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Posts Tagged ‘starlings’

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s Irish adventure and shows one of the more exciting roads that the party drove over on their outings.

Ireland

We were in a state of deja vu today as the scene outside the window when we woke up was still snowy, the temperature was still around freezing and the skies were still grey.

Thanks to the snow, the producers’ market at the Buccleuch Centre was cancelled so I was very disappointed as it is the highlight of my shopping  month and we are now in the midst of a quality cheese drought in Tootlepedal Mansions.

However, as the morning wore on, the temperature rose by a degree and since the main roads seemed to be clear and dry, we thought it a good idea to make sure that the car was still going and made a little motor excursion through the town to a shop instead of the market.

I had cleared the snow off the car a couple of days ago and also cleared the snow off the road around it and in spite of frequent light snow showers since then, the car and the road were still clean enough to let us set off with no more sweeping or shovelling required.

Perhaps because of the very dry nature of the snow, no doors were frozen up, the wipers were free to wipe and the car started at the first request.   We were relieved as we hope to go to Carlisle for a choir practice tomorrow.

We didn’t have many birds in the morning but we did have one mass visit from starlings who perched on the top of the walnut tree.  Some were in vertical mode…

starlings

…and others preferred the horizontal way.

_DSC1834

Yesterday’s posing chaffinch had another go at being FBotD but mistimed her effort.

flying chaffinch

You can’t win them all.

A crow on a neighbour’s roof gave me the excuse to squeeze a little moss into the post.

crow

After lunch, as it was dry and I could see the tops of the hills, I went for a walk in the hope of some snowy scenery.

I caught up with a friend who was going to the golf club (not to play golf) and walked up the Kirk Wynd with him.  When he went into the golf clubhouse, I kept going.

I had a quick look behind me as I got above the town….

snowy scene

…but this was as much of a scenic view as I got as soon the clouds came down on the hills and it started to snow again.

It was only light snow though so I pushed on past the golf course and onto the the hill.

The gorse was trying its best under testing circumstances…

gorse in snow

…and although the snow was quite deep in places and tiring to plough through, I wasn’t tempted to rest for a while on the bench at Whita Well.

snowy bench

I did for a moment consider trying to go straight up the hill to the summit but good sense prevailed and I turned left and went along the contours of the hill to the Newcastleton road.

The brisk winds of yesterday had had two contradictory effects.  In places they had swept the hillside fairly clean and the walking was easy and elsewhere, they had piled the snow up into drifts.  It wasn’t always easy to tell whether a plain white patch in front of me was thin or thick though and I had one or two uncomfortable moments stepping into what proved to be quite deep bits.

Fortunately, just as I was thinking that a strategic retreat might be wise, I came upon the wheel tracks of a hill vehicle which had been out looking after the sheep and although the tracks were well covered in snow, they gave me a guide which kept me out of any drifts.

Whita with snow

The sharp eyed will be able to see the rather ghostly tracks at the bottom left of the picture above.

They led me safely to the Newcastleton road….

Copshaw Road

…and I was glad that I was walking and not driving down it.

I had plenty of help with my directions…

Bird print

…which was needed as it was sometimes hard to tell where the road ended and the verges began.

Copshaw Road

The sheep are clever animals and had found a good windswept patch where some grass had been exposed and were munching away with their backs firmly to the wind (and the photographer).

sheep in snow

Once I got down to the main road, I found that yet again the snowplough had thrown the excess snow onto the footpath so I had to walk along the road itself to make progress.  Luckily there was hardly any traffic but what there was was paying no attention to the signs and I had to skip briskly onto the pavement once or twice..

Welcome to Langholm

I got to the Sawmill Brig but didn’t cross it when I came to it on this occasion and I was pleased with this decision…

sawmill brig

…when I found a bird like icicle on a bench on the Kilngreen…

icicle kilngreen

…and then  met Mr Grumpy on the banks of the river.

heron in snow

He flew off but when I tried to follow him with the camera and all I got was a picture of the light but persistent snow.

snow

I caught an oyster catcher instead as I walked along the Esk.

oyster catcher

The snow and ice had made this short walk quite energetic so I was more than happy to test drive some scones that Mrs Tootlepedal had made while I was out and then sink into a comfortable chair and watch cycling and athletics for the rest of the afternoon (and quite a lot of the evening).

The temperature is due to rise a bit over the next few days so with luck we may get a steady thaw without any floods to go with it.

The flying bird of the day, to ensure correct blog gender balance after yesterday’s flying female, is a male chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my ex-colleague Ada.  She has been enjoying the sun in Tenerife and sent me this picture to torment me as we watched the snow come down here.

Down below is the busy resort of Playa de Las Americas

Down below is the busy resort of Playa de Las Americas

Here is the contrasting view from our bedroom window this morning.

snowy garden

And it kept on snowing for some time…

chaffinch in snow

…leading to some poor manners at the ground feeding station.

blackbird and robin

Dropscone dropped in for coffee, not only bringing the traditional scones but also rich gifts of sardines which he had picked up at a very reasonable price on his way back from a meeting up the borders last night.  He is an expert at finding very good ‘end of day’ offers at supermarkets.

The price of the sardines reflected the fact that today was their last use by date so Mrs Tootlepedal and I enjoyed pan fried sardines for our lunch.  They were very good.

The snow stopped and the day brightened up a lot….

starlings and goldfinches

A couple of starlings joined our usual visitors

….so when Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help out at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop, I put on my wellies and went for a walk.

I checked on the bridge as I set out.

dam bridge repair

The men had only worked for a relatively short time this morning but whether that was because of the snow or because they are waiting for things to set, I don’t know.

I left the bridge and headed for the top of Warbla, hoping to get there before any new snow showers appeared.

In fact, as I walked up the hill, the skies cleared and the sun came out, first on nearby hills….

snow on the hills Arkleton

…and then, as I followed the advice of the pheasants to go this way…

pheasant print in snow

…on the track where I was walking.

Warbla in snow

Even more pleasingly, it stayed out for the rest of my walk and I was able to enjoy a view across the valley to the felled Becks Wood which I visited a  day or two ago.  They have been very busy tidying the felled trees up.

pBecks wood from Warbla

At the top of the hill, there is an old trig point, elevation 276m, which showed which way the wind was blowing this morning…

Warbla trig point snow

…and some good views.

Esk valley with snow

By this time, the sun had removed all the snow from the lower slopes.

langholm with surrounding snow

I met a man in a car at the summit, where there are several masts, who told me that he was working for EE.  As EE is the telephone company that provides my mobile reception, I was pleased to see that they were on the job even in snowy conditions.

I used the phone connection while I was up on the hill to show that my face is pretty well back to normal after the ugly business of 12 days ago.

selfie on Warbla

I put the fairly rapid healing down to liberal use of arnica.

I thought that the redundant stile at the top of the hill was looking good but went through the new gate beside it on my way down.

stile on Warbla

I had noticed as I had come up the hill, that the telephone engineer’s car had stopped several times and the driver had got out for some curious reason.  As I followed it back down the hill….

EE car on Warbla

…it stopped several times again.  The mystery was solved when I saw the driver get out and take photographs.  It was good to know that he was enjoying the views as much as I was.  He kindly offered me a lift but it seemed like too good a day not to walk.  Besides, I wanted to take more photos.

Looking across the valley, I could see three timber wagons waiting to pick up logs from the enormous pile at the Becks Wood.

Becks wood timber wagons

When I got to the wood at the bottom of the hill, I stopped to look at the moss on the wall.  Although moss often looks rather short and stumpy on a wall, if you pull a single strand out, it turns out to be longer and thinner than expected.

moss

Once again, there were a lot of different sorts of moss close together.

moss

I passed a very sunny horse….

sunny horse

…and made my way back to the garden where I got quite excited by a daffodil bud.

daffodil bud

I had made a lamb stew in the slow cooker in the morning and Mrs Tootlepedal cooked some potatoes and green veg to go with it and the resultant evening meal made a good ending to day which turned out to be a lot better than it had looked likely to be when we woke up in the snow.

The flying (jumping) bird of the day is one of the starlings leaving the feeders.

flying starling

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Today’s guest picture is a Paddington Basin sunset captured by my sister Mary.  I don’t usually go for sunsets but this is a cracker.

Paddington Basin

We had another even colder day today, without the benefit of any added sunshine.

Thanks to a very slowly dripping but unnoticed tap in the guest bathroom, it was cold enough to freeze the pipe when the trickle of water got to the outside wall of the house.  In turn this caused the condensate pipe from our boiler to stop working and we woke up to a rather chilly house and no hot water.

We have fires to put on so we were in no danger of freezing ourselves but the lack of hot water and the chill in the unheated rooms was annoying.

After trying and failing to do some ad hoc thawing of pipes with hot water and hair driers, we gave up and I went for a walk. The forecast is for a thaw over night so we are keeping our fingers crossed.

When I looked down the frozen dam at the back of the house, I saw that there was a small unfrozen patch which had attracted a lot of blackbirds.  I counted ten at one time spread along the dam but they didn’t all stay in place for this picture.

blackbirds on dam

They were very busy popping on and off the ice at the water hole and one of them got very indignant when some starlings had the effrontery to want a drink too.

blackbirds on dam

The starlings retreated to a wire and waited for another chance.

starlings

There had been a hint of mist about when I got up so I was hoping for some ice covered trees but after a promising start at the park…

frosty trees

…the rest of the walk was a bit disappointing as the taller tree seemed unaffected.  There was plenty of ice about…

ice

…and the view up river at the Meeting of the Waters was very wintery.

meeting of the waters

As I crossed the Sawmill Brig, I could see a little cave of icicles where a small steam joins the Ewes from an underground pipe.

icicles

Langholm Castle looked quite forbidding….

Langholm Castle

…and as always, I was keeping an eye out for fence posts.

frosty fencepost

It was too cold to linger for long and I didn’t want my camera to freeze so I didn’t dilly dally and was soon looking over our front hedge into a very frosty garden.

frosty garden

I had stopped to look at the gulls at the Kilngreen on my way round.  There were a lot about today, including a headless gull…

gulls

…and the gull (very) close formation flying team.

gulls

Although these are black headed gulls, they haven’t got their black heads yet but they do have very decorative feet and beaks.

gull

Once inside, I didn’t go out again but I did keep looking out of the kitchen window when any movement caught my attention.  The sub zero temperatures brought a lot birds to the feeders.

There were siskins…

siskin

…and the chaffinch aerial ballet corps…

chaffinches

…which descended into arguments when it was time for a seed break.

_DSC9823

The feeder on the left of the pole was busy today and this gave me the chance to get some left to right flying chaffinches instead of my usual right to left shots.

chaffinches

Other flying birds were available.

siskin and goldfinch

As well as flying birds, there was some top quality posing too.

robin

blackbird

And a collared dove won the trophy for the most fluffed up bird of the day by miles.

collared dove

I could have spent a lot of time enjoying the birds but the kitchen, which has no heater, was rather chilly and as I couldn’t stand the cold, I got out of the kitchen.

I went into the computer room and spent a happy afternoon putting music onto the computer for my flute pupil Luke and doing some flute practice too.

As we can’t leave the fires on overnight, it is going to be very nippy when we get up tomorrow so I hope that the pipes will have taken advantage of the slight lift in the temperature and unfrozen themselves.  If not, we may have to call for assistance.

One of the Kilngreen gulls is the flying bird of the day.

gull

 

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Today’s guest picture from Bruce got a little closer to the horse in the field.  There turned out to be two of them.

Kelpies

The forecast was right and we had another sunny day but it was even colder than yesterday and struggled to get above 3°C all day.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I gave up any thoughts of gardening or cycling and turned our thoughts to an expedition.  After mulling over the idea for long enough to have had coffee, watched a couple of birds….

robin

This is the same robin taken seconds apart

dunnock and greenfinch

Dunnock and greenfinch

….made some lentil soup and eaten it for lunch, we finally got organised and set out on a triple target adventure.

Target one was the excellent nature reserve at Eskrigg near Lockerbie.  It has two hides.

We went to this one first.

red squirrel hide Eskrigg

The red squirrels don’t actually hide in the hut but I am sure they would if they could open the door.

We didn’t need to wait for more than a few seconds before they appeared on the scene.

red squirrel

red squirrel

The trouble with red squirrels is that it is impossible to stop taking pictures of them so I left Mrs Tootlepedal in the hide enjoying their antics and walked along to the other hide which is at an old curling pond, now restored as a nature place.

There was a little ice on the pond today but not enough to stop a couple of swans having a swim.

swans eskrigg

I got settled into the hide and hoped for a glimpse of a woodpecker or a nuthatch.  Unfortunately, another photographer was trying to get a shot of a jay and was walking around outside the hide in his search.   This didn’t encourage other birds to come to the feeders.

I saw a plenty of interesting fungi on the trees outside the hide….

fungus

…and a blackbird…

blackbird

…and a great tit and a robin…

great tit and robin

….which I might easily have seen in our own garden.

I looked down the pond for a while.  It was very pretty but had nothing more interesting on it than some mallards.

Eskrigg

I didn’t see anything novel on the pond or the bird feeders so when a squirrel turned up at the bird feeder there…

red squirrel

…I took the hint and went back to join Mrs Tootlepedal in the squirrel hide.  There were squirrels on every side and it was a pleasure to sit and watch them.

Some kind person had left a plentiful supply of nuts about and the squirrels were tucking in.

red squirrel

_DSC9382

red squirrel

A regular visitor came in and told us that she had been there two days ago and had seen even more squirrels than we saw today but when she had visited yesterday she had found two keen photographers with big lenses there and absolutely not a squirrel to be seen so I guess that we were lucky today.

The light was beginning to fade and we still had two targets to hit so we didn’t stay too long.  We walked out through the woods…

wood eskrigg

….and were soon on the road to Gretna.

It was a perfect evening for seeing the starling murmuration and we got to the spot where we had seen then a couple of weeks ago.  There was already another car there and soon afterwards three more arrived, including a fellow camera club member from Langholm.  One of the newcomers told us that last night she had seen the flock coming down into this tree right in front of us.

tree Gretna

So we were all set, the sky was clear…

sunset Gretna

…with just a few clouds to the south to make it interesting.

clouds gretna

Behind us, a brilliant moon was out….

moon

…so everything was just as it should be….

…except for a complete and baffling absence of any starlings murmuring.  A few tiny flocks passed us going north and that was it.  Not a whisper.

We waited until it seemed too late and then drove north in the hope that the murmuration might be there.  There was not a single bird to be seen anywhere.

We abandoned our second target and turned to the third, the purchase of suitable welly boots for Mrs Tootlepedal at the Gretna Gateway shopping experience.

The experience was good for us as a pair of reasonable priced wellies were acquired but, like the starlings, there was a noticeable absence of other shoppers enjoying the fairy lights.

Gretna gateway

Still, as the great Meatloaf used to sing, “Two out of three ain’t bad” so we drove home fairly cheerfully but wondering where all the starlings had gone to.

In the evening, I went out to a Langholm Sings practice.  This was slightly handicapped by the absence of the accompanist but we got some work done and with one practice still to go, we might just be ready for our concert.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch taking a sideways look at the world.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother’s recent peregrinations.  He passed the south door of York Minster on his travels.

York Minster

I was slightly annoyed to find that I was no better when I woke up this morning.  If anything, I was a little worse.  My throat was better and I had stopped sounding like a disgruntled frog but my cough was a bit worse so another possible cycling day went by without a foot on the pedal.

The weather was rather dull in the morning but, as so often, my day was brightened by the arrival of Dropscone and scones to go with coffee.

After he went on his way, I mooched around feeling a bit depressed by my everlasting cold.  Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help with at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop and I made some rather sombre brown lentil soup for my lunch.

In between times, I looked out of the window.

A dunnock was back on the chimney pot under the feeder.

dunnock

We have a group of dunnocks lurking in our hedges at the moment.

Some of the birds looked a bit cross like me.

goldfinches

And some looked even crosser.

greenfinch and sparrow

I kept on thinking that I might go for a bike ride after lunch when the weather brightened up but I never quite managed to be able to ignore my chest which was saying, “Don’t cycle, ” in quite a loud though somewhat wheezy voice.

I looked out of the window again.  There were small birds…

blue tit siskin and great tit

…birds with a point of view…

greenfinch, chaffinch and robin

…and, in the end, a sunny bird.

sparrow

I still couldn’t quite make up my mind whether to go for a quick but gentle pedal and in the end, I went for another walk just to stretch my legs.

I had a look at the garden survivors before I left.

november flowers

You can probably see why I like to walk along the river between the bridges even though the sun had gone back in by this time.

Esk and George Street

The little white dot that you can see in the middle of the river is our resident big gull.

Gull in Esk

I didn’t see much while I was walking, partly because there wasn’t much to see and partly because I was walking fairly briskly for a reason which will become plain later in the post.

I could see that the leaves are nearly all off the trees now….

Castleholm trees

…and I could see where they have gone.

fallen leaves

The path along the river bank was covered with them and I felt like royalty walking along a red carpet.

fallen leaves

When I got home, I admired the work that Mrs Tootlepedal is doing on her new path.  It shouldn’t be too long before I can show you the finished article.

Seeing the starlings on the feeder in the last couple of days had made me think of Gretna and the annual murmuration there.  Although it was rather cloudy, it wasn’t a bad afternoon so I suggested to Mrs Tootlepedal that  this might be a good moment to see if the starlings were actually murmuring.  She agreed that it might be and we got in the car and drove to Gretna.

The starlings don’t always congregate in the same spot every year so we thought that we had better try the place where we had seen them last year first.  As it turned out, we had made a good decision and our timing was perfect.

The clouds had left a gap for the evening sun over the Solway and we could see a gang of starlings perched on electricity wires not far from where we were parked.

starlings at Gretna

More starlings arrived and they shifted along the wires until they were directly in front of the setting sun.

starlings at Gretna

This was spectacular but not very promising for photography so I was pleased when they moved back up and flew past in front of us.

starlings at Gretna

For the next 25 minutes we were treated to a most enjoyable close formation flying display as more and more small birds flew in to join the flock.

starlings at Gretna

Sometimes they came very close…

_DSC8666

…and sometimes they filled the sky above our heads.

starlings at Gretna

I took a detail from that last picture just to show the individual birds.

starlings at Gretna

From time to time, I tore my eyes off the birds to admire the sky…

Gretna sunset

…which was sensational.  Unfortunately, I had brought the wrong lens with me and couldn’t do full justice to the sky or the starlings.  The sunset was as much of a treat as the murmuration.

All too soon, as the light faded, the starlings got ready for bed and started to fly lower in the sky….

Gretna starlings

…until a corporate thumb pointed to the chosen roosting spot….

Gretna starlings

…and in the twinkling of an eye, the whole flock had subsided into the trees and bushes for the night.

We drove home in a very happy state of mind, admiring the sunset as we went.  The sky which had been pink and red in Gretna….

sunset

….was purple by the time that we got back.

sunset

We will probably go back to see the starlings again and there may be more next time as starlings migrate here from Europe as the winter goes on.

In spite of the thousands of flying birds we saw at Gretna, the flying bird of the day is still a local chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my flute pupil Luke’s mother.  They were having a family day out in Durham before the start of the new school term and found the cathedral looking at its best in the sunshine.

durham cathedral

I had a Utopian plan for the day which involved getting up early and being out on my bike by about seven o’clock.  I would be back in plenty of time to allow Mrs Tootlepedal to go to Edinburgh to see Matilda while I waited for the plumber to come. He would finish his work in plenty of time for me to get out for a walk before having my tea and going off to Carlisle with Susan to enjoy an evening of recorder quintets….and the sun would shine all day.

And it all came true.

Almost.

I did get up early and get out on the bike.

misty morning

The mist was just lifting as I cycled across the town bridge.

Esk with mist

The river was still shrouded with mist as I cycled south

Esk at Longtown

But by the time that I had got to Longtown, the mist had cleared. It had been raining heavily overnight as you can see.

I headed a bit further south and then turned west to Rockcliffe before heading back up to Langholm.

Trees in Cumbria

It was beautiful day and I passed many trees…

arch and bridge

…and arches both natural and man made…

Kirtle Water house

…and a fine house too.

But the most interesting thing that I saw was a flock of starlings on a farm silo near Rigg.

starlings

I pedalled 48 miles at a steady speed and got home in plenty of time to have a walk round the garden.  Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a flock of butterflies on the buddleia.

peacock and red admiral butterfly

There were peacock and red admiral butterflies….

white and peacock butterflies

…and I saw a white butterfly on a Michaelmas daisy and took a close look at one of the peacocks.

I admired the poppies as usual and had a first look at Mrs Tootlepedal’s new pink Japanese anemone.

pink Japanese anemone.

The sun continued to shine.

While Mrs Tootlepedal was away, I cut down the orange hawkweed which had finished flowering  but some new flowers have appeared as if by magic….

orange hawkweed

What looks like shadows are buds waiting to open

…and once again I was thwarted in an attempt to take a picture of a cornflower, this time by a positive crowd of visitors.

orange hawkweed

Bumble bee, honey bee and a fly

Mrs Tootlepedal went and the plumber came, finished his task and went off as well.

I went for a walk.

I was trying to take yet another picture of the Auld Stane Bridge but a procession of cars kept driving across it…

auld stane bridge

…and when I looked, it turned out to be a rally of convertible beetles.

vw at the auld stane bridge

They had a good day for it.

I walked past the Hallcrofts, down through the woods and back along the track to Holmwood.

The forest floor was carpeted with these.

wood sorrel

I saw fruits…..

Rose hip, crab apple and blackberry

Rose hip, crab apple and blackberry… the blackberry was delicious

…a snail….

snail

…and a brand new bridge taking the path across a dangerous bit of banking that is being undermined by the Becks Burn.

new bridge by Becks Burn

It is good to see that our popular paths are being looked after.

There were of course many views to enjoy on such a good day.

view of Whita from Hallcrofts

I ended my walk by visiting Sandy in his new house and enjoying a cup of tea as I sat on his new suite.  He has been very busy tiling.

Sandy's tiles

Very neat work.

I got home in time to look over my photos for the day and have my tea and at this stage, the only part of my Utopian that didn’t fully work out came into play.  It started to pour with rain. It lashed down as Susan fearlessly drove through the storm and happily, by the time that we got to Carlisle, the clouds had cleared and the sun was out again.

The recorder playing was most enjoyable and as always the tea and biscuits afterwards were of the highest quality.  The rain stayed away as we drove home and that rounded off a day that could hardly have gone better….

….except that I had no time for a flying bird of any sort so I will put in the map of my cycle ride instead.  Click on the map for details of the ride.  Note the light wind.

garmin route 17 Aug 2017

 

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Today’s ‘London Trip’ photograph is a peek into the Pullman coach which featured in yesterday’s post.

Pullman coach

Owing to a miscalculation there are far too many pictures in today’s post but having processed them all, I am too lazy to decide which ones to cut out so they are all here.

For the busy reader here is a synopsis of the day so that reading the rest of the post can be skipped.  Got up, mowed some grass, went for a pedal, went to bed.  Just another day.

For the long suffering and patient reader, here is the fuller version.

It was a dry and pleasantly warm day but the cloud cover never relented until late evening when we had a glimpse of sunshine.

As usual, the first business of the day was a poppy check.

opium poppies

Good

Shirley poppies

Very encouraging

poppies

Who needs sunshine!

Other quieter flowers are available.

Queen of Denmark, two clematis and a hosta

Queen of Denmark, two clematis and a hosta. I like the pyramid of clematis in the top right frame

Then I had to run an errand for Mrs Tootlepedal and thin out some radishes before any further action could occur but I managed both of these tasks and mowed the drying green and the green house grass and hung out a load of washing.

I needed a bit of sustenance after all that so I had a lettuce and marmite sandwich and I am beginning to realise that too much of my life has been wasted in not eating lettuce and marmite sandwiches.  Of course it helps that Mrs Tootlepedal has provided an endless supply of fresh lettuces.

Coffee and a crossword merged into a healthy lunch of sardines, new potatoes, tomatoes and lettuce and by this time I had eaten so much that a bike ride was essential.

I checked on the birds in the garden first….

sparrows eating peas

This is what drives Mrs Tootlepedal to despair.

blackbird family

After a stand off, a blackbird parent and child meet in the middle for a snack

Then I set off for a gentle, flat ride.  Most unusually, there was hardly a breath of wind so with the sun behind the clouds, it was a prefect day for cycling if not for landscape views.

I was in no hurry and there were plenty of flowers to keep me happy.

orchids and willowherb

The last two orchids along the Wauchope road and a nicely decorated wall up Callister

I took the road to Gair.  This is always a treasure trove of wild flowers.  Today there was a lot of ragwort all along the road.  I stopped because I was hoping to see a cinnabar moth caterpillar which likes ragwort a lot but I had to settle for this…

ragwort

…less colourful visitor.  I checked quite a few ragwort out with no luck.

I stopped further along to see how many flowers I could see within a few yards of my bicycle.

Wild flowers

wild flowers

The raspberry was delicious.  I don’t know what the pink furry flower is but it turns into a doleful looking owl as it goes over.

The butterfly was very annoying. Why my camera wouldn’t focus on it was a mystery.  Still the flower that it was settled on was worth a shot in its own right.

wild flower

On the other side of the road, a bunch of thistles were looking good, some in full flower….

thistle

…and some, like the writer of this piece, gone to seed.

thistle

The most interesting flower than I saw on the Gair road was the great burnet, Sanguisorba officinalis, which grows here every year.  When you first spot it, it looks like the dull head of a plantain but when you get closer it shows up as being a dark red colour and as is so often the case, a closer looks pays dividends.

Sanguisorba officinalis

I cycled on until I came to the Old A74, passing this hedge dripping with honeysuckle…..

honeysuckle

…on my way.

When I got to Gretna, I saw a most unusual sight.  As you can see from the photo, it was so still that the windmills were not going round at all.

Gretna Windmills

Not contributing to the grid today.

I was so excited at taking this rare picture that I stepped back and stood on the mirror on my bike and broke it.   I can’t turn my head round while cycling without falling off my bike and  I hadn’t realised just how much I depend upon the use of a mirror to cycle safely.

I pedalled bravely on though, passing pretty but less welcome flowers in the verge.

Himalayan balsam

Himalayan balsam, an invasive pest.

As I was coming towards the border near Englishtown, I heard a great chattering and saw that the starlings have begun to gather.

Starlings

I hope that we get a good murmuration this winter.

I saw a lot of this peeping out of hedges on my trip.

blue vetch

Cow or blue vetch

…but my camera is reluctant to let me get a close up of it so this group shot will have to do.

I couldn’t miss the daises on the Canonbie bypass.

daisies on the by pass

I met my neighbour Ken out on his bike near Canonbie and we cycled along together for a while.  When we came to a little hill, I had to let him go on as he is a much quicker cyclist than I am.  Uphill is my downfall as a cyclist.

When I got home, I walked round the garden and found that the early potato haulms were looking very sad and collapsed so I thought it best to dig the last six plants up.  They hadn’t fallen on stony ground!

early potatoes

I left them to dry for an hour (they were pretty dry when I dug them out) and then boxed them up.  My diet will have a lot  of potatoes in it over the next few weeks.

I picked and ate raw some of the peas which the sparrows hadn’t got at and then had a last walk round the garden.

There is no shortage of colour.

Crocosmia

A Crocosmia reaches the end of the line.

Fuchsia

A Fuchsia puts its dancing shoes on

Nasturtium

Shy Nasturtium

Phlox

Phlox contrast

The last flower of the day is a nicotiana…

nicotiana

…and it is right that is should be last as it only produces its delightful smell in the cool of the evening.

It was a delight to stand in the garden after my tea, with the scent of the nicotiana, the colour of the flowers all around and not a breath of wind.  I made the most of it as the forecast for the next few days is not very promising.

The non flying bird of the day, perhaps because it seems to have lost its tail a bit, is a very doleful sparrow indeed.

doleful sparrow

 

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