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Posts Tagged ‘Langholm Parish Church’

Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Ada who was walking along the road to Newcastelton when she saw a very unusual bird at rest on the Langholm moor.  It was there as part of the works on maintaining our pylons.

helicopter at pylon

Our run of grey but dry days under a ridge of high pressure came to an end today as low pressure swept in, and we got a grey but very wet morning instead.

Luckily I was in church singing in the choir while the worst of the rain was on, but unluckily by the time that the sun came out in the afternoon, we were on our way to Carlisle to sing with our Carlisle choir so we couldn’t make much use of it.

Mrs Tootlepedal did get a moment or two to do some gardening after the rain stopped but it was still pretty wet…

drops on the line

…though we were very excited by this.

first daffodil bud

The changeable weather is forecast to bring frost tonight so we may have to wait a bit more until the flower opens.

I didn’t take part in the Great Garden Birdwatch this year as there are too few birds about to make spending an hour looking at not much at all a very attractive use of time.  I know that an absence of birds might as interesting to researchers as a lot of different species but it is not interesting to the onlooker.

After I had made my my mind up not to take part, a few birds appeared just to annoy me.

I haven’t seen a blackbird for a few days but today…

male blackbird

…I saw two…

female blackbird

…and the robin arrived as well.

robin

After another very slow start, a few birds began to trickle down to the feeder around the middle of the day. It was siskin time, with first these two….

two siskins

…and then two more…

four siskins

… and finally a competition for perches.

five siskins

A lone chaffinch tried to get into the action but the siskins were having none of that.

chaffinch warned off by siskin

Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree is very good value and I often see birds waiting to come to the feeder taking advantage of its nailed on branches.

siskin on fake tree

After lunch, we went off to Carlisle and had a most enjoyable sing with our choir.  Ellen, our musical director, is mixing up new songs to be learned with putting a bit of polish on more familiar tunes so we are getting a good mixture.

Ellen was telling me that she had to wait for two and a half hours in the emergency lane of a busy motorway last week until the breakdown man arrived to help her after a tyre blowout.  As anyone who has had to use the emergency lane of a motorway will know, this is not a happy experience, so we were pleased that she had managed to get down safely this week.

As an iced bun fell into my shopping bag when we stopped for supplies on the way home, a day which had started out looking very miserable, finished pretty well.  Especially as there were three other iced buns in the same packet.

A female siskin appears as the flying bird of the day.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who noticed these sculptures of  full stop on a recent visit to the South Bank of the Thames.

full stop sculpture

Our day looked like this when I got up…

burst

…but it had become rather cloudy by the time that we got to church….

sunday cloud

…and it had disappeared entirely by the time that we got out.

sunday mist

Rather disappointingly, the foggy conditions remained in place for the rest of the day and the temperature hardly rose above freezing.

At the church, the minister remarked during his sermon that it might be a good idea to pray for the church choir.  We didn’t entirely know how to take this.

When we had got back from church and a cup of coffee had found a good home, I set out for a short misty walk with the intention of taking some moody pictures.  This plan would have gone better if I had put a card in my camera.

The short walk became a very short walk and I arrived home in a disgruntled mood which was not helped by the continuing absence of birds at the feeder.

quiet feeder

However, on this occasion things did improve, and a couple of minutes later the first birds of the day arrived…

feeder visitors

…and it was not long…

busy feeder

…until enough had arrived to cause queues to form.

chaffinch queueing

There was soon quite a rush…

goldfmnch queueing

…and even a hint of arguments developing….

siskin and chaffinch

…but the rush soon evaporated and a few lonely chaffinches were left…

hanging on by toenails

…practising landings.

chaffinch nearly landinf

Still, the thing about chaffinches is that they like spreading their wings and thus make good subjects for a feeder photographer.

four chaffinch anel;

After lunch, we went off through the chilly mist to Carlisle for the weekly meeting of our Carlisle choir.  At one stage the mist threatened to become thick fog but it relented and by the time we got to Carlisle, it was brighter and there was no mist.

Our musical director had suffered a tyre blow-out on the motorway in Glasgow on her way to lead the practice.  She hadn’t come to any harm but was unable to get to us so our accompanist took the task on, playing and conducting simultaneously with great verve.

We worked hard for her and as a result, we had a most enjoyable sing.

I was a bit worried that we might have to face freezing fog on the way home but although the temperature was hovering around zero, there was only one small patch of mist and the drive back was not too bad at all.

We are going away tomorrow for a few days to visit Evie, our younger granddaughter, so posts will be potluck from the phone.

In the meantime, I was happy to find a genuine flying bird of the day today, even though the misty conditions didn’t let me get a crisp picture.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo in Manitoba.  She was unimpressed by my flimsy  footwear in a recent picture on the blog and sent me this shot of real boot quality in her latest pair.

Mary Jo's socks

The ‘wet day’ marmalade which I made yesterday has set well, and this morning I put the caps on the jars and used some rather fancy labels.

2020 marmalade

(My handwriting was never good and has got steadily worse with the advent of keyboards and computers.)

The day was remarkably calm after yesterday’s strong winds and I was able to stroll down to sing with the church choir wearing a light jacket and a cheerful smile.  The hymns were a mixed bunch with an African tune, a Jewish melody and some old faithfuls and we had an enjoyable sing.  After a quiet time, we are going to start singing introits and anthems again so we had a practice after the service.  We were ready for coffee when we got home.

The birds were in no hurry to come to the feeder today but the walnut was playing host to jackdaws.  Jackdaws pair for life and we often see pairs of them sitting and chatting amiably among the branches of the tree.

jackdaw pair

As the welcome sun came round to the feeder, some dunnocks appeared on the ground..

dunnock

…and a pigeon landed on the electricity wire above…

pigeon on wire

…and finally a redpoll actually came and ate some seed.

redpoll on feeder

A siskin arrived too….

sisking on feeder

…but it was a very quiet morning for bird activity.  A small heap of feathers on the lawn showed that a sparrowhawk had visited earlier in the day so that possibly explained the lack of visitors.

I was pleased to see that our robin had not been the victim.

robin on wire

After our coffee, we took a quick walk round the garden.  We were delighted to see the first signs of snowdrops.

first snowdrop

We have occasionally seen them fully out by this time, so I hope it will not be long before a flower appears.

We left the garden and headed out for a visit to the river.  The rivers had fallen a lot since Gavin took his picture yesterday…

new course of wauchope

…and the Esk looked very calm…

Esk after flood

…but the lines of leaves on the bank showed just how near the road the river had been at its height.

tide mark esk after flood

It had brought down a good load of sand and gravel with it and this has blocked off the flow of the Wauchope through the second arch as it comes under the Kirk Bridge.

sandbank at mouth of wauchope

We crossed the suspension bridge and walked down the river towards Skippers Bridge.

Because we go to Carlisle for our other choir on a Sunday afternoon, we didn’t have a lot of time to spare.  Mrs Tootlepedal kept up a brisk pace and I only took a  few pictures as we went along.

The heavy rain had left fungus on a bench and lichen on a fence untouched….

fungus and lichen waterside

…but the river was high enough and the rocks slippery enough to make me think that a glimpse of Skippers Bridge through the trees was probably as close as it was sensible to get today.

skippers through trees

Although it was now a lovely day and it wasn’t much after midday, the long shadows across the field at the Murtholm reminded us that there is still a lot of winter to go.

murtholm winter shadows

And the reflective fence posts recalled yesterday’s rain.

fence post relections

It is curious that the left and right fence posts are reflected straight up and down but the centre post is at a marked angle.

The forecast for the next couple of days is appalling, with a named storm coming our way but today really was the calm before the storm.  It was a lovely day for a walk.

view of timpen january

As we walked along the Stubholm track, we passed some fine trees.  Mrs Tootlepedal gives a sense of scale to this one.

big tree at stubholm

The walk finished with a quick look at fungus and lichen on trees and walls round the park.

four lichens park wall

After a light lunch we added a useful visit to the recycling facilities in Longtown on the way to the Carlisle choir.

As we drove down, we were able to listen to the edition of Gardener’s Question Time on BBC Radio 4 which had been recorded last month in the Buccleuch Centre.  Among others, they used my question on the show so now I am famous.

The question asked for suggestions for flowers which the panel thought might make good photographic subjects.  Mrs Tootlepedal has taken up one of the recommendations and if all goes well, you will be able to see the results in the blog in the course of time.  I am not going to say what it is.  It will be a surprise.

At the choir, we found that yet another tenor had come to sing with us. That made three new members in two weeks.  The hard work of the committee in trying to attract new men to the choir seems to have paid off.

We had a very hard working practice, with three new songs to learn.  Fortunately our choir director was in fine form and she drove us along at a good pace so we got a lot done.

The weather stayed good for our drive home and as we weren’t in the mood for heavy cooking, we had boiled eggs with soldiers for our tea.  As good as a feast any day.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She was impressed by Mary Sibande’s exhibition ‘I Came Apart at the Seams’ on a visit to Somerset House.  If this picture is anything to go by, I can see why she liked it.

Mary Sibande, Somerset House

We had another grey and drizzly morning here and I had to put my umbrella up as I walked to church.  Mrs Tootlepedal is more carefree than I, so she cycled as usual. I enjoyed singing in the choir as the hymns were provided with nice straightforward bass parts which I could sing without worrying.  We had 10 in the choir today and our organist is hoping to start practising from next week with a view to an anthem or two.

We had coffee when we got home and then I checked on the birds.  Once again, there was very little light but at least there quite a few birds about today, both waiting on the walnut tree….

goldfinches in walnut tree

…and feeding on the feeder. In fact there were enough birds on the feeder for queues to form…

full feeder goldfinches

…though I was often not quite quick enough with my shutter finger to catch them in the air.

goldfinchlanding

I have lent my tripod to a friend who has gone off in the hope of seeing the Northern Lights so I am hand holding the camera.  This means that every time I look up from the viewfinder to see if a bird is coming, I just miss the one that has sneaked in.

late landers

I had more luck with a dunnock on the ground.

dunnock on tray

It was still drizzling and I thought that this pair of slightly bedraggled goldfinches summed up the day well.

two gloomy goldfinches

As regular readers will know, I have got a new coat (with pockets) so I thought that this dreich day might the ideal time to take it for a walk and try it out.

It really was a miserable day with absolutely no gap at all between the clouds and the ground.

mist on the hill scotts knowe

I walked along the track to the Becks Burn and noticed that there was still a lot of fruit on this tree…

fruit on tree january

…while the nearby apples had shed all theirs.

fruit on ground january

The apples must be very sour to have been left in peace by birds and animals.

People in towns and cities are often vexed by CCTV surveillance.  We have other methods of observation in the country.

sheep with horns becks

I was hoping to see fungi but these two small outbreaks on a pile of logs were all that I noticed.

siggy fungus becks

I crossed the Becks Burn by the bridge and took the road home.  In the hedgerow there was any amount of lichen…

mossy hedge

…and some haws as well.

wet hawthorn

As I got near to Pool Corner, the loud singing of a bird made me stop and look at the river.  As I thought, it was a dipper marking out its territory in song.

dipper inw auchope

A little further on, I found a patch of peltigera lichen on the wall looking very healthy.

peltigera lichen

My new coat kept the drizzle out very well and the pockets kept my camera and phone dry, so it passed the test.  In fact its only fault was that, if anything, it was too warm and I got gently cooked on my walk.  That is a fault on the right side, as they say.

After lunch, we set off for Carlisle where the Carlisle community Choir was having its first meeting of 2020.   During the last few months, the committee have been putting a lot of effort into encouraging more men to come and sing, and this paid off today in the shape of two new recruits to the tenor section.  We hope that they both enjoyed themselves enough to keep coming back.

We have a good range of music to sing in the forthcoming months and I am looking forward to learning new songs.

The forecast for the next two days is terrible so patient readers might have to wait a bit for some cheerful pictures.

The flying bird of the day is a  goldfinch battling through wind and rain to get to the feeder.

flying goldfinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony in East Wemyss, the land of eternal sunshine. It is not the sharpest picture that he has ever taken, but I thought that it was unusual enough to fill the guest spot.

forth sunset

We had a cool but sunny day here. The temperature was near enough to freezing when we went to church in the morning to persuade me to walk rather than cycle. Mrs Tootlepedal was braver and pedalled.

The choir had rather an adventurous time with some unfamiliar and unrehearsed hymns but fortunately the new minister sang the hymns quite loudly with his microphone turned well up, so there must have been some doubt as to whether anyone heard us anyway.

It was still fine when we got home, and this gave me the opportunity to watch some birds while cooking lentil soup for lunch.

An old friend was present…

robin

…and at least two of our dunnocks have avoided the cat peril…

dunnock on hedge

…and were happy to pose for me.

dunnock on twig

Three hungry goldfinches turned up but they were the only ones to arrive while I was watching.

three goldfinches

A jackdaw dropped in but didn’t stay.

jackdaw on pole

After we had eaten some soup for our lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went for a walk.

At three miles and mostly along the flat, it was less testing than yesterday’s outing but I was still very pleased to find that my feet were in full working order and carried me along without complaint.

Mrs Tootlepedal had some embroidery stuff to deliver to a friend and our route to her house took us along the river. Mrs Tootlepedal walked boldly under some alarmingly sloping trees, looking for all the world like Little Red Riding Hood going to visit her granny (only in blue of course).

Leaning trees

We crossed the Duchess Bridge and walked along the low road to Holmhead…

low road in winter sun

…and then to the North Lodge where the parcel was delivered.

I took the chance to go a few yards further on so that I could enjoy the view up the Esk valley…

looking up from North Lodge

…and note possibly the barest bare tree that I have ever taken a picture of.

totally bare tree

We walked back along the path above the Lodge Walks, enjoying the pines that are left when the spruces are felled…

pines after felling

There are a good variety of conifers left and we liked the different cones. I think that the one on the left might be Western Hemlock but I am not good at identifying trees.

two conifers

As we were sheltered from the breeze by the woods on our right, it was a fine afternoon for walking. Whita was looking at its best when we came to the end of the trees and got a clear view.

whita from Pathhead

There is not much colour about at the moment apart from green and brown, but a vibrant dogwood in a garden did its best to brighten things up.

dogwood

We came down the hill to the Sawmill Brig, where I was hoping to see a dipper but this little robin on the mossy parapet was the only bird about.

robin on sawmill brig

I had seen two dippers on the rocks beside the Kirk Brig when I came out of church in the morning but of course I had no camera with me then. It was annoying but typical that when I had a camera, the dippers were conspicuous by their absence.

After a few rainy days earlier on, the water in the rivers has dropped a lot and only half of the Sawmill Brig was needed to deal with the flow today.

sawmill brig low water

The white duck was floating quietly on the Ewes water as we went along the Kilngreen.

white duck

There had been dark talk of snow in the forecasts but there was no sign of it in Langholm and this impressive cloud was the nearest thing to bad weather that we got.

dark cloud

As our Carlisle Choir is on holiday for the next few weeks and Strictly Come Dancing has finished for the year, we were a bit short of entertainment for a Sunday so we went to Carlisle and paid another visit to the pictures.

We saw a well reviewed film called Knives Out. I was a bit doubtful about it when I found that it lasted for two hours which is a long time to sit around. However, my fears were misplaced and the film was great fun from first to last and the two hours sped by. The film was chock full with ideas, but even at two hours there was not enough room to develop them all, so many promising threads were discarded along the way. It must have been tough for the writer/director to know what to throw away as the film developed.

With a few more cold days to come, I am hoping to get more walking practice in during next week. Strike while the iron is cold is my motto.

A chaffinch appears as the flying bird of the day. I might have to adjust the feeder so that birds approach it into the sun!

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia.  She was delighted to spot a squirrel in her garden.  She points out that it was so cold that the squirrel was using its tail to keep its ears warm.

venetia's squirrel

It rained heavily here over night but it had stopped by the morning and we got a relatively calm day.  Along with the gentler winds, the temperature had dropped too and it was just over 3 degrees C at breakfast time.

My back had decided to sulk and it took me some time to get it loosened up but this did give me a moment to watch the birds.

The robin auditioned for the Christmas card spot…

robin on stalk

…and chaffinches approached the feeder with great concentration…

angel flying chaffinch

…and sometimes even with suspicion.

sloped flying chaffinch

The goldfinches were eating elsewhere today and we got a siskin instead.

siskin and other bird

A blue tit proved to be less sunflower seed orientated than the other birds and tried the fat balls and the peanuts as well as the seed.

blue tit on nuts and balls

By midday I had eased off my back enough to go out for a gentle stroll.

Our new minister was going to be inducted to the parish in the evening and the church heating was on as I went by.  I could only just restrain myself from saying, “Holy smoke!” as I passed.

holy smoke

In spite of the heavy overnight rain, the river was not high when I got to it, although there was enough water going down to make a decent ripple….

water in esk

…and the line of debris on the far bank suggested that it might have been quite high earlier on.

I walked down the river and came to my favourite piece of fencing at Land’s End.  The fence itself is unremarkable but it is home to a beautiful lichen which is really enjoying the present weather.  This little patch, about an inch across, was on the edge of a  bottom bar…

fence lichen land's end

…and a few yards further on, I found a bigger patch covering the whole width of a top bar.

fence lichen land's end 2

I approached Skippers Bridge from the north…

skippers in December

…and when I had crossed over and begun my walk back up the opposite side of the river. the sun came fully out and lit up Timpen Hill.

timpen from murtholm

Everything looked more cheerful in the sunshine and I marvelled at the intricate tracery of oak branches on one side of the track….

oak banches

…and the intricate tracery of the iron gates of the farmhouse on the other side.

murtholm gate

The sunshine even made a big puddle in the field look quite beautiful…

murtholm puddle with fence

…and the bare trees at the far end of the Murtholm looked delightful too.

trees at end of murtholm

As I came into the wood, a pigeon stood frozen under the trees.  It was quite happy to sit still and let me take its picture so I suspect that it may not have been very well.

pigeon in wood

I had a quick lunch when I got home and after checking that the temperature was still safely above freezing (it was 3.8°C), I went out for a short cycle ride.

I had originally planned to go a bit further but the late start to my walk and the brief afternoon light kept me down to 11 miles.  The light was still good for a while and gave the bulls at Wauchope Schoolhouse a golden gleam.

bullocks in golden sunshine

It began to cloud over though and as I passed Westwater, only a patch of larches was getting any sun.

larches at Westwater

I didn’t hang about as it was pretty cold with the sun behind the clouds and I was satisfied that I had least got some stretch into my legs.

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had pruned the roots of the Christmas tree and put it into its pot.  We will let it rest in the garage now until Christmas Eve.

christmas tree in pot

When I went inside, I spent about quarter of an hour on my bike to nowhere in the garage to make up for my short outdoor excursion.  To be honest, I could quite easily have done the extra quarter of an hour outside if I had wanted to as Mrs Tootlepedal went out and cycled about the town quite happily for a bit of exercise after we had had a cup of tea.

In the evening we went to church for the service of induction for our new minister.  The small church choir of nine, enhanced by four members of Langholm Sings, sang the Hallelujah Chorus as a processional to start the service off and all things considered, it went pretty well.

The induction service itself was a serious business and a lot of ministers from other churches in in the presbytery had come along to lend their support.  I had never been to such an event before and didn’t realise that both the minister and the congregation had to make solemn promises about belief and good behaviour before the minister could start work.  I hope that everybody sticks to their word.

We are keeping our fingers crossed that the weatehr and train services will let us go to Edinburgh tomorrow and visit Matilda.  Neither are very reliable at the moment.  There is even talk of snow.

The flying bird of the day is a curious chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Australian correspondent Stephen.  Having read about the Langholm Christmas tree illumination, he sent me this shot to show that Australians can do Christmas too.

australian Christmas tree

Talking about Christmas, our resident robin is working hard to get us into a Christmas mood.

sunny robin

As you can see, we had another sunny day today but once again, it was pretty nippy and the thermometer didn’t get above zero all day.

The odd goldfinch braved the cold and made it to the feeder, but they didn’t stay long.

goldfinch departing

Mrs Tootlepedal had a quiet morning in after yesterday’s very long day, so I went off to sing in the church choir by myself.  Our potential new minister has been voted in by the congregation but will not start work for ten days so we had a visiting minister today who chose cheerful hymns and gave us an interesting sermon.

When I got home, the feeder was still quite busy but the bright sunshine is a mixed blessing when it come to taking pictures of the visitors and I settled for a flying chaffinch…

flying chaffinch

…and a sitting greenfinch…

greenfinch on feeder

…before getting ready for a walk.  The robin appeared again before I could go out…

sunny robin 2

…but I managed to resist the temptation to take even more pictures of it and went out into the cold.

Out of the sun, it really was cold in the garden and this was the side window of our car.

car window ice

After three days of frost, the leaves in the garden are no longer just fringed with crystals, they are covered with them.

garden leaf ice

…and even our wooden heron has got signs of a runny nose.

garden heron drip nose

A box ball summed up the two sides of the day…

half frozen box ball

…and Lilian Austin was frozen stiff.

frozzen rose

The chilly conditions had turned every leaf on one of the golden box balls into little ice flowers.

frozen golden box leaves

I left the garden and walked up to Pool Corner where a lone larch tree has retained some its needles.

last of the larches

I liked this contrast in tree shapes as I passed the Wauchope graveyard.

three trees wauchope

Expert navigators are supposed to be able to tell the points of the compass by looking at moss growing on tree trunks.  Today, the ice on fence posts gave a pretty good indication of East and West.

frozen fence post

Who needs diamonds when its frosty?

fence post ice

I crossed the Auld Stane Brig and walked back towards the town along Gaskells Walk.  I was keeping an eye for hair ice and I was pleased to find an example beside the path.

hair ice gaskells

The track runs along the side of the hill and was in shadow so it was occasionally icy underfoot and always chilly.

 

icy gaskells

My hands had got pretty cold from taking my gloves off to use the camera and I had to keep a good eye on the where I was putting my feet so the camera stayed in my pocket and I concentrated on walking fast enough to keep warm.

I added Easton’s walk to the end of Gaskell’s walk and found another example of hair ice as I walked back along the river.

hair ice eastons

I was pleased to get back into the warmth when I got home.

When we drove to Carlisle after lunch to go to our Carlisle Choir, the temperature was -5°C and we hit a fairly thick patch of fog not long after we started.  I wondered how the electric car would enjoy these conditions but it seemed unworried, although the battery charge went down a lot more quickly than it does in the summer.

Luckily the fog didn’t last for long and we got to the choir in lovely sunshine. This was the last practice before two concerts next weekend so we worked hard to polish up some of the awkward corners that had remained a little rough.  Mrs Tootlepedal and I agreed as we drove home (-6°C) that time will have to be found during the week for some final homework on the songs.

The temperature should get above freezing tomorrow (fog permitting) and we are due to get up to double figures by Friday.  I hope we do as I have done very little cycling lately and I am getting distinctly tubby.  Two mile walks taking pictures are fun but they don’t burn calories.

The flying bird of the day is a rather dashing chaffinch, showing great determination in the pursuit of a seed.

flying chaffinch lunge

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