.  All the same, once the sun went in, it felt a lot colder so I didn’t hang about taking any more pictures but pedalled steadily on.

The ride added 35 miles to my skimpy total for January but as I had done the last 15 miles in just under an hour, I was quite satisfied with both the views early on and the pace towards the end.

There were still no birds about in the garden when I got back but the sun came out as soon as the bike was safely put away in the garage and the sky was full of fluffy pink clouds.

fluffy pink cloud

In the absence of interesting birds and garden flowers, I took a picture of the bowl of hyacinths which our friend Liz had given Mrs Tootlepedal at the new year.  They are flourishing.

hyacinth in flower

Although the days are just beginning to get noticeably longer, they are still don’t last very long so I lit the stove in the front room and settled down to putting two of the Carlisle choir songs onto my computer so that I can start learning them.  Learning words and music is a protracted and sometime painful process, full of small steps forward and giant leaps backwards.

The flying bird(s) of the day are the only two chaffinches which approached the feeder when I was looking out of the window before cycling so I feel very lucky to have captured them at all. They have been carefully balanced for gender and left and right tendencies in the pursuit of political correctness.

two flying chaffinches

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s holiday in the deep south.  He decided to leave the mainland and travel to the Isle of Sheppey across this impressive (but ugly) bridge.

sheppey bridge

I had a discussion with Sandy as we walked along yesterday as to whether the day could properly be described as dreich.  He thought that it could on general grounds of being very grey and misty but I thought that perhaps the lack of rain disqualified it.   Today was even gloomier and I looked up the definition of dreich in a handy on-line dictionary.  It said:

Dreich (Old Scots origin)

A combination of dull, overcast, drizzly, cold, misty and miserable weather. At least four of the above adjectives must apply before the weather is truly dreich.

There was no question.  Today was truly, truly dreich.

It was far too gloomy for any decent bird pictures so naturally the little blighters queued up to have their pictures taken.

They do it on purpose.

Some were perching….

goldfinches in the drizzle

….in fact, a lot were perching….

goldfinch, robin and siskin

…and some were flying…


…in fact, a lot were flying…


…and all were laughing at me as I put the ISO up higher and higher and still couldn’t get a clean shot.

The drizzle let up enough enough at one point in the morning to allow me nip up to the town to order some more coffee and pop into the chemist to get some Vitamin D tablets to offset the weather.

It was a few degrees above freezing so I did occasionally think of a walk or even a soggy cycle ride but each time that I did so, a fresh gust of wind blew sheets of drizzle across the garden and like King Edward and his army, I thought again.

In desperation, I looked for colour indoors and found that our daughter’s two floral Christmas gifts were earning their keep.


The jasmine is producing a steady trickle of flowers with the promise of lots more


The hyacinth is well on the way to its full glory

I had some soup for my lunch, looked out of the window from time to time….


The robin returned


And siskins kept arriving

There was no doubt that it was a dull day in many ways so I made the best of it by putting a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and practising both my flute and choir songs.

Somehow or other, I managed to get to the end of the day without doing anything energetic or very interesting and I am hoping for better weather tomorrow.

My flying bird of the day was perhaps the worst actual picture but at least it was a more infrequent visitor so it was the most interesting. It’s a greenfinch…

flying greenfinch

…and it shows the drizzle quite well.

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Today’s guest picture shows one regular contributor, my brother Andrew, taken by another, my sister Mary, at the top of the Kirkstone Pass in the Lake District during their recent visit.  I am grateful to them both for brightening up many a post.  Long may they continue to do so. (Other contributions are welcome too of course.)

The top of the Kirkstone pass

Our spell of cool weather with chilly north easterly winds continued today but at least it stayed dry so we weren’t complaining (much).

Both Dropscone and Sandy appeared for coffee.  This was very welcome as they have been away for a few days,  Sandy visiting friends in Beverley and Dropscone playing golf in Kinross.  It was good to catch up with them.

When they left I was able to catch up with another week of the newspaper index as I put it into the Archive Group database, look out of the window for a moment…


…though the light was very poor and then take a walk round the garden to spot a new flower.

Dogtooth violet

The first of many dogtooth violets we hope.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy all day collecting muck and spreading it round the garden.  I finished weeding the strawberry bed and sieved a little compost for her to add to the muck.

I made a drop of soup for lunch and then decided to ignore the very chilly breeze and get out for a cycle ride.  The last time Mrs Tootlepedal had driven back from Lockerbie after visiting Matilda, she thought that she had caught a glimpse of one of the new windmills on Ewe Hill going up.  I thought that I would check.

This involved a 12 mile ride with the wind behind me so I enjoyed this a lot.  When I turned to look, I could indeed see a windmill.  The amazing zoom lens on the Lumix made easy work of the four mile distance.

Ewe Hill windmill

Seeing the new windmill made me feel quite cheerful about the twelve mile return journey into the wind. Even a stretch of horrendous potholes couldn’t dampen my mood…

Paddockhole potholes

…and it had the beneficial effect of slowing me down enough to be happy to stop to take a picture of a small cascade on the Water of Milk.

Cascade on Water of Milk

I was puffing my way up the steep side of Callister when I got another excuse to  stop.  A distant spike on a hilltop caught my eye.  It was the crane at the windmill site seen from another angle.

I have put in the landscape where you can just see the crane on the horizon and the uncropped zoom just to show the power of the Lumix.  This was  a handheld shot in grey conditions.  The crane is big though. Very big.

windmill crane

I made one last stop, as it is illegal to bicycle past a new born lamb without pausing to add to the general happiness of the world.


Mrs Tootlepedal had retired for a siesta when I went out cycling but the call of the garden was too strong and she had been out tilling the soil again.  She had stopped at last and was entertaining Mike Tinker to  a cup of tea when I got back.  He had kindly brought me a free sample of a cyclist’s energy drink (which I hope to put to good use in the near future).

When he left, I had a last walk round the garden…

pulmonaria and sciila

grape hyacinth and daffs

There are very potential tulips waiting patiently for another fine day.


The opportunity to watch birds was curtailed by the re-appearance of the sparrowhawk..


…but they soon returned after it had gone.

siskin and redpoll

In the evening, Susan once again was kind enough to take on the task of driving us to Carlisle for our recorder group’s weekly meeting.  And once again Roy had picked out an excellent selection of music from our extensive library so that we had an enjoyable evening.

Any day with a tootle and a pedal is on the credit side of the great ledger of life and if you add in coffee (and scones) with friends and a new windmill to look at, it is not only entered in the ledger but underlined in green ink as well.

The flying bird of the day is a fuzzy redpoll.


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Today’s guest picture shows the world’s greatest small person in reflective mood at a party.

MatildaAfter breakfast, I waved good bye to Mrs Tootlepedal as she set off to Dumfries with three colleagues from the Ewes WRI group to take part in a competition for 15 minutes of prose and poetry readings on the theme of childhood.  This competition covered groups from the whole of the South of Scotland and was a new venture for the Ewes group who were asked to enter to represent their larger local area.

I got a text from her in the afternoon to say that the group had won the handsome trophy, surprising no one more than themselves.  However, having heard all the other entries, Mrs Tootlepedal did feel that there had been no luck about the outcome and the four ladies were quietly pleased that their hard work had borne fruit.

In her absence, I spent a second very peaceful day, lazing about the house and only going for a short walk after lunch.

I had all the time in the world to admire the blossom on the plum tree.

plum tree with chaffinchI set up the camera on a tripod at the kitchen window and sat at the table with the wireless remote to hand doing the crossword and snapping birds simultaneously.

wet feederThe rainy morning helped me to avoid any strenuous activity.  The rain stopped from time to time and the light was reasonable.

chaffinchThe rain had brought a few siskins to the feeder and they were as rude as ever….

siskinsiskin and chaffinch…though not always successfully.

The weather took a turn for the better after lunch and when the sun threatened to come out, I went for a stroll round Easton’s Walk.  We have some way to go before everything is green….

Stubholm track…but I was delighted to see a bluebell (completewith insect visitor) in the woods beside the track…

bluebell…the first of a multitude to come I hope.

By the time that I got back to the park, the sky was blue and the poplars beside the river looked very fine, both when I was looking up to them….

poplars…and when I was walking along under them.

poplarsWhen I got home, there was time for a garden inspection.  Mrs Tootlepedal is aiming for a stream of hyacinths flowing through the flowerbeds round the front lawn.  The plan is developing well.

stream of hyacinthsI inspected the potential fruit crop and was happy to see gooseberry, apple and blackcurrant all looking promising.

fruitThe sound of bees was reassuring.

I chopped a few more logs for our wood pile and then mowed the grass round the greenhouse and on the drying green.

I had one last look at the plum blossom….

plum blossom…and a blackbird….

blackbird…before it was time to welcome Mrs Tootlepedal home, have a cup of tea and set out for a visit to Cockermouth in Cumbria.

We were going to see a performance by an amateur group.of a version of the Beggars’ Opera, with music adapted from the version written by Benjamin Britten.  The reason for our interest in this show was the presence of  no less than three of my fellow tenors from our Carlisle choir among the cast.

The drive down in the evening sunshine was glorious with the Lake District hills looking at their best so the forty miles passed very pleasantly.  We brought a sandwich to sustain us, admired the blue clock faces on the handsome church beside the car park…

cockermouth church…and went into the small theatre for the show.

The small size of the stage was a definite handicap to the production which lacked a bit of pace as a result but my three choir colleagues all did their bits with enthusiasm.  I can’t say that I think that Britten’s approach to the songs suits the show and the musical director’s rather careful tempos didn’t help.  The end result was a certain lack of out and out gaeity in the satire which is probably needed to contrast with the more sentimental moments.  The cast worked really hard though and the audience appreciated their efforts wholeheartedly.

The drive home in the dark was accomplished safely and unsurprisingly, Mrs Tootlepedal was quite tired when we got back.

The flying bird of the day is a down to earth chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my Newcastle correspondent who was visiting friends when a goldcrest crashed into a window.  It recovered and flew off but not before posing for a picture.

goldcrestThere was not a snow flake to be seen today but I waited for the temperature to drag itself up from the depths before venturing out for a short cycle ride to stretch my legs after a couple of quiet days.  The forecast was a bit gloomy so in spite of light winds, I stayed close to home with a trip to the top of Callister followed by a return trip to the bottom of Callister.

I am having to look after my knee when going up hill as it still tends to be a bit swollen and hot at night so I took the uphill sections carefully but made up for it by dashing back down the hill as fast as I could and just managed to squeeze my average speed for the 21 miles up to 14 mph exactly.  (I apologise to the old lady on the mobility scooter who I forced into the gutter as I sped along the last few metres of the trip in my bid to reach the magic number.)

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal called me out into the garden to look at some new flowers.


Fritillaria on the drying green


Nearby some dicentra are trying their best

And the first aubretia are showing at the end of the drive.

aubretiaI walked around the rest of the garden.


I thought that these were primroses but Mrs T tells me that they are primulas because they have many flowers on each stalk.

There were more fritillaria in the back border….


Is that a bee in there?


Yes, it was a welcome bee.


Off to visit another flower.  I don’t know whether it has quite mastered collecting pollen yet.

And another dicentra.

dicentraAlthough they are not quite ready yet, the grape hyacinths are looking good.

grape hyacinthsThe first recorded bird of the day was a jackdaw looking for fat ball scraps.



A blackbird had found them


Chaffinches flew in and out on a regular basis.

Though some were more placid.

chaffinchI was thinking of a short walk after lunch but the light got very poor and some desultory raindrops threatened to justify the gloomy forecast so I settled down to try to do some serious practice of Mozart’s Requiem.   I have rashly enrolled to sing this work at a scratch performance on Saturday.  Sadly there are not enough hours in the day to allow me to master fitting the words to the music in the elaborate (and speedy) runs that keep cropping up so there will be quite a bit of miming on the day…unless the choir master is a genius.

I did have time to keep an eye on a crow which arrived within seconds of Mrs Tootlepedal putting out a few breadcrumbs.

crowMrs Tootlepedal generally kept herself occupied by preparing the floorboards round the edge of the front room for a geometrical pattern which she is going to paint on them.  The professional decorator appeared today and he is going to start work on Thursday so the end of the end wall saga is now really in sight.

After I had caused Mozart to rotate in his grave enough times, I had another look out of the window.


Another jackdaw but too late for any scraps. It flew off in a melancholy manner.

It was replaced by a greenfinch.

greenfinchMy long stint in the kitchen hunched over the score was brightened by some of Mrs Tootlepedal’s daffodils which have found their way indoors.

indoor daffsWhat with school holidays meaning no flute lesson, camera club meetings meaning no trios, my Friday night orchestra visiting grandchildren in NZ and unexpected visitors leading to our recorder group being cancelled, I have been seriously starved on music lately so it was a pleasure to have a visit from my flute pupil Luke and play some duets with him.  He passed his recent grade examination so we are having some relaxed playing while he recovers from all the hard work.

After tea, I added to my musical day by going off to play trios with Mike and Isabel and we had a very enjoyable evening in spite of my lack of practice.

The flying bird of the day is a traditional chaffinch caught in the morning’s brightest moment..


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We have goldfinches in our tree but my daughter Annie has parakeets in hers.

ParakeetsIt was rather wet and windy this morning and a fairly measly 5°C when in lieu of thoughts of cycling, Dropscone rang up and offered to bring round a scone or two to go with a cup of coffee, I accepted the offer and we were just sipping and chatting when things outside became absurd.

snow in AprilMrs Tootlepedal and I were cycling in 18°C sunshine last Sunday.  This was unexpected to say the least.  Well, at least we knew that it couldn’t settle with the temperature being 5 degrees above freezing.

Snow in AprilAlthough Dropscone and I got quite excited, the birds were remarkably calm…

goldfinchesgoldfinches…all things considered.

When Dropscone left, I settled down to put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and found to my annoyance that I had to spend ages correcting mistaken dates for two weeks that I had already put in before I could start on a new week. That will teach me to check my work more thoroughly while I am doing it.

After lunch, I went upstairs to record the view from the bedroom window.

snowy sceneWe thought that the roads would be clear though so we decided to put the day to good use by doing a little shopping in Hawick.  I was secretly hoping for some fine snowscapes on the way but although Whita was still quite snowy as we looked back…

whita with snow…the further up the valley we went, the less snowy it became…

Ewes…until by the time that we got to Hawick, there was not a flake to be seen.

Although we rain into another sleety shower on our way back, the view from the bedroom window had changed dramatically…

bedroom window…and the garden was a snow free zone.

gardenI strolled round it.


Tadpoles basked in the sun.


Pulsatilla and Euphorbia gleamed

In fact, it was such a lovely evening by six o’clock that I went for a little walk round the bottom of the Castleholm.


The hills were bathed in sunshine (with just a hint of snow on the dark side).

Castleholm Pines


Moss and pine needles glowed

I passed a fine display of grape hyacinths in the Clinthead Garden on my way round.

Clinthead GardenIt was really hard to remember what the morning had been like.  I hope that we are not going to get any more of this sort of thing.  It is most unsettling.

I enjoyed another evening of admiring the fine lawn mowing at Augusta (and some excellent golf).

Here’s to a rapid return of springtime.

The just flying bird of the day is one of the irrepressible goldfinches in the snow.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s picture shows a wild eyed jackdaw enjoying a fat ball feast.


After our wet welcome home yesterday, the weather relented and we had a largely sunny day today.  However, the strong wind kept things feeling pretty cool and when we looked at the garden, there had not been as much new developments while we were away as we had hoped.

I started the day by popping along to our monthly producers’ market but the bank holiday weekend must have persuaded some of our usual stallholders that there more profitable places to be and there was not as good as selection of stuff to buy as there usually is.  Still, I managed to get one or two tasty looking things.  Mrs Tootlepedal was not feeling as well as she would have liked and had restored to bed again when I got back so I went off and mowed the drying green and greenhouse grass with the hover mower.  At least the grass has started to grow.

I had made plans in my head to use the sunny day to go for a decent length cycle ride and I drove down to Longtown to collect my speedy bike from its post winter service.  I was going to put it to good use when I got home but my knees were feeling the effect of a long day’s drive yesterday and that, combined with the strength of the wind made it easy for me to forget that I had any such plans and I mowed the middle lawn instead. It is mossy in parts but there was plenty of grass to cut.

middle lawn

As you can see, Mrs Tootlepedal’s daffodils are still blooming merrily, long after they should be gone.  This is lucky in a way because the tulips which should be in full bloom are not doing their stuff yet.

daffs and tulips

They are looking quite healthy though and if we can get a little warmth going, they should come out well.  There is a glimpse of an aubretia in the picture above and although we can’t match the plants we saw in Somerset cascading over walls, we still have some very brilliant colour to show.


The birds do not seem to have missed me at all.  Obviously Liz had been looking after them well because they were soon in action.

The perching trees are just beginning to get some leaves and a siskin matched the variegated elder quite well.


And a chaffinch blended in with the barer plum tree too.


There a several redpolls about, the males looking very colourful.

Birds approached the feeder stacked vertically…


…and horizontally

goldfinch and siskin

goldfinch and siskin

…and sometimes from both sides at once

Mrs Tootlepedal got up and although  not feeling 100%, she started to do some light work.

When we were driving up a new piece of dual carriageway yesterday after leaving Malmesbury, we were amazed to see the banking beside the road was completely covered for hundreds of yards in places with golden yellow cowslips.  I was pleased to see that Mrs Tootlepedal’s cowslips were also doing well alongside some primroses, although in a much more modest way.


I kept thinking that I might still go for a shorter cycle ride and I kept not going and as a result I mowed the front lawn too.  This has got so much moss on it after a couple of poor summers that I am almost at the stage of digging it up and starting again.

We were visited by our neighbour Mike who has just returned from visiting his granddaughter Maisie and her parents in New Zealand.  He and Alison seemed to have had almost as much fun on their holiday as we had on ours though they didn’t see any tigers.

Mrs Tootlepedal spent so much time while we were driving on holiday in looking at the inside of our car, that she set out to give it a good internal clean up.  She got distracted though part way through the job and ended up putting a paint reviver on the front of the car where after seven years, the original paint is looking a bit tired.  It looks very shiny now.

Although the tulips are not all out, there are some here and there in the garden doing their bit to add a bit of colour.



The daffodils are holding up remarkably well.


And other flowers are adding their bit to an ever growing colour scheme.

violet and hyacinth

And Mrs Tootlepedal is developing a white bed as well.

white flowers

By the end of the day, I had decided to go out at least five times and decided not to go out exactly the same number of times so a rather nice day was wasted a bit but I have been on holiday so I was tired.

There are two flying birds of the day today, the first a laid back chaffinch….


and the second, a siskin, who gets in because he is showing one of Dr Barlow’s (I presume) rings.


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