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Posts Tagged ‘wallflower’

Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia, my Somerset correspondent, who turns out to be in Namibia at the moment.  She sent me this portrait of male and female Long-tailed Paradise Whydahs.  The males are in full display mode.

Long-tailed Paradise Whydah

Our welcome spell of fine weather continued today but with a reminder that we are still in the winter months in the shape of some early frost on the lawns.

The temperature was slow to rise and I was feeling a bit tired so I went back to bed after breakfast and read a book until midday.  It was very relaxing.

I got up into my cycling gear although it was still rather chilly unless you were out in the sun.  I gave Mrs Tootlepedal a hand in the garden for a while and then went in to make some lentil soup for lunch…

…and watch the birds of course.  There were plenty of shady characters hanging around the feeder.

shadowy chaffinch

After lunch, I had another wander round the garden and after I had visited the pond, where I found a pile of  frogs which had not been put off by the chilly morning…

three frogs get friendly

…I helped Mrs Tootlepedal set up the boards for one of our new fruit beds.  They are going to have cages on them this year to protect the crop from the birds.

I couldn’t pass by a particularly fine bunch of crocuses without my shutter finger twitching…

sunny crocus clump

…but I finally pulled myself together and got my bike out and went off for a pedal. It was genuinely warm in the sun and I passed a cyclist coming the other way in short sleeves and shorts.  I am glad that I had retained a few layers because by the time that I finished the ride and the sun was dropping in the sky, it felt pretty chilly.

My  route took me past two ruined cottages.  They are both getting more dilapidated with the passage of time not unlike the photographer.  The first one is only a couple of miles from home.

Blochburnfoot cottage

I couldn’t have asked for a better day for a pedal as there was hardly any wind and the sky was cloudless.

callister view sunny

It wasn’t quite hot enough to get the gorse flowers to smell of coconut though.

gorse flowers

A correspondent asked me recently if there were a lot of poles and pylons in our area and I thought that I would show that there are and that they cast a long shadow too.

view with pylon shadow

As I came down from Kennedy’s Corner onto the Solway Plain, I passed the second ruined cottage, which is now almost wholly holey.

ruined cottage

The tree beside it looks a lot better than the cottage does.

tree by cottage

Although the sky was blue and it was pretty clear in the hills, there was a very murky layer lying on top of the land below me as I looked ahead.  It didn’t look very appetising at all.

murky mist

When I got down that level, it wasn’t visible but it was colder.

There are telephone  and electricity poles along almost every road around us and quite often a pylon makes its presence felt as well….

pylon at the end of the road

…but if you choose the right road, nothing interrupts the view at all.

bent tree

There was quite a lot of traffic about today and I was passed by two low flying aircraft….

low flying plane

…and held up by a traffic jam near Glenzier.

traffic jam near Glenzier

The farmer told me that they were having to move the sheep out into the fields by day as it was too hot for them in the shed at the moment.  This was them going home to bed for the night.

When I got back after 30 gentle miles, Mrs Tootlepedal had finished planting out the raspberry canes in the new bed.  They are Malling Jewel and should fruit in midsummer (if we get one this year).

new raspberry bed

There are gooseberries and blackcurrants to be sorted out next.

I admired some hopeful wallflowers and went in to have a cup of tea and some ginger nuts (shop bought).

wallflower feb

I was just getting up to make a slice of toast after I had polished off the biscuits, when my eye was caught by movement under the feeder.

Our part of the town seems to have two resident partridges now…

partridge

…as neighbours on both sides of our garden have seen them perched on their fences.  I wonder where they are roosting for the night.

The day wound down with a shopping trip for me and then Mrs Tootlepedal created a delicious evening meal with the products from the shopping bag, a very satisfactory division of labour.

I was pleased to see that the proposed deterioration in our weather has now been put on hold for a day or two and we are being promised another sunny day tomorrow.  We are really being spoiled and will get a big shock when normal service is resumed.

A questing chaffinch obliged by posing as the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from the eternally sunlit shore at East Wemyss.  Tony is making really good use of his dog walking time.

east wemyss seaside trees

We had a chilly (3°C) but kindly day with a very gentle wind and no rain.  The sun didn’t appear so it was dull but all the same we could have no complaints about this weather for a January day.

I am trying to get my foot back into working order and oddly enough, doing some hip exercises seems to be improving things a lot.  This proves the truth of the old song…The hipbone’s connected to the thighbone…etc, etc.

Sandy came round to combine a cup of coffee with some archive group business.  He has been suffering from sore feet and knees which is why we haven’t been on any walks lately but he tells me that he has got medical appointments in the pipeline so he is hoping for useful help.

When he left, I went for a walk round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal.  She pointed out this…

lichen on lawn

…which may look like a jungle but is in fact moss, lichen and some blades of grass in what passes for the middle lawn at the moment.

More lichen is available in every corner of the garden.

lichen on elder

Much to my surprise, the perennial wallflower has cocked a snook at the recent frosts and produced another flower…

perennial wallflower january

…and even more amazingly, one of the the ordinary wallflowers is in the process of producing a bunch of flowers.

first wallflower

The winter jasmine continues to flourish.

winter jasmin january

The birds were rather few and far between again today, with just the occasional chaffinch…

chaffinch landing

…and some of which at least had the sense to head for separate perches today…

chaffinches

…and the even more occasional sparrow.

sparrow on gfeeder

I had some sardines on toast for lunch and then tested out my foot on a very short, flat walk.

The gulls were taking things easily too…

gulls on posts

…while the mallards couldn’t agree on a common destination.

ducks diverging

Fed up with standing on fence posts, one gull took to a rock in the river.

gull on rock

It was, as one passer by remarked to me, a very plain sort of day and I didn’t see anything worth recording until I came to a football match on the Scholars’ Field.

Thanks to the dull light, it was easier to take picture while the players were standing around waiting for the ball to arrive…

football on scholars standing

…than it was when they were running around chasing after it.

football on scholars moving

Before lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I had spent some time tidying out the garage and when I got home, I found that the rocking horse had taken up residence there.  This is so that Mrs Tootlepedal can cover it with gesso before painting it.   The gesso process which involves size (rabbit skin glue), is a smelly and potentially messy business so the garage seems the best place for it.

rocking horse in garage

For those interested, a description of the gesso process can be found here.

After a cup of tea and some music practice, we went off to Carlisle to go to the pictures.  We haven’t been to the films for some time so this was a treat for Mrs Tootlepedal who really likes going to the cinema.  We found that in Carlisle at least, ticket prices had gone down a lot since our last visit and at £5 each, the cinema chain must be making most of its money by selling its customers vast buckets of very unappetising looking food.  We went hungry.

The film we saw is called The Favourite and is about the court of Queen Anne in 1708.  It is described in Wikipedia as a “historical period comedy-drama”.  It was very well acted and the settings and costumes were impressive but since its message seemed to me to be that all women are either old and ugly and helpless or young, beautiful and horrible and that politicians are generally rather nasty selfish people, it seemed to chime with a rather Trumpian view of the world and I didn’t much like it.  It was extremely coarse which was amusing at first as an antidote to refined period dramas on TV but which got a bit wearing as time went on.  Finally, either ideas or money ran out and the film just stopped without any resolution.

Still, as they say, it was a day out and a change.

I just manage to collect a flying chaffinch of the day.

chaffinches landing

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Newcastle correspondent, Fiona.  She travelled as far as Durham, took a trip on the river and looked up at the cathedral as she drew near.

Durham

It was a dull, often rainy and always windy day today so I wasn’t unhappy to spend most of the morning going off with Mrs Tootlepedal to get our eyes tested in Longtown and following that with a trip to buy bird food and a visit to a local garden centre to look at but not buy decorative bark chippings.

The eye tests went well and Mrs Tootlepedal received the thumbs up for her cataract operation and is now just waiting for her new  glasses to arrive.  I was much the same as ever and my old glasses will do for another year so we were both happy.

While we were not buying decorative bark chippings, we had a toasted tea cake and a cup of coffee in the garden centre cafe so it was a morning well spent.

Mrs Tootlepedal had business to do on the computer when we got home as part of the very bureaucratic administration for her Embroiderers’ Guild group so I set up the tripod in the kitchen, made some soup and watched the birds.

Feeling that our old bird feeders were getting on a bit, I had bought a shiny new feeder at the bird food shop.  I put it out and waited for visitors.

goldfinch on new feeder

A goldfinch was among the first but it was soon joined by a chaffinch…

chaffinch approaching new feeder

…a blue tit…

blue tit on new feeder

…another chaffinch….

another chaffinch and the new feeder

…and another blue tit…

blue tit coming to new feeder

…and another chaffinch!

flying chaffinch at new feeder

It had passed the bird magnet test.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s admin took some time and when she had finished, I settled down to do some admin of my own for the Archive Group.

When I had finished, it was time for a cup of tea and we were joined by Mike Tinker who had kindly brought round some more liquid fertiliser from his wormery for the benefit of our garden.

The day had always been warm for the time of year and since it wasn’t raining, we went out to do a bit after gardening when Mike left.

I was looking around at one point and saw a green blob on the ground.  C;loser inspection showed that it was a fallen walnut and more inspection found many more fallen walnuts.  The walnuts don’t always contain much in the way of a kernel as we live too far to the north for reliable development but this year, after the warm summer, we may be luckier.

walnuts in the garden

I hope we will be as Mrs Tootlepedal likes walnuts a lot.

I noticed other things too.

Mrs Tootlepedal was keen for me to take a picture of the Virginia creeper on the fence as it is now at its best, even on a gloomy day like today…

vigini creeper

…and it tends to disappear very quickly once it is over.

We dead headed the dahlias but even they are beginning to show a little wear and tear.

sunny reggae dahlia

The rose mallows made a great show when they came out in July but they have faded away and now only one or two are left.

rose mallow

Two surprises were to be seen, one rather late – a fresh foxglove in the back of a bed…

late foxglove

…and one very early – a wallflower which has lost its internal clock altogether.

early wallflower

It shouldn’t have come out until next spring.

After tea, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to act as a volunteer front-of-house person at the Buccleuch Centre and after a while, I went along to buy a ticket and watch the show there.  It was a screening of a concert by Jonas Kaufmann, the celebrated tenor,

He is a wonderful singer and he was joined by a sensational mezzo soprano called Anita Rachvelishvili and they sang a selection from Cavalleria Rusticana (which I could take or leave) followed by numerous well known Italian songs which were absolutely delightful.

Anita Rachvelishvili’s ability to switch from a full blown operatic style to a much more intimate style for the songs and excel at both bowled our audience over and as Jonas is a great treat whatever he sings, we had a really good evening.  What put the icing on the concert for me was that the members of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, who were providing the accompaniment, seemed to be enjoying the music as much as the audience.

We are promised heavy wind and rain from our first named storm of the autumn tomorrow so we are keeping our fingers crossed that the reality turns out to be not as bad as the warning.

“Much of Scotland is due to be battered by high winds and heavy rain as the first named storm of the season sweeps in. The Met Office has issued weather warnings and said Storm Ali could bring winds of 80mph and a danger to life from flying debris. An amber warning is in place for large parts of the country between 08:00 and 17:00 on Wednesday. Travel disruption and huge waves in coastal areas are also expected.”

The storm is named after Mrs Tootlepedal so it might well be quite impressive.

Meantime, the flying bird of the day is a tiny coal tit who will have to keep out of harm’s way tomorrow.

flying coal tit

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from an outing near Derby undertaken by my brother Andrew.  He went visit the Abbey at Darley Abbey and found that all that remains of it is a public house called “The Abbey”

Darley Abbey

If yesterday was a dull and gloomy day, today was a duller and gloomier day.  It was warm for the time of year though and that made the drizzle that came and went even more annoying.

I got up early (for me) and made a venison stew for the slow cooker before we went off to sing in the church choir.  The choir was rather short of numbers and with several unison hymns and no anthem, it made for a gentle reintroduction to singing for me.

When we got back, the rain stopped for a while and we got busy in the garden.

I took a picture or two but everything was far too wet and the day was far too dark for anything to photograph well.

wallflower

wet white geranium

tall sunflower

A new smaller flower has replaced the big head that we cut off the very tall sunflower.  It is even taller though.

The first gardening task was to pick a up a large number of windfalls from one of the espalier apples.  I should have thinned them out earlier and they are overcrowded so a lot of them had fallen off in unison.  I gave some to one neighbour and then went across to wish our neighbour Liz a happy birthday and ask if she would like some apples too.

She came across to fetch some and while she was there, she gave us a helping hand in the next task which was the removal of our ancient blackcurrant bush.  Mrs Tootlepedal is going to remodel that end of the vegetable garden.

Liz likes nothing better than to give an axe a hefty swing so with her on the axe and Mrs Tootlepedal on the pick, we soon got it shifted.  I worked the spade and did some heaving.

At that stage, it started to rain quite heavily so we left the garden.

We sorted out our potatoes for storage and Mrs Tootlepedal did some work on the new garage doors prior to them being painted.  Fortunately the cycling Tour of Britain has started and this gave us a perfect excuse to watch the telly and ignore the weather.

I did occasionally look out of the window at the birds and was pleased to see some interest in the big sunflower head.

birrd on sunflower

The sparrows were as boisterous as ever…

sparrows (2)

..with regrettable outbreaks of sparrow stamping.

stamping on sparrow

A jackdaw took a very dim view of this behaviour.

jackdaw brooding

Whenever the drizzle took a rest, I kept looking out into the garden to see if it was dry enough for a walk but by the time I had thought about going out, it had generally started to rain again.

I did spot a brooding presence in our rowan tree.

bird on rowan

I made some alleged ciabatta in the bread machine (we have yet to try it out) and that was about the most exciting thing of the day.

After we had eaten venison stew for our tea, we went off to a church choir practice.  Our organist and choirmaster is trialling some Sunday evening practices to see how that suits choir members.  Once again it was only a small turnout but the practice was both useful and enjoyable.

The forecast is looking a bit gloomy so I may have to sort out my wet weather cycling gear if I want to get some September miles in.

The flying bird of the day is not one of my best.

sparrows

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who has returned from Spain and found this fine windmill at Lytham in Lancashire.

windmill at Lytham

A spell of good weather has crept up on us surreptitiously.  It has gone gradually from being cold and grey to generally warm and fine.  It has been raining in the night but by day, the sun has developed a habit of coming out and the wind has lost some of its usual fierceness so we are finding ourselves in the unusual condition of having nothing to complain about.  It is most annoying.

Being Sunday, it was a day of singing rather than cycling or gardening but I found a moment or two to walk round the garden and see what was going on.

Before church I checked on the progress of the alliums…still a bit slow.

allium

There are plenty of buds but precious few petals.

In one of the new beds in the vegetable garden, beans are looking healthy.

beans

And near the bird feeders, the first wallflowers are beginning to show.

wallflower

After church and before lunch, I had another look.

Mrs Tootlepedal has planted a perennial wallflower this year which is looking good…

perennial wallflower

…but a closer look showed that some evil leaf nibbler has been hard at work on it.  Hmm.

Nearby, the first rhododendron buds are giving promise of a great show to come soon.

rhododendron

They are a contrast to the restrained white dicentra.

dicentra

I went to check on the pond and saw these bright flowers along the edge.  Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that they are poached egg plants (Limnanthes douglasii for their Sunday name) but the white of the egg is not very much in evidence yet.

poached egg flower

In the pond itself, a frog was banging its head against the wall.  It had possibly been considering Brexit.

frog

I made some potato soup for lunch and there was time for a last visit  to the garden before going off to Carlisle for our afternoon choir.

We did some bench testing but I was tempted into chasing after a white butterfly which flitted from flower to flower so briskly that this was the best that I could do.

butterfly

Mrs Tootlepedal eyed some tulips in the bed opposite the bench with some satisfaction…

tulips

….and resolved to buy a few more for next year.  A sensible decision in my view.

We had a good session with a substitute conductor with the Carlisle Community choir.  The drive down through the fresh green leaves of spring was worth the journey alone but the singing was enjoyable too.

During the day the blackbird male was assiduous in attending to the needs of his two offspring. ..

blackbirds

…although, as usual, they never seem very cheerful about things.

A keen eyed jackdaw visited the feeder to sample the fat balls…

jackdaw

…and left enough for a sparrow to enjoy later on.

sparrow

On the seed feeder, goldfinches sparred…

goldfinches

…siskins loomed up…

_DSC4018

…and a pair of redpolls made a determined effort to dislodge some siskins.

siskins and redpolls

We had a vague plan for making the best of a sunny evening as we drove back from the choir but once we had got settled into the kitchen over a cup of tea on our return, the rest of the day slipped away before we could rouse ourselves to action.

We seem to have been quite busy lately and as neither of us sleep as well as we would like, we were a bit tired and the sitting room sofa held a lot of charm.

I am hoping to get the new bike out again tomorrow if the good weather holds.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

goldfinch

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture shows the pretty church at Cavers which my neighbour Gavin passed while on a walk in the country near Hawick.

Cavers

I had a well organised day today with a sting in the tail.

The morning started with a view of the feeder…

several chaffinches

Several chaffinches appeared

…which was followed by a brief floral tour….

daff, snowdrop and wallflower

Signs of spring on all sides

…and concluded with a spin down to Canonbie and back on the fairly speedy bike.  This is a regular route and the whole thing would have been quite humdrum except for a burst of song which stopped me in my tracks as I passed Pool Corner on my way out of Langholm.

The song came from a pair of dippers by the side of the pool.

dippers at pool corner

One below in full courting mode….

dippers at pool corner

…and one above, like Juliet on her balcony.

dippers at pool corner

Music must have worked its charm because in a trice, both birds were side by side, singing their little feathered hearts out.

dippers at pool corner

I pedalled on in an uplifted mood.

I was ready to be entertained by anything that I passed.

Tree with cows

A tree with added cows

cows being fed

Social services in a farming area – meals on wheels for coos.

A tree with starlings

A tree and field full of what I think are starlings

More work on the bridge at langholm.

More work on Skippers Bridge at Langholm.

The weather was as perfect as a January day could be for a pedal with very light winds, high clouds and a very friendly temperature.  My serotonin levels were well topped up by the time that I got home.

After a shower and lunch, it was time to set off to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda.

The train was on time and we even arrived a minute or two early.  Like the station at Carlisle, there are works going above the platform in Edinburgh and the bridge above the station has been well upholstered.

North Bridge

We took a bus down to Matilda’s from Princes Street which gave me a chance to take a picture of the old North British Railway hotel at Waverley Station…

NB Hotel

…built in a time when keeping the customer happy was part and parcel of running a railway.

We had a very good time being entertained by Matilda and her parents, especially while playing Snap.  Matilda won the first game by the simple expedient of taking all the cards into her care whether they were pairs or not.  But we all had a lot of fun.

After an excellent tea of cottage pie conjured up by Mrs Tootlepedal (or Scottidge Pie as Matilda referred to it), we caught the bus back to Waverley station and were a bit stunned to say the least to find that our train had been cancelled, as indeed had all trains running on the line.  Some unexplained incident had closed the line and we were at a loss as to how we were going to get home.  There were no notices or information but a kind lady in the ticket office advised us to go to the station entrance and wait for a bus to take us to Lockerbie.

We went and waited.  This gave me the chance to take a photo of Edinburgh by night.  Someone had been painting the town red.

Ediburgh

A bus duly arrived and we were taken to Lockerbie with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of comfort.  The only downside of the nearly two hour journey was that we didn’t get home until after eleven o’clock and that will explain the late posting and hurried prose of today’s blog for which I apologise.

I found a flying chaffinch of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my daughter Annie in London, hundreds of miles to the south of us.  She wants to point out that it was very cold down there this morning.

frozen London leaves

We might have been forgiven for feeling a bit smug when we saw her picture because it was a comparatively warm day here with the temperature well above freezing from dawn until dusk and likely to stay so for tomorrow as well.

On the minus side, the birds had abandoned the garden almost completely and there was hardly a seed eaten all day.

I had arranged to have coffee with Dropscone and I didn’t see a bird worth snapping before he came.  He is playing slightly better golf at the moment so he was more cheerful about his game than he has been lately.  He and his daughter Susan are going on a short city break in Edinburgh tomorrow and as Mrs Tootlepedal and I will be there too, visiting Matilda, Edinburgh will be unusually busy.

I did see a bird after he left (to go and play golf).

robin

And it got a bit nearer later on.

Robin

But that was about it.

I didn’t have long to watch the birds, even if there had been some about, as I wanted to take advantage of the warmer weather (6°C) to get some miles in.

I had a quick lunch and set off on the fairly speedy bike.  The roads were clear enough to let me do a circular ride with confidence that I wouldn’t find any icy spots.  The trouble with setting out straight after a meal though is that your system is too busy digesting the food to give you much help with the pedalling but I stuck to the task and things settled  down after a while.

With the light wind behind me, I enjoyed the return half of the journey.  I had a camera with me but didn’t stop because even at 6°C, cycling is quite a chilly business.  Because you are well wrapped up from the cold, you tend to work up a light perspiration so if you stop for too long,  you get very clammy and that makes for chilly riding when you start again.

However, a little burst of sunshine when I was only a few miles from home suddenly lit up a section of woodland in such a striking way that I was forced to a halt and get out the camera.

Hollows

It was very annoying to find an electricity pole in the middle of the view.  If it hadn’t been there, it would have looked like this…

hollows

…but you can’t do anything about this sort of thing and just have to put up with unwelcome intrusions into your pictures..

There was another pole in front of the Hollows Tower too…

Hollows Tower

…but it couldn’t spoil the soft light which made the scene an enchanted one for a few moments.  By the time that I got home, after 31 miles, the clouds were back in force and it was so gloomy that Mrs Tootlepedal came in from the garden where she had been working and joined me for a cup of tea and a mini Jaffa cake.

I had planned to get a short walk in after my pedal and perhaps find a flying bird but it was far too dark for that so I did some music practice instead.  After yesterday’s 170 pictures, I only took seven in total today so the conscientious reader can only be grateful for that.

In the evening, I went off to a Langholm Sings choir practice and we had a very good session.  We have a concert with our local orchestra on Sunday and we are reasonably well prepared for it (I hope).  Time will tell.

The leaves of the day belong to a very healthy looking wallflower which seems impervious to frost.

wallflower

The flying bird of the day (the only one I saw) just qualifies as the chaffinch hasn’t quite reached the feeder.

chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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