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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  The parakeets in Hyde Park are so tame that this one came to her friend Garth’s hand without even being offered food.

parakeet and garth

In spite of being in a spell of high pressure which usually brings sunny weather, we have been getting a lot of cloud.  This has been trapped near the ground and is reluctant to disperse.  As a result we didn’t have any views to enjoy when we caught the train back north after our visit to Evie and other relatives.

What we did have was a punctual train.  We were beginning to think that we might have become railway train Jonahs, bringing lateness and delay in our wake whenever we boarded a train but today’s journey put paid to that idea.   As the train wasn’t even very full, we had a most comfortable trip and caught the bus from Carlisle to Langholm with time to spare.

Although we have had a delightful time in the south, we were still very pleased to get back home…

welcome home

…even if it was even greyer in Langholm than it had been on the way up.

A few snowdrops in the garden promised a brighter future.

snowdrops Jan 23

After a revivifying cup of tea, I took my legs out for a little stretch.  It was reasonably warm at 8°C and there wasn’t much wind so it wasn’t a hardship to be out but there wasn’t a lot of light left in the day.

I walked round Pool Corner…

pool corner grey evening

…along towards the Auld Stane Brig…

tree at churchyard

…where I checked on the fencepost lichen garden…

lichen fence post

…and then returned by the track towards the town.

gaskell's walk

Meikleholm Hill was entirely encased in cloud…

no view of Meikleholm Hill

…but on the other side of the valley there was a slight lift so that I could see the mast on Warbla for a while,

warbla in mist

The was no chance of seeing the monument on Whita though.

stubholm in low lcoud

We had lightly boiled eggs for our tea and will go to bed early in an effort to be fit to face local life again tomorrow after the excitements of the great metropolis.

I shall take this opportunity to thank  my sisters Susan and Mary for accommodating Mrs Tootlepedal and me during our stay, and Mrs Tootlepedal’s brother and sister in law for our welcome to Marlow.  We saw nine relatives (plus two alternative grandparents) in two days which is a very reasonable return of relatives per hour spent.

I have filled the bird feeder up to the top and hope for a visit from some garden birds tomorrow but in the meantime, the only flying bird action that I saw today was a noisy parliament of rooks having a break in their discussion while I was on my walk.

flying rooks

Note: I don’t know what happened to the posts from my phone while I was away.  They didn’t have any allowance for comments for some reason.  The ways of WordPress are often mysterious and as far as I know, it wasn’t anything that I had done.  I am hoping that comments will be enabled on this post now I am back at my computer.

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s visit to The Newt.  They have made good use of an old tree trunk there, though I don’t think that anyone has cycled far on the bike in the picture.

the newt bike rack

Owing to being a bit dozy when I wrote last night’s post, I didn’t notice that my camera had recorded some garden pictures on its second card, so just to show that there is a bit of life in the garden even in January, here are the pictures that I took before going to Edinburgh yesterday.

garden yesterday

There may have been no birds at the feeder, but once again there were pairs of jackdaws in the walnut tree….

jackdaws in walnut

…whereas today saw the return of a small flock of goldfinches.

goldfinches in walnut

There was not much feeder activity though, partly because there was a good deal of coming and going from the house and partly because of the arrival of the sparrowhawk.

It sat in the plum tree for a moment before flying off empty handed.

sparrowhawk in plum tree

I had spotted the hawk through the kitchen window while I was sipping coffee with Dropscone, one of those responsible for the coming and going.

He arrived bringing not the traditional Friday treacle scones but a large pile of drop scones instead.  We managed to survive the shock.  He had had some eggs which needed using up, he told me.  I would have taken a picture of the large pile of scones but before I could get my camera out, some person or persons unknown had eaten them all.

Dropscone reported that the crows were still stealing golf balls on the golf course..

When he left, I tried to catch a bird at the feeder, but even when one or two did appear, they were so nervous that they flew off as soon as I approached the window.

It was a relatively calm day with a hint of blue sky and when Mrs Tootlepedal returned from the shops with some bananas, I took two of them, put them in my back pocket with some guava jelly cubes and went out for a cycle ride.

I wasn’t feeling particularly bright when I set off but the great Dr Velo soon put me to rights and I decided on a slightly more adventurous route than usual, heading onwards due west when I had got  over Callister, adding a bit more climbing than customary to my journey.

This is the view as I set out into the wide blue yonder on the far side of Callister.

tree at Falford

I stopped after ten miles and ate half a banana and a small cube of guava jelly and reflected on the subsidy regime which led to the planting of many small clumps of commercial conifers in the middle of pastureland.

view at Grange

My ride today was a story of rivers and streams, large and small.  Once I had climbed out of Wauchopedale by going over Callister, I dropped down into the valley of the Water of Milk…

Water of Milk

…home to two wind farms.  This is the Ewe Hill farm….

Ewe hill wind farm

…and some rolling countryside.

water of mile curves

I love the way the river curves along the valley floor but I am slightly less enamoured by the way that the road goes up and down as it winds along the hillside above.

I reached the top of the last little hill and stopped to note the pretty little church at Tundergarth.

Tundergarth church

I was following the hilly road to Lockerbie, home of the most unreliable station in Scotland, but I didn’t go as far as the town but turned off three miles earlier and followed the Water of Milk down this quiet back road.

road to castlemilk

I liked this back lit tree on the way.

tree near old A74

I was getting near to the major road and rail routes between Carlisle and Glasgow by this time.

This is the railway going over the Water of Milk on a modest viaduct…

railway viaduct water of milk

and this is my back road going under the motorway.

motorway bridge old A74

I followed the old main road to the south as it runs alongside the motorway and railway and saw the railway crossing another viaduct, this time over the Mein Water, which like the Water of Milk, joins the River Annan a few miles to the west.

railway viaduct near eaglesfiled

After a run down the old road, I came to Kirkpatrick Fleming and took the the road back towards Langholm.  It is a gently undulating road and I crossed the Logan Burn, the Cadgill Burn, the River Sark and the Glenzier Burn before dropping into Eskdale and following the course of the Esk for the last five miles north to Langholm

I couldn’t stop to take many more pictures on this section as I was running short of time to get home before it became too dark to cycle safely without lights, but I did have a pause with ten miles to go for a last half banana at Half Morton church.  There is a Korean Pine in the churchyard there.  The cones do not fall off the tree and the seeds are spread by birds or animals which feed on them.  This crop had been well eaten but there were still some cones relatively untouched.

korean pine in winter

I was helped by the wind to get home and the road was much less hilly than the first half of my trip.  This was reflected by the fact that the twenty miles out, over the hills and into the wind, took me 1 hour 47 minutes and the second twenty miles back only needed 1 hour 26 minutes.  That’s what I call a well chosen route.

The house was empty when I got home because Mrs Tootlepedal was at the Buccleuch Centre enjoying a tip top tip toe experience at a screening of the Sleeping Beauty by the Royal Ballet.  With the accompanying chat and two long intervals, this screening took her longer to sit through than it had taken me to cycle 40 miles.  We both considered that our time was well spent.

As I was splattered with grit from a passing gritting lorry as I cycled up the A7 back into Langholm, I expect that it will be a frosty morning tomorrow, so it will be touch and go whether I get another cycle ride or have to go for a walk instead.

I completely failed again and two collared doves looking down at the feeder from the electricity wires are acting as flying birds of the day today.

two collared doves

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Today’s guest picture comes from a recent visit to Liverpool by my brother Andrew.  He found it in a colourful mood.

liverpool

After some very grey days, we had a much more colourful day here today.  The sun shone and the wind dropped and it looked liked a good day to go outside.

As usual, I found a number of things to do indoors before getting organised, and of course, the birds needed watching.

I hadn’t had to fill the feeder for a couple of days, and although it was getting near the bottom today, it was still of interest to the chaffinches.

chaffinch panel

Seeing these two pecking at the last of the seed made me go out and change the feeders over.

two chaffinch little seed

The new feeder, well filled, proved attractive to chaffinches too.

chaffinches at full feeder

I finally ran out of excuses and got my bike out and set off up the Wauchope road.  I passed a man with a tractor with a flail attached, and found out that he had been doing quite a lot of violence to anything that he could reach beside the road.  It was lucky that he was on one side of the road and I was on the other as I might have had some difficulty getting past the debris that he left behind.

flailings on road

I decided to turn off at the first opportunity and I was soon heading uphill, away from the carnage and with my favourite view behind me.

Blocxh view january

Although the 40 mph winds of yesterday had subsided, there was still a brisk breeze left behind and I had to battle my way down the hill to Gretna Green where I was happy to take a rest and look at the clasped hands sculpture at the Old Blacksmith’s Shop tourist centre.

gretna handshake

There wasn’t a tourist to be seen today as I took a picture of the art work.  I can see what it is supposed to symbolise and newly married couples often have their picture taken under its arch, but it always looks rather creepy to me as though someone has been buried under ground and is praying to be let out.

But there are some very decorative berries in the hedge at the entrance.

gretna berries

Ignoring the cross winds, I pedalled down the new road beside the motorway into England and when I reached the outskirts of Carlisle, I turned and headed back towards Greta, going through Rockliffe.

The wind was still across but now it was marginally behind me so I made good progress.

This tree in a field at Rockcliffe looks as though it has had some battles with strong winds itself.

rockliffe tree

The wind was certainly ruffling the waters of the Esk as it flowed under the railway bridge before it meets the Solway.

troubled esk at metal bridge

Once I had reached Gretna, the way home was plain sailing as I cycled up the main roads to Canonbie with the very helpful wind pushing me along.

I turned off onto the old main road to Canonbie which has triple delights, like these three trees at Grainstonehead…

three trees grainstonehead

…and the three shaggy cows in the field, two of whom were more interested in eating than having their picture taken…

two cows at canonbie

..but one was in a more accommodating mood.

one cow at canonbie

I took one last stop for a drink and snack before getting back to Langholm and noticed some healthy peltigera lichen on the wall against which I had propped my bike.

peltigera lichen irvine house

I saw that I had done 43 miles by the time that I got back to the town and was pedalling on up the main road, thinking happily that 50 was a nice round number when we had a vote and my legs voted for stopping.  I am a democrat so I turned back and ended up with a satisfactory 45 miles for the outing.

Mrs Tootlepedal had also made good use of the better weather by going for a good walk and getting some light gardening done while I was out.  She was very cheered by seeing an actual bud forming on a daffodil in the garden.  There may be light at the end of the tunnel.

Still, we needed to replace a little of the energy expended and very fortunately she had bought some cream which, when whipped up, went perfectly with meringues.

A goldfinch arrived at the new feeder.

goldfinch at full feeder

I had a shower and then went out to investigate a claim from a blog reader that there is a small murmuration of starlings in Langholm.  The claim turned out to be quite true.

starlings over esk

By some murmuration standards, it is a small flock but it still had about a couple of hundred birds in it at its busiest.

starlings over esk 2

The starlings circled round above the Esk at the Town Bridge and from time to time, other things caught me eye.

Ducks and gulls took to the air, Mr Grumpy supervised more ducks on the river and the moon shone in the background.

duck, gull, heron and moon

In order to capture the moon, I had to make the sky dark but as you can see in the picture below, it wasn’t really as dark as that.

After they had finished murmuring, the starlings fell out of the sky in dramatic fashion and disappeared into a remarkably small bush in front of Greenbank.

starlings landing

I got home in perfect time to have a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal.  Our friend Mike dropped in for a cup and helped us out by eating one of the remaining meringues.

There is talk of snow on the hills tomorrow morning but I will only believe that when I see it.

The flying bird of the day is one of the chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest post comes from Venetia who recently went on a music making spree where among other activities, she sang while someone played a sackbut.  What is a sackbut?  This is a piece of a sackbut:

sackbut

The forecast was right and we had a sunny day here.  As is often the case, with winter sun comes winter chill and it was a meagre three degrees when Dropscone arrived for coffee, wishing that he had remembered to put on his gloves before cycling across the town.

His treacle scones were as good as ever, unaffected by the advancing of the years.  He had played golf on Boxing Day on an outing with a small gang of fellow golfers and as he had come equal first, he had enjoyed the outing immensely.  He had then driven to London and back to see his oldest son and I was quite exhausted listening to his adventures.

Luckily, scones and coffee revived me enough to watch the birds for a while when he had gone.  In spite of the sunshine, it was too early for bird watching and the feeder was still in deep shade.

goldfinch in shade

There was plenty of sun on the top of the walnut tree though.

sunny bird on walnut

On the feeder, a goldfinch took a sceptical view of another bird’s boast of flying twenty miles before breakfast…

quizzical goldfinch

…while a chaffinch pulled off a nifty one footed landing.

chaffinch one foot landing

Just to make sure that I took advantage of the sunshine, I had got dressed into my cycling gear and drank my coffee with Dropscone in full cycling garb.

I didn’t wait for the sun to arrive at the bird feeder but got out my bike and pedalled off into the wide blue yonder…

…where there were twisted trees…

tree at wauchope SH

…and a flock of fieldfares in a field…

fieldfare bigholms

…and gorse beside the road.

gorse at gair

My progress was slowed both by the chill in the air (3.7°C) when I set out and by a brisk south westerly wind making me work hard.  Still, if I am working hard because of the wind, so are our turbines and I was happy to take the rough with the smooth.

windfarm

The strong wind meant that I had to concentrate on the pedalling if I was to get any miles in so I didn’t stop to take many pictures today.

However, we had noticed the Station Inn at Kirkpatrick Fleming when we passed on our way to Lockerbie yesterday and as well as a smart new sign…

station at KPF

…it has a locomotive too, ironically sited in the car park.

train at station at KPF

The sign on the tender says that it is a replica of Stephenson’s Rocket, the winner of the Rainhill Trials.  The notice also said that I was welcome to stand on the footplate for photographic purposes at my own risk.   I played safe and stood on the ground.

train at station at KPF 2

Needless to say, thanks to the march of progress, there may be a Station Inn at Kirkpatrick Fleming but the railway station was closed in 1960.

There have been many exhortations and promises since the last election on the subject  of ‘bringing the country together’ and I thought that I would add my contribution to the subject with this picture.   It shows that it will be hard to bring the countries of the union much closer together as hardly any distance currently separates Scotland on the left of the stream from England on the right.

england and scotland

Maybe Boris will build a bridge.

When I think of it, there is already a bridge and I crossed it a mile or so further on.

These Scottish trees caught my eye while I had stopped to take the border picture…

tree on springfield road

…and these English trees neatly spaced along a hedgerow made me stop again.

tree on Milltown road

I didn’t stop too long though as a glance behind me showed some threatening looking clouds looming up over Gretna…

clouds over gretna

…so I made encouraging noises to my legs and pushed on.

In spite of my encouragement and the faintest hint of some drizzle, my legs demanded a rest before the final little hills into Langholm and I stopped for one last tree at Irvine House.

tree at irvine house

The thought of a cup of tea gave me enough strength to add a couple of miles onto my journey when I got back to Langholm and I reached the nice round number of 40 miles (at a very moderate pace) for my trip.

By the time that the dream of a cup of tea had become reality, the light was fading fast.  I was looking out of the window and listening to my friend Alison on the phone as she told me that she and Mike were too bothered with colds to be able to make their traditional Friday evening visit when I realised that an odd looking bird on the lawn with its back to me was in fact a sparrowhawk waiting to fly off with its prey.  It had flown off long before I could put the phone down and pick up a camera.   Alison remarked that the sparrowhawk doesn’t seem to visit their garden which is only 100 yards away from ours.

Following a hint from a blog reader, we watched the first episode of a new version of Worzel Gummidge on catch up telly in the evening.  It was very charming and we enjoyed it (though it did suffer from a distinct lack of Una Stubbs in the cast list).

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, caught indistinctly in the morning shadows.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He recently found himself on top of Bosley Cloud, a 1125ft eminence on the Staffordshire- Cheshire border with, according to to the Visit Cheshire website, stunning views over the surrounding countryside.  It lived up to its name when my brother was there though, and there was a marked absence of views, stunning or otherwise.

Bosley Cloud

We had plenty of clouds here today as well.  In fact it was so gloomy that when I threw open the curtains to welcome the day, the room actually got darker.

Still, we sang some cheerful Christmas carols when we got to church.  Our new minister takes the view that Christmas is too good to be wasted on just one Sunday in the year.   I agree.  We returned home for coffee and a mince pie and as I added a modicum of brandy butter to mine, all was well with the world in spite of the dark clouds.

After lunch, we considered our options.  It was dry and warm (7°C) so I considered a bike ride but checking on the wind, I found that gusts of up to 30 mph were expected. Mrs Tootlepedal fancied some exercise so she and I went off for another walk instead.

After yesterday’s tramp up hill and over rough terrain, Mrs Tootlepedal called for a flatter route on dry roads today so we drove down to the Hollows Bridge and walked the three mile Canonbie circle along to the village by the top road and back by the old main road beside the river.

Mrs Tootlepedal stopped to read an historical information board by the Hollows bridge and I checked to see if there were still stone statues in the wood there.

hollows sculptures

We crossed the bridge and stopped to talk to the owner of the Archimedes screw who was just setting off for a family walk and then we took the top road to Canonbie.

I was very impressed by the neat appearance of a hedge in a field beside the road.

hollows hedge

Purists may think that it is a bit too sparse to be effective as a hedge but as it has a wire fence right behind it, that doesn’t matter too much.

As is often the case, the weather had got much better once we had got south of Langholm and out of the hills.  Looking back as we went up the top road, we could see the impressive gloom over the town behind us.

looking back to langholm

Even without the dark clouds overhead, it wasn’t sunny and as we walked along a stretch of road between a conifer wood and a tall beech hedge, the camera was unimpressed by the amount of light available.

hollws road hedge

It was able to pick up a crop of catkins though, a reminder that we are on our way towards spring now.

catkins

We passed a lot of good trees along our route but this one was my choice for tree of the day.

hollws road tree

The road to the village took us along the top of a steep escarpment above the river and I could look down on Canonbie church, which almost seemed to be catching a hint of sunshine.

Canonbie Church

Mrs Tootlepedal called my attention to a dunnock.  As a dunnock is also called a hedge sparrow, it was good to see one living up to its name by posing on a hedge for me.

dunnokc on hedge Canonbie

(It turns out that a dunnock is not a sparrow at all but an accentor.)

Although we weren’t in sunshine, there was blue sky above our heads, we were sheltered from any wind and we had left the black Langholm cloud behind us so walking was very comfortable.

cloud front

We passed a fir tree in a garden before we got to the village.  It was covered in smallish upright cones and looked very like a Korean pine but with brown not blue cones.

pine tree canonbie

As we walked down the path to the village, Mrs Tootlepedal noticed this bracket fungus on the fence rail.  It is unusual to see them on treated wood like this.

bracket fungus on fence canonbie

Canonbie’s Public Hall has a fine clock which celebrates the centenary of the hall in 2012.

canonbie hall clock

We crossed the river Esk by the newly resurfaced Canonbie bridge and walked along the old main road back to the Hollows Bridge.  There was a moment when the sun actually shone on us and we could see our chadows…

shadows on old A7

…but it didn’t last and the sun was so low anyway that the trees on the far bank of the river were looking very sombre.

trees on Esk escarpment Canonbie

It wasn’t a day for sitting at the fine new bench at the lay-by and having a picnic.

Canonbie bench

Rather worryingly, the back cloud over Langholm seemed to be slipping south and was getting nearer and nearer to us.

cloud front canonbie

This lent a bit of urgency to the last half mile of our journey but I still had time to admire a monkey puzzle tree in a garden at Byreburnfoot.

I liked the way that its bottom branches pointed down, its top branches pointed up and the ones in the middle were absolutely pointing neither up nor down.

monkey puzzle byreburn

I was considering the habits of walls on our walk last Saturday and this wall at the Byreburnfoot Bridge was another example of the curious behaviour of nature. The wall is more or less totally black until it gets to the bridge itself when it suddenly becomes covered with pale lichen.

byreburn bridge with Mrs t

It’s another mystery.

It didn’t rain and we got back to the car after three miles of gentle exercise.  The weather looked very black as we drove back to Langholm but even there, it wasn’t raining.  The Met Office says that the humidity today has been around 95% so I have no idea why it hasn’t rained.  I am not complaining though.

It was too dark to get a satisfactory flying bird today so the best that I can do is to show one of our resident garden dunnocks standing in for the absent fliers.

dunnock in garden

 

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Today’s guest picture is another of Gunta’s fine bridges.  This one is at Newport.

newport bridge

It was another gloomy morning here with occasional rain.  Even the chaffinch on the feeder seemed to be a bit hunched against the weather.

feeder in the rian

The rain stopped but it didn’t make this blackbird feel any happier about things.

proud blackbird

At one moment, I looked out of the window and thought that the rain had caught fire…

sparkle in the garden

…but it turned out to be the reflection of the Christmas tree, newly decorated by Mrs Tootlepedal.

IMG_20191224_130405

The morning was full of preparations for a seasonal visit from our granddaughter Matilda and her parents, but I had some time over lunch to look at the birds.

In spite of the fact that the sparrowhawk had passed through the garden earlier in the day, the birds were back in force and the goldfinches were doing a lot of lurking.

four lurking goldfinches

There was action on every side when siskins arrived as well.

four siskin and goldfinches in action

…and a dunnock could only stand and stare.

dunnock fluffy

Though, when it comes to staring, there was nothing to compare to a passing jackdaw.

mean jackdaw

I got really excited when there was the tiniest glimpse of sunlight, picking out a chaffinch on Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree….

sunny chaffinch december

…but it was only a glimpse and it was back to grey when I went out for a short walk in the afternoon while our potential visitors were driving down from Edinburgh.

The berries on the severely cropped shrubs beside the Wauchope are looking amazing.

berries at kirk brig

I walked along the river and when I crossed the Town Bridge, I saw an excellent turn out of gulls at their posts on the Castleholm.

many gulls on posts

The only gull left in the river was the young gull that I saw before.

young gull

I walked across the Sawmill Brig and took the track out towards the High Mill Brig, stopping to gaze at sheep grazing under a bare tree…

tree with sheep

…and then to wonder at the sheer variety of lichens growing within a yard or two of each other on the wall beside the track.

four lichens on same walltwo lichen on same wall

To avoid a boggy piece of ground at a gate, I went into the field and looked at the wall from the other side.  There was hardly any life on the side exposed to the elements.

tree and wall

At the end of the track, I had a look up the main road to the north, down which our visitors would come in the course of time.

lookingup A7

As I went to cross the Ewes Water, I thought that the sun might have come out again when I saw a patch of yellow, but it was just the topmost twigs on a tree.

yellow tinged twigs

Two hundred yards further on, there was a genuine brightening and the trees at the Rugby Club bridge were lit up by actual sun.

sun at RFC bridge

They are building a third log cabin at the Whitshiels cafe and are at a stage which reveals clearly the cunning interlocking method of construction.log cabin

As I got back to the Sawmill Brig, the sun had already sunk behind more clouds…

sunset castleholm

…and the light rapidly faded as I walked home across the Jubilee Bridge, my fifth bridge crossing of the day.

It was dark by the time that Matilda, Al and Clare arrived but there was still time for Matilda to enjoy a couple of board games with me before tea.  I was fortunate to come out top at Snakes and Ladders but Matilda comfortably beat me at Ludo so honour was satisfied.

On behalf of Mrs Tootlepedal and myself, I would like to wish all blog readers a happy Christmas and thank them for their continued attention over the year.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow, an uncommon visitor these days.

flying sparrow

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who was cheered up by a bit of brightness at Coal Drops Yard on a very gloomy day at Kings Cross.

Coal Drop Wharf

We were cheered up on another very gloomy day here by a lively performance from the Sunday Club children at our church service this morning.  This was followed by a baptism so it was a service for the future and with well over 100 people in the church, the future looked as though it might just be all right.

When we got home, there was time for a cup of coffee and a check on the birds.

A goldfinch and a sparrow arrived at the feeder from different sides.

goldfinch sparrow oanel

Then siskins appeared…

siskins on feeder

…and a goldfinch made an exit.

goldfinch leaving

Having looked at the forecast, we decided to have a late lunch and get a walk in while the going was good, so we put on our walking shoes, said goodbye to a pigeon on the drive…

pigeon in garden

…and set off through the park towards the Kernigal.

Some little white fungus on an old tree stump caught my eye as we walked along the Stubholm track….

whiefungus

…and I thought that a mossy branch was the equal of many pieces of sculpture that I have seen in art galleries.

mossy branch

As always, I kept an eye for lichen and was pleased to see this colourful clump just before we got to the wood…

fruting lichen

…which was looking quite majestic in the misty conditions.

misty woods kernigal

We followed the mountain bike path through the trees and it was too dark to see much.

Only another crop of white fungus stood out and even that needed a flash to capture it.

white fingus kernigal

When we got out of the thick wood, we thought that we were going to get rained on but it was only drops from branches overhead….

drops on twigs kernigal

…and we were able to follow the path back down to the river without getting wet.

track to skipperscleuch

It was rather a damp scene all the same.

warbla misty view

I thought that this tree, against a drab background and with a fallen branch at its foot, summed up the day well.

 

Tree with fallen branch

On the plus side, it was well above freezing and there was no wind, so walking was a pleasure and incidental treats like these very glossy beech leaves kept us interested as we went along.

shiny beech leaves

We crossed Skippers Bridge and walked back beside the river towards the town.

I enjoyed seeing the fence lichen in magnificent form and Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out a teasel, a rare thing in this part of the country.

lichen and teazle

We called at the Co-op to get something for our late lunch and as we were walking along the narrow path behind the Dyehouse, I noticed a couple of birds ahead of us.  At first I thought that they were just rather colourful chaffinches but as we got nearer…

bullfinch panel

…we could see that they were bullfinches and that there were three of them.

One of them stopped and stared for long enough for me to get the zoom working but it was a good way ahead of us…

bullfinch in tree

…and then they played a most amusing game.

I had the shopping in a bag.  They stopped on a bush, waited until I had put the shopping down and got my camera out and then they flew on.  As the light was so poor, I needed to get quite close to them to get a decent shot, so I picked up my bag and followed after them.  As soon as I started walking, they stopped, I put down my bag, got out the camera and they flew on again.

This went on for quite some time and even Mrs Tootlepedal had to agree that it looked very much as though they were just tormenting me on purpose.

Dyehouse path

What the bullfinches were looking for were the seeds on these plants…

bullfinch eating seeds

….and they stopped long enough once or twice for me to get blurred shots.  When they got fed up with laughing at me, they flew back over our heads and doubtless waited for another passer-by to tease.

The forecast got it bang on and it had just started to rain as we got home and that concluded the outdoor part of our day.

We had a late lunch and whiled away the rest of the day in reading the newspapers and conversation.  After a while, Mrs Tootlepedal started to listen to an interesting radio programme on jackdaws and rooks and I went off to catch up with my correspondence on the computer.

The winter solstice arrived at 4am today and the TV weatherman told us that tomorrow our day will be one second longer.  We are very excited by this and are planning to make full use of the extra second when it comes.

We had a mince pie each after our evening meal and felt quite festive. Then we watch the final episode of His Dark Materials. Both of us were more or less completely baffled about what was going on.  I await the next series with impatience in the hope that some explanation will be given.  Perhaps if we had read the books it would have helped.

The fuzzy flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin

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