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Posts Tagged ‘sparrow’

Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia who got to see the wonderful Mosi-oa-Tunya or ‘The Smoke that Thunders’, better known perhaps as the Victoria Falls, on her African trip.

Victoria Falls

Our spell of very poor cycling and photographing weather continued with yet more rain, accompanied by a chilly wind today to make matters worse.  We had had a clear spell but as it had been over night, all it gave us was an early morning frost and then it went away.

Since it was actually Susan’s birthday today, we pulled out all the stops to celebrate the occasion.

susan's birthday

It could hardly have been grander.

Sadly, the birthday girl didn’t stay long as she had arranged to meet my brother and one of my other sisters in Derby for another celebratory meal so Mrs Tootlepedal took her off to catch the train south from Carlisle.

I stayed at home as I had had enough driving yesterday and went up to theArchive Centre base to put a new ink cartridge in our printer.  To my relief, I had ordered the correct one and the printer worked.

When I got home, I watched the birds for a bit.

The feeder is going down very steadily at the moment and needs to be filled at least once a day.  I put this down to the siskins who are regular visitors and keen eaters…

four siskins

…and keen arguers too.

siskins attack each other

There are still plenty of chaffinches ready to make a dash for the feeder when the siskins go off.

pair of incoming chaffinches

I did go out for a walk round the garden but it was too wet and windy to be fun.

daffodil in wet

I made some soup for my lunch and settled down to a quiet afternoon of doing the crossword and putting music on to the computer.

I did look out of the window at one point and I saw two partridges in the garden (right under the pear tree) so I went out to try to get a picture, but they sloped off before I could shoot them.

Luckily for me, one turned up later just outside the kitchen window and…

partridge head turned

…gave me a hard stare and portrait pose.

partridge

While I was looking at the partridge, I noticed a blackbird so I took a gloomy shot just to record that it had been there….

blackbird

…and then a sparrow popped up too.

sparrow

Mrs Tootlepedal returned safely, having visited a garden centre where she made many judicious purchases, including a tiny plant just for me. I hope to show pictures of its development if I can mange to keep it alive.

It is an argyranthemum.

Argyranthemum

I have put it in a pot and watered it and it hasn’t died yet.  A good start, I think.

In the evening we went off to the Buccleuch Centre to hear a performance by an enterprising troupe of Japanese style drummers, Mugenkyo Taiko, who are based in southern Scotland, not far from us.  We have seen them before and enjoyed them so we were in optimistic mood as we settled down for the concert.

We were not disappointed and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.   I had a minor grump as they brought fewer drummers with them than before, and so there was more talking this time to allow them to recover between numbers.   The grump was only because, if offered a choice, I would much prefer to hear a Taiko drummer drumming than hear him or her talking.  Still the chat was educational so I shouldn’t grumble.

For those who are interested to find out what a Japanese style drumming group are doing in Scotland, here is a link to their website.

There were five drummers tonight and when they were all busy at the same time knocking six bells out of their instruments, it made a powerful and moving sound.

A stately chaffinch outshone the siskins when it came to the choice of flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who is on holiday in Wales.  He took the opportunity to see one of the most famous engineering feats of Thomas Telford, a local Eskdale hero.  The picture shows the magnificent Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which carries the Langollen canal through the skies over the river Dee.

telford aqueduct

We had a slightly warmer day here today but not much warmer so after having checked the weather forecast (grey but dry) I idled a couple of hours away after breakfast to let the temperature rise before getting out on my bike.

I spent some of the time watching birds.

full feeder

Goldfinches had come back today but my attempts to find a flying bird were generally less than successful with chaffinches either hiding behind the feeder…

chaffinch behind feeder

…or sneaking up before I was ready…

chaffinch approaching feeder

…and the goldfinches weren’t much more helpful.

goldfinch approaching chaffinch

I liked this pair with the sparrow in the role of Esau (my brother Esau is an hairy man…) and the chaffinch posing as Jacob (…but I am a smooth man).

chaffinch and sparrow

I set off on my bike, full of hope and with an ambitious itinerary in mind.  This lasted all of five miles because when I looked down into the Esk valley from the top of the Kerr hill, all I could see was rain, and heavy looking rain at that.

Within a minute, the rain had swept over me too and I was under fire from some painful, sleety raindrops which were being propelled by a strong and gusty wind.

I turned tail and tried to beat the rain.  I succeeded within a mile or so and instead of resting on my laurels and heading for home when I got to the Wauchope road, I set off to the top of Callister instead.  This was a bad mistake and the pedal home back down the hill was a full on experience of getting thoroughly wet.

Still, 17 miles was better than nothing and a hot shower restored my equilibrium.

Of course it had stopped raining by the time that I had got out of my shower so I went for a short walk.

There was even the odd glimpse of sunshine…

Town Bridge wet February

Telford worked on this bridge as an apprentice.

…but everything was very wet…

raindrops on park tree

…wherever you looked…

wet needles

…and as there were ominous clouds building up and my foot was hurting a bit, I took a quick stroll along the park wall where the pixie cup lichens ….

big cup lichen

…were to be seen on every side.

pots of cup lichens

The lichen stained bark of a tree caught my eye…

park tree bark

..but I had got discouraged so I headed home and looked for flowers in the garden.  The crocuses looked a bit discouraged too…

wet crocus buds

…but a hellebore was looking well and even had a fly for company.

hellebore feb

I lifted the head up to show that it was in good health.

hellebore held up

Once I got in, the weather brightened up but I was fed up by then and I did some singing practice, had a cup of tea and a biscuit with Mike Tinker who dropped in and made a beef stew for my evening meal.

While I was doing these things, Mrs Tootlepedal was continuing with her crochet blanket (the end is in sight) and doing some detailed work on the rocking horse as part of the preparations for painting it (a lot of work to go).

After tea, I went off for the first meeting of 2019 for the Langholm Community Choir.  There had been worries that the membership might drop off but there was a very good attendance with a new member on hand.  Mary, our director, in consultation with the committee, has settled on fewer new works this session and as they are fairly easy arrangements, we had a relaxed session.  I think this is a good plan as we ought to be able to sing  the material very well by the time our concert comes round without any stress.

The best flying bird of the day that I could find was this chaffinch, just out of focus.  It matched my efforts to read the weather correctly.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture brings a bouquet of South African garden colour into our gloomy winter scenes, courtesy of my South African correspondent and Langholm exile, Tom.

tom's sa flowers

By contrast, what Langholm looked like today when we got up was this….

snowy garden

The photo is is in colour but the scene is in black and white!

…but the snow had stopped and gradually melted away during the day, although the temperature never rose more than a degree or two above freezing.

I gave my sore foot a rest in the morning and drank coffee, did the crossword and looked out of the window.

There were sparrows about on the feeder…

two sparrows

…and a bunch of starlings on top of the walnut tree.

starlings in walnut tree

Green and gold finches turned up too….

gold and greenfinches

…and birds frequently flew off in all directions…

birds leaving feeder

…and then came back again…

three birds on feeder

…so I wasn’t bored.

We gave the snow some due consideration but having checked that the main roads were cleared and that the trains were running on time, we set off for Lockerbie and the train to Edinburgh.

On the drive, the main problem was not snow or ice but quite thick mist covering the whole countryside almost all the way to Lockerbie.  We arrived safely though and caught the (on time) train and travelled up to Edinburgh in good conditions.

I was hoping to catch a shot of the Tinto Hills covered in snow and gleaming in the sunshine but they had generated their own cloud which covered them completely…..

dav

…and were a disappointment.

Al, Clare and Matilda are camping in Clare’s parents’ flat while they are waiting for their new house to be finished and this gave Matilda the chance to take me for a walk in a nearby wood.

dav

She was a confident guide and we got back safely without meeting any wolves or being stung by bees.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I  spent a pleasant few hours chatting with the family and enjoyed a wonderful Persian based meal before we left to catch the train home.

The journey home passed off without incident, although the mist made for careful driving.

I did find a chaffinch arriving at the feeder and it has the honour of being the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony’s seaside views.  This one was taken on his phone.

another wemyss view

Today’s post may be a little more incoherent than usual because I had a restless night.  The forecast had been for cloudy skies so I went to bed without making any preparations to view the much talked about supermoon.  In the event, guided by fate, I woke up and decided that it might be worth pulling back the curtains and was amazed and delighted to find a clear sky and the shadow of the earth just beginning to fall on the left side of the moon.

I scuttled about trying to shoot handheld shots while collecting my tripod and working out apertures, focusing and shutter speeds. I woke up Mrs Tootlepedal too with some trepidation but she was grateful to see the unfolding lunar drama.

I took many, many shots but ended up with just a few usable efforts showing the eclipse starting, the red moon at the full eclipse and the gradual brightening as time went by.  The first of these shots was taken at 3.28 am and the last at 5.53 am and I have to admit that I may have dropped off from time to time between taking them.

red moon

It was well worth the interruption to my sleep to see such a sight.

I got up late and found that a crisp frost had the garden in its grip.  Under the circumstances, I was happy to have a quiet morning in doing nothing more energetic than walking to the shop 200 yards away and putting some bread ingredients in the bread maker.

I looked at the birds and found that chaffinches were having a hard time landing. One was just hanging on…

chaffinch hanging on

…and this one missed the perches altogether.

chaffinch missing perch

Occasionally they got it right.

chaffinch hitting perch

I was encouraged in idleness by small outbreaks of snow.

snow falling

However, the snow came to nothing and the robin popped up to pose for me.

robin on arm of chair

In the end, since the snow had stopped I went for a walk to keep my foot mobile.  It was gloomy but dry so I set off with hope in my heart if not with a spring in my step.

However, I had just passed some attractive catkins….

long catkins

…when it started to drizzle.

I cut short any thoughts of interesting places and took the shortest route home.

stubholm track

By now, it was raining quite steadily so after a look down to see the Mission Hall where the camera club would be meeting in the evening…

mission hall community centre

…I limped home as fast as I could. The colourful backs of the ambulances outside the Hall, which has an ambulance service base in it, were by far the brightest thing to be seen anywhere.

Mike Tinker dropped in for tea and offered some sound rocking horse advice and then Mrs Tootlepedal prepared a magnificent dish of cauliflower cheese while I entertained young Luke for some fluting duets.  It was one of those evenings when we both realised that more practice would have been a good thing before the lesson.

After tea, I went off to set up the projector and screen for the camera club meeting.  Luckily the members are very helpful so we were soon ready and ten members enjoyed a really excellent selection of pictures.  Seven of us had brought in selections to show and  as there was no theme this month, we had a fine mish-mash of pictures from Africa, continental Europe, the southern borders of Scotland and the heart of Langholm.

As usual ideas and experiences were swapped over tea and biscuits at half time so the meeting went well and we all look forward to meeting again next month.

Mrs Tootlepedal had some fun during the day applying her first ever coats of gesso to the rocking horse.  It was a voyage into the unknown and it didn’t go quite as well as she might have hoped but it turned out that that was probably down to the fact that the temperature in the garage where she was working was too low for proper drying of the layers.  The horse is back indoors now and looking a lot better for a bit of warmth.  I hope to have a picture of progress tomorrow.

There are two eager flying birds of the day today, a sparrow for a bit of a change…

flying sparrow

… and a chaffinch for some continuity.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from the eternally sunlit shore at East Wemyss.  Tony is making really good use of his dog walking time.

east wemyss seaside trees

We had a chilly (3°C) but kindly day with a very gentle wind and no rain.  The sun didn’t appear so it was dull but all the same we could have no complaints about this weather for a January day.

I am trying to get my foot back into working order and oddly enough, doing some hip exercises seems to be improving things a lot.  This proves the truth of the old song…The hipbone’s connected to the thighbone…etc, etc.

Sandy came round to combine a cup of coffee with some archive group business.  He has been suffering from sore feet and knees which is why we haven’t been on any walks lately but he tells me that he has got medical appointments in the pipeline so he is hoping for useful help.

When he left, I went for a walk round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal.  She pointed out this…

lichen on lawn

…which may look like a jungle but is in fact moss, lichen and some blades of grass in what passes for the middle lawn at the moment.

More lichen is available in every corner of the garden.

lichen on elder

Much to my surprise, the perennial wallflower has cocked a snook at the recent frosts and produced another flower…

perennial wallflower january

…and even more amazingly, one of the the ordinary wallflowers is in the process of producing a bunch of flowers.

first wallflower

The winter jasmine continues to flourish.

winter jasmin january

The birds were rather few and far between again today, with just the occasional chaffinch…

chaffinch landing

…and some of which at least had the sense to head for separate perches today…

chaffinches

…and the even more occasional sparrow.

sparrow on gfeeder

I had some sardines on toast for lunch and then tested out my foot on a very short, flat walk.

The gulls were taking things easily too…

gulls on posts

…while the mallards couldn’t agree on a common destination.

ducks diverging

Fed up with standing on fence posts, one gull took to a rock in the river.

gull on rock

It was, as one passer by remarked to me, a very plain sort of day and I didn’t see anything worth recording until I came to a football match on the Scholars’ Field.

Thanks to the dull light, it was easier to take picture while the players were standing around waiting for the ball to arrive…

football on scholars standing

…than it was when they were running around chasing after it.

football on scholars moving

Before lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I had spent some time tidying out the garage and when I got home, I found that the rocking horse had taken up residence there.  This is so that Mrs Tootlepedal can cover it with gesso before painting it.   The gesso process which involves size (rabbit skin glue), is a smelly and potentially messy business so the garage seems the best place for it.

rocking horse in garage

For those interested, a description of the gesso process can be found here.

After a cup of tea and some music practice, we went off to Carlisle to go to the pictures.  We haven’t been to the films for some time so this was a treat for Mrs Tootlepedal who really likes going to the cinema.  We found that in Carlisle at least, ticket prices had gone down a lot since our last visit and at £5 each, the cinema chain must be making most of its money by selling its customers vast buckets of very unappetising looking food.  We went hungry.

The film we saw is called The Favourite and is about the court of Queen Anne in 1708.  It is described in Wikipedia as a “historical period comedy-drama”.  It was very well acted and the settings and costumes were impressive but since its message seemed to me to be that all women are either old and ugly and helpless or young, beautiful and horrible and that politicians are generally rather nasty selfish people, it seemed to chime with a rather Trumpian view of the world and I didn’t much like it.  It was extremely coarse which was amusing at first as an antidote to refined period dramas on TV but which got a bit wearing as time went on.  Finally, either ideas or money ran out and the film just stopped without any resolution.

Still, as they say, it was a day out and a change.

I just manage to collect a flying chaffinch of the day.

chaffinches landing

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She has been suffering from a bad cold but has recovered enough to walk up to Kenwood House to have a coffee and a mince pie in the cafe.  She found a very fine day for her excursion.

kenwood house in sun

We had another calm and sunny day here today but we paid the price for a clear night by having a frosty morning.

frosty chaffinches

The chill encouraged a few birds to come to the feeder and it persuaded me to go for a walk rather than a cycle ride after coffee as the the thermometer was still showing a meagre 1°C at 11 o’clock.  This may have been too cold for pedalling but it was ideal for walking as the ground was nicely firm under foot when I got on to the hill.

I walked up the track to Whita from the town.

I was surprised to find a dandelion out as well as a garden escape on my way up the Kirk Wynd but the blooming gorse on the hill was no surprise as it is out all over the place.

dandelion, shrub and gorse january

There was no lichen looking cheerful on the wall at the top of the track but the moss was remarkable.  I don’t think that I have ever noticed it looking quite like this before.

moss heads

The view up the Ewes Valley did not disappoint and the weather seemed set fair for a stroll.

ewes valley from kirk wynd

When I got to the open hill, I didn’t continue straight up to the monument but turned right along the face of the hill following the old quarry track along the contours.

Looking across the town, I could see the Craig Wind Farm turbines rotating very lazily in the light breeze.  It was a pleasure to be out on such a day.

craig wind farm

I had a look at the trig points on the top of Warbla and Timpen.  In these days of digital mapping, they serve no useful purpose but I am glad that they haven’t been taken away as they provide a punctuation mark at the summits.  Both of them were dwarfed, the one on Warbla by the communications mast beside it, and the one on Timpen by a blade of a turbine nearly a mile away behind it.

two trig points

Three sheep pondered on my activities.

three sheep

When I reached the wall at the end of the track, I paused to look over the town.

town from quarry track

Below me, a field lined with tall trees vividly showed the difference between sunshine and shade.  I was glad to be in the sun.

shadowy frost

There are many photo opportunities round Langholm and this stile over the wall at the quarry is one of the most popular and I hardly ever cross it without stopping to take a picture.

quarry track stile

Today, this turned out to be slightly embarrassing for a gentlemen who was having a pee behind the gorse bush and hadn’t seen me coming.  He soon drifted out of shot though, muttering as he went.

I went diagonally down the hill towards the oak wood and followed the track through the wood down to the road…

oak wood round house

…passing an elegantly decaying tree trunk….

tree trunk

…and some fine hair ice on my way…

hair ice skippers

…to Skippers Bridge.  It was far too good a day to miss the photo opportunity there.

skippers bridge reflection

I walked back along the river without seeing anything exciting enough to make me stop again and got home after four miles just in time for lunch.

I was reflecting as I got back to town that I had just crossed moor and mountain and passed field and fountain and as it is Epiphany, I thought that  perhaps I ought to bring Mrs Tootlepedal some rich gifts.  I stopped at our corner shop and purchased milk and honey.  These would have been a pleasant surprise for her if I hadn’t met her cycling home from an errand just outside the shop.  She came in with me.  Still, she appreciated the thought.

Over lunch, I looked out of the window and saw some sparrows.

sparrow eating seed

The males have rich colours on their backs which show up well in sunshine.

sparrow in sun

Once again, there were not many birds about so I let my lens stray towards the sedums round the feeder.

sedum

After lunch, I had an appointment with the speech therapist in Dumfries, 35 miles away but once again, thanks to the magic of the internet, I was able to see and speak to her online which saved me a lengthy drive and a lot of time.  It is a very efficient system which has worked perfectly both times we have used it.  As a result of this week’s consultation, I will be humming down a straw into a glass of water for the next seven weeks.  She assures me that it will work wonders.

Later in the afternoon, I settled down to putting a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group’s database and finished putting the choir songs onto the computer.

This took longer than I expected and when I finally finished, it was time to cook some corned beef hash for my tea.

I have decided this year to keep a record of my walks as well as my cycle rides, partly to stop feeling that I should be cycling even when the conditions are not suitable and partly out of interest to see how far I walk.  I am only counting actual expeditions like today’s, not the ordinary pottering about house and garden.

As a result, I find that I have walked or cycled every day in 2019 so far, cycling 77 miles and walking 20.  That seems like quite a good balance.

I did find a flying bird of the day today as a chaffinch, some sunshine and a camera in hand all appeared at the same time for once.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from East Wemyss where it seems that the sun shines  frequently.  Our son Tony got a new camera for Christmas and sent me this picture to show that it is working well.

tony's trees

There was a complete lack of sun here today and after singing in the church choir and having an early lunch,  I went for a short walk which proved the point.

low clouds

When I started my walk the clouds had almost covered the town completely and as I walked on the clouds got lower…

very misty trees

…and lower….

eskdaill street in cloud

…so if I hadn’t had the flash on my camera, I would have been pushed to record anything much as I strolled along.

As it was, I could see a fine burst of lichen on a tree trunk…

cript lichen

…an old seed head…

old seed head

…and a promise of spring to come….

mew needles

…as well as some pixie cups on a post at the Auld Stane Brig…

cup lichen

…and a crop of curiously damp lichen on the bridge itself.

lichen with raindrops

In fact there was so much lichen about that at times it seemed almost to be dripping off roadside walls.

wall lichen

There was enough light to see the Auld Stane Brig itself,

auld stane brig

Considering  that many of our bridges are old and most are made of stone, it is hard to work out why this bridge got the name of The Auld Stane Brig in particular when it could have been applied to so many others.  Still, it is a bridge, it is old and it is made of stone so I shouldn’t grumble.

The clouds were soon back down again and the only colour of the day….

misty tree

…was provided by Mrs Tootlepedal’s developing crochet blanket on the kitchen table when I got home.

crochet

I look forward to a whole colour symphony when she is finished.

Peering out of the kitchen window during over lunch, I could see that there were more birds than usual about.

They were mostly chaffinches…

chaffinch arriving at feeder

…both male and female…

three chaffinches

…but sparrows and goldfinches put in an appearance too.

sparrow and arriving chaffinch

I didn’t have long for my walk or any bird watching as we had to go off to Carlisle for the first meeting of the year with the Carlisle Community Choir.  By this time, the clouds had really hit rock bottom and we needed both front and rear fog lights on the car to get us safely to the meeting.

We began work straight away on songs that we will take to a competition in Manchester in March and I will need to start learning my part off by heart as it takes me a long time to get songs to stick in my memory.

As I write this post in the evening, the clouds are still pressing down on the town and the air is full of the plaintive cries of pink footed geese as they circle overhead.  I hope that they finally find a safe landing.

In spite of the gloom, I did find a flying chaffinch of the day today.

flying chaffinch

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