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Posts Tagged ‘River Esk’

Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia’s African adventure.  As well as many wild animals and birds, she found time to take in the countryside as well.

Etosha Pan, Namibia,

We were spared the worst of some inclement weather today with towns to the north of us getting a heavy snowfall.  We did get constant rain and wind so we didn’t escape entirely.

It was very wet and windy at first and it was still raining heavily at lunchtime when there was just enough light to let me look out of the window at the birds.

siskin and green finch

It eased off a bit from time to time, but even when it wasn’t visibly raining, a trip to the back door showed a fine mist of drizzle being blown across the garden at a brisk pace.

The birds didn’t come to the feeder in great numbers, probably because of the wind as much as the rain, but there were still moments when they had to queue.

chaffinches and goldfinches

These two summed up the day quite well, I thought.

siskin and goldfinch wet

And as usual, some chaffinches would prefer to get in an argument than to go to an empty perch.

shouting chaffinh

I did step out into the garden and found a washed out chionodoxa….

chionodoxa in the rian

…and daffodils hanging their heads down….

daffs hanging herads

…but as it felt cold in the drizzle and wind, I soon went back indoors.  Luckily there was an afternoon of rugby on the telly to help me pass the time, and I watched Wales thoroughly outclass a rather dispirited looking Irish team.  It was a game with a single try very near the start and another right at the end and in between there was a lot of bash, bash, bash which was quite tense without being very interesting if that makes sense.

After the game, I made a pot of sausage stew and then, since it was still drizzling outside, I sat down with foreboding in my heart to watch England walk all over Scotland.   This they proceeded to do with some style and they were more than twenty points up in less than  twenty minutes.

I checked the weather.  The rain had stopped and there was a hint of blue sky.  Phew, I could go for a walk and leave them to it.

Under normal circumstances, I would have walked as far as the evening light would have let me and I would have come home well after the game had finished but as my foot is still a bit iffy, I merely walked down to the river to admire the daffodils…

daffodils along esk

… check on the flow rate…

bridge in flood

…and say hello to a couple of pairs of mallards…

pair of mallards on wauchope

…who had managed to find pockets of calmer water.

pair of mallards in calm water

I was laughed at by a bunch of rude starlings in the tree beside the Buccleuch Centre…

starlings buccleuch square

…and pottered home to find that the first half had finished with England leading by 31-7.

At least Scotland had scored a try.

Rather against my better judgement, I sat down to watch the second half and was rewarded by a modest miracle.  Scotland played a lot better, England played a lot worse and it was one of the days when fortune favoured the brave and the bounce of the ball went Scotland’s way.  As a result, with two minutes to go, Scotland were actually leading by 38 points to 31 and in sight of a famous victory, but it couldn’t last and they gave away a crucial penalty with only seconds to go.  England kept their heads and scored a well worked try under the posts.  The subsequent conversion tied the match at 38 all.  So it really  was a match of two 31-7 halves, most remarkable and a privilege to watch.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch who was unmoved by the whole rugby thing.

flying chaffinch

I have two footnotes to today’s post:-

The first was sent to me by my friend Bruce, who for reasons that he can’t explain found this scan of a ceefax page from roughly thirty years ago relating to a local school on his computer.  All I can say is that the lucky head teacher must have had an excellent staff to impress the inspectors.

Canonbie report

The other footnote is a composite shot of the pictures that I have framed for the exhibition in the Canonbie church cafe.  They have all appeared on the blog before and I have tried to pick out ones that might have general appeal and have some impact printed at A4 rather than seen at 800px on a screen.

P1170586

I realise that the top left picture needs re-framing.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who came across this giant nut weevil in his local supermarket.

weevil

After another night of rain here, I went out after breakfast to check on the state of the river and was surprised by how low it was.

fairly full Esk

I was expecting quite a spate but although it had rained steadily for some time, it had obviously not rained very hard and the river drainage system had coped very well.

It kept raining for most of the day so I had another quiet morning indoors, keeping an eye on the goings on at the feeder.

Siskins were very active in the shouting department, most aimed at passing chaffinches.

Sometimes they shouted up….

siskin shout up at a chaffinch

…and sometimes they shouted down…

siskin shout down at a chaffinch

…and sometimes two of them got in on the act and shouted horizontally in unison.

two siskins shout at a chaffinch

All in all, it was quite a busy morning….

very busy feeder

…although there was time for quiet reflection on the weather too.

goldfinch in the rain

In the afternoon, I went down to Carlisle station…

dig

…where I enjoyed the contrast between the wall panels of steam driven giants of the past and the less glamorous diesel railcars in use today.

 

dig

I wasn’t there to train spot though.  We are being visited by my eldest sister Susan who is on a birthday tour of her young relatives in Scotland and will be coming to Edinburgh with us tomorrow to visit our two sons and their families.  I was in Carlisle to collect her from the London train.

Her train arrived on time to the exact minute and we drove back to Langholm where Susan was greeted by some delightful fairy cakes cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal.

In the evening, Susan kindly took us out for a meal at the Douglas Hotel and while she and Mrs Tootlepedal enjoyed a leisurely coffee before going home, I scurried off to a Langholm Sings choir practice.

They day ended in quiet conversation centred upon the deplorable state of politics and the country.

I hope that the weather is kind to us as we go to Edinburgh tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin (in the rain).

flying siskin

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After Ada’s picture of walking in the mountains of Tenerife, I have another mountain scene as guest picture of the day today.  This snowy view from Hoch-Ybrig in Switzerland was sent to me by Dropscone’s niece Hilary, who was skiing there with her family.

Hoch-Ybrig, Switzerland

A click on the pic will spread the picture on a wider scene.

We had a pervasively gloomy day here, a bit warmer but very grey and much windier, not an attractive proposition for cycling or walking.  Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy day with visits to the dentist, the information hub to put up Buccleuch Centre posters and then the Buccleuch Centre itself where she had lunch before doing the front of house for a screening about the Young Picasso.  As she stayed for the screening, I saw very little of her until she came back in time for a cup of tea with me and Mike Tinker who had dropped in later in the day.

While she was out, I tried to avoid walking on my sore foot and passed the time by listening to the radio, doing various puzzles in the paper and of course, watching the birds.

Goldfinches were the flavour of the day.

Sometimes all was calm…

goldfinches quartet

…and at other times it was all go in every direction.

goldfinches coming and going

Occasionally, chaffinches tried to join the fun.

goldfinches and chaffinches

And we have been getting regular visits from collared doves.

doctored collared dove

I used Photoshop to remove a rather messy background from this shot.

I noticed a robin on the arm of the garden chair….

robin on arm of chair

…and then I noticed that there was a robin on the back of the chair…

robin on back of chair

…and then I noticed that there were in fact, two robins, an unusual sight.

two robins

I did have a wander round the garden but there was nothing new to see except a single potential new crocus.

potential crocus

I did pick up a walnut and to my surprise, it was in very good condition and Mike and Mrs T had half each with their cup of tea.

After Mike had left, I got my slow bike out and cycled half a mile round the new town just for sake of getting out of the house.  It had been raining for much of the afternoon, but it had stopped now.  It didn’t make much difference to the gloom though as the clouds were still firmly clamped down over our hills.

clouds over Langholm

A row of ducks were lined up on the edge of the main flow of the river.  They were peering anxiously about and for all the world they looked as though they were waiting for a bus to arrive.

ducks at the waters edge

Since I was having a quiet day in, I got the bread machine to make me some dough and used the result to make 18 rolls.  The bread machine makes a wonderfully elastic dough and the rolls came out well.

bread rools

My flute pupil Luke had missed our Monday meeting because of a cold and although he was hoping to come today, the cold still had him in its grip so we will meet next week instead.  I practised by myself which was no bad thing as I have to work hard to keep up with him as he gets better.

I will get about a bit more tomorrow as I am off to the physio and hope to use the trip to take a picture or two while I am out.

The flying bird of the day is one of those goldfinches, concentrating hard as it comes in to the feeder..

flying goldfinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture, in the absence of any alternative, is another welcome to the sunny shore of Wemyss.  Tony certainly has a grand spot for walking his dogs.

wemyss shore sunny

It was quite frosty here this morning…

frozen plant in garden

…and it stayed below zero all day.  There was very little wind though and the sun was shining when we got up so it seemed like a good day for a walk after breakfast.

Once again, the roads, tracks and paths were miraculously ice free so I walked down one side of the Esk as far as Skippers Bridge and came back on the other side.

I was hoping for some frosty trees but there hadn’t been enough dampness in the air to make for spectacular shots….

dav

…and almost as soon as the sun touched a frosty tree, the ice melted.

murtholm hedge

I didn’t take yet another picture of Skippers Bridge when I got to it but I did enjoy the reflections in the river on the other side on such a still day.

refelctions in esk below skippers (2)

I enjoyed them so much that I took two.

refelctions in esk below skippers

I walked up the banking onto the old railway and made my way home via the old oak wood…

oak wood

…and Hallpath.

I took a lot of pictures without getting any good results but I did end up with freezing hands in spite of having a couple of hand warmers with me.  They are quite old and may have lost a bit of their potency over the years.

When I got home, I had coffee and scones with Dropscone.  His younger daughter lives out in the country and was unable to get to work today as they had serious snow where she lives so we have been lucky with our modest fall.

While we were sipping and chatting, I noticed a brambling in the plum tree…

brambling

…and got quite excited.  It was the only one though and when it didn’t visit the feeder and soon departed, I calmed down again.

The sub zero temperatures had brought more than usual quantities of birds to the plum tree…

many bords in plum tree

…but still nothing like as many as in years gone by.

A blackbird appeared.

blackbird in plum tree

There were enough  birds about to make for stiff competition for perches.

battling chaffinches

While Dropscone and I were refreshing ourselves, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy with the gesso and the horse.  Here you can see her cleaning the eyes after the final coat of gesso had gone on.

dav

Several days will now elapse while the gesso dries and then it will be sanded and the painting will start.  It looks very promising.

dav

When Drospcone left, it was obvious that low mist was coming in over the town so I thought that this might be good moment to get to the top of a hill for a ‘mist in the valley’ photo opportunity.

I would have driven up to the White Yett, as speed is the essence in these situations, but before breakfast, I had taken the car up to the garage for a pre MOT check so it was not available.

Since it was walk or not go, I walked.

I headed for the track up to Warbla, the easiest of our hills to climb.

It was still cold…

frozen seed head

…and there was a mixture of sunshine and mist as I got on to the hill.

tree in fileld winter

Rather alarmingly from a photographic point of view, the mist seemed to be on top of the hills instead of lying above the rivers…

dav

…but I plugged on, propelled by my walking poles.  Although there was still mist above me, I could see blue sky above the mist so I was hopeful….

track up to warbla in mist

…but as I got near the top of the hill, I was still walking into mist instead of looking down on it…

track to warbla in snow

…and when I got there, the top of the communications mast at the summit was only just visible.

mist mast warbla

When I got to the trig point, all I could see below was mist and the photo opportunity was gone.  Still, as a consolation I did see a little mistbow right in front of me.  In fact it was so close that my camera couldn’t take it all in…

dav

…but I have crudely stitched two shots together to give an impression of what I saw.

dav

It was annoying to have no view when the blue sky was so close above my head and I waited in the hope that the mist would drop back into the valley.  I had no such luck and instead, more low cloud rolled in on top of me so I headed back down the hill before I froze solid.

The footing was amazingly secure but any chance of a landscape shot had gone so I had to be content with a sheep on a wall…

sheep on wall

…before I dropped back down the track into the park and home.

coming down in stubholm mist

I was very grateful when Mrs Tootlepedal heated me up a bowl of her fine mixed lentil soup for a late lunch.

My final walk of the day was to fetch the car back from the garage.  It will need a little work before it can pass its MOT so I will have to take it back again next week.

I ended my active day by cycling round to the corner shop to get some fishcakes for my tea.  It was -3°C so I wrapped up well even for this short trip!

The mist had totally enshrouded the town by this time and it was very gloomy so we pulled the curtains and had a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch looking keenly for a place at the table.

flying chaffinch

Note:  I walked five and a half miles today so although my foot, calf and knee are still sore they are obviously not that sore!

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony’s series of perfect weather in East Wemyss.

wemyss view

We were promised good weather by noon and as it was still a bit chilly in the morning, I was more than usually happy to see Dropscone arrive (with traditional Friday treacle scones) for a cup of coffee or two.  I treated him with more than my customary respect as he has had an article printed in our local newspaper this week.  It concerned the great number of shops that there used to be in the town in the days when almost all the money earned in Langholm was spent in Langholm.

After he left, I looked for some bird action on the feeder and although I did catch a robin…

robin on feeder january

…and a coal tit…

coal tit on feeder january

..it was a very quiet day birdwise with only the odd bickering chaffinch to show.

squabbling chaffinches

The temperature crept up to 7°C but sadly the sun did not make its forecast appearance so I had to wrap up well again for my cycle ride.  On the plus side, the wind was very light so I was able to do 33 easy miles, but on the minus side, both the weather and my route were pretty dull so the camera stayed in my back pocket except to take notice of this handsomely decorated concrete bus shelter in Eaglesfield.

bust stop at eaglesfield

The bus shelter is utilitarian and perfectly serviceable without its decoration and Plato may have taken the view that utility is beauty but then he was probably sitting having an ouzo beside the beach in Greece when he thought that and not standing in the cold on a gloomy day in Scotland.  I like the decoration.

The only other picture I took was a colourless view up the River Esk at Irvine House just to show how grey the day was….

esk at irving house

…and I had to wait until I got home to get a glimpse of something more encouraging in the shape of the first daffodil bud of the year.

daffodil showing

Mrs Tootlepedal was working in the garden when I got back and she tells me that she has potted on our Christmas tree into a bigger pot.  It is still getting conditioned to life outside by sitting in the greenhouse for the moment.

There are snowdrops about but to save me crawling about on my hands and knees, I took a picture of two that the gardener has brought into the house.

two snowdrops indoors

It didn’t take long for darkness to fall outside and I settled down to looking at the hymns for church on Sunday while Mrs Tootlepedal made further progress on her crochet blanket.

crochet blanket part two

She has two winter projects ongoing, the blanket for the hours of darkness and refurbishing her childhood rocking horse for the short daylight hours.

She has taken the whole assembly to bits and cleaned, sanded, repaired and varnished the base.  She has fashioned an ingenious method for holding it all tightly together as the glue dries during re-assembly.

rocking horse repairs

You can see the cleaned and sanded horse waiting patiently in the background for its turn to come,  This will involve gesso I am told.

During the day, I did my vocal exercises with the straw and a glass of water a couple of times and I think that they are already having a beneficial effect.  I will persevere.

There was no Friday evening music as my accompanist is still getting treatment for her damaged shoulder which is taking longer to heal than expected.  Still, as I have had five pedals, two tootles and a choir this week, I can’t complain.

I didn’t get a very satisfactory flying bird of the day as what chaffinches there were insisted on approaching the feeder from the wrong direction.  Some birds have no gratitude.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another captured by our son Tony’s new camera, showing that it (and he) can take close ups as well as the larger picture.

oznor

It was bright and chilly when we got up and after breakfast, I went out to look for the lost perch from the feeder.  I found it easily enough and screwed it back in place and then sat back and waited to see some obliging bird land on it.

I waited in vain.

empty feeder

It was a very quiet bird day indeed and I had to look hard to see a single chaffinch in the plum tree.

lonely chaffinch

In the end, I gave up bird watching and had a cup of coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal and then went out bicycling.  The thermometer had scraped up to 5°C but the wind was light so I took a more adventurous route than usual and headed up the road to Bentpath.

This involves a sharp climb at the start of the ride but does provided some excellent views like this favourite, looking towards the Gates of Eden just after the first climb.

gates of eden

Our hills are generally rounded and smooth but there are occasional outcrops and those who know tell me that if I was patient enough, I might see a peregrine falcon on this crag near Bentpath.

crag at benty

I continued on through the village and headed up the Esk valley towards Bailliehill.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of the tree planting tubes which the foresters use to protect deciduous trees when they plant them and I was interested to see how well they do their job.  Almost every tube in this group seemed to have a healthy tree sticking out of it.

new trees in tubes

Conifer forestry was very evident too as I cycled up the river and I took this shot to show the impact that farming has on the view.  Where there is a flat place by the river, a ‘holm’ as it is called round here, there is always a field on it, usually with added sheep….

filed beside esk near king pool

…but where there is no holm , the uncultivated ground runs right down to the river and is often planted with spruce and/or larch.

esk looking back to lyneholm

I took these contrasting two shots from the same spot, looking first up and then down the river.

When I got to the top of the hill at Bailliehill, I turned south to go over the watershed between the Esk and the Water of Milk.

I stopped at a cattle grid for a drink and a banana.

cattle grid

The cattle grids are necessary to keep stock in the right place on unfenced roads and they can fairly rattle your teeth if you go over them too fast.

There were no cattle about today so I didn’t have to worry about bumping into one on the road but I had to keep an eye out for potholes, though the road was in better condition than this view back along it makes it look.

road from bailliehill

Although it looks a bit desolate on the top of the hill, I had not gone more than a mile further before the countryside had changed and I was cycling among pleasant green pastures and there was enough water about to make the Water of Milk recognisably a river in the making.

water of milk

I was able to look across at the Ewe Hill wind farm and check the wind direction.  Happily it showed that I would be helped home by the breeze.

ewes hill windfarm

I left the Water of Milk when I crossed the bridge at Paddockhole….

paddockhole bridge

…and headed back towards Callister Hill and Langholm.

I stopped on the way up Callister at a spot where a good view up towards Winterhope and a chance for a breather on a steep climb are equally welcome.

view from back of callister

I was now looking at the wind farm from the other side.

The last time that I took this route was on a cold and sunny day early last year and on that occasion, I made a choice to extend my trip by taking a diversion from the direct route home, met an ice filled pothole and hit the deck.

Under the circumstances, I thought long and hard about taking another diversion this time but as the temperature was a couple of degrees higher, the roads were drier and my legs were very cheerful, I risked turning off three miles short of Langholm and going over the hill to join the main road at Canonbie, adding ten miles to the journey.

Needless to say, I hadn’t gone far along my diversion before the sun ducked behind some clouds….

looming clouds

…although it was by no means as gloomy as the camera makes out.  All the same, once the sun went in, it felt a lot colder so I didn’t hang about taking any more pictures but pedalled steadily on.

The ride added 35 miles to my skimpy total for January but as I had done the last 15 miles in just under an hour, I was quite satisfied with both the views early on and the pace towards the end.

There were still no birds about in the garden when I got back but the sun came out as soon as the bike was safely put away in the garage and the sky was full of fluffy pink clouds.

fluffy pink cloud

In the absence of interesting birds and garden flowers, I took a picture of the bowl of hyacinths which our friend Liz had given Mrs Tootlepedal at the new year.  They are flourishing.

hyacinth in flower

Although the days are just beginning to get noticeably longer, they are still don’t last very long so I lit the stove in the front room and settled down to putting two of the Carlisle choir songs onto my computer so that I can start learning them.  Learning words and music is a protracted and sometime painful process, full of small steps forward and giant leaps backwards.

The flying bird(s) of the day are the only two chaffinches which approached the feeder when I was looking out of the window before cycling so I feel very lucky to have captured them at all. They have been carefully balanced for gender and left and right tendencies in the pursuit of political correctness.

two flying chaffinches

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Today’s guest picture from my brother Andrew shows the Christmas skating rink in Derby.  These seasonal rinks have become very popular and we passed one in Edinburgh on Thursday.  I would think that skating on a wet day like this would encourage the skaters to stay upright at all costs.

derby skating rink

It was calm and misty when we got up and the goldfinches on the plum tree were outlined against the greyness.

misty godlfinches

Although we are still short of finches, there are larger birds about all the time.  This collared dove seems to have missed out as it came down with two other doves and they made faces at it and flew off.

collared dove

We flew off ourselves, although it was low level flying by bicycle as we went to church for the Sunday Club’s nativity service.  The mist was lying over the town as we got to the river.

sdr

The nativity service was charming so we enjoyed the service although there was not much for the choir to do.

When we got home, more large birds were about in the shape of a small platoon of jackdaws pecking away at the lawn and making holes in it.

jackdaw right foot up

They were putting their best foot forward.

jackdaw left foot up

I was very happy to see a couple of coal tits back collecting sunflower seeds but there was no sign of blue or great tits about.

coal tit

Mike Tinker tells me that they have had blue tits visiting but they have not had a great number of finches at their feeder.

We had moments of action today but the feeder is still going down very slowly.

busy feeder

After a cheese and tomato toastie for my lunch, courtesy of the George Foreman grill, I left the birds to it and spent an hour on my bike.

It was the first day for sometime with little wind and I enjoyed myself by visiting this tree twice, making for a fourteen mile ride.

Wauchope schoolhouse tree

I was extremely pleased to manage 14 miles in just under an hour but even with only a light wind, I found myself getting chilly and losing feeling in my fingers in spite of my warm gloves so I stopped after two turns up the road and went for a walk with Mrs Tootlepedal instead.  We did three bridges.

The hardy hill cattle weren’t feeling the chill and were chomping away on the very top of Castle Hill.

cows on top of Castle Hill

There was plenty of water coming down the Esk…

ripple in river

…and the black headed gulls were back on their posts at the Kilngreen.  A reader has asked what benefit they get from perching on the posts and I had to admit that I have no idea why they like it there.

Maybe it is just that it gives them a good view of the passers by.

gulls on posts

We had a look for dippers or other birds as we paused on the Sawmill Brig but there were none to be seen so I looked at lichen instead.

lichen on Sawmill Brig

We took the new path round the Castleholm and stopped to looked at the pair of noble firs at the corner of the path.  I have tried to find out about these trees.  One of the pair has a lot of these under every new set of needles…

noble fir flowers

…and I think these are the male strobili.  The other tree seems to bear the female cones and few if any male strobili but I don’t know if this is just an accident or a normal thing when there are two trees close together.

We found a cone that was well past its best.

noble for cone

Following Joe’s very fine picture of our daughter standing in a loch which appeared in yesterday’s post, I tried to encourage Mrs Tootlepedal to stand in the middle of the river today so I could try for a similar shot.

She was not enthusiastic and headed for home.

Mrs T stepping out

The cold was settling down on the Castleholm and a fine mist covered the cricket ground as we headed for our final bridge.

mist on cricket pitch

We were pleased to get into the warmth of the house where our one metre high Christmas tree has been decorated by Mrs Tootlepedal.

christmas tree decorated

I like a reflective bauble.

christmas tree baubles

We discovered that we had missed the delivery of our Christmas fare from the butcher while we were out.  I had got muddled and thought it was due tomorrow.  We were rather alarmed by the thought of just plain bread and butter for Christmas dinner but fortunately a phone call caught the driver before he had left the town and the situation was saved.

Sandra's woodpeckerIn answer to my question as to whether other local bird feeders were short of birds, I was sent this picture of a visitor to her feeder by Sandra who lives on the edge of town and gets regular visits from nuthatchesand the woodpeckers.

Another reader from the country tells me that that they too are getting woodpeckers and nuthatches, while a correspondent from Canonbie says that they have been short of birds this last week.  It seems that though there are plenty of bigger birds about, finches have seriously dropped in numbers for the moment at least.

 

I did manage to find some goldfinches on our feeder today and here is one of them as flying bird of the day.

flying goldfinch

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