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Posts Tagged ‘Whita’

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He had a moment to wander around in Borrowash this morning and was surprised to find a giraffe in the woods.  You can see it too if you look carefully.  It didn’t move a lot, he tells me.

giraffe at Borrowash

Last night I had wondered whether we would wake to a winter wonderland or sodden slush and when the curtains opened this morning, the reality was somewhere between the two.  There had been more snow overnight and the hills had a good covering but there was still plenty of green to be seen in the garden and the roads were slushy.

The sun was shining and I thought that I ought to visit the winter wonderland and ignore the slush, so I put my walking boots on and headed for the hills.

I carefully chose our smallest hill and stopped on the way to look back over the town.  It was a good day to be out and about.

langholm and whita snow

I got a short way up the Meikleholm  Hill track and stopped to catch my breath and look around.  Sunshine on snow, if it is not too deep, brings out details and I could see a fan shape near a pylon on the lower sloped of Whita across the the other side of the town.

pylon in snow

A glimpse of some snowy hills encouraged me to climb a bit higher…

view from Meikleholm Hill

…but I met the  owner of these footprints and he told me that it was very cold and windy on the top of the hill…

strange footsteps

…and as it was clouding over and the forecast had suggested a good chance of more snow, I chickened out and walked back down off the hill and onto the Becks track.  I settled for a walk across the Becks Burn and back home by the road.  I hoped that I would get back before the snow started again.

My friend Ada had sent me message a day or two ago to say that primroses were out along the track so I kept my eyes open and saw one for myself.  Shortly afterwards I passed a fine display of catkins.

primrose and catkins

I got down to the Auld Stane Brig and thought about heading home along the road.

But the clouds had moved away and the sun was out again, so I thought that I might have time to climb up the lower slopes of Warbla and come back down the track to the park to make my walk a little more interesting.

I wasn’t the only one to have used the track today…

warbla path

…and this was no surprise as dog walkers get everywhere.

This short track was quite steep and even a little snow makes walking harder work and I was happy to stop and look back across the Wauchope from time to time.

The light on Calfield Rig was interesting.

calfield rig

And I could have stood for a long time looking at the snowy slopes…

calfield

…but it was chilly so I walked up the path a bit and then had another look in a different direction.  The light and shade there were interesting too.

view over holmwood snow

I got to the point where my path met the main track from the top of Warbla and turned to go down to the town. Then I turned back and looked up the track to the summit.

warbla track snow

It was irresistible so I telephoned Mrs Tootlepedal to tell her of my whereabouts and then set off up the hill.

It was quite hard to make quick progress as I had to keep stopping to look around, both to enjoy the wider view as sunshine and clouds alternated in a brisk wind…

clouds and sun on snow

…and to use the zoom on the Lumix to focus in on small details that caught the eye on distant hills.  There was some deep snow on Bauchle Hill further up the Esk valley.

detail Bauchle Hill

I pressed on though, using the helpful footprints in the snow left by a pair of dog walkers who had gone up the track before me.  Without the help of the dog walkers, I don’t think that I could have continued as the wind had blown quite a bit of snow onto the track and it was well over six inches deep at times.  I would have skipped through that as a boy but it was a more serious consideration now.

Still, I got high enough to look back down over the town….

wide view from warbla snow

…and as I got to the flatter part of the track near the summit, the snow got thinner because much of it had been blown away by the strong winds and I was able to stride out with youthful exuberance (almost).

The views from the top were well worth any effort I had had to expend in getting up the hill.

ewes valley snow

Thanks to the rapid passing of the clouds, the light was different every time I looked and it would have been very tempting to spend quite a bit of time on the top of the hill taking pictures…

langholm sun and clouds snow

…but as you can see from the snow glued to the trig point, the wind was brisk and the windchill factor was enough to make standing around for too long unattractive…

trig point warbla

…quite apart from the possibility of being literally blown over while taking pictures of Whita.

whita from warbla snow

So I took one last picture….

Langholm and ewes valley snow

…looked at some looming clouds coming up behind me, and scuttled back down the hill as fast as my legs (and two stout walking poles) would carry me.

As it turned out, there was no need for a rush as the snow didn’t start again until well into the afternoon.  But I had had the best of the day’s sunshine while I was out on the hill so I was happy.

I was also happy to sit down for some lunch after a strenuous four and a half mile outing.

I had a quick look at the birds in a sunny moment after lunch.

The pigeon was back…

pigeon

…and when the snow started again, the siskins were queuing up to kick…

three siskins and a kicking

…and shout at each other.

three siskins and a dunk

I settled down to the computer and put in some useful time entering more of the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive Group database and learning songs for a choir competition when we will have to do without books.

Mrs Tootlepedal found a dry spell to cycle about the town, combining some business with some shopping and when she go back, she made an excellent chicken stew for our tea.

We should be going to Edinburgh tomorrow to see Matilda but with more snow forecast, I think it most likely that we will stay at home.

The flying birds of the day are that flock of siskins which was back again.  They love to perch on the walnut tree, leap into the air, swirl about a bit and then settle back in the tree.  Perhaps, like me, they get a bit cold if they have to stand around too long.

siskin flock in walnut

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Today’s guest picture comes from my recorder playing friend Susan.  She works in Carlisle and had to take the bus to work today as access to her car parking space was impossible.  The lake on the right of the picture is in fact a riverside park and only a temporary lake.

susan's flood carlisle

They may have had too much water in Carlisle but we had snow in Langholm today and this was the view from an upstairs window when we got up.

garden snowy morning

As you can see, there wasn’t a lot of snow in the town but I could see quite a good covering on our hills when I went to the shop after breakfast.

timpen with snow

When I got back home, i discovered that the snow had brought an influx of birds to the feeder and there was a queue in the plum tree.

birds in plum tree

Susan’s father, Dropscone dropped in on his way home from the gym, not to have coffee but to get some documents copied.  He needed them for a battle with the council which was trying to charge him for removing a water meter which didn’t exist.

As soon as he left, more snow arrived.

snowy day

It came down quite heavily but the temperature was just high enough that as soon as the snow hit the ground, it melted.  This continued through the day and although it really snowed quite a lot, there was less snow in the garden by tea time than there had been at breakfast time.

I spent time talking on the phone to insurance companies about our car insurance.  Two minutes on the phone to one company got £100 knocked off their renewal quotation.  Who knows what I might have got it down to if had stayed on the line longer.  I find this sort of thing rather depressing but it does give a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘an old and valued customer’.  They are trying to take advantage of their old customers and extract extra value from them.

I cheered myself up by checking on the birds. The snow had encouraged birds to visit the feeder.

There were some siskins….

a few siskins

…and a lone pigeon.

pigeon

Because it was such a miserable day, Mrs Tootlepedal hit on the happy idea of asking some of our neighbours over for lunch.  I bought some rolls and pate from the shop, while Mrs Tootlepedal made leek and potato soup (the last leek of the year from the garden) and a sticky toffee pudding.

Our neighbours Liz and Margaret and Liz’s daughter, Jane joined us for lunch and we ignored the sleety snow while we tucked in to good food and enjoyed good conversation.  We all agreed that Mrs Tootlepedal had had  a very good idea.

As we ate, we noticed more and more birds arriving outside so I went to check on the feeder.  I was distracted on my way by the sight of two unusual jackdaws on the dam side of the house.

mottled jackdaw

They are a regular pair and we often see them in the garden and round about.

I was even more distracted when two more jackdaws started what looked a serious argument…

jackdaw fight 1

…and for a moment i feared that this might lead to a fatality…

jackdaw fight 2

…but the fight stopped as suddenly as it started and all the jackdaws flew off.

When I turned round and looked at the feeder, I found that it was indeed very busy with a mixture of chaffinch, goldfinch and siskin.

busy feeder chaffinch goldfinch siskin

Very busy indeed.

busy feeder chaffinch goldfinch siskin 2

As time went on and the snow came and went, gradually all the birds on the feeder turned into siskins…

siskin crowd

…and there were a lot of siskins.

many siskins

Far more than we have seen hitherto this year.

flight of soskins

At one time, we counted well over 50 siskins on and around the feeder, the plum tree and the walnut tree.

I put out a second feeder to cope with the rush and by the time that I had got back inside and looked out again, they were both very busy.

two feeders out with siskins

After our lunch visitors had gone, I mooched about for a bit and then decided that I would go out for a walk come what may.  The snow showers had been heavy but none had lasted long so I waited for a gap in the weather, put on waterproof boots and trousers, topped that off with my new warm coat and set out.

There was quite a lot of snow on Whita…

whita with snow

…and the monument on the top of the hill looked very artistic.

monument with snow

Although I was well wrapped up and ready for anything, I was still pleased when the sun came out just as I left the town.

 

wet day at pool corner

As you can see, it was still pretty damp and I was glad that I had wellies on.

haws with raindrops

We have had  light frost, strong winds, heavy rain and now snow over the past few days but the lichens have positively enjoyed the weather and were looking better than ever as I passed them on wall and fence post today.

lichens

The sun persisted as I walked along Gaskells…

gaskell's snowy day

…but when I extended my walk to take in Easton’s on my way back, the snow started again and I had to keep my head well down and my camera in my pocket for the rest of the way.

It must have got a little colder as night fell because as I write this in the evening, more snow is falling, and this time it is settling.  It is still just above freezing so it will be interesting to see if we are going to wake up to a winter wonderland tomorrow morning or just a heap of sodden slush.

We are in for a few cold days and then it is going to warm up a bit to herald the arrival of another storm (called Dennis this time) next weekend.    You can have too much of this sort of thing.  I have always thought that it was a bad idea to give storms names.  It gives them ideas above their station.  You used to get one or two a year in the good old days and now we are getting them once a week!

Still, it stops us getting bored.

The flying bird of the day is one of the fifty siskins.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from former Archive Group member Ken, who is now over in the north east.  He sent me this picture of a very special K4 kiosk, one of only 50 introduced in 1927.  They combined a telephone kiosk with a coin operated stamp vending machine and a post box.  This one is still in use in Whitley Bay, although the stamp machine no longer works.

K4 Kiosk

After the recent Christmas excitements, I had a quiet morning at home with nothing more testing than a crossword and a visit to our corner shop to help pass the time.

I did have a look at the birds who were out in force today.

We had siskins and goldfinches…

siskin and goldfinch incoming

…and lots of chaffinches…

chaffinches incoming

…and sometimes siskins, goldfinches and chaffinches at the same time.

busy feeder

A chaffinch landed with a single claw on the perch…

one footed chaffinch landing

…but once it was in situ, it was determined not to be shifted.

goldfinch and chaffinch determined

Unlike the chaffinch, Mrs Tootlepedal was set on being shifted and so, after an early lunch, we went out for a walk.

Encouraged by her five mile, relatively flat walk yesterday, she had bigger ambitions today.  I followed in her wake as we walked along the main road for a mile before turning up the Copshaw road to walk up to the White Yett.

We stopped to admire the beautifully trimmed beech hedges at Hillhead…

beech hedges Hillhead

…and I noted that the monument, which was on Mrs Tootlepedal’s planned route, looked quite far away and quite high up.

I stopped again to record an unusual grey sheep in a field with more standard models.  I have no clue as to what make it is.

grey and white sheep

As we got higher up the hill, I looked over a wall at a view up the valley, but it was a dull day so the wall was more interesting than the view.  I have no idea what the little brown globe on the lichen is.  I haven’t seen anything like it before.

lichen with brown ball

Another wall caught my eye.  It had a purpose built hole in it.

hole on the wall

Mrs Tootlepedal likes this bench near the parking place at the White Yett.  It reminds her of one like it in her childhood.

seat on White Yett road

We didn’t stop to sit on it though, but pressed on when we got to the MacDiarmid memorial and headed up the track to the Monument.

memorial and monument

It was warm for the time of year, and the hint of sunshine was encouraging as we climbed up to the monument on the summit of Whita at 355m (1164ft), passing some good looking lichen on the way…

kichen in stone whita

…and being passed by an enthusiastic mountain biker…

mountain cyclist whita

…who soon disappeared over the horizon.

cyclist at monument

It is very difficult to get a view to the west at this time of year because the low sun is in the way, but it did make the Solway Firth gleam as it came into sight.

solway gleaming from whita

Following Mrs Tootlepedal’s plan, we walked on past the monument at the top of the hill and came to the edge of the world.

Or at least we came to the end of the last Scottish hill and looked out over the expanse of the Solway plain stretched out below us.  It was misty in England.

solway plain from edge of whita

We kept going and walked down the ridge towards the Moorland Project bird hide.  This involved some hard walking through heather, over moss…

sphagnum moss

…and tussocky grass…

rough moorland whita

…following faint tracks across the moor until we finally got to the road just above Broomholmshiels.

Both of us fell into bogs on the way but we were very brave and soldiered on.

It was a relief to have solid ground under foot again.  We had a choice of road or a somewhat soggy track to take us back to Langholm and unsurprisingly, we chose the road.  After walking down the hill to the banks of the Esk, we took the direct route home and arrived in perfect time for a cup of tea after three and half hours of fairly strenuous walking.

A check on the map when we got back showed that Mrs Tootlepedal had taken me on a seven mile walk.  I was very grateful to her as this was the longest walk that I had managed all year.

Not unnaturally though, we were fairly tired after that so not much else of note happened before the end of the day.  To be be honest, nothing else happened before the end of the day.

We look as though we might be in for a spell of dry weather so I hope to add a little pedalling to the walking before the end of the year.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.  It was not the cleanest picture that I took today but I like the tiny siskins a lot, so it got the honour.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce who was out walking his dogs this morning.

bruce's morning mist

Bruce took his photograph at half past eleven this morning when, as you can see, it was misty on the Castleholm.

I had looked out of the window after breakfast and only seen sunshine and frost but when I went outside, I could see mist on the hills so I thought that this would be a good moment to rush up the hill (in a car) and see if I could look down from above to get some “sea of mist” shots.

It was before ten when I left and it was quite misty as I drove over the bridge on my to the White Yett so my hopes were high.  Sadly, my optimism went down in inverse ratio to the height I gained as I went up the hill and when I got to the car park, it was apparent that I had left things too late.

I left the car and walked up the track to the monument, looking down as I went.  There was only a trickle of mist running along the very bottom of the Ewes valley…

light mist ewes valley

…and not much more running along the length of the Esk.light mist over town

There were places where the mist was a bit thicker…

mist up esk valley

It was beautiful day though and the views were lovely so I wasn’t as unhappy about the lack of mist as I might have been.

mist over whole town

I should have got out earlier because the mist had risen up and was now sitting in an impressive line along the top of the hills along the Ewes valley.

clouds on ewes hill tops

As I walked, the clouds lifted a bit more and across the town, I could see the wind turbines, which had been in the clouds in previous pictures, quite clearly now.

craig windmills with diggerThe sharp eyed reader may notice something beside the left hand turbine tower in the shot above.  A closer examination shows that it is one of those machines with a lifting platform reaching up to a blade.

When I got to the summit, I walked a few yards past the monument and looked over the wall into a misty England.

view over misty england

Turning round, and looking the other way, all was clear as crystal.

monument december

I was happy to see a very decorative patch of lichen enjoying life at 1000 ft above sea level.

lichen at monument

Although I hadn’t seen as much mist as I would have liked, it was a delightful short walk and the sun took the edge off a sub zero temperature as I walked back down to the car…

sun and shadow at monument

…and made everything look very cheerful.

lichen at white yett

The mist really was very local, lying close to the rivers and very low, as you can see from this picture which I took when I was almost back down the hill and into the town…

mist over rugby club

…and it was still there when Bruce was walking his dogs an hour later (assuming the clock on his camera is set correctly.)

I made a pot of coffee and had a cup with Mrs Tootlepedal when I got home and I was pleased to warm my hands up after exposing my shutter finger to the chilly breeze on the hill.

Fortified by the coffee, I had a look at the birds.  There were a lot about today, the most this winter so far.

Goldfinches arrived with and without the use of wings…

goldfinches wings

…and jackdaws looked on disapprovingly as usual.

quizzocal jackdaw

The robin took a more quizzical view…

quizzical robin on stalk

…and a green finch showed that it too could manage without any wing flapping.

no wings greenfinch

I waited in for a delivery of hand made soap after lunch and then went for a short walk.  After the brilliantly sunny morning, the afternoon was a disappointment, being very grey and gloomy, so taking pictures was hard work.

A pheasant at the lodge was bright enough to show off its exotic colours…

pheasant at lodge

…and I saw two lots of fungus, the first a crop looking so like a heap of fallen leaves that I almost passed it by without noticing it…

fungus lodge walks

…and the second gleaming brightly on a tree branch.

fungus duchess bridge

It wasn’t as cold as when the sun had been out in the morning but it wasn’t really a great time for a photographic walk so I pressed on home, taking a final picture suitable to the conditions.

moss and fern tree

Darkness fell soon after I got home.  Following a recommendation from Sandy, we have started to watch the BBC adaptation of His Dark Materials on the i-player and this was a perfect opportunity to take in three episodes before we had our evening meal.  It is very gripping.

Checking on the train company showed that they had managed to run more of their trains today than yesterday, so we are hoping that this improvement will continue tomorrow and we will be able to find a train to go to Edinburgh to see Matilda.

The flying bird of the day is a gull which flew over my head as I walked along th Kilngreen this afternoon.

flying gull

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Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony in East Wemyss, the land of eternal sunshine. It is not the sharpest picture that he has ever taken, but I thought that it was unusual enough to fill the guest spot.

forth sunset

We had a cool but sunny day here. The temperature was near enough to freezing when we went to church in the morning to persuade me to walk rather than cycle. Mrs Tootlepedal was braver and pedalled.

The choir had rather an adventurous time with some unfamiliar and unrehearsed hymns but fortunately the new minister sang the hymns quite loudly with his microphone turned well up, so there must have been some doubt as to whether anyone heard us anyway.

It was still fine when we got home, and this gave me the opportunity to watch some birds while cooking lentil soup for lunch.

An old friend was present…

robin

…and at least two of our dunnocks have avoided the cat peril…

dunnock on hedge

…and were happy to pose for me.

dunnock on twig

Three hungry goldfinches turned up but they were the only ones to arrive while I was watching.

three goldfinches

A jackdaw dropped in but didn’t stay.

jackdaw on pole

After we had eaten some soup for our lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went for a walk.

At three miles and mostly along the flat, it was less testing than yesterday’s outing but I was still very pleased to find that my feet were in full working order and carried me along without complaint.

Mrs Tootlepedal had some embroidery stuff to deliver to a friend and our route to her house took us along the river. Mrs Tootlepedal walked boldly under some alarmingly sloping trees, looking for all the world like Little Red Riding Hood going to visit her granny (only in blue of course).

Leaning trees

We crossed the Duchess Bridge and walked along the low road to Holmhead…

low road in winter sun

…and then to the North Lodge where the parcel was delivered.

I took the chance to go a few yards further on so that I could enjoy the view up the Esk valley…

looking up from North Lodge

…and note possibly the barest bare tree that I have ever taken a picture of.

totally bare tree

We walked back along the path above the Lodge Walks, enjoying the pines that are left when the spruces are felled…

pines after felling

There are a good variety of conifers left and we liked the different cones. I think that the one on the left might be Western Hemlock but I am not good at identifying trees.

two conifers

As we were sheltered from the breeze by the woods on our right, it was a fine afternoon for walking. Whita was looking at its best when we came to the end of the trees and got a clear view.

whita from Pathhead

There is not much colour about at the moment apart from green and brown, but a vibrant dogwood in a garden did its best to brighten things up.

dogwood

We came down the hill to the Sawmill Brig, where I was hoping to see a dipper but this little robin on the mossy parapet was the only bird about.

robin on sawmill brig

I had seen two dippers on the rocks beside the Kirk Brig when I came out of church in the morning but of course I had no camera with me then. It was annoying but typical that when I had a camera, the dippers were conspicuous by their absence.

After a few rainy days earlier on, the water in the rivers has dropped a lot and only half of the Sawmill Brig was needed to deal with the flow today.

sawmill brig low water

The white duck was floating quietly on the Ewes water as we went along the Kilngreen.

white duck

There had been dark talk of snow in the forecasts but there was no sign of it in Langholm and this impressive cloud was the nearest thing to bad weather that we got.

dark cloud

As our Carlisle Choir is on holiday for the next few weeks and Strictly Come Dancing has finished for the year, we were a bit short of entertainment for a Sunday so we went to Carlisle and paid another visit to the pictures.

We saw a well reviewed film called Knives Out. I was a bit doubtful about it when I found that it lasted for two hours which is a long time to sit around. However, my fears were misplaced and the film was great fun from first to last and the two hours sped by. The film was chock full with ideas, but even at two hours there was not enough room to develop them all, so many promising threads were discarded along the way. It must have been tough for the writer/director to know what to throw away as the film developed.

With a few more cold days to come, I am hoping to get more walking practice in during next week. Strike while the iron is cold is my motto.

A chaffinch appears as the flying bird of the day. I might have to adjust the feeder so that birds approach it into the sun!

flying chaffinch

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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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