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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s archives.  For some reason he came upon the picture from 2004 of certain young(ish) golfers enjoying a break in Majorca to get away from Langholm’s winter weather.  It snowed and I still have the umbrella that I had to buy while we were there.

majorca 2004

I don’t know what the morning was like because I made the mistake of lying down for a moment after breakfast and the next thing that I knew, it was lunch time.

Generally speaking the weather forecast had promised severe gales and rainstorms for Scotland and good weather for the north of England so for once, we were very pleased to considered English and we enjoyed a reasonably dry and warm day, though it was bit windy.

The light was very variable but I could see enough to recognise a great tit on the feeder…

great tit on feeder pole

…watch chaffinches fly in all directions…

chaffinches coming and going

…enjoy a blue tit visit….

blue tit on feeder pole

…and check out the differing styles of a greenfinch and a goldfinch.

greenfinch and goldfinch

The goldfinches gradually took over the feeder over lunch and had to compete among themselves for a place at the table.

goldfinch creeping up

As time went by there was a tiny glimpse of sunshine…

a snatch of sun on the plum tree

…and encouraged by this, I went for a walk in the afternoon.

There are still plenty of  rosebay willowherb seed heads about…

willowherb seeds

…and a lightening of the sky to the west behind this tree on the Becks track made me hopeful for a while…

becks tarck tree

…but things soon reverted to grey.

I had gone along the track in the hope that the forestry works in the Becks wood would have finished and I would be able to use the path down to the bridge across the burn.

When I got to the wood, everything was very neatly tidied up and the machines had disappeared.  I was able to walk through the felled wood upstream of the bridge and see the burn as it hasn’t been seen for many years…

 

becks burn bridge

…with new trees planted on all sides.

I could look down on the little cascade which I have photographed before…

becks burn cascade from above

…and because the trees have gone, there was enough light to let me take a reasonable picture from below the waterfall.

becks burn cascade

Luckily I had my wellies on so that I could stand on the middle of the burn to get the best angle.

I went back to the path and found that it was easy to cross the bridge, walk up the steps on the other side and look downstream towards the Wauchope valley.

 

 

Becks burn above cascade

I followed the road downhill, admiring the fine growth of catkins on every side.  It has been a good month for catkins.

catkins

There is no sign of autumn left now ….

auld stane brig

…but with only two weeks to go until the winter solstice, we are nearly on the way up towards the light again.

Another tree beside the road back to the town caught me eye…

springhill tree

…and as always, moss and lichen provided a bit of interest on a dull day.

moss and lichen

I didn’t have a great deal of time to sit around and think when I got home because it was soon time for an early tea and my second visit to Lockerbie in two days.  On this occasion, I picked up my fellow choir member Mike and we went over to sing in a Langholm Sings concert in the Episcopalian Church there.

It is a snug little church and it was very nearly full for our performance which was very gratifying.  The members of the audience were kind enough to say that they enjoyed the evening but no one could say that we were faultless and we are going to have another practice next week before we have a joint concert with the Parish Church choir in Langholm next Friday.  Practice makes perfect, we hope.

It was windy as we drove home but the threatened rain held off so the evening went as well as we could have expected.

The flying bird of the day, checking out a freshly filled feeder, is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from our friend Bruce’s Highland tour.  It shows McCaig’s Tower in Oban, a prominent granite folly overlooking the town.

oban folly

It was a rotten day here, rainy, cold and with gusty winds.  It was hard to see the birds at the feeder…

coal tit with seed

…but much easier to see Dropscone coming round with scones in his hand.  He is going to Glasgow for a week’s holiday at the weekend so I was glad that he was able to fit a little coffee drinking in before he went.  We were drinking some of the ‘awful lot of coffee’ from Brazil today  and it went well with the scones.

Dropscone left but the rain kept coming….

chaffinches

…and I stayed indoors and made some sweet potato soup for lunch and did the crossword.

The rain eased off a little after lunch so I put on my wellies and a big woolly hat, picked up my golfing brolly and went for a damp walk over three bridges.

There was very little to see but against the general greyness, a gull stood out…

sitting gull

…and a bare tree too.

bare tree

Although it was only a degree or two warmer than yesterday and it was drizzling, somehow walking was more pleasant so I extended my planned walk and went along the road to the pheasant hatchery…

pheasant hatchery road

…before walking back along the riverside path, looking across the field to the misty slopes of Castle Hill.

misty trees castleholm

One advantage of winter is that bridges are more visible once the leaves are off the trees.

Duchess Bridge

I was quite ready for a warming cup of tea and a slice of toast when I got home.

Since outdoor activity was off the menu now, I made use of my time by putting a parish magazine from 1967 onto the Archive website.  Sandy is scanning and formatting these and I add them to our collection.  (Those with time to kill can wander through them here.)

Then I put a week of the newspaper index into the database.  It was not an entirely wasted day.

Mrs Tootlepedal made a nourishing pasta dish for our tea and then I went to the final rehearsal of Langholm Sings before our concert in Lockerbie on Friday.  We sang through the whole programme which was reassuring but it might be a slight exaggeration to say that we were note perfect.  Fingers crossed for the concert.

Flying birds of the day were very hard to come by in the rain and gloom so this goldfinch was the best that I could manage.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia’s recent trip to America.  As well as wild life in Wyoming, she saw still life in Thousand Oaks.

Thousand Oaks

We had a second fine sunny day today, frosty at dawn but warm enough for the rest of the day to make being outside a pleasure.

So it was a pity that it coincided with the one day of the week where thanks to choirs, we spend a lot of time indoors but these things  can’t be helped so we enjoyed the singing and we enjoyed the sun.

After the church choir, Mrs Tootlepedal made a chicken stew in the slow cooker and then found some time for gardening while I sneaked out for a dozen miles on the slow bike just to keep the miles ticking over while the sun shone.

I stopped for a view at the Bigholms…

view at Bigholms

…and as well as admiring the fine tree in the view…

tree at Bigholms

…I took a picture to show how thin the soil is under our scenery.

peat at Bigholms

The dark layer is peat.

While I was stopped for the view, I looked at a concrete fence post beside the road as I don’t like to waste a stop if I can help it.

lichen at Bigholms

I had a look round the garden when I got in and noted that a little bunch of the miniature Tete a Tete daffodils has come out…

jetfire daffodil

…though we are still waiting for the main daffodils to do their thing.

The crocuses were enjoying the sun…

crocuses

…but there was nothing new to see so I went inside, had a shower and set up the camera at the kitchen window.

The feeder had been unoccupied while Mrs Tootlepedal worked nearby but when she came in, visitors arrived.

chaffinches

They were mostly chaffinches, flying in….

flying chaffinch

…from the plum tree and…

_DSC2560

…sometimes getting into arguments with each other.

flying chaffinch

Sometimes a goldfinch stood in their way…

flying chaffinch

…and sometimes a greenfinch…

flying chaffinch and greenfinch

..but it was good to see the feeder busy.

I didn’t catch a flying greenfinch but I did notice one of the few goldfinches arriving.

flying goldfinch

I didn’t have long to enjoy the birds though as the moment to leave for Carlisle and our choir came all too soon.

We had our substitute conductor again this week as our musical director was busy with one of his many other duties and she gave us a thorough workout.  It was made all the harder from my point of view as my voice, which had been a bit husky in church, took a turn for the worse and I croaked my way inelegantly through the practice.

By the time that we had got home, I was even croakier and wondered whether I had picked up some unhelpful ailment but a couple of paracetamols and a plate of Mrs Tootlepedal’s excellent chicken stew improved things a lot.  I am hoping that all will be well in the morning.

I was even more perked up when I discovered that I had got a worthy contender for the position of flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Sheffield correspondent Edward.    He has acquired a second bird for his backyard.

CrazyCraneAndCompanion

We woke to a light snow shower and I took the hint and retired back to bed for a snooze and a crossword after breakfast, while alternating snow and rain showers appeared beyond the windows.  I felt very snug.

I got up after coffee time and was happy to find a very large bird attendance at the feeders.  I took my camera upstairs to get a different view of our visitors.

robin

There were a great many siskins and goldfinches in the garden today, perhaps as many as forty at times.

busy feeder from upstairs

Looking down on the feeder gave me a chance to catch some action shots but the background isn’t as satisfactory as shooting from eye level.

busy feeder from upstairs

 

In the end, I went back downstairs and took up my normal station while I made some lentil soup for my lunch.

There was some siskin bad behaviour to record.

siskin attack

I admired the rather restrained response of the female siskin to being booted in the back by an aggressive male but in this day and age, she should have probably been a bit more outspoken about the outrage.

A male siskin certainly didn’t hold back when a chaffinch tried to sneak round the pole unobserved.

chaffinch and siskin

The victor on his perch.

siskin

After eating my soup, I rang up Sandy to see if he would like a walk as it looked as though the showers might hold off for a bit.

He was not in peak condition but thought that a walk might perk him up so we met at the corner of the Scholars’ Field and walked round the pheasant hatchery.

It was dry but evidence of the earlier snow was not hard to find.

monument in snow

I was keeping an eye out for moss and the wall at the Scholars’ Field held a good store, flowing over the coping stone on top of the wall and creeping downwards.

moss

I am reading a moss book which tells me that where you think that there might be just one sort of moss, there is probably at least one other sort as well.  That was true here.

P1060921

We walked up the river to the Duchess Bridge and passed this mossy tree, set at an alarming angle on the banking….

mossy tree

… so it was not a total surprise when we found that the slope and the wet and the recent windy weather had been too much for another tree perched on an equally steep bank further up river.

fallen tree

The going was slippery and wet underfoot so we had to pay attention to where we were putting our feet and as a result, pictures were few and far between.

When we came out of the shelter of the trees…..

snow Timpen

….a very eager and nipping wind made us grateful that we had chosen a well protected route.

We went up to Holmhead to see how the snowdrops were getting on, not really expecting to find any showing and were delighted to be proved wrong.

snowdrops Holmhead

They are not fully out yet but I would say that this is a week earlier than we would usually expect to see this much growth and that is in spite of a chilly and gloomy winter.

P1060935

I will come back in a week or two on a sunny day to see if I can do them justice.

I was still looking for mosses as we walked down the Lodge Walks and I enjoyed this two coloured display on a tree stump beside the road.

moss

I took a close up of the darker green variety and added a small clump of a different moss which was on the back of the stump.

moss

There was very little bird life along the river banks as we walked back to the town and what there was seemed to be as fed up with the cold wind as we were.

mallards

This is the correct practice for birds when the north wind doth blow.

We were just about to cross the suspension bridge by the church….

Suspension bridge and parish church

…when we had to stop and let an old man cross in the opposite direction.  It was Dropscone.  He had been checking on the progress of his wounded car and had taken the opportunity to extend his walk and drop a map of Malta off at Wauchope Cottage.

Sandy didn’t stop for a cup of tea but headed home, anxious to discover whether the walk had aided his state of health or not.  Time will tell.

I have put extra bird food out but it doesn’t seem to be pulling in visitors and this chaffinch, late on the day, was the only one I saw…

chaffinch

…and I think that it was only resting and not eating.

I felt better for the little bit of exercise.  I had lit a fire in the front room before I went out and I was very pleased to find it had heated up the room a lot so I spent a very relaxing couple of hours reading the newspapers and listening to Oscar Peterson tinkling away on the piano with his trio.

I am hoping that some time in a hot environment might help to clear my lungs a bit but once again, only time will tell.

Although it is cloudy now, looking at the weather forecast suggests that I might be able to get a look at the moon later tonight.  I live in hope though the chance of seeing it low in the sky will have gone.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch seen from above approaching the feeder.

goldfinches

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my next door neighbour Irving who is spending the festive season visiting his son and family in Florida.  The picture shows some of the  20 to 30 ibis they see outside the house every day.

photo(1)

We had another sunny day here today but the temperature was at zero when we got up and not much higher at any time during the day.

pigeon

A pigeon looking as though it wasn’t enjoying walking on our frozen lawn.

Luckily there were no ice covered pavements or treacherous patches on paths so it was a good day to get some of the very fresh air that was available.

In the morning, Alistair and Clare went off to sample the delights of shopping at Gretna leaving Matilda to look after us.  We attempted to go for a walk with her but it turned out that her father had gone off with her pink gloves in his pocket and no amount of differently coloured substitutes would do so the walk was abandoned on account of cold fingers and we waited for the gloves to come back from Gretna.

The sun had got round to the bird feeders by this time so I had a quick look out of the kitchen window….

chaffinch and goldfinches

…where there was a lot of activity.

I caught a couple of peaceful moments too.

siskin

 

greenfinch

Mrs Tootlepedal made some green lentil soup and we enjoyed it with a light lunch of cold cuts when the shoppers returned.

Then, since the gloves had arrived, we set off for a walk to feed the ducks.

We took the sunny side of the street which gave the photographer quite a big problem, when trying to get a picture of the group without his shadow appearing in the shot.

I tried this side….

Matilda, Al and Clare

…and that side but the shadow was always in the way.

In the end, I lurked behind Mrs Tootlepedal and took this shot…

Matilda, Al and Clare

…which was the best that I could do.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, except those left by people impatient to be somewhere else…

jet plane

…but since it was one of the days when the vapour trails disappeared almost as soon as they were formed, we could ignore them.

In the sun, it was very pleasant (as long as you had the right gloves on)…

Meeting of the waters

…and Matilda had a lot of fun playing on the equipment on the Kilngreen…

play park with matilda

That dratted shadow appeared again!

play park with matilda

…while I looked at passing black headed gulls….

black headed gulls

…which had been attracted by another party of bird feeders.

black headed gulls

Then Matilda came to feed the ducks…

duck

…who responded with gratitude to some good seed and pink pellets.

_DSC0436

Light is a funny thing, as they say considering that the heads of the ducks on the left and right in the panel above are the same colour when they face in the same direction but totally different when they look in opposite directions.

While Matilda fed the ducks, I looked at passing gulls again.

_DSC0439

_DSC0448

We continued out walk across the Sawmill Brig and onto the Castleholm where those with the taste for such things, had a happy time smashing the ice in the puddles while I looked for trees.

castleholm tree

When we reluctantly left the icy puddles, we walked mostly into the shade and the difference in temperature was quite marked…

icicle

…so we didn’t dilly dally again as we headed for home, pausing only to admire the moon which was floating above the monument.

_DSC0451

Matilda needed a little assistance from her father on the final stages of the journey home and I wondered, looking at her hands….

P1060252

…whether her parents are feeding her enough.  (The pink gloves are underneath the other ones)

After a quiet moment for relaxation and refreshment when we got home, the rest of the afternoon was spent having unremitting fun including snap, Pelmanism, dancing, playing ‘duck, duck, goose’ and putting on mermaid entertainments (impresario:  Madam Matilda).

It was lucky that Mrs Tootlepedal had spent the time preparing us a feast of parsnip and potato gnocchi and sweet potato and spinach saag aloo as we badly needed the fuel.

All in all, it was voted a very successful day and we should all sleep well tonight.

In spite of the gulls, I have gone for a garden chaffinch as flying bird of the day, mainly because I really like the sceptical air with which the flier is being viewed by the perching bird.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo in Manitoba who has sent me a small quilt made by her friend Lucie which shows a delightful seasonal robin.

quilt

Every day at the moment seems to be in competition with the day before to see which can be the more unpleasant and gloomy.  Today won hands down, as it was  even greyer than usual with brisk winds and lots of drizzle and rain.

It was lucky that there was plenty to do indoors with singing in the church choir after breakfast followed by entertaining and being entertained by Matilda for most of the rest of the day.

I put on my waterproof trousers, boots, jacket and hat and braved the rain for  a short walk after lunch just to stretch my legs.  It wasn’t a day for taking pictures…

Timpen in mist

…so I managed a gate on the Lodge Walks…

gate Lodge walks

…the new view at the top of the pheasant hatchery where a wood has been cleared….

view pheasant hatchery

…and one of the trees that the fellers have left behind…

tree pheasant hatchery

…but I was mostly glad to get home without getting absolutely soaked.

When I got in, I was the audience for an extensive dancing display by Matilda.  She goes to dancing classes and has a very good line in expressive interpretation of a tune.  I even did a little granddad dancing myself.

There was no opportunity to hang about in front of the kitchen window so there are no birds today and I don’t really enjoy taking pictures of people as it seems a bit intrusive so there are no pictures of people either.

However, we have left out a mince pie for Santa and a carrot for his reindeer so we are hoping for a good day tomorrow.

I am off to sing in the midnight carol service at the church so I will take this opportunity to wish all the blog readers a happy Christmas and seasonal good times and thank those who have sent Mrs Tootlepedal and me their good wishes.

 

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Today’s guest picture was taken by our daughter Annie as she stopped off in Hong Kong on her way back from Macao.

Hong Kong

We should have been in celebratory mood today as it is the winter solstice and the start of a new year but Mrs Tootlepedal’s cold had got a bit worse and she wisely retired to bed for the day so we were rather muted,

It was a still, grey day and I might have gone for a pedal if I had felt more perky but the humidity was very high (98% as I write this) so my asthma was niggling a little and I didn’t want to desert the invalid for too long and to be quite honest, the weather has been so miserable for most of the year that some of the joy has gone out of cycling lately and I am having a hard time trying to get motivated.

I stared out of the kitchen window for a while where a robin was keeping an eye out for competition.

robin

A chaffinch came in search of a perch and flew off disappointed.

Flying chaffinches

A dunnock did some gleaning.

dunnock

And having chased a rival off, the robin went back to supervising its territory.

robin

I didn’t want to spend the whole morning stuck inside so I went for a short walk, picking up Sandy on my way.

I had heard that the wood at the Becks Burn was due to be felled so we went along to get some pictures of the wood before felling.

We were too late.  Signs were up forbidding access and in the wood, machines were already eating the trees.

Becks wood

We turned back and took a shorter route home, going down the edge of the wood and following the Becks Burn….

Beck burn

…until we got to the road….

Becks burn bridge

…and headed for home.

We had seen a few things on our way.

jacob sheep

And an indication of how wet the air has been was given by the hawthorn trees.

hawthorn

You might well think that it has been raining but it has been dry.

P1060180

A good tree is always cheering.

tree

I really liked this striking lichen on the roadside wall.

lichen

The beech hedges retain their leaves and give a bit of colour even on the darkest day of the year.

beech hedge in winter

The predominate view of the day was misty patches.  They were to be seen wherever you looked.

misty view

misty view

Becks mist

P1060170

We rounded off the walk with a view of a heron standing on the caul at Pool Corner.

heron pool corner

It was looking a bit too well turned out to be Mr Grumpy, we thought but it wasn’t bothered by us and just stood there thinking about fish.  We secretly hoped that it would fly gently off, giving us a good photo opportunity but it stubbornly stayed there until we gave up first and walked on.

When I got home, I had a last look out of the window…

shouting chaffinch

…and was very impressed by the sheer power of this chaffinch’s shout.

I made Mrs Tootlepedal a light lunch and went off to sing carols with some members of Langholm Sings at the Day Centre for the benefit of the ‘old folk’ who had just had their Christmas lunch.  They seemed quite pleased to see us.

And that was that for the day.  I acted as occasional support for Mrs Tootlepedal who was still some way below par, put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database, surfed the internet and practised a song or two.

Roll on springtime.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

 

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