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Posts Tagged ‘siskins’

Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo on her visit to Australia.  She found that King Parrots are very partial to an offer of a snack.

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We had a bit of a contrast to Mary Jo’s sunny Queensland weather here, as the hills were covered in mist and the ground was white with sleety slush when we woke up.

Even the colours on the redpoll…

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…and goldfinch seemed subdued.

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It was raining in a persistent and mean minded way (when it wasn’t sleeting, that is) and going outside was not an attractive option.

So I stayed in and watched the birds.

Until I got bored and walked round to the shop to get milk.  I was protected from the worst of the wind and rain by a large umbrella.

After the delight of yesterday’s sunshine, it was not a colourful day….

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…but the route to the shop takes me along the waterside so there is always the chance of seeing something interesting.  Today it was a pair of oyster catchers keeping as snug as they could in the horrible conditions.

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Perhaps their posture is an example of keeping a weather eye open.

I took the milk home and then took myself off to visit Sandy, who is still housebound.

He was very cheerful and entertained me to coffee and excellent ginger cake.  On my way home, I stopped to look over the town to see if the prospects for the day had improved at all.

They hadn’t.

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When I got back, I put the bread maker to work and made some soup for lunch and while it was cooking, I had another look at the birds.  There was no shortage of customers for seeds…

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…and the redpolls got into some keen competition for perches.

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The winner returned to the perch, although it didn’t look very happy about it…

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…while the loser sat on a pole and pretended that it didn’t care.

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Down below, a dunnock merged into the background.

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The wind dropped and after lunch, it stopped raining for long enough for me to put on my cycling gear.  Then, of course,  it started again.  I wasn’t going to take my gear off though, after all the bother of putting on what seemed like several hundred layers of warm clothing so I got my bike out and went off with hope in my heart and rain on my cycling glasses.

I was worried that the morning sleet might still be lying on the road in slushy patches but it was well above freezing and the rain had done its work so the road was clear.  It was running with water in many places and I was very glad to have a stout pair of waterproof socks to keep my feet warm and dry.

I had an unusual experience when a lorry coming the other way met me at one of these puddly spots.  As it approached me, and absolutely on purpose, it slowed down and passed me without splashing me.  I was so shocked that I nearly fell off my bike.

After three and a half miles when I got to Wauchope Schoolhouse and began to feel the wind in my face as I left the shelter of the valley, I considered the way ahead…

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…and went back to Langholm.

A bull in the field opposite was not impressed by my lack of get up and go.

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I took this picture on the way back and despite what you may think, it is a full colour shot.

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When I put it into my photo editor in the evening, I changed it into greyscale mode. It summed up the day when as far as I could see, nothing changed in the picture at all.  Truly a grey day.

I got back to Langholm and since the rain had stopped, I went round the town and pedalled back up to Wauchope Schoolhouse again. In the end, I squeezed sixteen miles out of a miserable afternoon but as it was my first cycle ride for two weeks, I was grateful to get any miles in at all.  And I felt a lot better for the exercise.

I put my bike away and went in to watch the birds again.  I had put a second feeder out in the morning as there seemed to be quite a lot of birds about, and both feeders were getting well used before I left with a selection of goldfinches, siskins and redpolls in action.

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By the time that I got back, a lot of the seed had disappeared.  The redpolls and goldfinches had disappeared too and the siskins had taken over completely.

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They were everywhere, under the feeders, on top of the feeders…

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…all over the walnut tree…

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…and on the feeders themselves.

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I counted over a hundred of them in the garden.  I just wish that the light had been better so that I could have done them justice.  As it was, the rain started again and I went off to have a shower, leaving the skins to it.

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When I came downstairs, I found that Mike Tinker had dropped in for a cup of tea so I joined him and Mrs Tootlepedal for a chat and some serious biscuit consumption.

When Mike left, it was time for my flute playing friend Luke to come round for our weekly burst of duets.  He told me that is going for a job interview tomorrow so I wished him luck.  I would employ him as he is a very sound lad.

The active day ended with a plate of Mrs Tootlepedal’s fish pie, always a good way to end a day.

Looking at the forecast, there seems to be no end to our run of cold, wet weather for the next week with only a very occasional glimpse of sunshine promised, so I am more pleased than ever to have sneaked a few miles in today.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch who arrived before the siskin invasion.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo from Manitoba.  She is not in Manitoba at the moment, having left her -15 degree temperatures there for the roasting air of Queensland, Australia where she met these Boer cross doeling goats.

Boer cross doeling

It was so gloomy here, after another night of wind and rain, that we had to have the light on in the morning and that made looking at birds through the window a bit tricky.

light in window

When I did get a sight of them, I could see that it was still raining and the wind was blowing hard enough to making staying on the feeder quite a task.

goldfinch hanging on

The birds came and went in busy patches and disappeared to other feeders for long spells.

siskin arriving

Just like the school playground, there is always one person with no mates.

siskin no mates

Others could only stand and stare.

siskin on pole

I put on my coat and boots and walked along to the shop and back, and then, after coffee, I put them on again and walked along to the Buccleuch Centre where there was a well timed public display regarding the proposed flood defences for Langholm.

As usual with these affairs, everyone in the town knows exactly what should or not be done and the only people with no clue are the experts.  I had a very nice conversation with one of the experts, an Irish lady who seemed to know quite a lot, and learned a bit myself.  The proposed protection mostly consists of high mounds and walls which may protect the town from flooding but will certainly make the riverside less attractive so no one will be able to get everything they want.  The experts have a bold scheme to divert the course of the Wauchope so it will join the Esk on the other side of the church.   I would need quite a lot of persuading before I thought that this was a good way to spend money but I am open to persuasion.

When I came out of the meeting, I went to check on the river behind the hall just to see if the exhibition was in danger of being flooded itself.

esk at flood prevention meeting

There was a bit to go before that happened.

I went home and had lunch with Mrs Tootlepedal, Annie and Evie.  The rain and wind were still going full steam ahead and for some curious reason none of the ladies wanted to join me in a walk, so like that lonely siskin, I went out by myself.

I was well wrapped up and it was reasonably warm so it wasn’t too bad.  The rain wasn’t very heavy but the strong wind made even light rain feel serious so I kept my head down and didn’t take too many pictures.

Most of my pictures featured water since there was a lot of it about.

becks bridge wauchope road

The Becks Burn goes under the road.

auld stane brodge

The Auld Stane Brig straddles the Wauchope Water.

flooding over road

The roads were running with water coming off fields and out of woods.

I didn’t take the opportunity to sit on this bench in the rain and contemplate the churchyard over the water.  I felt the day was grey enough already.

wet bench

I was standing on a new bridge at the end of Gaskell’s walk, taking a picture of this little cascade…

waterfall at Stubholm

…when I noticed some movement and saw the the bank was slipping into the water as I was watching.

landslip at stubholm waterfall

I thought it prudent not to linger on the bridge too long and walked along the track to the Murtholm.  The river Esk was rising.

trees in river

I got to Skippers Bridge and was impressed by this waterfall running down onto the road.

waterfall at Skippers

I was intending to go down to the water’s edge to take a picture of the foaming current swirling through the arches…

skippers on a rough day

…but a look at the situation made me decide to walk back to the other side of the bridge and take my picture from the safety of the main road.

skipeprs from upstream

As I walked back to the town, I reflected that there were probably some snowdrops down there.

no snowdrops

If the flood prevention scheme goes ahead, this path will be widened and have a 2m barrier between it and the river.  It will be safe but the river view will be limited.

path that will be walled

The river was full but not flooding when I got back to the suspension bridge.  There would be barriers along both sides of the river here.

esk in flood again

We had more of Mrs Tootlepedal’s tasty brisket of beef for our tea and then after Evie had retired for the night, Mike and Alison came round for their customary Friday night visit.   It showed how miserable the weather was that they used their car to cover the 200 or so yards to our door and still got wet before they got into the house.

Alison and I enjoyed some good music making and when she and Mike had left, I walked down to the river to see if it was still rising.  The rain had stopped after a full day and the river was no higher than it had been at five o’clock.  The Esk is working overtime carrying all our rain away.

I emptied Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge today.  It had collected five inches of rain during the week.  Some places got that amount of rain in a day last weekend so it is no wonder that there has been heavy flooding.  Once again, we have been wet but lucky,

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. It shows all the cakes that he and my sister Susan didn’t eat when they visited a garden centre cafe. They are both models of restraint.

cakes

I was woken in the middle of the night by a tremendous rattling on the windows, and thinking it was another rainstorm, went back to sleep expecting to see high water in the morning again.

In fact, the noise was made by a brief hailstorm and little rain fell overnight.  As a result there had been a marked alteration in the state of the River Esk by the time we went to church at ten o’clock.

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This was quite surprising but very welcome.

It was still windy and although it was dry, we were pleased to have our coats on when we walked home after the service.

I stooped to look at the first hellebore of the season…

first hellebore

…before going in for a coffee.

The picture is a bit of a cheat as I had to hold the head of the flower up to get the shot.

After coffee, I spent a moment looking at the birds.  In a contrast to the usual state of affairs, it was hard to take picture today that didn’t have a flying bird in it.

flying birds everywhere

I finally managed to get a flying bird free shot, but as you can see from the nervous look on the face of the goldfinch..

Goldfinch looking round

…it didn’t take long for another flier to appear.

flying goldfinch

I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal that it would be a good idea to go for a walk  The wind was still very brisk so we chose a spot which we thought would be sheltered and drove over the hill to the road along the Tarras Valley.  There is a handy car park there beside the river…

Tarras car park view

…and the road is quiet and perfect for a walk.

the road up Tarras

We headed up the valley with the strong wind behind us.  It wasn’t quite as sheltered as we had hoped.

The Tarras Water trips over many little cascades as it heads down to join  the Esk and even on a chilly winter’s day, this is a delight to cascade lovers like myself.

tarras cascade 1

tarras cascade 2

tarras cascade 3

I tore myself away from the waterside and we walked on until we came to the flatter section of the valley where Arkleton Cottage Stands beside some elegant bends in the river and road.

Arkleton Cottage

On the hillside beside the cottage, there are walls within walls.

walls within walls

As we walked along, Mrs Tootlepedal kept an eye out for interesting raptors and any sign of other wild life.

She didn’t see any raptors, but she did spot some interesting looking boulders.  When the boulders started to move around, we could see that they were in fact some of the the wild goats which roam these hillsides.

wild goats Tarras

Often they looked like indeterminate lumps among the long grass but when one lifted its head, we could see what they were.  It was extremely difficult to take pictures of them because they were quite far away and the wind was so strong that it was hard to stand up straight.  The Lumix did what it could.

As you can see from the goat pictures, the weather was changeable and we did have the occasional glimpse of sun but by the time that we got to the cottage, which can be approached by a ford…

Arkleton Cottage ford

..or a footbridge…

Arkleton Cottage bridge

….it had started to rain, so we thought it wise to head back to the car.

We were delayed for a moment by some excellent lichen on a boulder…

lichen tarras road 1

..or two…

lichen tarras Road 2

…and talking to a passing cyclist with three dogs who was heading back down the road into the teeth of the very strong wind.  He was very relaxed and this turned out to be because he was on a very serviceable electric mountain bike with fat tyres and low gears.  This was enabling him to face the wind with equanimity.

He pedalled off into the distance and we followed after him, very much slower and battling into a fierce wind which made walking difficult.  The sleety rain in our faces did not help.

All the same we were able to spot another small group of goats.  I rested my camera on a roadside salt container and was just about to take a good shot when the dratted beast stuck its head down behind a tussock and started munching.

wild goat tarras

I had to make do with another cascade further down stream…

Tarras cascade

…and then we followed the river back to the car.

Although we had walked less than two miles, it had felt quite adventurous thanks to the battle against the elements and we drove home very satisfied with our little outing.

Tarras Water

The sun came out when we got back and the birds settled down too.

four goldfinches

Mike and Alison very kindly brought round a cot for the use of our granddaughter Eve, who is coming to visit next week (with her mother) and then we drove off to Carlisle for a choir practice.

We were somewhat nervous about what we might find from flood and storm damage on the way, but the sun came out, the road was dry, and there was no debris at all.  A stranger might have found it very hard to believe that a storm had passed over us at all let alone that there were flood warnings out all over the rest of the country.  Once again, we have been very lucky.

The choir practice had enjoyable moments but in one piece the tenors, who were lacking a few of their competent singers today, found themselves rather exposed by some tricky harmonies.  The need for some serious home work is indicated.  All the same, in our defence, I would like to say that it is very hard to come in on a G when everyone else is singing an A and there is no help from the piano accompaniment. At least, I think it is.

I had put beef stew in the slow cooker in the morning and Mrs Tootlepedal cooked some vegetables to go with it when we came home.  I counted seven vegetables in the meal in total so it was probably quite healthy as well as being tasty.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He had a moment to wander around in Borrowash this morning and was surprised to find a giraffe in the woods.  You can see it too if you look carefully.  It didn’t move a lot, he tells me.

giraffe at Borrowash

Last night I had wondered whether we would wake to a winter wonderland or sodden slush and when the curtains opened this morning, the reality was somewhere between the two.  There had been more snow overnight and the hills had a good covering but there was still plenty of green to be seen in the garden and the roads were slushy.

The sun was shining and I thought that I ought to visit the winter wonderland and ignore the slush, so I put my walking boots on and headed for the hills.

I carefully chose our smallest hill and stopped on the way to look back over the town.  It was a good day to be out and about.

langholm and whita snow

I got a short way up the Meikleholm  Hill track and stopped to catch my breath and look around.  Sunshine on snow, if it is not too deep, brings out details and I could see a fan shape near a pylon on the lower sloped of Whita across the the other side of the town.

pylon in snow

A glimpse of some snowy hills encouraged me to climb a bit higher…

view from Meikleholm Hill

…but I met the  owner of these footprints and he told me that it was very cold and windy on the top of the hill…

strange footsteps

…and as it was clouding over and the forecast had suggested a good chance of more snow, I chickened out and walked back down off the hill and onto the Becks track.  I settled for a walk across the Becks Burn and back home by the road.  I hoped that I would get back before the snow started again.

My friend Ada had sent me message a day or two ago to say that primroses were out along the track so I kept my eyes open and saw one for myself.  Shortly afterwards I passed a fine display of catkins.

primrose and catkins

I got down to the Auld Stane Brig and thought about heading home along the road.

But the clouds had moved away and the sun was out again, so I thought that I might have time to climb up the lower slopes of Warbla and come back down the track to the park to make my walk a little more interesting.

I wasn’t the only one to have used the track today…

warbla path

…and this was no surprise as dog walkers get everywhere.

This short track was quite steep and even a little snow makes walking harder work and I was happy to stop and look back across the Wauchope from time to time.

The light on Calfield Rig was interesting.

calfield rig

And I could have stood for a long time looking at the snowy slopes…

calfield

…but it was chilly so I walked up the path a bit and then had another look in a different direction.  The light and shade there were interesting too.

view over holmwood snow

I got to the point where my path met the main track from the top of Warbla and turned to go down to the town. Then I turned back and looked up the track to the summit.

warbla track snow

It was irresistible so I telephoned Mrs Tootlepedal to tell her of my whereabouts and then set off up the hill.

It was quite hard to make quick progress as I had to keep stopping to look around, both to enjoy the wider view as sunshine and clouds alternated in a brisk wind…

clouds and sun on snow

…and to use the zoom on the Lumix to focus in on small details that caught the eye on distant hills.  There was some deep snow on Bauchle Hill further up the Esk valley.

detail Bauchle Hill

I pressed on though, using the helpful footprints in the snow left by a pair of dog walkers who had gone up the track before me.  Without the help of the dog walkers, I don’t think that I could have continued as the wind had blown quite a bit of snow onto the track and it was well over six inches deep at times.  I would have skipped through that as a boy but it was a more serious consideration now.

Still, I got high enough to look back down over the town….

wide view from warbla snow

…and as I got to the flatter part of the track near the summit, the snow got thinner because much of it had been blown away by the strong winds and I was able to stride out with youthful exuberance (almost).

The views from the top were well worth any effort I had had to expend in getting up the hill.

ewes valley snow

Thanks to the rapid passing of the clouds, the light was different every time I looked and it would have been very tempting to spend quite a bit of time on the top of the hill taking pictures…

langholm sun and clouds snow

…but as you can see from the snow glued to the trig point, the wind was brisk and the windchill factor was enough to make standing around for too long unattractive…

trig point warbla

…quite apart from the possibility of being literally blown over while taking pictures of Whita.

whita from warbla snow

So I took one last picture….

Langholm and ewes valley snow

…looked at some looming clouds coming up behind me, and scuttled back down the hill as fast as my legs (and two stout walking poles) would carry me.

As it turned out, there was no need for a rush as the snow didn’t start again until well into the afternoon.  But I had had the best of the day’s sunshine while I was out on the hill so I was happy.

I was also happy to sit down for some lunch after a strenuous four and a half mile outing.

I had a quick look at the birds in a sunny moment after lunch.

The pigeon was back…

pigeon

…and when the snow started again, the siskins were queuing up to kick…

three siskins and a kicking

…and shout at each other.

three siskins and a dunk

I settled down to the computer and put in some useful time entering more of the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive Group database and learning songs for a choir competition when we will have to do without books.

Mrs Tootlepedal found a dry spell to cycle about the town, combining some business with some shopping and when she go back, she made an excellent chicken stew for our tea.

We should be going to Edinburgh tomorrow to see Matilda but with more snow forecast, I think it most likely that we will stay at home.

The flying birds of the day are that flock of siskins which was back again.  They love to perch on the walnut tree, leap into the air, swirl about a bit and then settle back in the tree.  Perhaps, like me, they get a bit cold if they have to stand around too long.

siskin flock in walnut

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia.  She felt that as I had been a bit lacking of flying birds recently, she should help me out.  She visited RSPB West Sedgmoor on Saturday and saw a great many teal.

RSPB West Sedgemoor teal

My first picture of the day was taken very early in the morning indeed.  As I went to bed last night,  I was surprised to see that the moon was out and although it was lightly covered by a very thin cloud, I thought that I should celebrate being able to see it at all in the midst of our bad weather. This was six minutes after midnight.

full moon February

When I woke up this morning, the day was remarkably peaceful and dry.  After breakfast I got a call from fellow archivist Nancy to say that one of our microfiche readers wasn’t working and I was able to walk up to the Archive Centre without getting wet.

The Wauchope was unrecognisable from the river that we had seen on our way to church just a day ago and Mr Grumpy had found a quiet pool to stand in behind a bush.

calm after storm

After some head scratching and with a bit of a “let’s try that” technique, we got the reader to read again and I left Nancy to her work and walked home.  In spite of the improved weather conditions, the continuing brisk wind made me grateful for the warmth of my new coat.

In the garden I found the (small) host of daffodils had survived, a starling was doing some supervision…

in the garden after storm

…a first flower had appeared on the winter honeysuckle and Mary Jo’s rain gauge showed that quite a bit of rain had fallen.

The wind was no discouragement to the birds today though and enough goldfinches arrived to start a fight…

squabbling goldfinches

…though experience has led me to believe that sometimes two goldfinches are all you need to have a scrap.

Peace did break out and we got a collection of siskins and goldfinches that swapped places from time to time.

two triples on the feeder

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do some business and shopping  and I made some lentil soup for lunch.

Fortified by the soup, eaten with bread and cheese, we drove down to Canonbie to have a walk.  There were spots of rain as we drove down but luckily, the rain stopped when we got to the Byreburn Woods, and so we started our walk.

Our plan was to keep among the trees for as much of our walk as possible because the wind was very cold and the excellent path took us along in the shelter of some very tall conifers.

Byreburn Wood walk 1

Here is Mrs Tootlepedal giving a sense of scale.

Byreburn Wood walk 2

When we came out of the trees, some well constructed steps took us the steepest part of the hill….

Byreburn Wood walk 3

…and a handy bench provided us with a resting place at the top.

Byreburn Wood walk 4

The path is part of the Council’s Core Path Network and is well signposted and well maintained.

As we got to the most exposed part of the walk, there was a hint of sunshine…

Byreburn Wood walk 5

…which was fully realised as we came out of the wood and walked down the road…

Going down to Byre Burn

…to the modest bridge over the Byre Burn.

bridge at top of Byre Burn

We crossed the bridge and took the track which goes back down the hill alongside the Byre Burn itself.

fairy loup track

Here we spotted the only fungus we saw all walk…

fungus fairy loup track

…enjoyed the glowing moss on the bank above the track being picked out by the sun…

moss in sun fairy loup track

…and listened to the music of the burn…

cascade fairy loup track

…as it chattered over the little cascades on its way to the Fairy Loup and the River Esk.

cascade fairy loup track 2

We had to stop to take the obligatory picture of the Fairy Loup when we came to it, although the view would be greatly improved if someone would come along and trim the trees in front of it.

fairy loup february

When we got to the road at the bottom of the track,  we crossed this much more impressive bridge.  It carries the road which used to be the main Carlisle to Edinburgh trunk route.

Byreburn bridge A7

We had done two miles by the time that we got back to the car.  Although this was not a long walk, it had had a lot of variety on the way which had made it most rewarding.

When we got back to Langholm on our way home, it was obvious  that it had been raining in the town while we had been away.  This greatly added to the pleasure that we felt from our walk through the woods.

In the garden, there were signs of things to come.

crocus and hellebore promise

Mike Tinker’s tea radar was finely honed and he arrived just as the teapot was put on the table and we a good chat.  The Langholm Walks Group is planning to add a route from Canonbie to Langholm to its collection of waymarked walks and he told us that one section of this will go through the Byreburn Wood.

In the evening, my friend Luke came round with his flute and we had a go at a Quantz sonata.  We haven’t played it for some time and although we played a couple of movements, it was clear that we will need to practise a bit harder if it is to go smoothly.

Storm Ciara has treated us very lightly considering what happened not far from us.  There were damaging floods in Hawick and Appleby, Carlisle had floods again and the west coast main line railway was closed because of floods.  Meanwhile, I have been able to get out for a walk every day even if it has been too windy to cycle so I can’t complain.

This may change though, as the forecast for the week ahead is very uninviting and next weekend is due to bring us another very deep Atlantic depression.  The Norwegian forecast for our area is once again slightly better than the BBC’s so I think we will settle for the Norwegian arrangement and keep our fingers crossed.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, probably looking for a fight.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from a member of the Archive Group.  Joyce enjoys visiting Bermuda where her husband was born, and who can blame her when the views are like this?  That is a spider lily in the foreground.

Coopers island beach with spider lily

After an active day yesterday, I was happy to while away another grey morning with breakfast, coffee and the crossword merging almost indistinguishably into each other.

There weren’t many birds to distract me.  In fact these two siskins were the only ones that I saw on the feeder all morning.

two siskins

We had to rouse ourselves at noon though, as it was the day of the annual lunch of the Archive Group.  I had very carelessly missed this event last year as the sun shone and I got so excited that I went for a cycle ride instead of going to the lunch and completely forgot about it.

I was reminded about that quite a few times today.

We had set several alarms to remind me about the lunch today and walked across to the Eskdale Hotel with Sandy who was passing our gate as we left.

There was a good turn out of  members and partners and we enjoyed some good food and conversation, although we were distracted for a moment when someone saw a lion roaming about the street outside the hotel.

Langholm Rugby Lion

It turned out to be taking part in a video shoot to publicise the rugby club so we weren’t too alarmed.

After lunch, we returned home for a snooze in front of the horse racing on the telly but then, alerted by another alarm, we drove up to collect Sandy and went down the road to Longtown with him.

When we had passed through the town yesterday on our way to not watch a film, we had noticed what seemed like a possible murmuration of starlings so we thought that we ought to investigate this further.

As soon as we parked, we could see a lot of starlings overhead…

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 1

…and small murmurations soon formed.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 2

They reamined disappointingly small though and a lot of the birds flew down to a pylon…

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 3

…and sat on it.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 4

After a while, there were signs of action on all sides.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 5

In our experience of the murmurations at Gretna in past years, the starlings gradually gather into one huge flock but at Longtown today, they stayed stubbornly in many smaller groups.

There were one or two larger groups though and one of them gathered over the High Street.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 6

There weren’t enough in the group to produce the striking patterns that photographers hope for but some good shapes did form and dissolve.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 7

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 8

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 9

Things did not develop as we hoped and we could still see many separate groups of birds in almost every direction when we looked around.

It was a very cloudy day and it soon got quite dark as the street lamps came on.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 10

All the same, it was great fun watching the starlings above the roofs getting ready to go to their roost and I took a lot of pictures in the gathering gloom.

A few more birds did join the crowd…

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 11

…and it became quite an impressive collection…

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 12

…swooping and swerving above the houses.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 13

Strange shapes appeared…

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 14

…maybe resembling a giant fish…

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 15

…or a dove of peace…

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 16

…or perhaps just looking like an impressive amount of starlings in one place at one time.

longtown murmuration Jan 25 no 17

The show lasted 25 minutes and we intend to come back again if we can get a fine evening. We will try to find a better viewpoint if we do return.

For some reason there is no flying bird of the day today.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Gunta and shows that although her siskins on the west coast of the USA are not quite the same as ours, they do behave in a similar manner.

pine_siskins-24

We had a very windy day here today and there was frequent rain too, so Sandy did well to find a dry moment to walk down and have coffee with us.  His luck didn’t last though and I had to drive him back home through a downpour.

While we were drinking coffee, we were entertained by the desperate efforts of a jackdaw to hang onto a walnut tree twig in the stiff wind.

jackdaw flapping

(I think it is a jackdaw, it might be a crow.)

When I came back from taking Sandy home, it was time to take down the Christmas decorations as it was Twelfth Night today.  The Christmas tree, cleared of its tinsel and lights, was put out to get used to being outside again.   It will go back into a bed when the weather is better.  It is lurking in the shelter of the wheelie bin to protect it from the wind.

christmas tree outside

I went back in and watched the birds.

A robin was checking to see whether there was anything interesting up there.

robin peering

Perhaps it was counting goldfinches.

four goldfinches

I was happy to see any birds in the wind and rain but it was a rare moment when all the perches were in use on the feeder.

two siskins two goldfinches

And with the wind rocking the boat, birds had to hold on tight down here too.

goldfinch hanging on

It was a day for doing things indoors so I made some leek and potato soup for lunch and after lunch, I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.  Then I practised some choir songs.  We are going to have to learn songs off by heart so an early start is essential for me as I find retaining words and music very difficult.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that there won’t be clapping too.

Mrs Tootlepedal bravely cycled off to the shops and when she returned, she reported that the rain had stopped so I put on my new coat and took it out for a walk.

There were a lot of ducks about.  This bold bunch were swimming in the Esk through the waves below the Town Bridge…

esk ducks rough

…while this squad sailed in smoother waters nearer the bank.

esk ducks smooth

I crossed the bridge and found even more ducks resting on the banks of the Ewes Water.

kilngreen duck bankers

The light had got very gloomy by this time so I tried to sneak past the ducks without disturbing them.

I was spotted though.

white duck hiding

On the far back of the river, a familiar figure stood guard.

heron

At this point, the rain started again and got steadily heavier, giving my new coat a good test which it passed with flying colours.

The rain then stopped before I got home so I was quite dry when I joined Mrs Tootlepedal and our friend Mike, whose tea radar was once again finely honed, for a refreshing cup and some shortbread.

After Mike had gone, my flute pupil Luke turned up and we had fun playing.  The persistently damp weather doesn’t do our breathing any favours and we ran out of puff from time to time, but we did our best.

Because of the lack of colour in recent posts, I thought that I should take advantage of the Christmas season to put in two cut flower pictures, the first a gift from Clare and Alistair which is lasting well…

christmas flowers

…and the second a bunch of Alstroemeria which Mrs Tootlepedal bought to brighten the house.  They have repaid the purchase price handsomely.

alstroemeria

Flying birds were at  a premium in the gloom today and this was my best effort.

flying goldfinch

It is a mark of what the day was like that it almost seemed brighter after dark when the rain and wind subsided than it had been during the day.  The forecast is for tomorrow to be even worse .

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