Posts Tagged ‘swallow’

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan.  She came across this very colourful boundary to a restaurant’s outside seating area and knowing that I like fuchsias, sent me the picture.

susans meal planting

It was another very sunny day here but not quite as warm as the last two days, presaging a slight change in the weather but probably not enough to bring some much needed rain in any quantity.

Our two resident blackbirds are busy morning, noon and night pecking at the lawn for food for their young.

blackbird family

The garage clematis is showing more flowers every day but is still not near its full glory…

garage clematis

…unlike the Japanese azalea which is opening flowers at a great rate…

japanese azalea

…and contributing to a colourful display along the back path.

back path with colour

I sat down for a moment or two on our new bench and enjoyed a purple patch with a perennial wallflower on one side…

perennial wallflower

…and many alliums on the other.

alliums in arow

Sandy is away on holiday at the moment so I got the chance to act as fill in feeder filler at the Moorland Project hide.  I went up on my slow bike, stopping as is compulsory on a sunny day, to admire Skippers Bridge yet again..

skippers in May

…and noting wild flowers on my way, including Pyrenean valerian, ajuga and another outbreak of wild garlic.

wildflowers on way to hide

The back roads are delightful at the moment and the grass roof on the hide is growing very well.

tarras road and hide

As I filled the feeders, two pheasants were squaring off with a good deal of feather flapping and barking…

pheasants squaring up

…and this was the champion of the day.

pheasant triumphant

I sat in the hide for a while with a fellow bird watcher but there was not a lot of birds to watch apart from siskins.

I did notice a coal tit…

coal tit

…and was pleased to have a brief visit from a greater spotted woodpecker.


When I left the hide, I cycled down the hill to see how the road repairs are coming on.  The repaired road has been completed and and surfaced so it won’t be long now until the traffic can start to flow again.  After several years of being closed, it will not be too soon.

new tarras road

On my way home, I passed a patch of what I think must be horsetail.  It had a fine contrast between its spear like head and a rather frilly tutu further down the stem.


When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden.  We are going on a short holiday next week and she has a lot to do to get everything in order before we go.  I watered the strawberries as the vegetable garden is very dry and also gave the compost in Bin A a good soaking to help the decomposition.

The sunshine is bringing the flowers on well.

trree peony and sweet rocket

…and a rook popped in to enjoy the colour.

rook in plum tree

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do some business in the town and I was sitting doing the crossword when a neighbour knocked on the door to say that we had a visitor.

The partridge was back on our windowsill.

partridge on windowsill

It stayed there for most of the afternoon, moving off at one time, only to return to another sill later in the day.

I was somewhat jiggered by sore feet and asthma after I got back from cycling up to the hide and spent the rest of the day very quietly, wasting immense amounts of time at the computer which wouldn’t behave properly so I couldn’t even get useful things done.

In the end I cheered myself up by taking up Mrs Tootlepedal’s suggestion to make some ginger biscuits.  They came out well.

She continued to work in the garden and at one stage disturbed an ant colony which was hiding under some black polythene covering a potential seed bed.  The ants got to work straight away in moving some large capsules, which I presume are eggs.  Before too long they had cleared the site and found a new home.

ants and eggs

As I sat at my computer trying to work, the partridge kept an eye on me.

partridge outside window

Mrs Tootlepedal took it some seed and water.

The day drifted to a close but I felt a lot better by the evening than I had in the morning and afternoon which was a relief.

The flying birds of the day are two swallows.  I saw them heading for holes in the bank of the Esk as I came back from my morning cycle ride.


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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew’s walk up Blencathra last week.  He got this splendid view of the Lake District as he climbed.

Lake view

We were promised a chilly day with a brisk north wind and we got it.  Luckily we got some very bright and cheerful sunshine for most of the day so as long as you were out of the wind, life was sweet.

I was out of the wind for two hours in the morning but out of the sunshine too as I was sitting in the Welcome to Langholm office, catching up on putting the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive Group database (now at over 80,000 entries).  I did welcome the occasional visitor too so it was time well spent.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden when I got back and I had a look at the azalea, which has survived a couple of chilly mornings very well….


…and one of the developing fantastical tulips….

parrot tulip

…which is unfolding very slowly.  I just hope that another chilly night tonight won’t discourage it entirely.

I went in and made some sweet potato soup for lunch and then ate it.  While the soup was cooking, I watched some appalling behaviour outside.

goldfinch and siskin

Shouting and kicking. The siskin toppled the goldfinch off the perch.

goldfinch and siskin

But another goldfinch soon returned the compliment.

It was too windy for an enjoyable cycle ride so I went for a walk with nuthatches in mind.  Sadly the nuthatches didn’t have me in mind at all and were conspicuous by their absence.  I was cheered up though by the appearance of the running rails for the Castleholm horse racing track which have appeared…

Horse racing rails

…and are waiting to be erected.

Having failed with the nuthatches, I thought that I might have a look for a dipper at the Sawmill Brig and this time, I was luckier.  It wasn’t plain sailing though as the dipper was living up to it’s name…


…but it did pause for a breather on a rock once or twice.


The rock was a bit too far away for a good shot but I had a lot of fun watching the dipper dipping.

Further downstream, after pausing for a cold ice cream from the Kilngreen van, I crossed the town bridge….

The Esk from Langholm Bridge

…..and was entertained by birds flying rather than swimming.

Large numbers of swallows and martins were swooping up and down the river.  I panned the camera vigorously in trying to get a shot or two of them in the air as they passed me and an interested onlooker might well have thought that my underwear was on fire as I twisted and turned violently.

swallows and martins

You have to be really lucky or skillful to get a good picture  of a flying swallow!  I did my best.

An oyster catcher was a more available target for my lens.

Oyster catcher

I walked on down the river, stopping to admire the cherry blossom….

cherry blossom

….and crossed the Kirk Brig and walked through the park and then along the river through the woods.

As I went along, the plaintive quacking of a duck could be heard.

duck and duckling

There were half a dozen tiny ducklings scooting about in all directions paying no attention to the quacking duck.  I wondered if something had frightened them.

I wasn’t really looking for ducks though. My target was early bluebells…


…on the banks above the river.  I found some.


They are not fully out yet but there were enough to make a pretty picture or two….


…or three.


I was rather surprised to find that I was walking in broad sunshine and light snow at the same time as I went along the Stubholm track but the snow faded away and the sunshine persisted so I continued my stroll by going along Gaskell’s walk.

In spite of the cold wind and the flurry of snow, it felt like spring in the sunshine.

Gaskells in spring


The countryside is definitely beginning to look greener now…

Meikleholm hill

…and my walk was very green.

Gaskells in spring

The bare trees will soon be covered.


I got home and then immediately went out to collect our car from the garage where it had been serviced.  To my relief, no major faults were reported and I drove it home in a good frame of mind.

I got home in good time because not long afterwards, I looked out of the window and a snowstorm was raging.  Luckily, it was a storm in a teacup and was soon past.

My flute pupil Luke came and improved the day even more as he worked very hard and listened very carefully.  I am expecting good progress over the next month or so.

In the evening, I rounded the day off with a meeting of the Langholm Camera Club where we were treated to a very interesting demonstration of photo editing techniques by an ex professional photographer who has recently joined out group. He had much sound advice to impart and I only hope that I will be able to take it on board and improve my pictures.

I often put not very good pictures on the blog just to show things that I have seen rather than for the quality of the photographs but there is no doubt that I should set myself some targets to improve the quality of shots where I do have time to worry about settings and  composition.  I hope that readers will see the results in time.

The flying bird of the day is a study in yellow.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Bruce who was checking the time by the floral clock in Princes Street gardens in Edinburgh yesterday.


After quite a hard day yesterday, I thought that I ought to take it easy today but another miscalculation led to me taking over 170 pictures so I apologise in advance for putting 10 more than my usual limit of 20 into this post.

If you want the short story and can’t be bothered to scroll through the pictures, I had a quiet morning at home while Mrs Tootlepedal was singing in the church and in the afternoon we drove across Scotland to the North Sea coast and then came back again in time for a late tea.

For those who like a picture or two, here goes:

It had rained again in the night and the rain gauge showed the results.

rain gauge

As a result, it was too soggy to mow the lawn so I had a wander round and counted seven butterflies on the red buddleia at the same time….


…with the exception of a rather battered peacock, they were all red admirals.

I cycled down to the river to see what was what and was surprised to find some swallows (or possibly house martins) feeding young under the eaves in Caroline street…

heron and swallows

…though I was less surprised to see Mr Grumpy in the middle of the river.

I had filled up the fat ball feeder and when I got back home, I was entertained by a robin popping up and down between the ring on the feeder and the fat balls.

robin at feeder

Other birds took their chance too.

blue tit and jackdaw

When we went away in the afternoon, I took the feeder down.  If I leave it up when we are out, the jackdaws come and eat the lot in minutes.

When Mrs Tootlepedal came back from church, we had a cup of coffee and a light lunch and then we set off for an outing.

Mrs Tootlepedal likes the sea side and although we only live a few miles away from the Solway Firth on the west coast, the estuary there is a thing of mud flats and flat grassy shores so we decided to head across country to the more scenic coast of the North Sea near Berwick on Tweed.  It is only about 75 miles and the roads were very quiet so we arrived at a tiny village called Burnmouth at two o’clock and drove cautiously down the exceedingly steep road to the harbour.

Burnmouth harbour

We walked along the shore as far as we could go.


The little settlement of Cowdrait at the end of the road.

The couple on the beach were looking for fragments of well polished broken glass to use in jewellery.

There were a great number of gulls and oyster catchers about but among the gulls, we also saw what we think are redshanks wading through the shallows.

gulls and redshank

We walked back to the harbour and watched a fisherman putting out lobster pots ready for tomorrow.  He was happy to talk to us and said he has hundreds of pots either at sea or ready to go out and might catch as many as 800 lobsters on a good day.

Lobster fisherman at Burnmouth

He fishes all year round and catches brown crabs in the winter going as far as forty miles off shore to find them on the many shallow banks that lurk under the North Sea.  He was very entertaining and we admired the hard work he has to do to make a living.

We watched in sympathetic amusement as a pair of male and female cyclists attempted the steep 20% road up from the harbour which you can see in the background in the picture above.  The lady whizzed up but the gent had not found the right gear and ground embarrassingly to a halt.  The slope was so steep that he couldn’t get going again and had to return to the bottom and start again.  He made it on the second go.

As we talked to the fisherman, the sun came out and lit up the cliffs behind the harbour.


When we left, more boats were heading for the small harbour.

Burnmouth harbour

We were slightly worried about going up the steep road in the car, but the Kangoo coped very well and we were soon on our way along the coast a few miles to Eyemouth, a larger fishing village.

It too has a harbour.

Eyemouth harbour

By this time, the weather was on its best behaviour and Eyemouth was looking very pretty.

Gunsgreen house

Oddly enough, the rather conspicuous house in the picture, Gunsgreen House, was built by a very successful local smuggler but it has many secret places inside it where the smuggled good were concealed.

Eyemouth lies in in a natural sheltered bay….

Eyemouth bay

…which makes it ideal for fun in the water….


…even on a breezy day like today.

We visited a cafe for scones and a cup of coffee and then we walked along the harbour  looking at a family of swans…

swans at eyemouth

…who were very calm in the face of a series of boats coming into port.

Eyemouth harbour

The sailing boat had to tack like mad to get there.

The rocks outside the harbour mean that careful navigation is required.

eyemouth harbour entrance

We left the harbour and followed a coastal path, enjoying the views to the north…

View from Eyemouth

View from Eyemouth

…and the many little coves along the golf course to the south of the village.

View from Eyemouth

We stood on the sixth tee of the golf course and peered across one of the coves to try to see the flag on the sixth green on the other side.

Eyemouth golf course

The green is near the gap in the wall that you can see.  I have lost a few balls playing this hole in years gone by.

The twisted rock strata in the coves shows that things have not always been gentle here.

eyemouth cove

We had seen many gulls over the harbour and we were delighted to see several gannets flying south over the sea as we walked along the cliff top.

gulls and gannets

We met a bird watcher who promised us peregrine falcons if we walked far enough along but time ran out and we had to return to the village before we got to the appointed spot.

We went by a fine hedge of sea buckthorn and rugosa roses.

eyemouth rose

The swans were tucked up for the evening on a slipway as we passed.

swans at eyemouth

There’s always one child who won’t go to sleep.

One of the nice things about Eyemouth is that it still celebrates its past life as a major herring port by electing a Herring Queen each year and as we walked about, we couldn’t help noticing many banners attached to lamp posts and featuring Queens of past years.

Eyemouth herring queen

We had had a really good outing and were happy to get back in the car and hit the road for home.  Once again, the traffic was light and we got back in time for a second helping of the venison stew and a little post-prandial rest.

I apologise again for the lengthy post but it was a really good day and it was hard to cut the pictures down any more than I have.

The flower of the day is a bunch of pink poppies from the garden this morning….

pink poppies

…and the flying bird is an Eyemouth harbour gull.

Eyemouth  gull

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I am posting three times today to catch up with our outing of yesterday so I apologise for taxing the patience of readers beyond the usual.  The reason for the triple post is that we took our daughter to see two very interesting sites in central Scotland as well as visiting her two brothers while we were about it.  Seeing two members of the family in one outing is known in our family as ‘knocking off the rellies’ and combining that with the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies made for an outstanding if tiring day.

This first post deals with the Falkirk Wheel and there will be one for the Kelpies and then a standard diary post at the end of the day.  Please feel free to skip without causing any offence at all.

The Falkirk Wheel or two swallows do make a summer.

The trip to the Falkirk Wheel started with a visit to our local petrol station to fill up and a loud cheeping alerted me to a young swallow sitting on a wire behind the car.

swallowThis was a good start to the day and very light traffic on the motorways meant that the 100 mile journey north passed very quickly, the only  fly in the ointment being a loud squeak from the nearside  back wheel as we got near Falkirk.

The Wheel was well signposted and the car parking was free.  The Wheel is an ingenious (and enormous) device for lifting canal boats from the Forth and Clyde Canal to the Union Canal, a job that used to be done by a staircase of eleven locks. It was built as part of the Millennium celebrations at a time when there was plenty of money sloshing about.

From the car park, we crossed the Forth and Clyde Canal….

Forth and Clyde canal…and climbed a short hill to the basin for the Wheel.

Falkirk WheelThe Wheel towers over the basin and reaches up to an aqueduct leading to a tunnel and a second basin on the hill behind.

The Wheel has two large buckets….

Falkirk Wheel…which hold the boats as it gently rotates taking one form the top to the bottom and the other from the bottom to the top simultaneously.

Falkirk WheelIn the series above only one bucket has a boat in it but this does not upset the equilibrium as the other bucket is filled with water and the weights are exactly equal whether there is a boat in the bucket or not.  So well balanced is the wheel that it only takes enough energy to boil 6 kettles to turn it through a semi circle.

Falkirk Wheel

Mrs Tootlepedal admires the silent running of the driving cog wheels.

An ingenious mechanism keeps the gondolas level as the wheel turns.

Falkirk WheelThere are short boat trips available which take visitors onto the wheel….

Falkirk Wheel….into the air….

Falkirk Wheel…and up to the aqueduct and through the tunnel….

Falkirk Wheel…to a small basin at the foot of two conventional locks which take boats onto the Union Canal towards Edinburgh.

Union Canal locks

These are two brand new locks built at the same time as the wheel.

The boat turns in the basin and heads back to the aqueduct…..

Falkirk Wheel…giving a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside and a slight frisson to the nervously minded as they approach a sheer drop at the end of the aqueduct.

As the boat is going at 1 mph the frisson is very slight.

An ingenious set of rams and blocks….

Falkirk Wheel

You can see the gap between the bucket and the canal is closed...

You can see the gap between the bucket and the canal is closed…

Falkirk Wheel

…and now it opens to let the bucket descend.

We took the trip as you can tell but if there was was one disappointment for me in the whole visit, it was that it was very difficult to take any pictures unless you were in the front seats and we were just too late to get these.

The area surrounding the basin has been well designed and there were wild flowers….

Falkirk Wheel orchid…fun for children or all sorts, very calm swans…..

swan…and an excellent cafe so it was not surprising to find that the boat trips were fully booked and the whole scene was humming with life.

There was even a flying bird of the day.

gullIf you get the chance to visit the Falkirk Wheel, take it, as my pictures don’t do justice to the place at all.

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Today’s guest picture comes from a visit to Huntingdon by my brother Andrew.

Huntingdon High StreetWe were just considering our options for entertaining our daughter after breakfast when we were visited by our next door neighbour Liz.  She had found something intriguing on a path in the park and brought it in to show us.  I looked at it with some doubt…..

fir cone

It was about six inches long and rather soggy

…but closer examination by sensible people led us to the conclusion that it might be some sort of fir cone, especially as it had been found under a coniferous tree.  The end seemed to be missing and we wondered if it had been nibbled by a squirrel.  Anyway, we picked up cameras and binoculars and Liz took us to the scene of the discovery.

At first, there didn’t seem to be anything on the tree like the object but by using the zoom lens, I found a likely match right at the top of the tree.

fir conesThe lower branches were festooned with flower like objects.

noble firI have walked past the tree many, many times and never noticed the large cones before.   Some research by Annie and Mrs Tootlepedal when we got home seemed to point to the tree being a Noble Fir, which must have been brought in from America and planted in our park.  In general, the cones never fall off and just rot down on the tree which might explain why we have never seen one before.

While we were examining the tree, the park was filled with swallows flitting over the grass, sometimes flying past us as though we weren’t there.  They are nippy birds that never seem to rest and Annie and I clicked away furiously but mostly in vain.  These were my best two efforts.

swallows in the parkIt was rather a gloomy morning and we could have done with better light.

I had some more business to do with regard to the photo exhibition and then I put a week and a bit of the newspaper index in the Archive Group database and this took me up to lunchtime.

I looked at the bird feeder.

siskin and goldfinch

There were a lot of siskins about today and they were as fierce as ever.

After lunch there was a vague plan that Annie and Mrs Tootlepedal would go up to Eskdalemuir to look at the photo exhibition which Annie hasn’t seen, while I put another week or two into the database.  In the end, we were overcome by inertia and watched the Tour de France on the telly instead.  In our defence, it was a very exciting stage.  A stage goes on a long time though and while they were still pedalling away, I went out into the garden and mowed a lawn or two.

As well as the tall delphiniums, some more stocky ones have come into flower…

delphinium,…and the lone knapweed was proving to be an insect magnet.

knapweedWhile I was mowing, I was hailed by a voice at the front gate and it turned out to belong to Nancy, the Archive Group treasurer, who had been on a walk with a regular group of Tuesday afternoon walking ladies.  She was keen to tell me that they had passed a wonderful show of orchids beside a track on Meikleholm Hill.

This was interesting as I like orchids and once the stage had come to an end with a well deserved victory for Tony Martin, Annie, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off for a walk up the hill to see if we could find the orchids.  The day had brightened up by this time and although it was fairly windy, it was  warm enough to make for pleasant walking conditions.

We saw some interesting plants on out way up the hill….


I thought that these would be easy to identify but I can’t find them in my book

white flower and rattle

The one on the right is rattle but we were baffled by the little white flower.

We kept a wary eye out in case we missed the orchids but Nancy’s guidance was most precise and we need not have worried.  There were indeed a great many orchids all around…

orchids..and you could hardly miss them.

orchidsAnnie got down to the job of taking good pictures…

Annie taking orchids…and I tried my best without lying down.

orchidsIt was a real treat to see so many in one place.

We walked on along the track, admiring the views…..

view from meikleholm…until we got to the last drop down to the road.

meikleholm trackThere we had a choice of walking back to Langholm along the road or on a narrow track through the woods down to the Duchess Bridge.  We chose the track….

Walk 2… and were grateful when we heard a timber wagon thundering along the road above us.

We crossed the Duchess Bridge and walked along the edge of the Castleholm to the Jubilee Bridge. Here we crossed the river again and made our way home along Henry Street, having completed a most enjoyable circular walk.

On the Castleholm we saw the inevitable rabbit….

rabbit…and a final orchid.

orchidAlthough it was only a walk of about two miles or so, it was quite strenuous and we were happy to get a sit down when we got home.

Between the fir cones, the garden and the orchids (with views), I had taken well over 100 pictures during the day so it has been quite a task to throw so many away but it was helped becuase many of them were terrible.  Somehow the light wasn’t very co-operative today.

The flying bird of the day is sparrow looking out for fierce siskins before approaching the feeder.


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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my daughter Annie, who has been in Devon.  It just goes to show, she says, that they have gates down there too.

Devon gate

Since it was both  a pleasant day and a Sunday, I took the speedy bike out for a spin up the main road to the north of Langholm.  I found that I was feeling quite perky and would have gone further than sixteen miles before turning for home if I had had the forethought to bring some food with me. As it was I had just a banana for added energy so sixteen miles was far enough.

I had felt a bit of breeze in my face as I had pedalled along going out but it must have been stronger than it felt, because I positively whistled home with it behind me, covering the sixteen miles in 50 minutes which is a good deal faster than my normal speed.

If those living in the rest of Britain felt that there weren’t many motorbikes about today, it was because they were all going up the A7.  I must have met about 50 of them in my two hour ride.

I was working too hard on the way out and going too fast on the way home to stop to take any pictures so I walked round the garden when I got home to take a few there.


A delphinum with a white heart instead of the usual black.

I often concentrate on flower portraits and neglect the bigger picture.  I tried to make amends today…

daisies and campanulas

Daisies and campanulas

…but not for long.


I tried to get a good picture of the Queen of Denmark which I missed out from my catalogue of roses the other day but it is in an awkward place for photography and it is often covered with little black flies so I have twinned it here with the new Fuchsia which Mrs Tootlepedal bought yesterday to go in the chimney pot.

Queen of Denmark fuchsia

I then mowed the front lawn, had a shower and ate my lunch.

After lunch, I walked past the new artificial pitch at the school…

artificial pitch

It is very, very flat.

…and onto the Castleholm where there was a flapping race meeting going on.  I was just in time to watch the pony race which started the proceedings.

Pony race

The runners were given a start according to age.

I met up with Sandy and we strolled up to the top corner to wait for the next race.  There were things to distract us as we waited…

grass and robin

…and they helped to pass the time before the start.

Start 6f

They’re off.

The going was very firm and the horses were going at a great rate when they came round the top corner in this 6 furlong sprint.

Flapping race

Flapping race

A study in concentration.

There is at least half an hour between races so Sandy and I strolled across the infield while we waited for the next race.  As we went along, numerous swallows whizzed past us at knee height.


Although the runners in this meeting are not the cream of the equine crop, they are still very fine looking animals.

Flapping race

Sandy stopped to talk to another local photographer and I walked down to the bottom corner where I would be able to see the runners come round twice in the next race which was a stayers event.

While I waited, I took a shot of the castle in summer, discreetly veiled by the surrounding trees.

Langholm Castle

A thunder of hooves drew my attention back to the racing.

Flapping race

The riders were working hard to keep the horses on line on the fast going.

They go at a good speed and it wasn’t long before they reappeared.

Flapping race

One rider was struggling to keep up and was unshipped as he came round the bend and fell heavily to the ground.  There were only two people nearby and we approached the fallen jockey nervously.  I resisted the temptation to take a shot of him lying there winded and asked him how he felt.  After some light groaning, he was able to get to his knees, rather dazed but with no broken bones as far as we could see.

I will never be a press photographer as I stopped clicking away as soon as I saw that he was falling off, although he was in my viewfinder at the time.  It seemed too rude to record his coming to grief.

I walked a few yards down the track and made sure that the jockeys coming round the corner after finishing the race didn’t run him over.  They were generally pretty unsympathetic and he actually got a cursing for being incompetent from one of the older hands as they rode past him rather than any kind words.

We were just wondering what to do about him, as he was looking a bit concussed, when a race official turned up in a car and drove him back to the start.

Sandy and I felt that we had had enough fun by this time and walked home to have a cup of tea and a slice of cake.  We agreed to meet again on the moor at six o’clock in the hope that an interesting bird might appear.

Sandy went off home meanwhile and Mrs Tootlepedal and I started to clip the yew tree which has the perennial nasturtium growing on it.  This is a delicate operation as the nasturtium has to be untangled and held carefully while the yew is clipped round about it. They yew generally looks like this, rather in the shape of a chessman….

..but it has got bigger and bigger over the years (the picture above was taken two years ago) and Mrs Tootlepedal took the view that the ball on the top was now so big as to be beyond a sensible size for an old man to get up a ladder and clip.   This was the result today.

topless yew

We are hoping that the little stump that is left will start sprouting soon and a new smaller ball can be created.  If it doesn’t, it will be sawn off and the top will be shaped as a dome.

When we had finished, it was time to drive Granny up to the moor and by a stroke of good luck, exactly as we arrived so did a short eared owl which flew along the hillside not far from the layby where a group of very happy bird watchers were in position.

short eared owl

It is feeding young and we were able to watch it hunting along the hillside.  Mrs Tootlepedal and Granny also saw some merlins but I was looking in the wrong direction at the time.

We drove along a little way to another layby in the hope of seeing some harriers but we only got one or two fleeting glimpses so we decided that it was time for tea and headed home.  Sandy went off to where he had been told that he would find another harrier nest.  I shall be interested to hear whether he found it.

Altogether, between the bicycling, the gardening, the racing and the bird watching, it was a full day.  The flying bird of a day full of flying birds is the short eared owl looking for voles.








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Today’s guest picture is from the camera of Mrs Tootlepedal and shows Matilda in her grandly named ‘personal transport system’.

Matilda in pram

It was another quite chilly, grey and windy morning but my dental discomforts were a thing of the past and Dropscone and I set off on our own personal transport systems for the morning run to Gair with the wind behind us and in relaxed mood.  This cheerful state of things lasted for no more than two and half miles because  we came to a stretch of road which had been tarred and gravelled since we last used it.  Cycling along newly laid gravel is never much fun but there had been just enough traffic to compact the surface enough to let us go on.

After a mile of this, we decided to get off the Wauchope road at the first opportunity and go the wrong way round the traditional morning run only to find that this road had been gravelled as well.   We pressed on up the Wauchope road and found to our relief that the gravel stopped not far past the junction.  All went well after that until we got to the turn off to Gair only to find that the gravellers were actually there and the road was completely closed.

We took the road from Waterbeck to Dunnabie as an alternative and were relieved to find it untouched by the road improvers.

The brisk wind made the trip back to Langholm quite hard work and we felt that we had thoroughly earned our scone and coffee.  Dropscone had been playing golf yesterday and he regaled me with an account of a disastrous nine strokes at the final hole of the day which had ruined an otherwise reasonable card.  When golfers tell you heart rending stories like this, it is difficult to know whether to laugh 0r cry.   It depends of course on whether the narrator is looking at you as he talks.

After he left, I took a walk round the garden and looked at colour combinations.  Some cool….

allium and aquilegia

Allium and aquilegia

Allium and hosta

Allium and hosta

…and some hot.

Euphorbia and azalea

Euphorbia and azalea

Icelandic and Welsh poppies

Icelandic and Welsh poppies nodding in international unison

I have taken my seed feeder down but I have left my last few peanuts up and they attracted some house sparrow interest.



Some seemed to be wondering where the seeds had gone.


Including this collared dove.

collared dove

It was interesting to me to see how the colour of the same bird changed noticeably when it changed its position.

collared dove

Mrs Tootlepedal had gone off to Edinburgh to visit Clare and granddaughter Matilda.   With regard to the picture at the top of the post, she realises that it shows ‘Mat in a Hat’ and is wondering if there might be a book in this thought.

I had a lonely lunch and then went off to the Tourist Information Point at the Kilngreen.  I had plenty of time to do the crossword but I did at least have two genuine enquirers both of whom I was able to help.  I had a third visitor but he was bringing information rather than looking for it.  This was Sandy with the news that the hospital had written to him to tell him that he has got pneumonia.  No wonder he has not been feeling very well.   However he was relieved to have got a definite diagnosis and has been on the right treatment anyway so he is a bit more cheerful about things.

After I had shut up shop at the TIP, I walked down to the riverside.  Mr Grumpy did not seem to be enjoying the chilly breeze as he kept his private parking space from encroachment.


I was entertained by a low flying display as there must have been a lot of insects about.  I am not very knowledgeable about birds but I am fairly sure that these two are swallows.


But I am not sure about these.  Are they sand martins?


And these?


Identification help is always welcome.

It is quite rare to be fortunate enough to find a lot of insects and a lot of birds and a river right in front of you so it was a pity that it was such a gloomy day.  Experience has taught me though that when the sun come out, the insects and the birds take to the skies and are soon out of camera range so you can’t win.

When I got home, I mowed the front lawn and the grass round the greenhouse and finished turning the compost.

Mrs Tootlepedal returned safely from Edinburgh with many pictures of Matilda.  This one shows her reaction when she was told that she would appear on the blog today.


She is a promising child.

The flying bird of the day is one of the insect eaters from the river.










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