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Posts Tagged ‘siskin’

Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Ada who was walking along the road to Newcastelton when she saw a very unusual bird at rest on the Langholm moor.  It was there as part of the works on maintaining our pylons.

helicopter at pylon

Our run of grey but dry days under a ridge of high pressure came to an end today as low pressure swept in, and we got a grey but very wet morning instead.

Luckily I was in church singing in the choir while the worst of the rain was on, but unluckily by the time that the sun came out in the afternoon, we were on our way to Carlisle to sing with our Carlisle choir so we couldn’t make much use of it.

Mrs Tootlepedal did get a moment or two to do some gardening after the rain stopped but it was still pretty wet…

drops on the line

…though we were very excited by this.

first daffodil bud

The changeable weather is forecast to bring frost tonight so we may have to wait a bit more until the flower opens.

I didn’t take part in the Great Garden Birdwatch this year as there are too few birds about to make spending an hour looking at not much at all a very attractive use of time.  I know that an absence of birds might as interesting to researchers as a lot of different species but it is not interesting to the onlooker.

After I had made my my mind up not to take part, a few birds appeared just to annoy me.

I haven’t seen a blackbird for a few days but today…

male blackbird

…I saw two…

female blackbird

…and the robin arrived as well.

robin

After another very slow start, a few birds began to trickle down to the feeder around the middle of the day. It was siskin time, with first these two….

two siskins

…and then two more…

four siskins

… and finally a competition for perches.

five siskins

A lone chaffinch tried to get into the action but the siskins were having none of that.

chaffinch warned off by siskin

Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree is very good value and I often see birds waiting to come to the feeder taking advantage of its nailed on branches.

siskin on fake tree

After lunch, we went off to Carlisle and had a most enjoyable sing with our choir.  Ellen, our musical director, is mixing up new songs to be learned with putting a bit of polish on more familiar tunes so we are getting a good mixture.

Ellen was telling me that she had to wait for two and a half hours in the emergency lane of a busy motorway last week until the breakdown man arrived to help her after a tyre blowout.  As anyone who has had to use the emergency lane of a motorway will know, this is not a happy experience, so we were pleased that she had managed to get down safely this week.

As an iced bun fell into my shopping bag when we stopped for supplies on the way home, a day which had started out looking very miserable, finished pretty well.  Especially as there were three other iced buns in the same packet.

A female siskin appears as the flying bird of the day.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who noticed these sculptures of  full stop on a recent visit to the South Bank of the Thames.

full stop sculpture

Our day looked like this when I got up…

burst

…but it had become rather cloudy by the time that we got to church….

sunday cloud

…and it had disappeared entirely by the time that we got out.

sunday mist

Rather disappointingly, the foggy conditions remained in place for the rest of the day and the temperature hardly rose above freezing.

At the church, the minister remarked during his sermon that it might be a good idea to pray for the church choir.  We didn’t entirely know how to take this.

When we had got back from church and a cup of coffee had found a good home, I set out for a short misty walk with the intention of taking some moody pictures.  This plan would have gone better if I had put a card in my camera.

The short walk became a very short walk and I arrived home in a disgruntled mood which was not helped by the continuing absence of birds at the feeder.

quiet feeder

However, on this occasion things did improve, and a couple of minutes later the first birds of the day arrived…

feeder visitors

…and it was not long…

busy feeder

…until enough had arrived to cause queues to form.

chaffinch queueing

There was soon quite a rush…

goldfmnch queueing

…and even a hint of arguments developing….

siskin and chaffinch

…but the rush soon evaporated and a few lonely chaffinches were left…

hanging on by toenails

…practising landings.

chaffinch nearly landinf

Still, the thing about chaffinches is that they like spreading their wings and thus make good subjects for a feeder photographer.

four chaffinch anel;

After lunch, we went off through the chilly mist to Carlisle for the weekly meeting of our Carlisle choir.  At one stage the mist threatened to become thick fog but it relented and by the time we got to Carlisle, it was brighter and there was no mist.

Our musical director had suffered a tyre blow-out on the motorway in Glasgow on her way to lead the practice.  She hadn’t come to any harm but was unable to get to us so our accompanist took the task on, playing and conducting simultaneously with great verve.

We worked hard for her and as a result, we had a most enjoyable sing.

I was a bit worried that we might have to face freezing fog on the way home but although the temperature was hovering around zero, there was only one small patch of mist and the drive back was not too bad at all.

We are going away tomorrow for a few days to visit Evie, our younger granddaughter, so posts will be potluck from the phone.

In the meantime, I was happy to find a genuine flying bird of the day today, even though the misty conditions didn’t let me get a crisp picture.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my fellow veteran cyclist Paul.  He likes the Lake District and visited this very fine looking vegetable garden at Lingholm in the summer a couple of years ago.

veg garden Lingholm

It was much calmer when we got up than we had feared it might be, and it soon became apparent that the storm had passed us by.  In fact, I was just thinking that I perhaps ought to have gone for an early cycle ride rather than inviting Sandy round for coffee when a sudden very heavy shower persuaded me that I had made the right decision.

The shower had stopped by the time that Sandy came and we had a pleasant chat over coffee and biscuits.  It started to rain again just as he left and it kept raining, with occasional  short breaks, for the rest of the daylight hours.  I stayed indoors.

The birds didn’t like the weather much and there was no sign of them until a small flock of goldfinches suddenly settled in the walnut tree around midday.

goldfinches in walnut

Even then they were reluctant to come to the feeder and it took a couple of minutes until the first one flew down.

goldfinch in rain

But it soon got onto the feeder…

goldfinchon feeder in rain

…and within another minute, it was all action…

busy feeder in rain

…with queues.

busy feeder and pole

It was still a miserable day though.

siskin in rain

I made some soup for lunch and then spent a happy afternoon at my computer  transposing some trios down a fourth to suit a different set of recorders.

The reason for the transposition was that that one of the usual recorder quartet was poorly and there were only three of us at our monthly tootle tonight.  With due respect for the missing member, it was quite a treat to play some different music and the three of us had a most enjoyable time.  As a result, it didn’t feel like a wasted day in spite of the rain.

All the same, we are badly in need of a spell of settled reasonable weather.  Sadly, the forecast is for more changeable windy and wet weather so I don’t know when another cycle ride will take place.  I just can’t summon up much enthusiasm for cycling when it is cold, wet and windy.

I hope to squeeze a walk in between showers tomorrow.

I did manage to catch a rather gloomy goldfinch as flying bird of the day.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo in Manitoba.  She was unimpressed by my flimsy  footwear in a recent picture on the blog and sent me this shot of real boot quality in her latest pair.

Mary Jo's socks

The ‘wet day’ marmalade which I made yesterday has set well, and this morning I put the caps on the jars and used some rather fancy labels.

2020 marmalade

(My handwriting was never good and has got steadily worse with the advent of keyboards and computers.)

The day was remarkably calm after yesterday’s strong winds and I was able to stroll down to sing with the church choir wearing a light jacket and a cheerful smile.  The hymns were a mixed bunch with an African tune, a Jewish melody and some old faithfuls and we had an enjoyable sing.  After a quiet time, we are going to start singing introits and anthems again so we had a practice after the service.  We were ready for coffee when we got home.

The birds were in no hurry to come to the feeder today but the walnut was playing host to jackdaws.  Jackdaws pair for life and we often see pairs of them sitting and chatting amiably among the branches of the tree.

jackdaw pair

As the welcome sun came round to the feeder, some dunnocks appeared on the ground..

dunnock

…and a pigeon landed on the electricity wire above…

pigeon on wire

…and finally a redpoll actually came and ate some seed.

redpoll on feeder

A siskin arrived too….

sisking on feeder

…but it was a very quiet morning for bird activity.  A small heap of feathers on the lawn showed that a sparrowhawk had visited earlier in the day so that possibly explained the lack of visitors.

I was pleased to see that our robin had not been the victim.

robin on wire

After our coffee, we took a quick walk round the garden.  We were delighted to see the first signs of snowdrops.

first snowdrop

We have occasionally seen them fully out by this time, so I hope it will not be long before a flower appears.

We left the garden and headed out for a visit to the river.  The rivers had fallen a lot since Gavin took his picture yesterday…

new course of wauchope

…and the Esk looked very calm…

Esk after flood

…but the lines of leaves on the bank showed just how near the road the river had been at its height.

tide mark esk after flood

It had brought down a good load of sand and gravel with it and this has blocked off the flow of the Wauchope through the second arch as it comes under the Kirk Bridge.

sandbank at mouth of wauchope

We crossed the suspension bridge and walked down the river towards Skippers Bridge.

Because we go to Carlisle for our other choir on a Sunday afternoon, we didn’t have a lot of time to spare.  Mrs Tootlepedal kept up a brisk pace and I only took a  few pictures as we went along.

The heavy rain had left fungus on a bench and lichen on a fence untouched….

fungus and lichen waterside

…but the river was high enough and the rocks slippery enough to make me think that a glimpse of Skippers Bridge through the trees was probably as close as it was sensible to get today.

skippers through trees

Although it was now a lovely day and it wasn’t much after midday, the long shadows across the field at the Murtholm reminded us that there is still a lot of winter to go.

murtholm winter shadows

And the reflective fence posts recalled yesterday’s rain.

fence post relections

It is curious that the left and right fence posts are reflected straight up and down but the centre post is at a marked angle.

The forecast for the next couple of days is appalling, with a named storm coming our way but today really was the calm before the storm.  It was a lovely day for a walk.

view of timpen january

As we walked along the Stubholm track, we passed some fine trees.  Mrs Tootlepedal gives a sense of scale to this one.

big tree at stubholm

The walk finished with a quick look at fungus and lichen on trees and walls round the park.

four lichens park wall

After a light lunch we added a useful visit to the recycling facilities in Longtown on the way to the Carlisle choir.

As we drove down, we were able to listen to the edition of Gardener’s Question Time on BBC Radio 4 which had been recorded last month in the Buccleuch Centre.  Among others, they used my question on the show so now I am famous.

The question asked for suggestions for flowers which the panel thought might make good photographic subjects.  Mrs Tootlepedal has taken up one of the recommendations and if all goes well, you will be able to see the results in the blog in the course of time.  I am not going to say what it is.  It will be a surprise.

At the choir, we found that yet another tenor had come to sing with us. That made three new members in two weeks.  The hard work of the committee in trying to attract new men to the choir seems to have paid off.

We had a very hard working practice, with three new songs to learn.  Fortunately our choir director was in fine form and she drove us along at a good pace so we got a lot done.

The weather stayed good for our drive home and as we weren’t in the mood for heavy cooking, we had boiled eggs with soldiers for our tea.  As good as a feast any day.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Sydney correspondent Stephen.  As he came out of the Sydney Opera House after a performance of Carmen yesterday, he saw this striking tribute to the many volunteer firemen who have been battling the blazes in Australia.

sydney opera house firefighters

After a restless night disturbed by strong wind and heavy rain,  we got up to a continuing gale and more rain.

It was so dark at midday that this was the best that the camera could do when peering out of the window.  The fact that the feeder was swaying madly didn’t help.

siskin in gale

It was a day fit for nothing outside but perfect for making marmalade indoors.

I made marmalade.  If it turns out well, a picture may follow tomorrow.

The wind calmed down as the afternoon went on and the light improved enough to enable the camera to get a glimpse of some hardy birds who had defied the conditions and made it to the feeder.

feeder afetr gale

But making marmalade is a lengthy business so I wasn’t bored.

Our friend Gavin ventured out while there was still some light and took this picture of the Wauchope Water just sneaking under the Kirk Brig to join the Esk.

gavin's wauchope in flood

Luckily, the rivers didn’t get any higher than this and the rain stopped in the evening.

Mrs Tootlepedal made an excellent fry up of black pudding, liver, mushrooms and tomatoes with a side order of mashed potato for our tea, a suitably cheerful meal for a rotten day.

And then the day got better.

It was warm and dry as we walked along the road to the Buccleuch Centre for our annual treat, the appearance of the RNSO, Scotland’s national orchestra.  This is not some mini outreach programme  for the provinces but the full orchestra of 60 players on the last leg of their national (Perth, Inverness, Dumfermline, Langholm) new year tour with a Viennese Gala.

RNSO 2020

You can take it from me that getting to hear a 60 piece symphony orchestra in a packed 300 seater hall  is quite something and I sat in the back row beside Mrs Tootlepedal with tears of joy running down my cheeks as they played Suppé’s Overture to Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna to get the concert rolling.

And roll on the concert did, with popular orchestral favourites interspersed with songs from the Richard Tauber repertoire sung by a very pleasing tenor.  As he sang “You are my heart’s delight” while I was sitting beside Mrs Tootlepedal, the programming couldn’t have been better planned.

Tinayi Lu, the conductor, took some of the pieces along at such a speed that you feared that the whole hall might explode with the accumulated energy generated.  I am not a great fan of the modern tendency to play everything as fast as possible but the acoustic in the Buccleuch Hall is so clean that you can hear every note no matter how fast they are played.  And it was decidedly exciting.

She also introduced the audience to an ingenious Chinese pun and a very delightful musical dialogue between Chinese  tunes and western orchestral style by a composer called Bao Yuankai.

By the time that we came out of the concert and strolled home, the terrible weather of the day was just a fading memory and all was peace and harmony.

No flying bird of the day today for obvious reasons but I wonder if this goldfinch was as happy as we were by the end of the day.

soggy goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s recent musical outing.  As well as singing with sackbuts, she saw an angel playing a trumpet.

venetia's weathervane

We are strictly rationed to only one fine day at a time at the moment, so it was no surprise to wake to a very gloomy morning with additional drizzle today after yesterday’s sunshine.

For some reason (Mrs Tootlepedal suggests that it may have to do with too many birthdays) I was a bit tired and took a long time after breakfast in my dressing gown to get up, make coffee and visit the corner shop.

I had hoped to go for a walk in the late morning and give my new coat an airing but the drizzle was of that particularly depressing kind which discourages enterprise.  I stayed in and spent time sorting music for church and Carlisle choirs tomorrow.

And occasionally looking at the birds.

We are not getting a lot of birds at all which is concerning.  I see that I was complaining about the lack of winter birds last year too so it is not just a passing phenomenon.  There were some birds today, goldfinches, siskins and chaffinches.

three birds on feeder

The light was poor and I had a struggle trying to get a flying bird of the day, though I thought that this effort was pleasingly reminiscent of Woodstock, the bird in the Peanuts cartoon strip

diving goldfinch

For a decent flying bird, I need to to have enough birds so that queues form for the perches.  When there are vacant perches, as was the case today, the birds arrive very quickly and I was usually too late…

rising goldfinch

…and the birds had got too close to the feeder.

nearly flying goldfinch

The drizzle eased off and I had a look round the garden for signs of life.

new growth

There is still plenty of potential leek soup out there.  Mrs Tootlepedal tries to keep exposed soil well mulched over the winter.

old leeks

She had used her new vegetable chopping device to help make some very tasty vegetable soup for lunch and after I had enjoyed eating some with bread and cheese, I went out for a cycle ride.  It had stopped raining completely by this time.

The wind hadn’t stopped blowing though and I found the first few miles straight in to the breeze very hard work.  I sensibly turned off and with the wind now across and slightly behind, I pedalled happily across the hill and down into the Esk valley.

The wind was in the perfect direction and helped back up the hill into Langholm.  It was very gloomy and I only stopped once to add another tree to my collection.

tree

Once I got home, I felt that I had done enough for the day and passed from afternoon tea and the last of the Christmas cake into an evening meal of fishcakes and broccoli without noticeably moving at all.

Because of the lack of sunshine and photographs today, I am going to break with tradition and use a photograph from yesterday which escaped from my filing system to fill out today’s post.  This was the sky at dawn.

sunset

We are going to London in a couple of weeks and I booked the railway tickets today.  The route has recently been transferred from one operator to another, and although I had received a reassuring email from the new operators saying that the changeover would be seamless as far as booking went, I feared the worst.  Oh ye of little faith!  Everything went perfectly smoothly and the tickets are booked.  This is not the same company that runs the Lockerbie train.

I gave up on goldfinches for the flying bird of the day and  looked to the heavens to catch a jackdaw in the walnut tree instead.

flying jackdaw

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Today’s guest picture comes from Langholm exile in Canada, Joyce. She was greeted by this scene on New Year’s Eve. There will be shovelling.

canada new year

The new year here came in with clouds but no rain and no frost, so all was well set for the ‘Whisky Run’, a long standing Ne’erday event in Langholm, organised by our friends Mike and Alison with the help of their friend Charlie. It is an informal event for runners and walkers where what is important is not when you start, but when you finish. You can start whenever you like but you must try to finish at the Market Place as near to 11am as possible.

Leaving her decision to the very last minute, Mrs Tootlepedal decided that she would walk the eight mile long route and left the house at 8.25 just as it became light enough to walk safely on public roads.

I gave her a quarter of an hour start and followed.

It was as good a day for walking as you could reasonably expect on the first of January, with a light wind and generally ice free roads, but it wasn’t a great day for taking photographs early in the morning.

I also didn’t want to waste too much time stopping for snapping as I thought I might need all my time to get to the end punctually. I did stop once or twice though.

The walk starts with a stiff climb so I was probably happy to have an excuse for a breather when I had got over the first hill.

gill near craigcleuch

It was misty in the valley below me as I walked down towards the Burnfoot Bridge over the Esk.

esk at craig

I noticed a couple of horses in a field beside the road near…

ponies at craig

…the racehorse training establishment.

racetrack at craig

Passing the training track, I came to the Burnfoot Bridge, and having crossed it…

burnfoot bridge

…I plodded up the second long hill of the walk, looking back down the misty valley which had been my outward route.

mist on langholm road

At the top of the hill, I noted the cottage at Henwell which always strikes me as being a perfect example of a borders hill farm cottage.

cottage at henwell

The road took me past a small quarry which was full of cows, and I wondered if they had been stashed there by Border reivers.

cattle at henwell
I approached the Gates of Eden, which I have often photographed on more sunny days from across the valley..

gates of eden spetember

The Gates in September earlier in 2019

…though they didn’t look quite so inviting today.

gates of eden henwell

I wasn’t going to go through the gates anyway as our route took us to the right at the spot where you can see a white van in the picture above.

From there, it was straight back to Langholm with a slight kink at Potholm farm to make a detour round a bridge which got washed away some years ago.

I passed Mrs Tootlepedal at Potholm. She was making good progress and listening to the radio on her phone as she went along.

I had been walking without passing or being passed up to this point but from then on in, I caught up with other walkers…

langfauld walkers

…and was passed by eager runners. I arrived at the Market Place at five to eleven and Mrs Tootlepedal followed me in at five past, so we were both pretty happy with the timing of our efforts. The eight miles was our longest walking outing for a couple of years.

The runners and walkers gathered in the square for New Year greetings, tots of whisky, the prize presentation and a group photo. This was the last year that Mike, Alison and Charlie were going to organise the event so it is to be hoped that some others will take on the task next year as it makes a cheerful start to the year…

…especially as the Town Band always arrives to play in the Market Place while the runners are there.

town band new year

Mrs Tootlepedal and I made our way home, and on the way, we met our neighbours Liz and Ken who came in with us to enjoy a cup of coffee with a tot of whisky added and a seasonal piece of shortbread.

Ken has had many medical troubles this year but between visits to the doctor, he has somehow managed to squeeze in over 6000 cycling miles this year. Memo to self: must try harder.

When they left, I watched the birds for a bit.

I was happy to see a redpoll chatting to a siskin on the plum tree….

redpoll and siskin

…and took the fuzzy picture because it is an unusual sight. It does show how similar on size and build redpolls and siskins are.

At the feeder, one chaffinch leaned round the corner and gave another chaffinch a really nasty shock when it approached.

astonished flying chaffinch

A collared dove looked down from above.

collared dove

And Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out the walnut tree was dripping with big black birds.

jackdaws in walnut

Over coffee, Ken had told me that he had cycled thirty miles yesterday in very low temperatures while I had been walking up my hill, so I thought that I ought to at least make an effort in slightly milder conditions today and went for a 16 mile ride up and back down the main road after lunch.

I didn’t stop to take photographs as it was still very grey and I wanted to get home before the light faded. The only picture I took was the old toll house at Fiddleton. I had stopped there anyway as that was where I turned to come home.

Thanks to a kindly wind which helped me up the hill and didn’t make too much of a nuisance of itself on the way back down, I averaged just under 14 mph. This was a promising start to my 2020 cycling year.

fiddleton toll

Strangely, neither Mrs Tootlepedal or I was fit for a great deal in the late afternoon and evening so it was lucky that the Magnificent Seven was available on the telly to remind us of the days of our youth. It stands up remarkably well to the test of time and still has some of the coolest film moments that I can recall.

I would practise that gunfighter’s walk if my knees didn’t creak so much.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, doubtless the first of many in 2020.
flying chaffinch

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