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Posts Tagged ‘snowdrop’

Today’s guest picture comes from a Welsh correspondent Keiron.  He saw this fine tree in Ystradgynlais a day or two ago and thought that I might like it as I am fond of trees.

Ystradgynlais tree

It was a sunny day here today, but as it was also freezing when we got up, we were in no hurry to get the active part of the day going and sat and read the papers after breakfast until it was time for coffee.

The birds were not very active either, and the only birds that came near the feeder in the morning were a pair of chaffinches.

frosty chaffinch

Stimulated by our cup of coffee, we leapt gently into action and went for a walk.  We did think of a drive to a start point but we couldn’t think of one which we both fancied so we settled for the walk from the town up the River Esk to Potholm and back again.

We had done this walk three weeks ago an a very gloomy day so this time we decided to go round it in the opposite direction, starting by crossing the river by the Langholm Bridge.

There were plenty of gulls to be seen on the river when we looked from the bridge….

view from Langholm Bridge

…and I had my bird camera with me, so we stopped for a moment to enjoy the black headed gulls in flight and on the ground.

four gull panel

It was a grand day for a walk, and if you could get out of the chilly wind, there was even a hint of warmth from the sun.

Although we were walking a familiar route, it didn’t stop us enjoying the sights as we went along through the woods…

road to Holmhead

…over culverts….

bridge on Longfauld track

…and past tree plantations.

young spruce in winter

The views up the valley were delightful in the sunshine.

view of Milnholm

Rather to her surprise, Mrs Tootlepedal had read recently that beech tree leaf litter is slow to rot and does not contain much in the way of useful nutrients  and with that in mind, the clear ground under the beech trees which we passed was explained.

beech wood longfauld

I have always liked the openness of beech woods but I had never understood that the beech leaves themselves were probably suppressing the competition on the forest floor.

There was not a lot of fungus to be seen but I liked this colourful clump on a tree stump at Potholm..

tree stump fungus

…and this pale outbreak on a growing sapling near by.

fungus on sapling

As I had my bird camera with me, we kept an eye out for buzzards on the way.  The sharp eyed Mrs Tootlepedal spotted quite a few, but they were circling high in the sky and my 300mm lens could not get very close to them.

two high buzzards

At one time, we could see five at the same time, but all them out of range.

A robin in a tree at Potholm as we came down to the bridge was more co-operative and sang loudly to make sure that we didn’t miss it.

robin at Potholm

On the bank below the robin, snowdrops were talking about spring.

snowdrops at Potholm

We stopped at the bridge for a small snack…

potholm bridge

…and then we headed homewards along the road.  The fields were astonishingly green.

green fields milnholm

A  young cow regarded us with curiosity.

cow on potholm road

And the wall beside the road offered a feast of lichen.

six lichen on potholm road wall

At the end of the Potholm road, we joined the main road back into Langholm.  It is lined with concrete posts which hold the metal bars which stop errant cars falling down the steep slope into the river below.  Two of the posts caught my eye.

two concrete fence posts B709

We got home after 5.4 miles, quite ready for a cup of tea.  Mrs Tootlepedal had enough strength left to cycle down to the Co-op to do some shopping so that she could make a dahl for our evening meal and I had enough strength left to eat it.  It was very good and rounded off a peacefully pleasant day very well.

One of the Kilngreen gulls is the flying bird of the day,

flying gull

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  It is a horrible evening here so I was pleased to find his cheerful picture of life on the river at Chester last week.

chester

We were promised a visit from Storm Brendan later in the day so it was good to find a quiet, dry morning when we got up.

The birds didn’t seem very interested in getting some food in before the storm came though and all that was to be seen was a goldfinch on the feeder and a crow in the walnut tree.

goldfinch and crow

I cycled up to the town to do some Archive Group business and called in at our not so near corner shop of the way home to stock up on a few necessities.  Then it was time for a coffee and finally, I got out for a walk.

I did think about a cycle ride but the prospect of a strengthening wind made a 5 mile walk more attractive.

I had only got as far as the back wall of the house when I had to stop to note snowdrops almost out beside the dam.

dam snowdrops

I hadn’t got much further before I was detained by a dipper which was living up to its name by doing some vigorous dipping in the Wauchope above the Kirk Brig.

dipping dipper

They can stay under water for an amazingly long time.

In the end, I had to go on and I walked through the town and along to the track to the oak woods and the Moorland Project bird hide.

It was muddy and slippery, so I had to keep more of an eye on where I was walking than interesting things but this fallen tree was large enough to attract my attention.

felled tree with fungus

And the oak trees are hard to miss when you get to them.

oak tree near jenny noble

I didn’t want to hang about too much in case the threatened rain came in before schedule so I pressed on to the bird hide.  I had heard at second hand that the hide was closed as a result of the larch disease which will lead to the trees at the hide being felled soon.  I wondered if this meant that the trees had already been felled but when I got there, the hide and trees were still there and the notice on the hide door read as follows:

laverock hide notice

I was in time, the hide was still open and the feeders had been filled by one of the volunteers.

I sat in the hide for a few minutes and was rewarded with a good supply of peanut eaters.

Among the crowd, there were two coal tits….

two coal tits

…two blue tits…

two blue tits

…and a great tit with a chaffinch with other things on its mind.

great tit and chaffinch

A green finch arrived and checked to see if the peanuts on the other side of the feeder were any tastier.

inquisitive greenfinch

There were plenty of puddles about and a pheasant was happy to use one as a drinking fountain.

drinking pheasant

There had been some sunshine om my walk out but the clouds were coming up from the west so I didn’t stop long and was soon on my way home along the road.

It is hard to convey the sheer pleasure that can be got from contemplating our hills while out on a walk and I don’t have the camera or the skills to do them full justice but even in the middle of winter, this is a very pleasant prospect.

view from Broomholmshiels

In hot weather, the sheep that you can see in the field in the foreground of the picture above often make use of the shade of a tree beside the road.  Looking at the exposed roots of the tree, I wondered if the sheep were responsible for these scratches.

sheep scraped root

On my side of the fence there was a good show of xanthoria parietina lichen.

xanthoria parietina lichen

I set off down the hill at a good pace and I wasn’t intending to stop again but when a cladonia lichen winks at you from a wall across the road, it would be rude not to stop.  This one was so big and bright that it looked like a flower.

british soldier lichen

The river had dropped enough to let me take a picture of Skippers Bridge when I got there.  As the light was dull, I thought that it would make a change to show the bridge at work instead of the usual still life portrait.

I feel slightly nervous when I see lorries of this size crossing the bridge as they seem vastly too big for it….

skippers bridge with lorry

…but the bridge has stood up well to fairly constant traffic for over 300 years and will doubtless outlast us all.

I got home before the weather broke and had lunch with Mrs Tootlepedal.  She went out on business in the afternoon and was not as lucky as me, as it was raining very heavily by the time that she bicycled home.

Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea and my flute pupil came in the early evening.  Mike got wet but Luke was lucky to find a gap in the rain when he came.

As I write this in the late evening, the wind is soughing round the house but the rain has stopped, temporarily at least.  Weather reports show severe gales on exposed western coasts but we are on the very edge of the storm so we are quite lucky so far.  Long may this continue.

The flying bird of the day is that dipper, pushing off low over the river to find more food.

flying dipper

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The guest picture of the day is a curious sculpture of a bicycle on a  railway line which Bruce encountered on his recent Annan walk.

Bruce's bike at annan

We had a splendidly sunny day today but from a cycling point of view, it wasn’t as useful as it might have been as it was also very cold for several hours in the morning, with too much of a risk of ice for a unworried pedal.

Under the circumstances, I was more than usually happy to see Dropscone arrive for coffee with treacle scones.  We managed to eat all the scones ourselves with perfect timing just before we were joined by our neighbour Liz who had been walking her dog and Mrs Tootlepedal who had been putting another coat of paint on her horse.

As we sipped our coffee, the conversation, as conversations among people of more than three score years and ten tends to do, turned to the many and various strains and stresses that come with the turning of yet another page on the calendar. The upshot of the discussion was a firm injunction from the rest of us to Liz to seek medical advice today as she won the competition for the most serious immediate ailment by some distance.

When the coffee group broke up, I went for a stroll round the garden.  Although the shady parts were still frosty, the sun had encouraged the crocuses…

clump of crocuses

…with some even popping up uninvited among the moss and grass on the middle lawn.

crocuses on lawn

The snowdrops along the back path are almost at their peak and don’t seem to mind the frosty mornings at all.

back path snowdrop zenith

A euphorbia is showing welcome signs of spring.

euphorbia

I went back in and did the crossword and ate some soup and waited in vain for some birds and the sunshine to come to the feeder.  Birds were scarce but in the end a siskin arrived before the sun.

siskin in shade

Occasional chaffinches joined in but annoyingly for the would be photographer, kept getting their heads into the shadow of the feeder.

siskin and chaffinch 2

In the end, the thermometer rose enough to make cycling a pleasure so I left the birds to it…

siskin and chaffinch

…and went out to see how far my legs would take me.

I was very pleased to find that the potholes on the muddy road past the site where the new wind farm will be on the top of Callister had been repaired and the road cleaned, so I was able to cycle down to the valley of the Kirtle Water in comfort and safety.

I had my eye on bridges today and stopped at the second one over the Kirtle Water that I crossed.

kirtle water bridge near Waterbeck

As well as the bridge, I looked at trees…

tree at between the waters

…on both sides of the river.  These three are being undermined by burrowing creatures.

three trees Waterbeck

I stopped for the next bridge at Sprinkell…

kirtle water bridge sprinkell

…and then stopped again in the village of Eaglesfield to show another side of the gaily painted bus shelter there.

eaglesfield bus stop 2

From Eaglesfield, I headed south to Gretna, very pleased to get away from a chilly and nagging headwind that had made progress a rather slow business.

The wind had been stronger than I had expected and I would have been much happier when it gradually dropped to a mere whisper, if this hadn’t coincided with a change of direction in my route so that now it was behind me but hardly helping at all.

Still, it was a sunny day and it was a treat to be out and about with my ankle giving me no trouble as I pedalled along….and of course there were more bridges to cross.

This one was over a little tributary to the river Sark, just a short distance from the border between Scotland and England.

sark tributary bridge

There was a very inviting path along the stream…

riverside walk Sark

…but I didn’t have time to follow it as my slow progress meant that I needed to get home before it got too dark and cold for comfortable cycling.

I pressed on as fast as my legs would let me and after a very short visit to England, I returned to Scotland and got back to back to Langholm with thirty eight and a half miles showing on my bike computer.  I was seized by a decimal obsession and emulated Mrs May’s Brexit tactic by going round in ever decreasing circles without getting anywhere until the 40 miles finally came up on the screen.  At this point I stopped.

I was just having a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal when our neighbour Liz dropped back in to report that she had followed our advice and actually gone to the Health Centre to see the practice nurse.  She now has an appointment with a doctor.  We were mildly surprised but very delighted with this outcome as her joints are giving her no peace at the moment.

Having discussed pain over coffee in the morning, now we discussed death in the afternoon over tea.  You can see what fun old people have when they get together.  Actually both conversations were very cheerful and interesting, all things considered.

 

I am glad that I got out for a cycle ride today because when I look at the forecast tonight, it tells me that we will be back to windy weather tomorrow.

I did manage to catch one chaffinch in the right time and the right place over lunch, so it is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

For those interested, clicking on the map of the ride below will bring up further details.   It should have felt warm at 56 degrees but the wind was cold and I was happy to be well wrapped up.

garmin route 15 Feb 2019

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce who was exploring the back ways of our neighbouring town of Annan when he came upon this attractive bridge.

annan little bridge

Perceptive readers may have noticed that I was feeling a little gloomy when I sat down to write last night’s post (thank you for the kind wishes expressed in the comments)  and they will be glad to hear that things are a lot more cheerful today. This is down to enjoying two choirs, a little excursion and some bird variety.

The day started with the first choir in the Langholm Parish Church where we sang an introit and an anthem as well as four hymns.  In between the singing, the minister gave us all a severe warning to keep a good eye out for the devil who would be pursuing us like a roary lion and seeking to devour us.   We took his advice and managed to get through the rest of the day safely.

The weather was calm and occasionally sunny when we got back from church so after a little bird watching, where I noticed a chaffinch trying to pick up tips from a goldfinch on how to be really cool…

shocked chaffinch cool goldfinch

…and Mrs Tootlepedal marvelled at the delicate colouring on a pigeon…

pigein feb

…I took a walk round the garden.

In spite of collecting over 200 walnuts in the autumn, there are still a lot to be seen lying around in the flower beds.  Most of them have been pecked open but this one looks as good as new.

walnut on ground

The garden is full of snowdrops which were looking good in the sunshine but getting a good picture of the snowdrop flower requires the photographer to lie flat on the ground…

garden snowdrops

…or to take advantage of one from a small vase full which Mrs Tootlepedal had picked and brought indoors.

Rather than go for a walk, I took out the slow bicycle and cycled along to the Kilngreen to look for dippers and oyster catchers.  I could only find gulls.

flying gull

It was a pleasant day though so I cycled on over the sawmill brig, past a moss covered tree on the Castleholm…

castleholm tree

…and up the Lodge walks to Holmhead where I was hoping to find a good show of snowdrops to make up for the lack of waterside birds.

I was not disappointed…

Holmhead snowdrops

…and I got a bird among the blooms as a bonus.

pheasant among the snowdrops

The snowdrops and the pheasant cheered me up so much that I resolved to take advantage of the good weather and cycle a couple of miles further up the Esk valley…

 

esk valley

…and then cross a bridge and cycle a couple of miles down again on the opposite side of the river.

There were some grey clouds ahead….

lonesome pine

…but my road down the opposite side of the river looked very inviting so I pressed on…

potholm road

…up the track to Potholm.

Potholm track

When I got to the farm house at Potholm, there was another fine show of snowdrops on display.

potholm farm with snowdrops

What wasn’t so satisfactory was the accompanying shower of rain so that by the time that I crossed the bridge over the Esk….

potholm bridge

…all sign of blue skies had disappeared and I was getting quite wet and things looked gloomy for the road home.

milnholm and tree

This put paid to any further photo opportunities, except a stop under the sheltering trees at the road end to enjoy a door that has been overtaken by time…

old door in wall

…and a wall that has probably got more spleenwort per square inch than anywhere else in the world.

spleenwort wall

I was lucky in that I was cycling along the very edge of the rain shower so I didn’t get as wet as I had feared but it was still annoying to find that the sun came out almost as soon as I had got home.

I had some baked beans on toast for  my lunch and watched the chaffinches competing for seeds for a while…

busy chaffinches

…and then it was time to head for Carlisle and the community choir practice there.

Our usual conductor was busy elsewhere but she had sent down an excellent substitute and he was very thorough, technically interesting and helpful, very charming and quite funny.  As a result,  two hours of hard work passed in a flash.

Also encouraging was the fact that it was still just about light as we left the church and drove home.  We are inching towards spring.

Mrs Tootlepedal had prepared a fish pie for our tea and as that is one of my favourite meals, it rounded off an excellent day.

It is not the cleanest picture that I have ever taken but I really liked today’s flying bird of the day.  The subdued colours of both bird and background seem to match the rather reserved manner of the chaffinch as she approaches the feeder.

flying caffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by one of my ex teaching colleagues, Ada.  She has been on a walking holiday in Tenerife, which looks from her picture to have been an excellent choice.

Tenerife

I must apologise to regular readers who might justifiably expect a little variety every now and again in my posts but things are conspiring against me to a certain extent and life is a bit dull just now.

I can’t get my foot sorted out so walking is a bit of a pain and the weather has been unhelpful when it come to long cycle rides so there hasn’t been much new in the way of views or even exiting lichens.  On top of that, the supply of birds in the garden has been almost entirely limited to chaffinches…

chaffinches coming and going at feeder

…either at the feeder or approaching it.

flying chaffinch (3)

And although it is mildly amusing to see a chaffinch miss its footing on a perch…

chaffinch missing perch

…one flying chaffinch looks very much like another….

flying chaffinch

…and that was all I saw today.  The goldfinches were hiding behind the feeder when they did arrive.

chaffinches at feeder

There was some excitement when I got a visit in the morning  from Dropscone, bringing treacle scones with him and heard tales of his holiday in Wales.  This was entertaining for me but mostly I looked out of the window and watched chaffinches.

flying chaffinch (2)

After more overnight rain and wind, things calmed down during the day as storm Erik drifted away to the east and although the brisk wind made it feel quite chilly, it was really not a bad day for February.

I am back to trying to rest my foot before going to see a physio as soon as I can next week so my only expedition outside was a tour round the New Town on my slow bike in the hope of seeing something interesting in the way of waterside birds.

There were none about.

Pool Corner was looking peaceful after the storm.

 

pool corner Feb

In the garden, Mrs Tootlepedal had showed me a double snowdrop and I lifted its head to get a better view.  It had been a bit battered by the splash from the rain.

double snowdrop

The crocuses were enjoying the sunshine but they too need a little time to recover.

open crocuses

As I had nothing to better to do, I made the mistake of watching Scotland play Ireland at rugby in the afternoon.  As Scotland played very well intermittently but for the rest of the time ran through their well practised repertoire of forward passes, dropped balls, line out errors and poor choices, this was not the best way to spend time.  We lost.

Still, the days are definitely getting longer and my foot will sort itself out in the course of time so I hope that patient readers will not have to wait too long before something interesting appears in the blog.

In the meantime, here is yet another flying chaffinch of the day.

_DSC9873

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Today’s guest picture shows a skate which our son Tony found stranded on a beach.  He was on a family walk and one of the family bravely picked it up and returned it to the water.  It swam off.

Tony's skate

We left the fleshpots of London today and returned by train and bus to our quiet home in Langholm.

Although we had had a richly entertaining time in the south and we are very grateful to all those who helped enjoy our visit, it is always good to be home.

Our friend Mike Tinker told me that it had been very cold at night while we were away, being as low as -8°C which is uncommonly chilly for us so we did well to miss that.  By contrast, when we finally got home in mid-afternoon today, the sun was out, it was reasonably warm and any trace of snow had vanished from the garden…

lawn wth no snow

…and from the hills.

monument from garden

There was a good spread of snowdrops instead.

snowdrops by path

One of the things that we missed when we were away was the monthly producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre.  This was bad because I like to visit it to top up my supplies of local honey, fish, meat and cheese.  Luckily I had a personal shopper in the shape of Alison, my customary Friday night musical associate, who very kindly did some useful purchasing on my behalf so all was not lost.

I went round to collect the shopping from her and then thought that it might be a good idea to give the car a little exercise as it had been sitting unused for a week in those low temperatures.

Although the sun was beginning to sink in the sky, it was still a lovely evening so I went to see if there was a view left.

Ewes valley late Feb day 2

I was half an hour too late.

Ewes valley late Feb day

But the colour was beautiful even if most of the hills were in shadow and the car was grateful for the little outing so it was time well spent.

Hillhead woods

The evening passed quietly and although I hope to get back to reading and commenting on other people’s blogs, I may possibly fall asleep before I manage many so I apologise to any writers of immortal prose and takers of beautiful pictures that I miss.

Normal service should be resumed tomorrow I hope.

I was thwarted in my plan to get a flying or indeed just a perching bird by a visit from a sparrow hawk just before I got my camera out.  It cleared the garden of any birds very successfully.

In the place of a flying bird of the day, I have a snowdrop.

snowdrop flower

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

wemyss view

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

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

robin on feeder january

…and a coal tit…

coal tit on feeder january

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

squabbling chaffinches

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

bust stop at eaglesfield

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

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

esk at irving house

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

daffodil showing

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

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

two snowdrops indoors

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

crochet blanket part two

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

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

rocking horse repairs

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

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

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

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

flying chaffinch

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