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Posts Tagged ‘snowdrop’

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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Today’s guest picture was taken by Mike Tinker when he was visiting a zoo in New Zealand.  Neither Mrs Tinker nor Mrs Tootlepedal are flattered in any way.

Mrs T

The day started very grey and drizzly and I was more than happy to spend some of the morning sampling Dropscone’s scones with a bit of Cumbrian honey to add flavour while we drank a cup of coffee or two.

Before he arrived, I had started the day by going up to the Day Centre after breakfast to collect the key for the camera club meeting in the evening.  This required the use of an umbrella and I was surprised when I got back to find that there was enough light to see a bird or two approaching the feeder.

siskin

It was breezy enough to slow down even the siskins as they came in to land which made my job a little easier.

The rain sometimes came with a bit more force but it didn’t discourage the birds today.

flying chaffinch

The day began to brighten up a little after coffee and I arranged with Sandy to go for an excursion in the afternoon.  In the meantime, I cycled round to the shop for some supplies and on my way back I saw this touching scene on our neighbour’s fence.

collared doves

It stayed dry so I was able to wander round the garden, where in spite of the morning rain, there were definite signs of longer days and warmer weather to be seen.

crocuses

_dsc2297

hellebore and rhubarb

I was just daydreaming on the subject of rhubarb crumble when my train of thought was disrupted by loud sounds from the pond.  It was alive with frogs….

frogs

…. literally heaving with them.

frogs

I counted fifteen frogs in our small pond.  It is an annual source of wonder to me that so many frogs return to our pond at the same time as each other.

Now we just have to hope that we don’t get a hard frost to undo all their hard work.

Sandy duly appeared after lunch and we decided to go up to the Laverock Hide at the Moorland Feeders to see what was going about there.

The sun came out while we there and although there was a strong enough wind blowing to make me very glad that I wasn’t out on my bike, the birds weren’t discouraged and we were treated to a constant stream of visitors to the feeders.  The hide itself was quite busy too and five other people came in and out while we were there.

Between the frogs in the morning and the birds in the afternoon, I managed to take far too many pictures and had a struggle to look through them all later on.  These are just a few from the hide.

I always enjoy watching the greater spotted woodpeckers tuck into the peanuts.  They show great concentration on the task in claw.

woodpecker

Siskins on the other hand, are often distracted by squabbling.

siskins

Some less frequent visitors were to be seen…a couple of greenfinches….

greenfinches

…and a lone brambling.

Brambling and blue tit

Sharing with a blue tit

The largest number of birds on the feeders was made up by coal, blue and great tits which swarmed over the feeders in waves.

great tits

Three great tits

One old friend gave me a sideways look.

pheasant

We left the hide and went down to the river at Hagg-on-Esk to see if there were any waterside birds to be seen but we were disappointed and came away with only a few river views for our trouble.

The sun had gone behind a cloud as we walked up stream…

River Esk

…but it came out again as we walked back down.

River Esk

When we got back to Langholm, Sandy went off to do some decorating and I settled down to practise a song or two for next Sunday’s competition.  Mrs Tootlepedal joined in and we made a merry noise.

In the evening, I met Sandy again at the Camera Club meeting.  Thanks to business commitments, illness and holidays, we had a reduced attendance but once again there were a lot of interesting images to admire.  Our two new members are keen on something a bit different and we have been challenged by them to produce a black and white image of a flower for next month’s meeting, preferably without using any of the automatic features on our cameras.

By chance I took this shot today while I was out in the garden.  It was nearly in black and white…

snowdrops

…but I will have to try to do a bit better to meet the challenge.

The flying bird of the day brings back back memories of a miserable morning after a very pleasant afternoon and evening as far as the weather went..

flying goldfinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from Ada.  She thought that a good burst of almond blossom might cheer us up.  She saw it on her recent holiday in Tenerife.

Almond blossom

We have got a bit of blossom indoors here at the moment.  Mrs Tootlepedal brought some snowdrops in from the garden and was amazed by how quickly they opened out.

snowdrop

As usual on a Sunday, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir and I set about making a lamb stew in the slow cooker.  I used some rolled shoulder which Mrs Tootlepedal bought last week at our producers’ market and I was a bit worried that it might be too fatty but when we came to eat the stew in the evening, it was delicious and it really suited the slow cooker’s treatment.

Following my thoughts about the following wind discouraging birds from landing on the feeder, I changed the feeder to the other side of the pole so that they could land upwind and perhaps for this reason, chaffinches arrived in force.

chaffinches landing

A goldfinch sneaked onto the feeder and sat there unruffled by chaffinches arriving…

chaffinch and goldfinch

…until the he feeder got too busy.

chaffinch and goldfinch

Sometimes very busy indeed.

chaffinches landing

I like to try to get out for a cycle ride on a Sunday morning but it was very cold and a boisterous easterly wind made it feel even colder so I settled for a walk down to Skippers Bridge and back, keeping as sheltered as I could.

The clouds were high and if you could keep out of the wind, it was quite pleasant….

Church bridge and Caroline Street

…but if the wind caught you, it brought a tear to the eye.  In general the walkers that I passed were very well wrapped up and keeping their heads down.

I had my head well down when I noticed this splendid lichen display on the arm of a metal bench beside the river.

lichen

I was crouching down to examine a tree stump a little further along when a passer by shouted cheerily at me, “Taking an arty shot eh”

I had to admit that I was and this was it.

tree stump at Land's end

I showed it to him and he was mildly impressed.

I was impressed by the amount of ivy clinging to a tree by the waterside.

ivy

When I got to Skippers Bridge, I slithered down the banking and had another look at the works….

skippers bridge

…but they didn’t seem to have got much further than last time that I looked.  Maybe it has been too cold for them.

The scaffolding is an elaborate construction….

skippers bridge repair

…and it looks as though they have dropped in a big rock to help anchor it.  Even on a calm day like today, there is plenty of water coming down towards the bridge…

skippers bridge River Esk

…though it looks peaceful enough on the far side of the bridge.

skippers bridge River Esk

You can see clearly where the bridge was widened in 1880

I scrambled back up the banking and continued my walk home.

I passed clouds of catkins and crowds of ducks….

catkins and mallards

It was rather gloomy and the automatic flash on my camera must have been triggered by the poor light judging by the curiously bright eyes on these two mallards.

mallards

My last picture was of a tall tree.

tree

While  was walking along, I heard and saw two oyster catchers, those noisy harbingers of spring, swirling across the fields beside the river.  It was great to see and hear them but not having my ‘birds in flight’ camera with me, I couldn’t record their first appearance of 2017.

There was just time for a little song practice and some lunch when I got home before we had to set off to Carlisle for our community choir practice there.  We combined singing with a little shopping and both were very satisfactory.

We are going to Manchester in a fortnight for a competition with the choir so we worked very hard again today under our regular conductor.  Luckily the songs have some very rewarding lines to sing so the hard work was also enjoyable and the enjoyment was enhanced by the feeling that we had made some good progress.  We won’t win the competition but we would like to think that we will present the choir at its best.

It rained heavily as we drove home but the stew, as I said, turned out well so a cold and wintery day passed pretty satisfactorily.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by our daughter Annie.  She had just completed the task of barrowing in 80 bags of compost for the new raised beds which she has constructed on her allotment.  She remarked that she was a teeny bit tired.  Fancy that.

Annie's allotment

I was in quite a perky mood today and more than ready for a pedal on the slow bike or an interesting  walk when I had finished making a venison stew for the slow cooker.  The weather gods had other ideas and every time that I got ready to go out, they made it rain.

It was a rather chilly, miserable sort of day anyway and the prospect of getting a soaking did not appeal so in the end, the furthest that I ventured was out into the garden.

We are getting nearer to having a bunch of daffodils out every day…

daffodils

…though we are stuck on one a half for the moment.

On the other hand, the garden is full of snowdrops….

snowdrops in garden

…and Mrs Tootlepedal keeps looking at them and saying that this is the year when she really will set about splitting up the bigger clumps and spreading them even more widely about.  It is one of those things that is quite easy to imagine doing but much harder to do when the garden is full of other more interesting things to do as the year develops.  They look pretty good to me as they are.

I was looking forward to seeing some birds after the compete absence of any feathers in yesterday’s post but it didn’t look very promising early on with just a couple of goldfinches visiting the plum tree…

plum tree with goldfinches

…and no feeder action at all.

As the morning went on though, a few chaffinches arrived…

flying chaffinches

…followed by a small flock of goldfinches…

goldfinches

…and this was one of the moments when the weather looked nice enough for an outing.

By the time that I had got upstairs to put on my outdoor socks though, it had started to rain…

goldfinches and chafffinches

…and this pattern repeated itself twice more until I got fed up and settled down to read yesterday’s papers.

After lunch, I looked out of the window again and saw chaffinches showing different perch spotting techniques.

landing chaffinches

It was a pity that a good looking goldfinch didn’t move four inches to its left while approaching the feeder.

flying goldfinch

The weather had improved a bit  by then but I couldn’t take advantage of it as it was time to go to Carlisle to sing with our choir.  The sun is still low in the sky and it was so bright as we drove down,  reflecting off the wet and shiny roads, that both Mrs Tootlepedal and I suffered from purple white line syndrome caused by negative after image.

Sometimes, the weather gods’ little jokes are just tiresome.

Still the choir practice was excellent.  Our musical director was unavailable but he had sent down a more than competent substitute and she gave us some very valuable pointers on how to improve the projection of our words and impart the meaning of the songs.  She also had advice on how to improve the quality of our singing.  The sight of a large number of mature sopranos standing on one leg and belting it out was a treat.  (It strengthens your core when you are standing on one leg.  The improvement in sound quality was remarkable.  Whether an audience would take to a choir standing on one leg is another matter.)

The venison stew turned out very well when we got home so the day ended on a high  note.

I have got a plant of the day today, or rather, a potential plant of the day as a well protected bunch of crocuses shows signs of bursting into flower.

crocuses

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, caught in one of the morning’s gloomier moments..

flying goldfinch

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