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Posts Tagged ‘starling’

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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Today’s guest picture is another Christmas cracker from my son Tony in Edinburgh.

edinburgh christmas

We had been promised that temperatures would start to rise by today but it turned out that this happy state of affairs was delayed and the lawn was frosty again when we woke up.

It took until about 7 o’clock in the evening for the thermometer to creep up to 4°C but as it had been dark for several hours by then, this was not much use.  The Met Office is promising us 9°C for tomorrow but we are not counting any chickens yet.

It has occurred to us that Christmas is coming and we had better do something about it so I spent the morning writing Christmas Cards, occasionally breaking off to make coffee and/or  look out of the window.

The cold weather had not discouraged the birds.  Chaffinches were having a hard time with goldfinches.

goldfinch and chaffinch

goldfinch and chaffinch

And with other chaffinches too.

chaffinches and siskin

A pair of starlings after the pink pellets were above such petty squabbling.

starlings

It was a better day for taking portraits than action shots.

goldfinch

After lunch, I went out for a rather tentative walk.  I wasn’t expecting to find much of an improvement on yesterday’s icy roads but in the event, with a bit of care here and there, walking was no problem at all and I was able to get 3.7 miles in by the time that the light had faded away.

I walked down the town side of the river towards Skippers Bridge and felt a good deal of fellow feeling for the greenkeeper at the Old Town Bowing Club.  His green looked more likely to host a curling match than a bowling competition.

frozen bowling green

Then I passed our sewage works, which are discreetly screened by a very nice variegated ivy…

ivy

…and stopped to check out an unusually coloured lichen on a fence at Land’s End.

lichen

It was well worth a closer look.

lichen

When I got to Skippers Bridge, I looked upstream and was struck by how unexpectedly colourful the view of the old distillery was in spite of the misty conditions.

Langholm Distlliery

Looking up at the bridge from beside the Tarras road provided a less colourful picture but I never tire of looking at this bridge and I hope that patient readers don’t mind another look too much.

skippers bridge

I continued along the Tarras road but here I had to be a bit more careful of icy patches as it is a damp road and there is very little traffic along it.  It has been closed for many months by a landslip further along.

I was able to get my eyes off the road surface for long enough to see that this was another spot with lot of hair ice about…

hair ice

…and I took a picture of an affected branch lying on the ground to show what it looks like to a casual passer by.

hair ice

You might easily pass it by thinking that it was a fungus of some sort or even a splash of paint.  I have seen some looking like a discarded white paper bag.

At the bottom of the hill to Broomholm, I faced a choice.  Either I could run the gauntlet of the icy road again or choose the track up Jenny Noble’s Gill and take my chances going  through the woods.

I didn’t fancy falling on the tarmac so I opted for the cross country route.

The local weather station suggested that the humidity was 98% and there certainly was a lot of moisture hanging about.

misty trees

I took a picture when I got into the birch wood and the flash fired automatically.  It seems to have picked up a lot of spots where the moisture was concentrated enough to reflect the light.  It definitely wasn’t raining and the moisture was not on the lens of the camera.  Odd.

birch wood

There may not be any leaves on the trees but that didn’t stop an old oak from looking pretty colourful.

mossy oak

But mostly, it was misty.

misty trees

I stopped at the Round House to enjoy the view over the town….

misty view from Round House

…and found that nature had engineered a reverse Brigadoon.  In the story of Brigadoon, a picturesque village appears magically out of nowhere.  Today our picturesque town had vanished entirely.

It was gloomy enough by the time that I got back to the Suspension Bridge for the lights on the Town Bridge to be twinkling brightly.

Town bridge with lights

I was glad that I hadn’t tried to walk up the Broomholm hill because Mike Tinker, who had dropped in, told us that he had driven up it earlier in the day and had found it a hair raising experience as the road was at times completely covered by ice.  As it was, I got round my walk in very good order, the side benefit of the frost being that once again the boggy bits of the path were frozen over.

In the evening, my flute pupil Luke came and we played through the first movement of our new sonata without a mistake.  We were quietly pleased with ourselves.

Our food adventures continue and Mrs Tootlepedal made a very tasty leek and ham pie for tea.

I am getting rather stout.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture come from Mike Tinker.  It was sent to him by the owner of a cottage in Wales where Mike and Alison often spend a week on holiday (but not when it is as snowy as this).

Highbrook snow 2017

The deep snow in Wales is a reminder of how lightly we in Langholm have been touched by winter so far this year.

It was another dry and occasionally sunny day here today but once again the thermometer only just crept over zero and any chance of gardening or cycling remains in the future.

Still, the chilly weather gives me a good excuse for getting up late and idling about.  I did fill the bird feeders and look out of the window.

The blackbirds were very prominent again today.  I thought this one looked rather shifty as it searched for seed in the tray under the feeder.

blackbird

There was a discussion on the radio about Christmas round robins but I don’t think they had this one in mind.

robin

There were a lot of goldfinches flying in and throwing their weight about…..

goldfinch and chaffinch

…and generally looking appalled at the behaviour of lesser breeds.

goldfinches and siskin

I was pleased to see a sparrow on the feeder.  Although there are a lot of sparrows in our area, they don’t seem to like sharing our feeder with finches.

sparrow

Judging by what other people who  feed birds  have told me, there must be ‘sparrow gardens’ and finch gardens’.

 

 

After coffee, I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal to go for a walk and we went carefully in case of ice but found the going good in general.

The scene was frosty again….

Meeting of the waters

…but with none of the sparkle brought by a good hoar frost.  There were some examples…

frozen holly

…but they were few and far between.

As we crossed the Sawmill Brig, I recorded the fact that the new stones built into the parapet after the damage caused by a falling tree, are already showing an admirable tendency to provided a home for lichen.

lichen on sawmill brig

I was glad that Mrs Tootlepedal had come on the walk as her sharp eyes spotted some hair ice on a branch in a ditch.  I debated the wisdom of clambering into the ditch for a close up but decided to walk on.

Avoiding the ditch was a sound idea because we saw lots more hair ice as we went along.

hair icehair ice

It looks as though it is made of threads but touch it and it melts in your hand as it is pure ice.

It wasn’t hard to spot as there was an example on a fallen twig or branch every fifty yards or so but we were bowled over when we saw this magnificent display cascading down the trunk of a rotten tree.

hair ice

Nearby, a patch of frozen fungus caught the ye.

frozen fungus

Although the tree branches are not covered in white, for some reason the local gates are very attractive to Jack Frost.

frozen gate

I was thinking of another walk after lunch but our neighbour Liz told us that she had a chimney sweep coming and we asked her to see if he would come across the road when he had finished with her chimneys and do ours before he went.

She did, he would and he did.  He was amazingly quick and efficient and left without leaving a speck of soot behind him.  We will see him again next year.

While I was waiting for him, I looked at the birds.

If the goldfinches are going to be as bossy as this one, you can see why sparrows might look for somewhere calmer.

goldfinch and chaffinch

We had a flying visit from some starlings but they only stayed for a few seconds before moving on.

starlings

When the sweep had gone, I lit a fire to celebrate and then  settled down to putting some music on the computer to practise as we are going to a competition in Manchester in February and it will be hard work again.

Meanwhile, Mrs Tootlepedal was gainfully employed making potato and parsnip gnocchi for our tea.  Like the sticky toffee pudding, this was a first go for her and like the pudding yesterday, it was entirely successful so we had a very good evening meal of gnocchi and baked beans followed by a second helping of the sticky toffee pudding.  Once again, that banging noise you can hear is pampered billionaires banging their heads against the wall and wondering why they can’t eat as well as us.

In the evening, we went to our parish church to listen to a concert by Emily Smith, a very talented singer from Dumfriesshire with two friends to back her up on fiddle and guitar.  The trio were delightful and gave us a varied programme of carols, Christmas songs and a nice mix of her own and other writers’ world.

I may have remarked before that we are very fortunate to have constant treats in Langholm and with the community pantomime last night and this excellent professional performance tonight, any thoughts of cold, dark days have been put away for a while.

By chance, I managed to catch a flying chaffinch outlined against the frosty lawn and I was pleased to be able to use the shot as flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia, who was delighted to find a fieldfare in her garden.

fieldfare

After heavy rain overnight, I was moderately optimistic when I went to inspect the state of the blocked bath and basin in the guest bathroom.  Hooray!  Both were clear and when I turned the boiler on, it burst into life and, more importantly, stayed on.

As the house had got pretty chilly overnight, it took a bit of time to get it heated up but cold is much more bearable when you know that you are going to get warm so we ate our breakfast in a very cheerful state of mind.

We will keep a closer eye on any potentially dripping taps the next time that the temperature drops.

As you can see from the background to the first bird picture of the day….

siskins and chaffinch

…the garden had gone back to being green.  The downside was the large puddles which had formed on the lawn as a result of the overnight rain on ground that was still solid but once again we were ice free and I was able to walk round to our corner shop without any risk of slipping and sliding.

Although the temperature was still a seasonably low 4°C, since it was nearly ten degrees warmer than yesterday, it felt positively balmy.

Mrs Tootlepedal embarked on the task of defrosting our freezer and this took some time as it was well iced up.  While she toiled with the hair drier, I looked out of the window.

The birds were out in force.   I don’t know why they stayed away for a few days last week but it is good to see them back.

I took a set of siskin portraits as they perched on the feeder post….

siskins

Males in the top row, females in the bottom row.

…and followed it up with a set of goldfinches.

goldfinches

Your guess is as good as mine. Possibly a male in the bottom left frame, looking at the curbed beak.

There were more siskins about than anything else today…

siskins busy feeder

…and sometimes nearly every seat at both feeders was taken by them…

siskins busy feeder

…with more waiting in the plum tree.

There were a lot of blackbirds too but they were in fighting mood and when males weren’t chasing males or females weren’t chasing females, the females chased the males and the males chased the females.  This made it hard to get the still pose which I needed for a good picture on such a dull day and it was no surprise to see this blackbird tip-toeing round the chimney to see if the coast was clear.

blackbird

We had a flying visit from a starling….

starling

…and it was interesting to see that the tiny siskin had no intention of leaving the perch until it absolutely had no alternative.

The feeder didn’t suit the starling though as it couldn’t bend down to the feeding hole at its feet….

starling

…and it couldn’t quite reach the one above its head so it flew off.

We had a couple of robins about….

robin

…but they found the continuous action of the blackbirds, siskins, chaffinches and goldfinches was a bit too much for them and they were in an edgy mood.

The one on the chimney above was in flight mode and the one in the plum tree was primed for take off at a moment’s notice.

_DSC9903

I just can’t tell if both shots are of the same bird.

After a lunch of soup and freshly made bread, we headed off to Carlisle to do some shopping.  We don’t often bother to go as far as Carlisle solely to go shopping but as it was sleeting heavily by now and the temperature had dropped to 2°C, it seemed like quite a good use of a miserable afternoon.

The shopping at two shops on the outer edge of the city was very successful (i.e it included cheese, prunes, dates and coffee and a number of less essential food items) but the dubious weather persuaded us not to go into the town centre and risk getting soaked and frozen as we walked about.

We went home via Gretna to see if there were going to be any starlings where we had seen the murmuration earlier but they definitely seem to have found a better place to roost as there was no sign of them at all.

We headed home with the thermometer showing zero degrees and when Mike Tinker dropped in shortly afterwards, he told us that the pavements were now covered in ice.  We shall have to be careful tomorrow morning.

The pleasing feeling of the central heating still being on as I write this more than makes up for a cold grey, wet day.

Among the goldfinches and the siskins, an impressive flying chaffinch carries off the trophy for flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

Although I did consider this goldfinch working overtime as it came in to land.

flying goldfinch

Left hand down a bit?

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Irving who found the wonderful double rainbow when he went to look at his sheep.

rainbows

We had such a sunny day here, that we were able to find a bit of a rainbow inside our house when a sunbeam glanced off a bevelled mirror edge and onto a closed shutter.

prism

Mrs Tootlepedal spotted it at exactly the right time because a minute or so later, it had disappeared as quickly as it had come.

The glorious sunshine came with freezing conditions and the temperature never got above 2°C and was as low as -4 in the evening on the road to Waterbeck for our concert.

I took advantage of the sunshine to go for a short walk in the morning in the hope of getting some snowy scenes.  It looked quite promising with a sprinkling of snow on Whita….

whita in snow

…and I walked up the hill in the hope of seeing more snow clad hills.  Sadly, the snow was thin and lacking sparkle.

trees in snow

Something about this snow covered dead branch beside the track appealed to me…

snowy twig

…but I was not tempted to sit for a while on the bench at Whita Well because the wind was exceedingly nippy.

snowy bench

I passed a gorse bush looking magnificent…

winter gorse

…but was disappointed when I got to a spot where I could look up the Ewes Valley.

Ewes in snow

For really snow capped hills, I had to peer into the distance up the Esk valley.

cows and snow

The cows did their best to console me by posing conveniently on the horizon of Castle Hill.

horizon cattle

Perhaps because I was a bit nervous about the concert in the evening and perhaps because the chilly winds had upset my asthma a bit, I was very tired by the time that I got home and did very little for the rest of the day apart from making a pot of soup and looking out of the kitchen window for a moment or two.

The light was unhelpful, being too shady or too bright but I was pleased to have a visit from a starling…

starling

…and a goldfinch fairly sparkled in the plum tree.

goldfinch

There were not as many birds as yesterday but a good number of chaffinches kept the feeders busy….

chaffinches

…and a robin made an appearance too.

robin

As usual, a greenfinch carried off the trophy for looking most disagreeable.

greenfinch

After an afternoon’s rest and a plate of Mrs Tootlepedal’s excellent fish pie, we went off to Waterbeck, taking Mike Taudevin with us for the Langholm Sings concert in the church there.

We had a varied programme of congregation carols, choir carols, sentimental songs, a selection of Abba hits, solo singers and readings so if the audience didn’t care for one thing, another thing soon came along.

There were more in the audience than in the choir, which is always a plus point, and as far as I can tell, the audience enjoyed the concert.  Apart from one piece where we weren’t quite as together as we should have been, we sang as well as we could expect so the choir enjoyed themselves too.

Now for a day of rest before our Carlisle choir concert on Sunday.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary, who popped over to Paris for some culture.  She bravely used that external escalator.

The excalators snaking up outside the Pompidou building

It was frosty again when we got up and I recorded the fact with the aid of a spirea.

frozen spirea

frozen spirea

My recovery from the cold has been delayed again and so I took advantage of a cancellation at the Health Centre to get a check on my chest from a doctor this morning.  It’s just a cold and will go away in its own sweet time.  He didn’t have much of a view about when and suggested sticking my head over a bowl of boiling water three times a day for a week.  I think he said ‘over’ and not ‘in’.

I was wasting another day of very light winds but as the temperature never got much above 5°C, I wasn’t as distraught about this as I might have been on a warmer day.

I looked out of the window as the morning went on.

I couldn’t see much because flying chaffinches kept getting in the way.

flying chaffinches

There were other birds about….some cute…

robin

…some stern…

blackbird

…and some that I may have seen at Gretna yesterday evening.

starlings

After a nourishing lunch of sombre looking but quite tasty soup, I went for a short walk just to stretch the legs.  When it is not windy, even 5°C seems pleasantly warm for a walk if you are properly dressed.

I walked through the park to the Stubholm and then followed track through the Kernigal wood and down to Skipperscleuch and came back along the river.

There was lichen and fungus to be seen as I went along.

fungus

And I liked the way that two leaves had become imprinted on a rock much in the way that we used to press leaves when we were in the infant school.

lichen and leaves

Although I was among trees for a lot of the walk, there were occasional views.

mist in the hills

Hillside

And even a little late autumn colour.

late autumn colour

Most of the colour from my walk was in the form of larches, which looked golden to my eye from a distance….

larches

…but not quite as pretty to my camera’s sensor.

The actual needles were mostly brownish yellow but still surprisingly green in places.

P1050101

There were plenty of bare trees to enjoy.

bare tree

And when I got down to Skippers Bridge, I went down to the waterside and took the obligatory shot.  For some reason Roy Orbison came to mind.

skippers bridge

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepdal had been very busy doing another section of her path and clearing the nasturtiums from around the front door,

nasturtiums

It was sad to see them go as they had done very well in resisting the early frosts but the last one had been too much for them.

I lent a hand on some more tidying up.

There are still a few survivors about.

sweet rocket and clematis in november

It was too cold and gloomy to linger in the garden for long so we came in for a cup of tea and a slice or two of a Selkirk bannock.  In this we had a lot in common with Queen Victoria who is said to have been very partial to a slice or two of a Selkirk bannock with her afternoon cup of tea.

In the evening, I went off to do some more croaking with Langholm Sings, our local choir.  There were only two tenors there tonight and so we enjoyed a very quiet and peaceful evening and were modestly pleased with our efforts.

In spite of all the flying chaffinches, the flying bird of the day is a blue tit.  It not the best picture but it makes a change.

flying blue tit

 

 

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