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Posts Tagged ‘mallards’

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Alistair.  He knows that I like cascades, so he sent me this picture of the Calton Steps in Edinburgh today.

calton steps cascade

We had showers here today but nothing like they must have had in Edinburgh.  It was the sort of day when every time that you poked your nose out into the garden, it started to rain and as soon as you went back in, it stopped.

Nevertheless, it stayed dry in the morning long enough for us to cut back the climbing hydrangea and the clematis over the back door.

wall trimming

These two plants are very fine, but they will send new shoots up the wall and under the gutter every year so they have to be kept under control.

After we had cleaned up, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to a meeting and I walked round the garden to check on the flowers. There were enough bright blooms to offset the general gloominess of the day…

four flowers

…though I noticed that the bloke whose job it is to paint the blackbirds hadn’t got any better.

badly painted blackbird

As it was still dry, I got the mower out and began to mow the middle lawn.  It immediately started to rain quite heavily so I retreated back inside, taking the mower with me.

I put some pea and potato soup on to cook and as soon as the rain stopped, I dashed out and finished mowing the  lawn.  I noticed that we have had over 7 cm of rain recently and it is a tribute to how dry it was earlier in the year, that I could easily mow the lawn even after a sharp shower.

There have been no coloured butterflies about because of the rain over the past two days but the white butterflies are a hardier breed and there were several fluttering about today.

white butterfly on lily

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal set about trimming some more of our low hedges and I put on the computer hoping to catch up with a backlog of work.  My hopes were dashed by one of those Windows updates when I switched on.  As this one took well over two hours, I had time on my hands so I went out into the garden.

It started to rain.

However, on this occasion, the rain was light and intermittent so I joined in the trimming business and turned a golden box ball back into a green box ball.

trimmed box ball

Then Mrs Tootlepedal and I took a break from our labours (and the rain), and sat on the bench under the shelter of the walnut tree and contemplated the phine phlox at the phar end of the lawn.

phlox at end of lawn

The geraniums have been flowering for months and today they were joined by the first Michaelmas daisy….

four more flowers

…while the calendulas and pink astilbes are providing some brighter colour.

The butterflies may have been put off by the weather but we had plenty of bees in the garden.  This one was visiting a hosta.

bee on hosta

And wherever you look at the moment, you are almost sure to see several sparrows.

crowds of sparrows

Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea.  He is dog sitting for his daughter and Alison and he had taken the dogs for a walk and just got home before the next shower arrived.  He was very cheerful about that.

After he left, I returned to my computer and found that it had finally finished updating.  This was a relief.

I had thought of going for a cycle ride before our evening meal, but I am glad that I didn’t because there was yet another heavy shower of rain and I would have got soaked.

After tea, the weather looked as though it might be better for a while so I went out for a short walk.

Down at the river, the habitually lone gull had been joined by youngsters….

gulls on the esk

…one of whom posed nicely for me.

young gull

My gull knowledge is extremely sketchy but I think this is an adult and two first year young.

Further along the river, the mallards had settled down for a snooze.

ducks at bedtime

By the time that I had got to the Kilngreen, the sun had come out and for the rest of my walk I enjoyed some late evening warmth.

sawmill brig august evening

I crossed the Sawmill Brig and took the new path round the edge of the Castleholm.  The trees beside the path were full of life…

four tree fruits Castleholm

..but the outright winner was the noble fir with its masses of enormous cones.

noble fir cones castleholm

It was a perfect evening for a walk and even the midges kept away.

new path castleholm

I walked round the Scholars Field, entertained by the merry cries of footballers practising on the artificial pitch and then, after a noticing a final set of cones…

larch cones scholars

…I made my way home as the low sun lit up Warbla.

warba august evening

It looks likely that there will be more rainy days to come so it was lucky that I got that long ride in when the weather was good last Friday.

On one occasion when I was out in the garden today, I looked up and saw half a dozen starlings sitting on the power cables but I was too slow to get my camera and catch them sitting in a neat line.

The upside of this is that I have a flying bird of the day today, even if it was by accident.

flying starling

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who saw this pink elephant but swears that she hadn’t touched a drop of drink all day.  I believe her.

pink elephant

It is going to be a rushed post today as I went to Carlisle to sing with our Carlisle choir at the local music festival in two classes and as there were eight choirs in the first class and seven in the second, it turned into a long evening and I haven’t even had my tea yet.

I had two visitors in the morning, a frog in the pond among potential frogs…

frog and tadpoles

…and Sandy who dropped in for coffee and to give me advice on getting my printer to print satisfactory pictures for the forthcoming exhibition.

His advice was sound and I spent most of the rest of the morning printing out pictures, a very slow business.

I did have time to walk round the garden.  The daffodils are looking better all the time…

clump of daffodils

…and some of the fancy ones are coming out too.

fancy daffodil

There was a brisk traffic at the bird feeder.

busy feeder

After lunch I went for a walk on my slow bike by which I mean that I bicycled slowly along a route which I would normally have walked as I am trying to rest my sore foot.

Signs of spring are all around, with the ducks pairing up…

two ducks

…and daffodils nodding their heads at the vigorous ripples on the Ewes Water.

dafodils beside ewes

It was sunny but windy and there was occasional rain so I thought that this little scene on the Castleholm summed the day up well.

puddle on castleholm

There were more signs of spring as I crossed the Jubilee Bridge and headed home.

tree budsanother dandelion

I liked the way that the shadows of the playing field fence lay so neatly on the path.

scholars fence shadow

When I got home, I had time to cut a couple of mounts for my exhibition pictures before I left for Carlisle and the choir competition.

I had given myself plenty of time and I had a few minutes to walk round the city centre before going to the warm up.

I noted the old town hall, now a tourist information point…

dav

…the old guildhall, now a restaurant….

dig

…and the very old  cathedral which is still a cathedral.

burst

We sang well at the music festival but the competition sang even better so we  we had to relinquish our grip on the trophy that we won last year.  My heart sank a bit at the prospect of sitting through 13 other choir performances but in the event, it was an entertaining evening with lots of variety in the choirs (everything from a male voice choir to several school ensembles) and lots of variety in the musical offerings (everything from Bruckner to ‘Blame it on the Boogie’).

The winning choir, an all ladies ensemble, was sensational and well worth being beaten by.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch with its eye on a free perch.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture, brightening a gloomy day here, was sent to me from sunny Barbados by my namesake and near neighbour Tom who is on holiday there.  He is to be seen waving in the picture as he stands behind the remains of one of the biggest guns ever built, the product of the HARP project.

HARP gun Barbados

We had one of those days today about which the less said the better so I shall try and match my blog to it.

It had rained very heavily overnight and was still raining when we woke up.  Our neighbour Liz popped in for a moment and stayed for coffee and a vigorous and enjoyable political discussion which kept our mind off the weather for a bit.

It had stopped raining by the time that she left so I went out on my slow bike to have a quick check on the state of our rivers on my way to our corner shop..

The Wauchope was lively….

wauchope in flood

…and the Esk was pretty full…

river in spate

…though it still had some room to spare.

After lunch, I decided to brave the strong winds which were battering the town courtesy of storm Erik and go for a walk.

Apart from the wind, it was quite a reasonable day by now….

suspension bridge light flood

…and although the river had gone down a bit, there was still plenty of water rushing under the Town Bridge, not to mention the odd small tree trunk.

downstream town brodge in flood

I am always impressed by how well designed the bridge is to stand up to the pressure of water that hits it on days like these.  The water on the upstream side of the bridge is a lot higher than on the downstream side.

up stream town bordge in flood

The strong wind made it feel very cold and inhospitable and as my feet were not at their best, I cut my intended walk short and soon headed home.

A look round the garden showed our first daffodil trying valiantly to flower but wind and rain have bent it double and it is destined to bloom  largely unseen.

drooping daffodil

On the other hand, there are winter aconites beginning to stick their heads above ground so that is very cheering.

winter aconite

The rest of the afternoon was spent putting some music by Boismortier onto the computer and then trying to play it as fast as I could. As this was not very fast, there is room for improvement.

More wind and rain are forecast overnight and tomorrow so the air of general gloom pervading this post may well continue.

The buffeting breeze discouraged any small birds from coming to the feeder in the garden and I didn’t get my flying bird camera out at all so today’s flying bird of the day turns out to be three ducks floating very carefully right at the side of the river.

ducks on wauchope in flood

 

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I have delved into my archives to find today’s guest picture sent by my Somerset correspondent, Venetia last October.  It shows a footpath that is not totally welcoming.

cows in the way

We woke to an altered view from our upstairs window.

whita fron befroom window

The snow hadn’t got down as far as the town though and I was able to walk to our corner shop on surprisingly ice free roads.

Sandy, who had missed the camera club last night, came down for a cup of coffee and Mrs Tootlepedal combined having coffee with us with putting more coats of gesso on the rocking horse.  The horse has been brought in from the cold and is enjoying life in our spare room.  More importantly the gesso is going on a lot better and by the end of the day, the horse was looking a lot smarter…

rocking horse gesso progress

…although there are several more coats to go on before it will be ready for painting.

When Sandy left, I did the crossword and kept an eye for action outside the kitchen window.

I got an unexpected chance to catch a regular visitor…

sparrowhawk on feeder

…which doesn’t usually sit quietly for long enough for me to take a picture.

In spite of the snow, it was a reasonably pleasant day with occasional bursts of sunshine and although the temperature was only 3°C and it had rained overnight in the town, we were mysteriously free from ice so I went for a walk half way up a hill.

I went up the Kirk Wynd and onto Whita, stopping before I came to any serious snow. The sun had been out when I started but sadly clouds had intervened and it was a pretty grey day.

trees on whita snow

Even on a  grey day though, there is usually something to cheer a walker up and there was a good show of lichen on a wall….

lichen on mossy wall

…and the view up the Ewes valley always lifts the heart whatever the weather.

snowy view up ewes

I was on the very edge of the snow line as I walked along the contour of the hill towards the Newcastleton road but the going was very good and I had sensibly taken my walking poles with me so I enjoyed myself.

whita track snow

And when I got to the road, I was rewarded with a sparkling display of moss among the snow on a wall…

moss on snowy wall

…and a wintry view through the pines.

pines in snow

Looking back up the hill, I was glad that I hadn’t been tempted to climb up to the monument as it looked decidedly chilly up there.

monument with frosting

I followed the road down to the A7 and walked along to the Kilngreen past this fine display of holly berries.

holly berries whitshiels

On the Kilngreen, the light seemed perfect for capturing the sinuous patterns of this picnic bench…

kilngreen bench

…and I was very happy to see Mr Grumpy on the bank of the Ewes Water.  I haven’t seen him for some time and was getting worried about his health.

heron

There was more agreement about the way to go among the mallards today.

mallards on esk

Looking back towards the Sawmill Brig and Castle Hill, it was hard to imagine that I had been walking in snow not long before.

kilngreen no snow

I got home and sat down to a nourishing plate of soup.  Mrs Tootlepedal returned from helping out at the Buccleuch Centre cafe and I watched the birds for a while…

january greenfinch

…being pleased to see a greenfinch and by accident I took a picture which shows how small our garden bird visitors are in the great scheme of things.

bird among the bushes

Whatever it is that is causing me to have discomfort when walking at the moment hadn’t been made worse by my walk so I decided that the roads were probably ice free enough to risk a few miles on the slow bike to see if that sort of exercise would help.

The sun came out…

snowy whita from wauchope road

…which was a bonus and I pedalled very gently for seven miles without meeting any icy patches or making my leg worse so I was very happy.  I will try a longer ride next time when the weather permits.

In the evening, the ever busy Mrs Tootlepedal laid down her crochet hook and went off to act as front of house for a screening of the Queen of Spades at the Buccleuch Centre and stayed to see the opera.  As Tchaikovsky is not my favourite composer, I stayed at home and did a little more work on learning the Carlisle Choir songs.  Like putting gesso on a rocking horse, this is a slow business.

A chaffinch is the flying bird of the day as the visit of the sparrow hawk didn’t keep the birds away from the feeder for long.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Jenni, my highland correspondent, and shows a flock of long tailed tits enjoying her peanuts.  They are beautiful little birds and we are very envious as we would like to see them in our garden.

longtailed tits

We had a generally sunny and cheerful day here today; cheerful that was as long as you weren’t exposed to the very strong wind which made it feel decidedly chilly.

After going to church to sing in the choir, there was a moment when I had time for either a short cycle ride or a walk before the trip to our Carlisle choir in the afternoon.  The wind, gusting up to 40 mph made the decision for me and I went for a walk.

I didn’t have to waste any time watching birds in our garden because there were no birds to be seen, the wind proving too strong for them too perhaps.

If you could keep out of the worst of the wind though, it was a beautiful day for a stroll…

ewes at kilngreen

…and although all the gulls flew off as soon as I got near the Kilngreen, I did find two or three ducks lurking in the shelter of the river bank on the Ewes Water.

female mallard drinking

male mallard

I crossed the sawmill bridge and walked up the hill past the Estate Offices.  The road verge and walls here are home to a considerable number of hart’s-tongue ferns…

harts tongue fern ewesbank

…and a grand display of dog tooth peltigera lichen.  This crop was about two feet in width.

dog tooth peltigera pathead track

Three trees further up the hill have been artistically arranged by nature to make a pleasing combination.

three trees pathead

And there was plenty of shelter as I walked along the track above the trees to let me enjoy the view of Whita without getting blown away.

vierw of whita

A lot of trees have been felled along the track, leaving the pines still standing.

pines on track

I followed the track until I came to the north lodge…

north lodge

…and there I enjoyed a view up the Esk valley which has only been recently been made available to walkers by the felling of yet more trees.

view up esk valley from north lodge

Time was pressing a bit so I had to hurry home, stopping only for a view of an as yet unfelled wood…

bw woods

…and making it just in time to have a slice of bread and honey before setting off to Carlisle.

The choir practice was well attended and we set about learning another of the songs that we will take to the choir competition in Manchester in March.  We  also went through one of the songs which I have been trying to get off by heart….more work required!

When we got home, Mrs Tootlepedal tried out a new recipe involving leeks, feta cheese and puy lentils.  It made for an enjoyable meal.

We have been watching the television adaptation of Les Miserables and it has been an interesting but chastening experience for me.  I read the book a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I thought that I would remember it well and be able to compare the book with the TV programme but it turns out that although I do recall a lot of the scenes and places from the story, many of which don’t figure in the musical version, I have also forgotten much more than I thought. As a result, I have confidently said to Mrs Tootlepedal on  more than one occasion, “Well, that didn’t happen in the book,” only to find that it did.

No flying bird today but I did get the briefest glimpse of a robin.  It was flying a second or two later.

fleeting robin

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony’s walk round the Wemyss Estate.  As well as a parakeet in a tree, he came across a curious deer which was looking a bit lost.

wemyss deer

We were visited by storm Diana today.  I must say that the practice of giving passing weather fronts a name is obviously a bad idea.  They are getting ideas above their station and we got a lot of rain and some stiff winds in the afternoon.

It wasn’t too bad in the morning when Dropscone came round for coffee.  Sandy dropped in to pick up some keys for the new archive centre but he was busy and didn’t stay for coffee.  This meant that Dropscone and I could eat all the scones which was a stroke of luck as the scones were particularly tasty today.

Although it was raining lightly as Dropscone left, the forecast said that it would stop raining by twelve o’clock and then start again by one.  As it did actually stop raining at three minutes to twelve, I went out for a short three bridges walk.

I was detained for a moment by some cheerful calendulas in the garden before I left.

calendulas end of november

The clouds had lifted on the hills and I could almost see the monument.

misty monument

There was a touch of colour in the last willows which are fading away beside the town bridge.

last willow

And some of our resident ducks had found a calm spot for a paddle above the bridge.

floating ducks

I was very impressed by the amount of hay being transported by a single driver from the arable east coast to the pastoral west.

big hay

I passed more evidence of the activity of the Langholm Walks volunteers who have been putting new discs onto the walks signposts.

Langholm Walks signs

Walkers are spoiled for choice

The group is trying hard to encourage walkers to come to the town and sample the many delights of walking in our woods and hills.

As I went along the Lodge Walks, I discovered that the forecast had only said that it would have started raining by one o’clock.  It didn’t say when it would actually start and that turned out to be at about ten past twelve so I didn’t get very far on my walk before the rain came down.  Luckily I was well armed (or legged) with welly boots and a large golf umbrella.  As I was sheltered from the worst of the wind and there was plenty to look at, I still had a good walk.

I saw berries by a wall…

lodge walks berries

…and lichen on a tree…

lodge walks lichen

…as I went up the Lodge Walks.

Then as I crossed the Castleholm, I saw a tree with many, many branches…

castleholm bare tree

…a soggy gate…

soggy castleholm gate

…and a tree stump with a mixture of fungus and fallen leaves which were so well matched for colour that it was hard to tell them apart.

castleholm fungi and leaves

Round the back of the stump, there were more clear cut fungi.

castleholm fungi

As I walked back along the path to the Jubilee Bridge, I could see many hazel catkins…

castleholm catkin

…but by the time that I got to the bridge, the rain was coming down so steadily that I put my camera back in my pocket and concentrated all my energies on not letting my brolly get blown away by the wind.

By the time that I got home, it was a thoroughly miserable day and so dark and gloomy that I didn’t bother to get my bird watching camera out at all.

After lunch, I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and practised some singing for my various choirs.

Mrs Tootlepedal made another delicious evening meal and fortified by that, I ventured out into the wind and the rain to go to a Langholm Sings choir practice.  Some of the work that I had done in the afternoon turned out to be quite useful.

It had stopped raining by the time that we came out of the practice and this was just as well as the river was high and flowing fast as I crossed the suspension bridge.  We are promised more heavy rain tomorrow so riverside dwellers may be getting a bit nervous.

I didn’t try for a flying bird of the day today and a rather fuzzy perching gull is standing in for the position instead.

perching gull

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who appears to be spending May Day in Madrid.  He visited El Parque de Buen Retiro where he admired the colossal statue of Alfonse XIII, best viewed from across the boating lake.

8 of 96 El Parque de Buen Retiro

After putting on a good show for the visit of Mary Jo yesterday, the local weather gods fell back exhausted today and we reverted to mostly grey skies, a very cold wind and rain later. It didn’t matter all that much to me but Mrs Tootlepedal has got very fed with gardening in the cold.

She had woken up early and done quite a bit of good work in the garden before breakfast and then after breakfast, she decided to drive to the council dump, 18 miles away to get rid of the old vegetable bed boards, the old bench and sundry other items.

I had woken up with a very tender and arthritic thumb with a considerably swollen right hand so my plan was to let Mrs Tootlepedal do any work that was going and to try to rest the hand as much as possible.  While she went off to the dump, I took a  very gentle walk with my pocket camera clasped in my left hand.  Even with the light camera, taking pictures was not easy.

I had hoped that the bluebells might be out so I walked along the river past great banks of wild garlic, just about to burst into flower….

wild garlic

…and a lot of golden saxifrage and the occasional bluebell…

golden saxifrage and bluebell

…but it has been too cold and not sunny enough so when I got to my preferred bluebell spot, only a few were showing and the path up through the woods was still waiting for the blue carpet to be rolled out.

early bluebells

I walked up the path all the same and enjoyed what there was to be seen along the top.

hawthorn

Views over the town are disappearing behind fresh leaves.

leaves on Stubholm

leaves on Stubholm

When I got to the Stubholm, I continued along Gaskell’s Walk with just a hint in the blue sky above Meikleholm Hill to cheer the day up.

Meikleholm hill in spring

The path through the young birches was at its most magical.

gaskells in spring

There were a lot of grasses coming into flower along the path.

grass

When I got to the Auld Stane Brig, I stopped to look at the permanent little lichen forest that grows on the fence post beside the bridge.  At only a little over an inch high, it stubbornly resists rain, snow, hail, wind and the road of passing traffic.

lichen at auld stane brig

Further along the road some of the hedge was full of different lichens.

lichenA lone butterbur was in flower beside the Wauchope Water…

butterbur

…and on the wall at Pool Corner there was enough heat under the shelter for the slow worms to have come out.

slow worm

They like to snooze in a heap.

slow worm

When I got back to the garden, i was welcomed by the magnolia at the gate and Mrs Tootlepedal who had got back from her visit to the dump…

magnolia garden from gate

…and she, with a little help from me, gave the car a good clean up, even going as far as getting the vacuum cleaner on to the job.

The nearby tulips caught my eye…

P1090503

..and I went off to look at some more.

P1090505

I couldn’t hold the big camera up or get the tripod into position so there are no bird feeder pictures today.  I did take a picture of the chimney pot underneath the feeder though….

P1090508

…before going indoors.

That concluded my activity for the day and I spent the rest of the day sitting down reading the papers or working at the computer, typing carefully with gentle fingers and holding the mouse in the loosest possible grip.

As it started to rain heavily, this was no great hardship.

I did take one more picture of some flowers in a vase on the kitchen table with Mrs Tootlepedal kindly holding up one of her scarves to make a background.

P1090509

The quiet day certainly did my swollen hand no harm and I may need to look after it again tomorrow as I have learned that my new bike might be ready for collection on Friday and I shall want to be in as good condition as possible for a test ride.

There being no flying bird of the day, I have put in standing still and swimming ducks of the day instead, shot in a sunny moment on my walk.

mallards

Mary Jo kindly sent me a picture of an old man she saw at the blogging computer in our front room yesterday.   I don’t know who he is.  He looks much older than me.

blogger

 

 

 

 

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