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Posts Tagged ‘siskin’

Today’s guest picture was taken by my friend Gavin’s son Fraser when Gavin went to Yosemite with him.  I gather that you may have to knock other photographers out of the way to take this stunning view.

Yosemite

We had another day of mostly sunny weather but with an even stronger and colder north wind than yesterday so we were not as appreciative of the sunshine as we might have been.  The clear skies had brought low temperatures which had done a bit of damage to tulips and azalea alike.

frost damage

I have been rushing about a bit lately so I had decided that this would be a day of mainly doing nothing.  This gave me the opportunity to take a few bird pictures and see if I had learned anything from last night’s camera club meeting.  I tried to get some slightly sharper flying shots.

flying siskin

flying chaffinch

flying goldfinch

…with variable success but with enough progress to keep me trying.  For some reason, the flying birds went better than a sitting redpoll.

redpoll

In this way, I passed a leisurely morning though the sunshine got me out into the garden for long enough to do some dead heading of daffodils and mowing of the greenhouse grass.  It is very satisfying to find myself throwing the dead headed daffs into a sparkling new compost bin.

After lunch, the lure of the sunshine drew me out for a walk.  I took a fixed lens pocket camera with me in an effort to take some better quality pictures here too.

I was a bit handicapped though by the changeable conditions.  I was just heading up past the golf course and this stunning garden escape…

berberis

…with a view to going up on to the hill for some expansive views when the wind became even gustier, the temperature dropped and it started to sleet with a vengeance.

Luckily there was a handy tree under which I was able to shelter until the shower had passed.

The open hill had somehow lost its attraction so I headed down Drove Road (so called because it allowed those driving livestock through the town to avoid the toll bars in times past) and waited for the sun to come out again.

It didn’t take long to arrive and I walked along a picturesque path….

Lamb Hill gate

(I was looking for black and white opportunities but the colours were so delightful that I didn’t find any)

Lamb Hill path

(See what I mean?)

Lamb Hill path

…..until I came to the hill road and walked down that to the main road and set off away from the town towards the High Mill Brig.  I had to cross this handsome little bridge under the main road at Whitshiels….

Whitshiels Bridge

…before getting to the High Mill Brig…

High Mill Brig

…which became a subject for experiment later on.

I crossed the bridge when I came to it and took the path above the fields on the other side of the river to get back to the town.

Ewes valley

Click (if you want) to get the bigger picture as I looked back down towards the Ewes Water

The path was dry underfoot and had several high quality gates along it…

Pathhead gate

 

…but the brisk wind blew the next sleet and hail shower along before I had got to the end of it.  Once again I was lucky to find a suitable tree to hide under and although i could have done with a few more leaves on the bare branches to shelter me from the storm, it kept me dry enough to enjoy the rest of the walk home when the sharp sleety shower had passed.

I passed the old Episcopal Church….

Episcopal Church

…and waited in vain for a sight of nuthatches before giving up and heading for home before the next shower came.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy day today, helping at the Buccleuch Centre both at lunchtime and in the evening as well as doing a lot of gardening and some preparation for interior decoration.    She showed me a gardening disaster when I got back from my walk.  The Ballerina tulips had suffered badly from the morning cold which had attacked their stalks just below the flowers so many of them had lost their heads entirely…

Ballerina tulip.

…and ended up in a bowl in the kitchen.  This was a tragedy as they had looked at their best yesterday evening.

Mrs Tootlepedal has put in a request for less fighting birds and more peaceful scenes of perching so I got the camera out again and had another go.  I filled the feeders and the wind immediately blew the lid of one of them open which gave an opportunity to an enterprising pair of birds.

redpoll and siskin

Other birds waited in the plum tree, swaying about  in the brisk breeze…

chaffinch

…and the flying bird of the day is a pair of matching perching redpolls (who had been flying earlier).

redpolls

I completely failed in my effort to to take fewer but better pictures today.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew’s walk up Blencathra last week.  He got this splendid view of the Lake District as he climbed.

Lake view

We were promised a chilly day with a brisk north wind and we got it.  Luckily we got some very bright and cheerful sunshine for most of the day so as long as you were out of the wind, life was sweet.

I was out of the wind for two hours in the morning but out of the sunshine too as I was sitting in the Welcome to Langholm office, catching up on putting the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive Group database (now at over 80,000 entries).  I did welcome the occasional visitor too so it was time well spent.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden when I got back and I had a look at the azalea, which has survived a couple of chilly mornings very well….

azalea

…and one of the developing fantastical tulips….

parrot tulip

…which is unfolding very slowly.  I just hope that another chilly night tonight won’t discourage it entirely.

I went in and made some sweet potato soup for lunch and then ate it.  While the soup was cooking, I watched some appalling behaviour outside.

goldfinch and siskin

Shouting and kicking. The siskin toppled the goldfinch off the perch.

goldfinch and siskin

But another goldfinch soon returned the compliment.

It was too windy for an enjoyable cycle ride so I went for a walk with nuthatches in mind.  Sadly the nuthatches didn’t have me in mind at all and were conspicuous by their absence.  I was cheered up though by the appearance of the running rails for the Castleholm horse racing track which have appeared…

Horse racing rails

…and are waiting to be erected.

Having failed with the nuthatches, I thought that I might have a look for a dipper at the Sawmill Brig and this time, I was luckier.  It wasn’t plain sailing though as the dipper was living up to it’s name…

dipper

…but it did pause for a breather on a rock once or twice.

dipper

The rock was a bit too far away for a good shot but I had a lot of fun watching the dipper dipping.

Further downstream, after pausing for a cold ice cream from the Kilngreen van, I crossed the town bridge….

The Esk from Langholm Bridge

…..and was entertained by birds flying rather than swimming.

Large numbers of swallows and martins were swooping up and down the river.  I panned the camera vigorously in trying to get a shot or two of them in the air as they passed me and an interested onlooker might well have thought that my underwear was on fire as I twisted and turned violently.

swallows and martins

You have to be really lucky or skillful to get a good picture  of a flying swallow!  I did my best.

An oyster catcher was a more available target for my lens.

Oyster catcher

I walked on down the river, stopping to admire the cherry blossom….

cherry blossom

….and crossed the Kirk Brig and walked through the park and then along the river through the woods.

As I went along, the plaintive quacking of a duck could be heard.

duck and duckling

There were half a dozen tiny ducklings scooting about in all directions paying no attention to the quacking duck.  I wondered if something had frightened them.

I wasn’t really looking for ducks though. My target was early bluebells…

bluebell

…on the banks above the river.  I found some.

bluebells

They are not fully out yet but there were enough to make a pretty picture or two….

bluebells

…or three.

bluebells

I was rather surprised to find that I was walking in broad sunshine and light snow at the same time as I went along the Stubholm track but the snow faded away and the sunshine persisted so I continued my stroll by going along Gaskell’s walk.

In spite of the cold wind and the flurry of snow, it felt like spring in the sunshine.

Gaskells in spring

blackthorn

The countryside is definitely beginning to look greener now…

Meikleholm hill

…and my walk was very green.

Gaskells in spring

The bare trees will soon be covered.

tree

I got home and then immediately went out to collect our car from the garage where it had been serviced.  To my relief, no major faults were reported and I drove it home in a good frame of mind.

I got home in good time because not long afterwards, I looked out of the window and a snowstorm was raging.  Luckily, it was a storm in a teacup and was soon past.

My flute pupil Luke came and improved the day even more as he worked very hard and listened very carefully.  I am expecting good progress over the next month or so.

In the evening, I rounded the day off with a meeting of the Langholm Camera Club where we were treated to a very interesting demonstration of photo editing techniques by an ex professional photographer who has recently joined out group. He had much sound advice to impart and I only hope that I will be able to take it on board and improve my pictures.

I often put not very good pictures on the blog just to show things that I have seen rather than for the quality of the photographs but there is no doubt that I should set myself some targets to improve the quality of shots where I do have time to worry about settings and  composition.  I hope that readers will see the results in time.

The flying bird of the day is a study in yellow.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew, who was at the sea side in Morecambe yesterday.  He was lucky enough to find the sea at home.

MorecambeThe forecasters promised us a coolish day with light winds and no rain and they got it exactly right.  There was a light frost when we woke up which caused the tulips to hang their heads in distress but didn’t appear to actually finish any plants off completely.

The chill meant that I was in no hurry to get out on my bicycle and in the end, I waited until eleven o’clock before the temperature crept up to 7.5°C and then I went out.

The sun was out and it shone on the siskins…

siskin

One wisely leaving before being awarded the order of the boot from another

…who were in a rather factious mood…

siskins

More evasive action

…but for all its cheerful brightness, it wasn’t doing much to heat the day up.

For a change, I decided to leave the town following the road up the Esk  rather than my usual route up the Wauchope.  This does involve a couple of quite sharp but short climbs as soon as you leave the town and as I am not supposed to cycle up too many steep hills with my new tin knee, I use this route sparingly.

I took it very gently though and arrived at Eskdalemuir in good order.

Bridge over the Esk

The bridge over the Esk there is guarded by many power lines and poles

I could hardly hear myself think because of the insistent baa-ing of sheep and lambs in the field beside the river.

Eskdalemuir lambs

The thrifty people who built the church at Eskdalemuir in the early nineteenth century didn’t waste any money on frivolous ornamentation.

Eskdalemuir church

I was in expansive mood though and popped into the cafe at the Eskdalemuir Hub in the old school for a cup of coffee and a slice of lemon drizzle cake.  This gave me enough strength to head out over the hills to Lockerbie.  The route elevation….

garmin route 18 April 2017 elevation

…shows that the first part of my journey was quite hilly and annoyingly having climbed up a long hill to get to 900 feet before Eskdalemuir, it immediately drops sharply before leaving me with another climb of 400 feet or more to get back to 950 feet, the highest point of the trip.  These are not like Tour de France climbs but then I am not like a Tour de France climber and they were quite steep enough for me.

Once over the undulating plateau between Eskdalemuir and Boreland, there is some welcome down hill and the rest of the journey bobbed up and down over very gentle country.

Not all of our handsome stone bridges have survived modern traffic and this one over the Dryfe Water…

Dryfe Water bridge

…was so battered by a passing lorry that they gave up and put in a metal trough.

Once I was through Lockerbie, I was on the old main road south, now bypassed by a new motorway.  This is quite a dull road but it was brightened up a lot in places by a fringe of dandelions.

dandelions verge

It has a useful cycle lane on each side of the road.

I stopped to eat an egg roll near Eaglesfield and was reminded that this has been a busy place for many years.  In the foreground is a bridge over the Carlisle to Glasgow motorway and the flat topped hill in the background….

motorway and roman camp

…..was home not just to  a Roman camp but an Iron Age fort as well.

I didn’t stop for many pictures as the day had become quite dull and I needed to keep my mind on my cycling rather than looking for wild flowers in the verge.

In the end, I needed to go through the town for a mile and then back again to ring up exactly 60 miles on the computer as I swung into our drive.

I had enough energy left to walk round the garden and check that the frost hadn’t done too much damage.

hellebore, dicentra and dogwood

It hadn’t.

tulip, lamium and wallflower

One of the Euphorbias deserved a picture all to itself I thought.

euphorbia

There is no frost in the forecast for the next few days so perhaps we have escaped very lightly.

I filled up the feeders and in no time the siskins were back, taking every perch at both of  the feeders but behaving very sedately this time.

siskins

It was the goldfinches that had taken on the role of hooligans…

goldfinch kicking siskin

…though the siskins were not going quietly into the night.

goldfinch facing up to siskin

I was pleased to see a couple of redpolls keeping calm amongst the mayhem.

redpolls

I had time for a shower and then we welcomed my younger brother and oldest sister to the house.  They are spending a few days in the Lake District and came up to have a meal with us in the Douglas Hotel.  The meal and the conversation were both very good value and the evening was a great delight.

We arranged to see them again in the south in July and September.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

goldfinch

Those interested can find details of my cycle ride by clicking on the map below.

garmin route 18 April 2017

It was a pity that the sun didn’t last for very long.

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Today’s guest  photograph comes from Dropscone who is on holiday in Skye.  He managed to take a rather clever picture of himself taking a picture of a rainbow.

Dropscone

After yesterday’s dull, drizzly day following a good forecast, we had a sunny, bright day today following a very gloomy forecast of frequent showers.  The general forecasts remain pretty sound but the detailed local forecasts are sometimes rather ropey.

Still, we were very grateful for a good day.

I took a couple of pictures of the effects of yesterday’s rain…

lupin and pulsatilla

A lupin holding a watery diamond and a battered pulsatilla

…and set off to cycle round my 20 mile Canonbie circle.   Although the temperature was in single figures and the sun wasn’t out, the lack of wind made it feel quite pleasant for cycling and I went round at a good speed. Since I wasn’t having to battle the breeze, I was much more in the mood to stop and take pictures so I paused for a primrose, waited for a wood anemone, dawdled for a dandelion and ran out of alliteration for a bluebell.

primrose, wood anemone, dandelion, bluebell

The dandelions and anemones were out in force near Canonbie.

anemones and dandelions

I stopped on the Hollows Bridge to show that the trees are getting a welcome green tinge.

Hollows Bridge

By the time that I got home, the sun had come out so I mowed the middle and front lawns and took a lot of flower pictures.

violet, bergenia, pulmonaria and fritillary

Dog tooth violet, bergenia, pulmonaria and fritillary

berberis, wallflower, hellebore and tulip

berberis, wallflower, hellebore and tulip

tulip waving goodbye

Tulip dead heading will shortly be required

There were quite a few bees to be heard and I was very pleased to see some of them at work on the plum tree….

tulip waving goodbye

…though the forecast of a frost tonight might be too much for the blossoms.

I think that the tadpoles are far enough on to survive a cold night.

chaffinches

It was such a nice spring day by this time, although still not as warm as it should be on a sunny day in April, that I went into the house and took three shots of the garden from upstairs windows.

The front beds, the front lawn and the pond (on the right)

The front beds, the front lawn and the pond (on the right)

The plum tree, the middle lawn and the biggest flower beds

The plum tree, the middle lawn and the biggest flower beds (and a glimpse pf the gardener).

The vegetable garden and the compost bins

The vegetable garden and the compost bins

This doesn’t show the beds along the front of the house and the small area to the right of the greenhouse.

The birds were pleased when I filled the feeders before I went cycling and by the time that I got back they had got the level well down again.

chaffinches

We wanted to do some shopping at Gretna so we took advantage of the continuing sunshine by packing the bikes into the car after lunch and going for a cycle ride before we did the shopping.

The advantage of cycling from Gretna from Mrs Tootlepedal’s point of view in particular is that the roads are mostly flat but this didn’t mean that we had a dull outing.

Todhills horses

Bridge of trees at Todhills

Mrs Tootlepedal passing under an arch of trees

We went south from Gretna and cycled round a 12 mile loop that took us through Rockliffe.  After passing through the village, we took advantage of a rough track to cycle down to the bank of the river Eden.  We were able to look back at the church where we took a walk a week or so ago.

Rockcliffe church

Which ever way we looked, up or down the river, the view was delightful.

River Eden

Up river

River Eden

Down river

And the bank itself was covered with a lovely little wood.

Rockcliffe wood

We were a bit alarmed by some very black clouds ahead of us as we cycled back to Gretna but they passed over to the north before we got back to the car and we enjoyed an excellent cycle ride.

The 12 miles had given us an appetite so a cup of coffee and a cake was necessary before we completed some satisfactory shopping.  (Slippers were the main thing on the list but quality prunes came into it too.)

We got home to find that the rain shower had missed Langholm as well.  This was lucky as we had had washing hanging out.  I had to fill the feeders again as they were quite empty by this time.

chaffinches

Cycling and shopping had taken up most of the afternoon and it wasn’t long before it was time for our evening meal and then I went out to play trios with Mike and Isabel.

We haven’t played for some weeks as Mike and Isabel have been busy on church matters over the Lent period and it was very good to get back to playing again.  The time off hadn’t got too much rust into the works so we enjoyed our playing a lot.

Sometimes, I can just push the shutter button in the nick of time to catch a flying bird and today was one of those times.

chaffinches

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary’s walk in Kenwood Park today.   She came across this glorious azalea display.

Azaleas

The day here didn’t work out to plan at all.  After reading the forecast at lunchtime yesterday, I thought that the wind would drop and it would be dry all day, ideal for cycling.  In fact, although the wind did drop, it drizzled almost all day.  As I woke up feeling a bit below par with a sore throat and a slight headache, that put paid to any idea of making good use of the day.

Apart from walking 200 yards to get milk from the shop and filling the feeders now and again, I showed no visible sign of life all day.   As a result though, I now feel a lot better than I did in the morning so perhaps the drizzle was useful in its own way.

I did manage to peer out of the back door to record the damage being done to the lawn by the jackdaws.

Azaleas

We originally thought that they were taking the moss for nest building but Mrs Tootlepedal spent some time observing the jackdaws at work and concluded that they are not picking up the moss but pecking at food in the soil underneath, probably leather jackets.

Some starlings joined in.

starlings

It is good to have biological pest control.

I saw a male blackbird with the starlings and a female under the feeder…

blackbirds

…so perhaps we will have tiny blackbirds to look at in the course of time.  A blue tit paid us a single off the record flying visit but otherwise the bird visitors were the usual suspects.

siskins and goldfinches

Some birds didn’t come to eat but just did their Muscle Beach keep fit routines instead.

goldfinch

Others came to make trouble.

siskins and goldfinch

Tomorrow looks like a rather soggy day according to the forecast so I may have another chance to recover from my slight cold but I will at least try to get out for some fresh air.

I have been rather overstuffing my blog with photos lately so I hope that readers will appreciate this more slender offering.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

goldfinch

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The guest picture of the day comes from Gavin who has deserted the wild woods of Yosemite and taken to the groves of Academe at Stanford University.

stanford university

We were expecting wet weather today but in spite of a gloomy forecast, it remained pretty dry and this would have been more welcome if it hadn’t come with a drop in the temperature and a very nagging and cold wind.

Under these conditions I took my cue from the celebrated Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator, who became famous for hanging around doing nothing during the Second Punic War.  He was an amateur compared with me this morning.

I stirred myself a bit after lunch and went out into the garden where the sun was shining and Mrs Tootlepedal was quietly snoozing in the warmth of the greenhouse.

I looked at the tulips which were glowing in the sunshine.

tulips

Peered inside one.

tulip

Dark secrets

Admired the wide spreading petals of another group….

tulips

…but realised that in the prevailing brisk winds, this broadness is just a prelude to tulip death.

daff and tulip

A morose daffodil and wind blown tulip reminisce over those great days in the garden that are now gone for ever.

There are hundreds of daffodils in the garden and the cool weather means that they have lasted very well but there are still a lot that need dead heading every day so I did my rounds and then went back to see Mrs Tootlepedal.

I disturbed her by mowing the grass round the greenhouse.   When she emerged into the real world, we set about simultaneously narrowing the raspberry bed and widening the path beside it in the vegetable garden.

Having achieved this, we went inside for a cup of tea.

On my way, I had a check on the espalier apples.

apple blossom

It is nearly apple blossom time.

Unlike me, the birds were very active again today.

We had two very occasional visitors, a starling early in the day….

starling

…and a greenfinch a little later on.  It seemed to spend more time flying away than coming…

greenfinch

…but it managed to fit in a nibble or two.

greenfinch

While i was having my cup of tea in the afternoon, a flock of birds descended on the feeders.  I tried to see how many flying birds I could get in one shot.

busy feeder

Four and a half in this shot

busy feeder

Five in this shot

busy feeder

And seven in this shot

Several threatening clouds rushed by without raining on us so I thought that I would cycle round to the Jubilee Bridge to see if I could see the nuthatches.

When I got there, I could hear them but I couldn’t see them.

I spent so long waiting that the light had gone for taking any bird pictures by the time that I cycled back past the Kilngreen so I contented myself with a picture of the poplars on the river bank below the suspension bridge…

poplars

…and came home again.

The light perked up for a moment and I looked at the rosemary bush…

rosemary

A decent close up of the flowers still eludes but I will keep trying.

Mrs Tootlepedal went out to a celebration dinner for one of her ex work colleagues in the evening and I relaxed again.  I felt surprisingly tired considering my quiet day but the wind is going to drop tomorrow so I hope that my day of rest will have put me in good fettle for a cycle ride.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

siskin

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Today’s guest picture is another from a visit that my brother Andrew made to the River Dove.  ‘Rock Cottage’ is set into the cliff beside the river and manages to look like a rock and a cottage at the same time.

rock cottage

We had another dry and breezy day here with the temperature struggling to get into double figures (10°C – 50°F) and the wind still on the chilly side so I had to wrap up well when I went out on my bike to do the twenty mile Canonbie circuit.  It was one of those days.  I thought that I was trying harder and going faster than the last time that I made the same trip but I still managed to take three minutes longer.

Of course I was three days older so that may have explained it.

The cold, breezy weather doesn’t encourage stopping for photos but I did stop once for a breather and a look at a couple of bare trees.

Irvine House trees

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden so I walked round enjoying the results of her work.

It was quite bright for a while and the tulips were looking good.

yellow tulip

tulips

Ballerinas dancing in the wind

tulips and daffodils

tulip centres

Two of my favourite centres. I think of the one on the left as ‘plums and custard’

The grape hyacinths are good at forming pools even if they don’t quite constitute a river.

hyacinths

The dog tooth violets are thriving….

dog tooth violet

…but are keen to turn their backs on me.  The cowslippy things are more polite.

cowslips

And I think that we could call this a colourful corner.

colourful corner

I didn’t have long to spend in the garden, although I did as much dead heading of daffodils as I could, because we had to set off to Lockerbie after lunch to visit Matilda in Edinburgh.

I found a moment to look out of the kitchen window while my soup was heating up.

flying goldfinch

A seed is wasted by disputatious birds

flying goldfinch

A siskin is unmoved by a hard stare from a goldfinch.

siskin and chaffinch

And another is more than ready to repel an invading chaffinch

I have mentioned Lockerbie Station a lot so here is a picture to show it in all its glory.  It has the air of one of those stations on a model railway layout.

Lockerbie Station

I wandered up the platform while I was waiting for our train, which was a little late, and was very taken by this lonely diesel locomotive which came shuffling down the track in the opposite direction.

diesel loco at Lockerbie

We arrived safely in Edinburgh and took the bus down to Matilda’s.  Some people might think that a city bus could be a little dull but this bus took a very scenic route.  I was fortunate to find a vacant seat upstairs and at the front.

view from the 104

view from the 104

Matilda was in good form when we arrived.  Her other grandparents were visiting too so she had no shortage of adults willing to give her their best attention.  In fact she found the attention a little too much and retired behind some very fashionable shades.

Matilda

Her ‘other’ granny can be seen in the background

Before you ask, I thought that everyone knew that specs are being worn upside down this year.  It is de rigeur.

We had a very good time and it seemed almost no time at all before it was time for us to leave and catch our train home.  The view from the bus was good again…..

The Royal Mile

…and the view from the bus stop in Prince Street was even better.

view from Princes Street

Our journey home was improved by sharing a portion of chips from the chip shop in Lockerbie.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch doing the breaststroke.

flying goldfinch

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