Posts Tagged ‘sparrows’

Today’s guest picture shows one of the two diesel locomotives that together pulled Dropscone and his daughter Susan to Scarborough on a railway special to celebrate her birthday.  They didn’t have ideal weather for a seaside outing.

diesel loco

We had another pleasant morning and it was further brightened by the arrival of Dropscone bearing traditional Friday treacle scones.

I had enough time for a good look round the garden before he came.  The combination of the Japanese azalea and sweet woodruff is delightful even with the azalea not fully in bloom.

sweet woodruff

New flowers are turning up all the time.  This is Veronica…


…and these are two other white flowers which I haven’t had the time to identify yet.

white flowers

The tulips are going over but they are going out in style…

yellow tulip

red tulip

…and there are still a (very) few lonesome daffodils to be found here and there.

late daffodil

I like an aquilegia and this one caught my eye today.


The garden is well ordered but if you get the right view, it can look quite satisfyingly wild too.

garden in May

When Dropscone came, I got the full story of his trip to Scarborough with Susan.  In spite of some rainy weather, they had enjoyed the outing, although the fact that the weather in Langholm had been very nice in their absence was a little hard to bear.

I cheered him up with some rhubarb and he went off intent on shopping and golf.

I looked at the forecast when he left and it offered heavy rain by four o’clock so I had a quick lunch, got my fairly speedy bike out and got ready to go for a ride.  My saddle has been making creaking noises recently so I took it off and cleaned and greased the fittings.  This is always a risky business because it is hard to ensure that you put a saddle back in exactly the same position that it was in before.

I set off to see whether I had managed this trick.  It turned out that it was fractionally different but as it now seems to be in a better position when I cycle uphill, I may leave it for a while and see how comfortable it is on a longer ride.

It didn’t get much of a test today because I stopped after 23 miles.  I had intended to go a bit further but I felt good when I started and pedalled harder than I meant to so I stopped before I got too tired.

I only took one photo opportunity as I was busy pedalling.

bull and calves

A bull pretending to be a bush and two of his progeny

The short ride gave me the opportunity to mow the drying green and have a chat over the back fence with a neighbour who has just come back from America.  He said that the temperature had been in the 80s there and he was finding our 50s a little chilly.

I sieved some compost for Mrs Tootlepedal who was planting out a couple of rows of carrots and then had another wander round the garden.  I found another newcomer.

lily of the valley

Lily of the valley


A set of alliums with a decided aversion to growing up straight like a good allium should

The hostas are beginning to put on a show.  I like this variegated variety.


We went in and had a cup of tea and then I put some time into practising both playing and singing.  I wish our conductor wouldn’t make us learn songs off by heart.  It is more trouble than it is worth for me, though I must say that when I do finally get the tenor part of a song confidently off by heart, it does feel like a genuine achievement.

I have always relied on being able to sight read music reasonably well and have never developed a musical memory as I should have.  However, this is a lesson too late to be learned now.

I should say that it rained exactly at four o’clock so the forecast was bang on time today.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I had an enjoyable time playing pieces that we know well (but haven’t had to learn by heart).

No flying birds today but some crouching sparrows, house and hedge, on the ground beside the fat ball feeder.


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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother, who was on one of his outings.  It shows the Old Bridge at Hereford across the Wye.

Old Bridge at Hereford across the Wye

We had a very pleasant day here today with lots of sunshine but with a wind just brisk enough to make me think of several reasons why going cycling might not be my best option.

It had rained overnight and the plants in the garden were holding on to some of the raindrops.

willow and pulsatilla

Willow and pulsatilla unwilling to let go

There was plenty of buzzing to be heard in the garden…


…and plenty of new flowers for the bees to visit.

Star of Bethlehem, tree peony and iris Siberica

Star of Bethlehem, tree peony and iris Siberica

After coffee, I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal that a short trip on our bikes up the Wauchope road might be worth while and so we went off to see the bluebells that I had noticed on my bike ride yesterday.  We left our bikes by the side of the road and walked up the hill.  The view down the valley without the bluebells was very good….

Wauchope valley

…but it was even better with bluebells.

Wauchope valley with bluebells

And there was no shortage of bluebells on the hill side for us to enjoy.


Wauchope valley with bluebells


Wauchope valley with bluebells

…and along.

Wauchope valley with bluebells

I could have filled a whole post with bluebells.

There weren’t a lot of other flowers among the bluebells but there were some of these tiny yellow flowers.

yellow wild flowers

As we cycled home, I stopped for a look at some fresh hawthorn blossom…


…and an orange tip butterfly which kindly rested for a moment or two on a bluebell beside the road.

orange tip butterfly

After lunch, I mowed the front lawn, chatted to blackbirds…


…who were keen to share the lawn with me, enjoyed a whole hearted tulip…


…and then went off on an outing with Sandy.

We drove up past the bluebells but the sunlight was in quite the wrong place so we drove back through the town and went to visit the Moorland Project bird hide.  When we arrived, we found that others had beaten us to it so we left the car there and walked down the road…

Rashiel road

…to the banks of the Tarras Water.

Tarras water

We crossed the bridge and walked along the bank of the river for a few hundred yards and stopped to be amazed by a forest of horsetails which Sandy spotted…


…growing in a very soggy patch beside the river.

I will have to come back and look at these again as they are interesting plants.

One of them had a friend.


We walked back up the hill to the hide and found yet again that someone else had got in before us but this time we went in too and shared the viewing windows.

There was a lot of woodpecker activity and for the first time ever, I saw a woodpecker on the ground pecking away at the grass.  Of course there were plenty of pheasants doing that too.

pheasant and woodpecker

There wasn’t a great deal of other activity so we made for home and had a cup of tea and a couple of mini Jaffa cakes with Mrs Tootlepedal.

Sandy went off and I mowed the middle lawn and had a look round the garden.


Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that these are Alliums

The garden was alive with sparrows feeding their young…


One even sat on Mrs Tootlepedal’s bicycle handlebars

…but because the feeders are not up, it was hard to be sharp enough to catch them in the act.

I had a last look round…


…and went in to practice a few songs and look at the many, many pictures which I had taken on my outings and in the garden.  It is very hard not to take too many pictures in spring time.

I noticed that I had seen quite a lot of unfurling ferns here and there during the day…

unfurling ferns

…so I put some together.

I was feeling pretty tired by now and I let the chance of an evening bike ride slip through my fingers and settled for eating spaghetti with tomato sauce cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal and having a little snooze.

It is not a good picture but I feel that a flying bee of the day is the way to end this post.  It was a flying bee sort of day.

flying bee

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Today’s guest picture comes from a visit to the city of Chester which my brother Andrew made last month.  It shows the choir in Chester Cathedral where he enjoyed a sung evensong.

The choir at Chester cathedral

We had another up and down meteorological day here today.  It started very well with not only bright sunshine when I got up but also a bright moon on the other side of the sky.

moon in daytime

I dithered about a bit, looking at a rather pessimistic weather forecast before deciding that it was so sunny that it couldn’t possibly be going to rain and getting my cycling gear on.  By the time that I had got downstairs, the sun had gone and grey and ominous clouds had drifted over the town.

I went upstairs and changed back out of my cycling gear.

This proved to be a sound move as it wasn’t long before the rain was tumbling down out of the sky.  The sparrows found it fun, though you may not think so from this picture…

soggy sparrow

…but it was fun.

soggy sparrow

Things brightened up though and soon sparrows had their eyes on higher matters.


It was generally too soggy to be splashing about in the garden so I made some bread and some very brown soup for lunch (brown lentils, the remains of some stew etc) and did the crossword.

The brighter weather brought some rare but welcome visitors to the garden.


A goldfinch weighing up the scene

great tit

A great tit considering the options

And one unique visitor.

grey wagtail

I have never seen a grey wagtail in our garden before

Unfortunately, the sparrows didn’t take to the wagtail at all and chased it unceremoniously out of the garden.  This was a pity as they are very attractive birds.

The sparrows seemed quite smug about it all.


After lunch, the sun looked well settled in so once again I got into my cycling gear….

…and this time, I did get out on my bike.  The weather stayed good…

View from the Bloch

…the route was lined with various attractions…

Bloch tree

…the roads dried out as I went round and the wind stayed light so it was a treat to be pedalling along my usual 20 mile route.

The only downsides were the temperature, which remained in single figures so I had to be  well wrapped up, and the need for overshoes for the first time since last winter  because of the many puddles when I started off.

The sparrows had enjoyed the puddles though.

soggy sparrows

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy tidying up the greenhouse while I was out and it looked very neat when I got back. We took a stroll round the garden and enjoyed the colour.

dahlias and virginia creeper

It was such a nice day that I decided not to sit around after my pedal so I rang  up Sandy and suggested a short walk.  He agreed and we went off to follow up a tip from Dropscone.  He had said that if we went up to the golf course we might find a fungus or two.

He was not wrong.

Fly agaric

Except that there were more than two.

Fly agaric

They came in all shapes and colours.

Fly agaric

And sizes.

Fly agaric

They are Amanita muscaria or fly agaric toadstools and our only disappointment was that we didn’t see an elf sitting on or under one.

They flourish under a small stand of conifer trees between the fifth and sixth fairways every year so they must like the conditions there.

We took the opportunity to walk round the course on our way up and back. The views from the course are excellent and offer some consolation when you are playing poor golf.

Esk valley

Seventh green

The two birds that you can see on the seventh green are partridges.  Dropscone tells me rather sadly that the safest place for them, when he is playing like he is at the moment, is in the middle of the green as he will never hit them there.

I could see the poplars on the river bank down below.


It is a pity that the trees in the gap had to be felled because of disease as they made a fine sight when they were all there in line.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went off with a friend to the cinema night at the Buccleuch Centre  to watch Bridge of Spies and I settled down to do a little light resting.

There is no flower of the day today but here is novelty from the garden instead.  Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a walnut lying on the ground while we were walking round in the afternoon and when she cracked it open, it was perfect.  It may well be the best walnut of the year, not just because of the quality….


…but mostly because it might well be the only walnut of the year.  We haven’t seen any on the tree (though they can be hard to spot).

The flying bird of the day is that grey wagtail making itself scarce under pressure from the sparrows.

grey wagtail

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Dropscone and shows an inhabitant of the falconry at Dunrobin Castle.  The picture was taken by his daughter Susan on their recent holiday in the north.

Dunrobin falcon

In spite of the continued dry spell, we are getting a bit short of sunshine and there was only the merest glimpse of the golden orb today and indeed, it went as far as drizzling lightly for a while.

It is also slowly getting colder and it took quite a lot of determination after breakfast to turn down an offer of a scone from Dropscone and put on my cycling gear instead.

At 10°C or 50°F it shouldn’t have felt too cold but the wind from the east came with a bit of bite so I was pleased to have enough layers and a pair of good gloves on.

Once again, I was blown down to the bottom of the Canonbie by-pass at a satisfactory speed but on this occasion the wind didn’t relent and I had to plough my way through it on the way home so I was five minutes slower than my last ride round this 20 mile route.

I had hoped for a sunny moment during the ride to catch some autumn colour but it never came so  a seasonal picture of starlings gathering on telephone wires was the only one that I took.

starlings at Blough

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden.  She has transplanted the fuchsia which she bought me as a present and I hope that it will provide me with many photo opportunities next year.

Meanwhile, I looked at a selection of white flowers….

white flowers

…found a motionless bee on a euphorbia…

euphorbia with bee

 …and went in for a shower and some lunch.

My desire to go inside was heightened by some light drizzle and for the first time for ages, I could see  a sparrow in the rain.


For some reason, the feeder wasn’t much in demand today and the sparrows seemed to prefer the hedge nearby.


This left the area clear for five dunnocks to glean for fallen fat ball fragments.


I don’t usually see so many at one time and I wonder if they are all part of one family.  They are difficult birds to photograph as their colouring blends in with the background and the camera finds it hard to pick them out.


I didn’t have a lot of time to watch them as once again, we were off to the Buccleuch Centre, this time for a matinee performance.

A pair of enthusiastic gentlemen from Tring had come to sing a selection of the songs of Flanders and Swann, a talented duo whom I saw performing in the Fortune Theatre in London in 1959.

If you have never heard of them, you may find their most famous song here.

The gentlemen made a very good job of communicating the delights of the Flanders and Swann repertoire and as we had a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the interval, it was a thoroughly worthwhile afternoon.

After a burst of good jazz, two operas and  this pleasing comedy in quick succession, this was the last of my visits to the Centre for a while.

There wasn’t much time to do anything but cook the tea when we got back because it was Langholm Choir night and I went off to enjoy a couple of hours of singing there.

The busy day and the gloomy weather has made sure that after yesterday’s glut of pictures, today has been more restrained.  I found a cheerful flower of the day though as Mrs Tootlepedal’s favourite dahlia continues to produce perfect blooms…


…but my flying bird of the day is a disgrace.


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Today’s guest picture shows that I was not the only one taking pictures in Marseille.  My sister Mary took this shot of L’Estaque from their boat as it headed back to Marseille.

On the boat, leaving L'Estaque

We had nearly as much sun here today but it was a lot cooler with a northerly breeze making sure that I had plenty of clothes on when I took my bike out for a ride in the morning.

Mrs Tootlepedal had long gone off to sing in the church choir and I had spent quite a lot of time doing nothing in particular (but doing it very well of course) after breakfast until I finally got going well after coffee time.

I chose to pedal up the main road to Mosspaul into the light wind with a view to having a swift return downhill with the wind behind.  Although the A7 is a main road, it is usually very quiet on a Sunday but it was quite busy today so I had to keep paying attention and I didn’t stop for a photograph before I got to the top of the hill and the turning point for home.

It is an entrant in the ‘Beautiful View Spoiled by Power Lines’ category and may well be a winner.


The return journey was all that I hoped for and I covered the eleven miles home at a whisker under 20 mph without having to expend too much effort.

Thanks to my late start, I didn’t have time to do much before we set off to Carlisle for our choir.  I had a plate of excellent lentil soup that Mrs Tootlepedal had made for lunch and then I had a quick dash round the garden.

Dahlias were the theme of the day.




The sharp eyed will have seen bees in all of the shots.

dahlia with bee

They have slowed down a bit with the cooler weather but there are still a lot buzzing round the garden.

There have been a lot of pink poppies lately.

pink poppies

Mrs Tootlepedal bought me a fuchsia on her visit to a flower show in Birmingham earlier in the year and it seems to have taken well…


…though we shall have to see how it goes if we get a hard winter.

I noticed a dunnock sitting on a hedge while I was out…


…and I had time for a quick look out of the kitchen window just before we left.  The pink pellets are obviously a draw for the sparrows.


A new Marks and Spencers food store has recently opened at a retail park on the edge of Carlisle and as we were passing it on our way to choir, we stopped and had a walk round.  Its main stock in trade is ready meals whichwe didn’t need but it also has Agen prunes and good dates and raisins so we were not disappointed. When we left, we popped across the road and stocked up on bird food thus hitting two targets with one arrow.

Our choir practice was good, although some time was taken up by a discussion of the results of a questionnaire about the choir which members had filled in.  Our conductor went over the points raised and gave us his reaction.  The gist of this was that he recognised what fine points had been made and having taken them in carefully, he was going to continue very much as before.  As he is doing a splendid job, Mrs Tootlepedal and I were very pleased.

The flower of the day is the latest Lilian Austin rose to appear…

Lilian Austin

…and the flying bird of the day is a very picture of a sparrow.  I was pressed for time and the light had gone by the time we got back from Carlisle..

flying sparrow

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Today’s guest picture is another from Bruce’s visit to Llangollen.  Since some readers enjoyed his picture of the train arriving yesterday, I thought that I would add this one of the train departing today.

llangollenIt was raining gently but persistently when we got up and it will be raining gently but persistently when we go to bed.  In between, it rained gently but persistently, the only variations being between sometimes very gently and occasionally quite hard.

The temperature was autumnal and the outlook is equally gloomy and wet.

It was not, in itself, a very cheerful day.

I put a week of the newspaper index into the archive database.  I have almost reached the end of 1890 but a cheerful data miner told me that the mining team are up to March 1891 already.  I know how that chap Sisyphus felt.

After coffee, the rain entered one of its gentle moments and  I spent some time staring at birds getting in the way of the raindrops.  Once again a positive blizzard of sparrows, with some siskins and a few chaffinches kept me busy refilling the feeder.

The rush led to some regrettable behaviour.

sparrow kicking

Sparrow showing no mercy


And a siskin in the same mode

You might think the next picture charming….

sparrows sharing perch…if you didn’t see the subsequent shoulder charge.

sparrows sharing perchThere was no shortage of flying birds this morning.

sparrow and chaffinchNote that the sparrows approach boldly while chaffinch is keeping a good look out for bullying sparrows.

siskinsThe siskins aren’t afraid of anyone (except other siskins).

The mature male sparrows are very colourful when their back feathers are to be seen…

male sparrows…but the others looked a bit pale and wan today.

sparrowsparrowAnd hungry.

The rain hit a moment when it looked tolerable enough for a walk and Mrs Tootlepedal and I were just going out when I remembered in the nick of time that I was supposed to be on duty in the tourist office.  I left Mrs Tootlepedal to enjoy the rain and scooted up to the High Street and arrived only a few minutes late.

I then spent the next two hours dealing with a single tourist who wasn’t needing any information.  I did have non-tourist visitors though; first Sandy for a chat, then the data miner to keep me up to the mark and finally the Cornet with his right and left hand men so I was honoured.

When I got home, I spent some time practising my singing and flute playing.  As I am not very methodical, I don’t know whether footling about can strictly be classified as practising but I am adept at fooling myself so I imagine in the face of the evidence that it must be doing me good.

My only venture into the garden into the rain didn’t encourage me to take pictures but I did find one jewel while I was there.

nasturtium with raindropMy flute pupil Luke came and we spent the time working on his fife playing as he he is intending to turn out with the Langholm Flute band on Thursday evening.  The Flute Band is a marching band which usually meets only twice a year, on the Thursday night before and the Friday morning of the Common Riding day and it would be fair to say that it is noted more for its enthusiasm than its musical polish.  It’s characteristic sound is always greeted very warmly by the townsfolk.

The flying bird of the day is unsurprisingly one of the sparrows.

flying sparrow

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Today’s guest picture was taken by Dropscone’s sister Liz and was sent to me by Gavin.  They are on a group walking holiday in Norfolk and this picture was taken on one of their walks.

Norfolk churchWe did have a marked drop in temperature today which was a relief after the very hot weather wafted up from the continent on the previous two days.  It meant that I could stop shrugging my shoulders in an expressive way and eating lasagne.

The change in the weather had followed a very fine thunderstorm with remarkable lightning effects which had played out as I went to bed last night.   The storm was all around us but not right overhead so the rolling rumble of thunder went on without any large cracks but also without pausing for what seem like forever but was probably about fifteen minutes.  The whole sky was alive with flashes of light but with no forked lightning to be seen.  It was an eerie experience.  I did think of going to get a camera to video the scene but in the end settled for enjoying the spectacle rather than worrying about how best to record it.

All was quiet in the morning and we hadn’t even had any heavy rain.  The temperature was down 9 degrees C.

Mrs Tootlepedal spent most of the day at a big meeting of her driving for the disabled group which was celebrating its thirtieth anniversary so I was left to fend for myself.

I naturally took a stroll round the garden before I did anything else.  The age of the azalea is over and we are entering the realm of the rose with more appearing every day.



Jacobite rose

A Jacobite rose

And the ones already out are doing their best not to be overshadowed.

MargaretaLilianOther flowers are available too.

drumstick primulas

The drumstick primulas look daintier every day.


Another iris has joined in the fun


The peonies are thriving


And the Nectaroscordum seem to be enjoying life too.

Sandy came round for coffee which and reported that the living roof of the bird hide at the Moorland feeders is a riot of colour.  He also reported that the midges were so bad when he went to fill the feeders that he hadn’t stopped a moment longer than he had to.  I shall have to choose a time to view the roof carefully.

After he left, I buckled down and put two weeks of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.  Sadly there was no mention of performing Mexican donkeys in these issues.

After a light lunch, I sieved a barrow load of compost and then succumbed to the lure of the tennis for a while.  I did get out from time to time.  I was mugged by another rose.

rosa gallica complicata

The very simple rosa gallica complicata

The Sweet Williams planted and grown on by Mrs Tootlepedal come in a dazzling variety of colours.

sweet williamsI like the more subdued delights of the fancy onion and clover that she has at the other end of the lawn.

allium and cloverIt was a day that seemed to threaten rain without delivering it so I thought that I would test my joints on a little cycle ride.  I got the slow bike out and put a rain jacket in the bag just in case and set off to see how far I could get before either my leg started to hurt or it started to rain.  In the event, my leg felt pretty good but I didn’t get far before the rain came on.

I was looking  for orchids in the verges but didn’t see any.  There were some prominent flowers….

wild flowers…but we have mostly entered the age of grass.

grassesLike everything, the grasses look more interesting than you might think when you take a closer look.  There are lots of different sorts but the drizzle had started so I just looked at three of them.

grassesI don’t know anything about grass so the two on the right may not even be grasses but they looked quite grassy to me.

By the time that I got home, after a feeble two and  half mile journey, the rain stopped of course.  However as my ankle felt pretty good, I decided not to push my luck by going out again and Mrs Tootlepedal came back shortly after me and we had a cup of tea.

She told me that the new yellow iris sibirica that has just come out is called Butter and Sugar and you can see how it got its name.

Butter and sugar irisWhile we were sipping our tea, we were visited by Mike Tinker and after chatting to him, I went to work on my photos for the day.  While I was working, another of our camera club members arrived with his pictures for the exhibition and we are now fully stocked.

During the day, I had looked out of the kitchen window from time to time but in spite of a few brighter moments, generally the cloud was very thick and it wasn’t the best day for bird shots.

tetchy mood at the feeder

The sparrows were a bit tetchy


  Mike tells me that the collective noun for goldfinches is ‘a charm’.   That seems right.

In the evening, I went to the Archive Centre with Sandy and we put another two weeks of the index into the database.  The data miners are working relentlessly though and I haven’t made a dent in the backlog at all.  I blame the flowers in the garden for distracting me.

The flying bird of the day is a bit of a fuzzy cheat but I liked the attitude of the siskin to the incoming sparrow.

siskin and sparrow

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