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Posts Tagged ‘siskins’

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She came across this artwork in an outdoor exhibition in a park.  It is called The Tudor Ball and it is by Lars Fisk.  Sometimes I wonder if I should have been an artist.

Tudor Ball by Lars Fisk

It was even hotter today than yesterday and by the afternoon, the thermometer was showing 30 degrees C.  I took the day easily but my friend Ken is made of tougher stuff than me, and set off for a ride in the morning as the heat was building.

Ken

I walked round the garden (slowly).

The salvia was sticking even more snakes’ tongues out than ever.

salvia

In the vegetable garden, runner bean flowers are appearing…

runner beans

…and the biggest flower in the garden is the courgette.

courgette

The rosa complicata is doing its best to catch Mrs Tootlepedal’s eye with some late blooming…

rosa complicata

…and once again the garden was full of butterflies sampling different flowers.

four butterflies

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to a meeting in Hawick regarding funding for the proposed community moorland buy out.  Later in the day I spoke to another person who was at the meeting, and he remarked that when you meet potential funders, they are always much more keen to suggest other sources of funding than to commit themselves.  There will be a lot of work to be done if the dream is to be realised.

I stayed at home and watched the birds.

They were quite heated too.

two balletic siskins

siskin arriving

It made me tired just watching them.

sparrow arriving

Mrs Tootlepedal came back from her meeting and we watched a very exhausting stage of the Tour de France where these giants among men scaled ever more incredible heights.

When the stage was over, we got ready to welcome Matilda and her parents Al and Clare, who are coming to stay with us for the Common Riding.  Matilda is dancing in a competition tomorrow afternoon.

We were somewhat dubious about whether it was a good idea to open some doors and windows to let some air in or to keep them all shut and keep the air out.  In the end we opened the back door onto the dam and I noticed a fine leycestaria growing just beside the door.

leycestaria

When we went out into the garden, I saw that a fine crop of poppies which I had photographed this morning…

poppies

…had completely disappeared by the afternoon.

no poppies

The heat had knocked off more heads than the wind and the rain.

The Wren rose doesn’t seem to mind the heat.  We have never seen so many flowers in good condition on a single stem before.  Usually one bloom starts fading before another comes to full flower.

rose Wren full

Mrs Tootlepedal has five different phloxes on the go so I took a picture of all of them but as I can only cope with two, three, four or six pictures in a composite panel on the blog, I have had to sneak in a ringer.

five phlox

Matilda and Co were held up by heavy traffic in Edinburgh and slow traffic on the way down so I popped out for a steady ten miles on my bike while we were waiting.  Because you make your own breeze while you cycle, it didn’t feel too bad while I was actually pedalling but I was extremely hot when I stopped.

Our visitors arrived safely in time for an evening meal.  This was accompanied by some growls of thunder, streaks of lightning and some rain.  The storm didn’t last long though, and while Matilda was getting ready to go to bed, I went up to the High Street where the Town Band had been playing a concert.  I was too late to hear the brass band play but there were still plenty of people on the street.  They were waiting for the Flute Band to march through the town.

high street flute band

This is an informal gathering of musicians who gather together at the Common Riding.  The band meets exiles returning to the town on the last train in the evening of the day before the Common Riding itself.

The fact that the last passenger train came into the town about fifty years ago has not stopped them from meeting it every year since.  We like our traditions.

flute band approaching

Henry, the cornet and our church organist was playing in the front row as they marched along the High Street…

henry in flute band

…and I could spot my flute pupil Luke puffing away too.

luke in flute band

The pink ties reflect the Common Riding colours which are always the colours worn by the winning jockey in the Epsom Derby  earlier in the year.

The band crossed over the Town Bridge and marched off down Thomas Telford Road followed by a large cortege.

flute band cortege

I followed the flute band along Henry Street and when they had reached the end of the road, I waited for a minute or two, turned round, and hey presto, another band appeared!

Watched by the traditional one boy and a dog, this was the Burgh of Langholm Pipe Band…

man and dog pipe band

…looking very smart.

pipe band henry street

The bands march and play to remind everyone in the town, as if they needed reminding, that tomorrow is Langholm’s Great Day.

There were more rumbles of thunder after the bands had gone and we are just hoping that the weather will be kind to us.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture features one of our visitors today and just goes to prove that we are not the only recent grandparents about.  This is Dropscone taking the grandparenting business with Emily very seriously.  I am afraid that I don’t know who took the picture.

baby Little

We had a dry but grey morning, rather cooler than it has been, and with the ever present threat of rain and even thunderstorms about.  Like yesterday, if I wanted a dry cycle ride I would have needed to be prompt but unlike yesterday, I was not prompt at all so I didn’t go for a pedal, even though the rain held off for all of the morning and some of the afternoon too.

Luckily, there is always dead heading to be done and the garden to wander around.

The dead heading is keeping a constant flow of poppies on the go…

poppy broadcast

…and the Sweet Williams are lasting very well.

pink sweet william

A new clematis has sprung up along the back fence which is very satisfactory.

new clematis back fence

I had another go at the fancy clover and got a bit more detail without quite getting it right…

better fancy clover

…but the feverfew is easy to catch.  It has done so well that I am thinking of calling it the fevermany.

lots of fever few

I had a close look at a three things.

The back of a fern was packed with interest…

fern sporangia

….there is more to the black dot in the middle of an argyranthemum than first meets the eye….

heart of argyranthemum

…and the salvias have hidden depths too.

close up salvia

The first of the Sunny Reggae dahlias has come out but it is looking as though the slugs have spotted it.  Keen eyed readers will notice the shoe of the photographer at the back of the picture.  Because the dahlia was facing the ‘wrong way’, I had to lean over the top of it and photograph it upside down and then correct the result in the editor later.

sunny reggae dahlia

We had just gone in for coffee, when Scott, our former minister with his finely tuned coffee radar working well, popped in for a visit.  We were pleased to see him and caught with his news and shared ours with him.

After he left, we went back put into the garden to pick sweet peas and look around.  We have a lot of blackbirds, so doesn’t take a lot of looking to see one in the garden at the moment.

blackbird on fence

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to a lunch at the Buccleuch Centre with her ex colleagues from the Health Centre and I looked around as the sun made a brief appearance.

The ligularias are attracting bees…

bee on ligularia

…as are the rambler roses.  They have come out in force over the past few days.

swathe of rambler rose

The blackbirds will soon have a fine crop of rowan berries to eat but they will have to wait for a little while before they are ripe.

lots of yellow rowan berries

I went in for a light lunch and then came back out and sieved some compost.  I was still thinking of a bike ride as it hadn’t started raining but I made the mistake of switching on the telly to see how the Tour de France time trial was going and I was still snoozing on the sofa when first Mrs Tootlepedal came back from her lunch and then we were joined by Dropscone.

He had missed coffee in the morning because he had been playing golf.  He had been beaten on the final hole but was remarkably cheerful all the same.  To cheer him up even further, we loaded him down with new potatoes and rhubarb when he left.

After that the sofa called (the time trial was quite exciting to be fair), and apart from picking a few peas, I didn’t go out again.

This did mean that I had some time to watch birds.

Siskins were busy as usual.

siskin st seed

There was hardly a dull moment.

siskins beak to brak

A blue tit was more reflective, perhaps wondering whether the siskins would go away and leave some space for other birds.

blue tit on wire

The blue tit popped up onto the peanuts but before I could record it, a sparrow came and stood in front of the camera.

sparrow on nuts

Later in the afternoon,  a pigeon took a lofty view of life from our new electricity wires.

pigeon on electricity cable

In the evening, our trio of visits was completed by the arrival of Mike and Alison, and while Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal put the world to rights, Alison and I played music for an hour which was a good way to end the day.

The light was pretty bad by the time that I sat down to watch the birds so this rather fuzzy siskin was the best that I could for a flying bird of the day.

flyimng siskin

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from Stephen’s visit to North Queensland. As well as idyllic beaches, he and his wife visited the Kuranda aviary where amongst others, they encountered this striking pair of birds.

Australian birds

The weather gods relented today, and after sending us more overnight rain, they let up by morning and allowed us to enjoy a dry and sometimes sunny day today. This gave us the chance to do some work in the garden and let me take a few pictures while I was out there.

Well, to be honest, I took a lot of pictures but I am putting in this panel of four pale flowers to stand for them all.

four pale flowers

It was pleasantly warm and the wind was noticeable but not offensive so there was really no reason why I should not have gone out for a cycle ride after breakfast to make good use of the day. All the same, I managed to find several reasons; a crossword, coffee, dead heading, picking sweet peas and so on until I finally ran out of excuses and set off for a pedal about midday.

To tell the truth, I didn’t feel exactly enthusiastic about the idea so I started off very slowly and stopped to look at wild flowers at the earliest opportunity.

The yellow bedstraw beside the Wauchope road is very striking at the moment…

yeloow bedstraw by road

…as are the pink heads on the yarrow when they first come out.

yarrow by road

The verge trimmers have left this road alone so there are a number of orchids around…

orchid by road

…but this little tormentil flower is so low to the ground that it might well escape the mower even if it does come.

tormentil by road

As I went on, the sun came out and in spite of having to pedal into the wind, my spirits lifted and I decided to take a diversion to investigate the road along which the turbines for the new windfarm at Solwaybank will arrive.

It was a narrow and poorly surfaced road but now it has been resurfaced and a extra bit of width has been added.

solwaybank road

The arrival of the turbines has been delayed because of financial problems with the suppliers so the extra width has got many traffic cones on it to stop it getting worn out before the big lorries finally come.

It was a treat to cycle along a well surfaced back road but when the time came that a brand new windfarm road had been built across country….

solwaybank road for windfarm

…I was left pedalling up the old narrow road.

new solwaybank road

However, as it had been resurfaced not too long ago and was still in fair condition, and as there were foxgloves on the way…

foxgloves solwaybank road

…I wasn’t complaining.

The new windfarm will be the fourth in our area and as I cycled along, I passed under a power line that was built for one of the previous sites.

The people who put the poles up must had a very good piece of string as they are in a really straight line from one corner to the next.

windmill power line

Once I had got to the end of this road, I turned for home and with the wind now behind me, I found that I was going too fast to think of stopping for every wild flower that I passed and it wasn’t until my legs started complaining as I got near the end of my ride, that I stopped again.

I was looking to admire a fine spread of knapweed on the old A7 near Hagg-on-Esk and I was lucky to find a hoverfly with same idea.

hoverfly

The knapweed and daisies are in good form along the road here,

verge irvine house road

When I got back to Langholm after 36 miles, I was seized with decimal mania and cycled through the town and out of the other side for two miles. The verge cutters had been slaughtering wild flowers here.

mowed verge A7 terrona

The extra four miles brought my trip up to 40 miles and my mileage for the first ten days of the month of July up to 200, the most that I have cycled in such a short spell this year.

If I stick to cycling, and don’t try to do any walking, my feet are not too bad and in recent days I have found myself feeling quite a bit happier about taking exercise. This is a tribute to the healing skills of Dr Velo.

I had enough energy left when I got home to get the mower out and mow the two lawns. We are going down to London again for a few days on family business tomorrow so they needed a cut before we went.

While I was out, I checked on the new fuchsia in the chimney pot. It is settling in well.

fuchsia chimney

The hostas are bursting onto flower…

hosta flowers

…but they can’t compare with the magnificence of our neighbour Liz’s filipendula.

liz's astilbe

When I went in, I spent a little time checking on the birds.

A reader suggested that the collective term for our siskins should be ‘squabble of siskins’ but he pointed out that it has already been taken by seagulls. This is a pity as it really fits the feisty little things.

siskins sparring

If they are not squabbling over the seed, they are kicking one another.

a squabble of siskins

Some more sensible siskins prefer to nibble the nuts in peace.

siskin on nuts

Watching the recording of today’s stage Tour de France once again provided an opportunity for some relaxing sofa testing in the evening.

With some potentially heavy rain forecast for tomorrow, we are keeping our fingers crossed that our transport all works smoothly for out journey south.

A goldfinch, leaving the siskins to fight it out among themselves, is the flying bird of the day.

goldfinch leaving

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan’s old friend Stephen who has been spending a week with his wife in Port Douglas, in Far North Queensland. He tells me that it is mid-winter there, and so the temperature is down to a chilly 25-26 degrees.  He sent me this suitably wintry illustration.

queensland beach

It is summer here of course and it rained all day and the temperature barely crept up to 18 degrees.  As a result, I spent a very quiet day indeed doing nothing more interesting than a little data entering into the Archive Group database and a short shopping trip with Mrs Tootlepedal.

She spent the morning at a meeting regarding the possible community purchase of the Langholm Moor and I sat at my computer.  It was sorry about its bad behaviour last night and worked very competently and quickly today.

I did take time to look out of the window.

siskins in rain 1

…and it is easy to see why I preferred to stay indoors.

The siskins were out in force….

siskins in rain 2

…and spent a lot of time squabbling rather than getting on and eating seed.

siskins beak to beak rain

A sparrow looked disgusted but whether it was because of the weather or the siskins’ behaviour, it is hard to say.

siskins in rain 3

The rain eased off and a blue tit appeared.  The tits prefer the nuts to the seeds…

blur tit on nuts 1

…which ever way they look at it.

blue tit on nuts

We must have a small family of blue tits nearby because several appeared at the same time…

two blue tits

…and unfortunately seemed to have learned from the siskins’ bad habits.

two blue tits arguing

I made some celery and stilton soup for lunch and I enjoyed it in company with Mrs Tootlepedal who had returned from her meeting.

After lunch I took a quick walk round the garden at a moment when the drizzle had slackened off.

The overnight rain had not been heavy enough to beat down the flowers…

wet red poppy

…but there was a soggy feel about the garden….

wet pick foxgloves

…although some of the effects were quite decorative on leaf…

spirea with raindrop

…and petal.

sweet pea with droplets

Yellow lilies are appearing…

wet yellow lily

…and the ligularia is coming on…

ligularia in flower

…so things were still cheerful in places.

I like the sweet peas that Mrs Tootlepedal has grown this year.

sweet pea with droplet

Then, for the want of anything better to do, we drove down to Gretna to do a little shopping.

Then we drove back again.

That ended any excitement for the day as the Tour de France and Wimbledon combined to provide a lengthy excuse for testing the comfort of the sofa.

Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea and Mrs Tootlepedal cooked a meal of chicken and asparagus for our evening meal and we tried very hard not to think of the political situation as it is even more depressing than the weather.

I had hoped that I had captured one of the blue tits for the flying bird of the day…

flying blue tit

…but it was just too quick for me so a sparrow kindly offered to stand in, beating off a siskin who was trying to get the job.

flying sparrow in rain

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She was hit in the eye by this burst of colour on her morning walk to Kenwood House.

Kenwood colour

After breakfast, I cycled up to the town to do some business including paying in a handsome cheque kindly sent to me by the government.  This was a refund for the very expensive road tax which I had paid on our old car.  One of the benefits of the little white zingy thingy is that it is tax free to put on the road, part of the inducements to go electric.  These benefits will doubtless disappear when more people start buying electric cars but judging by the published figures on the rate of sales, I should be safe for a while yet.

Then  I drove off into England for the third day running, this time to see my singing teacher Mary.  My ambition is to be able to sing a simple song more or less in tune and in a pleasant manner so she has her work cut out on both fronts.  However, she is a first rate teacher and I came away feeling that with work, I might be able to achieve my goal.

An added bonus was being able to watch a small flock of lapwings flying around in the field opposite her house after the lesson.

It was another fine day so when I got home, I took a walk round the garden in the hope that more azaleas would have come out.  They are very reluctant.

not out azalea

This one has been covered with  promising buds for ages but it is still strangely reluctant to burst into flower.  Our warmer weather is set to continue for a day or two so I am keeping my hopes up.

When I went in, I found that Nancy, the Archive Group treasurer and chief data miner for our local newspaper index, had brought round the sheets which will mean when they have been entered into the database that we have reached 1900.  Three cheers to all involved.

It was soon time for lunch and after I had eaten my soup and cheese and done the crossword, the downside of the little white thingy came into play.  The crucial word here is “white” and some pointed remarks from Mrs Tootlepedal drew my attention to the fact that a white car shows the dirt.  For many years now I have avoided washing our car because in my view, it just encourages more dirt, but even I could see that the new car is going to require regular washing.  Ah well, nothing in the world is quite perfect.

After I had washed to car, the middle lawn called to me.  The moss eating mixture which I applied a few weeks ago seems to have had an effect but there was still a very mossy patch in the middle of the lawn so I got out the scarifier and gave the whole lawn a going over.  When I had collected the moss with the mower, the lawn looked quite potential…

scarified lawn

…though my assistant thought that there was still work to be done.

scarifying assistant

…and to be fair, there is still quite a bit of moss about.

As you can see from the lawn picture, we are between colour at the moment with the tulips and daffodils past but there is a lot of green about…

green garden May

…and there are spots of colour here and there.

The sweet rocket is coming out…

sweet rocket

…the tree peony is very nearly out…

tree peony flower nearly out

…and the Japanese azalea is doing its best too.

japanese azalea

The cow parsley in the back border is beginning to look really impressive…

rampant cow parsley

…and Mrs Tootlepedal has a purple stemmed variety in another bed.

purple stemmed cow parsley

I went round to the back of the house, to check what flowers could be seen along the dam…

flowers along dam may

…and found daisies, potentilla and the first of the aquilegia, one of my favourite flowers.

I came back into the garden and found that the white polemonium…

white polemonium

…had been joined by a blue variety…

blue polemonium

…and the first geraniums have arrived too.

cranesbill

I took a view from an upstairs window which showed that only two of the five azaleas in the bed along the road have come out…

azaleas in sun

…and then went off for another short and gentle therapeutic pedal on the slow bike.

I passed the bluebells on the hill again without walking up to visit them this time.

bluebells on hill

When I had been down in England in the morning, I had noticed that quite a few hawthorns had come out and I was interested to see if ours were out too.  They weren’t….

hawthorn not out

…but they are going to make a good show when they do arrive.

Although most of our trees are now green, the alders along the river sides are still waiting to join in, as this picture of the Glencorf Burn shows.

leafless alders glencorf burn

Normally, if I have a good bike ride, as I did yesterday, I would try to go further the next day but as I had my sensible head on today, I went slightly less far than I did yesterday and my ankle thanked me for it.  I was very happy to find my sensible head as often it is well hidden away.

I didn’t have much to time watch the birds today but I liked the concentration shown by this pigeon…

concentrating pigeon

…and checked out the usual customers on the feeder.

redpoll, siskin, goldfinch

My flute pupil Luke came in the early evening and I was able to use a tip which I had picked up from my singing lesson to help him get over an awkward corner in one of our pieces.

I also introduced him to Scott Joplin as a change from baroque sonatas.

As the sun sank after a full day’s work, I resisted the temptation to take a sunset picture as I already had too many for the post and so all that is left now is the flying bird of the day.  Or rather, in today’s case, the fleeing bird of the day.

fleeing siskins

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Today’s guest picture is another from the East Wemyss riviera where the sun always shines it seems.  Our son Tony sent us this shadowy portrait of one of his dogs.

shadowy wemyss dog

The run of cool, dry weather continued today and we needed a coat to keep us warm as we cycled to church after breakfast to sing in the choir.  There was a very good attendance as it was a baptism service, the second in a row.  To my surprise, our ex-minister Scott came down from Glasgow to conduct the service.  It was a great pleasure to meet him again and I was very envious when he told me that he had taken part in an 85 mile cycle sportive yesterday.  He was feeling rather stiff as he has not had the opportunity to a lot of training but he managed very well when he was left holding the baby during the baptism.

After we got home, I had a cup of coffee and a walk round the garden.  My feet had been very sore yesterday so I put Sunday to good use by making it a day of rest today and the walk round the garden was as far as I went.

The cool weather has put growth on hold but there are occasional signs of what is to come and the apple blossom is doing well regardless.

four red-pink flowers

I always like nature’s attention to geometry and my eye was caught by the diagonals on the Solomon’s seal…

solomons seal diagonals

…and the design of the cow parsley.

cow parsley geometry

One rhododendron bud remained tightly furled..

rhododendron bus

…while another had opened up to interested visitors.

inside a white rhododendron

A Welsh poppy didn’t look as though it had attracted any pollinators yet…

welsh poppy may

…and the garden did not have many bees about at all.

One plant that is enjoying the weather is the Lithodora which has never looked so good.

lithodora May

It did attract a bee but it flew off before I could catch it on camera.

Pulsatillas are rewarding little flowers because not only are they pretty when in bloom, but they also look rather dashing when their seed heads appear.

pulsatilla seed head

I didn’t stay out long as it was rather chilly.

The feeder was busy again and goldfinches and siskins were playing copycat.  First it was ‘who could give the best sideways look’…

sideways glances

…and then it was ‘who could stand up straightest’.

standing up straight contest

Some birds were bad losers and resorted to violence.

goldfinch arrowing in on siskin

A sparrow made an attempt to get some seed and got the usual cheery welcome from a siskin.

flying sparrow unwelcome

After lunch we went off to Carlisle in the zingy little white thingy.   As it is an electric car and we are new to driving it, we spend a lot of time watching the meter which tells you how many theoretical miles you have left in the battery and comparing it to how many miles we have actually done..

This encourages very smooth driving with a light touch on the accelerator.  It is early days yet but if the battery continues to behave, it looks as though we will have  a range of comfortably over 100 miles as long as we are not in a hurry.  This is all we need for our normal use.

When we got home after another excellent afternoon’s singing with our Carlisle choir, we plugged the car into the wall socket and it was feeding time at the Zoe.

feeding time at the zoe

As the plug goes right into the nose of the car, it feels a lot like putting a nosebag on a horse after a hard day pulling a carriage.

The flying bird of the day is the sparrow, still trying to find a way to get some seed.

flying sparrow

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan.  She was very impressed by this floral hedge which she passed not far from her home.

susan's hedge

We had some thought of an expedition today but uncertain feet and a dubious forecast persuaded us that some time spent in the garden while it was still dry would be time well spent.

Mrs Tootlepedal did those things which gardeners do. She planted out Sweet Williams, planted seeds in the greenhouse, planted beetroot seeds in a raised bed, weeded, tended and in general way was productive and busy.

I dead headed, mowed the middle lawn with the blades so high that I barely touched the grass, sieved a very little compost and took some pictures.

There is a little pause just now in the garden when it comes to new delights but old friends are thriving…

six april flowers

…and there are various dicentra on all sides, though the cooler weather seems to have discouraged the bumble bees.

four dicentras

The big euphorbias get more fantastic every week and some little ones are coming to join the fun.

two euphorbias

Ferns are unrolling…

fern unfolding

…and some shuttlecock ferns in a very shady spot have unfurled completely.

shuttlecock fern

Shrubs are doing their best to add a bit of colour.

spirea and berberis

But my favourite view of the morning came while I was sitting on the new bench and looking at these tulips.

8 tulips

Mrs Tootlepedal made lightly curried parsnip and carrot soup for lunch (with croutons) and while she was cooking, I watched the birds.

More siskins than ever turned up today and places at the feeder were hard to come by…

siskins and goldfinch

…even for other determined siskins.

siskin arriving amid siksins

Once again, some siskins took to the peanuts, a sound policy in my view.

siskin on peanuts

After a while, redpolls turned up.  They are determined birds too…

redpoll sees an opportunity

…and one saw a chance to nip in while two siskins were fighting each other.

redpoll sneaking in

Another took a calmer view of things while it played a waiting game.

redpoll on feeder pole

In the afternoon, we went up on to the hill in the hope of seeing some hen harriers but all we saw was some very heavy rain as we had chosen to wrong time for our trip.

Once we decided to go home the rain stopped of course and we could at least get a view across the Tarras Valley…

View to Cronksbank

…but there were still clouds behind us….

Tarras cloudscape

…and more in front…

Whita cloudscape

…so we went home anyway.

In the evening, we went down to Canonbie to hear a choir of Ugandan schoolchildren sing in the church there.

The children, most of whom were very young, did tremendously well, singing, dancing and clapping with great vigour.  The concert was nearly two hours long, had no interval and was frequently punctuated with appeals for financial support for the religious charity which had brought them over to the UK.  This left us with the slightly uncomfortable feeling that the children were perhaps being made to work a bit harder than would have been ideal.  Still, we were glad that we had gone to hear them and they sang one beautiful African song which warmed the heart with its harmonies.

The flying bird of the day, taken when the light was poor,  is one of the many siskins.

flying siskin

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