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Posts Tagged ‘starling’

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who is on holiday on the Northumberland coast.  He saw a boat temporarily going nowhere.

dennis' boat

I should have mentioned in yesterday’s post that since it was Shrove Tuesday, Mrs Tootlepedal made some delicious pancakes for our tea which we ate with lemon and castor sugar.  They disappeared so quickly that I didn’t have time to take a picture of them.  This was why I forgot to mention them.  I have got so used to taking pictures these days that if I haven’t got a picture, then it probably didn’t happen.

What definitely did happen today was that the sun shone.  All day.  It was accompanied by a very chilly and quite strong wind but we didn’t care.

I started my active day off by walking up to Sandy’s for a cup of coffee and a chat. The route took me up the hill to Holmwood and I could look back over the sunlit town, take in a touch of spring…

town, spring holmwood yellow crocus

…wonder why such a fine house as Holmwood House is still derelict and admire an eye popping burst of yellow crocuses on Jimmy’s Brae.

Sandy was remarkably cheerful for a man confined to barracks for several weeks.  As he has a supply of ginger biscuits, I will certainly be back.

When I got home, there was no time to rest as Mrs Tootlepedal had agreed to a walk and chosen the Langholm Moor as the way to go.  We drove up the hill, and when we parked the car at the White Yett, we could see snowy hills across the Esk, the pylon helicopter parked at its base, (it was probably too windy for it too fly), and my favourite sunlit view up the Ewes Valley.

helicopter turbines ewes

I took a closer look at the snow capped hills.

snow up ewes

It was a good day to be up and about.

We crossed over the col between the Esk and the Little Tarras Valley and saw more snowy hills at the top of Tarras.

tarras valley snow

Our walk was a simple one, down this road for a bit…

road to harrier corner

…and then back up it again.

I enjoyed the winter colours…

tarras valley browns

…and Mrs Tootlepedal scanned the skies for a sight of a hen harrier.  She was very happy when she spotted one through her binoculars, and even though it was far too far away to photograph, I could see it with the naked eye as it ranged across the moor looking for food.

On our way back up the road, we were struck by some very green moss beside the road.

It was Polytrichum Communale (I think) and it was positively glowing in the sunshine.  You can see it in the centre of the panel below.  Nearby, we saw a clump which had been pushed over.  You can see it on the left in the panel below and it shows just how long the stems of this moss are.  Somehow I don’t expect moss to have stems that long.  My moss book says that they can be 40 cm long.

mosses on whita

On the right of the moss panel, you can see some of the sphagnum moss which we expect to find all over our moorland.

When we got home, it was time for lunch and hot soup and bread and cheese was just what was required after experiencing the chilly wind on our way back to the car.

After lunch, I thought about cycling but carelessly managed to think about the very chilly wind too so I watched the birds for a bit.

I was happy to see a blue tit on the feeder…

blue tit

…and I had a good time watching birds enjoying the sunshine.  I especially liked the blackbird sunbathing on the hedge.  Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree continues to be popular.

birds in sun

There was plenty of action but my conscience got the better of me..

birds in shadow

…and I left the birds to it and got changed for cycling.

I went out into to the garden and wasted a bit more time being distracted by crocuses…

crocus panel

…which were enjoying the sunshine too.

open crocus

This is what a hellebore would look like if I was lying on the ground looking up at it…

hellebore from below

…but as I am too old and stout to creep under a hellebore, the shot above was taken by sticking my hand under the flower with a camera in it and hoping for the best.

I finally managed to get out on my bike. It was theoretically about five or six degrees celsius but the wind chill factor brought that down to zero or one degree and I made slow progress up the hill against the twenty mile a hour breeze.

It looked as though my sunny day might come to end as I went up Callister but the brisk wind at least had the merit of blowing these clouds away before they could rain on me.

clouds over callister

To add a couple of miles to my trip, I took a diversion up the Cleuchfoot road, both on my way up and my way back.  It is a gentle little valley with the Logan Water running down the middle of it.

cleuchfoot valley

I found my tree of the day there.

tree cleuchfoot road

I managed a slow but enjoyable twenty miles and this took me over 100 miles for the month.

Once again, I didn’t have much time to rest when I got home becuase I had arranged with Mrs Tootlepedal to combine some recycling at Longtown with a view of the starling murmuration there.  This was very time dependent and we got to Longtown to find the starlings in full flow over the High Street.

longtown starlings 26 feb 5

And i mean in full flow.  You had to be very careful when you looked up not to get an unwanted present in the eye.

There were times when the sky was full of starlings…

longtown starlings 26 feb 4

..making pretty patterns.

longtown starlings 26 feb 2

There were at least two separate flocks and I kept hoping that I would be able to record some of the twisting patterns which are characteristic of these murmurations but either I was too close or the starlings were not in the mood

longtown starlings 26 feb 3

The starlings are right over the centre of the town and the locals are probably quite fed up with having to wash their cars all the time and look carefully where they are stepping.

As it grew darker, the birds got lower in the sky…

black starlings

and soon they were diving down into the trees where they will spend the night.

longtown starlings 26 feb 1

It is quite a sight.  One moment the sky is alive with thousands of birds, and the next, they have all disappeared completely with a sudden whoosh.

I will have to wash the car tomorrow but it was worth it.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chafinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia.  She felt that as I had been a bit lacking of flying birds recently, she should help me out.  She visited RSPB West Sedgmoor on Saturday and saw a great many teal.

RSPB West Sedgemoor teal

My first picture of the day was taken very early in the morning indeed.  As I went to bed last night,  I was surprised to see that the moon was out and although it was lightly covered by a very thin cloud, I thought that I should celebrate being able to see it at all in the midst of our bad weather. This was six minutes after midnight.

full moon February

When I woke up this morning, the day was remarkably peaceful and dry.  After breakfast I got a call from fellow archivist Nancy to say that one of our microfiche readers wasn’t working and I was able to walk up to the Archive Centre without getting wet.

The Wauchope was unrecognisable from the river that we had seen on our way to church just a day ago and Mr Grumpy had found a quiet pool to stand in behind a bush.

calm after storm

After some head scratching and with a bit of a “let’s try that” technique, we got the reader to read again and I left Nancy to her work and walked home.  In spite of the improved weather conditions, the continuing brisk wind made me grateful for the warmth of my new coat.

In the garden I found the (small) host of daffodils had survived, a starling was doing some supervision…

in the garden after storm

…a first flower had appeared on the winter honeysuckle and Mary Jo’s rain gauge showed that quite a bit of rain had fallen.

The wind was no discouragement to the birds today though and enough goldfinches arrived to start a fight…

squabbling goldfinches

…though experience has led me to believe that sometimes two goldfinches are all you need to have a scrap.

Peace did break out and we got a collection of siskins and goldfinches that swapped places from time to time.

two triples on the feeder

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do some business and shopping  and I made some lentil soup for lunch.

Fortified by the soup, eaten with bread and cheese, we drove down to Canonbie to have a walk.  There were spots of rain as we drove down but luckily, the rain stopped when we got to the Byreburn Woods, and so we started our walk.

Our plan was to keep among the trees for as much of our walk as possible because the wind was very cold and the excellent path took us along in the shelter of some very tall conifers.

Byreburn Wood walk 1

Here is Mrs Tootlepedal giving a sense of scale.

Byreburn Wood walk 2

When we came out of the trees, some well constructed steps took us the steepest part of the hill….

Byreburn Wood walk 3

…and a handy bench provided us with a resting place at the top.

Byreburn Wood walk 4

The path is part of the Council’s Core Path Network and is well signposted and well maintained.

As we got to the most exposed part of the walk, there was a hint of sunshine…

Byreburn Wood walk 5

…which was fully realised as we came out of the wood and walked down the road…

Going down to Byre Burn

…to the modest bridge over the Byre Burn.

bridge at top of Byre Burn

We crossed the bridge and took the track which goes back down the hill alongside the Byre Burn itself.

fairy loup track

Here we spotted the only fungus we saw all walk…

fungus fairy loup track

…enjoyed the glowing moss on the bank above the track being picked out by the sun…

moss in sun fairy loup track

…and listened to the music of the burn…

cascade fairy loup track

…as it chattered over the little cascades on its way to the Fairy Loup and the River Esk.

cascade fairy loup track 2

We had to stop to take the obligatory picture of the Fairy Loup when we came to it, although the view would be greatly improved if someone would come along and trim the trees in front of it.

fairy loup february

When we got to the road at the bottom of the track,  we crossed this much more impressive bridge.  It carries the road which used to be the main Carlisle to Edinburgh trunk route.

Byreburn bridge A7

We had done two miles by the time that we got back to the car.  Although this was not a long walk, it had had a lot of variety on the way which had made it most rewarding.

When we got back to Langholm on our way home, it was obvious  that it had been raining in the town while we had been away.  This greatly added to the pleasure that we felt from our walk through the woods.

In the garden, there were signs of things to come.

crocus and hellebore promise

Mike Tinker’s tea radar was finely honed and he arrived just as the teapot was put on the table and we a good chat.  The Langholm Walks Group is planning to add a route from Canonbie to Langholm to its collection of waymarked walks and he told us that one section of this will go through the Byreburn Wood.

In the evening, my friend Luke came round with his flute and we had a go at a Quantz sonata.  We haven’t played it for some time and although we played a couple of movements, it was clear that we will need to practise a bit harder if it is to go smoothly.

Storm Ciara has treated us very lightly considering what happened not far from us.  There were damaging floods in Hawick and Appleby, Carlisle had floods again and the west coast main line railway was closed because of floods.  Meanwhile, I have been able to get out for a walk every day even if it has been too windy to cycle so I can’t complain.

This may change though, as the forecast for the week ahead is very uninviting and next weekend is due to bring us another very deep Atlantic depression.  The Norwegian forecast for our area is once again slightly better than the BBC’s so I think we will settle for the Norwegian arrangement and keep our fingers crossed.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, probably looking for a fight.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest post is another from Joyce’s Bermuda collection.  As well as glorious beaches she visited the zoo at Flatt Island where she found this lovely lemur.

ring tailedlemur flatts village aquarium

When we woke up, we were very pleased to find the Norwegian weather forecast had been reliable and we had a second sunny day in succession.  What was even more satisfactory was that there was no sign of the strong winds with which we had been threatened so it was as good a day as one could reasonably expect in early February.

We had to wait in for the gas man to come and service our boiler so I had time to admire the smash and grab technique of the robin…

smash and grab robin

…and cycle to the corner shop, passing an oyster catcher on the way.

oyster catcher on gravel

When I got home again, there were starlings on every side.

There was one on top of Irving’s holly tree and one  on top of the walnut tree …

starling on walnut and holly

…and when I went round the back of the house to investigate loud twittering, I found many more starlings in a bush at the back of Henry Street. (There were noisy sparrows in there too.)

starlings back henry street

While the gas boiler inspection was going on, I walked round the garden.

The crocuses had opened to greet the sunshine…

first open crocus

…and there were signs of life all over the place.

wallflower, euphorbia, crocus, magnolia

In defence of the often criticised service industries, I have to report that the gas engineer came on time, did the job cheerfully and quickly, and went on his way with a smile.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy morning at the computer on the proposed community land purchase business and she had more to do after lunch.  While she slaved away, I took the opportunity to test my cycling head to see if there was any dizziness still in it.

I got the slow bike out because it has wide handlebars for a steadier grip and it doesn’t have toe clips on the pedals so if I needed to stop quickly, I could put my foot down immediately.  I cycled at a very sensible pace so that I wouldn’t put pressure on my breathing. As a result, I enjoyed the outing.

It was still a lovely day…

field near Bloch

…and I stopped after three miles for a little rest and a chance to view a favourite cascade on the Wauchope Water.

I took a bird’s eye view from above…

Wauchope Schoolhouse cascade from above

…and a trout’s eye view from below.

Wauchope Schoolhouse cascade from below

I turned up the Cleuchfoot road and followed the Logan Water for a mile.

Logan Water

I looked politely at the lichen on the wall when I parked my bike for that photo.

wall lichen

In the end, I managed ten miles in just over an hour and got home without having to stop for a dizzy spell.  This was most satisfactory and if the weather stays friendly, I will try to go a little further tomorrow.

Mrs Tootlepedal had finished her work by the time that I got back, and she kindly agreed to forgo a gardening opportunity and come for a walk with me instead.

We went along the Lamb Hill….

Lamb Hill tree

…and on to the road to Newcastleton.

There is a gap in the trees there which gives a fine view up the Ewes valley.  I like the way that the hills meet each other on the diagonal just as a child might draw hills in a colouring book..

view from Copshaw road

We walked up the road and then took the path across the lower slopes of Whita which leads to Whita Well.   We couldn’t see much ahead of us as we were walking straight into the sun but when we stopped and looked back, we were well rewarded for our little climb.

ewes valley from Whita

After a soggy start, the path across the hill became very acceptable.

grass path on Whita

Above us, we could see the monument pointing out where to look to find the moon.

monument and point

When we got to Whita Well, we came to the bench which kind people have put there for the convenience of elderly walkers who are in need of a sit down.

We sat down.

bench at whita well

We were well sheltered from the light breeze, and it was a great treat after so many damp and gloomy days to sit in the sun and take in the rays.

As we walked back down to the town, we passed a good show of gorse, though it wasn’t warm enough to generate the coconut scent that gorse has in summer.

gorse at whita well

We also passed this sign at the top of the golf course.

helicopter warning sign

It was laid flat on the ground though as the helicopter wasn’t flying today.

We got home after two and a half miles of quite hard work and were very happy to have a sit down, a cup of tea, and several slices of fruity malt loaf which doubtless more than made up for any calories we might have expended while going up the hill.

Although the atmospheric pressure is due to stay high tomorrow, we might find ourselves in some misty conditions and the temperature might be low enough for a morning frost.  Looking at the BBC weather forecast for the temperature in the afternoon, I find it is two degrees better than the Norwegian offering, so I will opt for the BBC this time.

The slow cooked lamb stew made a third and final appearance for tea, this time in the guise of a light curry with rice.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin

A literal footnote:  Sandy has sent me a message to say that his operation has gone well.  Thank you for the kind wishes that you expressed.

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  He just wants us to know that there are starlings in East Wemyss too.

starling wemyss

The forecast was for a reasonable morning with some rain at lunchtime and rising wind during the day.  I should therefore have gone out cycling as soon as possible and worried about other things later on.

As it happened, the idea of having a coffee and biscuit with Sandy proved more powerful than the idea of cycling so coffee and a biscuit (or two) it was.

When he left, there were birds to look at….

sparrow

…and a window to clean to make it easier to look at the birds.

A collared dove looked down on the cleaned window with approval.

collared dove

A blue tit eyed up the feeder…

blue tit waiting

…and having got there, took a seed and made off again.

blue tit with big seed

The sunflower hearts are too big for blue tits to eat, so they take them away to a tree where they hold them down with a claw and peck at them.

One chaffinch took a moment to rest on the plum tree before heading for the feeder…

chaffinch

…and another made sure to line up neatly with the other branches on Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree.

symmetrical chaffinch

A goldfinch appeared…

goldfinch

…and soon a small gang of them monopolised the feeder.

three goldfiches

I was hoping for a flying bird but unless you have a lot of time to stand and wait, you need more than a gang of three to turn up.  The feeder should ideally be fully occupied with non flying birds and then the flying birds have to hang in the air waiting for an opportunity to land.

In the absence of flying, I turned round and looked at the window on the opposite side of the room.  Pot plants make good subjects because they don’t suddenly dart off before you can get the camera focused.

pot plant

The expected lunchtime rain didn’t materialise, so after a healthy lunch of sardines, I got my bike out and went off for a ride.  I had the wind behind me as I started but as there were some unreliable looking clouds behind me too, I kept an open mind on where and how far I should go.

It was grey day and with the threat of rain about, I didn’t stop a lot but this colourful and neatly trimmed hedge at Mossknowe seemed worth a look.

hedge mossknowe

Just up the road, was an imposing tree with a good complement of leaves still on its branches.

tree with leaves mossknowe

When I got to the Annan road, I headed west.  I was planning to turn left and check to see if there were any migratory geese about near the border, but as the moment of route decision got nearer  so did the threatening clouds.

Looking to my right, the skies seemed clearer so instead of turning left, I went on a bit,  passing these leafy trees…

trees near milltown of sark

… and turned right at Chapelknowe.  I had gone about three yards up the road from the junction when it started to rain quite heavily.  I stopped and put my rain jacket on and about three yards later, the rain stopped as suddenly as it had started.

How I laughed.

As I plodded up the hill, the day got darker….

grey tree neasr chapelknow

…so I kept my rain jacket on until I got so hot that I had to stop and take it off again.  About three hundred yards later, it started to rain quite heavily again but this time I was ready for it and pedalled on regardless.  I soon came out into the dry again.

I had chosen a route that would make the best of the wind and I had it generally behind me for the first eighteen miles.   The nine miles back home directly into the wind were harder work and I was pleased to stop at the bottom of Callister to photograph this well defended bridge at Falford.

falford bridge

Then it started to rain again and this time, it didn’t stop.  I was only seven miles from home though so I was quite happy to tuck my glasses in my back pocket, wrap up my camera and phone, and pedal along without putting my rain jacket back on.  The rain was not heavy and it was tolerably warm so in spite of the elements against me, I enjoyed the ride back.

I ended up doing just under twenty eight miles and because of the route alteration, I found myself going round some familiar roads in the opposite direction to my usual custom.  It is surprising how novel going the ‘wrong way’ down a road feels, no matter how often you have gone along it in in the other direction.

In the evening, my flute pupil Luke arrived and we had another progressive session.  He has been practising at home and showed marked improvement which was very satisfactory.  Because no one showed me how to practice properly when I was young, I got very discouraged when I put in some time but didn’t seem to get any better, so it is good to see Luke getting value from the time he has spent.

In response to popular demand, the venison stew made a reappearance for our evening meal.

I didn’t have the patience to wait long enough for a flying bird at the feeder today so a dogwood across the garden, shot through the window while I was waiting hopefully, is the best that I can do.

dogwood

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who, in spite of some grey weather, went down to the south bank of the Thames yesterday and enjoyed the view.

Thames

Here, our recent pattern of chilly mornings but dry days continued, although we didn’t get quite as much sun as we have had recently and as a result, it felt colder in the noticeable north easterly wind.

The bird feeder is failing as an avian magnet and no finches of any sort can be seen in the garden at the moment.  Fortunately, other birds are available and from the number of blackbirds about, it seems that we might be getting the first of our northern European winter visitors.

In the meantime, I spotted some old friends today…

dunnock, blackbird, starling

…and much to my surprise, Lilian Austin had waited for the chilly weather to arrive to make her farewell appearance of the year.

lilian austin late october

After morning coffee, I went off for a walk, leaving Mrs Tootlepedal in decorating mode with some cheerfully coloured paint, acquired at a very reasonable price from a DIY store which is closing down.

I started by going down to the river….

gull on rock in esk

…and then, as the river is low after our dry spell, I walked under the town bridge, looking back down the Esk as I did so.

from under town bridge

There was quite a contrast in mood when having climbed up the bank and crossed over the bridge, I arrived on the Kilngreen beside the placid Ewes Water.

ewes water calm

I walked over the Sawmill Brig and followed the track that goes along the little escarpment above the Ewes Water, passing the rugby club, a man digging out the ditch beside the track (ready for a certain prime minister perhaps?) and several fine bare trees.

I thought that under the clouds, this one might look well in black and white.

bandw tree

Beside the track, there is a wall and, as always, a wall is an interesting place.

interesting wall lichen

All this wall excitement was within a yard or two.

The clouds passed over as I walked and the day brightened up a bit, showing off the larches on the opposite side of the valley to advantage.

larches late october high mill

It is not only walls that have lichen.

hawthorn and oak lichen

I wanted to walk back on the opposite side of the river so I made my way down to the High Mill Bridge…

high mill brig

…which is coming up to a significant anniversary.

high mill brig date stone

By this time, the sun had come out so I made a little extension to my route by following the track north up the far side of the river once I had crossed the bridge.

In spite of the sun, the day was cool enough for there still to be ice on the puddles in shady spots.

icy puddle target burn track

I followed the track until I came to  this rather less substantial crossing of the Ewes Water, which I crossed…

bridge target burn

…and then recrossed and retraced my steps back to the main road.

It was a day for recrossing bridges as I also recrossed the Sawmill Brig on my way home via the Lodge Walks…

lodge walks late october

…and I was pleased to find this little crop of fungus beside the Scholars Field after I had crossed the Jubilee Bridge.

fungus beside scholars

Any walk with bridges, fungus and lichen is a good walk but throw in some bare trees, occasional wild flowers…

three wild flowers october

….and enough sunshine to make me take off my gloves and unzip my jacket, and a merely good walk becomes a really good walk.

I was very pleased to have had the full co-operation of my feet over the four miles of the walk.  My new insoles and exercises seem to be working well.

It was time for lunch when I got home and I quite impressed myself by having enough energy to get my bicycle out afterwards and go for a twenty mile cycle ride.  To be honest, it wasn’t really a twenty mile ride.  It was a ten mile ride which I did twice.

I didn’t want to spend too long cycling directly into the very chilly wind.

The sun only came out for a few minutes in the whole ride, just when I was turning at the five mile mark on Callister, but it was another golden moment…

view from callister october

…and I was welcomed home by a cheery primrose…

primrose october

…and Mrs Tootlepedal who had finished her decorating and had cleared the dahlia bed while I was out cycling.  She doesn’t keep the dahlias over winter but will start again from seed next year.  I approve of this as it gives me different dahlias to look at each year.

Yesterday’s roast chicken provided another tasty evening meal today and fortified by this, I went off to sing with the Langholm Choir.

Our conductor was poorly but we have a very good accompanist, and he provided us with an excellent practice in her absence.

That rounded off a day which was firmly inscribed on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

I even found a flying bird of the day, courtesy of the black headed gulls at the Kilngreen.

flying gull

 

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my brother Andrew.  He is a great walker and recently walked with his walking group through a wood.  The substantial size of the trees can be gauged by noting the size of the walkers who can just be seen at the bottom of the frame.

Andrew's wood

I had another poor night’s sleep and it was raining again when we got up so I was doubly happy to have a quiet morning in.  For want of anything better to do, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do some shopping in the car, but it had stopped raining by the time that Dropscone arrived to brighten my morning coffee break with conversation and the traditional Friday treacle scones.

He told me that there are signs of toadstools appearing on the golf course.  I will have to go up and investigate.

In the meantime, I went out into the garden after coffee to see what I could find there..

The temperatures, both day and night, are remaining very constant at the moment so flowers are quite happy to keep flowering.

rudbeckia, campanula, dahlia and poppy

This calendula was the brightest star this morning.

calendula

There are no feeders out at the moment but there is no shortage of birds in the garden.

The starlings love the top branch of the holly tree and take it in turns to perch there.  The rowan tree is popular too, in spite of the fact that all the berries were eaten long ago.  The sparrows peck busily at the branches so there must be insects to be found.

starling, dunnock, sparrows

When the sun comes out, the sparrow families like to rest on the felt roof of our neighbour’s sheds, though the youngsters find the slope a little challenging.

Mrs Tootlepedal got back in time for lunch and scattered a few crumbs from our bread tray on the lawn.  This immediately attracted a gang of jackdaws, but most unusually they were joined by a black headed gull as they strutted round the crumbs today.

gull and jackdaws

We very rarely see a gull in the garden.

It rained lightly over lunch but soon cleared up and as it was a calm day, I got my bicycle out and went for a pedal.

My bike camera is old and tired and it found it hard to pick out the red haws against the brown background of the hillside along the Wauchope road, but there were plenty of haws about…

 

haws on wauchope road

…even though some of the hawthorns were almost totally bare.  It has been a very uneven year for the hawthorns as they were all well covered in blossom in the spring.

When I got to a point where the was route choice, I considered the weather.  The rain clouds were behind as I looked back towards Langholm….

clouds down wauchope

…and a safe distance away as I looked north…

clouds and turbines

…so, as it looked potentially sunny to the south,…

sunny road ahead

…I headed that way and went round my Canonbie route.

The wind was very light and for once I didn’t have to start a ride by battling up hill and into the wind so I enjoyed myself and kept pedalling as fast as I could for as long as I could without stopping.

In the end, a monkey puzzle tree at Canonbie looked so inviting that I stopped…

monkey puzzle

…and I stopped again a few hundred yards later to check on the autumn colour beside the Esk.  I fear that it is going to be a disappointing season as the colour is just not developing and trees seem to be going straight to brown on the whole.

esk at byreburn brown trees

There was more colour in a garden on the other side of the road.

garden at byreburn

While the sun was out, which was most of the time, it was warm and pleasant, but in shady spots when the sun went in and the roads were still damp, it felt quite autumnal.

old a7 damp

I like the way that the roadside vegetation is slowly reclaiming the old main road here where very few cars use it.  It won’t take too long until it is only wide enough for a cyclist.

The sun came out again and I propped the bike up against a fence and walked down to the river bank to enjoy the view of Broomholm Island.

broomholm island esk

It was a delightful place to spend a few contemplative moments.

esk near broomholm island

When I got back to the road, I took a picture of the mixed broad-leaved and conifer planting that the road builders put in when the built the new road…

trees on new A7

…and pedalled home as fast as I could.

That is not very fast these days but the near windless conditions let me get round the twenty miles at over 14 mph, a heady speed for me and nearly seven minutes faster than my last effort on Wednesday.  I would ask for more windless days but our electricity supplier uses a lot of wind generated power so I had better just put up with the breeze when it comes and keep my head down.

One of the things that Mrs Tootlepedal bought this morning was a supply of builders’ sand and while I was out cycling, she cleaned and refreshed her cold frame and we put the sand into it to make a clean base when I got back.

cold frame witrh sand

While we were out in the garden I picked a couple of the Charles Ross apples…

big apples

…and we ate them baked and stuffed with sultanas and brown sugar for afters at our evening meal.

I had another look round and was pleased to find a new daisy out, together with a flourishing Sweet William, some yew berries and a very out of season foxglove.

daisy, sweet william, yew berries, foxglove

But once again, the star of the afternoon floral display was Crown Princess Margareta.

Crown princess margareta rose

Whenever we are out in the garden, we try to pick up more walnuts.  They are falling from the tree in a steady stream and Mrs Tootlepedal is making a jolly good effort to eat them all.  They are mostly in good condition this year.

walnuts

According to the Norwegian weather forecasters, the present spell of reasonably warm but changeable weather now seems set to extend to the end of the month, so be warned that there may be a lot of flowers pictures still to come in future posts.

I don’t suppose that I will be able to find many more gulls to be the flying bird of the day though.

flying gull

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He was tempted by this large pre-Halloween spider mallow shortcake but a quick look at the nutrition information revealed that he would have to take two or more days to eat it to stay within his health guidelines, so he gave it a miss.

halloween mallow

I had a rotten night’s sleep and while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to a business meeting, I was more than happy to idle the morning away with nothing more demanding than the crossword, sweeping the leaves off the middle lawn and washing the car,  Those who know me well will be amazed to hear that I washed our car, but when you carelessly buy a white car, even the most dirt blind person can’t avoid noticing when it turns brown.

I also spent a little time stalking the garden birds.

starling, chaffinch, robin and sparrow

Once again, a dunnock is my pick of the day, though the robin ran it close

dunock on lawn

We have had a small but tasty crop of autumn raspberries and the very late hosta is a continuing delight.

raspberry and hosta

There are some good survivors among the humble flowers and the Crown Princess has perked up again.

daisy, yarrow, sweet rocket and rose

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal looked at the fine weather and suggested a walk.  She likes to go somewhere away from my regular walks if possible, so we drove to the top of Callister and checked out a track there.

It was alright at the beginning as we passed this little bridge under the road which we had just driven along…

conduit

…but the track soon became very soggy so we retraced our steps and tried walking in the opposite direction.  It looked as though a weather front might be looming up…

view from callister

…but we kept walking until we got to the end of the track about half a mile on.  There was plenty to see on both little walks.

I think that the yellow flower is a prickly sow thistle, the painted lady looked a bit pale and battered but flew about quite cheerfully…

lichen, flower, painted lady and clover

…and the clover and lichen were both doing very well.

There was fungus and more lichen beside the track…

fungus and lichen

…and some larches turning to gold among the spruces.

larch callister

The track led us towards an artificial pond that was made when the area was first planted with trees.  It was said that it was to attract ducks but it looks neglected and overgrown now, more marsh than pond….and not a duck in sight.

 

pond callister

We strolled back to the car and drove a few hundred yards along the road back down the hill.  There we parked and took a forestry track along the other side of the road.

The track was rich in wild flowers, including this very impressive multi stemmed dandelion look alike.

big yellow flower

And although the clouds were still looming, the sun stayed out and made things look very colourful.

fungus and dandelion with insect

There were lichens of many kinds on our way….

four lichens

…and lots of colourful details too.

four items along westwater track

We went far enough along the gently climbing track to enjoy some splendid views over the neighbouring hills…

westwater track view 1

…with the sun shining on the monument six miles away…

westwater track view 2

…and the Solway plain lying below us with the northern English fells in the distance.

westwater track view 3

I liked the way that seemingly arbitrary larches had sneaked in among the regulation spruces.

westwater track view 4

When we had enjoyed the views for long enough, we turned to go back to the car, passing tiny forests of moss and a smooth clump of deer grass….

moss, mold and deer grass

…and two very interesting patches of something slimy or moldy (or both) on the track.

The track, which was was rather bare and severe when it was first put in a few years ago, has grown into the landscape now and it was a pleasure to walk along it in the late afternoon sunshine.

Westwater track 5

As we turned the corner into the sun, we had the choice of the yellow brick road…

westwater track view 6

…or the straight and narrow.westwater track view 7

We probably didn’t walk much more than three miles at the most but it was a very worthwhile excursion and we felt that we thoroughly deserved our cup of tea and a biscuit when we got home.

We would normally have been in Edinburgh on a Thursday afternoon visiting Matilda but both her parents are a bit poorly and her other grandparents were visiting already so we didn’t feel a visit would really be a good thing.

On our walk, we found ourselves under a fairly busy flight path for a while so the flying bird of the day is a bit bigger than the normal ones.

flying plane callister

 

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