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Posts Tagged ‘sparrow’

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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Today’s guest picture comes from Matilda’s father, Al.  He took her, her mother and some of her Christmas guests to see the light show at the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens where they entered the cathedral of light.

cathedral of light

There was not much light of any sort in Langholm this morning when I set out after breakfast for a relatively early bike ride.  It was warm (8°C) but grey and although I could just see my favourite tree when I went over the hill at the Bloch…

misty tree at bloch

…I couldn’t see much at all if I looked at the other side of the road.

no view at Bloch

Under the circumstances, I kept my camera in my pocket for the rest of the trip and concentrated on trying to get my legs to be more co-operative.  They were in a bolshie mood though and I couldn’t even get my average up to 13 mph.

All the same, I was very pleased to be cycling on a relatively warm and quiet day in December so I wasn’t grumbling.

I was a bit annoyed though when the sun came out not long after I got home.

The chaffinches seemed pleased.

busy chaffinches

cheerful chaffinch

But once again there weren’t many of them about and those that did come, didn’t stay long.

A few sparrows graced the feeder….

three sparrows

…though not all of them were in prime condition.

scruffy sparrow

I couldn’t hang around to watch the birds or go for a walk in the sun because it was the day to go to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and her other grandparents.

The train was late as usual and to make matters worse, it was absolutely full before the fifty people waiting on the platform at Lockerbie got on so we had to stand in cramped conditions for the hour it took to get to Edinburgh.

We had plenty of fun when we got there, playing two board games with Matilda and doing a jigsaw puzzle too before her other grandparents arrived.

Then there was a dancing display and an evening meal before it was time to catch the train home.  This one was on time and had plenty of seats so the journey home was a marked improvement on the journey up.

All the same, it was quite a tiring day so I am looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

The flying bird of the day is one of those busy chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia, who found herself, with a crowd of other musicians, singing the European National Anthem very loudly outside the Houses of Parliament to indicate their support for free movement for  musicians after any Brexit.  This is niche protesting brought to a fine art.

20181210_121726_007_01

There were no protests here today and the temperature was comfortably above freezing at 4°C when I walked up to the health centre after an early breakfast to give a thimbleful of blood for testing.  This is to check my iron levels which were a bit low a few months ago.

In a way, I would be obscurely pleased if the levels were  still a bit low as it would give me a medical excuse for being frequently tired as opposed to a well founded suspicion that this might be down to a general dilapidation of mind and body on account of having had too many birthdays in the past.  Mind you, it might just be the onset of winter.

It was  grey day and when I got home the light meter on my camera told me that it wasn’t just grey, it was really grey so while Mrs Tootlepedal put in some time on her bike to nowhere, I did the crossword and occasionally looked out of the window, hoping that the temperature might rise a degree or two and that things  might brighten up.

In the gloom, I could pick out a dunnock scavenging for fallen seed..

_DSC9056

…and a party of greenfinches, peacefully munching away on the feeer.

_DSC9054

The peace didn’t last long….

_DSC9053

…as chaffinches and sparrows barged in.

_DSC9049

It is always fun to see the concentration needed for landing safely on a perch.

_DSC9050

I don’t know whether the gloomy weather makes it harder for birds to judge the landing but this chaffinch looks as though he is working hard.

_DSC9048

I was frustrated to find that although the temperature had gone up a degree or two before lunchtime, it had also started to rain in a morose but persistent way so I gave up thoughts of cycling or walking, had some soup and turned to music practice and preparation to fill my day.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy on some errands but when she got back, she thought the day was good enough to plant out the last of her tulips.  I went out to offer her some light supervision and was delighted to find that one of the perennial wallflowers still had a flower or two on show…

P1150928

…though it was so dark that I had to use my flash to capture it.

Our ever patient heron was on guard at the pond and I liked the pattern that the perennial nasturtium’s leaves made on the yew behind it.

P1150929

(I had an appalling panto thought: It’s a behind yew.)

Next to the greenhouse, the rosemary bush is in very perky form…

P1150933

…and one or two enterprising shoots have pushed through the ventilator into the greenhouse itself where they are putting out a few flowers.

P1150930

In the early evening, seven members of the Archive Group assembled in our front room for our AGM.  You may think that AGM stands for Annual General Meeting but I have been taking lesson from you know who and can tell you that AGM stands for A Great Meeting …and not just a great meeting but a really great meeting, a really, really great meeting….probably the best meeting in the world.

At any rate, we were happy with it as we have once again done a lot of work and met with appreciation for our efforts.

After our evening meal, I pulled myself together and spent a gentle half hour on my bike to nowhere in the garage and that rounded off a quiet but useful day.

The flying bird of the day can be seen pushing through the miserable drizzle.

_DSC9057

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who was out and about and saw skaters on the temporary ice rink at Somerset House.  It always looks a rather staid way of having fun to me.

Somerset house skating

We had a second sunny day today but the weather gods had another trick up their sleeve and kept the temperature between 0 and 2 degrees all day so when it came to cycling, the best that I could do was forty minutes on the bike to nowhere in the garage, a dull way to start the day.

Before I pedalled, I had a quick look round the garden to admire Jack Frost’s handiwork.

jack frost in garden

The blue pineapple is on the end of the vegetable garden railings and I think the the dangling flower head must be one of the last calendulas.

When I had finished the indoor pedal, Mrs Tootlepedal and I drove up to the bird hide at the Moorland Project feeders and while Mrs Tootlepedal sat in the car scanning the hillside for raptors, I sat in the hide watching smaller birds.  I got the best bargain I think because she saw one distant bird and I saw dozens.

There were some blue tits…

blue tit at laverock

..and great tits…

great tit at leaverock

…but there were more coal tits than the others put together.  I only saw this one siskin sharing the peanuts with the coal tits.

busy feeder at laverock

Two chaffinches made a charming tableau on the tree stump outside the hide…

two chaffinches at laverock

…and I was very happy to see a greater spotted woodpecker on the peanuts.

woodpecker at hide

When we got home, I made some lentil soup and looked out of the window from time to time.

A blackbird paused on the edge of the tray under the feeders for a peaceful portrait…

FEMALE BLACKBIRD

…while up above, it was all go for the sparrows with a goldfinch hoping to resist the invasion.

sparrows at feeder

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off on a shopping mission and I went for a walk.

I went over the Town Bridge and checked on a pair of black headed gulls who were deep in conversation at the Meeting of the Waters..

two gulls

…passed Santa who is making ends meet by doing a little bus driving until the busy period comes round….

santa busman

…crossed the Sawmill Brig, my second bridge and walked up the track past the Estate offices.

There is a fine row of trees across a field which I think looks like a hedge that got away some time ago.

overgrown hedge

I wasn’t wearing very suitable footwear but I took a chance and set off along a muddy track towards the High Mill Brig.

There were many puddles but luckily, there was enough frost in the ground to make it firm enough for me to make progress and keep my feet dry.

pathead track

And there was plenty of interest along the way.  Looking down, I saw frozen moss and three sorts of lichen within a few feet of each other on a wall,,,,

moss and lichen on wall

…and looking up,  saw about a hundred birds flying overhead.  From their formation, I thought at first that they might be geese…

birds in fligth

…but a closer look makes me think they were gulls….but I am not certain.

possible ducks

At the end of the track, I came to one of the useful gates that the Langholm Walks group have organised for the convenience of walkers following their marked routes.

langholm walks gate

Following the track along the edge of the field, I came down to my third bridge of the day, the High Mill Brig…

high mill bridge

…so called because of the mill which stood nearby for many years.  The mill has gone now but the bridge carries the main road north out of the town and is still busy.

I crossed the bridge and followed the road back towards the town, crossing the Sawmill Brig again and then walking round the Castleholm and crossing the Jubilee Bridge, my fourth and last of the excursion.

There was more interest as I went along.

berry fence laurel and moss

The circular pattern in the top right frame, is the sawn top of a fence post covered with ice.  It was cold but as the day was very still, it was a pleasure to be out and about even if the sun had been overtaken by some low cloud.

On my way back through the New Town, I stopped off at Mike and Alison’s house to enquire about the state of Alison’s recently dislocated shoulder.  This was not entirely a disinterested call as she is my Friday night orchestra and I am hoping that she won’t be out of action too long as I miss the playing.  She was remarkably cheerful and made a cup of tea while I chatted to Mike.  As the tea came with a delicious ginger biscuit, it was doubly welcome.

Alison has tried a little piano playing which is good news.

I didn’t stay long as they told me that Mrs Tootlepedal had called in when she had finished shopping but had not stopped because she didn’t want me not to find her in when I came back from my walk and worry about where she was.

When I got back to the garden, I found evidence that her shopping trip had been successful.  She had bought our Christmas tree for the next four or five years.

CHRISTMAS TREE

My flute pupil Luke sent me a message to say that he couldn’t come for the usual session because of a meeting in Dumfries so I had time for a quiet sit before making the tea and going out to play trios with Mike and Isabel.

The playing would have gone better if I had brought the right bag with my flute, music stand and music in it instead of quite a different bag with none of these essentials.  However, Mike and Isabel played some Vivaldi duets while I went off and got the right bag and then we played Quantz, Mozart and Telemann trios so we were all happy.

The flying bird of the day is a black headed gull above the Ewes Water at the Kilngreen.

flying gull

 

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Today’s guest picture is from my sister Mary who visited the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

Tragalgar Square

It was a sunny day here when we got up but far too cold to be able to risk a cycle ride with frost about so I pottered about until Sandy arrived with some Archive Group documents and we had a cup of coffee.  He and Nancy did a great job in moving Archive Group to their new premises with the help of a very obliging pair of ‘moving men’ and we hope that our data miners will soon get used to the new surroundings.

Dropscone has been  our landlord in our old premises for many years and we hope that he will be able find a good use for them now that we are gone.

When Sandy left, he took the sunshine with him and the day got progressively gloomier as it went on.  I decided to cook some tea cakes, using a method that is easy but time consuming in  the preparation of the dough so I had time to look out of the window at the passing show.

It was perching time for the goldfinches.

goldfinches perching

goldfinch on feeder

Once again, the old sunflower stalk was a handy staging post.

goldfinch on sunflower

Sometimes goldfinches waited for sparrows to move….

goldfinch and sparrow

…and sometimes sparrows encouraged goldfinches to move….

goldfinches and sparrow

…and sometimes chaffinches managed to get a look in too.

chaffinces staring at goldfinch

The tea cake method involves very light stretching of the dough rather than heavy kneading but it has gaps of a quarter of an hour between stretches so I had many looks out of the window while waiting for the next stretch and as well as birds at the feeder, I saw a dunnock…

dunnock

…and a blackbird scavenging for fallen seeds on the ground.

blackbird below

After a while, the dough was ready for its first rising so I had lunch and then while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to see a screening of a Degas exhibition at the Buccleuch Centre, I went off to collect my new bicycle from the bike shop where it had been having a service.  Although I had taken it in to the Carlisle branch, they had kindly brought it back to the shop in Longtown for me to collect it so I didn’t have far to go.

When I got home, I divided the tea cake dough into balls for the second rise and considered my options.

The day had got very gloomy by this time, with a brisk breeze and a hint of rain so once again I neither walked nor pedalled but went to work on my computer until Mrs Tootlepedal got back from her screening when we had a cup of tea.

Then it was time to bake the tea cakes and since the recipe is generally fool proof, they came out quite well.

dav

They enlivened with currants and raisins and spiced with cinnamon and ginger.

In the evening, one of the tenors from Langholm Sings came round and we did a little practising.  We shall see if it pays off when we meet tomorrow for our next rehearsal.

The forecast for tomorrow is appalling so I don’t think that there will be any chance of a pedal on my newly serviced bike.

In fact, November has not been kind to me from a cycling point of view recently.  I see that I only did 58 miles last year in the whole month because the weather was very poor and I had a persistent cold and so far I have only done half that distance this year with three days to go.  I might have to take issue with the poet who thought that April is the cruellest month.

The flying bird of the day is two goldfinches showing off their flying skills.

Flying goldfinches

 

 

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