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Posts Tagged ‘Whita’

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She visited Margate, home of the Turner Contemporary art gallery and was please to be able to capture a Turneresque shot of the seaside while she was there.

margate view

I had a day of general activity, none of it very vigorous.   The morning started with the crossword and this was followed by the arrival of Dropscone (with treacle scones) for coffee and conversation  (scones good, conversation interesting).

When Dropscone departed, I looked out of the window to see a blue tit on the fat balls…

blue tit on fat balls

…and a siskin on the peanuts.

siskin on peanuts

I couldn’t stop for more bird watching as I had to go up to the newspaper office to photograph an article from 1888 which had caught the attention of a Scottish Dance enthusiast as he was searching through our on-line index to the newspaper.  He thought that it might cast light on a Scottish country dance called Langholm Fair.  The article mentioned the old customs at the Langholm Fair so I have sent him a digital image of it.

On my way home, I passed the sparkly bicycle that I saw on my way to choir practice on Wednesday and noticed that it has a cyclist as well as sparkle.

cheery bicycle

By the time that I had done the processing of the image for the country dance man, the day had turned nasty and staying inside looked like a good idea.

It hadn’t discouraged birds though and after lunch (Mrs Tootlepedal’s curried parsnip soup, delicious), I had time for a look out of the window.

Sometimes it was quite wet….

wet goldfinch and siskin

…and sometimes it was very wet…

wet feeder

…and sometimes it almost stopped.

I was pleased to see quite a number of siskins on the feeders.  They are winter visitors and brighten up a gloomy day.  This is a male.

male siskin

Siskins are small but fierce and are not frightened of other finches at all.

siskin and chaffinch sparring

There were moments when the air seemed to be full of birds.

birds flying in

We still have more goldfinches than anything else…

goldfinch attacking goldfinch

…and I liked the slightly resigned air of this one on the top of the feeder pole, patiently waiting for a spare perch.

goldfinch in rain

There was plenty of entertainment for the casual watcher…

chaffinch attacking goldfinch

…but I took a last shot of this greenfinch winging it…

greenfich winging it

…and went to do some work on the hymns for Sunday.

This took some time and I was a bit surprised when I looked up and saw a hint of sunshine outside.  I put on a coat and went to investigate.

There was indeed some sunshine but I had left things a bit late and the sun was sinking behind the hill.  Only the top of Whita was still sunny.

whita in evening sun

It was already too dark to take riverside bird pictures so I just pottered round the New Town, admired the sky over Eskdaill Street…

sunset over eskdaill street

…and went back inside.

After an early evening meal of beautifully cooked (by Mrs Tootlepedal) beef and veg, we set off to pick up my fellow bass, Mike, and drive to Newcastleton where Langholm Sings had a concert.

The church at Newcastleton makes a good venue for an informal concert and it was both warm and well filled with a polite and attentive audience tonight.  Mrs Tootlepedal, who was in the audience, reported that the choir had sounded quite satisfactory so we drove home in a contented frame of mind.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I are both singing with our Carlisle Choir tomorrow and I will have to do some more practice for that before we go.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.  It was not the best picture of the day but our chaffinches have been neglected in the pictures above, and I thought that the slightly blurred effect captured the miserable weather quite well.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony and the kingdom of everlasting sunshine, East Wemyss.  If you look closely, you might see a seal on the rock in the foreground and perhaps a cormorant too.

wemyss seascape

After our recent sunny spell, we went back to rather grey and gloomy today, but the silver lining in the clouds was a rise in the temperature to above zero.  It was a curious day because in spite of the higher temperature, the dampness in the air made it feel colder and rawer than the recent much colder but drier days.

And although the thermometer had only gone up to two degrees, by lunchtime the roads and paths were miraculously cleared of frost and ice.

It was still slippery in spots in the morning so Mrs Tootlepedal had to take care when she cycled off to a meeting about the community land buy out and I had to go cannily when I cycled to our ex-corner shop for milk and a cauliflower.

I got back safely though and was able to welcome a determined goldfinch to the feeder.

goldfinch december

It stood its ground while chaffinches circled around.

busy feeder

We seem to have a pair of dunnocks in the garden at the moment, this one…

one of dunnock pair

…and this one.

other of dunnock pair

I think they must be a pair becuase I read that they are quite fractious birds and if it was two males, then they would be trying to chase each other away.

I couldn’t find any reliable guide to tell me how to distinguish a male from a female.

A blackbird made a face at me when I asked it to pose prettily.

blackbird making facw

I have had a sore back and have not been sleeping quite as well as I would wish so I had a very quiet morning, doing nothing more active than my visit to the shop and making some dull soup for lunch.  A toasted tea cake with my coffee kept me cheerful though.
(If you like tea cakes, I can thoroughly recommend Dan Lepard’s Top Tea Cake recipe from his book ‘Short and Sweet’.  His kneading method is brilliant for people with arthritic hands)

After a bowl of the dull soup (which was enhanced by some onion gravy granules to good effect), I went off for a walk.  Although I enjoy walking up hills, coming down them again doesn’t suit my feet at the moment so I stuck to the flat today, and did an extended three bridges.

I had it in mind to take a portrait of the handsome white duck that hangs about with the mallards at the Kilngreen if it was there.

It was there but it wasn’t co-operating.

diving white duck

However, after some preparatory preening…

preening white duck

…it finally posed for a portrait.

posing white duck

Mr Grumpy was not amused to find that he wasn’t the star of the show today.

grumpy heron

Then I focussed on trees.

This one looks green enough but the green is entirely moss and lichen with not a leaf in sight…

castleholm mossy tree

…whereas this one still had a great many leaves hanging on.

castleholm leafy tree

My final one, standing between the pheasant rearing houses, had neither moss nor leaves.

pheasant pen tree

Although there was no ice or white frost left on the track that I was walking along, there was still plenty to be seen on the branches of trees that had not seen the sun lately…

frosty branches

…and this little tree trunk looked as though it had been iced by a pâtissier

iced gtree trunk

…and a fungus beside the path was fully iced too.  Very curious.

iced fungus

I had thought that going along this track might put me in danger of slipping and falling but as it was, I could stride out with some confidence.  This was lucky because it was remarkably raw and I didn’t stop a lot for pictures, although hair ice is always a temptation.

haor ice Lodge

As I got near home, I could see that Whita had retained its own little cloud for the afternoon…

Whita in low cloud

…with the monument peeping shyly through.

monument in low cloud

On my way past his house, I called in at Mike Tinker’s to collect some photographs which he had been given to pass on to the Archive Group, and he returned the compliment an hour later when he joined Mrs Tootlepedal and me for a cup of tea and a toasted tea cake. (Tea cakes have a habit of mysteriously disappearing.  I made twelve on Saturday and the last one is going to a good home as I write this.)

Then Luke came round and we played a sonata by Hadyn and worked at a little Bach partita.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Buccleuch Centre to see a screening from the Old Vic of a performance by the National Theatre of Present Laughter by Noel Coward .  She enjoyed it thoroughly and I must say that this new idea of screening these London plays nationally is a very good one.

I found several moments during the day to practise choir songs but was left with a strong feeling that more practice is still needed.

The temperature is due to rise a little more tomorrow, so the prospect of a bicycle ride may not be too far off.

A chaffinch is the flying bird of the day again.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from the files.  On his visit to Blackpool last month, Bruce was brave enough to venture onto the glass floor looking down from the top of the famous tower.  Rather him than me!  I don’t like the way that the thing seems to be held together by baler twine.

blackpool tower glass floor

We had an unequivocally sunny day here today with not a cloud in the sky.  The payback was that the thermometer hardly scraped above freezing all day.

It was chilly when I had a look round the garden after breakfast and even our wooden heron had got a new hairstyle.

frozen garden nov

However, the sun showed off the walnut tree well.

walnut tree sunny morning

It was far too cold and potentially icy to go cycling so I was very happy that it was a Friday and Dropscone came round with the traditional Friday treacle scones. They were very tasty today.

We ate them while we drank coffee and chatted.  Dropscone had been playing golf at Powfoot and had played a few holes with an elderly member of the club.  He was impressed to discover that the stranger had an even larger collection of second hand golf balls than he had.  It must be large, for as far as I know, Dropscone has never bought a new golf ball in all the time that I have known him.

Mrs Tootlepedal had coffee at the Buccleuch Centre with her ex-work colleagues and one of them mentioned that she has an aunt who lives in Kent who enjoys reading these posts, so I am sending greetings to Kent today in the hope that she reads this one.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went for a walk to the top of one of our local hills.

The walk up Warbla is on a good track, especially when it has been hardened by frost but is still not icy.  This was the case today.  We could hardly have had a better day for a November walk.

There was very little wind and in the sun, it was warm but in the shady spots, it was pretty chilly.  This horse looked as though it might have preferred to have been in the next door field.

horse in shadow

On our way to the summit, we passed trees both anguished….

bent ree warbla

…and relatively cheerful.

bare tree warbla

After a steep section, the final part of the track levels out and Mrs Tootlepedal strode out at a good pace.

warbla track Mrs t

I had stopped to take a panorama picture of the Wauchope Valley.

warbla panorama 1

Click on the pic for the full scene.

It was cold enough for the puddles along the track to be artistically icy.

warbla icy puddle

When we reached the top, we could look down into England.  A low mist covered the Eden Valley and obscured the northern hills.

warbla mist over england

I wasn’t surprised because I have seen it before, but I am still amazed to find molehills right on the top of the hill.  The soil must be very thin here and you would think that there would be slim pickings for the little creatures.

warbla mole

I walked to the edge of the hill and took another panorama, looking right over the town in the valley below.

 

Mrs Tootlepedal leaned reflectively on the trig point for a while, contemplating the glorious views…

mrs t warbla summit

…and then we headed back down the hill.  We cast a long shadow as the sun went down behind us.

long shadows warbla

The hills were casting shadows as well.

sinking sun warbla

When we got to the wall at the bottom of the open hill, there were things to be seen as usual.  I was very excited when I saw the subject of the middle frame of the panel.  It looked very exotic at first sight,  but it turned out to be common or garden heather so I got less excited.

three things warbla wall

As we got down towards the Stubholm, I looked across the valley to Whita Hill where the dying bracken added a strong touch of colour to the view….

whita from warbla1

…and the clever zoom lens on my pocket camera could read the yardage signs on the golf course practice area, nearly three quarters of a mile away.

golf course signs

I put this picture in just for Dropscone

The lights on our town Christmas tree are going to be switched on tomorrow.  I noticed that nature has been doing its own work too.

nature's christmas tree

The light was already fading when we got home and the frosty weather had been keeping birds away from the feeder so there were not a lot to look at.  I  did catch a visit from our robin who hopped from stalk to feeder…

robin panel

..before quickly flying off again.

As a photographer, I was interested in this picture of a chaffinch when I looked at it on the computer.  The low sun was definitely behind him and yet he appears to be lit from in front.  I can only assume that a reflection from the feeder was responsible.

frontlit chaffinch

Later on, Mike and Alison came round for their customary Friday evening visit and I tried to put all the useful advice I have been giving Luke to good use in my own playing as Alison and I played Telemann and Loeillet sonatas.  (More work is needed but at least it is good advice.)

A rather gloomy chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my sister Mary.  She went to the Haynes International Motor museum in Yeovil with her friend Venetia, and her eye was caught by this shiny Morris Oxford 6 saloon from 1930.

haynes motor museum

I got up intending to have a quick breakfast and go cycling but like so many of my good intentions, this one was unrealised.  In the end, I had a slow breakfast, did the crossword, waited for a rain shower to pass, checked on the butterflies in the garden…

more butterflies

….and then finally went cycling.  By this time the wind had got up and was blowing pretty forcibly so I reduced my intended route distance from 30 miles to 12 and even then had quite a hard time cycling the six miles up hill and  into the wind to my turning point.

The grass is pointing to my way home.

 

blowing grass

I was freewheeling along a flat section at 25 mph with not a breath of wind in my face at one time on my way home, and that gives some idea of the briskness of the breeze.  Under the circumstances, I was quite pleased to have managed even 12 miles.

While I was out, Mrs Tootlepedal had done some serious lawn edging.

edged lawn

I had another walk round the garden and was pleased to find that lots of flowers had survived the four inches of rain that we have had during the week…

six garden flowers

…and that bees were busy visiting some of our newer blooms.

two bees

After lunch, leaving Mrs Tootlepedal to do some more gardening in the sunshine, I drove down to Canonbie to visit the flower show there.

As well as jams, jellies, needlework, art, flowers and vegetables, there are always other attractions at the show and this year, there was a modest display of falconry.  It was slightly hampered by the very strong winds but a couple of patient birds sat on their perches taking an interest in what was going on.

This is a Harris Hawk..

harris hawk

…but I can’t remember what this striking bird was.

falcon canonbie

There are usually some static engines on display and this fine oil engine was the star of the show this year.

static engine canonbie

Some more mobile vehicles were to be seen as well.

two tractors canonbie

When I went into the hall to see the photographs, I was surprised to find that I had managed to acquire two first prizes and a second ticket from my twelve entries.  Sandy had been in the prizes as well and we shared  a trophy with yet another exhibitor for most points in the coloured photo classes.  We all had had a first and a second.

There were a lot of pictures on display and quite a number of different people had caught the eye of the judge.  This is very satisfactory and should bode well for the entries next year.  I would like to thank Linda for taking my pictures down to show and putting them up for me.

After a tour round the flowers and vegetables, I went for a walk along the river.  As I crossed the bridge, I saw a dipper below.

dipper in esk canonbie

A started my walk at the church and was pleased to find sheep safely grazing in the glebe fields.

sheep canonbie church

I felt that I was being laughed at as I took the path down to the river but it was only a conifer covered in strange fruit.

pine fruit

It was very peaceful walking along the grassy bank of the Esk…

esk at canonbie

…although a little waterfall splashing down the banking further on showed how wet it has been.

waterfall at canonbie

I was going to walk along the river for a good bit but the path became very muddy and as I didn’t have suitable footwear, I had to turn back and go back to the hall by the route that I had taken on the way out.

I met Sandy there and he kindly offered to bring my pictures back after the show had ended, so I was able to drive home and find out what Mrs Tootlepedal had been up to in my absence.

She had lifted the onions.

onions 2019

We had a cup of tea and then we drove up to the White Yett and walked up the track to the monument on Whita Hill.

It was still very breezy but the sun was shining, so I expected to get some good views.  Once again my expectations were unrealised as it was pretty hazy, but when the sun shone in the right place, views of some sort were available.  This is the Ewes valley.

ewes valley august evening

There is a plan to put a lot of exceedingly tall wind turbines on the top of these hills and although I am a supporter of wind power, we think that this is a step too far.  We can already see about 60 turbines from the monument but they don’t impinge on the views too dramatically,  These huge turbines would overwhelm the valley altogether.

They are several times the height of our monument.

monument sugust evening

When we arrived at the monument, we were being buffeted by the wind to such an extent that we didn’t stay for long.  I did look over the wall and down onto the Solway plain which stretches between our hills and the English hills which you can just see though the haze in the distance.

view of Solway plain from whita

When the sun came out from behind the clouds, the monument cast a long shadow over the moor.

shadow of monument

As we turned to go back down the hill, a patch of sunlight played on the top of Castle Hill across the valley.

castle hill august evening

As we went back down the hill to the town in our car, we passed several notices calling for care and warning of sharp bends and sudden steep sections.  When I checked, I found that there is a cycle sportive coming this way tomorrow from Hawick.  I just hope that the wind drops a bit or it will be hard work for the cyclists.

After a busy day for us both, we were refreshed by corned beef hash and rhubarb crumble with custard for our tea.

The falconer at Canonbie was able to fly an owl over a very short distance in spite of the wind so I have got quite an unusual flying bird of the day today.

flying owl canonbie

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Today’s guest picture comes from Canada.  Lucie, who sent it to me, is scratching her head as to why she can’t find people anxious to share a cup of tea with her on her patio when there are such comfortable looking cushions to sit on.

Lucie's snowy pergola

At least Lucie has had some sunshine.  We got another grey day today but not as windy as it has been for which we were grateful.

The sunshine in my life was metaphorical in the form of Sandy who came round for a coffee in a very cheerful mood.  His foot is a lot less sore and he has been sleeping exceptionally well so no wonder he was smiling.

As well as Sandy, we had plenty of other visitors today and I had to fill the feeder twice, a rare occurrence this year.

The siskins have wasted no time in making their presence felt as can be seen by this picture of a diminutive siskin blowing an incoming chaffinch away.

chaffinch blown away by siskin

A chaffinch did manage an unimpeded landing a little while later.

elgant chaffinch

Meanwhile the siskins took to creeping round the feeder to surprise goldfinches.

siskin sneaking past feeder

After Sandy left, I decided to go for a cycle ride as the forecast offered a few dry hours before the rain came.   It was still pretty breezy with gusts of up to 20 mph so I took things easy as I went round my customary Canonbie 20 mile circuit and kept my eyes open for things to photograph…

…like trees shaped by the prevailing wind…

bare tree chapelhill

…and more trees with some branched pruned by the passing winds…

bare tree Canonbie road

…and even more trees, this time standing in a relatively sheltered spot.

bare tree neat Canonbie

When I came to bridges, I stopped.

This is the Canonbie Bridge, low and wide…

Canonbie bridge

…and this is the Hollows bridge a mile or two up the road, high and handsome.

hollows bridge arch

Landowners grossly neglect their responsibility to provide uninterrupted views of river bridges for passing photographers as you can see from the Hollows bridge and this picture of another good looking bridge, a mile or two up the road which is almost submerged in trees and bushes, whereas….

old A7 bridge

…this ugly road bridge a few yards away is as clean as a whistle (and they have been cutting down more trees near it).road bridge

There is no justice….

…and bridges are not the only cause of photographic dissatisfaction.  Road furniture is a pest too as you can see from the junction at Canonbie where a lovely bank of snowdrops has been overwhelmed by clutter.

snowdrops and road signs

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy helping out at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop so I took a look around and noticed that she has got the Christmas tree out of the greenhouse and is getting it acclimatised for life in the garden.

christmas tree in garden

In the ‘signs of spring category’, new life on a rose was encouraging.

rose leaf

I went inside where I had a late lunch, battled with the crossword and did a little bird watching.

The stalk of the sunflower makes a convenient stopping place for birds waiting for a vacant perch on the feeder.

chaffinch on sunflower stalk

Some birds didn’t wait but made straight for the feeder…

horizontal chaffinch

…while others did their best to remove those who had got there first.

chaffinchs attack

Mrs Tootlepedal returned from a very busy session at the coffee shop and had a restorative cup of tea.  It must have been strong tea because as soon as she had downed it, we went off for a short expedition by car to the White Yett and then by foot up the track to the Monument.

Even on a dull day, the Ewes Valley is worth a look…

ewes valley

…and on any day at all, the lichens on the boulders beside the track and what I think is algae on the monument itself are very eye catching.

lichen and algae

Mrs Tootlepedal had brought her binoculars with her and took a moment at the summit to scan the skies for interesting birds…

Mrs T bird watching on whita

…in vain.

I looked down on the town, eight hundred feet below…

Langholm from Whita

…and then we went back down the track to the car before we got caught in the rain which was threatening to arrive.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went back to the Buccleuch Centre to watch a screening of a performance of Don Quixote by the Royal Ballet company while my friend Susan arrived to take me to Carlisle where we had an excellent evening of tootling.  The ballet was very good too, Mrs tootlepedal reported.

It was raining lightly as Susan and I drove down to Carlisle and it was very wet as we drove home so I was lucky to get my cycle and walk in before the rain arrived.  Sometimes the weather goods relent and give a man a break.  However, it does say that it is going to rain all day tomorrow so it was just a small break.

Another horizontal chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is a speedy little number as it was taken by our friend Bruce as he whizzed along the Settle to Carlisle railway line at 50 mph this afternoon.

brucetrainsnow

We had the same chilly  less warm weather here in Langholm and for the second day running, I had the slightly mournful pleasure of admiring our sunlit snow capped hills from our upstairs window….

whitasnowagain

…rather than being out and about snapping away at the scenery.

The day of rest yesterday seemed to have improved the state of my foot so I thought that I should take the hint and spend another more or less motionless day indoors.  Part of the impulse to do this was driven by the very icy state of things outside.

The temperature stayed at or near freezing all day so the garden looked much the same…

snowymiddlelawn

…with neatly iced box balls.

plumpuddingboxball

From our back door, I could see the hardly hill cattle finding something to eat on the slopes of Castle Hill.

cattleoncastlehillinsnow

In the garden, our lone brambling made a return but once again, it didn’t come down to the feeder and didn’t stay long.

brambling

Chaffinches were more obliging.

peeringchaffinchsnow

The feeders were not as popular as yesterday although there were some busy moments…

busyfeeder

…so I had time to contemplate the ice capped plants nearby from time to time.

sedumsnowcapped

The birds insisted on approaching the feeder from the shadows which made taking good pictures difficult…

darkchaffinch

…and you would never guess that the sun shone all day.

gloomychaffinch

When they did come on from the sunny side, they made sure that they got the shadow of the feeder on them so I still couldn’t see them properly.

flyingchaffinchinshadow

The result was a lot of silhouettes like these.

silhouettechaffinches

I am going to miss the first producers’ market of the year as I will be away on Saturday so Mike Tinker very kindly came round to get a shopping list of items which he and Alison will purchase on my behalf.  These are the sort of friends you need.

I only just managed to resist the temptation to go for a walk as it was such a glorious day but luckily I had some Archive Group work to finish and some songs to practise, so I occupied the time quite usefully.

Because of the cold and the snow, we didn’t go to Edinburgh to visit Matilda today and this gave Mrs Tootlepedal time to finish another week’s work on the crochet blanket.

crochetblanketprogress

She thinks that there may be two more weeks to go before the blanket will be finished.

Weather permitting (there is snow forecast in England), we are going south tomorrow to visit relatives so there will only be brief phone posts while we are away.

The temperature is going to remain low in Langholm so I will fill the feeders up before we go off to catch the train and hope that the birds find somewhere else to eat if these get emptied.

Meanwhile, there are two flying chaffinches of the day today…

…wings down…

flyingchaffinchsnow28229

…and wings up…

flyingchaffinchsnow

….Take your pick.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Manitoba.  Never mind diamonds, Mary Jo sent me this portrait of a girl’s best friend in her neck of the woods.

mary jo friend

It may well be much used because she also sent me this screen grab from the local airport weather page this morning.

screen shot 2019-01-30 at 7.16

I am going to have to stop saying that our weather is cold!

Our weather was not very warm today.

It was another day with snow on the ground because it hardly got above freezing all day.

The sun did come out in the afternoon….

whita in winter

…and I would have dearly loved to be out on the hills rather than looking at them from an upstairs window.  However, I had decided to give my foot a complete rest today so I resisted the temptation for ‘just a short walk’ and stayed indoors all day.

I did put some of the day to good use by working of Langholm Archive Group business and practising some songs but I also did a lot of creative lounging around, posing first in this chair and then in that one in a very artistic manner.

I also took time to make some ‘what’s in the fridge’ vegetable soup and eat it but I spent more time than usual looking out of the kitchen window.

Birds were about….

chaffinch and goldfinch bright snowy

…and we even had a visit to the feeder from a couple of starlings, who came down from the walnut tree.

perching starling

They didn’t stay long though.

flying starling

The result of the kitchen window staring was not one, but many flying birds today.

They were all chaffinches…

snowy flying chaffinch (2)

…and because of the uniformly white backgrounds in some of my shots today, I experimented with popping some of them into frames.

snowy flying chaffinch (7)

Where the birds were close to the feeder, no frame was needed…

snowy flying chaffinch (6)

..but at other times, the frame and a fill, gave a different feel.

snowy flying chaffinch (5)

All the frame and background colours are picked up from the birds.

snowy flying chaffinch (4)

Mrs Tootlepedal had a quiet day in too as she was not feeling 100% so the house was very peaceful.

It is supposed to be pretty unwarm again tomorrow and as the ground has got rather icy, I may well opt for another day of foot rest.  We have decided not to go to Edinburgh to see Matilda as we have more travel in mind for Friday, weather permitting and we are getting too old for larking around in frost and snow just for the fun of it.

Of the many flying chaffinches I watched today, I thought that this one deserved the signal honour of being declared flying bird of the day.

snowy flying chaffinch

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