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Posts Tagged ‘starling’

Today’s guest post was sent to me by Sandy.  He is on holiday somewhere and I don’t think it is North Berwick.  I am looking forward to finding out all about it when he gets home.

Thailand scene

It was calm and nearly warm today so after a leisurely breakfast and a read of the newspapers which stretched until morning coffee time with Mrs Tootlepedal, I went out for a bike ride to try to get my October miles to look a bit more respectable.  This was only my fourth ride in 17 days.

Mrs Tootlepedal noticed a young starling at the feeder while we were having coffee…

young starling

…and I took a shot of it with my pocket camera before I went off.

I cycled past the landslip on the Lockerbie road and was pleased to see that the authorities have installed traffic lights and a sturdy barrier rather than keeping the road closed.  This may have been making the best of a bad job as people had been seen, while the road was still officially closed, removing the barriers and driving past anyway.

It was mostly a rather gloomy ride as far as the weather went and several leafless trees…

leafless trees

…and wet roads made memories of cycling in shorts and sun cream in the summer seem a very long time ago.

I always hope that the beech hedges along the road will be colourful at this time of year….

colourful hedges

…but they are have been disappointing and this was the best that I passed today.

The prancing animal at Hagg-on-Esk has changed colour.

poodle tree

But there are still a lot of green leaves about among the browns and yellows.

Irvine House mid october

I got caught in a couple of light showers on my way but I was well equipped and got home after 34 miles feeling dry and cheerful.

The afternoon was fine enough to persuade Mrs Tootlepedal out into the garden for some autumn clearing up and I came out after a late lunch to mow the middle lawn (mostly to get walnut leaves off it) and I was surprised by how much growth of grass there has been lately.

There was a little shredding to do and then I picked a couple of late carrots while Mrs Tootlepedal looked at the turnips….

turnips and carrots october

…which were very clean and good.  Mrs Tootlepedal ate the turnips for her tea.

The fuchsia which got left behind in the great fuchsia move is thriving….

late fuschia

…and one of the ones which were moved and which I thought had given up for the year has taken on a new lease of life.

late fuschia 2

In the veg garden, a new small rudbeckia, which Mrs Tootlepedal grew from seed this year, is looking promising and she hopes that it can survive the winter…

rudbeckia

…the chives can survive anything it seems.

chives october

A secret clematis flower could be found well sheltered among other plants along the vegetable garden fence.

watery clematis

The late delphinium has done so well that Mrs Tootlepedal thought it was worthwhile to give it a cane to help it hold its head up.

delphinium october

I had a quick look at the birds when I came in.  There were no more starlings to be seen, just the usual suspects…

mixed feeder

…with the occasional added coal tit.

miced feeder with coal tit

The afternoon seemed to fly by with some tasks on the computer to be done after the gardening and in no time at all, I went off to sing with the Langholm choir.

With only two basses present, we had to work hard to make ourselves heard but it made for an enjoyable couple of hours.  With the inevitable December concerts looming and a week off next week, it will be even harder work in November.

The flying bird of the day is a greenfinch, caught in a  sunny moment.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest pictures (there are two of them) show that snow was spread from London to Edinburgh today.  They come from our son Tony in Edinburgh and our daughter Annie in London.

Edinburgh snow

Edinburgh at 8am

London snow

London at 9 am.

And to fill up the sandwich, here is Langholm at midday.

John Street in snow

In the end, we got more snow than either Edinburgh or London and rather surprisingly finished up with 6 inches by the afternoon.

It snowed on and off all day.

WARNING FOR BUSY PEOPLE:  There are far too many pictures in today’s post so just take note of the snow and get on with your life.

I had to put on the full set of waterproof clothes and boots to go up to the town for a cup of tea and a meeting with a mover and shaker on a possible call for the Archive Group to be involved in an arts project.  It is all very much up in the air at the moment but the mover and shaker is very articulate and persuasive so funds may appear and the thing take off.  It sounds quite exciting.

On my way home, I went over the Langholm bridge but it was snowing hard enough to spoil the view.  I noticed that it was cold enough to have ice forming on the river’s edge.

meeting of the waters

We used to have more snow I think,when we first came to the town forty years ago and looking in the records, I see that the last serious snow fall here was in January 2016 and the one previous to that was quite late in the spring of 2013 so today’s minor blizzard was a bit of a novelty.

I spent a lot of the day watching birds.  Mrs Tootlepedal kept an eye out too and noticed a single brambling while I was out.  She took a shot on her camera and as there were a lot of other birds about, I have tinkered with her picture to pick out the brambling.

brambling

The brambling is on the right of the picture.  The rest are chaffinches.

She also saw a lot of starlings and unlike the brambling which didn’t come back, they returned.

starlingsstarling

We also had a visit from a song thrush, a very rare visitor to our garden. It sat on the plum tree for a while, assessing the situation and then…

song thrush

….returned to try out the feeder.

song thrush

Sadly it couldn’t get organised to grip the perch in such a way as to get its beak into the seed opening so it perched on the feeder pole for a while…

song thrush

…and then went off sulking.

All through the day there was always a small crowd of chaffinches under the feeder…

chaffinches in snow

…as well as a flock in the plum tree…

plum tree with chaffinches

…and a usually a whirlwind round the feeders themselves.

busy feeder

We could count thirty or forty birds at a time.  The odd goldfinch turned up too…

goldfinch

…but it was mostly a chaffinch day.

On the ground what looked like a dropped glove….

blackbird in snow

turned out to be a blackbird which was digging for buried food.

And a small black blob turned out to be a robin, perfectly spherical to beat the chill.

robin

A dunnock shrugged its shoulders against the wind.

dunnock

And the blackbird found a better placed food block on the chimney pot.

blackbird

Sometimes birds seem to be a stupid as people and in spite of there being several empty perches, this chaffinch thought it best to gratuitously stamp on another one.

battling chaffinches

I hope it gave itself a sore toe.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal decided that a walk down to the Co-op would be a good excuse for taking a little exercise and as it had actually stopped snowing, we got well covered up and went off.

I took a camera of course.

Langholm bridge and trees

When we had done a little shopping, Mrs Tootlepedal headed for home and I walked on to Skippers Bridge in the hope of some winter wonderland pics.

I was quite glad of the exercise, which was strenuous not least because when they plough the roads to get the snow off, they just push it onto the footpath and this makes for smooth running for vehicles and heavy going for elderly pedestrians.

A7 in snow

As I walked, the snow got heavier and heavier and this put paid to any picturesque shots of Skippers Bridge…

skippers bridge in snow

…so I settled for a close up of catkins among the snow as I walked back on the other bank of the river.

snow and catkins

The snow eased off and I followed these two walkers up to the Stubholm…

Stubholm track

…and then went back home by way of a diversion along Gaskell’s Walk from which I got this view of a snowy Eskdaill  Street.

Eskdaill Street in snow

I had to be careful not to knock the bushes beside the path…

snow

…but I enjoyed looking across at the snowy trees at Pool Corner.

Pool Corner with snow

On my way along the road from the Auld Stane Bridge, I passed a scientific snow depth measuring device….

snow on fence post

…and an ice covered pool at Pool Corner.

Pool Corner iced over

The temperature stayed around 1 degree all day today and it is to be colder tomorrow so with a bit of luck, we will have avoided the icy conditions that come with thaw and freeze.  Still, if need be, I have an old pair of Yaktrax which can be called into service.

Mrs Tootlepedal was hoping to go to the Buccleuch Centre in the evening to watch a ballet performance of The Winter’s Tale but sadly and with dramatic irony, the Winter’s Tale was cancelled by real winter conditions and the Buccleuch Centre was forced to stay shut.

There are warnings of more snow tomorrow so we will just have to wait and see.  If there is more snow, I hope it comes with some sunny spells to keep a snapper happy.

Today’s flying bird is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who is on holiday.  He and his family visited Mizzen Head.  It is not on my list of places to visit for obvious reasons.

mizzen head Ireland

For the first time for what seems like ages, we had quite a warm day today with the thermometer gently pushing at 10°C and it was genuinely pleasant to step out of the door into the garden.

I had to go up to the Day Centre to collect the key for the camera club meeting in the evening and I took the opportunity to do a little shopping and gossiping in the High Street while I was about it.

By the time that I had strolled home, made a cup of coffee and done the crossword, I didn’t have much time left to look at the birds…

chaffinch

…who were generally….

starling

…looking left today….

siskin

…and take a walk round the garden, which was full of soggy snowdrops (it had rained again in the night)….

wet snowdrops

…interesting moss…

moss

…and more interesting moss….

moss

…some of which looked liked this when viewed in close up.

moss

After fortifying myself with sardine sandwiches, I got my slow bike out and went for another test ride to see how I was.

I managed to go a bit further (20 miles) and a bit faster (11mph) than two days ago so this was encouraging.  I would have more pleased if the last few miles hadn’t been such an effort but I got round and that was the main thing.

I completed my usual Canonbie circuit and was never more pleased to go past my three favourite trees on the way.

three trees Canonbie

I was concentrating quite hard on the actual pedalling (and trying to avoid any potholes) so I didn’t stop for many photos but I always enjoy the silhouette of this monkey puzzle tree near Canonbie….

Monkey puzzle

…and of course, a wall has enough attractions to stop you in your tracks at any time.

This one had gorse on top of it and lots of very emerald green moss clumps on its face.

gorse and moss

I took a close look at the moss. Some of the clumps resembled bracket fungi in the way that they stood out from the wall.

moss

And there were ferns too.

fern

Mrs Tootlepedal was making good use of the warm day by busying herself in the garden when I got back so I had a look round.  Crocuses are beginning to show up well….

crocuses

…and the avenue of snowdrops along the back path is looking good too…

snowdrops in garden

…but the most interesting thing in the garden wasn’t a flower at all.

frog

A real sign of spring.

The frogs may not be too happy though when it gets cold again later in the week.

The evening was quite busy as my flute pupil Luke came and we worked at  a couple of sonatas, very satisfactorily in the slow movements but leaving a bit of room for practice on the allegros.

And then, after tea, it was time for the camera club meeting and thanks to rival meetings, we were a bit short of numbers but the quality of the images supplied by the members more than made up for this.

As usual there was plenty to admire and quite a bit to learn as well so it was a thoroughly worthwhile evening.

It has been a quiet time as far as the dam bridge repairs go but some more shuttering was put in place today…

dam bridge repairs

…and concrete will be laid tomorrow so progress is being made.   We are wondering if the Queen will be available for the official opening.

I had several flying birds of the day to choose from but as they were all chaffinches and all at the same angle, I couldn’t make up my mind and so I have put them all in.

flying chaffinches

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan.  She was told by our brother Andrew that she might find an interesting house in Chiswick.  This was it.

London House

As we are going to have a very long day in a bus going to Manchester to sing in our choir competition tomorrow, I had a very easy day today to try to get myself in good condition.  My face has got a lot better over the week so I won’t look quite such a fright when I am standing on stage.  This is a relief.

I had a lie in after breakfast and finally got round to topping up the bird feeder after coffee.  This stimulated a lot of action.

chaffinch and goldfinch

But the nearest that a robin got to it was peeping out from behind a leaf some distance away.

robin

After a rainy start to the day, the weather cleared and there was even a little sunshine to encourage the birds.

busy feeder

I rather think that the chaffinch approaching the feeder is more concerned about getting his photo taken than shifting the siskin.  He certainly seems to be checking on where the cameraman is.

The bridge repairers turned up early and poured some concrete in the rain.  I don’t know much about concrete  (I don’t know anything about concrete to be more truthful) so I hope that getting wet doesn’t bother it.

Dam bridge repairs

You can see the ‘in’ and ‘out’ pipes on the pump in the picture and how close the bridge is to our house.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to a meeting of her Embroiders’ Guild branch and I went for a short walk which included getting some snacks for tomorrow.

There was not much in the way of views as the sun had gone in and it was rather grey so I kept my eyes down today.

There were plenty of opportunities to look at mosses….

mosses

…and for once, the light seemed to be just right for looking at catkins and tree buds.

catkin and bud

The alder catkins are colouring up well.

alder catkins

I liked this oak branch near the old distillery.  There is some wood under all that lichen.

branch with lichen

The retaining wall on the far bank of the river looks as though it might need a little work.

Wall damage

I crossed Skippers Bridge and walked back on the town side of the river.  There is a fence on the way which had some good lichen on it last time that I passed and it was still looking good today.

The yellow lichen is absolutely tiny and needed a really close look look.

lichen on fence

I did my shopping and continued home.  When I was walking up Caroline Street, I noticed a quartet of ducks all having a siesta.

headless ducks

And on my side of the river, a little patch of jewelled moss caught my eye.

wet moss

Just down the road from our bridge, there is a pile of concrete beams and I presume that these are going to make up the new bridge once the concrete has set.

dam bridge repairs

I walked along the dam and crossed it by stepping stone and went through the gate into our garden.  As I went past the drying green a lone crocus stood out among the grass….

crocus

…though when I looked at the picture later, I saw that it was actually standing out in the middle of a lot of moss with hardly a blade of grass to be seen.  Did I mention that it has been a very wet year?

Looking up at the walnut tree before I went into the house, I could see a good number of starlings perched on the highest branches….

starlings

…and knowing that they like pink pellets, I put some out.  In less than ten minutes, they had scoffed the lot.

starlings

Three collared doves also visited us and I was quick enough to catch one today.

collared dove

Once inside, I settled down to catch up on the Winter Olympics and the rugby and in this way, the rest of the day slipped by.  I did take time out to practise the songs for tomorrow and make some bread for sandwiches to eat during the day.

We have got to get up not long after six in the morning tomorrow so it will be an early night for us tonight.  I am not expecting to have the opportunity to post anything as we won’t get back until late.

Not one but two flying birds today, both of them goldfinches, neither of them very good pictures.  I couldn’t choose between them.

flying goldfinch

flying goldfinch

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone, who has been doing more walking than golfing lately.   He went past the Round House recently, just before the snow came.

round house

We had rain overnight and the garden was clear of snow when we woke up.  I would like to have been able to report on the state of the snow on our hills but the clouds were so low that we could hardly see our chimney pots let along any hill tops.

I had to go back to the Health Centre this morning to get my dressings changed where I have scraped my arms on the bike when falling off.  As I also got some of the plasters off my face at the same time, i thought that this was a good bargain.

When I got home, I had a look at the dam bridge repair works.  The men have put a longer pipe on the pump from the coffer dam….

dam bridge repairs

…and it gurgles away in a very satisfactory way.

dam bridge repairs

It is surprising how much water comes though the pipe.  It provides a very good flow for the dam downstream.

dam bridge repairs

It has kept the water out of the works so well that the men have excavated all traces of the bridge with only our gas pipe left standing.

dam bridge repairs

There were signs of reconstruction starting as we left to go to Edinburgh after lunch but it was dark by the time that we got back so I don’t know what has happened yet.

Before we left to drive to Lockerbie to catch the train,  Mrs Tootlepedal made a sticky toffee pudding and some soup and while she worked, I watched the birds.

It was pretty gloomy but the birds didn’t seem to mind the light rain or the noise at the bridge.  A chaffinch gave me a cheery wave as it showed off a nifty one footed landing technique.

chaffinch and siskin

A bunch of mean looking greenfinches turned up and I was impressed by the sang-froid with which this one ignored an impertinent siskin.

goldfinches

It didn’t look very happy about it though.

goldfinches

Another siskin took the more sensible option of attacking from the rear and in this case it did dislodge the greenfinch, though I missed the actual moment of triumph.

goldfinches and siskin

In a separate incident, two goldfinches quarrelled aerobatically.

goldfinches

Other birds came and went under the feeder or in the plum tree.

There were black blackbirds…

blackbird

…and brown blackbirds.

blackbird

There were pigeons (and a dove which I missed)

pigeon

A couple of starlings dropped in.

starling

And a lone dunnock made a welcome appearance.

dunnock

The trip to Edinburgh went very well and we found Matilda and her parents on good form.

We had a display of balletic dancing from Matilda, games of snap and pelmanism and some very gentle and kindly jumping on Grandpa’s chest so tons of fun was had by all.

For our tea we had a very tasty selection of pizzas with home made toppings made  by Alistair.  This was followed by Mrs Tootlepedal’s sticky toffee pudding and the faint sound of groaning which we could hear in the background was being made by disgraced millionaire ex-executives of bankrupt building companies realising that all their ill gotten wealth couldn’t buy them a better meal than the one which we were enjoying.

The trip home went equally well.

The flying bird of the day is an ultra cool goldfinch doing its “Look mum, no hands!” routine.

goldfinch

When I see birds in this attitude, I am always irresistibly reminded of the Rev Walker skating on Duddingstone Loch, as painted by Raeburn.

Untitled-1 copy

 

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Today’s guest picture is a glimpse of the Regent Canal at Camden, kindly sent to me by my sister Mary.

Regent's canal at Camden Town

We had been threatened by heavy rain and gales in the morning, courtesy of storm Dylan but once again we got off very lightly with no more than a stiff breeze and no rain at all when we got up.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I were able to cycle off to sing in the church choir after breakfast with no danger of being blown off our bikes or getting soaked.

We got back from church in time to see a robin…

robin

….and welcome our last visitor of 2017, the recorder playing, choir singing, container lady and good friend, Sue.

Mrs Tootlepedal had made fish pie and there was plenty of cheese about so we had a nourishing lunch and from time to time, we looked out of the window at a flock of goldfinches which had come to the feeder.

goldfinches

Every perch on both feeders was taken by goldfinches and more waited their turn.

goldfinches

The collective name for goldfinches is a charm and it was indeed charming to see so many in our garden.

Although we had been promised rain in the morning and a dry afternoon, it started to rain quite heavily while we ate our lunch….

blackbird

…and things dudn’t look promising as far as a walk went at all.

We had just settled down in the sitting room after the meal, ready to spend an hour or so in quiet conversation, when I spotted a ray of sunshine.

We leapt up and looked for boots.  Sue’s were in her car and while she was outside fetching them, she saw a wonderful rainbow.   I grabbed a camera and went into the garden.

rainbow

The sunshine was fleeting though and by the time that we had put our boots on, the sun and the rainbow had gone.

Still, we had our boots and coats on so we set off for the walk, more in hope than expectation of keeping dry.

It did seem as if it was raining as we went through the park but it was probably just water dripping off the trees.

dripping needles

And when we got into open country, the rain had gone and we did the rest of our walk in breezy but dry conditions.

My daughter Annie has given me a book on moss for Christmas so I will have to pay more attention to moss in 2018.  There is plenty about.

mossy wall

When you walk with different people, you see different things and I would have passed two stones without a second glance but Mrs Tootlepedal, who likes the history contained in rocks, thought them interesting enough to stop and examine them.

stones

Sue liked the colour combination of the hawthorn berries and the tree lichens beside the track.

haws and lichen

My camera didn’t do it justice.

I took the next picture to reassure doubters that there is indeed intelligent life on the earth.

two wise women

It was pausing to enjoy the view as we climbed up Warbla.

The view when we got to the top was sombre and although there were a few gaps in the clouds, the sun never found one to shine through.

gloomy view of Langholm

Proof that we made the summit.

Warbla with women

I took this picture of the town bridge, a mile away and on a very gloomy day just to impress Sue with the abilities of the Lumix.  She was impressed.  It is not cropped.

bridge

Sue has been studying lichens at her plant classes so naturally we stopped to look at the park wall on our way home.

lichen

And as we walked round the garden when we got back, I realised that I hadn’t taken a tree picture on the walk and looked at our walnut tree.

walnut tree

There was still a little light left in the west and Sue decided to make the most of it by heading home before it got dark.

We had been more than pleased both to see her and to get a walk in and we would have been thoroughly delighted with the visit even if she hadn’t brought some very tasty home made biscuits with her.

Alison and Mike had brought biscuits with them when they visited us on Friday so the end of the year has been very well be-biscuited.  These are the sort of friends you want.

Once again it was generally too gloomy for flying birds but the burst of sunshine which brought the rainbow also brought a very fine perching starling of the day.

starling

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the patient readers who have ploughed through another year of these posts and wish you all a very happy new year.   Special thanks goes to those who have sent me guest pictures (keep them coming) and those who have been kind enough to offer the comments on the posts which are always appreciated.

Thank you and good night.

 

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Today’s guest picture, taken by Alistair, shows Matilda and her mother Clare enjoying a good book.

clare and matilda

The miserable weather gave us a break today and we even got a sunny spell.  It was quite a bit cooler but as it kept a few degrees above freezing, no one was complaining.

After some early dancing with Matilda at the keyboard and work at the keyboard while Matilda danced, I found a moment to fill the feeders and have a look at the birds.

The colder weather had brought them back in good numbers.

I can count thirteen waiting in the plum tree for a seed opportunity.

 

plum tree birds

There was no standing on ceremony at the feeder itself although as you can see there was some standing on chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

A starling got small reward for its visit.

starling

There was constant activity and the chaffinch rightly looked a little worried as a siskin bomb approached him.

chaffinch and siskin bomb

A dunnock wisely kept out of the way in a nearby bush.

dunnock in bush

Al and Clare took advantage of the better weather and went off for a walk and with Matilda politely keeping Mrs Tootlepedal engaged with some painting tasks, I took advantage of the better weather to go off for a bike ride.

I had to spend quite a bit of time before I left in cleaning my bike and getting rust off the chain.  The downside of winter cycling is the amount of maintenance a bike requires which is why many cyclists put their bike on a rack and retire to the gym at this time of year.

Still, I like fresh air and there was plenty of it about today after all the mist and clouds so I was happy to hit the road.

From the look of the hills, we had only just missed a white Christmas.

snowy hill

You might think from that picture that it was a rather wintery day but the more the camera pulls back to the bigger picture….

snowy hill

…the better….

snowy hill

…the day looks.

Wauchopedale

Although it was only 4°C, while the sun was out it felt pleasantly warm.  Sadly, the sun didn’t last all the way round but the roads were quiet and basically dry and the wind was light so it was a good day for a pedal.

I went round my usual loop to Canonbie and back and stopped at some familiar spots.

grainstonehead

Liddle viaduct

The viaduct is 1.2 miles away and proves what a good zoom the Lumix has.  The picture was hand held and is not cropped.

There was plenty of water coming down the Esk at the Hollows….

Esk at Hollows

..and plenty more joining it.

Esk at Hollows

I thought that if I cycled through the town when I got back and went a mile or two up the Ewes valley, I might get a snowy view of the hills but it was disappointing with only the highest hills in the distance showing white.

Ewes valley with snow

I managed to add 23 miles onto my annual total and I have now cycled more miles than last year which is satisfactory.   I have five days left to meet the target which I set myself at the start of the year but the forecast is not very encouraging with either frost or rain for the rest of the month.

In the afternoon, Al and Clare took Matilda off to visit the parents of Alistair’s best friend from his school days.  The friend now lives in California but his parents are always pleased to see Alistair and gave Matilda and Clare a warm welcome.

While they were out, I had another moment to bird watch and I liked the very smart reaction time of a chaffinch at the feeder.

chaffinch and siskin

The siskins were once again out in force.

siskins

We had an excellent evening meal of cold cuts, roast vegetables and small portion of sticky toffee pudding but only tiny inroads were made into the cheese mountain caused by some over optimistic purchasing by me.

I have had an email from my Manitoba correspondent, Mary Jo which included a picture of the sort of clothing needed for a cheerful walk when the temperature is miles below zero and I have joined it to a picture of the sort of cycling gear needed when the temperature is only just above zero.  It is hard to tell who is the more elegant.

Mary Jo and me

All right, it isn’t hard.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin looking for a perch.

flying siskin

 

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