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Posts Tagged ‘sparrow’

Today’s guest picture comes from Bill, a blog reader, who was pleased that we enjoyed his creative poppy plantation on our recent walk. Nature got a helping hand! He has sent me this picture of a ceanothus which rivals the cotoneaster as a bee magnet.

Our spell of dry, warm and sunny weather continued today, and it was, if anything, warmer than it was yesterday. On the hand, there was a stronger cooling breeze available so we were all pretty happy.

Our neighbour Margaret, the senior citizen in our socially distanced street coffee morning set, was the beneficiary of the slight loosening of the lockdown when her son and daughter-in-law visited her for coffee today, bringing their own seats with them. Mrs Tootlepedal and our other morning coffee neighbour Liz joined them but I, thinking that five was a crowd, went off to have coffee with Sandy instead.

He had acquired a new cafetiere so we sipped good coffee together and watched a pair of very industrious blue tits bringing food for the family to the nest box on his shed.

Judging from how busy the parents were, there must be quite a few nestlings in the box.

The skies have got busy too lately, and we watched a plane leaving quite a trail as it passed overhead.

Sandy has a handy flight tracking app on his phone and he was able tell me that this was an Airbus jet going from Aberdeen to London.

When I got home, the street coffee morning was just breaking up, and Mrs Tootlepedal and I went into the garden.

There was aerial activity there too, but this time it was two young starlings pestering a fed up parent for food.

A check on a rose that appeared in yesterday’s post showed me that the pink tinge was in fact the proper colour for this rose…

…and it was the early white flowers that were non standard.

Mrs Tootlepedal has discovered a single plum on the plum tree that was not killed by the frost, but we are keeping its location secret for security purposes. She is very pleased to see new shoots on the plum tree after the quite severe pruning we gave it.

I mowed the middle lawn and the weather has been so kind that I was able to run the mower over the grass without using the collecting box. This is good for two reasons, the mowing is quicker and easier and the grass cuttings act as a mulch to improve the health of the lawn.

Then it was time for lunch.

After lunch, I mowed the front lawn, again without the box on, and then we had a sit down on the new bench in the shade.

There was more starling action as a youngster perched hopefully on the top of the holly tree looking this way and that for someone to come and feed it. There were adults about but they didn’t seem interested in helping this particular youngster.

I filled the pond and while it was filling, I checked on the bees on the Limnanthes. They were diving in.

The tadpoles were very happy with the new water level.

The temperature was up to 25°C (77°F) by this time but the breeze was frisky enough to suggest that a walk might be good thing. Mrs Tootlepedal however felt that it was an afternoon for staying in, so I went for a walk round the Pheasant Hatchery by myself.

As I left the house, I noticed that more of the big red poppies had appeared along the dam.

There was a tremendous disturbance when I got to the suspension bridge. It turned out to be oyster catchers objecting to people coming to close to their nest. Further up stream, another oyster catcher was much calmer.

There were more people about than there have been lately, which not surprising considering that it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, but it meant that I couldn’t hang about waiting to see wagtails on the Kilngreen and I crossed the Sawmill Brig and headed up the Lodge Walks towards the pheasant hatchery without delay.

The felling of trees along the Lodge Walks in recent years mean that it is no longer quite such an attractive scene for photographers but the trees on the other side of the Castleholm are always a treat at this time of year…

…so I took them instead.

Once I had got round the pheasant hatchery, the walk back along the bank of the Esk was delightful…

…with small pleasures on one side…

…and large ones on the other.

There is a good still pool in the river beneath the Duchess Bridge and I thought that I ought to be able to get a nice reflective shot but the banks are steep and tree lined so I could see half the bridge and half a reflection…

…or more of the bridge and no reflection…

..or more of the reflection and none of the bridge.

It was very frustrating. I needed a drone camera.

The picture above is a bit confusing but I am looking down past a tree straight at the river. You can see the tree and the stones on this side of the river at the bottom of the frame but all the rest is reflections in the water.

In the picture below, you can see the stones on the far bank and trees on the near bank. In between is the river.

It was good to be out on such a day.

I got back in time for a cheerful Zoom meeting with my siblings and after our evening meal (slow cooked stew with spinach from the garden and bubble and squeak on the side), I got a special treat. Mrs Tootlepedal invited me to go with her to collect some horse muck from a stable at the Stubholm.

The temperature was perfect by this point in the day, and while Mrs Tootlepedal collected a couple of buckets of the good stuff, I counted trees.

As a bonus, I was allowed to carry one of the buckets of manure back home. The perfect end to the day.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow heading past the feeder pole with sunflowers seeds in mind.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who once again managed to extend her permitted walk as far as Regent’s Park where she found a favourite restful corner to enjoy.

It was still grey and drizzly this morning, but the heavy winds of the past two days had eased off a lot and when the drizzle stopped, it was quite a suitable day for wandering round the garden.

I wandered from time to time.

The frost survivors among the rhododendrons and azaleas are still doing their best to cheer us up…

…but the gap that the frost has left in the garden is still hard to bear.

The recent rain has now got up to an inch and half as recorded by Mary Jo’s rain gauge. This is fine for the broad beans which are looking good but the peony and tulips have found it a bit much.

A burst of heavier rain put paid to the morning street coffee meeting and I watched the birds instead.

Greenfinches and sparrows were the flavour of the morning…

…and a sparrow was happy to watch a greenfinch trying the seed before having a go itself.

The rain stopped and we went out into the garden to do useful tasks (Mrs Tootlepedal) and footle about looking for raindrops (me).

The view down the back path is always rich at this time of year.

When I had finished footling about, I went in and did something more purposeful. I made some potato and carrot soup for lunch and while it was cooking, I made 30 ginger biscuits. There was a bit of a snack crisis as the boiled cake had been polished off when we drank our coffee earlier in the morning.

After lunch, I went for a short walk to fill in the time before our virtual Carlisle Choir meeting.

I chose a familiar route. After two months of lockdown and about thirty local walks, there is no other option than to choose a familiar route and this makes it harder than usual to try to find something unfamiliar to see as I go along. If the truth be told, I am probably finding it harder to look too as I subconsciously feel that there won’t be anything much new to see even if I did look carefully.

Looking down, I did notice the more noticeable today…

…and looking around, i couldn’t miss the frost damaged trees among the spring greenery.

As I was walking along the Becks track, I was considering whether I would have time to walk up to the track on Warbla on my way home, but a glance across the valley revealed cattle sitting right on the path across the grass that I would use to get up to the track…

…so when I had crossed the Auld Stane Brig…

…I went through the frost damaged trees along Gaskell’s Walk instead.

When I got to the Stubholm, I checked on a blackthorn to see if there are going to be any sloes this year. The signs are good and as a bonus, there was some interesting lichen on the branch that I was inspecting.

Instead of going straight home when I got to the park, I walked down to the Esk to see if the oyster catcher was still on its nest.

It was…

… but a bit further up the river, I found another adult with a very young chick. The adult made it hard for me to see the nipper, and the chick didn’t help by turning its back on me…

…but in the end, they co-operated.

I got home in good time and Mrs Tootlepedal and I settled down in front of my laptop to see what a virtual choir practice would be like on Zoom. It was very well organised and well over 50 choir members had logged on to take part. Ellen, our energetic director, had done a lot of preparatory work and everything went very smoothly and we were encouraged to sing, but there is no doubt that singing by ourselves at home while hearing only only one other singer (Ellen at the piano) is not really choral singing. Still, it was fun to see the other choir members and the virtual meeting had the feeling of an occasion, even if not a choral one.

The weather had greatly improved by the time that we emerged into daylight from peering at the computer and I did think of going for a cycle ride but the call of lawn maintenance was strong and I mowed the greenhouse grass, the drying green and the middle lawn instead. We then had our second Zoom meeting of the afternoon when we chatted with my brother, one of his sons and my sisters.

After our evening meal, I went out into the garden to enjoy the sunny evening…

…and the colour matching between car and clematis.

The wind had dropped and I was sorry that the day hadn’t worked out so that I could have enjoyed these ideal conditions, but you can’t have everything.

Not all the colour in the garden is floral…

…but the late evening light was kind to the colours and the bees were really enjoying the cotoneaster on the wall of the house…

…while I enjoyed an Icelandic poppy.

I hope to get back to cycling tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day was not one that the greenfinch approved of.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my camera club friend Simon. He has been taking walks round Canonbie during the lockdown and wonders why anyone might prefer city life to scenes like these.

It was not a promising morning today here in any way, being windy and wet from the start. I did pop out into the garden when the rain was very light and have a look around. Mrs Tootlepedal has a choisya which she doesn’t think is looking well but it is producing flowers to join the ranunculus…

…and a Rodgersia which is is looking healthy. Just to prove me wrong, the clematis by the front door has produced more flowers but it is hiding them behind its leaves to annoy.

The original flower is going over in style.

I didn’t linger long and was soon back inside wasting time on trivial but time consuming activities. Once again, we felt grateful that the weather has been fine for most of our lockdown as two months of wet and windy weather would have been very hard to bear.

I did spend some time trying out Google Meet with my sister Susan but it didn’t work satisfactorily so we will probably stick to Zoom for our regular meetings.

When I stopped doing the trivial things, the birds were there to keep me entertained.

The feeder was busy all day and new birds were constantly arriving to the disapproval of the incumbents…

…and this led to some collisions and cantankerousness.

I think that my current favourites among the visitors are the redpolls in their spring get ups.

We have many young sparrows in the garden but I haven’t seen many young blackbirds. I wondered if this was a teenager. It looked as though it wouldn’t mind being fed but no one came.

We had planned to go for a walk after lunch but the rain persisted and we didn’t start until after three o’clock in the end. We went out with some trepidation as there was still a light drizzle and the wind was boisterous to say the least.

A trail of leaves littering the track up to the Stubholm told the story of how strong the wind has been.

We met some friends at the Stubholm and they told us that they had abandoned their intention to walk up the Warbla Track because of the strong wind and advised us to keep to low level sheltered spots.

We were headed down to the Murtholm and Skippers Bridge so we were able to follow their advice without changing our plan. We passed this fine tree on our way.

We crossed the bridge and walked along the road beside the river as far as the track that leads up Jenny Noble’s Gill. A movement ahead caught our eye and we spotted a grey squirrel, and it froze for a moment as it climbed a tree.

Lovers of red squirrels have been trying to keep grey squirrels at bay for some years but I fear that they are fighting a losing battle as I see more and more greys all the time.

The walk up the gill among the birch trees was lovely….

…and the seed heads of the grasses were whispering to each other as we passed.

The track back to the town was as delightful as ever, even on a dull grey day….

…but it didn’t seem as windy as it was when we set out so we left the track and ventured out of the woods onto the open hill…

…and after passing through some bluebells, we soon enjoyed good views over the valley and town below us.

The church stands out now that it has been released from the shadows of the trees.

The golf course is waiting for the arrival of keen golfers like Dropscone as soon as the traps are opened in a day or two.

Dropscone is looking forward to it in spite of his advanced age. (He advanced another year yesterday and is now officially older than me for the next six months.)

As well as the views, there were other things to look at as we went along.

We saw wild strawberries, small cow wheat (not a thing that we have seen before), a patch of white flowers which Mrs Tootlepedal told me “is that weed which grows on your lawn”, and a bunch of smiling buttercups.

An old leafless tree caught Mrs Tootlepedal’s eye.

We had had to climb up a pretty steep hill to get above the golf course and we were happy to have reached a point as we passed that tree when it was all downhill on the way home.

We walked past Whita Well and pressed on until we reached the Newcastleton Road. This let us descend gently back to river level and we walked back to Langholm along the main road from Whitshiels.

I noted some of the points of interest that we saw on our way: exuberant crosswort, fresh green hazel leaves, herb Robert and a real novelty these day, an actual puddle.

As we crossed the Castleholm towards the Jubilee Bridge and home, the sun actually came out…

…and just as promptly, it went in again and we had to increase out pace as a light rain encouraged us to get a move on.

It had been a strenuous five mile walk and never has a cup of tea and a slice of cake been more welcome.

That finished the day off for us as we had not an ounce of energy left for anything else except a small plate of rhubarb and custard as a late supper.

The flying bird of the day is one of the young sparrows who frequent the garden at the moment.

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Today’s guest picture comes from a reader in Bucks Co., Pennsylvania. Spurred on by my biscuit making efforts, Lisa has produced her own Garibaldi biscuits which are very nicely presented.

It was a day of constant wind here today, often gusting at over 40mph. As a result, apart from going out for a very short street coffee morning, we had a quiet day indoors as there was definite danger of being blown over if you were not paying attention when you were in the garden.

To be truthful, I did spend a few moments in the garden after coffee seeing if I could get plants to stop waving about for long enough for me to get a picture. One or two obliged.

There were dancing feet to be seen on a Jacob’s Ladder….

…and a Veronica.

More flowers that survived the frost are showing which is a cheerful sight.

Old tulips are fading away gracefully while the Welsh poppies are doing their best to fill any gaps

A shy ranunculus has just come up. Its delicate colour is a challenge to my camera but the dull light this morning was helpful.

I couldn’t miss a second flower on the clematis at the front door. The front door variety may not have the huge number of flowers that the back door clematis has but each of its flowers packs a bit of a punch.

It didn’t take me long to get back inside out of the wind and I frittered away much of the rest of the morning reading newspapers, doing the crossword and looking at birds (and occasionally mentioning to Mrs Tootlepedal that there was a bit of a wind out there).

There were plenty of birds to watch. While the feeder was not very full, sparrows congregated on the bottom plate…

…and when I filled it, a siskin sensibly took the high road.

During the afternoon, a tentative beak appeared…

…which was followed by the rest of the bird…

…and a hearty snack ensued.

Now you know what a happy rook looks like

We did think about going for a walk after lunch but several punishing gusts of wind in quick succession, persuaded us that the chance of fun was strictly limited and we found more things to do indoors.

I put some accompaniments onto the computer so that I can play trios without breaking any isolating rules.

We have been cooking for ourselves since the lockdown began but following a suggestion from a friend, we applied to a local hotel for a hot meal to be delivered this evening, and bang on schedule delicious portions of fish and chips and vegetarian lasagna arrived from The Douglas, fully as tasty as they would have been if we were eating in their dining room.

However, this was a much more substantial amount of food than we have been used to eating, so afterwards I felt the need to ignore the elements and go for a walk to shake the meal down.

Luckily the wind had dropped a bit and the sun had come out and it was by no means a hardship to do a quick three bridges.

The church was looking good without the trees in front of it…

In spite of an inch of rain recorded by Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge over recent days, there was still not much water in the river but there were plenty of oyster catchers and a wagtail to be seen.

The nesting mother, the anxious father, and another pair further upstream The wagtail was wagging its tail.

I saw a goosander but as it had its head continuously under water and was trawling at speed, it didn’t offer a photo opportunity.

The brisk wind made things a bit chilly and I didn’t hang about too long as I went round the new path on the Castleholm and crossed the Jubilee Bridge…

…but as always, there were things to see along the way, like a thrush in the Clinthead Garden

It was very tame and hopped about until I had got my picture.

…and some neat planting there….

….trees and flowers on the Castleholm and Scholars’ Field…

…and the the heavily tree lined banks of the Esk as I crossed the bridge.

I was pleased to have taken some exercise, especially as the wind is due to continue for a day or two, so cycling is not on the menu until Monday at the earliest.

The flying bird of the day is one of the many sparrows about at the moment.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who extended her permitted walk as far as Regents Park where she enjoyed the rose garden.

Rose garden regents park

We had a warm and sunny day today with light winds.  Days like this are to be treasured.

The star in the garden was the first peony, beating the tree peony easily.

first peony

A lot of our ferns suffered badly in the frost but some of them have shrugged it off and are doing very well.

ferns after frost

I saw an orange tip buttefly in the garden but it flew off leaving me to watch this white butterfly on the sweet rocket instead.

butterfly on sweet rocket

After the rain, the garden is looking quite healthy but there is a notable gap in the far corner which should be glowing with rhododendron flowers.

no azaleas

All the same, there is colour to be found, so we are not crying too much.

four garden pictures

You have to look hard to spot this camassia though as it has got itself hidden behind taller plants.

camassia

The final remaining set of tulips looks set to last for ever.

tulips

The garage clematis is getting more flowers out every day and will soon be in full bloom.

garage clematis

Partly because I thought that it was Thursday (a lockdown category error that is quite common) and partly through natural indolence, I didn’t get my bike out to make full use of the good day until after Mrs Tootlepedal had gone out to her street coffee morning.

However, once I got going, I enjoyed myself a lot.

It was a perfect day for a pedal…

road at enzieholm

…and instead of my usual little circle starting up the Wauchope valley, I headed up Eskdale today, crossed the Black Esk by this bridge…

tanlawhill brodge

…which is one of my favourites, not because of the beauty of the structure but because of its placing in the surrounding landscape.

Once over the bridge, I followed the White Esk through Castle O’er and up to Eskdalemuir.

Like the bridge, this little road is one of my favourites too with interesting verges (the butterfly would not give me a side view….

butterfly head on

…and some lovely woods.

wood at tanlawhill

When  I got to Eskdalemuir, I climbed a stiff hill out of the valley of the White Esk towards the valley of the Black Esk.

The climb lasts for a mile and goes up just under 300 feet.  You get good views back as you climb out of the valley, but the camera does not do justice to the amount of puffing I had to put in to get the view in my opinion.

hill out of E'muir

T was heading towards Lockerbie and passing through timber country.  The forests here grow, get cut down and grow again at a dizzying pace.  I was passed by a dozen timber wagons going to and fro.  It is a highly organised and mechanised business these days.

cut timber

Having crossed the Black Esk, I got a welcome spell of downhill as I descended into the  valley of the Dryfe Water which is cattle country.

old hedge

I expect that many if not all the loaded timber lorries were heading for the huge timber yards at Steven’s Croft where I passed the country’s biggest wood burning stove.

stevens croft

Once I hit the old main road at the power station, I turned south and headed for Gretna, passing this fine lake of buttercups outside Lockerbie on my way…

pool of buttecups lockerbie

…and stopping to admire the motorway bridge over the Water Of Milk from the bridge on the old road.

motorway bridge

Peering into the shadows under the bridge, I could see extensive works, designed perhaps to let fish go up stream over a weir.  Today there was hardly enough water coming down to cater for a tadpole.

under the motorway bridge

The cycling was now pretty flat, which was a relief to my knees and I stopped from time to time to admire flowers by the road.  The red tree on the right of the panel is a red horse chestnut, I think.

rhodie, umbellifer and red chestnut

I had an interesting route mapped out in my mind for the English section of my trip when I had passed through Gretna going south, but it dawned on me as I pedalled along that the bridge at Longtown (my proposed homeward route) was shut to all traffic as it is undergoing repairs.  I wondered if it would be open to a pedestrian pushing his bike but decided not risk it, and rather tamely circled round and cycled back up to Gretna again before approaching Longtown on the north side of the bridge.

The old gravel pond there, with a fine hawthorn on its bank, looked positively Mediterranean today.

hawthorn Longtown pond

By this time, my knees were getting slightly mutinous and home and a nice sit down came into their conversation quite a lot, so I stopped taking pictures and concentrated on knocking off the final fifteen miles of route with as smooth a pedalling style as I could muster.

It has been my ambition in recent years to have at least one cycle outing each year that covers as many miles as I have had birthday.  I was born in November 1941 and my route covered exactly 80 miles today, leaving me with a couple of bonus miles in hand.

I got home in time to enjoy an evening meal of liver cooked with carrots and spinach from the garden, provided by the industrious Mrs Tootlepedal.  She had been busy in the garden while I was out.

It was a warm day today but one of the joys of cycling is that you provide your own cooling breeze as you go along and I found it very comfortable.  All the same, I lost four pounds on the jaunt in spite of eating three bananas, a satsuma, a small honey sandwich, several dates and some guava jelly.  I drank about 900ml of water too.   In normal circumstances, I would have organised a stop half way round to enjoy egg and chips at a cafe or pub on a ride of that length.

I didn’t have much time to watch the birds but a very obliging sparrow flew into shot as I was going for my shower.  It is the flying bird of the day.

flying sparrow

I append the map of the ride.  I carefully organised all the climbing at the start of the route!

garmin route 20 May 2020

Those interested can click on the pic for more details.

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Today”s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  He saw deer on one of his walks with his dogs.  The deer saw him but didn’t run away at once.

Tony's deer

To say that today was another uneventful day would be rather overstating the excitement.  The recent frost has put a damper on the pleasure of walking round the garden in quite a big way, and as it was another grey morning, there was not a lot of incentive to get up and go.

In the end, I managed to finish the crossword and get up in time for a walk round the garden before coffee.  The only photograph that I took was of these ill matched Icelandic poppies, and I couldn’t get a very good shot of them as they were blowing about in the breeze.

ill matched poppies

I don’t know why some of the orange poppies have white tips this year.

After coffee, I shredded more of Mrs Tootlepedal’s uprooted box bushes and then went inside.

I watched the birds through the window for a moment or two.

A greenfinch felt that I was intruding on its privacy.

sad greenfing

A sparrow watched while another greenfinch and a chaffinch arrived simultaneously, luckily heading for different perches.

greenfinch and chaffinch arriving together

And there was room for two sparrows too.

sparrow joining sparrow

Mrs Tootlepedal had suggested that I might like to try a recipe for a boiled cake.  This sounded very strange to me but on investigation it turned out that only some of the ingredients were boiled and that the cake was actually baked in a standard way, so I gave it a go.

It tuned out that it makes a small cake and the process was quite simple (which is probably why Mrs Tootlepedal suggested it).  You take butter, syrup, sugar and water, melt them together and add currants and sultanas and then boil this mixture very gently for a few minutes.  This is cooled and then added to flour and spices with a beaten egg and the whole thing is poured into a cake tin and baked.

Some time later, it comes out like this:

boiled cake

While it was baking, I made leek and potato soup for lunch and we had time to eat the soup before the cake came out of the oven.

After lunch, I had another walk round the garden and found a rhododendron flower which looks as though it might have survived the frost.

surviving rhododendron bud

The tree peony and the standard peonies in the flower beds are in a race to see which comes fully out first and at the moment, the tree peony is the slight favourite.

tree peony almost out

The alliums, unaffected by the frost, are going global.

global allium

In the absence of azaleas, I am probably going to spend more time looking at Welsh poppies than usual.  They have acquired some pinkish tinges this year, another mystery but quite pretty.

Sometimes the tinge is in the middle…

welsh poppy red middle

…sometimes in a line across the petals…

welsh poppy red stripe

…and sometimes round the edge.

welsh poppy red edge

Mrs Tootlepedal thinks that it is damage of some sort.

She has completed her hedge cut back and you can see the more open view of the house that this provides.

hedge clipped

I will be interested to see how the planting changes to reflect the new vista.

There was a tremendous racket in the garden caused by baby sparrows demanding to be fed by their long suffering parents and this blackbird in the plum tree was joining in with gusto.

hopeful blackbird

It looks a little old to be needing to be fed but it wasn’t getting any attention and that didn’t suit it at all.

A starling had been doing some successful foraging.starling with food

I went in to change into my cycling gear and then went off for a short cycle ride.  Mrs Tootlepedal had looked at the clouds and brought the washing in ‘just in case’, but the forecast hadn’t got any rain in it so I set off with confidence of a dry trip round Canonbie.

My confidence was well founded and with the wind coming from a generally helpful direction, I enjoyed my ride and went a bit more quickly than recent efforts.

After taking far too many pictures in recent days, I resolved not to take too many today and was reasonably successful.  The theme of the ride was hedges and wild flowers.

The cow parsley is coming on well along the Tarcoon road…

cow parsely tarcoon

…and the tree over the hedge is now fully clothed.

tree tarcoon

A little further on, I was happy to find a beech hedge in very good condition.  My friend Nancy had sent me pictures yesterday of a beech hedge badly affected by the frost but this one was untouched.

beech hedge tarcoon

I stopped at Canonbie Bridge for a conversation with Simon, a Camera Club member who was out for a walk.  His normal work involves sporting events and international travel so he currently stacking shelves for supermarkets instead.   He doesn’t know when he will be able to go back to his real job.

When I got nearer Langholm, I found that the Pyrenean Valerian is beginning to line the roadsides.

pyrenean valerian clump

The boiled cake went down very well with a cup of tea on my return and the normal sibling Zoom and an excellent pasta dish for our evening meal rounded off another routine day of lockdown.

Looking at the forecast, I see that things are going to warm up a bit and there may even be a bit of rain in the next day or two but the promise of very high temperatures next week seems to have faded away, for which I am grateful as I don’t like it when it gets too warm.

We will believe in the rain when we feel it actually falling on our heads.

The flying bird of the day is a greenfinch leaving the feeder.  It avoided the pole.

flying greenfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Sandy.  He has attached a bird box to his shed and is very happy to see that it is getting used by blue tits.

sandy's blue tit

The day started with a WhatsApp conversation with Annie and Joe and our granddaughter Evie.  Evie is ten months old now and very grown up.

We had another chilly morning here but it was sunny again and when I went out into the garden, I was happy to see a hoverfly visiting and allium.

hoverfly on allium

All seemed reasonably well with the world until I went across to look at the azaleas with the intention of getting some colourful shots.

Alas, it had been just too cold in the night and the azaleas (and rhododendrons) were ex azaleas (and rhododendrons) now.  Pretty well everyone of them was  damaged beyond repair.  We were told that it had been -3C overnight and that had been enough to finish them off.

six dead azaleas

Mrs Tootlepedal was very sad, to say the least.  Her garden comes on in a succession of spring waves; the snowdrops, the daffodils, the tulips and then the crowning glory, the azaleas.

Not this year.

Annoyingly, some of the tulips, which are at the very end of their useful gardening life, survived the frost.

last of the tulips

I didn’t really have the heart to look round for other flowers but the sight of iris buds was at least a promise of something to come…

iris bud

…and the magnificent poppy on the back wall of the house laughed at frost.

oriental poppy out

Instead of having a cup of coffee with the regular street gang, I took some Garibaldi biscuits up to Sandy and got some of his flapjack in return.  His foot is very slowly on the mend after his operation, but it is a slow business and he has been cooped up in his house for far longer than the rest of us.  Under the circumstances, he is still remarkably cheerful.

I met a butterfly on my way.

white butterfly

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal was increasing the wideness of her wider view and more box bushes had bitten the dust.

cut box

I gave a hand with some of the tugging and pulling needed to uproot the toughest of the bushes and had a look round while I did so.

A sparrow was on the look out for tasty vegetable shoots to plunder.

sparrow on fence

I tested out the new bench and found some lily of the valley nestling beside it.

lily of the valley

The morning slipped away and I went in to make lunch and watch the birds.

I saw a siskin socially distancing itself from a sparrow.

socially distanced siskin

After lunch, we had a video conversation with Clare, Alistair and our other granddaughter, Matilda and then we downloaded a clever app that let us play games with Matilda in real time.   It was nowhere near as good as seeing Matilda and her parents in person, but it was a lot better than not seeing them at all.

Then Mrs Tootlepedal went off in search of some more horse manure, and I went  for another very slow cycle ride round my Canonbie circuit.

For some reason, my breathing is not good at the moment, possibly the combination of pollen and dust after all our dry weather, and I didn’t have much get up and go at all so I was quite pleased to have managed to get out for a ride  however slow and I quite enjoyed it

I stopped to see a new addition to a local Belted Galloway herd…

belted galloway calf

…and when I looked up, I was rather alarmed to see a hole in the sky.

hole in te sky

However, nothing fell through it and I pedalled on unscathed.

I passed a field full of cows who were feeling much like I was from the look of them.

lazy cattle

I don’t think that I have ever seen so many collapsed cattle before.

As I got near to the Canonbie by-pass, I cycled by some fields that had been mown for silage.  I can’t feel that there has been much growth in the grass but maybe the farmer felt that it needed to be mown before it dried out completely.

mown field with crows

As I got near Canonbie itself, I noticed the first hawthorn blossom of the year in a hedge.

first hawthorn

I liked this copper beech among all the greenery as I got nearer home….

copper beech

…and there were wild flowers in the verges a little further on…

gernaium and red campion

…and fine new cones on a larch tree by the river on the bike path.

larch cones

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was still busy taking out more box bushes and shaping some of the ones that are left.  She should finish the task tomorrow.

Near what is left of the hedge, a cheery potentilla has started flowering.

potentilla

I said good afternoon to a blackbird making use of what is left of the hedge…

blackbird on hedge

…and went in for a Garibaldi biscuit and a cup of tea.

After my regular sibling Zoom conference, I made cauliflower cheese for tea and then finished a day of video conversations by calling our recorder playing friend Sue.  Living in England, she is now able to go and visit her daughter who lives not far away, and this has cheered her up immensely.

That sharp frost and the death of the azaleas has really cast a long shadow over the day, especially as the azaleas were looking in good shape after a poor season last year.  Ah well, gardening is a vale of tears.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

flying goldfi nch

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