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Posts Tagged ‘sparrowhawk’

Today’s guest picture is a weather vane from the Somerset Rural Life Museum sent to me by Venetia, my Somerset correspondent.  The weather vane is a memorial to a long serving volunteer at the museum, a nice idea.

weather gauge somerset

The weather here was warm and sunny but not quite as warm and sunny as yesterday as the wind was stronger and the sky a bit hazier.  Nevertheless, it was a great day to be out in the garden, and after an early visit to the town for a bit of business, I spent a lot of the day in the garden.

Before I went out into the garden, I took the advice of a correspondent and tried applying some ice (in this case, a packet of frozen peas wrapped in a  tea towel) to my tender Achilles tendon.  It gave me some relief and I repeated the process a couple more times through the day.

There was plenty to look in the garden as well as to do so in between dead heading daffodils, sawing the sweet pea frame down to fit the new beds, and sieving compost, I admired a small corps de ballet of Ballerina tulips…

ballerina tulips

…and a single in-your-face orange variety of which I do not know the name.

bright orange tulip

Pond skaters have come to the pond in numbers.

three pond sketers

Blossoms have come out on two of the three espalier apples…

two apple blossoms

…and it shouldn’t be long before they are joined by the third one.

Mrs Tootlepedal is very pleased with her trilliums which have just come out too.  They were given to her by Mike Tinker and by coincidence, he passed the garden just as we were looking at them and came in to share the experience.  They are beginning to multiply so we are hoping for more next year.

trillium april

I am noting new things all the time and these tulips, the bluebell, the Solomon’s seal and an alpine clematis have all appeared over the last couple of days.

new flowers april

On top of that, we are getting very excited by the prospect of entering the age of the azalea.

first azalea

If you want eye catching green, then euphorbias are the thing to have.  Mrs Tootlepedal has them in flashy and discreet but they are both very green.

euphorbia panel

We had to stay at home as we  were expecting a visit from an electrical engineer who was going to do interesting things to our meter.  He arrived bang on time, was very polite and efficient, did some extra work beyond the call of duty to make things convenient for another engineer who is coming next week, complimented me on the coffee that I made for him and tidied everything up very neatly before he left.  Not everything in the modern world has gone to pot!

I was interested to see that he took photographs before, during and after he had finished his task as a record of what he had done.   That seemed like a very good idea to me.

While he worked, we stayed out in the garden and I looked at the trout lilies which are enjoying the good weather a lot…

trout lilies

…and the Christmas tree which is growing in every possible direction.

christmas tree busting out

We went in for lunch when the engineer had gone and I saw this blackbird with nesting material on the chimney pot outside.  Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is nesting in the climbing hydrangea growing on the front wall of the house.

blackbird wirth nest material

On the feeder itself, things were much as normal…

normal feeder

..but we did have visits from too very contrasting birds, a dove and a hawk.

collared dove and sparrowhawk panel

The hawk paid us several visits over the day without catching any of our little birds…

sparrowhawk staring

…and gave us a very exciting chase sequence to watch as it pursued a little bird across and out of the garden with many a squeal of rubber and handbrake turns on the way.

In the afternoon, I looked at the front lawn and felt that this was the day to scarify it.

The panel below shows the unscarified lawn on the left, looking as though butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth, and on the right, the very large amounts of moss that the machine lifted as it passed.

lawn scarifying

The bottom panel shows the results of going over the lawn a couple of times with the mower on a high setting to pick up the moss and one of the three wheelbarrow loads of moss that I took away.  Don’t be deceived, there is still a mass of moss in the lawn.  I will scarify it again in a few weeks time.

A poor peacock butterfly was trying to sun itself on the drive and had to keep flying up into the air as I passed with wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow.  It settled down again each time and must have been really fed up by the time that I finished disturbing it.

peacock butterfly sunning

The peacocks are appearing about a week earlier than usual this year.

While I was caring for the lawn, Mrs Tootlepedal was preparing her sweet pea fortress for the coming hostilities with the sparrows.  I predict a win for Mrs Tootlepedal this year.

sweet pea cage

As the afternoon wore on, I felt that I should make good use of the day by going for another short cycle ride and went out for fourteen miles at a gentle pace, clad in a T shirt and shorts.

The wind was gusting up to 20 mph and blew me up to the top of Callister.  I stopped on the way down to take in the view.  The garden may be springlike but it will the best part of another month until the hills go green.

callister view

I had to pedal hard just to get down the hill into the wind but I made it back to the town and enjoyed the cherry trees along the banks of the Esk between the bridges.

cherry tree beside esk

Our good spell of weather is coming to an end and it is going to get gradually but steadily cooler over the next few days and we may even see some much needed rain soon.  I just hope that it knows when to stop.  I won’t need my cycling T shirt and shorts again for a while, I fear.

The flying bird of the day was almost a sparrow hawk…

missing sparrowhawk

…but as you can see, I was too slow, so a goldfinch takes over the duty instead (no doubt keeping a sharp eye open for any hawks).

flying goldfinch

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I have delved into my archives to find today’s guest picture sent by my Somerset correspondent, Venetia last October.  It shows a footpath that is not totally welcoming.

cows in the way

We woke to an altered view from our upstairs window.

whita fron befroom window

The snow hadn’t got down as far as the town though and I was able to walk to our corner shop on surprisingly ice free roads.

Sandy, who had missed the camera club last night, came down for a cup of coffee and Mrs Tootlepedal combined having coffee with us with putting more coats of gesso on the rocking horse.  The horse has been brought in from the cold and is enjoying life in our spare room.  More importantly the gesso is going on a lot better and by the end of the day, the horse was looking a lot smarter…

rocking horse gesso progress

…although there are several more coats to go on before it will be ready for painting.

When Sandy left, I did the crossword and kept an eye for action outside the kitchen window.

I got an unexpected chance to catch a regular visitor…

sparrowhawk on feeder

…which doesn’t usually sit quietly for long enough for me to take a picture.

In spite of the snow, it was a reasonably pleasant day with occasional bursts of sunshine and although the temperature was only 3°C and it had rained overnight in the town, we were mysteriously free from ice so I went for a walk half way up a hill.

I went up the Kirk Wynd and onto Whita, stopping before I came to any serious snow. The sun had been out when I started but sadly clouds had intervened and it was a pretty grey day.

trees on whita snow

Even on a  grey day though, there is usually something to cheer a walker up and there was a good show of lichen on a wall….

lichen on mossy wall

…and the view up the Ewes valley always lifts the heart whatever the weather.

snowy view up ewes

I was on the very edge of the snow line as I walked along the contour of the hill towards the Newcastleton road but the going was very good and I had sensibly taken my walking poles with me so I enjoyed myself.

whita track snow

And when I got to the road, I was rewarded with a sparkling display of moss among the snow on a wall…

moss on snowy wall

…and a wintry view through the pines.

pines in snow

Looking back up the hill, I was glad that I hadn’t been tempted to climb up to the monument as it looked decidedly chilly up there.

monument with frosting

I followed the road down to the A7 and walked along to the Kilngreen past this fine display of holly berries.

holly berries whitshiels

On the Kilngreen, the light seemed perfect for capturing the sinuous patterns of this picnic bench…

kilngreen bench

…and I was very happy to see Mr Grumpy on the bank of the Ewes Water.  I haven’t seen him for some time and was getting worried about his health.

heron

There was more agreement about the way to go among the mallards today.

mallards on esk

Looking back towards the Sawmill Brig and Castle Hill, it was hard to imagine that I had been walking in snow not long before.

kilngreen no snow

I got home and sat down to a nourishing plate of soup.  Mrs Tootlepedal returned from helping out at the Buccleuch Centre cafe and I watched the birds for a while…

january greenfinch

…being pleased to see a greenfinch and by accident I took a picture which shows how small our garden bird visitors are in the great scheme of things.

bird among the bushes

Whatever it is that is causing me to have discomfort when walking at the moment hadn’t been made worse by my walk so I decided that the roads were probably ice free enough to risk a few miles on the slow bike to see if that sort of exercise would help.

The sun came out…

snowy whita from wauchope road

…which was a bonus and I pedalled very gently for seven miles without meeting any icy patches or making my leg worse so I was very happy.  I will try a longer ride next time when the weather permits.

In the evening, the ever busy Mrs Tootlepedal laid down her crochet hook and went off to act as front of house for a screening of the Queen of Spades at the Buccleuch Centre and stayed to see the opera.  As Tchaikovsky is not my favourite composer, I stayed at home and did a little more work on learning the Carlisle Choir songs.  Like putting gesso on a rocking horse, this is a slow business.

A chaffinch is the flying bird of the day as the visit of the sparrow hawk didn’t keep the birds away from the feeder for long.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s visit to Hull  yesterday.  As well as Roman bakers, he saw Hull Minster.

Hull minster

We had another dry day here today, cool and cloudy in the morning but (very) warm and sunny in the afternoon.

I inspected the flowers after breakfast.  Mrs Tootlepedal doesn’t think that I have done justice to the back door clematis yet so I had another go.  It is terrific.

back door clematis

That one stem should produce so many flowers is a wonder.

However, Mrs Tootlepedal’s favourite flower of the moment is this elegant iris.

 

iris

I like the Rosa Moyesii which has done very well this year with bigger flowers than usual.

moyesii

Mrs Tootlepedal  bought this meconopsis at the Buccleuch Centre pant sale last week and it is settling in well.

mecanopsis

I had hoped to get a good long cycle ride in today but I got a call to go and see the doctor who had had a look at my recent blood test results so I had to  leave the garden and  see what she had to say.

It turns out that my blood iron level is very low so she gave me me a small iron girder* to nibble on to get my levels back up.   This may explain why I have been finding it quite hard to get the energy up to go cycling lately.  Once I am going, all is well but I have been struggling a bit actually to get on my bike in the first place so it was pleasing to discover that there may be a good excuse for this rather than just natural laziness and old age.

When I got back home, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden and we went in to have a coffee and read the newspaper. Our peace was disturbed by some very excited calling from blackbirds so we went out to investigate.

There was an extremely vocal female blackbird on the fence behind the greenhouse…

agitated blackbird

Other birds were agitated too so I was walking  round behind the greenhouse to see if there was a cat among the pigeons so to speak when my eye was caught by a slight movement in the green house itself.

sparrowhawk in greenhouse (2)

No wonder the blackbirds were agitated.  There was a sparrowhawk in the greenhouse and it was getting pretty agitated itself.

sparrowhawk in greenhouse

Mrs Tootlepedal opened the greenhouse doors fully and she went round one side and I went round the other and the sparrowhawk took the hint and flew safely out and away.

The blackbirds calmed down.

I took a picture of one of the nice effects of Mrs Tootlepedal’s planting…

daisies

…and went back inside from where I watched more peaceful bird scenes.

We had visits from jackdaws…

jackdaw

…a dunnock…

dunnock

…siskins and redpolls…

siskin and redpoll

…and a pigeon in the plum tree.

pigeon

Some sparrows tried to get a fight started but it quickly fizzled out.

sparrows

After lunch, I went out to check on the bees in the garden.  There were plenty about today, both honey and bumble.

bees

Then I got into my my cycling shorts and was ready to go for a ride when I was interrupted again by more heart-rending alarm calls from blackbirds.  I went out to investigate.  This time it was a pair….

agitated blackbirds

…who were constantly flitting about and calling.  We couldn’t find out what the trouble was as there was no hawk or cat in sight.  We had seen a youngster earlier in the day and we wondered in the end whether it had been taken by a predator and the parents were distressed.  It was a mystery.

In the end, I left them to their crying and went off for a short trip round my twenty mile Canonbie circuit.  I passed the first a few of these in a soggy verge…

march thistle

…and I think, though I am not sure, that it may be a marsh thistle (I would be happy to be corrected).

Nearby among the grasses, there was a lot of this red plant…

grass

…which Mrs Tootlepedal tells me is some kind of dock.  Between the two plants, the verge was very cheerful there.

Further on I stopped to admire the relaxed attitude of some local worthies…

galloway cows

…and then didn’t stop again until I came to Skippers Bridge, where I found the old distillery looking very handsome.

Langholm Distillery

Once home, I mowed the drying green and the greenhouse grass and did some watering in the vegetable garden.  There is no rain in the forecast for several days as the jet stream continues to snake round the top of the British Isles, keeping the fine weather trapped over Scotland.  This means that quite a bit of watering will be on the menu  if the garden is to continue to do well.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing with a small choir that our church organist, Henry is getting up for the summer and I obeyed the doctor’s orders and gave my singing voice a rest. The doctor has told me not to sing for two weeks and see what happens.  If my throat is no better then, further investigation will take place.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin…

flying siskin

…and the flower of the day is a front door clematis.

front door clematis

*The iron girder came in handy pill form.

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Today’s guest picture comes from another inveterate traveller.  My Somerset correspondent Venetia has been eyeing up some tasty chocolates in Toulouse.

toulouse chocs

It was a day that would have been familiar to fans of Waiting for Godot….except that in this version, Godot finally turned up.

While I was waiting for the call from the bike shop to come, a perfectly wonderful day of sunny weather with light winds was just begging for some bicycling.  The garden offered consolations and I sieved some compost and chatted away while Mrs Tootlepedal worked at some of the many tasks a gardener faces in spring.  We also tested the new bench again.

There was a lot of colour about in the sunshine.

New on the scene was this anemone….

anemone

…and the first of the azalea flowers to open.

azalea

There was a colourful corner, entirely of tulips with a hint of grape hyacinth in the background…

colourful corner tulips

…and some individual flowers to admire as well.

tulip

Particularly this one.

tulip

The spirea is at is best.

spirea

And on the back wall of the house beside the dam, the first potentilla flower of the year was to be seen.  I expect to still be able to see potentilla flowers in autumn.

potentilla

More unusually, I found our neighbour Charlotte’s dog cooling its heels in the dam.

kenny's dog in dam

Charlotte was sitting in the sun nearby but resisted the temptation to jump in too.

There was fauna as well as flora.

A rook flew overhead…

rook

…a bee buzzed about…

bee

… a baby blackbird looked indignant (they always look indignant).

baby blackbird

…and a frog basked in the pond…

frog

…with what looks like a tadpole hanging from its lip.

The most interesting visitor to the garden though was human.  Our friend Bruce arrived on his electric bike…

bruce

…with news that he had not only heard a cuckoo on his bike ride but seen it as well.  Seeing a cuckoo is a very rare experience so he was quite excited.  His electric bicycle looked very exciting too.

Mrs Tootlepedal had seen a sparrowhawk collecting its breakfast from the feeder early in the morning and while we were eating our lunch, presumably the same sparrowhawk returned for another meal….

sparrowhawk

…but this time in vain.

After sitting in the tree for a while, it suddenly flew to the ground and started prowling about among the flowers.

sparrowhawk

I have never seen this behaviour before but I suspected that it was after one of the baby blackbirds which tend to lurk in the undergrowth there so I went out and shooed the hawk away.

It went reluctantly, circling round the garden for several minutes getting higher on each turn before it flew off.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to an Embroiderer’s Guild meeting and I killed a little time until the phone finally rang and I drove off to collect my new bike from the bike shop in Longtown.

Levi at the bike shop fitted the pedals of my choice, I paid him a king’s ransom and then, putting the slow bike in for a service at the same time, I drove home with my prize.

Mrs Tootlepedal arrived back from her meeting shortly afterwards and got her bike out and came with me for an inaugural ride up to Wauchope Schoolhouse.  Then she returned and floated back downhill and downwind to Wauchope Cottage while I completed the twenty miles of my usual Canonbie circuit.

She took this picture before we set out.

new bike

The bike may not look much but it has sealed bearings, a belt drive, a 14 speed internal hub gear, mudguards and a rack so it is dirt proof and needs no day to day maintenance at all and is in every way suited to the needs of an elderly cycle tourist.  I say nothing about the state of the cyclist.

It was still a beautiful day, although the clouds were beginning to build up….

Cloudscape

…and as a day to test a new bike, it couldn’t have been better.

I kept an ear out for Bruce’s cuckoo as I went across the hill but there was no sight or sound of it and I had to be content with seeing both  a fox and a hare crossing the road in front of me (but not at the same time).

The sight of a rain shower developing to the south made me keep pedalling rather than stopping for photo opportunities though and the new bike couldn’t have been more co-operative.  It is light, firm and comfortable with the feeling that every bit of power that I was putting through the pedals was being put to good use on the road.

The 14 speed hub gear has a ratio for every occasion and I was able to drift up any little hills with an ease and grace far removed from the inelegant puffing occasioned by striving to get the slow bike up any incline.

For those with a motoring interest, it was like driving a Lotus 7 (but quite a bit slower).

I did force myself to stop a couple of times, the first to note the leaves arriving on my three favourite trees at Grainstonehead…

trees at Grainstone head

…and the second to pay tribute to fine bunch of primroses at Irvine House.

primroses

I arrived home having done 17 miles at 15 mph, a very satisfactory speed for me these days and on a real high.  I had been worried that I might have found the new bike not to my taste and would have regretted the money invested but it turned out that Levi had been quite right when I first visited him after my old bike needed replacing.  He said then that he had just the bike for me in mind and it turned out that he was quite right.

Now I hope for some good weather and the chance to give it a real workout.

The flying bird of the day is the sparrowhawk as it circled above the garden after I had disturbed it.

_DSC4008

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is a beautiful shot of the little lake in Regents Park.  My sister Mary took it on her way to play tennis at the weekend and remarked that it looked very spring-like in spite of being partially frozen.

Looking spring-like in spite of partially frozen lake

We had another dry, chilly day here without much sun to cheer us up so it felt cold.  There were even one or two desultory snowflakes but they came to nothing.

The dam bridge repair man was back and busy and by lunchtime, the bridge looked like this…

dam bridge repairs

…ready for the final finishing touches in the next day or two, weather permitting.

The forecast is very dramatic, talking of low temperatures and deep snow but at present our part of the country looks as though it might get off lightly.  We live in hope.

After breakfast, I cracked open my piggy bank (into which I put small denomination coins which otherwise would put an intolerable strain on my trouser pockets) and was able to take a couple of pounds worth of coppers round to our local shop who still need them for change.

I had a moment to look out of the window after that.

A goldfinch appeared but it was the only one that I saw today…

goldfinch

….and a greenfinch flew in.

greenfinch

Then it was time to welcome Dropscone for coffee.  He has returned safely from his holiday in the very south of Ireland where he and two of his children had had a good time going about and seeing the sights.

Not only was he welcome back in his own right but the fact that he brought scones with him was the metaphorical icing on the cake.  I had butter and blackcurrant jelly on mine.

While we were sipping and chatting, we had another visitor.

sparrowhawk

The fact that the sparrowhawk stopped for a picture meant that it had successfully nipped one of our other visitors off the feeder.  I have cropped the picture because it is too sad to view the reality however much it is just part of the natural cycle.

Later on, after coffee, I saw a most unusual burst of colour in the plum tree.  A closer look showed me that it was a male bullfinch.  It stayed on the plum tree for long enough for me to get the big lens and take its picture.

bullfinch

You might well think that such a magnificent little bird would be welcome but what it is doing in the plum tree is pecking off the shoots and eating them.

bullfinch panel

Left alone a bullfinch and its pals will strip a tree so rather ungratefully after taking its picture, I went out and shooed it away.  I like bullfinches but I like plums more.  This particular bird, having taken off a shoot, had the cheek to drop it as you can see in third picture in the panel above.

I spent some time after all this avian excitement in not quite getting a flying chaffinch picture right.

flying chaffinches

I took a stroll round the garden and was impressed by the hardiness of our small bunch of early daffodils.  We will need a few more before they can be considered a ‘host of golden daffodils’ but they are trying.

daffodils

The crocuses were keeping themselves to themselves, huddled against the cold but I liked the picture that this small bunch on the drying green made.

 

crocuses

After lunch, I went out for a short ten mile bike ride on my slow bike.   My plan was to go as slowly as was reasonable to avoid increasing the wind chill factor too much.

Although it was very chilly, the roads were dry and there was no danger of frost.  At one point on my way up the road, I heard a clink, as though something had fallen off my bike but a quick check told me that my bike was still all there. It was only when I went to look in my mirror before turning at Callister that I realised that it was the mirror that had fallen off.

I put my failure to notice this down to the extreme cold which had obviously numbed my brain.

I turned and pedalled back looking anxiously for any trace of the mirror but I fear that a passing car must have run over it and spun it off into the verge because there was no sign of it at all.

Ah well.

I made a tomato, potato and feta bake for my tea to cheer myself up

And to make things even better, I had a musical evening as first my flute pupil Luke came and then, after tea, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.   The trios were great fun and I hardly noticed the cold as I walked home.

I did catch one flying chaffinch without a feeder in front of it and it is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my flute pupil Luke’s mother, Sharon.  She drives up past the Gates of Eden to work and stopped to take this fine picture early this morning.

snowy scene from Sharon

I had hoped to see a little snow myself today as we had driven through some on our way home last night but we got up too late and any snow that there might have been had vanished from the hills around the town.

My cold has pretty well disappeared at last but I am not back at full perk yet so I was happy to use the excuse of freezing temperatures to lounge around in the morning, taking the occasional look out of the kitchen window.

A greenfinch looked disgusted to find that it was sunflower hearts yet again in the feeder menu…

Warbla view

…while chaffinches arrived to sample the seeds without complaining.

chaffinch

This one is about to receive a buffet from a much smaller but very determined siskin.

chaffinch and siskin

Towards lunchtime, the sun came out and lit up a robin in the plum tree.

robin

It also made it easy for the sparrowhawk to see the birds on the feeder and so we got a visit from this one.  To save the squeamish from awkwardness, I have photoshopped its prey out.  Lovers of nature red in tooth and claw can see the full picture at the end of the post.

sparrowhawk

After lunch, I weighed up the delights of a cycle ride at 4°C in a chilly wind as against a walk up a hill with a chance of seeing some snow in the distance and decided to go for the walk up Warbla.

Sadly, there was not a flake of snow to be seen on any of our hills, near or far but I enjoyed the walk anyway.

There were small trees with threatening clouds behind them….

Warbla tree

…and bigger trees with not such threatening clouds….

Warbla tree

…and little trees with berries….

Warbla tree

…and bigger trees with views.

Warbla tree

It was a good day for views and  thanks to being a bit short of puff, I stopped to look at quite a few of them on my way up.  (You can see me in the bottom right of the shot.)

Warbla view

I met no one on my way up the hill but the feeling of being a lonely explorer battling against the elements was slightly diminished by finding a car parked beside the mast at the top of the hill.

P1050585

Still, the need for access for maintenance to the equipment does keep the track up the hill in good condition so I didn’t mind too much.

And the views from the top on a fine day always make the walk worthwhile.  A reader recently stressed the importance of trying to have interesting skies in landscape pictures and I think that today, I was provided with plenty of good skyscapes.

Warbla view

A little alternation of cloud and sunshine can produce very pleasing effects.

Warbla view

I came back down the rather muddy track and turned off to walk down this delightful short cropped grassy path to join the Wauchope road at the Auld Stane Brig.

Warbla view

The larches at Pool Corner are coming to the end of their run after putting on a very good show again this year.

larches

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work in the garden, planting out tulips beside the middle lawn.  This meant displacing some other bulbs which I found a home for near the back fence.  It was rather chilly and the ground was soggy so I may not have made the best job of planting them.  It is a pity that most gardening seems to require bending over and thus suits people like Mrs Tootlepedal with low centres of gravity more than it does me.

The evenings are really drawing in now, with less than a month to go to the winter equinox, so it was a great treat to receive a visit from our older son Tony and his partner Marianne who had come down to help Mrs Tootlepedal and me to celebrate our birthdays.

The pleasure in their company was enhanced by a couple of delicious duck dishes from Marks and Spencers ready meals department which they had brought with them.  These went into the oven with some potatoes from our  garden and we had an excellent meal of roast duck and roast potatoes.  As this was followed by ice cream and peach slices, I take leave to doubt that any millionaire or potentate dined better than us tonight.

After our meal, we sat down to watch an excellent film on DVD which our daughter Annie had given to Mrs Tootlepedal so the day ended well on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

My portrait skills are poor but I am trying to improve so I took this picture of Marianne, Mrs Tootlepedal and Tony.

Marianne, Mrs Tootlepedal and Tony.

I can see that getting three noses equally spaced, on the same line and all at the same angle will require some person management skills.  I will try again.

Warning: Squeamish readers should look away now.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch….

chaffinch

…and a non flying bird is the unfortunate goldfinch that the sparrowhawk snared with its talons this morning.

sparrowhawk with prey

 

 

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My Somerset correspondent Venetia, who has recently been in Spain, has answered my plea for a guest picture with this fine study of a Spanish bull.  Like our pheasants, this one has been bred for sport and may well end up in a bullring.

bull

We had a day than never got warm, staying at under 4°C all morning and not doing much more in the afternoon.   It has got a bit warmer by the time that I write this but to make up for it, it is raining.

Still, a dry day is a dry day so we were not complaining, though I had to scrape the frost off the car before I could take Mrs Tootlepedal down to Carlisle to catch the train south to visit her mother.

Before we left, we had an early call from a sparrowhawk.  It failed to pick up a meal and sat sulking in the walnut tree for a while before flying off.

sparrowhawk

As we got ready to leave, we had a small panic when it turned out that Mrs Tootlepedal had inadvertently ordered a train ticket that would register on her smart phone.  As her phone is old and very dull, this was a problem.  However, it was a problem that was easily solved by a quick phone call to the railway ticket company who were able to change it by magic into a ticket that could be picked up from a machine in the station.

We were equally surprised and delighted to find a company with a real person at the end of the phone and systems that were not too set in bureaucratic concrete to be changed.

After I had left Mrs Tootlepedal at the station, I improved the shining hour by rushing round Carlisle like a busy bee, filling my shopping bag with absolute necessities of life such as cheese, coffee, dates, prunes and tea.

Once home, I stared out of the window through a rather dim light.

robins

There were robins everywhere

greenfinch and chaffinch

Greenfinches and chaffinches were the flavour of the day on the feeder.  No goldfinches appeared.

chaffinch

A chaffinch demonstrating keeping its head very still while in flight

sparrow and greenfinch

A sparrow and a greenfinch had a scowling competition.

sparrow

The sparrow won and did some posing.

blackbird

Matched by a blackbird

blackbird

This one chose the cuddly option.

There was just the merest suggestion of a little sleety snow at lunchtime but it came to nothing so I weighed up the charms of cycling or walking.  A check on the thermometer suggested walking and I went out, well wrapped up against the chill.

I walked out along one side of the Wauchope Water and after crossing the Auld Stane Brig….

auld stane brig

…I walked up the hill a bit and came back along the other side.

On the outward trip, I enjoyed the larches….

larches

…and a beech hanging on to its leaves….

beeches

…but was sad to see a whole crop of crab apples lying wasted on the ground.

crab apples

It was a day for big skies with subtle but interesting cloud formations.

big sky

Once I had crossed the bridge, there were more big skies in an opposite direction…

Wauchope valley clouds

…plenty of bare trees…

trees

…and, rather annoyingly, signs of blue skies and sun on the hills but not where I was.

view

I had to content myself with fungus and lichen.

fungus

Aged bracket fungus the size of serving plates

script lichen

Two sets of script lichen on trees near the Esk

Although it was only just after three when I got home, it was pretty gloomy so I went straight in.  It was not as gloomy as Mike Tinker though who dropped in while passing to say, quite correctly, that his cold was far worse than mine and that he had gone to the doctor and got medicine!

After seeing him and learning from Clare, one of my regular correspondents, that she has had her cold for four weeks now, I suppose that I shouldn’t complain so much about my minor ailment….but I will of course.

Actually, I felt quite a bit better this morning so I am hoping that light is finally visible at the end of the tunnel.  To mix my metaphors, I am not out of the wood yet though so I am trying not to get my hopes up too much.

I made good use of a gloomy afternoon by putting a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and then the gloom was lifted by the arrival of my flute pupil Luke with whom I had an enjoyable half hour of playing.

I didn’t get a very good flying bird of the day today….

flying chaffinch

….so here is final flower of the year.

sedum

An (almost) indestructible sedum.

 

 

 

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