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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s Irish adventure and shows one of the more exciting roads that the party drove over on their outings.

Ireland

We were in a state of deja vu today as the scene outside the window when we woke up was still snowy, the temperature was still around freezing and the skies were still grey.

Thanks to the snow, the producers’ market at the Buccleuch Centre was cancelled so I was very disappointed as it is the highlight of my shopping  month and we are now in the midst of a quality cheese drought in Tootlepedal Mansions.

However, as the morning wore on, the temperature rose by a degree and since the main roads seemed to be clear and dry, we thought it a good idea to make sure that the car was still going and made a little motor excursion through the town to a shop instead of the market.

I had cleared the snow off the car a couple of days ago and also cleared the snow off the road around it and in spite of frequent light snow showers since then, the car and the road were still clean enough to let us set off with no more sweeping or shovelling required.

Perhaps because of the very dry nature of the snow, no doors were frozen up, the wipers were free to wipe and the car started at the first request.   We were relieved as we hope to go to Carlisle for a choir practice tomorrow.

We didn’t have many birds in the morning but we did have one mass visit from starlings who perched on the top of the walnut tree.  Some were in vertical mode…

starlings

…and others preferred the horizontal way.

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Yesterday’s posing chaffinch had another go at being FBotD but mistimed her effort.

flying chaffinch

You can’t win them all.

A crow on a neighbour’s roof gave me the excuse to squeeze a little moss into the post.

crow

After lunch, as it was dry and I could see the tops of the hills, I went for a walk in the hope of some snowy scenery.

I caught up with a friend who was going to the golf club (not to play golf) and walked up the Kirk Wynd with him.  When he went into the golf clubhouse, I kept going.

I had a quick look behind me as I got above the town….

snowy scene

…but this was as much of a scenic view as I got as soon the clouds came down on the hills and it started to snow again.

It was only light snow though so I pushed on past the golf course and onto the the hill.

The gorse was trying its best under testing circumstances…

gorse in snow

…and although the snow was quite deep in places and tiring to plough through, I wasn’t tempted to rest for a while on the bench at Whita Well.

snowy bench

I did for a moment consider trying to go straight up the hill to the summit but good sense prevailed and I turned left and went along the contours of the hill to the Newcastleton road.

The brisk winds of yesterday had had two contradictory effects.  In places they had swept the hillside fairly clean and the walking was easy and elsewhere, they had piled the snow up into drifts.  It wasn’t always easy to tell whether a plain white patch in front of me was thin or thick though and I had one or two uncomfortable moments stepping into what proved to be quite deep bits.

Fortunately, just as I was thinking that a strategic retreat might be wise, I came upon the wheel tracks of a hill vehicle which had been out looking after the sheep and although the tracks were well covered in snow, they gave me a guide which kept me out of any drifts.

Whita with snow

The sharp eyed will be able to see the rather ghostly tracks at the bottom left of the picture above.

They led me safely to the Newcastleton road….

Copshaw Road

…and I was glad that I was walking and not driving down it.

I had plenty of help with my directions…

Bird print

…which was needed as it was sometimes hard to tell where the road ended and the verges began.

Copshaw Road

The sheep are clever animals and had found a good windswept patch where some grass had been exposed and were munching away with their backs firmly to the wind (and the photographer).

sheep in snow

Once I got down to the main road, I found that yet again the snowplough had thrown the excess snow onto the footpath so I had to walk along the road itself to make progress.  Luckily there was hardly any traffic but what there was was paying no attention to the signs and I had to skip briskly onto the pavement once or twice..

Welcome to Langholm

I got to the Sawmill Brig but didn’t cross it when I came to it on this occasion and I was pleased with this decision…

sawmill brig

…when I found a bird like icicle on a bench on the Kilngreen…

icicle kilngreen

…and then  met Mr Grumpy on the banks of the river.

heron in snow

He flew off but when I tried to follow him with the camera and all I got was a picture of the light but persistent snow.

snow

I caught an oyster catcher instead as I walked along the Esk.

oyster catcher

The snow and ice had made this short walk quite energetic so I was more than happy to test drive some scones that Mrs Tootlepedal had made while I was out and then sink into a comfortable chair and watch cycling and athletics for the rest of the afternoon (and quite a lot of the evening).

The temperature is due to rise a bit over the next few days so with luck we may get a steady thaw without any floods to go with it.

The flying bird of the day, to ensure correct blog gender balance after yesterday’s flying female, is a male chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my next door neighbour Irving who is spending the festive season visiting his son and family in Florida.  The picture shows some of the  20 to 30 ibis they see outside the house every day.

photo(1)

We had another sunny day here today but the temperature was at zero when we got up and not much higher at any time during the day.

pigeon

A pigeon looking as though it wasn’t enjoying walking on our frozen lawn.

Luckily there were no ice covered pavements or treacherous patches on paths so it was a good day to get some of the very fresh air that was available.

In the morning, Alistair and Clare went off to sample the delights of shopping at Gretna leaving Matilda to look after us.  We attempted to go for a walk with her but it turned out that her father had gone off with her pink gloves in his pocket and no amount of differently coloured substitutes would do so the walk was abandoned on account of cold fingers and we waited for the gloves to come back from Gretna.

The sun had got round to the bird feeders by this time so I had a quick look out of the kitchen window….

chaffinch and goldfinches

…where there was a lot of activity.

I caught a couple of peaceful moments too.

siskin

 

greenfinch

Mrs Tootlepedal made some green lentil soup and we enjoyed it with a light lunch of cold cuts when the shoppers returned.

Then, since the gloves had arrived, we set off for a walk to feed the ducks.

We took the sunny side of the street which gave the photographer quite a big problem, when trying to get a picture of the group without his shadow appearing in the shot.

I tried this side….

Matilda, Al and Clare

…and that side but the shadow was always in the way.

In the end, I lurked behind Mrs Tootlepedal and took this shot…

Matilda, Al and Clare

…which was the best that I could do.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, except those left by people impatient to be somewhere else…

jet plane

…but since it was one of the days when the vapour trails disappeared almost as soon as they were formed, we could ignore them.

In the sun, it was very pleasant (as long as you had the right gloves on)…

Meeting of the waters

…and Matilda had a lot of fun playing on the equipment on the Kilngreen…

play park with matilda

That dratted shadow appeared again!

play park with matilda

…while I looked at passing black headed gulls….

black headed gulls

…which had been attracted by another party of bird feeders.

black headed gulls

Then Matilda came to feed the ducks…

duck

…who responded with gratitude to some good seed and pink pellets.

_DSC0436

Light is a funny thing, as they say considering that the heads of the ducks on the left and right in the panel above are the same colour when they face in the same direction but totally different when they look in opposite directions.

While Matilda fed the ducks, I looked at passing gulls again.

_DSC0439

_DSC0448

We continued out walk across the Sawmill Brig and onto the Castleholm where those with the taste for such things, had a happy time smashing the ice in the puddles while I looked for trees.

castleholm tree

When we reluctantly left the icy puddles, we walked mostly into the shade and the difference in temperature was quite marked…

icicle

…so we didn’t dilly dally again as we headed for home, pausing only to admire the moon which was floating above the monument.

_DSC0451

Matilda needed a little assistance from her father on the final stages of the journey home and I wondered, looking at her hands….

P1060252

…whether her parents are feeding her enough.  (The pink gloves are underneath the other ones)

After a quiet moment for relaxation and refreshment when we got home, the rest of the afternoon was spent having unremitting fun including snap, Pelmanism, dancing, playing ‘duck, duck, goose’ and putting on mermaid entertainments (impresario:  Madam Matilda).

It was lucky that Mrs Tootlepedal had spent the time preparing us a feast of parsnip and potato gnocchi and sweet potato and spinach saag aloo as we badly needed the fuel.

All in all, it was voted a very successful day and we should all sleep well tonight.

In spite of the gulls, I have gone for a garden chaffinch as flying bird of the day, mainly because I really like the sceptical air with which the flier is being viewed by the perching bird.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Irving, who sent me this fine shot of the bottom of Bealach-na ba on the way to Applecross, one of the most spectacular roads in Scotland.

bottom of Bealach-na ba on the way to Applecross

We had another day of frozen sunshine here, with temperatures at zero or below all day.  However, with stories of snow and slush in England, we certainly weren’t going to complain about a little tingle in the cheeks when we went outside.

It was still freezing hard when Dropscone came round (on his bike) bearing scones to go with our morning coffee.  He has just come back from seeing his eldest son in the south of England and had managed to avoid all the traffic chaos caused by wind, rain and snow recently so he was feeling quite smug.

After coffee, I tempted Mrs Tootlepedal out for a walk to enjoy the sun.

When we got to Pool Corner, we found the the Wauchope had completely frozen over…

frozen wauchope

…and it was definitely a good idea, where possible, to direct one’s feet to the sunny side of the street.

tree

The sharp eyed reader will be able to spot Mrs Tootlepedal heading for a patch of sun.

I always like the combination of sycamore and cypress which line up so perfectly as you walk along the road here.

The absence of leaves, lets the lichen on the roadside bushes have its moment in the sun.

lichen

I try to keep an eye on fencepost tops on a day like this.

frozen fencepost

When we got to the Auld Stane Bridge, we could see that there was enough running water there to keep the Wauchope mostly free of ice.

frozen wauchope

We turned onto Gaskell’s Walk and I was looking for hair ice because this is a spot where it can often be found.  Unfortunately, a lot of the dead wood that grows the hair ice has been cleared and this small and not very exciting sample was the only bit around.

frost hair

On the other hand, there was any amount of decorative frost to be seen as we went along the track.

frosty leaves

I particularly liked two patterns which had formed on one of the small bridges on the track.  The Y shapes are wire netting which has been put there to improve the traction on the bridge on slippery days.

frost patterns

We were pleased to get out of the shady part of the walk and back into the sunshine…

Meikleholm Hill

…as even the low winter sun (10 days to go to the Winter Solstice!) had a bit of heat about it.

We had to keep our eyes down for quite a lot of the time as there were plenty of icy patches along the track but we made it up to the Stubholm on safety….

frosty bench

…and resisted any temptation to spoil the patterns on the bench there by sitting on it.

As we came down the hill to the park, Mrs Tootlepedal spotted this fine crop of icicles…

icicles

…and this curious frozen formation on the track itself.

frost

When we were out of the sun, it was a very blue day, chilly to feel and chilly to look at.

Langholm Church in winter

The benefit was the great number of interesting frosty things see.  This was some moss on the park wall.

frosty moss

And this was the frozen dam behind our house when we got home.

frozen dam

I made some warming potato and carrot soup for lunch and with the co-operation of our bread making machine, a dozen rolls, a couple of which we ate with our neighbour Liz who came round for tea later in the afternoon.  As she left, Mike Tinker arrived so we were well supplied with visitors today and this cheered up the cold late afternoon.

In between times, I looked out of the kitchen window.

I put out an apple and it disappeared into blackbirds in the twinkling of an aye.

blackbird

This one looks as though he might have most of it.

blackbird

The strong contrasts in the light and shade makes catching birds in the air tricky at the moment but I liked this dramatic scene.

flying chaffinch

Robins are easier to spot.

robin

As are sitting birds.

goldfinches

My flute pupil Luke came in the evening and we had another go at our new sonata as well as working on the Quantz as well so he will have plenty do if he finds himself with an idle moment at home.  (I need to practise as well.)

Our Monday trio group is not going to meet again until the new year so although I miss the playing, I wasn’t entirely unhappy to have a quiet night in after travelling to Edinburgh and then having two concerts in the last four days.

I am hoping to get a few more cycling days in before the end of the month but the forecast is not optimistic.

The flying bird of the day is a chiaroscuro chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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