Posts Tagged ‘swans’

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  On a clear day recently, he was able to look across the Forth and see North Berwick.  We haven’t organised a holiday there for this year yet.  This may be the closest we get to it.

north berwick

On a normal Sunday at this time of year, we would go to Church to sing in the church choir in the morning, and then go to Carlisle to sing with Community Choir in the afternoon.  Thanks to the dreaded virus, both church and community choir are closed for the foreseeable future and time hung heavy on my hands.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy with community buy out work, but I just mooched around feeling hard done by, not even being able to raise enthusiasm for a walk or even compost sieving.

On the bright side it was another sunny and dry day (after another frosty start) so I did wander around the garden where I found a lot of the potential tadpoles developing well.

developing tadpoles

The cold mornings are not encouraging new growth so I had to make do with daffodils…

daffodil in sun

..and chionodoxas for floral cheer again.

chionodoxa clump

The silver pear is offering signs of hope…

silver pear march 22

…and a single flower on the head of a drumstick primula hinted at good times to come.

first primula flower

Mrs Tootlepedal and I were sitting on our new bench enjoying the warmth of the sun when we heard the buzzing of a bee.  I rushed to get a camera but only managed a very fuzzy shot of the buzzer.

faint bee

Any bee is welcome though.

Taking a last shot of a fancy cowslip, I went in to make lentil and carrot soup for lunch.


After lunch, I stirred myself enough to get my bicycle out in the hope that the good Dr Velo would offer a cure for my blues.  It was not very warm in spite of the sun and the temperature was still in single figures, but the wind wasn’t too bad.

The blue sky was almost cloudless and the good doctor soon began to work his magic, helped perhaps by the fact that I had chosen a very easy route, my favourite Sunday ride down the main roads to the Roman Wall and back again.

As I passed the junction at the start of the Canonbie by-pass, I thought that I heard people hooting at me but when I looked up, I saw it was a skein of birds flying overhead.  I stopped and got out my camera but they were well past me before I could press the shutter.


I cycled over the bridge at Longtown and was pleased to see that work has started on repairing one side of the bridge at least.

It is not  a very photogenic ride but a bright bracket fungus on a tree stump did make me stop…

barcket fungus newtown road

…and I was happy to see young lambs at the far side of the field.

two lambs

It was a clear day and I could see the final fling of the northern English fells in the distance.

north england hills

I got to Newtown, my twenty mile turning point, and was glad of a rest to eat a banana while sitting on my customary seat…

newtown bench

…and admiring the daffodils round the old village drinking fountain.

newtown pump with daffs

The wind had been in my face the whole way down so I was fully expecting the weather gods to play their usual tricks and either change the wind direction or let it die away completely on my return journey.

On this occasion though they were at their most benign, and after taking 90 minutes for the southern leg, I only needed 79 minutes for the return to the north.

I paused for this fine English tree…

longtown road tree

…and for the Welcome to Scotland sign at the border.

welcome to scotland

It is not an impressive gateway to our beautiful country, comprising as it does of a scruffy lay-by, two litter bins and a slew of ill matched road signs.  To add to the lack of warmth in the welcome, the illuminated digital sign up the road was telling people to stop doing all this travelling around anyway.

“Ceud mìle fàilte” as they say.

Mrs Tootlepedal had had a busy afternoon split between business and the garden but she had finished by the time that I got back so I nodded at a blackbird perched on the greenhouse…


…and went in to join her.

Mrs Tootlepedal hunted out some more of her chicken cacciatore and we had it with rice for our tea.

I had tinned peach slices with Mackie’s excellent ice cream for afters, and that rounded off a day that ended with me feeling much better than when it had begun.

I had thought that the skein of birds that flew across me when I was cycling were geese of some sort but a closer look on the computer showed me that all my flying birds of the day were not geese but swans.

gaggle closer

It’s not often that all your geese are swans.  It was lucky that I saw them because there was hardly a bird at the feeder all day.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan who was surprised to be shouted at by a dinosaur at Kings Cross station.


I had an appointment at the new Dumfries Infirmary for a chest x-ray in the morning so we decided to make a day out of it and Mrs Tootlepedal came across with me.  I checked the orange hawkweed in the garden before we left.

orange hawkweed

When we got to the infirmary, we were impressed by the light and airy new building and Mrs Tootlepedal was much taken by the planting round the building and in the gardens of the internal courtyards.

It was a beautifully sunny day so perhaps things won’t look quite so cheery in the depths of winter but we thought that the powers that be have done well….and we even found a space in the car park.

I was seen very promptly and after a cup of coffee in the hospital cafe, we headed off for a nearby garden centre which we had had never visited before.  This proved to be the second pleasant surprise of the day as it was large, very well stocked with interesting plants and the plants were looking very healthy and well looked after.  Mrs Tootlepedal even bought one.

We left the garden centre and moved on to the nature reserve at Eskrigg on the edge of Lockerbie.


However pretty the meadow beside the car park was, we were pleased to get into the shade of the trees…


…as it was over 20° by this time.

We had hoped to see cute squirrels but the squirrel hide was full of other people when we arrived (and we couldn’t see any squirrels anyway) so we went to the main building beside the pond instead.

There we found Jim, the Eskrigg founder and guru.  He had conducted an moth survey overnight and had 70 different moths in little tubes.

Jim and moths

He was in the middle of identifying, recording and releasing his specimens…


…and kindly showed us some of the more interesting ones.


Of the seventy, there were still two which he hadn’t identified and Mrs Tootlepedal lent a hand by searching through the reference book and was very pleased when she correctly picked out the last one.

I spent some time hoping to see interesting birds but there were too many people about (and too many moths on shelves in the way of the windows).

I did see a nuthatch but the light was in the wrong place…


…and I saw a jay but by the time that I got the camera up, that bird had flown.

In the end, I just enjoyed the pond and the birds floating about on it.





I spent a lot of time trying to get the swan to float in a still area so that I could get a good reflection shot…


…without a great deal of success.

Jim was expected a party to arrive for a guided tour so we left the centre and walked up beside the pond.


The two cygnets belonging to the swans were happily sitting among the mallards.

It was a beautiful afternoon.


By chance we saw a moth of our own on a fern at the top of the pond.  I showed the picture to Jim and he told me that it was a clouded border moth.


We moved on again, this time only a mile or so to the station at Lockerbie where we caught the usual Thursday train to Edinburgh.  In spite of the widely publicised  current chaos in the railway system, our trains to and from Edinburgh ran on time and we were able to spend some quality time with Matilda and her parents.

In the end, what could have been a tedious and time consuming hospital visit turned out to be a springboard for a really good, if somewhat tiring day out.

I even got a flying bird of the day as a buzzard kindly circled overhead when we got out of the car at Eskrigg.




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Today’s guest picture is another one of Regent’s Park on a glorious day early in this month.  It was taken by my sister Mary when she was either on her way to or back from a game of tennis there.

Regent's Park 01.11.14 013We had a bright but slightly hazy day for my second trip to Dumfries Infirmary in two days.  This time I was accompanied by Mrs Tootlepedal.  The hospital had asked participants in their joint school to bring a friend or family member with them and I was lucky to be able to bring both in the one package.

The school started at ten o’clock so we had no time to meander about on the way there and took the direct route.  Apart from a tendency on the part of the ward nurse to rather harp on about how painful the operation would be, the joint school was informative and at times entertaining.  We went home armed with crutches to practise with and special drinks to take before we come back in again.  They were very thorough.

The school lasted a couple of hours so we did have time to meander about on our way home and drove back by the long way along the banks of the Nith estuary.  We stopped at Glencaple to enjoy the rather mysterious light on the water.

GlencapleIt was odd.  It was sunny but cloudy at the same time.  Looking straight across the river, I couldn’t see Criffel at all today though I did see a small flock of lapwings making their way down river.


Old ship

An elderly vessel seems to be permanently moored there.

We drove on past Caerlaverock castle and turned down to the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust visitor centre where we enjoyed a light lunch..  After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal, who is still coughing a bit, retired to read the paper in the car while I walked down the avenue…..

avenue at caerlaverock…stopping off at the swan pond….

swan pondswan pond….and peering at fungus and lichen as I went along….

fungus and lichen

lichen….until I got to the tower at the end of the avenue….tower…and was able to watch the thousands of barnacle geese spread over the ponds and fields.  I only had Pocketcam with me so photographic opportunities were very limited….

geese…but the geese weren’t hard to spot with the naked eye.

lapwingsAnd I think that the picture above shows another flock of lapwings taking flight.  I was really sorry that I hadn’t brought my long lens with me.

There are many ponds on both sides of the avenue with little hides to lurk in.

caerlaverock pondsYou can see what an odd day it was with a blue reflection in the pond from the sky straight above but an absolutely grey day behind it.

caerlaverock pondsIt really was very hazy at eye level.

The marsh fields are grazed by long horned cattle….

caerlaverock cattle…but they were taking a break when I passed them.

I stopped at the swan pond again on my way back and found a little bird spotting scope there for the use of visitors.   As there was no one else there, I had a go to see if Pocketcam could manage a little digiscoping….


The swans would keep moving after I had just got them in focus but I was quite pleased with this result for a first go.

I must make an effort to come back on a clearer day with the long lens while the geese are still here.

We stopped off at Gretna on the way home, not to watch starlings as we were too early in the day, but to got to the shopping vlllage and buy some suitable slippers and loose trousers for a man with a new knee to wander about the house in.

We got home just in time to catch a little garden colour….

poppy, wallflower and daisy…before the light faded away entirely.  The wallflower in the centre of the triptych has no right to be flowering at all as it is two and a bit years old and should have given up the ghost long ago let alone not be flowering in November ever.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to a play performed by our local dramatic group and I went up to the Archive Centre with Sandy in a vain attempt to catch up with the mound of data produced by our eager data miners.  At least I will have plenty to do while I am waiting to get back on the bike again after the operation.

Talking of cycling, the nurse at the joint school said this morning that those of us who wanted to cycle with our new knees should keep a keen look out for potholes and take care not to fall off and wreck our expensive replacements.  As I had hit a pothole and fallen off earlier this year, I thought that this was a good moment to nod my head silently but sagaciously and try to look sensible.

There was not enough light at the garden feeders before we left or after we got home today so the flying bird of the day is the third from the right in this final picture from Caerlaverock.


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Today’s picture shows a lovely sunny day in Langholm this morning…


…so needless to say, we had made a plan to leave the town as soon as possible.  This meant an early visit to the producers’ market to stock up on fish, cheese and venison mince followed by a rendezvous with Sandy at Wauchope Cottage.  Our scheme was to visit an exhibition by the Dumfries Camera Club in Dumfries and then see what the day might have in store.  The scheme went well and the result was an absolute avalanche of photographs so those readers with busy schedules should make an excuse and leave now.

Everything about the day went well from the very start.  Fish, cheese and mince were readily available and the weather for our drive across to Dumfries was glorious.  The road as it approaches Dumfries offers one of the finest views in our area and either Sandy or I would have been happy to demonstrate this if there was anywhere to park beside the busy road to let us take a picture of it.  There isn’t so we can’t.

We arrived at the Gracefield Arts Gallery safely and enjoyed both the camera club exhibition and a cup of coffee there.  As far as the photos were concerned, for my taste there were too many that showed too much effort on the part of the photographer to create a striking effect and the results seemed rather cold and heartless.  I see the camera as an instrument of spontaneity which makes it essentially different from the necessary processes required to make a painting or other hand created work of art.  Nevertheless there were enough lively works to please and the coffee was excellent.  There was also a video presentation of entries in a nation wide wildlife competition and there were some brilliant pictures there which were more to my taste.

As we left the gallery, Sandy noticed this planting on a bank nearby…

host of daffs

…it may not look much now but if you look carefully, you will see that soon there will be a host of golden daffodils.  By chance, the second art gallery on the same site was showing an exhibition of tapestries so we enjoyed looking at some interesting work there.   Mrs Tootlepedal lingered longest inside and Sandy and I were able to enjoy these very ornate fascia boards on the front of the building while we waited.

ffascia boards at Gracefield

We left Dumfries and headed along the Nith estuary until we came to Glencaple where we paused on the old dock to enjoy the views of the river.

The Nith: looking upriver

The Nith: looking upriver

There is a surprisingly large boat parked at the dock.  I deliberately say parked rather than moored because it doesn’t look as though it is going anywhere soon.

Boat at Glencaple

I put on a couple of filters and tried to capture the sun shining brilliantly on the river downstream.

Nith downstream

We got back in the car and followed the river downstream until we arrived at the spot where it flows into the Solway Firth.  Here there is a little nature reserve which we had never visited before so we took this chance to explore it.

We were just admiring the view of the marsh when Sandy spotted an egret.  This is not a common sight round here.


The walk through the nature reserve was delightful.  The path wound through an old oak wood.

Castle wood

It combined the ancient wood with views of the shoreline.


The sun was warm and there was little or no wind so the walk through the woods was lovely.


These purple catkins caught Mrs Tootlepedal’s eye

And she also spotted these fine bracket fungi.


From time to time we emerged from the wood into more open spaces and it was easy to see the direction of the prevailing wind.

trees on Solway shore

After a while we decided that a visit to the neighbouring wildfowl and wetlands trust reserve at Caerlaverock might be worthwhile so we retraced our steps and set out to drive the few miles further along the road.  The fact that it has a little cafe was an additional inducement.  The reserve is currently home to 5000 over wintering barnacle geese from Svalbarden and as we drove along we kept an eye for any geese grazing in the fields.  We soon saw a few.

Geese grazing

We were just taking a few peaceful photos when, with a noise like a departing jet plane, a flock took off from a nearby field.

flying geese

They circled around in front of us…

flying geese

..before coming into land in another field.

flying geese

We got back in the car and after a shot while, turned down the road towards the reserve.  Soon another flock of birds caught our eye.


This time though it wasn’t geese but lapwings and although they settled in field too far away for a good look, we could make out their distinctive crests.


When we first came to Langholm, these birds were very common round about but changes in farming have meant that they are rarely seen now so it was good to get this sighting.  We went on into the reserve and enjoyed a welcome cup of tea and a bite to eat.  Then it was time to meet the birds.  It was not hard to see a few.

swan pond

They feed the birds at these ponds and you can just see the roof of the cages where they occasionally drive the birds for ringing.

From the start of our drive from Langholm, the hills of the Lake District had been showing very clearly and the bird observation tower also gave me a good look across the Solway to the English side.


We walked down to the viewing hut beside the pond and had a look at the the geese, swans and ducks there.





I think the swans may be from Iceland

This was bird watching in luxury.

As well as the swan pond, the reserve has a large selection of fields and ponds stretching down to the Solway shore.

ponds at caerlaverock

Mrs Tootlepedal was giving another outing to the new hat…

new hat

…and it enjoyed the walk down the lane through the fields to the most far flung viewing tower.  On the way we passed an English longhorn.


This is a recent arrival at the reserve

From the viewing tower we could see about 1000 barnacle geese grazing several of the surrounding fields.

barnacle geese

For reasons of their own, they all seem to point in the same direction and move slowly along in formation like some giant lawn mower at work.

barnacle geese

Every field had a flock.  There was even a deer among the geese.


Far to the west and actually standing in the waters of the Firth, we could dimly make a huge windmill array.

windmill array

Leaving the tower, we walked back towards the car but at the last moment decided that we might as well call in at the swan pond on the way. It was a worthwhile visit.


Some of the swans were camera shy

Evening was drawing on and many of the geese and swans flew off the pond in small groups to other haunts.  It made a great show.

geese and swans

swans flying

swans flying

swans flying

Tufted ducks….

tufted ducks

…and widgeons stayed where they were.


Finally, we tore ourselves away and just as were leaving the reserve, the geese from the outlying fields began flying in.

geese coming in

The sky was criss-crossed with skeins.

geese coming in

It was a great spectacle.

The drive home was made interesting by an absolutely superb sunset behind us and some very interesting small compact cigar shaped clouds in front of us.  We were shot out by this time and so you will have to take my word for these.  We arrived home seven hours after we left without having felt that we had wasted a single minute of a beautiful day.  We shall keep it in our minds to cheer ourselves up when the weather turns nasty on Monday.

A perfect day was rounded off with a double helping of that fine Danish political drama, Borgen.  Heaven.

I’m sorry to have posted such a photo heavy blog but as Mrs Tootlepedal says, we did see a lot of stuff today and at least you haven’t had to look at the other hundred photos that I have thrown away.  Sandy says that he took about 300 pictures today so I am sure that his blog will repay a visit.

The chaffinches have had to make way for a larger flying bird of the day today.

flying swan solo

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