Posts Tagged ‘Kernigal’

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  He and his partner Marianne celebrated her birthday with a weekend in Argyll on the banks of Loch Awe, where they visited the multi layered Arvich falls.

falls of avich

We had a cold and chilly morning here today.  It was not freezing but it was cold enough to persuade me that a really idle morning would be good thing.  To tell the truth, I didn’t need much persuading.  If I was the sort of person who might complain about minor aches and niggles, I would have had an embarrassment of choices today.  However as regular readers will know I am the strong silent type so I merely did the crossword and drank coffee until getting up could no longer be avoided.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy decorating so I wouldn’t have had anyone to complain to even if I had wanted to.

I spent some time watching the birds when I was fully dressed.

There were two types of goldfinch available, the old and wrinkly and the young and smooth.

contrasting goldfinches

But luckily there were plenty of both about….

four goldfinches on feeder

..so there was plenty of action too.

Inquisitive chaffinches challenged the sitting tenants…

chaffinch challenging

…and goldfinches faced off against each other with zest.

goldfinches spat

An old and wrinkled type put the wind up a smooth fellow in a big way…

goldfinch shock

…while a greenfinch watched from above with a magisterial air.

greenfinch on pole

Putting down my bird camera, I made some lentil soup for lunch and while it was cooking, I made a quick record of some autumn colour in the garden…

autumn colour in the garden

…welcomed a robin…

robin on grey day

…and then ate the soup.

After lunch, I considered the weather forecast.  The general view was that things could only get worse so now seemed as good a time to go for a walk as any other.

I took my brolly with me for insurance and set out to walk up through a wood before coming back down to the river at Skippers Bridge and following the river bank home.

The wood was varied…

kernigal wood

…and the path was reasonably dry…

kernigal wood 2

….and there was lichen to be seen on a wall on the way and a little fungus among the trees.

fungus and lichen november

I had been well sheltered in the wood but when I got to the track at the top, it began to drizzle and I was glad that I had my brolly with me.  It was a very still day so I was able to keep quite dry in spite of the fact that it rained all the way home.

The track down the hill was covered with larch needles and this made me feel a little like a film star walking down the red carpet at a ceremony.

path to skipperscleuch

A newly felled area beside the track is regrowing with a mixture of spruce, larch and birch and even on a  gloomy day, it glowed.

young wood in autumn

When I looked back up the track, I could see the larches which had provided my carpet.

path from kernigal looking back

Out of interest, I took the same shot with the camera on my phone…

path from kernigal looking back phone

…and nothing could make clearer the amount of work the processors in your cameras do before they give you a picture to look at (unless you shoot in RAW which I only do occasionally).

I stopped for a chat in the light rain with a local resident who was walking his dog and then made my way down to Skippers Bridge.  I usually take pictures there when the sun is shining but today I took one when the weather was grey and the rain was falling just to show that it is a picturesque spot at any time.

distillery in the riain

There is a wooden fence a few hundred yards up the river from the bridge where my favourite lichen can be found if the conditions are right. They were right today.  I think that it is a lecanora or rim lichen.  They are very tiny.

lichen at lands end

The daisies that grow in profusion along the river bank at this point were still showing a bit of life…

daisies beside the river

…and further up river, I found a dipper perched on a stone, a bit too far out for me to get a good shot.  This was my pocket camera zoom at full stretch and I would have needed somewhere to rest the camera to get a sharp shot.  Juggling with an umbrella while trying to keep the camera dry made things harder.

dipper november

In spite of the persistent drizzle, the windless conditions meant that I got home both dry and warm so I enjoyed my gloomy walk a lot.

I had a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal when I got home as she had finished her decorating for the day and then I caught up with my correspondence and discarded a lot of very fuzzy pictures from my walk.

In the evening, I went off to sing with the Langholm community choir and as we had both a conductor and an accompanist, we had a productive time.

The flying bird of the day is the greenfinch in dive , dive, dive mode when a perch became vacant at the feeders.

greenfinch flying

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Today’s guest picture comes from Jenni, my Highland correspondent.  We have been having some good sunrises here and may be there is something in the air at the moment because she had a spectacular one too.

Highland Sunrise

It was another cold day with the thermometer hanging about the 5 degree mark at best but a nipping and an eager air made the wind chill factor a neat zero.

Under the circumstances, I was pleased to get out on my bicycle, if not early, then at least before I had sat down to waste time over coffee and a biscuit, my usual delaying tactic.

I took a simple out and back route to avoid any long effort cycling straight into the chilly wind though I did take a short diversion up to Cleuchfoot…

Cleuchfoot glen

…where I stopped to take a picture of a tiny valley that runs down to the road.  It looks as though it might lead somewhere exciting but in fact it only leads out onto a boggy and featureless moor.  Once I was back on the Lockerbie road, I was very pleased to see men and machines hard at work at the site of the recent landslip.

mending the Lockerbie road 2

No one had expected work to start so promptly.

I passed them and cycled on to the top of the hill at Callister where I was passed by half a dozen quarry lorries who were busy at the site of the new wind farm there.  There is no sign of the turbine towers yet so they are either improving the access road or building the bases.

I stopped at the road works on my way back and was very impressed by how well they have sorted the problem.

mending the Lockerbie road 1

I was curious about the black plastic pipes sunk into the surface of the works and one of the men told me that they are going to be holders for the new fence posts. He said that he thought that the repair was sound and would last well and as he turned out to be one of my ex-pupils, I have every confidence that he will be right.

On my return to Langholm, I cycled through the town and out of the other side and since the sun was now fully out, I stopped to record my favourite view up the Ewes valley….

Ewes Valley

…and the neighbouring farmhouse.


I clocked up twenty miles and was quite happy to stop before I got chilled.

I had a quick look at the birds and was shocked to see a male chaffinch being beastly to a female…

cahffinch misogyny

…but pleased to see that our lone siskin was back again.


I made some soup for my lunch and while it was cooking, Mrs Tootlepedal headed off to catch the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda.

Fuelled by the soup and a couple of tomato rolls, I went out for a walk.

I started off along the riverside path and then headed uphill through the Kernigal wood.  There has been a lot of wind blow lately and it was good to see that someone had been out with a saw and done some tidying up.

kernigal wood tidying

Perhaps this is because I was walking along the track you can see on the right of the picture below which is much used by local mountain bikers.

kernigal wood

It is very welcome for walkers as it provides a good path through a tangly bit of forest.

I came out at the top of the wood and walked back down the track towards Skippers Bridge.  I didn’t have my thinking head on when I chose my route and I was rather upset to realise that if I had been walking on the other side of the valley, I would have been enjoying a sunny day.

winter sunshine on whita

In fact when I looked around, I found that almost everywhere was bathed in sunlight except where I was walking.

winter sunshine on Castle Hill

When I got down to the main road, I found that winter had cleared enough foliage away to give me a view of the large bridge for a small stream which almost all motorists probably pass over without noticing as they leave the town for the south.

Culvert at Skippers

I didn’t dilly dally on my way home as it wasn’t getting any warmer but I did stop to check out the black smudge on the fence at Land’s End which turns out to be this very attractive lichen, still in excellent condition…

fungus on fence at lands end

…and to see if the fungus on the tree at the Co-op had survived the cold weather.  It had and was even bigger than when I saw it last…

fungus at Co-op

…and it too looked to be in good condition.

fungus gill

As I walked back along the river bank, a glimpse of brightness among the gloom on the far bank caught my eye.  It was an old friend disguised as a twig.

heron in shadows

Back in the garden, I found a little remaining colour on the leycestaria…


…but there was nothing else of note so I went inside and did the crossword.

As Mrs Tootlepedal had taken our car away and my friend and customary chauffeur Susan was on holiday in Glasgow, I had no way of getting to Carlisle and back for the monthly meeting of our recorder group.  They are kind people though and on the Mohammed and the mountain principle, since I could not get to them, they came out to me and we had a most enjoyable evening of music making.

We were just having our post-playing cup of tea and biscuit when Mrs Tootlepedal returned safely from Edinburgh and that rounded off a cold day very warmly.

I didn’t find a moment with both good light and a flying bird in it so that is the reason for a very scrappy flying bird of the day picture.

flying chffainch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who spotted some fearless workers inspecting Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.

Brave workmen inspecting Nelson's column

We were promised warmer, wetter weather and we got it.  It rained on and off all day and it was never lighter than ‘very gloomy’ inside and outside.

As a result, I was very happy to idle a morning away reading papers, drinking coffee and making soup.

I looked out of the window from time to time.

We had a good selection of visitors, many of whom looked a bit grumpy with the weather…

greenfinch and goldfinch

…including a sparrow among the usual suspects.  For some reason, the sparrows, of whom there are many in the town, visit a bush in the corner of our garden but don’t come to the feeder so this was a novelty.

sparrow and siskin

A robin and a blackbird made a brief appearance each.

robin and blackbird

…and the chaffinches arrived in an orderly fashion.


Out in the pond there was new frog spawn and a few frogs.

frog and spawn

Mrs Tootlepedal went off and did a little shopping and then went out again after lunch, this time to a meeting of her embroiderers’ group.

I thought about a short pedal when the rain stopped but the weather remained untrustworthy so I went for a walk instead.

As I walked along the edge of the park, I spotted all sorts of lichen and mosses…

moss and lichen

I am always pleased to see a red topped Cladonia as they are very small and I need a bit of luck to notice them.

This was my favourite among the mosses.


Of course, you have to be a real moss and lichen detective to see any moss round here!

mossy wall

I left the park wall behind and walked up into the Kernigal wood.  It was gloomy there too but as it was warmish and it wasn’t raining, I was quite happy strolling along the track.


It is often worth giving a tree stump a second look.

lichen and fungus

At one point, I could see a bright red light in the distance.  Although it doesn’t look like it in the picture, the light is on top of a communications mast on a hill and can be seen from miles around. It seems to be on night and day and has caused a lot of interest in the town.   Some think that it might be sending out secret mind control waves while others more prosaically link it to the arrival of 4G phone reception on the area.

mast light

When I came out of the wood, I followed the track down to Skipeprscleuch….

Road to skippers

…where the felling of the wood beside the track has opened up views of Warbla.


With the felling at the Becks Burn in mind, readers have asked if these felled woods are replanted and the answer is that they are.  The timber is a cash crop and I could see both new spruce trees and some hardwoods in plastic tubes too which are planted to encourage wildlife.

new planting

This was my favourite tree of the walk.

bare tree

I walked past a cottage and noted the old plough in the garden…

old plough

…and a few yards further on, I came across another well appointed wall.

moss and lichen

When I got down to the main road just before Skippers Bridge, I noticed that the passing  traffic had made sure that there was no moss on the road side of the parapet of the bridge over the sike  but a look  over the other side of the parapet showed that there was no shortage of moss there.

A7 bridge

We don’t have many brick buildings in Langholm and I enjoyed the gentle colours of the building at the bridge.

garage door

I crossed the bridge and noted the wooden steps that are part of the walks network…

steps at skippers

…and I took another photograph of Skippers Bridge itself but as it was no different from the many I have taken before, I leave it to the readers’ imagination to picture it.

At this point, it started to rain, first gently and then heavily so I kept the camera in my pocket and scuttled home.

Mrs Tootlepedal had enjoyed a delightful demonstration of steampunk embroidery given by two ladies from Dumfries and I had enjoyed my walk so in spite of the gloomy weather, we had a good afternoon.

My enjoyment was increased by the fact that my walk had (deliberately) stopped me watching Scotland play Ireland at rugby.  I had had bad feelings about the likely result and had saved myself much mental agony by not watching the inevitable unfold.  Scotland struggle to win a match away from home but they are not unique in this.  Only two matches out of the eleven so far this year in the Six nations tournament have been won by the away team.

To cheer up a gloomy day, we had fish and chips from the chip shop for our tea and as I arrived at the counter at exactly the right moment to get freshly cooked fish straight out of the fryer, our meal was delicious.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch






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Today’s guest picture, kindly sent to me by Tuckamoredew from Edmonton, shows a fine snow sculpture.  He says that he enjoyed the mild weather while viewing the snow sculpture show.   There is mild and Canadian mild.

snow sculpture

For the second day running I was not a fair weather cyclist but whereas yesterday the weather was fair and I was not a cyclist, today I was a cyclist but the weather was far from fair.

By arrangement, Dropscone arrived an hour later than usual for our morning pedal.  This was lucky because it was a very gloomy morning and the extra hour let a little light seep through the clouds.  The postman had delivered some new cycling tights earlier in the morning, guaranteed to be warm and weatherproof so a temperature of 4 degrees C and some light rain gave them the perfect opportunity to show what they could do.  Rather to my surprise, they turned out to be both warm and weatherproof.  One of my better buys.

The ride itself was a gentle 20 mile jaunt to Waterbeck and back.  Dropscone was on his slower winter bike which was very welcome to me as it meant that I could just pootle along behind him on my speedy bike without the usual effort to keep up with him.

We had some very un-Mediterranean like scones with our coffee afterwards.  These are just one of things of which I am going to have to reduce my consumption (with regret).

To make an effort, I bought myself a tin of minestrone soup for my lunch.  I suspected that the contents would include all sorts of dubious ingredients but in fact, it was very pure, low in  salt and no added sugar or other fillers.  This probably explains why it didn’t taste of anything very much.  I will have to get busy cooking my own soups for lunch again.

After lunch,  I filled the feeders, spread a few pellets and retired to watch.

The universal robin was back.

robin on bench

The jackdaw early warning system wasn’t in operation and the blackbirds only had the chaffinches to compete with for the pellets.  There were quite a few blackbirds about…


…and if they had spent less time chasing each other off the lawn….


…and more time eating, the chaffinches wouldn’t have got so much.  Interestingly, it was the females who were chasing the males off.

The chaffinches were more peaceful.


One or two sparrows appeared too…


…but didn’t join the crowd on the lawn.

The weather had brightened up a lot by this time so instead of getting on with my work, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went out for a walk.  We started by going round the garden so that she could show me the first garden snowdrop of the year.


Then we headed through the park, stopping to be amazed by the fortitude of a dog having a swim in the Wauchope…

swimming dog

….before going up the track to the Stubholm.  We walked along the top of the bank before dropping down to the Murtholm fields.  I was hoping to see some herons there and I wasn’t disappointed.


They looked a bit incongruous in the middle of the field.  I tried to sneak in for a closer shot but they flew off.

flying herons

Our route took us round the edge of the field and we were able to get a closer look at them a few minutes later.


We left the waterside and climbed up a track, through some fields and over a small stream…


…until we joined the track through the Kernigal woods.

Kernigal track

The woods have not escaped from the recent windy weather…

fallen tree

…and they are home to some of the most moss covered trees imaginable outside of a swamp.

mossy tree
We admired a good many fungi and lichens but the low light meant that the resultant pictures weren’t very good.  One thing that I have learned is that you need to photograph a fungus from above and below for identification purposes…


…but I still couldn’t find this one in my little book.   For fungi shaped like this, it tells me a lot about what sort of ground I should be looking for but nothing about ones which are growing halfway up a small tree.  I shall persevere.

This one was growing on a fallen branch.


I couldn’t find it in my little book either.  I will buy a bigger book.

When we emerged from the wood, the weather was closing in again and the tops of the hills were swathed in cloud.

cloudy hills

I just had enough energy left to do a little (too little) work on my toast before tea.  While I was doing this, Mrs Tootlepedal was practising playing the spoons with the aid of a YouTube video.   If I am found gibbering in the street, moaning, “The spoons, the spoons,” you will know what caused it.

We had some delicious slow cooked minced beef for our meal but in honour of the new diet direction, we ate it with tagliatelli instead of tatties.

After tea, I went off to Carlisle with Susan to play with our recorder group.  We were all six present and as usual we played a good variety of music which was laid before us by our librarian Roy.  Fortunately for us, he has a house full of recorder music.

Among the blackbirds, sparrows and robins, I found a flying chaffinch.

flying chaffinch






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Today’s picture shows a lighthouse at Whitley Bay where my friends Gavin and Gaye were recently on grandparenting duty.


Although the day here promised to be sunny, it soon faded to a dull grey with a keenly nipping wind.  As I walked up to the town, a passer by described it to me with considerable understatement as ‘a cool air’.  I would have said that it was ***** cold. Fortunately Dropscone was away on business and I didn’t have to brave the breeze on a bicycle.

The reason for my visit to the town was a reported electrical fault at the Archive centre.  I took some simple remedial measures but I fear that we may need a professional.  This causes me some anguish because if life in Langholm has a drawback, it is the difficulty in getting a prompt response for a small job from an electrician.

I had filled the seed feeder before I walked up to the town and by the time that I got back, it was nearly empty again such was the heavy traffic.

Greenfinch and goldfinch

Waiting for the right moment to go.


A greenfinch having a very serious word with a chaffinch

I have tried to make some pictures which show the excitement and are a little different from my usual ones.  It wasn’t hard to find a subject today and these four pictures were taken in the space of a minute.





It wasn’t long before I had to fill up the seed feeder again.

I was pleased to see a blue tit come to the feeders as we are still hoping that a pair might use our nest box.

blue tit

An hour later, things were still just as busy.


greenfinch and siskin

Taking a break from bird watching, we had an early lunch and set out for a walk.  We did consider a pedal but decided the fun of biking into a really icy wind was strictly limited and we headed for the Kernigal wood and some shelter from the chill.


A pleasant open wood to wander through

At one stage, I took a high route while Mrs Tootlepedal took a lower road and it wasn’t until we had come out of the wood that I saw her again.

A speck in the distance

She politely waited for me to catch up and then, instead of walking on down to the road, we went through a gate…


…and then cut across some fields.  We passed another of the temporary ponds that have formed during the wet summer.


Then another gate….


…led us to a track down to the Murtholm.

As we walked through a field there , we saw two pairs of oyster catchers.  This was one of them.

oyster catchers

Another sign of coming spring

We walked home along the riverside path, keeping a wary eye out for any further landslips as we went.

glacial till

This scar shows the underlying glacial till.  It is very unstable on a soggy, steep slope.

I had filled the feeder before we left for our walk and I had to fill it again when we returned.  The birds are obviously finding that food is hard to get elsewhere during this long chilly spell.

A greenfinch soon arrived to take advantage of the refill.


After we got back from the walk, we made a quick excursion to Mrs Tootlepedal’s manure mine and came back to spread it where it will do most good.  The rains of last summer will have washed a lot of the goodness out of the soil and Mrs Tootlepedal is keen to replace as much as she can.

She then took up her needle and went back to making costumes while I footled about on my computer getting nothing much done at all.

In the evening, I went with Jean and Sandy to the Archive Centre and we worked away for an hour and a half.  We were in the mood for refreshment afterwards and were shocked and dismayed to find our usual haunt packed to the gunwales with merrymakers at a works farewell party.  There was, as they say, no room at the inn for regular customers and we went home disconsolately, not having the heart to try a different bar.

The near zero temperatures are to continue for a few days yet so I will make sure that I am well stocked with seeds.  On the plus side, the wind is predicted to die down so maybe it will not feel as chilly as it did today.

I managed to go past the chaffinches in my search for a flying bird of the day today and found a greenfinch instead.



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