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Posts Tagged ‘snowdrop’

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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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s visit to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone

It was  cold here again but not as cold as Yellowstone and we had another sunny day to take our mind off the near freezing temperatures.

It was a choir Sunday with the church choir in the morning and the Carlisle choir in the afternoon so there was not much time for anything else.

My ingenious plan to make my hymn singing life easier was somewhat marred by the fact that I had missed two verses of one of the hymns out altogether.  My chagrin was lessened when my fellow bass told me that the previous organist had also missed out the verses while playing in a service.  The missing verses were on another page and under another setting so it was easy to miss them and our present organist told me that he has a big arrow on his page because he too had missed them out in a service.

I will be more careful this week.

I had to time to walk round the garden when we got back from church…..

crocuses

…where some early crocuses and daffodils were defying the chilly morning….

daffodil

…and the snowdrops were looking cheerful both singly…

snowdrop

…and in concert.

snowdrop

I had a moment to  spot a robin over lunch…

robin

…and then it was off to Carlisle for a bit of shopping and the choir.

The shopping went well,  the choir went even better and the conductor remarked that the tenors had been on fire during the practice.  I am almost certain that he meant this as a compliment.

It was still light as we set out to drive home, which makes us feel that the cold can’t last for ever.

Instead of a slow cooked stew, Mrs Tootlepedal had prepared a fish pie for our tea and this rounded off a very cheery day.

The flying bird of the day is having a quiet sit down.

chaffinch

A note on the garden birds: this must be easily the slowest winter since I started taking pictures of garden birds.  I am at a loss to explain this as there haven’t been any reports of bird disasters.  My tentative idea is that changes to neighbouring gardens and in our own garden may have lessened the amount of cover available for visiting birds.  How are other UK garden bird feeders going on?  Does anyone have news? I would be interested to know.

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Today’s guest picture comes from former Archive Group member Ken who has gone back to the east coast where he is celebrating the twentieth birthday of the ‘Angel of the North’.

angel of the north

It didn’t snow today.  This was quite unexpected but to make up for it, a shrewd and biting wind made going outside a bit of a trial.

I had to go out after breakfast for a final visit to the health centre for a look at the scratches and grazes on my arms from the bike tragedy.  Like my face, they have healed up well and I was pronounced fully cured and discharged.  Hooray, I can have a bath or shower at last.

It was sunny when I walked across the suspension bridge on my way to the centre and I spotted four white dots on the river gravel.  I only had my phone with me and this is what it saw.

oyster catchers

If you look carefully at the end of the gravel, you can just make out that the white dots are four oyster catchers, the first that I have seen this year.

To our great relief, the bridge builders returned and started work….

dam bridge repairs

…..and to our great amazement, a new tea shack and office appeared as well.

dam bridge repairs

Upon enquiry, it turned out that the junior worker had broken the key in the door yesterday and so great was the security of the triple lock that the whole container had to be taken away to get it opened up again.  Meanwhile, a substitute had been delivered.

On my way back into the house, I walked past a pile of stones in our back garden which had come from the repairs to our house wall three years ago.  It shows how well moss grows in our climate.

moss in garden

The roads were still icy in places so I stayed in and got my bigger lens out and peered at the birds through the kitchen window.

goldfinch

blackbird

robin

A lot of siskins turned up after a while and started quarelling.

siskins

Rather annoyingly, our water supply first reduced itself to a trickle and then gave up entirely.  Water is one of those things that you don’t realise how much you need until you don’t have them.

We naturally assumed that it was the bridge builders who had done it since they cut the pipe not long ago but they protested their innocence and it was true that the pipe looked untouched.  In the end, a water board man came round in the early evening and solved the problem by turning on a stopcock which a person or persons unknown had turned off at the end of our road.   First our phone and then our water.  Can we put out a plea for people not to turn off our utilities.

Anyway, while we were waiting for the water board man to come, I went shopping in the town and then took a diversion on the way home.

I got a rather distant view of a single oyster catcher as I went along the river.

oyster catcher

I was disappointed that the other three had gone somewhere else.

I am learning how varied mosses are and trying to find out what to look for in a moss so I was pleased to find a good example of two different sporangia side by side on the Castleholm wall.

moss  sporangia

The ones on the left, standing up and brown and the ones on the right, hanging down and green.    I still can’t tell you what the mosses are but it is a start.

There were ferns on the wall too.

fern sporangia in sori

This might be a broad buckle fern but there are a lot to pick from.

Later on, I saw some ferns on a tree.  They look similar but when you look again, you see that they might be different.

fern and sori

This might be Dryopteris carthusiana,  spinulose woodfern, but then again, it might not be.

I am having a lot of fun looking at mosses and ferns and lichen.

I realise that not all readers might share my enthusiasm but when you are retired, you have plenty of time to look around.

moss

Oh look, some more mosses, one creeping along the wall with stealthy fingers and one standing up straight with interesting cups.

It was pretty chilly….

snow on Timpen

….so I didn’t dawdle too much but I did stop for some snowdrops near the Lodge….

snowdrops castleholm

….and a hint of spring.

hazel catkin and bud

We were very pleased when our water came back on and we were able to do the washing up and make a cup of tea.

I went out as usual to take a picture of the bridge works at the end of the working day.  They are busy preparing to connect the bridge to the existing road.

dam bridge repairs

In the evening I drove to Carlisle to play with our recorder group.  Susan didn’t come with me as she is preparing to go to Ireland with her father and some of her siblings for a holiday tomorrow.   I hope to get a picture of two from them while they are away.

The recorder playing was most enjoyable as Heather brought her keyboard round with her and we played sonatas for two or three players and B.C. instead of our usual consort music.

It made a refreshing change.

I was so busy peering closely at the birds today that I forgot to take a good flying bird of the day and this was the best that I could find when I looked on the camera card.

flying chaffinch

And I cycled two hundred yards to the shop and back, the first time I have been on a bike for a fortnight.  The shop was closed by the time that I got there but I enjoyed the cycle ride!

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Mike Tinker, who with his wife Alison  is visiting family in New Zealand.  He sent me this picture of a sunset at Bach and kindly added that the temperature there was 26 degrees.  It is zero here!

Bach sunset

A very rare thing happened today; I didn’t take any photographs.  The sun was out and it was a bright and chilly day so it would have been an ideal opportunity to take some exciting moss pictures but for once I had better things to do all day than take photos.

We started off by going to sing in the church choir and had a very varied selection of hymns, psalms and anthems to sing.  The service was conducted by a visiting ‘eco-preacher’ and it was hard to disagree with his view that we all might have some responsibility to respond to the ongoing climate changes.

We had a practice after the service and then we had to rush home to get a bite to eat before setting off to Carlisle where the Carlisle Community Choir had a five hour ‘singing day’.

This was hard work but fun and useful too as a preparation for our visit to a choral competition in Manchester next week.

My face stood up to all this activity very well and the bruises round my eye are starting to heal already.  The only unfortunate thing is that half my face is sliding inexorably down towards my chin….

bike face

….giving me a rather lopsided look.

Insult was added to injury by my phone camera bringing up a heading saying “Beauty Face” as it took the shot.

The whole accident has turned out to be remarkably pain free so I can only suggest that  the torrent of good wishes from kind hearted readers, choir members and friends in the town must have had a beneficially curative effect.

In the complete absence of any interesting pictures, the flying bird of the day is represented by a small pot of snowdrops which Mrs Tootlepedal brought into the house yesterday.  When I am not banging my head on the tarmac or singing all day,  I shall try to take a better picture.

snowdrop

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother’s birthday tour and shows a very United Kingdom team of bell ringers over a jeweller’s shop in Gloucester.

gloucester

The new month started in good style with a chilly but fine morning and it was a pleasure to see the sun and some blue sky.

Even though it was not far above freezing, the sun was enough to bring a snowdrop out in the garden.

open snowdrop

I am trying to take care of my chest as it is steadily improving and I don’t want to set it back so I resisted any slight temptation to go cycling (there was a strong wind to go with the low temperatures) and spent a quiet morning in.

We are going to get the bridge over the dam behind the house replaced after a large hole appeared in the roadway some weeks ago….

bridge repairs

…and this will be quite a big deal.  One of the problems is that record keeping has been poor and no one is quite sure what utilities run under the bridge.  We have had several visits from experts who have given fine displays of head scratching and chin stroking and today, we had the man from the water board.    We just hope that they don’t cut off our gas or sewage when they start the work.

There were plenty of birds about again today…..

goldfinches, chaffinch and blackbird

…and although there weren’t as many as yesterday, there were still times  when the feeder was very busy.

busy feeder

I was pleased to see a greenfinch or two among the goldfinches, chaffinches  and siskins.

greenfinch

Although the skies got a bit cloudy after lunch, it was still fine enough to tempt Mrs Tootlepedal out into the garden and I took the opportunity to go for a walk.

I had intended to walk to the top of Meikleholm Hill to get some wider views and started out full of pep….

Langholm from Meikleholm

….but when I met a group of hill cattle half way up the hill, I gave that idea up and settled for contouring round the hill and back down to the road.  My decision was helped by the refusal of the sun to come out from behind the clouds where I was, even though it was shining on some distant snow capped hilltops.

Snow on hills

I chose a route that was well sheltered from the north-westerly wind and enjoyed my outing.

When I got to the road, I was observed by a curious sheep…..

sheep

…and considered a handy bench with its view….

bench at Breckonwrae

…but thought that the moss on the arm of the bench was the most  interesting thing about it.

moss on bench at Breckonwrae

I considered taking the path through the woods on my way back to the town but it was damp underfoot and I had already slipped over on the soggy patch of hillside so I decided to stick to the road.

This was not a boring option as there was an interesting wall with maidenhair spleenwort on the face of it….

spleenwort wall

…and any amount of different mosses on the top.

moss on wall

At the end of the wall, the road is lined by a fence made from pipes set into concrete fence posts and each fence post had its own hat….

moss on conrete fenceposts

…and I could easily have taken a picture of every one that I passed.  I restrained myself.

The sun actually came out as I got to the town so I walked down through the wood, crossed the Jubilee Bridge and took the new path round the bottom of the Castleholm.

New path castleholm

I was struck by the large number of comes at the very top of one of the noble firs beside the path…..

noble fir cones

…and by the even larger number of moss sporophytes on the wall opposite the Buccleuch Estates yard.

moss on wall, ewesbank

I don’t think that I have seen such a furry wall before. The mosses and lichens are still enjoying our weather.

As I walked along the Kilngreen, I passed Mr Grumpy, who was looking very well turned out.

heron

When I got back to the garden, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had spent the time digging out a tree peony and…..

tree peony move

….replanting it a few yards away.  It was too close to the dogwood before and should be able to make a better mark in its new position.

My walk was about three and half miles and I was more than happy to find myself in as good condition at the end of it as I had been at the start.  Both Mrs Tootlepedal and I are continuing to throw off the after effect of the bug, though I met someone on my walk today who was complaining that he still wasn’t entirely cured after five weeks so we are  going carefully and trying not to do too much at a time.

That concluded the active part of the day and I went into pro-relaxing mode until the evening came and it was time to look at pictures and write this post.

My moss book tells me that I really need a magnifying glass to get the best out of moss watching so I might think about that.  In the meantime, it has been an eye opener to see how many different forms of moss there are about.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin crossing in front of the lawn.  It is not a brilliant picture but I really liked the colour scheme.

flying siskin

On the subject of flying birds, I saw a picture in one of the blogs that I follow of a flock of birds rising from some tree tops.  We often have that from the trees of Holmwood.  In our case the birds are rooks….

rooks

…and we had a small example of a flock today.  They are very noisy.

 

 

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The last of my current set of guest pictures  (hint, hint) is a rather unorthodox setting for a Monteverdi concert that my sister Susan attended.

concert venue

Well, part of my wishes came true today and we had a day of almost uninterrupted sunshine.  Sadly, but predictably, the sunshine came with early frost and it was quite chilly all day.

On the plus side, after breakfast, I saw a man shinning up a telephone pole outside our house and before we knew it, our phone was back working.  Since it turned out that it was one of his fellow workers who had left a wire unconnected (“easily done,” the man said) when working up the pole while we were away, I felt that he could have been a bit more apologetic about the whole affair but as far as he was concerned, it was job done and off to the next one.

Still, our phone works so we are happy.  Now we can get back to receiving calls from crooks who want to sell us PPI deals or interfere with our computer’s operating system.  It has been hard to go without offers of a ‘green deal’ for so many days.

As well as our phone, there was a welcome return of some birds to the feeder.

busy feeder

There was even some queuing going on.

_DSC0883

I was pleased to see siskins back as well as goldfinches…

siskins

…and I liked the rather lordly air with which this one was waiting for someone to get out of his way.

stately siskin

Pigeons approached on foot, looking very serious….

pigeon

…while a goldfinch regarded an empty perch with suspicion….

flying goldfinch

…and a blackbird didn’t take to being photographed at all kindly.

blackbird

By noon, the temperature had crept up to 4°C and all danger of icy patches on the road had receded so I wrapped up warmly, got the fairly speedy bike out, lubricated the chain and set off to see what use I could make of a fine day.

As long as I didn’t try to go too fast, things went well and I pedalled over the top of Callister and down into the flat country beyond.

Quite often, you can see blue sky and be under cloud but today for a change, I could see plenty of clouds….

between the waters

…but I spent three hours under blue skies.

It was grand day for cycling….

tree between the waters

….with interesting trees and quiet roads.

Springkell

The camera club theme for the next meeting is ‘selfies’.  This might be my effort.

cycle selfie

As I passed the relatively new wind farm at Gretna, where the turbines were only just turning …

Longtown windmills

…I could see the even newer wind farm at Longtown in the background.

I stopped to eat a banana near Springfield and fell into conversation with an old chap who was touring on his electric bike.  He told me that he had done five and half thousand miles in the last eighteen months and was very grateful to be able to keep going in spite of having diabetes.

I am keeping the possibility of an electric bike very much in the forefront of my mind for when the time comes that I will need one.

I was hoping that I might be able to do 40 miles on such a fine day but my legs and chest had other opinions and I found myself crossing the bridge in Langholm…

meeting of the waters

…after 35 miles.  That was still a good deal better than I have managed lately so I was grateful for the very light wind which made it a pleasure to be out.

In the garden, the snowdrops are beginning to show….

snowdrop

… early daffodils are looking promising…

daff

…and there were signs that Mrs Tootlepedal had done some gardening while I was out.  The lawn re-shaping is part of her 2018 garden scheme.

lawn imptovements

When I got in, I had a shower and then I added another Parish Magazine which Sandy had scanned and edited to the Archive Group website.  Now the two of us are working on the project, we should get a lot done.

After another portion of Mrs Tootlepedal’s pork chop with parsnips, apples and cider for tea, I left her to watch an interesting gardening programme and went along to the Buccleuch Centre to listen to The Outside Track.

The Outside Track are three Scots, an Irish girl and a Canadian from Cape Breton. They were described in the brochure as a stunning synthesis of virtuosity and energy with a love of traditional music and commitment to creating new music on its foundations.

That all seemed pretty fair when I listened to them.

I enjoyed the evening thoroughly, particularly the work of Ailie Robertson from Edinburgh on the Clarsach.  Anyone interested can hear them here  but they were a lot more punchy live.

Considering that there was a disappointingly small audience, they played with plenty of zest and were polite enough to give us encore too.

I did find a flying bird today, a female chaffinch intent on some seed.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia, who was wandering across the Somerset levels at East Lyng when she was passed by a freight train.

East Lyng train

From our point of view, it wasn’t much of a storm yesterday but it was certainly calm and sunny when we got up this morning.  From a cycling point of view though, it was too cold and our pond was frozen over.  Under these circumstances, I was more than happy to spend a little time drinking coffee and nibbling treacle scones with Dropscone.

A goldfinch on the plum tree really caught the morning sun but equally a goldfinch found the concomitant shadows on the feeder.

goldfinch and greenfinch

While we were chatting, a great tit dropped by and hung around for a moment or two.

great tit

After Dropscone left with golf in mind, I took a quick turn round the garden…

hellebore, daffodil and wallflower

Hellebore, daffodil and wallflower enjoying the sun.

…cleaned and oiled my bike chain and set out for a cycle ride.  The temperature had risen to a safe level by this time but to compensate, the sun promptly went in.  There was a forecast of possible light rain later so I stuck to a fairly dull thirty mile circular route and stopped from time to time to look at three trees.

pine tree near Dunnabie

A fine tree by a heavily patched section of road on the way to Waterbeck

tree near Dunnabie

A battered tree against an unwelcoming cloudscape

Near Sprinkell

The Tour of Britain peleton once squeezed past this tree along this narrow road.

A bit further along the same road, I stopped to take a picture of the burn in a little valley below me as I climbed a hill after crossing it on a small bridge…

near chapelknowe

…and I would have enjoyed the view even more if I hadn’t been well aware that in half a mile or so, I was going straight back down another hill to cross the same burn again.   That is cycling though.

The first ten miles of the trip were quite hard work with several climbs into the wind but thereafter I had the benefit of a most friendly breeze at my back and no steep hills so that I enjoyed the last twenty miles a great deal.

I stopped as I crossed the road bridge over the Irvine Burn three miles from home and looked at a little farmer’s bridge a few yards up stream…

Irvine Burn bridge

…and then I crossed the farmer’s bridge and looked back at the road bridge which at one time was crossed by  the  A7 to Langholm…

Irvine Burn bridge

…and then I turned round and stared open mouthed at the vast embankment which carries the new A7 and which must have a little hole at its foot to let the burn through.

Irvine Burn bridge

As a driver, I like the new road on its embankment and as a cyclist, I am grateful to it because it allows me to cycle up the old road in peace.

When I got back home, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy working in the garden and in spite of a light drizzle which started almost the moment that I got off my bike, I walked round the garden with my camera in hand.

The ice on the pond had gone and at least some frogs had survived.

frogs

Although new floral developments have been slowed by the recent poor weather, one crocus had defiantly opened up its petals while all the rest remained closed for business.

crocus

Mrs Tootlepedal’s avenue of snowdrops along the back path are still looking well…

snowdrops

…and they put thoughts of black and white flower studies into my head.

snowdrops

snowdrops

Almost everything looks interesting if you peer closely enough.

The drizzle didn’t come to anything so I thought that I might go for a little walk but then I had a second thought, watched a bird or two…

chaffinch and siskin

A chaffinch and siskin perform a balancing act

….had a cup of tea and a shower and did the crossword instead.

After that, the day ground gently to a halt.

We are going to Manchester for a couple of days tomorrow, both for a short break to take in a show and see the city and to sing with the Carlisle choir in a competition and I may well take the chance to take a day or two off the blogging treadmill while I am there, giving both myself and the patients readers a well earned rest.  I may succumb to temptation but if you don’t see a post for a day or two, wish us luck in the competition and be prepared to see some city pictures when we get back.

The plant of  the day is a blushing Euphorbia…

Euphorbia

…and the flying bird of the day is a siskin.

siskin

 

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