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Posts Tagged ‘jackdaw’

Today’s guest picture is another from Gunta, who sent me this charming photo of snowy plovers resting in horse hoofprints on a beach.

snowy_plovers-5753

We had a day with plenty of birds about and some dry and occasionally sunny weather…

plum tree of birds

…which came with the first sign of snow of the year when I looked out of an upstairs window.

monument with light snow

As it was our day to go to Edinburgh and the recent timetable changes require us to leave home shortly after coffee, I had no time to explore the snow and stuck to a quick tour of the garden where I saw the winter jasmine and..

winter jasmine january

…that first daffodil bud that Mrs Tootlepedal had noticed yesterday..

first daffodil bud

I noticed that there were quite a few blackbirds about too but they were shy and I only just caught this one before it disappeared.

blackbird january

A jackdaw hung about for a bit longer.

jackdaw chaecking things out

By the time that we got to Lockerbie Station, the sky was blue…

lockerbie town hall

…but a pile of snow on the platform bore witness to a heavy shower of sleet earlier in the day…

snow lockerbie station

…and there was plenty more snow to be seen when the train got into the hills.

snow on train to edinburgh

We had had time to admire the pile of snow on the platform before we left as the train was quarter of an hour late.  However, it bustled up the line and got to Edinburgh only a few minutes behind schedule.

We popped across the road from the station and enjoyed a light lunch in an art gallery cafe and, having lunched, we enjoyed three free exhibitions in the gallery itself.  The best of the the three was of the work of Mary Cameron.  She was quite unknown to us but we really enjoyed her work and felt that we should have known about her earlier.

burst

She had a wonderful range of subjects in the exhibition, including such a harrowing picture of horses after a bull fight that the French government made a postcard of it which it then used in its public campaign to discourage bull fighting in France.

We went back across the station to do a little shopping and catch the bus to Matilda’s.

The station was busy and we watched the London train roll into the platform to pick up passengers for the trip south.

burst

Matilda was in good form and we were joined by her other grandparents and her aunt and cousin for our evening meal.  Alistair cooked a delicious feast, this time a lentil and dahl, and we all tucked in.

After the meal, we caught the bus back to the station.  Knowing the railway comany’s unreliable habits, I had carefully checked that the incoming service from Lockerbie was running and would arrive in time to take us back to Lockerbie.  We were pleased to see it roll into the platform as we got to the station.

To say that we were therefore a bit stunned to see on the departure board that our train south had been cancelled is a bit of an understatement.

It turned out, as far as anyone could tell, that they were going to keep this train to act as the next train two hours later and if we wanted to get to Lockerbie meanwhile, there was a bus waiting outside the station to take us there.

We took the bus.  And arrived at Lockerbie an hour behind schedule which is why this post is hurried, I haven’t answered yesterday’s comments and I am not going to read any posts tonight.  I will try to make up for these omissions tomorrow.

On the plus side, the bus was remarkably smooth and comfortable, the driver competent and cheerful and motorway traffic light, so the actual bus journey, though long, was not too bad at all.

I took a flying goldfinch picture which didn’t come through the editor quite as it should have, but I liked it all the same so it has sneaked in…

flying goldfinch

…but the official flying bird of the day is this chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s recent musical outing.  As well as singing with sackbuts, she saw an angel playing a trumpet.

venetia's weathervane

We are strictly rationed to only one fine day at a time at the moment, so it was no surprise to wake to a very gloomy morning with additional drizzle today after yesterday’s sunshine.

For some reason (Mrs Tootlepedal suggests that it may have to do with too many birthdays) I was a bit tired and took a long time after breakfast in my dressing gown to get up, make coffee and visit the corner shop.

I had hoped to go for a walk in the late morning and give my new coat an airing but the drizzle was of that particularly depressing kind which discourages enterprise.  I stayed in and spent time sorting music for church and Carlisle choirs tomorrow.

And occasionally looking at the birds.

We are not getting a lot of birds at all which is concerning.  I see that I was complaining about the lack of winter birds last year too so it is not just a passing phenomenon.  There were some birds today, goldfinches, siskins and chaffinches.

three birds on feeder

The light was poor and I had a struggle trying to get a flying bird of the day, though I thought that this effort was pleasingly reminiscent of Woodstock, the bird in the Peanuts cartoon strip

diving goldfinch

For a decent flying bird, I need to to have enough birds so that queues form for the perches.  When there are vacant perches, as was the case today, the birds arrive very quickly and I was usually too late…

rising goldfinch

…and the birds had got too close to the feeder.

nearly flying goldfinch

The drizzle eased off and I had a look round the garden for signs of life.

new growth

There is still plenty of potential leek soup out there.  Mrs Tootlepedal tries to keep exposed soil well mulched over the winter.

old leeks

She had used her new vegetable chopping device to help make some very tasty vegetable soup for lunch and after I had enjoyed eating some with bread and cheese, I went out for a cycle ride.  It had stopped raining completely by this time.

The wind hadn’t stopped blowing though and I found the first few miles straight in to the breeze very hard work.  I sensibly turned off and with the wind now across and slightly behind, I pedalled happily across the hill and down into the Esk valley.

The wind was in the perfect direction and helped back up the hill into Langholm.  It was very gloomy and I only stopped once to add another tree to my collection.

tree

Once I got home, I felt that I had done enough for the day and passed from afternoon tea and the last of the Christmas cake into an evening meal of fishcakes and broccoli without noticeably moving at all.

Because of the lack of sunshine and photographs today, I am going to break with tradition and use a photograph from yesterday which escaped from my filing system to fill out today’s post.  This was the sky at dawn.

sunset

We are going to London in a couple of weeks and I booked the railway tickets today.  The route has recently been transferred from one operator to another, and although I had received a reassuring email from the new operators saying that the changeover would be seamless as far as booking went, I feared the worst.  Oh ye of little faith!  Everything went perfectly smoothly and the tickets are booked.  This is not the same company that runs the Lockerbie train.

I gave up on goldfinches for the flying bird of the day and  looked to the heavens to catch a jackdaw in the walnut tree instead.

flying jackdaw

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The sign says it all

The guest picture pf the day comes from my ex-colleague Marjorie who is on a toot in the Highlands and came across a well known road sign.  It is famous enough to have figured in a TV quiz show last week.

Marjorie's sign

The sign made an excellent guest picture today as it was an exceptionally dull day here today.

This was the mid morning view from an upstairs window on one side of the house…

dull day whita

…and this was the view from the other.

dull day meikleholm

Just for the sake of a little colour, I looked down at the garden while I was there.

dull day garden

There is not much to be seen but the hedges and lawns please the eye even in the middle of winter.

You may notice that there are no birds at the feeder in the picture above and that stayed much the same all day.  It might have been a bit too windy for them.

It was certainly too windy and gloomy for me and I was happy to have a cup of coffee with Sandy in the morning to help to pass the time.  He has been suffering from a very painful back which limited his Christmas plans in a big way, but he was a bit better today and had almost enjoyed his walk down to visit us.

Unlike yesterday, when it was at  least dry, there was a perpetual fine mist/drizzle in the air outside today which made walking unattractive.  In the circumstances a trip to Gretna Shopping Village seemed like a good scheme.

This time, again unlike yesterday, the enveloping gloom did not let up at all as we went south and it was just as miserable in Gretna as it was at Langholm.

They have a very jolly Christmas tree though.

Gretna tree

Being what they call an ‘outlet village’, you can never tell what stock the units will have on hand when you visit Gretna.  We went in search of shoes for Mrs Tootlepedal and socks for me and came back with a vegetable chopper for Mrs Tootlepedal and a pair of pyjamas for me.  We weren’t unhappy.  That is the nature of shopping at Gretna.

And that was our day.  It was fairly dull in every way (except for the coffee with Sandy) and I even made some dull soup for lunch.

There is wild talk on the weather forecast of light winds and sunshine for tomorrow but I will believe it when I see it.

A jackdaw was the only bird that I saw on the feeder today.  Sharp eyed readers may be able to see a flying jackdaw in the background and that was the closest that I came to a FBotD.

visiting jackdaw

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Today’s guest picture is another of Gunta’s fine bridges.  This one is at Newport.

newport bridge

It was another gloomy morning here with occasional rain.  Even the chaffinch on the feeder seemed to be a bit hunched against the weather.

feeder in the rian

The rain stopped but it didn’t make this blackbird feel any happier about things.

proud blackbird

At one moment, I looked out of the window and thought that the rain had caught fire…

sparkle in the garden

…but it turned out to be the reflection of the Christmas tree, newly decorated by Mrs Tootlepedal.

IMG_20191224_130405

The morning was full of preparations for a seasonal visit from our granddaughter Matilda and her parents, but I had some time over lunch to look at the birds.

In spite of the fact that the sparrowhawk had passed through the garden earlier in the day, the birds were back in force and the goldfinches were doing a lot of lurking.

four lurking goldfinches

There was action on every side when siskins arrived as well.

four siskin and goldfinches in action

…and a dunnock could only stand and stare.

dunnock fluffy

Though, when it comes to staring, there was nothing to compare to a passing jackdaw.

mean jackdaw

I got really excited when there was the tiniest glimpse of sunlight, picking out a chaffinch on Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree….

sunny chaffinch december

…but it was only a glimpse and it was back to grey when I went out for a short walk in the afternoon while our potential visitors were driving down from Edinburgh.

The berries on the severely cropped shrubs beside the Wauchope are looking amazing.

berries at kirk brig

I walked along the river and when I crossed the Town Bridge, I saw an excellent turn out of gulls at their posts on the Castleholm.

many gulls on posts

The only gull left in the river was the young gull that I saw before.

young gull

I walked across the Sawmill Brig and took the track out towards the High Mill Brig, stopping to gaze at sheep grazing under a bare tree…

tree with sheep

…and then to wonder at the sheer variety of lichens growing within a yard or two of each other on the wall beside the track.

four lichens on same walltwo lichen on same wall

To avoid a boggy piece of ground at a gate, I went into the field and looked at the wall from the other side.  There was hardly any life on the side exposed to the elements.

tree and wall

At the end of the track, I had a look up the main road to the north, down which our visitors would come in the course of time.

lookingup A7

As I went to cross the Ewes Water, I thought that the sun might have come out again when I saw a patch of yellow, but it was just the topmost twigs on a tree.

yellow tinged twigs

Two hundred yards further on, there was a genuine brightening and the trees at the Rugby Club bridge were lit up by actual sun.

sun at RFC bridge

They are building a third log cabin at the Whitshiels cafe and are at a stage which reveals clearly the cunning interlocking method of construction.log cabin

As I got back to the Sawmill Brig, the sun had already sunk behind more clouds…

sunset castleholm

…and the light rapidly faded as I walked home across the Jubilee Bridge, my fifth bridge crossing of the day.

It was dark by the time that Matilda, Al and Clare arrived but there was still time for Matilda to enjoy a couple of board games with me before tea.  I was fortunate to come out top at Snakes and Ladders but Matilda comfortably beat me at Ludo so honour was satisfied.

On behalf of Mrs Tootlepedal and myself, I would like to wish all blog readers a happy Christmas and thank them for their continued attention over the year.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow, an uncommon visitor these days.

flying sparrow

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Today’s guest picture is another that Bruce took on the misty morning of December 18th.  I use it in particular because it is now five days since we saw any sun and it is good to be reminded that the sun does come out here from time to time.

bruce's misty morning

In real life, rather than recollection, we had another grey and sunless day here, so I was very happy to be cheered up by the arrival at coffee time of Dropscone.  On this occasion he brought with him not only his excellent scones but his grandson Leo as well.

Leo, who is seven, lives in Glasgow so I had not met him before.  Leo turned out to be a splendid fellow with a good appetite.  He ate one of the scones so I had less than usual but he had such a charming smile that I didn’t begrudge him his scone at all.  Like our granddaughter Matilda, he goes to dancing classes and he demonstrated some fine street dancing moves to Mrs Tootlepedal and me.

When he had taken his grandfather off, I watched the birds for a bit.   It was too gloomy to get good pictures but a robin is always welcome.

robin on tray

I washed out my new feeder and put the old one in its place.  The goldfinches were quite happy to use either.

goldfinches on old feeder

A siskin appeared when there were no perches available and in spite of being smaller than the goldfinches by some way…

siskin approaching

…it weighed up the situation…

siskin thinking

…and attacked.

siskin attacking

On this occasion though, it failed to dislodge the incumbent and flew off, leaving the feeder to more goldfinches (and a chaffinch).

goldfinches

I made some red and green lentil soup for lunch and then, in conference with Mrs Tootlepedal, considered how best to use the extra second of daylight that we had today.  Unfortunately, we over considered the matter and the second had gone before we could use it.  We shall have to be a bit sharper tomorrow.

Yesterday’s forecast had said that it would start to rain at 2 o’clock and it did.  Today’s forecast said that it would start to rain at 2 o’clock and I took the view that judging by its record, the forecast could not possibly be accurate two days running.  I got my bicycle out.

I was distracted by two jackdaws with white feathers on a neighbour’s roof…

two jackdaws with white feathers

…but I got going and hoped for the best.

It was drizzling faintly  so I thought that I might get ten miles in and get wet in the process, but as I went on, the drizzle stopped and I got fifteen satisfactory miles in and stayed dry.  However, I shouldn’t be too smug about my view of the weather forecast because while I was out pedalling in the country, it did rain in Langholm itself and Mrs Tootlepedal got quite wet cycling to the shops.

It was too grey to take pictures but I recorded a tree at Wauchope School just to prove that I did go out.

tree at Wauchope School

And I liked this shot of the cattle tucking into a treat at the foot of Warbla.

cows having food

I thought for a moment that I had spotted a two headed animal.  My camera, operating in auto mode, thought that I needed the help of the flash because it was so gloomy and I liked the resultant stars in the eyes of the cows.

double headed cow

Just at the top of the little hill before I got back to Langholm, I noticed that a rather strange streak of fungus was still thriving beside the road.  I first saw these fungi almost a month ago and I am surprised to see them still there and so untouched.

fungus at top of manse brae

This one looked as though a neat elf had been tidying up.

fungus with leaf

The two nearest the hedge are a good size and although something has had a nibble at one of them, they must be unappetising in some way to have lasted so long.

big fungus

Our friend Mike Tinker’s tea radar was functioning well and he arrived on time for a cup after I had got home.  He had kindly brought a packet of ginger biscuits as a gift so he was even more welcome than usual.

After I had polished off a biscuit or two, I had to pop out to the health centre for my three monthly vitamin B12 top up and this went off so painlessly and punctually that I was back in plenty of time to greet my flute pupil Luke.

Our work on improving his counting is paying off and we played sonatas by Finger and Loeillet pretty successfully.

After our evening meal, I brought in the Christmas tree and Mrs Tootlepedal started decorating it.    We realise that this is too early as it is not yet Christmas Eve, but what the heck, live dangerously is our motto.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch going off to find a feeder with more spaces on it.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce who was out walking his dogs this morning.

bruce's morning mist

Bruce took his photograph at half past eleven this morning when, as you can see, it was misty on the Castleholm.

I had looked out of the window after breakfast and only seen sunshine and frost but when I went outside, I could see mist on the hills so I thought that this would be a good moment to rush up the hill (in a car) and see if I could look down from above to get some “sea of mist” shots.

It was before ten when I left and it was quite misty as I drove over the bridge on my to the White Yett so my hopes were high.  Sadly, my optimism went down in inverse ratio to the height I gained as I went up the hill and when I got to the car park, it was apparent that I had left things too late.

I left the car and walked up the track to the monument, looking down as I went.  There was only a trickle of mist running along the very bottom of the Ewes valley…

light mist ewes valley

…and not much more running along the length of the Esk.light mist over town

There were places where the mist was a bit thicker…

mist up esk valley

It was beautiful day though and the views were lovely so I wasn’t as unhappy about the lack of mist as I might have been.

mist over whole town

I should have got out earlier because the mist had risen up and was now sitting in an impressive line along the top of the hills along the Ewes valley.

clouds on ewes hill tops

As I walked, the clouds lifted a bit more and across the town, I could see the wind turbines, which had been in the clouds in previous pictures, quite clearly now.

craig windmills with diggerThe sharp eyed reader may notice something beside the left hand turbine tower in the shot above.  A closer examination shows that it is one of those machines with a lifting platform reaching up to a blade.

When I got to the summit, I walked a few yards past the monument and looked over the wall into a misty England.

view over misty england

Turning round, and looking the other way, all was clear as crystal.

monument december

I was happy to see a very decorative patch of lichen enjoying life at 1000 ft above sea level.

lichen at monument

Although I hadn’t seen as much mist as I would have liked, it was a delightful short walk and the sun took the edge off a sub zero temperature as I walked back down to the car…

sun and shadow at monument

…and made everything look very cheerful.

lichen at white yett

The mist really was very local, lying close to the rivers and very low, as you can see from this picture which I took when I was almost back down the hill and into the town…

mist over rugby club

…and it was still there when Bruce was walking his dogs an hour later (assuming the clock on his camera is set correctly.)

I made a pot of coffee and had a cup with Mrs Tootlepedal when I got home and I was pleased to warm my hands up after exposing my shutter finger to the chilly breeze on the hill.

Fortified by the coffee, I had a look at the birds.  There were a lot about today, the most this winter so far.

Goldfinches arrived with and without the use of wings…

goldfinches wings

…and jackdaws looked on disapprovingly as usual.

quizzocal jackdaw

The robin took a more quizzical view…

quizzical robin on stalk

…and a green finch showed that it too could manage without any wing flapping.

no wings greenfinch

I waited in for a delivery of hand made soap after lunch and then went for a short walk.  After the brilliantly sunny morning, the afternoon was a disappointment, being very grey and gloomy, so taking pictures was hard work.

A pheasant at the lodge was bright enough to show off its exotic colours…

pheasant at lodge

…and I saw two lots of fungus, the first a crop looking so like a heap of fallen leaves that I almost passed it by without noticing it…

fungus lodge walks

…and the second gleaming brightly on a tree branch.

fungus duchess bridge

It wasn’t as cold as when the sun had been out in the morning but it wasn’t really a great time for a photographic walk so I pressed on home, taking a final picture suitable to the conditions.

moss and fern tree

Darkness fell soon after I got home.  Following a recommendation from Sandy, we have started to watch the BBC adaptation of His Dark Materials on the i-player and this was a perfect opportunity to take in three episodes before we had our evening meal.  It is very gripping.

Checking on the train company showed that they had managed to run more of their trains today than yesterday, so we are hoping that this improvement will continue tomorrow and we will be able to find a train to go to Edinburgh to see Matilda.

The flying bird of the day is a gull which flew over my head as I walked along th Kilngreen this afternoon.

flying gull

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Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony.   Just to show that the sun doesn’t always shine in East Wemyss, he has sent me this lovely picture of one of his dogs on a walk in the dark.

burst

We had a chilly but not freezing day here, and as it didn’t rain, we looked on the bright side.

It was cold enough to persuade me that it might be a good idea to catch up on some archive work while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to stuff brochures with the spring programme of events into envelopes at the Buccleuch Centre.  The centre currently has 33 volunteers helping out, a testament to the value which the town puts on having such a good resource.

I added another parish magazine to the Archive Group website and then put a week of the newspaper index into the database.  This edition covered the death of Queen Victoria, a historic moment if ever there was one.

In between times, I watched the birds and was pleased to see a few siskins at the feeder.

two siskins

Mrs Tootlepedal left a few sunflower stalks standing near the feeder when the flowers were over, and the birds are very grateful to her because the stalks make a good place to stand and ponder, as this chaffinch is doing.

chaffinch on stalk

There were a great many flying birds at one particular moment but the reflections of a glimmer of sun in the window made the resulting picture look rather odd.

many flying birds

Jackdaws like the fat balls but don’t find it easy to get a grip on the feeder and get beak to ball.

jackdaw at fat balls

After lunch, I went out for a walk.  I could have gone cycling, as it was probably just warm enough not to have icy patches on the roads, but with a forecast of thirty mile an hour gusts and a very chilly wind, it wasn’t an attractive option.

I have been working hard in the last few months on doing exercises to improve my back and foot joints so I thought that instead of taking things easily after walking five miles in Saturday and three miles on Sunday, another briskish five mile walk today would be a good test to see if things really had got better as far as walking went.

I set out with the intention of not stopping until I had got out of the town but the sight of these severely cropped shrubs still carrying a good crop of berries made me pause for a moment.

berries on pruned bushes

Someone had told me that they had seen a lot of woodpeckers knocking about at the Moorland Project bird hide, so I thought that the hide would make a good target for my walk.  I had walked in much the same direction on Saturday but this time I went round the circuit in the opposite direction, and took the usual path through the woods instead of venturing onto the hill.

The path was muddy but fairly level so I made good progress…

track to round house

…and I especially enjoyed the oak wood from start…

oak wood near jenny nobles

..to finish…

end of oak wood

…not least becuase the sun came out.

When I got to Broomholmshiels, I turned left and walked up the road towards the bird hide.  You can see the trees where the hide is on the horizon.

road to bird hide

My informant may have seen a lot of woodpeckers on her visit but I didn’t see a single one on mine. I did see great tits…

great tit

…blue tits …

coal and blue tit

and coal tits enjoying the peanuts…

coal tit

…and chaffinches and goldfinches having fun at the seed feeder.

chaffinch and goldfinch laverock hide

I believe that the trees here are soon to be felled as they are larches and have got signs of a disease which means the compulsory clearance of trees affected so I took a picture of the hide, the clearing and the comfortable bench inside the hide where I sat to watch the birds.

laverock hide triple panel

I didn’t stay long in the hide because although the sun was out, it was already getting low in the sky.  Soon I was on the road that leads down to the Esk.

road above Broomholm

Once again, I pressed on, trying to give my feet a good workout, but the mossy wall can’t be ignored entirely…

pixie cup on mossy wall

…and I passed another of the little stone cairns which carry a welcoming message for walkers.

Buccleuich walking cairn

These welcoming signs have been overtaken by events as thanks to a recent law, one can walk anywhere one likes on open land in Scotland as long as you behave sensibly and don’t damage crops or interfere with the legitimate activities of others.

I couldn’t pass Skippers Bridge for a second time without taking a picture…

skippers bridge mid december

…and an old  friend and an interesting log detained me for a moment or two.

heron and fungus

Just as I was crossing the bridge, a motorist hooted at me and I was just going to scowl at the car for interrupting my peaceful walk when I saw that it was Mrs Tootlepedal returning from getting her new specs adjusted in Longtown.  I waved cheerily instead and walked home along the Murtholm.

The light had gone by this time so I didn’t stop to take any more pictures but the dying sun tempted the camera out of my pocket just as I got to our front gate.

sunset december

The walk was about five and a quarter miles and because I am boringly interested in these sort of things, I can report that it took me 43 minutes to walk the two and a half miles up hill to the bird hide and 53 minutes to walk the two and three quarter miles back down the hill to the town.   I should have been able to go back more quickly than I went out but the eleven minutes that I spent sitting on the comfortable but hard wooden bench in the bird hide made my feet hurt far more than the walking to get there.  A lesson learned; don’t sit down in the middle of a walk.

Mrs Tootlepedal had beaten me home and I had just made a pot of tea when the finely honed tea radar of Mike Tinker clicked into action and he appeared bang on cue to join us.  We sipped and chatted and not long after he left, my flute pupil Luke arrived and he and I had an encouraging half hour of musical enjoyment.

As Mrs Tootlepedal had been making a fish pie for tea and her fish pie is a thing of joy when it comes to an evening meal, the day finished on a very good note.

The only fly in the ointment was the news that the train company that takes us to Edinburgh on a Thursday had introduced its new timetable today with such efficiency and competence that half its trains were either cancelled or horribly late.  We just hope that things are going to get better by Thursday.

A daring chaffinch effecting a handbrake turn is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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