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Posts Tagged ‘pond skater’

Today’s guest picture shows a fine display of wisteria spotted by my sister Susan on her way to catch a bus.

london wisteria

We had a frosty morning here, followed by a fine but chilly day with a brisk  and biting north wind.  If you were out of the wind, everything in the garden was lovely and if you weren’t, you got out of it as soon as you could.

I started the day with some shopping at our producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre where the essentials of life such as honey, cheese, haggis and fish were popped into my Canadian (courtesy of Mary Jo of Manitoba) shopping bag.  Then after another excursion to top up supplies from our corner shop, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went to visit our friends Mike and Alison.  Their daughter Liz had arrived with her chainsaw to help Mike cut down the cherry tree at the front gate which had grown too big for its situation and which is due to replaced by a rowan.  They were making a good job of it but kindly broke off for long enough for Alison to offer us coffee and ginger biscuits (and a potted plant to take home with us)..

Later in the day, three bags of shreddings and sawdust arrived in our garden for which we will find very good uses.

When we got back, I took a walk round the garden in the sunshine.  A bee which should have been busy on the apple blossom was wasting its time on a dicentra, a new ranunculus, one of batch purchased at a very advantageous price by Mrs Tootlepedal, was looking sublime and one of the last of the tulips was trying to open wide.

dicentra, ranunculus tulip

It has been an odd year, and I noticed when I looked back at a blog of a year ago, that we still had lots of daffodils out and the tulips were at the peak on this day then.

Now almost all the daffodils are gone and most of the tulips too.  We are in a pause, waiting for azaleas and alliums to appear.  I saw a very fine spider’s web, the sole rhododendron flower that is fully out, a hosta that is developing well and some mustard grown for green manure whihc is coming up in the vegetable garden.  Mrs Tootlepedal is very keen on mustard.

hosta mustard web and rhodie

In the absence of much bright colour, the greens are doing their best to keep me entertained.

fern and euphorbia

A pair of blackbirds appeared on the front lawn…

blackbird pair on lawn

…and a pond skater stopped skating for long enough for me to take its picture.

pond skater

Although my feet are still not co-operating properly, I felt it was too cold and windy for a pleasant cycle ride so I went for a walk after lunch.

There was plenty to take my mind off my feet as I went along.  Daisies and cherry blossom lined my walk along the bank of the Esk between the bridges.

daisies and cherries beside esk

And a pair of oyster catchers looked as though they might be setting up home on the gravel bank above the town bridge.

oyster catchers on gravel

In spite of the chilly wind, a cricket match on the Castleholm pitch reminded me that it is May and the season has well and truly got under way.

langholm cricket club

Sound defence with a straight bat was the order of the day.

LCC match

I walked on up the Lodge Walks with any amount of flowers to keep me company.

lodge walk wild flowers

I had met my friend Nancy as I was crossing the Langhom Bridge and she told me that she was going to check out the bluebells in the woods above the Lodge Walks because she is leading a visiting group of walkers on a bluebell hunt next week.  Taking the hint, I walked up a path through the wood.  She will have plenty of bluebells to show the visitors.

bluebells in lodge walk wood

It has been a good spring for bluebells.

bluebells above holmhead

As I went along the path at the top of the wood, I could see more bluebells mixed in with other wild flowers.

six lodge walk wild flowers

I came back down to the waterside and walked back along the bank of the Esk.  The paths are at their best.

two castleholm paths

Looking across the field, I saw the sun pick out a small tree surrounded by larger specimens.  I liked the way that grazing cattle have kept the bottom of the tree looking so neatly trimmed…

castlholm tree

…and looking around, I saw that it was not the only one.

cattle cropped trees

I came back to the cricket ground to find the game still going on and watched a fielder at long leg doing what cricketers do a lot of, standing around.  He had found a good spot for standing around though, surrounded by fine trees and with the ruins of Langholm castle in the background.  He had plenty to look at if the game got boring.

outfileder and castle

A dandelion clock told me that time was getting on so I headed for home…

dandelion clock

…passing my favourite sight of the whole walk.  It was almost as though nature had taken up flower arranging.

saplings scholars

The wall at the end of the Scholars’ Field has a good crop of flowers growing out of cracks and crevices.  I saw ivy leaved toadflax, wild strawberries and corydalis.

wall flowers

I was ready for a cup of tea when I got home and then we got into our new little car and went off to collect some more wood chips.  On our return, we put the wood chips onto one of the paths in the remodelled part of the vegetable garden…

chipped paths

…and parked the little white thingy.  It hadn’t gone far enough to need charging.

renault

We had fish for our tea and I made some chips (potato not wood) to go with my helping. We finished the meal with the last of the lonely sticky toffee pudding.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin flaps down

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Today’s guest picture comes from Fiona, my Newcastle correspondent.  She has been forced to go and work in Malta for a while and is having to put up with surroundings like these.

MaltaWe had another lovely day here today, genuinely warm and with gentle winds.  I would like to have used it to go cycling but the pressing need to have a lie in wasted the early part of the morning and then the pleasure of entertaining Dropscone, who was also recovering from yesterday’s efforts, took up the next hour.  This was followed by a visit to the health centre for some regular maintenance and before I knew it, the morning had gone.

After lunch, my plan was to have a quick visit to the Moorland bird feeders and follow that with a bike ride.  As a plan, it wasn’t one of my most successful.

When I got to the road to the bird feeders, I found that teams of pothole fillers were hard at work and while this is a very welcome activity, it put paid to my scheme for a little bird watching.  Watching men filling potholes is not so much fun as spotting woodpeckers so I came home.

Once home, something in the air got my asthma interested and far from cycling, I needed a quick sit down.  This was enhanced by a good snooze and the desire for a pedal had evaporated by the time that I woke up.  I was some what recovered though and managed to mow the middle lawn and sieve a little compost so the day wasn’t entirely wasted.

In the absence of any adventures, my exploring was limited to the garden.  There was enough there to keep me fully entertained.

pink and yellow tulips

Multicoloured tulips are brightening the garden up.

tulips

Plainer ones still have plenty of ping.

tulip

Plenty of ping.

There was activity in the pond.

pond skater and frogAnd in the dam at the back of the house.

little fish in dam

I was surprised to see a shoal of tiny fish there.  Perhaps some expert can tell me what they are.

aubretia

And delighted to see the flourishing aubretia.

I always keep an eye for new flowers and although I am not entirely happy to see them in the middle of the front lawn, these daises looked very cheery.

daisiesThe marsh marigold in the pond was more suitably placed.

marsh marigoldAmong the established plants, the pulsatillas are going great guns….

pulsatillas…and the magnolia is looking better every day.

magnoliaAlthough we always nervous about late frosts, it was very pleasing to spot the first plum blossoms on the year…

plum blossoms….and even more pleasing to hear the buzzing of many bees in the garden.  They were very keen on the hyacinths today.

bees on hyacinthsbees on hyacinthsOther insects could be seen too.  Although they didn’t seem ready to spread their wings open and enjoy a little basking, I did see both a peacock and a small tortoiseshell butterfly.

butterfliesSo in spite of not getting much accomplished, I was able to enjoy the sunshine and not dwell on missed pedalling opportunities too much.

In the evening I went off to our local choir practice and had a most enjoyable sing.  Mrs Tootlepedal spent almost the whole day working on the floor in the front room and was still working in the evening and as a result, she missed the choir.  Still, her work is paying off and the floor is going to look very good when she has finished.

The only fly in the ointment of the end wall development is to be found in one of the old sandstone blocks which we saved from the old fireplace and re-used in the new one.  The plaster beside it is not drying and when our project manager came round with his nifty damp-meter, the reason for this became clear.  The old block is still very wet after years in a leaking end wall.  We will just have to be patient while it dries out but it does mean that the decorating won’t be finally finished for quite a bit yet.  The room will be quite usable though and Mrs Tootlepedal plans to start moving the furniture back in tomorrow.

Mr reason for wanting to visit the Moorland bird feeders was the lack of birds in our own garden but I did manage to find a flying bird of the day as the shadows lengthened in the evening.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture, from my sister Mary’s camera, shows some very smart chaps going to defend the Queen from something or other.

Horseguards in The Mall

It was a grey and dull day when we got up, not much good for photographs but excellent, as it turned out, for cycling.  The temperature was very comfortable and the wind was extremely light.  When Dropscone arrived for the morning run, he kindly agreed to my suggestion of yet another trip to Gair (although he prefers the traditional route) and we were able to get there and back at a respectable rate of knots.

After coffee and scones, Dropscone departed and I had a few minutes before Mrs Tootlepedal returned from a church choir practice.  I spent them staring out of the window of course.

The feeder was busy.  There were a lot of siskins about and when I looked there were four siskins and a goldfinch nibbling away.  I turned away for a moment and lo and behold, when I turned back,  there were four goldfinches and a siskin instead.

siskins and goldfinches

Both pictures taken at 11.20 am

There is never a dull moment in the Tootlepedal household.

I looked away again to watch a perching goldfinch…

goldfinch

…and when I turned back this time, a sparrow and a greenfinch had appeared.

sparrow and greenfinch

I went out into the garden too.

spirea

The spirea shows that it was a damp day

pond skater

A pond skater was enjoying the very still conditions and appeared absolutely weightless.

Then Mrs Tootlepedal appeared.   While she had the last of the coffee, I watched a blackbird father and his demanding child.

blackbirds

At least one of the young blackbirds has grown old enough to feed itself.

blackbirds

Foraging for fallen seed.

As it was such a good cycling day, Mrs Tootlepedal and I  went off for a pedal ourselves up to the Collin Bridge and back.   The conditions were so benign that we achieved a season’s best time for the nine miles without even trying.

I had time for a shower and a light lunch before packing a recorder and my flute and going up to the town to play some music with Mike and Isabel.  With trios by Mozart, Telemann and Quantz on the menu, we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and generally, but not always, managed to start and finish at the same time.  (This is the second golden rule of music playing.  The first is for all the players to be playing the same piece.)

By the time that I got home, the weather had improved and the afternoon was pleasantly warm with a hint of sunshine. This was a perfect chance to mow the front lawn so I took it.  The moss is enjoying the warm spring.  This is not good.

There were good things about though.

golden bee

This golden bee was getting stuck into the pulmonaria.

I have been much struck by a beautiful plant in the border by the road.  Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is a Euphorbia Myrsinites, the myrtle spurge.

Euphorbia myrsinites

I find it strangely other worldly.

By this time, the day had become so pleasant that I had an idea.  I had met Jim and Sandra at last night’s concert and they had issued a very pressing invitation to take a camera up to look at their bird feeder which, they assured me, was constantly being visited by nuthatches.

I got my long lens out and cycled up the hill to their house.  They have a lovely view over the town.

View from Whitaside

The sun was in the wrong direction for the camera to do it justice today.

As is almost inevitable in these cases, Sandra told me when I arrived that the nuthatches had been much scarcer today than yesterday.  Indeed I stood for some time in her kitchen watching great tits…

great tit

…blue tits…

blue tits

….even robins…

robin

…but no nuthatches.

After a while Jim took me into the next door garden to see what he thinks is a warbler building a nest.  He showed me the nest, neatly lined with a feather and sure enough we saw the nest builder coming back with another feather in its beak.

nest builder

It goes without saying that while we were watching this bird, a nuthatch had come to the feeder and Sandra rushed out to tell us.  We hurried back, fearing that we had missed the chance to see it but we were in luck.

nuthatch at whitaside

A nuthatch arrived, took a seed and  left……and then reappeared so frequently that we think perhpas it was two nuthatches who must be feeding young nearby.

Sandra’s feeder is right outside her window but the nuthatches paid no attention to us at all.

nuthatch at whitaside

Coming in…

nuthatch at whitaside

….and going out loaded up

I had a great time watching and clicking away and Jim and Sandra have kindly invited me and Sandy to come up again to have another look, an offer which we shall certainly be taking up.  There are a lot of benefits in having a house right on the edge of the town.

Although the nuthatches were still coming and going, I had to leave  to get back in time for a flute lesson with my pupil Luke.  He is making good progress and showed me his report from his recent successful grade examination.    The most pleasing aspect of his progress is how much his breathing has improved recently and as this is something that he can only do through constant practice, it shows how seriously he is taking his work.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to go to a performance of a choir in Gretna of which she used to be a member.  This was their final performance as sadly the choir is  now closing because of a lack of members.

All in all, a day with two pedals in very light winds, two opportunities to play music and a chance to to watch nuthatches as well must be counted as one of the very best sort of days.

The flying bird of the day, seen in the gloomy morning,  was one of our resident goldfinches.

goldfinch

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Today’s picture shows that spring has come to the Lodge Walks at last.

Lodge walks

Once again, Dropscone and I were on the early shift and we were back from going round the morning run in beautiful sunshine before we would normally have started.  We are considering making the early start a more regular occurrence as it leaves the rest of the day free.  However we won’t always be able to guarantee lovely sunshine and the prospect of getting up early to go out in the rain is not so attractive.

The wind was both stronger and from a more awkward direction today and I was determined not to go too fast after finding yesterday’s run made me more tired than was worthwhile.  As a result, Dropscone had to wait for me a lot and we took eight minutes longer.  Still, the traditional Friday treacle scones were a great consolation to me.

The early pedal left me with plenty of time to wander round the garden.  Mrs Tootlepedal’s experience with wallflowers in recent years has been disappointing as the alterations in our weather patterns don’t seem to suit them at all but she has got one or two doing their best.

wallflowers

Different tulips keep appearing.

tulips

And some red ones were looking very perky in the good morning light.

red tulips

I may have given these a hefty tweak in the editor.

The morning sun set off a flowering currant and a dicentra well.

currant

dicentra

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Co-op to sell raffle tickets with our neighbour Liz lending a hand and as the day was still quite fine, I got out the belt bike and pedalled up the Lodge Walks (looking very springlike as you can see from the picture at the top of the post) on a nuthatch hunt.  The results were quite pleasing.  I saw two birds at their nesting hole during my first stop….

nuthatches

I take this to be one partner bringing food for the other who is sitting on the nest.

flying nuthatch

It’s very rare for me to get a picture of one flying.

After  I had waited some time in vain for another visit, I set off to a second site.  Once again, I saw a nuthatch.  This time it was a solo appearance –  first just a glimpse of a bird high in the tree, then  a flash as it flitted down towards the nest and finally a blur as it squeezed through the narrow entrance.

nestbound nuthatch

Once again, I waited in vain for a re-appearance and in the end I got back on the bike and pedalled down to the Kilngreen.  I was hoping to see a dipper but I was entertained by a wagtail instead.

wagtail

They don’t usually stand so still.

After making sure that I had got a good shot, it flitted about from rock to rock.

wagtail landing

Meanwhile, I was able to keep an eye out for a passing swallow whizzing by….

swallow

…and the inevitable black headed gull cruising along.

black headed gull

Flying birds on all sides.

Compared with my usual bird watching outings, it was quite a productive morning.

When I got a home, a goldfinch put on a flawless flying display for me…

goldfinch

…and a siskin gestured to the nearly empty feeder in a pointed way and I hurriedly filled it up again.

siskin

I had a little rest in the afternoon until I was summoned out into the garden by Mrs Tootlepedal.

Warning: You are entering a heavy handed humour zone.

We have frequently been visited by the sparrow hawk in pursuit of sparrows but today we had a chicken hawk on the prowl and we suffered the loss of a treasured cockerel.  Here it is on the right behind the tulips  in a recent photograph.

tulips

And here is the scene after the depredations of the chicken hawk.

no chicken

And here is a rare shot of the chicken hawk at work.

chicken hawk

You are now leaving the heavy handed humour zone.

Mrs Tootlepedal had hoped to transplant the topiary bird but the effort required to get it out of the ground was enormous and the prospect of replanting it was daunting so she has now decided to start again with a new plant.  The removal of the topiary is intended to improve the view of the plants along the new back fence.

The great hole left by all this work needed some manure so we had a quick trip to the manure mountain to get fresh stocks.

Then I caught up with some neglected correspondence and did some professional grade resting after the excitements of the day.

In the evening, we were roused by the sound of the big drum.  The pipe and the town bands were out leading the townsfolk to the Buccleuch Centre for the election of a young man to be cornet who will to carry the town’s standard on Common Riding Day.

bands

After the raucous music of pipes and brass outdoors, the evening took a more genteel turn when Alison and Mike arrived and Alison and I played some indoor music for flute or recorder and keyboard.  In spite of quite a long gap since we last played (because Mike and Alison have been visiting Maisie in New Zealand) we were able to get through some pieces in a satisfactory way.

In a day of many possible choices, the wagtail got the nod as the flying bird of the day.

wagtail

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