Posts Tagged ‘starling’

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary’s permitted walk yesterday.  It was raining, but she didn’t care as it kept other walkers away, and the fresh green colours it brought made her happy.

mary's park walk

The gloomy weather from the second half of yesterday’s walk carried over into this morning and it was cold and grey when we got up.

The day was serially brightened up though by two unexpected arrivals.  First our friend Marjorie, who had obviously been reading the blog, arrived with a gift of dates.  This is the sort of friend a man with no dates needs.

And then, as if that wasn’t good enough, the doorbell rang and a delivery man left a mysterious parcel on our doorstep.

This turned out to be a present from our daughter Annie, who had obviously been reading the blog, and contained a wonderful assortment of fine cheeses.  This is the sort of daughter that a man with a lack of fine cheese needs.

How thoughful people can be.

There was enough chill in the wind to discourage the street coffee drinkers from meeting but a forecast of “rain later” got me into some winter biking gear and out for a ride on the shopping bike.

I didn’t stray far from home as I wasn’t anxious to battle the wind for long or get caught out if the rain came early.   Basically I cycled up and down the same roads twice.

The blackthorn was looking lovely near the Glencorf Burn.  This is a favourite spot for sloe gin drinkers when the fruits come.

blackthorn cleuchfoot road

Spring proceeds slowly with a green tree on one side of the little valley and bare branches on the other.

hawthorn and alders

I cycled over the Sawmill Bridge on a little diversion to add some distance to my ride and thought that I would take a picture, before any rain comes, of the Ewes Water just to show how dry it has been .

very low ewes water

I managed to rack up 20 miles and enjoyed my ride more than I expected.

When I got home, I watched a collared dove battle with the feeder..

collared dove panel

…while chaffinches had to wait until it was finished.

I had a wander round the garden but it was too cold to do anything useful so I admired the ‘wild flowers’ in the back border….

honesty and cow parsley

…and greeted both the winner in the first rhododendron stakes…

first rhododendron

…and the first azalea stakes too.

first azalea

The grape hyacinths are going over but there are white bluebells…

white bluebells and fading garpe hyacinths

…tiny lily of the valley…

first lily of the valley

…a second flower on the garage clematis…

early clematis flowers

…and a geometrical Solomon’s Seal…

solomons seal

….to look at instead.

It wasn’t much fun outside so I went back in a watched the birds.

Goldfinches managed to share perches but greenfinches were not so caring.

greenfinches and goldfinches

Alarmed by the greenfinches, goldfinches took off to eat their seeds in peace.

goldfinches coming and going

We added the gravy from last night’s chicken stew to the remains of my brown lentil soup and it made a delicious dish to be enjoyed at lunchtime.  It went down particularly well with some bread and first rate cheese.

After lunch, I poked my head out into the garden again.  The lack of sunshine made it possible to take some pictures of flowers that are overwhelmed by bright light.

primrose and lady's smock

Even the bright red fancy tulip looked better to the camera with no glare.

three tulips

I went back in and spent some frustrating time working on a music program which unkindly crashed before I had saved my work. I have got so used to programs which silently back up my work as I go along that I had forgotten to take that basic precaution.

I went and had a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal, and a ginger biscuit calmed me down.

Light rain began to fall in the afternoon but it didn’t come to much and more is needed of the garden is to get the drink that it requires.  But the rain did encourage birds to come to the feeder and it was busy.

A blackbird dived down to get some fallen seed….

diving blackbird

…while a sparrow contemplated life in the rain…

sparrow in the rain

…and a starling got tucked into the feeder.

starling on feeder

The gloomy day reinforced how lucky we have been with our good weather during the lockdown.  If it had been like this every day, we might have got very gloomy ourselves by now.

There is a choice of flying birds today, both chaffinches.

head banger chaffinchflying chaffinch

Footnote: Moaning on the blog has been so productive that I am wondering if I should mention that I am seriously short of gold nuggets.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  On his permitted walk, he revisited a blue bell wood that he found unsatisfactory when he photographed it on a walk not long ago and found it much more satisfactory today.

andrew's bluebells

We had another sunny start to our day and the neighbourhood alfresco coffee morning team enjoyed their physically distanced but socially engaged conversation while taking in some rays.

I joined them for a while and then went off to look round the garden to check on developments.

I found a stunning tulip just opened…

red tulip opening

…and another one developing a hint of a tint.

yellow tulip with tint

The lamium seems to add more flowers every day and is obviously enjoying the chilly mornings more than me.

lamium doing well

And this qualifies, I think, as a colourful corner.

tulips and grap hyacinths

I am hopeful that an anemone, which has been unfurling at an amazingly slow rate over the past week, will open fully soon.  Curiously, it likes to turn its back on the sun, and as it is at the very front of a border, it makes it hard for me to get a good picture of it.

anemone nearly there

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy as ever and after her coffee and conversation, she got the last of her potatoes planted out.

potatoes in

Rather annoyingly, she decided not to buy too many seed potatoes this year, but with hindsight, this was probably not the best decision that she has ever made.   The way that flour is proving hard to find though probably indicates that she should have been planting wheat anyway!

We are out of homemade blackcurrant jam, so I am keeping an eye on the blackcurrant bush and hoping that it will have enough berries on it to make a few pots this year.  It is looking promising at the moment.

blackcurrant buds

I took a pictures of these cheerful tulips and went in for lunch.

fancy tulips

After lunch and some creative time wasting, I went for a cycle ride.  The sun had disappeared behind some grey clouds and the energetic east wind meant that I was back to riding in my winter jacket again.

I didn’t need the warmth too much as I cycled up to the top of Callister with the wind behind me, but I was very glad of it on the way back.  It was miserable battling into the cold, cold blast coming straight up the road towards me.  This stretch of my ride had much of the enjoyment of being repeatedly hit in the face with a wet fish.

It took me 33 minutes to cycle the six and  half miles up the hill and even pedalling furiously, I could only knock two minutes off that time on the way back down into Langholm.  Hard work.

I pedalled along the river as I passed through the town and was pleased to see a couple of old friends, though the oyster catcher was scooting away from a dog walker…

oyster catcher moving off

…and the gull was looking round to see what the fuss was.

gull checking

I cycled through the town and out of the other side, taking the main road north until I got to the road junction where this memorial is sited.

rideel memorial

I visited the church at Teviothead where he was minister on a ride earlier this week.

(You can hear a 10 inch shellac 78 rpm recording of his poem set to music here.)

Opposite the memorial, new life was to be seen.

sheep and twin lambs

And across the valley, I could see the preparations for a new forestry plantation.hill ready for planting

The four miles home, gently downhill and with the cold wind now behind me, made me forget the hard work into the wind and I ended up feeling, slightly erroneously, that I had had a very enjoyable 21 mile ride.

Before I had gone out on my bike, I had mixed and prepared some rich dough and put a dozen tea cakes to rise.  When I got back, they were ready to go into the oven.  They came out looking quite inviting, flatter and more suitable for toasting (the proper destiny for a tea cake) than my last batch.

tea cake triumph

I spoke to my siblings courtesy of Zoom and then, as the sun had come out again, I went out into the garden to enjoy the evening sunshine.

sunlit daffs

I noted the Esau and Jacob of the starling world on top of Irving’s holly tree. (Gen 21.11)


I used the last of Mrs Tootlepedal’s mince and a tin of tomatoes to make an unsophisticated but enjoyable pasta sauce for our tea.

We have so settled in to the gentle rhythm of the lockdown that it will come as quite a shock when we suddenly get choices and have to make up our minds where to go and what to do….if we ever get to that time.

In the meantime, there was no flying bird of the day today, just a perching chaffinch.  By way of variety, you can have him looking down,,,

chaffinch looking down

..or up.

chaffinch looking up

Take your pick.

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Today’s guest picture comes from one of my brother’s permitted walks.  He tells me that the bluebells were much more exciting in real life than they are in the picture, but that is always the case as any photographer will tell you.  That is why photo editing programs sell so well.  I think the bluebells look good.

Andrew's bluebells

We had a some rain overnight and although it had stopped by the time that I got out into the garden, there was still evidence of it to be seen…

drops on leaf

…and this was my favourite example.

drop on lupin leaves

The feeder was getting more attention than of late, with a siskin, a sparrow and greenfinch among the visitors.

siskin, greenfinch, chaffinch

Goldfinches appeared too, waiting their turn in Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree….

two goldfinches fake tree

…and so did this pair of chaffinches, who appeared to be a bit hard of hearing.

deaf chaffinches

During the morning I didn’t do much in the garden while Mrs Tootlepedal transplanted some alliums, though I managed some light daffodil deadheading.

I had a look in the greenhouse and marvelled at just how whiskery meconopsis plants are.

meconopsis greenhouse

Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that they are not looking quite as well as she would hope.  I have my fingers crossed for them as they are being specially grown for me to take pictures of them later in the year.

Lettuces and peas in the greenhouse are looking good.

lettuce peas greenhouse

Mrs Tootlepedal recently transplanted some tulips and in the course of the action, one tulip suffered fatal injuries.  The garden’s loss is the kitchen windowsill’s gain.

tulips indoors

When I came out of the greenhouse, I couldn’t resist taking another look at the rosemary plant just beside it.  It has really enjoyed the rather odd weather this year.

rosemary flowers april

After lunch, I went for my permitted walk.

My friends Nancy and Bob had told me two days ago that they had seen a few early bluebells on a recent walk so I went in the direction that they indicated to see if I could spot some for myself.  It didn’t feel like bluebell weather so i wasn’t very hopeful.

It still looked rather wintery as I got on to the Stubholm track on a chilly, grey afternoon…

stubholm track april

…but it is April and there were lots of sprouting leaves to be seen, and a bluebell.

green shoots stubholm track

Yes, a bluebell.

And not just one bluebell but several more as I went along….

early bluebells

…and a small carpet of bluebells when I got to the track up into the Kernigal wood.

bluebells kernigal

Just as my brother says, they looked better in real life than they do in the picture, but a few days growth and some sunshine should make a difference.  I will return.

While I was looking at them, I met fellow camera club member Mairi, also out for her permitted walk, and we chatted (at a distance) for a few minutes.

Like me, she is rather fed up at having to do the same walks all the time and longs for freedom but the coming of the bluebells had cheered her up a bit.

I walked up through the wood, pleased to see fresh green leaves on the young birch saplings beside the path..

young birches kernigal

…and then went onto the track that leads to the top of Warbla.

Even on a grey, chilly day it is an inviting prospect, especially when things are dry underfoot as they at present.

track to warbla

Not long afterwards, I heard a strange gasping noise behind me and I found myself being passed by a young fellow on a mountain bike.  He pedalled off up the track in front of me and must have been quite surprised when he passed me again before he got to the summit.  The track takes a wide route to the top of the hill and I had walked briskly up the more direct route across the grassy hill.

As the cyclist had parked his bike against the trig point at the top of the hill and was busy putting on a jacket for the descent, I didn’t linger.

It wasn’t a great day for views anyway…

view from warbla

…and after taking a single shot, I set off down the rough track towards Skippers Bridge….and was surprised to be passed by the cyclist again.  He soon disappeared from view though and I took my time over the tussocky terrain and didn’t see him again this time.

I had met a lady early on my walk who uttered those fateful words, “You should have been there with your camera yesterday.”   It seemed that she had been sitting under Skippers Bridge in the sunshine when she had seen an entertaining frog.

I thought that since I was there, I should see if I could see an entertaining frog today.

I couldn’t, but the view of the bridge never fails to please so I didn’t miss the frog too much.skippers bridge

The water is so low at the moment that I could get close to the bridge and look up to see how much it was widened to cope with increasing traffic.  It was built in 1690 and widened in 1807.

skippers two tone brodge

I took a puzzle picture while I was there.  The water was so calm below the bridge that is difficult to see what is above the surface and what is under it.

esk rocks at skippers

I walked back home along the right bank of the river and enjoyed this tree stump with a skirt of daisies and a lone lady’s smock flower on top, looking much like a candle on a birthday cake.

tree stump land's end

Some fresh green leaves down on the river bank caught my eye and I saw many little yellow flowers among them.  I had no idea what they are and indeed, I wasn’t even sure if the leaves and the flowers were related or just coincidental.

yellow flowers beside esk

(I have consulted Mrs Tootlepedal and she thinks that flowers are marsh marigolds and the leaves are not.)

When I got home, I once again reflected that you can get a lot of value out of a four mile walk round Langholm.

My good mood was further enhanced by an excellent meal of roast chicken, roast potatoes with stuffing and peas.  It had been prepared by Mrs Tootlepedal as an Easter treat.

Tomorrow is going to be even chillier than today, but with a bit of luck, the sun may come out in time for an afternoon bike ride.

The flying bird of the day is one of the starlings that zoom about above the garden.  They have very neat wings.

flying starling


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Today’s guest picture comes from Dylan, the son of Marianne, our son Tony’s partner.  He spotted a big bee among some fine blossom.

dylan's bee

We had a day of wall to wall sunshine here.  Once again the wind was brisk and somewhat chilly, but if you could get out of the wind, it was very pleasant.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy day hunched over the computer doing rather dull administrative work for the community buy out group, and that left me at a loose end as far as the garden went.

I did go out into the garden a lot and I did do some rather unfocused and desultory work but my chief interest was to see if I could spot a butterfly or two in the sunshine.

Not a single butterfly fluttered by, but I did see some other things, like this first dog tooth violet flower of the year…

first trout lily

…and lots of tulips wide open to the sun…

tulips panel

…and an almost complete drumstick primula and some cheerful lamium flowers.

primula and lamium

I went round to the (corner) shop and on my way back I didn’t see any oyster catchers but I did see a profusion of Lady’s Smock which has sprung up on the bank of the river.

lady's mantle esk

Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is another Cardamine or cuckoo flower but we still haven’t heard any cuckoos.

I noticed that the heron which keeps watch over our pond seemed to have its spring plumage on today…

painted heron

…and I suspect that Mrs Tootlepedal has been been busy with her paint brush.

One thing that you can say about our handsome heron is that it won’t be a threat to this frog which appeared in the pond this morning.

frog april

Although our feeder is not at all busy, there are quite a lot of birds about.  This jackdaw looked as though it was holding on tight in the brisk breeze…

plum[p jackdaw

…but a sparrow on a stalk looked much more stable.

sparrow on stalk

There were a lot of sparrows about and this was my favourite of the day.

sparrow on branch

I made some tomato soup for lunch and then managed to get myself organised to take my permitted exercise in the shape of a walk.

Because we are not supposed to drive to somewhere to walk, I am following in my own footsteps a lot these days but when the weather is as nice as it was today, that is no great hardship.

I went up the road to the Auld Stane Brig and popped down to look at the Wauchope Water on my way.  It was very peaceful in the shelter there…

peaceful wauchope

…and the water was rippling gently over the stones.

stones underwater

Up on the hill past the bridge, it was a different matter which this tree summed up rather well.

balsted tree

As I walked back down the track, I saw a bird.  If anyone tells me that this is a thrush and not a meadow pipit, I shall be very disappointed as it really does look like a meadow pipit to me.

meadow pipit

I walked through the Kernigal wood again

four walk views

…but this time, I kept going and took the track down to the river at Skippers Bridge and then walked back along the Murtholm and up the track to the Stubholm. I had hoped to see bluebells but I didn’t spot any and had to make do with other welcome signs of spring on my way.

four sping branches

A reader asked me if the new larch needles were soft or bristly and I can report that they are very soft at this stage of their development.

I came down through the park and walked along to the bank of the Esk to see if the oyster catchers were back.

There were no oyster catchers but I enjoyed these sculptural buds….

blossom buds

…and a pair of goosanders fishing in the river.

two goosanders

I met my friends Bob and Nancy out for their walk beside the river and they told me that I must have just missed bluebells on my stroll as they had seen some very near to where I had walked. I will go back soon and have another look.

When I got home, I had a cup of tea and a toasted tea cake, and followed that with a walk round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal.  She saw the thing that I had been looking for all day, a peacock butterfly.

peacock butterfly

The butterfly flew off, Mrs Tootlepedal went back in to do some more computer work and I checked on some more birds.  A jackdaw flew up on to our roof and revealed that it was the bird with the white wing feather.

flying jackdaw white

A dunnock stopped racing and chasing round the garden for long enough for me to take a portrait…

dunnock on hedge

…and then set off again.

I don’t lead a wildly exciting life at the best of times but the present situation is even less exciting than usual and there seems to be nothing to think about that offers pleasing prospects so I apologise if the run of posts at the moment are a bit lacking in zest.  Like toilet paper and yeast, zest is in short supply just now.

But I did get a very handsome starling for the flying bird of the day with its wings catching the evening sun.

flying starling

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Today’s guest picture from our son Alistair, shows that Matilda needed a parasol to cope with the bright sunshine in Edinburgh today.

matilda parasol

We didn’t get any sunshine here at all.  What made things more annoying was incessant talk on the radio about not letting the good weather tempt us to go out and have fun and break the lockdown.  Just poking a nose outside the back door was more than enough to show that it was quite cold enough for us to need no encouragement to stay inside at all.

I took some pictures of birds to prove that we were visited by one chaffinch, two siskins and three greenfinches in the morning.  (I was waiting for four turtle doves but they didn’t appear.)

chaffinch, siskins, greenfinches

Then I settled down to some serious time wasting which lasted until lunchtime. (I was helped by a good supply of ginger biscuits and a knotty crossword.)

After lunch, I did some desultory fiddling about in the garden and couldn’t find anything new to photograph, so I took a daffodil picture…

morning daffodil

….and sat on a bench waiting for something to happen.

The resident blackbird turned up looking rather cross…

blackbird not shouting

…perhaps because he didn’t think that I was paying enough attention.

blackbird shouting

I was sitting under the Forsythia.


I went in and put the cello and piano parts for the first movement of a Mozart divertimento onto the computer and cheered myself up by playing along with the result.

In fact I cheered myself up enough to ignore the chilly wind and get my cycling gear on and go out for a pedal.  I had chosen the best part of the day because it warmed up  a degree or two and the wind dropped a bit as the ride went on.  I enjoyed a tour round my familiar 20 mile Canonbie circuit.

The economic slowdown has brought some benefits to cyclists as the roads were extremely quiet and the views were quite a bit clearer than usual.  I could see details of the Lake District hills across the Solway….

skiddaw from ryehill

…and a bit of colour and some features on the hills on the other side of the Eden Valley.

pennines from ryehill

Both sets of hills are about 35 miles to the south of us as the crow flies.

I don’t know whether this fallen tree near Ryehills has appeared in a post before, but it struck a chord with me today.  I thought that I knew exactly how it felt.  Things have just got too much for it and it needed a lie down.

resting tree ryehill

My three favourite trees at Grainstonehead are still upright…

three trees grainstonehead

…and when I looked between two of them, the clearer light let me get a good view of the old Liddle railway viaduct a mile away up the valley.liddle viaduct

The savage cutting of the roadside verges and thrashing of many hedges mean that there is not a lot to look at as I cycle past but a few things caught my eye as I went along.

will, dandelion, butterbur and anemone

The patch of butterbur at the Canonbie bridge is very striking.

The landslip on the old road near Irvine House has left a slight better view of the river.

river esk irvine house

My Garmin record tells me that the temperature was over 10°C (50°F) by the time that I went cycling and it did feel a little warmer than it has been, but the cold wind made me glad that I was still dressed for winter pedalling.

When I got home, I found that the jackdaws were creeping about pecking the lawn again…

two jackdaws

…but the condition of the lawn is so poor anyway that it doesn’t upset me.

I like these little daffodils with their windswept petals.  They seem to suit a windy day.

evening daffodil

The tree peony is still reaching up to the heavens, in supplication perhaps for some sunshine.

tree peony raising hands

We don’t have a lot of new flowers but we are getting more of fritillaries and grape hyacinths every day…

fritillary and hyacinth

…and there are encouraging signs of buds on the clematis by the front door.

clematis bud

The red tulips have still not come out and it looks as though they may be pipped at the post by a late surge from a couple of yellow tulips outside the kitchen window.

yellow tulip early

There is a lot of good stuff being offered for free at the moment by arts companies that are closed to the public.  Having had a play from the National Theatre a couple of days ago, we watched Handel’s Acis and Galatea from the Royal Opera and Ballet company today.  They are streaming Cosi Fan Tutte next week.

No flying bird again but a strikingly green starling perched on Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree in the early evening is the standing bird of the day.

green starling

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Welsh correspondent Keiron.  He had a lovely day for a pedal along the towpath.

Keiron's canal

It was cold and grey here when we got up and my original plan (Plan A) for the day was to go back to bed after breakfast, pull the covers over my head and hope that everything would go away.

That plan dissipated into nothingness when I managed to pull myself together and walk up to Sandy’s to deliver some archive work for him to do to while away the hours.  He has been badly hit by the lockdown as he has just spent six weeks confined to his house with a foot in plaster after an operation.  Then, as soon as the plaster came off, he was confined to his house again by the lockdown.  He is remarkably cheerful all things considered. I would liked to have stayed for coffee and a chat but that is not on the menu at the moment.

I did a little footling about in the garden when I got back while Mrs Tootlepedal continued her spring tidy up and general preparations.

Because of the chilly conditions, there were no new flowers or exciting developments to photograph so I took a picture of the resident blackbird…

resident blackbird

…and the rare sight of a couple of chaffinches near the feeder…

chaffinch in garden

…had a slice of toast and honey for an early lunch and went off on my bicycle

I am fully recovered from arguing with the other short plank, but I took things pretty easily.  I had planned an exciting route (Plan B of the day) deep into England but just as I was about to turn off over the hill, I met a cyclist coming the other way.  He stopped to warn me of an angry farmer up the road.

When he explained that the farmer was angry becuase he, the cyclist, had chased two stray sheep down the road in front of him,  I rather felt for the farmer and decided that I would not risk causing any further agitation so went straight on instead of turning off.

This was Plan C

My new route let me enjoy the sight of a pair of muddy beaked oyster catchers in a field on one side of the road and a plaintive curlew calling in the distance on the other side.

oyster catcher and curlew bigholms

As usual, there was a wind, not a strong wind but strong enough to make pedalling hard work for an old man as I went over Callister so I was pleased to stop when I had gone down the other side of the hill to admire some colour by the road side.

You could have any colour today as long as it was yellow.

gorse and celandine gair road

When I had passed through Eaglesfield, I had to stop again to admire this very neatly rolled field.

rolled field

Everywhere I went today, farmers were busy.  If they weren’t rolling their fields they were spreading muck, much of it on the road.  Sometimes I am pleased that my sense of smell is not very acute.

Plan C had led me to going round a rather tried and tested route, short of good views on a dull day, so I took a small diversion instead of going straight down the old main road to Gretna.

My diversion took me under the main line railway by a venerable railway bridge…

railway bridge robgill

…and over the Kirtle water by another old bridge…

kirtle water bridge robgill

…and past the even old Robgill Tower.

robgill tower

When I had puffed up the hill from the river, I got a splendid view over the Solway to the Lake District hills.

I must say that the chap who goes round putting telegraph poles up in front of good views in our area is a very conscientious worker.

view of skiddaw from near hollee

Further along my diversion, I could look across the Kirtle Water to the Kirkpatrick Fleming church on the far bank.

KPF church from Hollee

I stopped just before the last stone bridge over the river when another wild flower caught my eye.  I did say that the only colour available today was yellow.


This is the bridge.

kirtle water bridge rigg

I crossed the Kirtle water for a second time by a small undistinguished bridge on the back road to Gretna from Rigg.  I had hardly seen a soul, either in a vehicle or on foot so far on my trip, but this quiet back road was obviously the permitted walk of the day route of choice for the locals.  I had to keep a sharp eye out to manage my social distancing as I went along.

Once at Gretna, I choose the quick route home, up main roads to Canonbie, but I did take another very small diversion to add to my churches and towers of the day with a visit to Kirkandrews on Esk.

It has a fine tower…

kirkandrews tower

…and an elegant little church.kirkandrews church

I rounded off the church collection with the Kirk at Canonbie.

canonbie church

It had got rather cold by this time, so I didn’t dilly dally for the final six miles home but I couldn’t resist these lambs trip trapping over a bridge…

lambs going trip trap

…perhaps on their way to join this relaxed sextet who were mulling over life very peacefully.

six lambs

I got home with 41 miles on my computer and discovered when I looked at my spreadsheet later in the evening that this ride had taken me up to 34 hours of cycling for the month, producing 441 miles at the very modest average speed of 12.74mph.  One of the sad facts of ageing legs is that in the not so distant past, I would have got a good many more miles for same amount of time and effort.  Still, March has been a generous month for dry days for cycling so I shouldn’t complain.

When I got home and was having my post ride cup of tea, Mrs Tootlepedal called out to say that the jackdaws were pecking the lawn again.  We point the finger at the guilty parties.

jackdaws on lawn

Earlier in the day, Mrs Tootlepedal had been to the shops and come back with a brisket of beef which she cooked for our tea.  It will last us for three days and as it tasted very good, this is very satisfactory.  I made some semolina for pudding and so, all in all, in spite of the clouds and the chill and the you-know-what, it was a day to add to the credit side of the great ledger of life.

The flying bird of the day is one of the starlings who like to collect on our electricity wire and chatter away.

flying starling

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Today’s guest picture comes from my camera club friend Simon.  He is offsetting the disappointment of the disappearance of all his normal work thanks to the coronavirus by taking healthy walks along the beautiful Esk between some humdrum jobs which he has taken to fill the gap.

Jocks Pool Simon

I took a walk in the garden after breakfast.  It had been frosty when we woke but the sun made things feel quite pleasant…


…and a scilla had added a little more colour to springtime.


There was shopping to do, so while Mrs Tootlepedal combined shopping and business, I pedalled round to the corner shop passing the oyster catchers at their regular spot beside the river on the way.

two oyster catchers

I like a reliable bird.

After coffee, we went out into the garden where Mrs Tootlepedal did some vegetable bed preparation and I did some compost sieving.  The compost, from the back end of last year, was some of the best that I have made and I put this down to some careful attention to layering green and brown material in the original bin and not letting it get too wet.

We checked on the forced rhubarb and decided that it looked good enough to pick a stalk or two. Its colour was wonderfully fresh.

forced rhubrab

Although it was warm enough to garden comfortably in the sun, the morning cold was not gone and when I tipped some rainwater out of the wheelbarrow, the evidence of the underlying chill was plain.

ice from barrow

A glittering starling serenaded us from the top of the holly tree as we  worked.

starling on holly tree

We went in and Mrs Tootlepedal settled down to some administrative work on the computer while I made some lentil soup for lunch.

And kept an eye on the birds.

perching chaffinch on stalk

I got an unusual view of a wood pigeon.

back vire pigeon

There were no siskins in the garden at all today and not many goldfinches either.  This left the field clear for the chaffinches, who gathered on the plum tree…

two male chaffinches sun

…and flew into the feeder uninterrupted by the hostility of siskins.

Both male…

flying chaffinch male panel

…and female chaffinches  took advantage of the peace and quiet.

flying chaffin female panel

I had been waiting for the day to warm up a bit before going cycling but even though the sun was still out after lunch…

chionodoxa and crocus

…and there was a crowd of chaffinches basking in it on the plum tree…

chaffinches in plum tree

..the thermometer refused to rise above 6°C so I put on several layers of bike clothing and then went back in and put on some more when I saw this cloud looming up over the town.

clouds over Langholm

A few drops of rain fell as I set out but I persevered, and the clouds, although still quite impressive,  looked a bit more friendly as I approached Callister.

clouds over callister

And by ten miles, they looked more friendly still.

cloudscape gir road

Out of the sun, it felt chilly but there always seemed to be a bit of sunshine ahead.  Here it was lighting up the pylons that I would follow for the next few miles.

pylons in the sun

Things didn’t look quite so good when I got over the hill and headed down towards the Solway Plain, but the rain shower was a good few miles away so I cut my intended route short, turned away from the dark clouds, and headed for home.

clouds over gretna

It looked like a good decision as I passed this pastoral scene at Half Morton…

half morton

..but life is seldom perfect and I had to pedal through a few miles of light rain not long afterwards.

However, it didn’t last too long and it certainly didn’t dampen my spirits.  This was because my spirits had been considerably dampened already by arguments with my legs.

They were in a very uncooperative mood and I got into trouble with OFFLEG (The office of the regulator of Leg use by Elderly Gentlemen.)  It turns out that in this day and age of politeness, you are no longer able to call your legs “Old Celery Sticks” or “Soggy Spaghetti” when they refuse to help you get up hills.  Ah well, I will be nicer to them when I go out next and hope that that makes them work better.

Still, I managed 26 miles at a very modest pace and that has taken me almost to 600 miles for the year.  After the appalling weather in February, that is not too bad so I shouldn’t complain.

Mrs Tootlepedal roasted the rhubarb with a little sugar coating for a dessert with our evening meal.  The colour was an attractive translucent pink and the taste, enhanced by some custard which I made, was not bad either.

We should have been visiting Matilda in Edinburgh today but we had to make do with a video call in the evening instead.  Matilda and her parents seem to be surviving ‘house arrest’ very well.  Al and Clare are both working from home and they are making use of on line material and help from her school to keep Matilda entertained and learning at the same time.

I had a choice of flying birds of the day but I chose this back view of a male chaffinch to fill the role.

flying chaffinches

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