Posts Tagged ‘starling’

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary’s walk in Kenwood Park today.   She came across this glorious azalea display.


The day here didn’t work out to plan at all.  After reading the forecast at lunchtime yesterday, I thought that the wind would drop and it would be dry all day, ideal for cycling.  In fact, although the wind did drop, it drizzled almost all day.  As I woke up feeling a bit below par with a sore throat and a slight headache, that put paid to any idea of making good use of the day.

Apart from walking 200 yards to get milk from the shop and filling the feeders now and again, I showed no visible sign of life all day.   As a result though, I now feel a lot better than I did in the morning so perhaps the drizzle was useful in its own way.

I did manage to peer out of the back door to record the damage being done to the lawn by the jackdaws.


We originally thought that they were taking the moss for nest building but Mrs Tootlepedal spent some time observing the jackdaws at work and concluded that they are not picking up the moss but pecking at food in the soil underneath, probably leather jackets.

Some starlings joined in.


It is good to have biological pest control.

I saw a male blackbird with the starlings and a female under the feeder…


…so perhaps we will have tiny blackbirds to look at in the course of time.  A blue tit paid us a single off the record flying visit but otherwise the bird visitors were the usual suspects.

siskins and goldfinches

Some birds didn’t come to eat but just did their Muscle Beach keep fit routines instead.


Others came to make trouble.

siskins and goldfinch

Tomorrow looks like a rather soggy day according to the forecast so I may have another chance to recover from my slight cold but I will at least try to get out for some fresh air.

I have been rather overstuffing my blog with photos lately so I hope that readers will appreciate this more slender offering.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.


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The guest picture of the day comes from Gavin who has deserted the wild woods of Yosemite and taken to the groves of Academe at Stanford University.

stanford university

We were expecting wet weather today but in spite of a gloomy forecast, it remained pretty dry and this would have been more welcome if it hadn’t come with a drop in the temperature and a very nagging and cold wind.

Under these conditions I took my cue from the celebrated Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator, who became famous for hanging around doing nothing during the Second Punic War.  He was an amateur compared with me this morning.

I stirred myself a bit after lunch and went out into the garden where the sun was shining and Mrs Tootlepedal was quietly snoozing in the warmth of the greenhouse.

I looked at the tulips which were glowing in the sunshine.


Peered inside one.


Dark secrets

Admired the wide spreading petals of another group….


…but realised that in the prevailing brisk winds, this broadness is just a prelude to tulip death.

daff and tulip

A morose daffodil and wind blown tulip reminisce over those great days in the garden that are now gone for ever.

There are hundreds of daffodils in the garden and the cool weather means that they have lasted very well but there are still a lot that need dead heading every day so I did my rounds and then went back to see Mrs Tootlepedal.

I disturbed her by mowing the grass round the greenhouse.   When she emerged into the real world, we set about simultaneously narrowing the raspberry bed and widening the path beside it in the vegetable garden.

Having achieved this, we went inside for a cup of tea.

On my way, I had a check on the espalier apples.

apple blossom

It is nearly apple blossom time.

Unlike me, the birds were very active again today.

We had two very occasional visitors, a starling early in the day….


…and a greenfinch a little later on.  It seemed to spend more time flying away than coming…


…but it managed to fit in a nibble or two.


While i was having my cup of tea in the afternoon, a flock of birds descended on the feeders.  I tried to see how many flying birds I could get in one shot.

busy feeder

Four and a half in this shot

busy feeder

Five in this shot

busy feeder

And seven in this shot

Several threatening clouds rushed by without raining on us so I thought that I would cycle round to the Jubilee Bridge to see if I could see the nuthatches.

When I got there, I could hear them but I couldn’t see them.

I spent so long waiting that the light had gone for taking any bird pictures by the time that I cycled back past the Kilngreen so I contented myself with a picture of the poplars on the river bank below the suspension bridge…


…and came home again.

The light perked up for a moment and I looked at the rosemary bush…


A decent close up of the flowers still eludes but I will keep trying.

Mrs Tootlepedal went out to a celebration dinner for one of her ex work colleagues in the evening and I relaxed again.  I felt surprisingly tired considering my quiet day but the wind is going to drop tomorrow so I hope that my day of rest will have put me in good fettle for a cycle ride.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.


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Today’s guest picture comes from Mike Tinker.  He was in Oban on the west coast of Scotland when he saw this fine sunset.

Oban sunset

We had some very welcome sunshine here today but the price to pay for it was a frosty morning and this in turn put paid to any idea of having a cycle ride in the sun.

I stepped out into the garden to see what was about and was pleased to see that a very shiny starling was toeing the line.


The sunshine brought strong shadows over the seed  feeder so taking pictures of birds there was hard work but a blue tit visited the fat balls which are hanging on the lighter side.

blue tit

On the other side, Zorro the chaffinch was my only shot of note.


I idled the morning away, reading papers, doing the crossword and lending Mrs Tootlepedal a hand for a few minutes  as she papered the ceiling in the stairwell and upper landing.  Papering round a trapdoor in the ceiling, a velux window on the slope and a light fitting in between needs a very skilled operator and more than two hands at the trickiest moment.

I finally got my mojo going (rather gently) and went out for a walk to see what I could see. I was hoping for a dipper, some hair ice and some good exercise.

My walk had a bright start.  The snowdrops beside the dam at the back of the house get lots of sun when it is out and in response, they had come out too.


As I walked along the Esk to the Kilngreen, all was quiet with hardly a  bird to be seen.  At the Kilngreen the gulls were playing leapfrog along the fence posts…


….but this reflective character in the Ewes took my fancy.

There was rich colour in the moss on the wall opposite the Buccleuch Estates yard….

moss on wall

….and a cone developing on the Noble Fir beside the new path on the Castleholm.

Noble fir cone

I kept an eye (and an ear) out for dippers as I crossed the Jubilee Bridge and saw one on a rock a little way upstream.  It was too far away for a good shot and it meanly flew off when I scrambled down the bank to get closer.  I walked along Eskdaill Street and up to Pool Corner in the hope of seeing another dipper there.   I was in luck.  It was a good way off too.


The dippers in the Esk and the Wauchope

On this occasion, the bird was kinder and hopped up onto a branch to give me a closer shot.

Dipper at Pool Corner

It was just a pity that the sun didn’t penetrate to this gloomy spot.

I walked on towards the Auld Stane Brig and then along Gaskell’s Walk, passing the intricate patterns of a retired rosebay willowherb ….

rosebay willowherb

…and some brilliantly frost decorated moss on a wall beside the road.

moss on wall

I was justified in thinking that this might be a day to find hair ice….

hair ice

…and there were quite a few examples beside the path.

Although in the sun, it was pleasantly warm for a walk, anything in the shade was still frozen.

Gaskell's Walk

It was such a nice day that when I got to the Stubholm, I decided to walk onwards to the Murtholm and Skippers Bridge.  A patch on a tree beside the track made me think of script lichen but when I took a closer look….


…I was a bit confused.  It does look as though there is some script lichen in there but there is other stuff too with the result that it looks more like hieroglyphic lichen than anything else.  (I made that up before anyone asks.)  Perhaps a knowledgeable reader can help me out.

On my way to Skippers, I passed a blue collar sheep, perhaps reflecting on recent political developments.

sheep on Murtholm

It was a lovely day.

Timpen from Murtholm

The scaffolding at the bridge didn’t seem to have got much farther so I didn’t linger but the steps up from the road just beyond the bridge looked so inviting….

steps up from Skippers

…that I walked up them and on to the old railway track.

old railway

This was once a branch line which connected Langholm to the Carlisle to Edinburgh ‘Waverley Line’.  Such has been the success of the re-opened northern section of the line from Galashiels to Edinburgh that hopeful people are now campaigning for an extension of the line all the way to Carlisle with an alteration of the route to take it directly through Langholm.  I think that they might have to do a lot of hoping.

The walk up the steps and along the railway was rewarded by a delightful path up through the old wood to the Round House.

Round House path

Sheer poetry on such a day.

After that, the journey back to the town was more prosaic, especially as it involved a visit to the Co-op to get something for our tea.

All in all though, it was an excellent walk and I was surprised to see when I got home that my mapping  program told me that it was comfortably over five miles.   So I got my dippers, my ice hair and some good exercise…..and some tasty baked potatoes for tea.

A win, win, win, win situation.

By the time that I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal had successfully completed papering the stairwell and we both felt it was time for a cup of tea and a sit down.

The flying bird of the day is a lone gull who gave me a fly past.

black headed gull


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Today’s guest picture comes from Sandy’s Mexican adventure.  He ran into this cousin of Mr Grumpy while he was there.

Mexican heron

The new year continues to put on a cheerful face and we had another bright and sunny day today but it was cold after a clear night and the temperature in the shade outside our back door only just crept above zero.  The wind was light though so being outside in the sunshine was a pleasant experience.

It was Sandy’s day to fill the Moorland Feeders and he kindly picked me up on his way.  We filled the feeders and sat for a while in the hide but the bright sunshine was not much help to us as it shone straight into our faces….

Chaffinches at the Moorland feeders

…which made spotting birds let alone photographing them quite a tricky business.  To tell the truth, there was nothing out of the ordinary to see anyway just the usual suspects…

coal tit, woodpecker and chaffinch

…and of course, many pheasants…


The female of the species

…so with the cold air nipping at noses and fingers, we didn’t stay too long.

Sandy went on home and I was joined for coffee by Dropscone who told me that he is going to have a golf lesson tomorrow.  It just shows that you are never to old to learn…or at least he hopes that that is the case.

The colder weather brought a lot of varied blackbirds into the garden today…


…including one with a lot of white feathers.

The strong sun once again made my pictures a bit hit or miss…

siskin and chaffinch

The first siskin for some time and a chaffinch

flying chaffinches

Either too much shade or too little

But there were plenty of birds to look at even though some made it hard to pick them out  by lurking against a neutral background.


I have put some fat balls in an open feeder and they drew in some customers.  They were easier to spot.


blue tit

In spite of the frost, the vegetable garden was soft enough for me to dig up a leek so I made some soup for lunch and then Mrs Tootlepedal set off to Lockerbie and Edinburgh to see Matilda.

I set off to make the best of a sunny afternoon and walked up to the monument on Whita Hill.

It is quite a stiff climb with a gain of 843ft in almost exactly a mile from the Market Place to the summit which gives an average gradient of 16%.  However, with the ground very solid underfoot because of the low temperature and with the aid of a couple of stout walking poles, I arrived safely at the summit….


…in good order.

I had passed the inevitable line of pylons on my way….


…and looked south to see the Lake District fells, just visible above a very misty Solway plain.

Lake District fells

The views from the top of the hill made the climb well worth while.  The view to the south west is always difficult with the low winter sun but I could see the Solway Firth gleaming in the distance


Turning to my right, the views were better.  I could see the town below me…


…and Castle Hill and the Eskdale hills beyond it.  It was a big sky day.

Castle hill and Eskdale

In the other direction, the colour changed dramatically as grouse moors came into the picture.


And I could see the fields at Cronksbank on the far bank of the Tarras water.


But my favourite view, as ever, was looking at the hills that line the Ewes valley.

Ewes valley

Very wisely, I decided not to test the knees on a 16% descent and tacked down the hill by track and path.  This added just over half a mile to the route back to town but took 6% off the gradient so it was a good bargain.

I should say that the walking poles added considerably to the pleasure of the walk not just by helping to push me up the hill but by stopping me slipping back down it.  I know that there are people who are too proud to use walking poles but I am not one of them.

I didn’t wander lonely as a cloud as I met other walkers on my way, including Kenny, a fellow camera club member, who tells me he is up this hill almost every day.  He is a great bird watcher and sees many interesting things through his binoculars which would pass me by entirely.  If it is not close enough to snap, I probably don’t see it.

As I walked over the town bridge on my way home, I looked down and saw Mr Grumpy standing on a rock…


…he was probably thinking that it would be a lot warmer in Mexico.

As Mrs Tootlepedal was away in Edinburgh and I was a little tired after my modest 3½ mile walk, I nipped out to the chip shop and acquired a pie and chips with some curry sauce for my evening meal.  It went down very well.  A guilty pleasure as they say.

As I mentioned before, when I was looking for the flying bird of the day in the morning, some birds were too dark and some birds were too light but like Goldilocks, I found one that was just right.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s niece Hilary.  It shows that Mr Gumpy’s family is spread all over Europe as this is one of his many cousins regarding Lake Zürich with a dyspeptic eye.

swiss heron

I regarded the world with a rather disgruntled eye myself today as I woke up with a cold and not even the very welcome return of Mrs Tootlepedal in the evening could make it go away.

I was feeling so out of sorts that I wasn’t even able to eat both the scones that Dropsocne brought to our morning coffee and he had to take one away with him when he went.  This was unprecedented.

I had to do a bit of cleaning and tidying to make sure the house was ready for the return of Mrs Tootlepedal and this left me with a few moments to look out of the kitchen window.  Annoyingly, it was a better day and I would have liked to go for a walk or a pedal but the furthest that I got was a trip to the river to try find a dipper.

It was not hard to find, as it was sitting in the middle of the river singing loudly…


…but it was too far away to get a good photograph and whenever I moved to get closer, it moved to get further away….


…and in the end, I gave up and went back home.

I made some soup using a leek from the garden and then sat down to rest before going to Carlisle.

There was steady trickle of birds to the feeder during the day including a starling who had to improvise to get at the seed….


…and a blackbird who couldn’t believe what it was seeing.


Mostly the visitors were the usual suspects, goldfinches and chaffinches.

chaffinch and goldfinch

The ringed goldfinch seems to have suffered an injury but it seemed quite perky

I am always surprised by how keen the birds are to cram onto a single perch when there are other perches free.


goldfinch and chaffinch


There must be some method in this madness but I can’t see what it is.

Chaffinches displayed various flying the styles – The Compact….


…and The Expansive.


My general state of cold induced grumpiness came and went during the day and luckily I was at my most cheery when the time came to go to Carlisle and I was able to combine collecting Mrs Tootlepedal with a little shopping.

Carlisle was looking very festive….

Carlisle lights

…but was not too busy so I got parked easily and did my shopping without trouble.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s train was bang on time and we were soon home and enjoying a nice cup of tea.  Sadly there were no biscuits left but I had made a fresh loaf of bread so that went down well.

I felt really seedy after our evening meal and fell asleep in front of the telly.  As the news was particularly harrowing, this was probably a sound policy.

I hope that a good night’s sleep will see the cold symptoms off and that tomorrow will be a new day and I will be a better companion for Mrs Tootlepedal.

The flying bird of the day is that goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my Friday orchestra, Alison and comes from her recent trip to NZ.  It shows the dawn over Nelson.


We certainly had a brighter dawn here than we had yesterday and as a result, I was much cheerier all day.  Sandy came round for coffee and while we were sipping and nibbling tasty biscuits, chaffinches flitted to and fro outside.


There were moments when the sun even threatened to come out.

A look at the weather forecast gave grounds for more optimism in the afternoon so after Sandy left, I pedalled down to the Co-op to do a little shopping, made a light lunch and occasionally looked out of the window at visitors while I waited for the sun to come out.


A starling was easily spotted


There was a dove from above


And a lone greenfinch put in an appearance

A sparrow showed off a nonchalant one handed landing technique….


…and a goldfinch flew in…..

goldfinch flying

…to a most unfriendly reception.


The sparrow did a very passable imitation of Fred Astaire.


The cheerful forecast proved to be a bit of a swindle and if anything, the afternoon became duller rather than brighter.  Still, it was very warm for the time of year at 9°C so I went out for a walk up a hill.

I chose Warbla as my target and my first steps took me along the wall beside the park.

Park Wall

I like this wall a lot as it is always bursting with things to look at.

A single stone may have a whole world of interest on it.

lichen on park wall

There were some surprises as I went up the hill.

December plants

A sign of spring, a reminder of autumn and a very hardy clump of fungus

Why that one tree should have retained its berries when all around were bare is a mystery.  Why a fungus halfway up a tree stump should be thriving after several frosts is another.

I followed the track up the hill as far as this tree….

Warbla track

…and then cut straight up the hill to the left until I came to the summit.  The going underfoot was very good which was lucky as I was only wearing a pair of slip on shoes.

The view from the top however was not very exciting….

View from Warbla

…as the cloud was creeping down onto the surrounding hills.

With no views to capture, I took the opportunity of testing the abilty of my mobile phone to remotely operate the camera.  I connected the camera and phone wirelessly,  put the camera on the trig point, walked away and used my phone to trigger the shutter.

remote camera operation Warbla

It worked.  I shall have to try to find a more productive use for this function.

You can see how warm it was for December.  It won’t be often that you could stand up there with no hat or gloves in a steady breeze at this time of year and not feel the cold.

I took the same route back down to the track and then left the track again after a while and went straight down to the the gate onto the road at the Auld Stane Brig.

gate at Gaskells

I sometimes wonder if the whole world would fall apart if it wasn’t for binder twine.

I took the chance to admire the wonderful complexity of the branch system of a tree on the hill just before the gate as I came down to it.

Tree on Warbla

I was standing on the bridge, trying in vain to spot a very vocal bird when I was joined by an ex work colleague of Mrs Tootlepedal and we walked back along the road together which made a very pleasant end to an enjoyable walk.

It had got quite dark by the time that I got home so I had a cup of tea and then settled down to go through the eleven songs that I will be singing in the Carlisle Community Choir end of term concert tomorrow.    It has been a busy time for song practice lately.

The garden picture of the day is neither flower nor leaf but it does have a bit of colour about it.

Elder lichen

And the flying bird of the day is one of the reliable hovering chaffinches.

flying chaffinch



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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who is enjoying a city break in Edinburgh with his daughter Susan.  They climbed a hill and got this splendid view of Princes Street.


I heard some rain when I woke up in the middle of the night but by the time that we got up in the morning, the weather had returned to the calm, dry state to which we have become accustomed recently.

It was above freezing so after breakfast I cycled along to the producers’ market at the Buccleuch Centre and stocked up on good things.

There was time for a coffee and a look out of the window when I got back.  The garden was knee deep in robins…


…or possibly one robin running around very vigorously….


…though I definitely saw two different ones on the lawn….


…at the same time.


They seemed to be happy enough to share the space and were even walking off together when a third robin arrived and chased them both away.  This action was too quick for my shutter finger though.

Pairs of birds were the flavour of the day.


Two iridescent starlings

two goldfinches

Two goldfinches. The one on the right is wondering how the one on the left got into focus.

two goldfinches

They came down for a snack

I didn’t have long to hang about though as Mrs Tootlepedal is going to spend a week staying with her mother in the south and I had to take her to Carlisle to catch a train.  Well, I would have taken to her Carlisle to catch a train if we hadn’t found out that it was cancelled when we got to the station.

The overhead wires had been damaged further to the south and things looked pretty grim for the traveller.  We had arrived in plenty of time to catch the non existent train and luckily, she was directed onto a train to Preston leaving in five minutes and told that she would be able to change there and continue her journey south.

I waited until the train came in and waved her off.  The station at Carlisle is undergoing a complete roof rebuild and the platforms feel rather eerie at the moment.

Carlisle Station

I got home safely and even though she had only been gone about an hour, I was already so bored that I washed the car…

Clean car

I put this picture in for its rarity value.

…though I didn’t go as far as cleaning the hubcaps.

I might have gone for a short pedal but I had an appointment in the Market Place to sing some carols as part of the goings on to celebrate the switching on of our Christmas lights.

There was all sorts of fun.

This is my flute pupil Luke disguised as a turtle being embraced by his mother.

Luke as a ninja

You can see Spongebob Squarepants in the background and Buzz Lightyear was about too but quite what they had to do with either Christmas or Langholm was a secret that was not divulged…..but they were having a good time.

There was a good turnout of carol singers and we sang several carols unaccompanied until a section of the Town Band turned up…

Langholm Town band

… to give us a boost.  They had been playing at the producers’ market in the morning and then at Gretna Village in the afternoon so they had had a busy day of tootling.

Billy, the compère for the occasion made announcements and Scott, the minister, blessed the tree…

Billy and Scott

…and finally the great moment came and the lights were switched on.

Christmas lights

The large crowd cheered appreciatively and after a close up of one of the light panels that go across the street….

Christmas lights

…I headed for home.

The town bridge was lit up and made a pretty sight….

Town bridge lights

….as I approached the suspension bridge to cross the river.

The suspension bridge was lit up too for the first time this year but funds hadn’t been sufficient to stretch the lights the whole way across…

Suspension bridge lights

…so crossing the dark middle section might have required an act of faith but when you actually got onto the bridge, the way was clear…

Suspension bridge lights

…and I crossed fearlessly.

After a final look up the river from the middle of the bridge…

Langholm River Esk

…I went home, filled with the spirit of the season, and made myself some fish and chips for  tea.

The leaves of the day are Mrs Tootlepedal’s leeks just waiting to be turned into soup…


…and after yesterday’s feast of flying chaffinches, this was the best that I could do today.

flying chaffinch

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