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Today’s guest picture comes from Fiona, my Newcastle correspondent.  She has been walking on Cocklawburn beach where the sharp eyed may spy very small fossils.

Cocklawburn beach

We had another bright and sunny day here today but out of the sun, it was pretty chilly with the thermometer below zero when we woke up and staying firmly in single figures all day.

I had to go up to the town after breakfast and enjoyed the frost outlined shadows on the suspension bridge…

suspension bridge with ice

…and the two tone moss on the Day Centre car park wall.

icy moss1

The frozen side looked like this on closer inspection.

icy moss2

I visited a friend in the Langholm Reference Library to ask if the library would be happy to take some of the articles that we have collected over the years in the Archive Centre for which we will not have room when we move.  He was quite excited by the possibility and I walked along to the Centre to fetch a couple of sample boxes.

When I got them back to the library, Ron emptied them out and began recording the contents.  “I love doing this sort of thing,” he said to me.  A very useful man to know.

While I was along at the Archive Centre, I popped into the garage next door to pay my bill and stopped on the forecourt on my way out to admire the view.

warbla from the garage

On my way home, I noticed that the copper beeches at the entrance to the park were catching the low sun.

park in November

My  sore leg stood up to the walk and carrying the boxes very well so I hope that yesterday’s incident will not have done any lasting harm. This is a relief.

When I got home, it was time for coffee and a crossword and then I watched the birds for a bit.

I was struck by the resemblance between a pigeon in the plum tree and myself: largely sedentary, rather fat and definitely lacking in a bit of gruntle.

fat pigeon

The feeder was busy, first with chaffinches….

chaffinches on feeder

…and then with greenfinches (no room for chaffinches any more)…

greenfinches and approaching chaffinch

…and then with goldfinches.

three goldfinches

It is entertaining to get a steady changing of the guard.

In the plum tree, one of the blue tits was enjoying pecking at a desiccated plum…

blue tit with old plum

…and among the plants beneath the feeder, I saw one of the blackbirds which have returned to the garden lately.

first autumn blackbird

We get quite a few migrating blackbirds in the garden over the winter.

The goldfinches set about making a fuss at the feeder, sometimes from a distance…

goldfinches at feeder

…and sometimes up close and personal.

goldfinches squabbling

I didn’t want to tax my leg too much so I spent a little time after lunch walking gently round the garden.

The delphinium is still droopy but defiant…

droopy delphinium

…but there are very few flowers left and I had to look at the stem of a tree peony to get some colour…

tree peony

…though the sedums are hanging on.

sedum

And then I went in and took to lurking near my computer for an hour or so until I went out into the garden to see what Mrs Tootlepedal was up to.

She was busy as always and had piled up stuff ready for shredding.  I sieved some more of the compost in Bin D and then shredded about half of Mrs Tootlepedal’s pile.  The evenings are really drawing in now so between the gathering gloom and the chill, I didn’t stay out long and went in for a cup of tea.

Our neighbour Liz dropped in to say that she had seen some small flocks of starlings gathering at Longtown so maybe we will have to go down to Gretna soon to see if there are enough about for a murmuration. The numbers of starlings have dropped a lot in recent years and I don’t think that we will ever see sights like this one in 2011 again

starlings

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round for their first traditional Friday night visit for several weeks and while Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal put the world to rights and caught up on news, Alison and I put rusty fingers into action on flute and keyboard.  It was still very enjoyable.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch trying to spy an empty perch on a busy feeder day.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from regular reader, Edward Winter from Sheffield.  As is appropriate to someone from that city, he likes metal sculptures and has recently acquired this Jason Heppenstall work created mainly from saw blades (the wings) and eating forks (on Eagle’s head).  I can see shears lower down too I think.

Eagle Jason Heppenstall

The weather gods finally lightened up a bit and we had a fine but chilly day today.  I was still taking things gently so most of the morning passed without anything to record other than the standard crossword and coffee routine but after coffee, we ventured out into the garden to see what was still standing after the recent frosts and a night with some heavy rain.

There were still a few rather battered flowers about…

four flowers November 1

…and plenty of raindrops among the petals.

four flowers November 2

It was pleasantly warm if you were in the sunshine and Mrs Tootlepedal’s field beans have thrived in all weathers and are growing well.

field beans Nov

The nasturtiums were finally condemned as over and in spite of one or two valiant flowers defying the odds, the whole lot got the heave-ho and ended in the compost bin.

This stimulated me to do a bit more sieving of the contents of Bin D and the results were very satisfactory as it has been a good year for compost.  I will have to think about starting the whole bin transfer business soon.

When we went in, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to work on her winter project, the restoration of our rocking horse, and I watched the birds.

As soon as I put out a couple of fat balls these days, the jackdaws get to know and are on the scene within minutes.

This one was waiting patiently in the plum tree while others nibbled away.

jackdaw in plum tree

The jackdaws don’t bother with the seed though, which leaves plenty for the smaller birds like this coal tit.

coal tit in the sun

A great tit looked interested too.

great tit on the pole

The strong low sunlight makes getting ‘clean’ shots of flying birds a lottery unless you have plenty of time to spare.

shady chaffinch

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and I tested out my leg with a very flat and short cycle ride on the slow bike.

I cycled over three bridges and then round the New Town, stopping very occasionally for a picture.

There are still spots of autumn colour about….

November tree colour 1

…but for every tree with colour, there are two or three with bare branches.

November tree colour 2

The trees on the banks of the Esk below the mission hall show every stage.

 

November tree colour 3`

I cycled up to Pool Corner but the sun had gone in and the larches were dull…

pool corner Nov 1

…but a few minutes later, the glow was golden.

larches in November

The cycling went very well as far as my leg went and was pain free.

I was encouraged.

Walking was still tricky but at least I could get about now.

I had promised to prepare some of the Archive Group’s ‘Mills and Railway’ heritage DVDs in readiness for an event later in the day so I put my bike aside and copied the disk box labels and then cycled up to the town to use the disk copier in the Archive Centre.  This would have gone better if I had remembered to take some blank disks with me.  As it was, I got some extra cycling in as I had to go back home to get the disks.

At one stage on this double trip, a sudden halt in the traffic flow made me stop and put a foot down.  Without thinking, I pushed off when things got going again and as soon as I had done it, I realised that I had used my wrong leg and in an instant, I was back where I was two days ago.

I was discouraged…

…as much by my foolishness as by the discomfort.  Still, I was still able to cycle home and then walk along to the Buccleuch Centre to the official launch of a book about Langholm’s Textile industry’s history.  This was based on the work of my sadly departed friend Arthur Bell, a mill owner himself and an enthusiast for the industry in Langholm.

There was an excellent turnout for the launch and as everyone present seemed to have bought at least one copy, the two editors of the book must have been very pleased.

I shall be more careful about my movements tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch with its head and body in the sun and its wings in the shadows.

flyinch chaffinch with dark wings

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Today’s guest picture comes from my flute pupil Luke’s mother, Sharon.  She drives up past the Gates of Eden to work and stopped to take this fine picture early this morning.

snowy scene from Sharon

I had hoped to see a little snow myself today as we had driven through some on our way home last night but we got up too late and any snow that there might have been had vanished from the hills around the town.

My cold has pretty well disappeared at last but I am not back at full perk yet so I was happy to use the excuse of freezing temperatures to lounge around in the morning, taking the occasional look out of the kitchen window.

A greenfinch looked disgusted to find that it was sunflower hearts yet again in the feeder menu…

Warbla view

…while chaffinches arrived to sample the seeds without complaining.

chaffinch

This one is about to receive a buffet from a much smaller but very determined siskin.

chaffinch and siskin

Towards lunchtime, the sun came out and lit up a robin in the plum tree.

robin

It also made it easy for the sparrowhawk to see the birds on the feeder and so we got a visit from this one.  To save the squeamish from awkwardness, I have photoshopped its prey out.  Lovers of nature red in tooth and claw can see the full picture at the end of the post.

sparrowhawk

After lunch, I weighed up the delights of a cycle ride at 4°C in a chilly wind as against a walk up a hill with a chance of seeing some snow in the distance and decided to go for the walk up Warbla.

Sadly, there was not a flake of snow to be seen on any of our hills, near or far but I enjoyed the walk anyway.

There were small trees with threatening clouds behind them….

Warbla tree

…and bigger trees with not such threatening clouds….

Warbla tree

…and little trees with berries….

Warbla tree

…and bigger trees with views.

Warbla tree

It was a good day for views and  thanks to being a bit short of puff, I stopped to look at quite a few of them on my way up.  (You can see me in the bottom right of the shot.)

Warbla view

I met no one on my way up the hill but the feeling of being a lonely explorer battling against the elements was slightly diminished by finding a car parked beside the mast at the top of the hill.

P1050585

Still, the need for access for maintenance to the equipment does keep the track up the hill in good condition so I didn’t mind too much.

And the views from the top on a fine day always make the walk worthwhile.  A reader recently stressed the importance of trying to have interesting skies in landscape pictures and I think that today, I was provided with plenty of good skyscapes.

Warbla view

A little alternation of cloud and sunshine can produce very pleasing effects.

Warbla view

I came back down the rather muddy track and turned off to walk down this delightful short cropped grassy path to join the Wauchope road at the Auld Stane Brig.

Warbla view

The larches at Pool Corner are coming to the end of their run after putting on a very good show again this year.

larches

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work in the garden, planting out tulips beside the middle lawn.  This meant displacing some other bulbs which I found a home for near the back fence.  It was rather chilly and the ground was soggy so I may not have made the best job of planting them.  It is a pity that most gardening seems to require bending over and thus suits people like Mrs Tootlepedal with low centres of gravity more than it does me.

The evenings are really drawing in now, with less than a month to go to the winter equinox, so it was a great treat to receive a visit from our older son Tony and his partner Marianne who had come down to help Mrs Tootlepedal and me to celebrate our birthdays.

The pleasure in their company was enhanced by a couple of delicious duck dishes from Marks and Spencers ready meals department which they had brought with them.  These went into the oven with some potatoes from our  garden and we had an excellent meal of roast duck and roast potatoes.  As this was followed by ice cream and peach slices, I take leave to doubt that any millionaire or potentate dined better than us tonight.

After our meal, we sat down to watch an excellent film on DVD which our daughter Annie had given to Mrs Tootlepedal so the day ended well on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

My portrait skills are poor but I am trying to improve so I took this picture of Marianne, Mrs Tootlepedal and Tony.

Marianne, Mrs Tootlepedal and Tony.

I can see that getting three noses equally spaced, on the same line and all at the same angle will require some person management skills.  I will try again.

Warning: Squeamish readers should look away now.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch….

chaffinch

…and a non flying bird is the unfortunate goldfinch that the sparrowhawk snared with its talons this morning.

sparrowhawk with prey

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia, who was up in London to watch tennis at the O2 Arena. During a break in play, she ventured across the river on the Emirates cable car.

emirates air line

We could hear the rain pounding down overnight so it was no surprise to wake up to a dull and soggy day.  The heavy rain had eased off but there was a lot of drizzle in the morning.

This didn’t bother me too much as I was sat in the Welcome to Langholm office for two hours not welcoming any visitors at all.  This let me get completely caught up on my entries to the Archive Group’s  newspaper database so I regarded it as time well spent (though a visitor or two to welcome would have been welcome).

There was not much fun to be had in gardening or peering at bird feeders in the gloom so after lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I braved a little light drizzle and went out on an expedition round Gaskell’s Walk.

I drew her attention to some exciting lichen just after we set out…

lichen

…but she was more interested in watching the overnight rain pouring over the caul at Pool Corner.

Pool corner

It must have rained a great deal last night.

I looked at larch trees which are gradually losing their needles but still offering a treat to the passer by.

larches at pool cornerlarches at pool corner

In a satisfactory way, they lose their needles from the bottom up and this seems to make them last longer as a visual delight than if they lost them from the top.

We are never short of moss round here.

moss on hedge and wall

The walk was a bit muddy underfoot when we got to the track but this was not a surprise when we saw how much water was coming down the Becks Burn to join the Wauchope.

Becks Burn

There is a little stream, usually no more than a trickle which runs under a bridge near the end of the track.

Gaskell's Bridge

It is very narrow above the bridge but has a deep and wide gully on the other side as it plunges down a steep bank.  Today we could see how it can have enough water on a wet day to carve such a deep trench.

It wasn’t a day for views at all…

Castle Hill in cloud

…but as it was about ten degrees warmer than yesterday, it wasn’t a bad day for a walk in November.

As we got near home, I saw some Hart’s Tongue fern looking very happy on a wall…

hart's tongue fern

…and a substantial outbreak of lichen on a tree stump which was striking enough to get Mrs Tootlepedal interested.

lichen

I took a picture from the Park Bridge to show the contrast between today and yesterday.

Yesterday was like this:

Wauchope in frost

And today was like this:

P1050521

No one can accuse our weather of being boring.

It was too dark to look at birds when I got home so I went inside to pick some pictures to show at our Camera Club meeting later in the evening but Mrs Tootlepedal braved the drizzle and got some useful gardening done.

It has either been frosty or soggy since she got back from the south so the refurbished tiller is still in its box.

My flute pupil Luke came and gave more evidence of practice so we managed to play through a tricky Quantz movement with only one or two hiccups.  Next week I am sure that we will roll through it triumphantly.

In the evening, I went to our camera club meeting and there was a good turnout of members and once again we got an excellent selection of photographs from the members.  There was much to enjoy in looking at the shots and a lot to learn from the subjects and the techniques used.

In the end, a potentially very gloomy and dull day turned out to have been both useful and enjoyable and I can’t ask for more than that.

On a side note, our friend Mike Tinker turned up for a cup of tea in the afternoon and he was happily much recovered from a serious cold which has laid him low for several days.   Although he is still far from skipping and dancing, it was good to see him out and about at least.

I did manage one suitably gloomy flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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After my plea for some guest pictures, there has been a lavish response so thank you to all who contributed.  This one is from Jenni Smith, who during a short holiday walked along the coast from Stonehaven to visit the spectacular Dunnottar Castle.

Dunottar Castle

After our recent cool mornings, it was good to get up to a warmer day today with no frost to be seen.

I was feeling pretty perky, all things considered and after breakfast, I had a few of those adventures that the mice have while the cat is away (Mrs Tootlepedal is visiting her mother).  I emptied the dishwasher, tidied up the kitchen and put a load of washing in the washing machine and had the place looking quite neat by the time that Dropscone came round for coffee.

I did mix in some of the usual routine with all the fun.

There were at least three robins in the garden this morning.

reobin

A siskin looked rather alarmed by the prospect of featuring on the blog.

siskin

A chaffinch basked in one of the sunny moments.  I thought it might have an eye injury when I looked closely at the picture…

chaffinch in plum tree eye shut

…but a second picture taken a moment later showed that it was just shutting its eyes and stretching.

chaffinch in plum tree eye open

Regular blue tits were in evidence again.

blue tit

And the goldfinches paid a visit much to the alarm of the siskin who cleared out at speed.

goldfinches

Dropscone brought some of his excellent scones with him and I opened a new packet of coffee beans to grind so we had a high quality ‘sip and scone’ session.

He has been having some very annoying computer problems lately so once again I am keeping my fingers crossed that I avoid any such difficulty.

After he left, I had another look out of the window….

greenfinch in plum tree

…and seeing a greenfinch enjoying the sunshine, I thought that I could have a bit of that too so I had a quick snack and got my cycling clothes on.

At 50°C it was likely to be pretty kind on my chest so I embarked on a 27 mile circular tour, hoping to do some basking in the sun myself.  Sadly, although a little sunshine caught some larches along the Wauchope road soon after I set out….

larches

….it didn’t last and once again, I suffered from seeing some distant sun as I went along….

View from callister

…but didn’t get much myself.

The prevailing mood was brown…

View of ewes wind farm

…but as the windmills were going round very slowly, I didn’t mind too much.

At this time of the year, with the sun struggling to get up into the sky, cycling views are very binary with a bit of colour to one side of the road, as in the scene above, and none on the other side as in the picture below which was shot in full colour mode.

trees

As you can see, there was a bit of threatening cloud about but it sportingly held off until the last few yards of my trip.

I did all the small amount of climbing in the first 12 miles of the trip and after passing this colourfully roofed barn at Kennedy’s Corner…

Kennedy's Corner

…it was mostly downhill and downwind all the way home.

I stopped to take a picture that combined a ruin and a bare tree,  double pleasure for me….

Ruin near Chapelknowe

…and it was just as well that I wasn’t going fast because I had to stop again a moment or two later to let a rush of traffic past.

tractor with hay

The road was unusually busy today.  I don’t normally meet anything on this section.

I had two more larch moments to record on the way.  One at the start of the new Auchenrivock road…

Hagg on Esk

…and one at the far end.

Auchenrivock larches

I really wish that the sun had been out when I stopped here as it is my favourite place for colour at this time of year on a sunny day.

Thanks to the gentle wind and the relative warmth, I managed a respectable 13.5 mph for the trip without having to breathe too hard and got off the bike feeling well enough to spend some time giving it a good clean and lubrication before I put it away.

I am still coughing from time to time but I really feel that the end is in sight at last.

While I was cleaning the bike, I enjoyed a bit of late colour against the house wall.

cotoneaster

At this time of the year, the hours between three and five o’clock in the afternoon are a rather dead time, not time for evening indoor entertainments but too dark unless the day is very fine, to do much walking or snapping outside.  It is my intention to try to make use of this time to do something useful rather than sit around grumpily waiting for spring so today I put another week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.  This was a momentous occasion as it started off another year, 1897.  (We began with the first edition in 1848 so we have come a long way.)

Mrs Tootlepedal rang up to say that all was well in the south so it has turned out to be a good day all round.

The flying bird of the day is an imperious looking chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Bruce’s trip to the east coast where he visited the picturesque harbour at North Berwick.

North berwick harbour

We had our coldest morning of the year here with the thermometer showing below zero when we got up.  It was dry and sunny though so I was able to walk up to the town with no problems when I went to check on our car at the garage and talk to Nancy, the Archive Group treasurer, who was working in the Archive Centre.

The car was just on its way for a test run so after chatting to Nancy and printing out more record sheets for the data miners to fill up, I took a month of completed sheets with me, topped up my supplies of beetroot at our greengrocer’s shop and walked home again.

I put some of the beetroot on to cook and looked at the feeders.  There was no shortage of birds to look at.

goldfinches

Goldfinches being unnecessarily rude considering that there were empty perches.

Blackbird

A blackbird, probably a winter migrant, looking a bit nonplussed. The berries are from the nerines. I don’t know if they are edible.

I was keeping an eye for the two robins and I soon saw one perched on the bench…

robin

…but the other one must have been nearby….

robin

…and this one flew off at speed very crossly.

A few minutes later, one was back perching but whether this one was the original one, I don’t know.

robin

Robins have the magical property of being able to change from slim to round in an instant.

The feeder action continued…

greenfinch, chaffinch and goldfinch

A finch carousel

…but I had to leave them to it and go to fetch the car.  The test drive had proved satisfactory and no leak or engine malfunction had been discovered so we are going to monitor matters for the time being and hope for the best.

When I got home again, it was time for lunch and I enjoyed a delicious plate of liver and bacon.  The liver was a present from Dropscone who had acquired it at a very reasonable price on his shopping trip on the way to pick me up yesterday.

While I was cooking, one of the robins turned up again, this time disguised as the hunchback of Notre Dame.

robin

After lunch, the temperature had risen to 2.5°C, too cold for me to fancy a cycle ride but pleasant enough for a walk, especially as a marked deterioration in the weather was forecast for the end of the afternoon.

Almost all the leaves are gone and the larches are the last providers of colour now.

larches at Pool Corner

Bare branches were reflected in the water at Pool Corner.

Pool Corner

 There were still interesting things to see.

tree garden

A little tree garden among the twigs

lichen

Lichen tipped with colour

lichen

And another little garden on the Auld Stane Bridge parapet.

When I got onto Gaskell’s Walk, the path was icy in spots and I had to watch where I was going quite carefully but I was able to lift my eyes up to the hills from time to time.

Meikleholm

Meikleholm Hill – I liked the subdued layers of colours

At the Stubholm, a sheep seemed to be finding my camera a bit of an intrusion.

sheep

I had a choice then of going straight home or extending the walk but a flurry of rain persuaded me to take the direct route…

Stubholm track

…down to the park.  The park wall provided interest as ever…

fern

…but the frost had finished off all the fungus on the river bank.

I settled down to put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database but I hadn’t finished when visitors arrived.  Nancy had come to discuss the group’s accounts for the year and when we had finished, we joined Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike Tinker who had arrived in the justified hope of conversation and a cup of tea.

We caught up on all the news that was fit to hear and then when our guests had left, I went back to the database for a while before my flute pupil Luke arrived.  We had a very satisfactory time with a lot of progress being shown and we were both pretty happy at the end.

After a quick tea, it was time to go off to our monthly camera club meeting.  I had been a bit worried about a poor attendance as several members were unable to come but in the event, we got a good turnout of regulars and no less than three new members, two of whom were youngsters.

The range and standard of pictures on display was very enjoyable, with one or two good enough to raise a collective gasp.  This was our last meeting of the year and we will start again in January full of hope and optimism.

The leaf of the day is a variegated willow….

willow

…and the flying bird is a chaffinch.

chaffinch

As I finish this, the wind is howling round the house with bad weather forecast for several hours.  I got my walk in in good time.

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