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Posts Tagged ‘mallards’

Today’s guest picture comes from Stephen, my Australian correspondent.  He says that it is easy to see the effects of the bush fires raging in the Blue Mountains while walking the streets of Sydney, especially as the sun comes up behind the haze at dawn.

sydney ash

We were hoping for some sun here today and we did get a slightly warmer day but sunshine was strictly rationed and we got only a very small glimmer now and again.  In spite of the grey skies, our visitor Patricia thought that a walk would be useful after her long sit on the train yesterday so we got in the car and drove down to the Hollows where we set out on foot to visit the Fairy Loup.

This 1.7 mile circular walk starts by going along the old A7, which was closed to traffic after a landslip about 40 years ago. One half of the carriageway remains and it is used occasionally by a local farmer as you can see from the tracks between the layer of beech mast which covered the rest of the road.

old a7 Byreburn Mrs t and Pat

There was interest along the way, with a flourishing crop of vetch and some colourful bramble leaves…

vetch and bramble

…as well as a selection of mosses on a wall….

moss on A7 wall

…and ferns and script lichens as well.

fern and script lichen

The winter months are the best for actually seeing the waterfall at the Fairy Loup but even without the leaves on them, the tree branches are growing so much that a clear view is impossible.

fairy loup November

We have had a dry spell lately and there was really very little water going down the Byreburn.

above the fairy loup

We passed a sensational crop of fungus on a pile of wood chippings.

fungus beside byreburn

Our direction of travel round the walk was well chosen because when we came out of the shelter offered by the Byreburn valley, we found that the nippy wind was behind us as we walked back down the road to our car.

There was even a little sunshine to light up the gates that we passed…

two gates gilnockie

….though it came and went and the clouds were back as we walked through these well clipped beech hedges near the old station.

neat hedge gilnockie

The sun came back to light up the last few yards of our walk and picked out some broom…

broom Gilnockie

…and the trunks of the trees beside the road…

trees byreburn wood

…as well as a thin string of ivy climbing a substantial tree…

ivy byreburn

…and the white lichen making a twisted tree trunk positively shine.

tree byreburn

We didn’t go directly home after our walk but stopped at the Buccleuch Centre for a light lunch in their excellent foyer coffee bar.

I had a look at the bird feeder when we got back after lunch, but there was very little avian traffic and the light was poor again, so I put my bird camera in the bag on the back of my slow bike and pedalled down to the river to see if I could see a bird or two there.

I saw several gulls perched on the electricity wires beside the Esk but they stayed stubbornly put as I watched so I left them to it and cycled over the bridge and on to the Kilngreen.

gulls on wire

There was  more movement here.  A large flock of ducks came rushing down the river towards me as soon as i got near the river, mistaking me perhaps for someone with bread in his pocket.  When no bread was forthcoming, they circled around and headed back up river muttering morosely.

ducks hoping for bread

One late-coming duck flew up at great speed.

swift duck

There were plenty of gulls about and they lifted themselves off the rocks where they were perched and took to the air from time to time.

two gulls

It was chilly so I didn’t spend too long watching them.

When I got home, I put on my cycling gear and went out into the cold garage and cycled on the bike to nowhere for half and hour.  Listening to the radio helped to lessen the tedium of looking at this view.

garage view

In the evening, I took Patricia and Mrs Tootlepedal out for a meal as a premature celebration of my birthday which is tomorrow.

As I have had a persistent feeling all year that I am a year older than I actually am, tomorrow is not going to be a big day as nothing will change….except of course that I might then start to think that I am another year older than I actually will be. For the record, I will be 78 tomorrow and I only hope that if I live to be 90, I will still be able to walk round the Fairy Loup with as much zest as our 90 year old guest Patrica demonstrated today.  She is a wonder.

The flying bird of the day is one of those Kilngreen gulls looking for a handy rock.

gull landing

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Today’s very appropriate guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He not only photographed this Halloween lantern but also carved it himself and grew the plant too.  A man of many talents.

andrew's halloween

We had another in our run of frosty mornings but dry days today and after coffee, I went out for a walk with my bird watching camera to see if there were any obliging gulls at the Kilngreen.

Before I left, I had a quick round up of some surviving flowers in the garden.  The phlox is very amazing.

last october flowers

I also checked the birds and found a dunnock considering the seed feeder and a blackbird nibbling on an apple.

dunnock and blackbird

When I got to the Kilngreen, the first black headed gull that I met was standing on a rock.

black headed gull on rock

And then I noticed that a lot more were standing around nearby.

black headed gulls Kilngreen

Some gulls kindly took to the air and flew slowly past me…

black headed gull flying

They were joined by a black backed gull.

black backed gull flying 2

While I was walking up the river bank, I came to this brand new bench.  It has been put in place to remember a local farrier who was a great supporter of the Common Riding where his skills were often in demand.

memorial bench Kilngreen

Below the bench, two mallards cruised past…

two mallards

…and further upstream, a dog did what a dog does when it has been chasing a ball into the cold waters of the Ewes.

shaggy dog

Having spent some time, hanging with the gulls, I moved onto the Castleholm…

bare tree castleholm

…and walked round the new path, looking up at the pine trees as I passed under them.

pine

I crossed the Jubilee Bridge and thought that I ought to try to take a picture of it.  I scrambled down the banking and took this view from the water’s edge.

jubilee bridge from below

And I looked across the Esk while I was down there.

esk at jubilee bridge

On my way round the Scholars’ Field path, I once again stopped to admire the staying power of the corydalis which is growing out of a crack in the wall.

corydalis scholars

Some gardeners go to great lengths to prepare soil and nurture their plants.  The Scholars’ Field wall makes you wonder if all that work is needed.

corydalis scholars 2

It doesn’t just have corydalis, there is a small world of plant life in and on it.

scholars wall

When I got home, I was welcomed by a smiling viola.

viola

As it was Thursday, we were set to go to Edinburgh to visit Matilda after lunch but we wisely checked on the trains before we set off for Lockerbie.  Our train was thirty minutes late when it left Manchester so we waited until we were sure that it was well on its way before we set off.

Even so we were too early as it was even later by the time that it got to Lockerbie.  It had also changed from the usual four coach electric train to a three coach diesel set.  We were naturally worried about whether there would be enough seats for everyone.

When I left the waiting room to go on to the platform. I thought at first sight that one of the planes passing over the town had pulled a hand brake turn…

air handbrake turn

…until a second glance showed me that it was two planes going in opposite directions.

There were seats on the train when it eventually arrived and the diesel chugged away and got us safely to Edinburgh where we had an enjoyable visit.  I won’t say who won the three games of Carcassonne that we played but regular readers may well be able to guess who lost them all.

After our evening meal, Matilda went out guising…

Matilda the witch

…and her mother and father and I escorted her round some very friendly neighbours who had marked their willingness to dispense sweets and nuts to passing witches by placing a Halloween lantern outside their front doors.   I thought that this was a very good idea and as they all laughed heartily at Matilda’s joke of the day*, it was a very satisfactory outing.

Our train home was a little late too, and it was raining by the time we came to drive home which was a disappointment after our recent good spell of weather.

I was spoiled for choice for a flying bird of the day today, but in the end I settled on this black headed gull from my morning walk.

black headed gull flying 2

*  Knock Knock….Who’s there?…..Boo…..Boo who?…..Don’t be sad.

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Today’s guest picture comes from that inveterate traveller Bruce.  He looked in on a tea dance at the famous Tower Ballroom in Blackpool but did not venture onto the floor himself.  Doubtless things will be a bit more lurid on 16th November when Strictly comes to town.

tower ballroom

Finally our spell of mild autumn weather came to an end today and we woke up to a frosty garden.

first frosts

It wasn’t very frosty though and things warmed up gently through the morning. I wondered if the frost would have encouraged some autumn colour, so after breakfast I went out for a short three bridges walk.

I was waved off by a hosta positively glowing in the sunshine.

golden hosta

Sadly, the autumn colour was mainly on the river bank…

leaves on ground

…though it was still a glorious morning for a walk.

meeting of the waters late october

The ducks seemed to think that it was good weather for them too…

female mallard

…as they cruised up and down the Ewes Water, occasionally ducking.

male mallard

I fear that autumn colour is not going to figure this year and the trees behind the Sawmill Brig have lost interest in the whole thing.

sawmill brig autumn

The old Episcopalian Church on the Lodge Walks was looking attractive.  It is a pity that no use can be found for this building.

episcopla church october

The trees across the Castleholm were rather dull….

trees on castleholm

…but the sunny day made for good views.  I was interested to see the hill cattle had chosen to graze near the top of the hill where I would have thought that it would be chillier.  Perhaps they got more sun up there.

cattle on Timpen

With two months still to go until the shortest day, it is slightly depressing to find the sun so low in the sky even at this time of year but it does provide some Hitchcock like shots on a walk.

low shadows n walk

When I got back, I settled down and while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to demount her embroiderers’ group exhibition in the Welcome to Langholm hub, I did the crossword, made coffee and bread and followed that up with another tarte tatin.   We have quite a few apples in hand and the making (and eating) of tarte tatin is my approved way of dealing with them at the moment.

After lunch, with the thermometer showing 7°C, I wrapped up well and went out for a pedal.  The larches are doing their best to provide some autumn colour.  These ones are at Pool Corner.larches pool corner

I was a few miles up the road when I met a cyclist coming the other way.  He drew to a halt and it turned out to be Sandy out for a spin on his e-bike.  He was doing an adventurous circuit with quite a few hills in it.

sandy cycling

After some chat, he set off to pedal home to Langholm…

sandy cycling off

…and I cycled on up to the top of Callister.

Rather annoyingly, after a brilliantly sunny morning, a few stray clouds had turned up to hide the sun…
clouds from callister

…but out to the west, the sea was glistening where the clouds had cleared.

shining sea from callister

It didn’t take long for them to clear where I was and I cycled home in golden splendour.

golden wauchopedale

I was going to cycle through the town and out of the other side but I came upon a man with a tractor cutting the roadside hedge.  As this often involves covering the road with sharp hawthorn fragments, I turned back and did two circuits of the New Town to make up my twenty miles.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal kindly cut my hair and after I had had a shower, my flute pupil Luke turned up.  Thanks to some improved teaching and some home practice, he is really getting a grip on the counting.  We are also both working on approaching high notes with confidence rather than terror, and that is showing improvement too.

The weather looks set fair for the next few days so I am hoping to be able to add a few more miles to my October total before the end of the month.  Since the clocks have gone back, I will have to make an effort to get started sooner as the evenings are really drawing in now and I don’t have good enough equipment (or the courage) to cycle in the dark.

We have put the bird feeder out and I hope that normal service will be resumed as soon as the birds notice that food is now available.  In the meantime, I didn’t see a flying bird today, so a reflective Mr Grumpy, spotted from the Town Bridge on my cycle ride, will have to do.

reflective heron

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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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