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Posts Tagged ‘willow’

Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo from Manitoba who has been visiting Denmark and was impressed by this ratty mural in Copenhagen.

copenhagen rats

We had rather ratty weather  here today, grey and occasionally drizzly but it was warmish and the cold winds had dropped so we made the best of it.  Fortunately, yesterday’s sore rib had miraculously cured itself so that helped a lot.

The birds made the best of it too and arrived at the feeder in droves all day.

I spent five minutes after breakfast looking out of the kitchen window to get the following sequence of avian activity and I could have taken roughly the same scenes at almost any time of the day.

Goldfinches threatened siskins….

goldfinches

…siskins scared the feathers off other siskins…

sisknins

…and more goldfinches shouted at more siskins while a redpoll looked on…

busy feeder

…and once in place, the redpoll ignored the goldfinches…

redpoll and goldfinches

…even when they got up close and personal.  They are the most imperturbable birds I know.

redpoll and goldfinches

A study in how to ignore a goldfinch.

The goldfinches had to resort to being beastly to each other.

goldfinches

But generally there was mayhem.

busy feeder

That was five minutes of action between 9.47 and 9.52.  Mrs Tootlepedal looked out of the window and remarked, “There are just too many goldfinches.”

Then Dropscone arrived with treacle scones for coffee.  There won’t be any treacle scones next week as he is off on holiday again, this time to what he hopes will be the sunny shores of Majorca.  He is an enterprising traveller.

After he left, we went out into the damp and gloom and Mrs Tootlepedal with the aid of a spirit level and some help from me got the first two of the four new vegetable beds into their final position.

new veg beds

Two down and two to go.

I took a picture of a clump of miniature daffodils as ‘daff of the day’ but when I looked at the picture on the computer, I found that they are so tiny that some heavy overnight rain had splashed mud all over them, rather spoiling the picture.

daffs

Leaving Mrs Tootlepedal to make fine adjustments to the levels on the new beds, I went in and made some potato and onion soup for lunch.

After we had lunched on the soup, Mrs Tootlepedal went back out into the garden and I got the slow bike out and did my standard short 20 miles circuit down to Canonbie and back.  It was nine degrees and the wind was light so pedalling was undemanding but the conditions were gloomy and views were not available….

misty view

…so I didn’t stop to take any.

I did stop for livestock beside the road though.  Lambs are everywhere and all carefully numbered to comply with livestock traceability regulations.

lambs

…and the Canonbie cows were conveniently grazing right next to the road.

canonbie cows

I am surprised that they were able to see me as I passed.

canonbie cows

But I was pleased to see them.

I was also pleased to see a very fine crop of willow flowers on a tree at Canonbie Bridge.

willow at canonbie bridge

willow at canonbie bridge

I had parked my bike at the lay-by beyond the bridge and walked back to take the willow pictures.  When I went back to the bike, I noticed that I had parked it by a large patch of butterbur on some rough ground.

butterbur

In spite of the cold and the gloom, spring is creeping in on us, almost by stealth.

My twenty miles took me over 200 miles for April so far which is very satisfactory after such a slow start to my cycling year but I am still well behind schedule.  Must try harder.

Mrs Tootlepedal was still hard at work in the garden when I got back.  She was improving her new paving area for the garden bench.  She hadn’t been satisfied with the small stepped terrace she had made for before she went down south so today she had lowered the step a bit and now felt happier with it.

Considering that we had intended to have a quiet day today, we had been quite active but that was enough and we went inside for a cup of tea and a rest.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I had a very satisfactory three quarters of an hour playing music while Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal chatted and drank wine.  Afterwards the conversation was general and I arranged to go on a fern hunt tomorrow, weather permitting, with Mike who is a fern enthusiast.

The flying bird of the day is a redpoll.  It is not a very good picture but it is a change from the usual chaffinches.

redpoll

*Definition of OAK:  Old and Knackered.

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my ex colleague Marjorie who is on holiday in Yorkshire.  It shows a pub at Robin Hood’s bay than which you can go no further.

Robin Hood's Bay pub

Ophelia passed up by in the night, huffing and puffing but not blowing the house down….or anything else much.

There wasn’t even a lot of rain so this was one event where we were more than happy to find out that it didn’t live up to its advance billing.

It was still grey and pretty windy in the morning so after a quick visit to the High Street, I was happy to stay in and drink coffee with Sandy.

Mrs Tootlepedal signalled a step in the direction of a full recovery by cleaning the oven.

When Sandy left, I got out my new lens and pointed it out of the kitchen window in the hope of seeing some visitors to the feeder.  I was not disappointed.

The first arrivals were a small flock of goldfinches…

goldfinch

…which monopolised the feeder for a while.

When a gap appeared it was filled by a pair of blue tits…

blue tits

…and a house sparrow who bit off more than he could chew.

sparrow

There was a good deal of coming and going…

goldfinch and sparrow flying

…though the chaffinches were holding back.

This one sat in the plum tree watching. When he turned, you could see the force of the wind.

chaffinch

On the ground below the feeder, a dunnock or hedge sparrow inspected the new tray and a robin took advantage of some fallen seed which had collected in it.

dunnock and robin

It was just like old times and I spent a happy hour staring out of the window in between making some lentil, carrot and red pepper soup for lunch.

It was still pretty breezy after lunch so Mrs Tootlepedal and I sat and watched an interesting programme about the painters Peter Lely and Mary Beale before we ventured out into the garden.

Mrs Tootlepedal got to work on tidying up the vegetable garden while I looked about.  The strong winds in the night had left plenty of flowers in full bloom.

poppy

The poppies were still in fine form

Lilian Austin

And Lilian Austin was looking lovely

Time was getting on and as the forecast was for the wind to continue to drop as the afternoon went on, I popped out for a quick walk before going for a short bike ride.

I walked down to the river where I was delighted both by finding Mr Grumpy standing on one leg and seeing a luminous willow nearby.

willow and Mr Grumpy

The fungi on the bank of the Wauchope below the church wall are getting ever more various.

fungus

The grey ones may well be oyster mushrooms and edible but I will leave that for others to test out.

I walked through the park and along the river side.  In spite of a good layer of fallen leaves on the path….

Beechy Plains

…there are still a lot of leaves on the trees in every shade of green, yellow and brown.

autumn colour leaves

I walked to the end of the beechy plains and turned back up the hill along Easton’s walk.

The sun came out as I got to the top of the hill and the town looked very peaceful below me.

Langholm view

In fact, everything looked very mellow and we have been very lucky to avoid the worst of Ophelia which seems to have tracked past to the north of us, though a football stadium was damaged in Cumbria to the south of us.

View of Meikleholm Hill

It was a delightful day for a walk.

Eastons Walk

I came down to the path beside the mossy park wall….

Park wall

…but I ignored the moss when I saw a good crop of what I think is some more cladonia lichen on top of the wall.

Pin lichen

When I got home, I was very impressed by the growing power of Mrs Tootlepedal’s green manure in the beds which had potatoes in them earlier in the summer.

green manure

I left Mrs Tootlepedal talking to out neighbour Ken.  He overtook me yesterday when I was out bicycling on his way to clocking up his 5000th mile of the year.  As he is the same age and weight as I am, I can only doff my chapeau and admire his prodigious energy.

I  haven’t got to 4000 miles yet but I got twenty miles closer today as I pedalled up and down the road three times in a mix of light rain, crisp breeze and a little sunshine every now and again.  I was pushed for time as the light was fading so I didn’t stop for any more pictures on my way and in the end, I just got back in before the time when I would have needed lights on my bike.

I have a choice of flying bird of the day today, either a traditional flying chaffinch…

flying chaffinch

…or a skein of geese which flew overhead this afternoon.

_DSC7931

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture shows the village pond in Osmaston, Derbyshire.  It was passed by my brother Andrew while on an outing with his walking group.

Osmaston

After a moment of dry weather before breakfast, the day very soon reverted to type and got wet.

tulip

The tulips are trying their best despite the weather

Dropscone rang me up  from the golf course where he was hitting a few balls before the rain arrived and we arranged to have a cup of coffee.

I was expecting treacle scones as it was Friday but he arrived bringing the standard issue with him.  He had gone to buy some treacle from our local Co-operative Store but they had been literally unable to get their doors to open so he had had to return empty handed.

The standard scones were very good.

The main business of the day was waiting very nervously to see if a change in my internet provider would go smoothly.  After staying with my previous provider ever since I first connected to the internet, I had been put off enough by the poor customer relations of the big firm which had recently taken them over to change to a new provider.

I got an absurdly good deal from my new supplier which is entirely based on the (probably justified) hope that I won’t bother to change when the rate goes sharply up after a year.  I was promised that the whole change over would happen seamlessly without the need for me to do anything more than plug in a new router when told and greatly to my surprise, this turned out to be true.

Not only that, the provision was, as promised, a great deal speedier than my old one.  This is very unsettling and i am still expecting bad things to happen but meanwhile I am very happy and shooting pictures up the line onto the WordPress server at great speed.

Osmaston

As it was raining pretty well all morning, I was quite happy to wait in and watch birds while the switch over happened, even though the light was terrible.

chaffinch and goldfinch

The birds were quite happy to quarrel

We had regular visits from the sparrowhawk but it was too quick for me today and I didn’t even get the camera raised let alone take a picture of it.

We also got regular visits from redpolls who did hang about a bit more.

redpoll

I took a picture of one beside a siskin….

redpoll

…which shows how similar they are in size.  When they have their back to you and the red head and chest is not visible, they are often hard to pick out among the siskins.

As I said, the switch over went smoothly and while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Hawick on business, I noticed that the rain had stopped so I went for a walk.

The wind hadn’t stopped along with the rain and it was blowing too briskly for comfortable walking in exposed places so I just tramped through the puddles round Gaskell’s Walk.

There was the usual selection of lichens to enjoy.

lichens

They are often little works of art.

The larch trees are just beginning to turn green which is a very cheering sight…

Larch in spring

…and the willows are working hard too…

willow

…though the wind made taking good pictures of them tricky.

It was still rather gloomy so I thought that a black and white tree might demonstrate the feel of the day…

b/w tree

…but perhaps this one getting its feet wet….

tree and puddle

…shows the day off better.

I was pleased to see an old friend at Pool Corner…

heron

…and I was very impressed by this colour daffodil beside the road there.

daffodil

When I got back home, I put the dry weather to some good use by sieving some compost and mowing the front lawn and the drying green.  I am thinking of applying to have the garden designated as a national centre for moss.

There are new flowers to be seen in the garden though.  There are fritillaries…

fritillary

The brisk wind blew one flower head up to reveal the riches within.

…and the very first tulips to open a little…

tulips

….and the daffodils are at their peak.

daffodil

I just need the wind to drop and the sun to come out.

When I get bored with the birds outside the kitchen window, which is very rarely, Mrs Tootlepedal has provided me other things to look at.

flowers under the feeder

 When she came home from Hawick, we discussed whether the tulips were a bit earlier this year than usual so I looked at last year’s posts for this time and discovered that we are perhaps a week further forward than we would usually be.

Looking at the posts was rather disturbing because I discovered that my life runs in very well regulated channels and last year’s pictures are uncannily similar to this year’s efforts.  I even noticed that I had done more or less the same long cycle run to Caerlaverock last year as I just did this year.   I will have to try to get a bit of photographic variety into my life.

Nature is repetitive though and looking at last year’s posts for early April, I saw several pictures of a sparrowhawk in the garden and this year again,  we have had several visits from one over the past few days.

In the evening in a very welcome piece of repetition, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I played Corelli, Rameau and Loeillet along with Greensleeves on a Ground from the Division Flute.  Unlike the new internet connection, we took things at a very steady pace and as a result we enjoyed our playing a lot.

I didn’t get a good flying bird picture today and have had to settle for this ‘two for the price of one’ effort.

flying chaffinch flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie.  She has been working hard in her allotment and has got a nice selection of seeds doing what seeds do.

Annie's seed trays

The forecast said “Rain later” but the morning was a continuation of our sunny spell with the added benefit of enough haze about to keep the temperature up.  Under the circumstances, the obvious thing to do was to get out the fairly speedy bike and go for a ride so I did exactly that.

The question of what to wear was important.  The temperature when I started was about 6° or 7°C which is by no means warm but it was bound to be warmer as the day went on so the trick was to find a combination which wouldn’t let me freeze at the start or boil at the finish.

The wise reader will say that one can start with an extra layer and take it off as the day warms up and this is true but harder to do for your feet and legs and head and if you have to take gloves, overshoes, skull caps and jerseys off then you have to stow them somewhere and that means carrying bags….and so on.  Still, I made a one off choice and was a bit chilly at the start and a little hot at the finish but quite contentedly so in both cases.  I did swap gloves for mitts at Eccelefechan.

I should add that this is only a problem for the older cyclist.  The young ones just put on shorts and a vest and go out regardless.

The wind was light, the roads were empty and the route choice was good so I enjoyed my ride.

lambs at Bigholms

It really felt like spring and I was serenaded by lambs in many places on the ride.

Paddockhole Bridge

 I love this bridge at Paddockhole because the riparian owners have clearly heeded my plea to make bridges accessible to passing photographers.  The banks used to be covered with scrub.  All bridges should be like this.

The bridge crosses the Water of Milk and I always enjoy looking at the Water further along as it snakes through the hills.

Water of Milk

You can see from the picture above that it was  very hazy  so I took no views today.

I cycled along the Lockerbie road but turned off a few miles before the town to follow the Water of Milk down its valley.

The road crosses the main railway line and the motorway and between the two I stopped between where a new road has been constructed to cross the motorway.  I walked a short way down the old road to find a little bridge crossing a tributary of the Water of Milk.

Water of Milk

There were laid back lambs in the field here….

Castlemilk lambs

…and a magnificent roadside tree.

Castlemilk tree

This was the most scenic part of my route (and the hilliest) and for the next section I pedalled along the rather dull old A74 to Gretna.  I stopped for a snack at Ecclefechan and parked my bike against a concrete post well supplied with lichen….

concrete lichen

…and while I ate my banana, I enjoyed the wildflowers beside the road…

ecclefechan wildflowers

…and the sensible energy choices of a householder and a small business in the village.

ecclefechan green energy

I kept an eye out for spring in the hedges as I pedalled down the long straight road to Gretna and it wasn’t hard to find some evidence.

Blackthorn

There was plenty of blackthorn in bloom

Willow

I don’t know for certain what this is but I suspect it might be willow

I was following well travelled roads after Gretna so I kept my camera in my pocket and concentrated on getting home.  I was once again seized by decimal fever when I got into the town and had to cycle right through it and go a mile out of the other side so that I could ring up an exact 50 miles for the outing.

This took me to just over 500 miles for the month and left me ahead of schedule for the year so I cannot complain about March from a cycling point of view at all.

I had enough energy for a stroll round the garden when i got home  (Mrs Tootlepedal was busy there already of course).

frog

There is a steady supply of frogs peeping through the weeds in the pond at the moment.

There was nothing new in the floral department to catch the eye but the weather for the next few days is going to be warm and wet so I am expecting quite a bit of growth.

I did see a most unusual large bumble bee with a very red back but this was the best picture that I could get of it.

bumble bee

I think that it is probably a tree bumble bee, a relatively new arrival in Scotland which would explain why I have never seen one before.

I did think of sieving some compost and mowing a lawn but strangely found sitting down and having a cup of tea and a biscuit with Mrs Tootlepedal more attractive.

I looked out of the window though.

The large flock of siskins which has been eating me out of house and home has moved on, leaving one or two to come to the feeder but there were plenty of chaffinches and goldfinches to fill the gap.

chaffinches and goldfinches

Spot the single siskin at the top of the picture.

Some bad bird has made off with two of the perch bars for one of the feeders but goldfinches are quite good at clinging on to the feeder regardless.

chaffinches and goldfinches

I had to pay a routine visit to the Health Centre to top up my system and when I got back, another look out of the window was rewarded with a sighting of a redpoll in very bright raiment.

redpoll

Attracting female attention is the name of the game.

Not long afterwards, the promised rain arrived so I was very pleased to have made good use of the recent fine weather by cycling every day for the last six days.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch trying to work out where the missing perches are.

flying chaffinch

Those interested may get further details of the ride by clicking on the map below.

garmin route 28 March 2017

The calorie counter is a fantasy.  I ended the ride heavier than I started!

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Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia, my Somerset correspondent, who has been away in France.  The picture shows a charming boutique in Collanges-la-Rouge.

Collanges-la-RougeA cloudy and windy morning gave rise to quite a long internal debate over the pleasures of cycling.  In the end though,my sense of derring-do just won out over my tendency to derring-don’t and I set off up the Wauchope road on the fairly speedy bike.

I was glad that I had gone as my legs and I were in harmony from the start and I even stopped to take a photo or two.  Due to a combination of the cold spring and some wanton mowing of the verges by the council, there are not many wild flowers to see on the way but I was impressed by this display of blackthorn blossom near Westwater.

blackthornOn the other side of the road, a splash of yellow in a ditch caught my attention.

ditch flowersAlmost every flower had a little insect attached.  Nearby an orange bee was busy.

bee at westwaterI didn’t stop again until I was nearly at Paddockhole, my outward destination.  One of my favourite views caused me to take the camera out to record ‘fifty shades of green’.

PaddockholeAn indication of the power of the wind may be gathered from the fact that I glanced down at my bike computer on my way home to find that I was doing 30 mph along a pretty flat piece of road.  I was more impressed by my outward speed than I had been at the time that I was puffing along against the wind.   I really am getting fit enough so that a little wind shouldn’t be an excuse any more to stop me going out.  It probably will be but it shouldn’t be.

When I got home, Granny and Mrs Tootlepedal were in the garden so I joined them and took a couple of pictures.

Willow

One of Mrs Tootlepedal’s two willows going great guns.

There are several colourful corners developing in the garden but I concentrated on some details today.

flowersThe day steadily improved and by the afternoon, it was a pleasant spring day (but still breezy).

After lunch, I took the two paintings which had been given to me to look after by Mrs Turner up to to one of our local picture framers.  He agreed to frame them so that they can be hung up in our new visitor centre when it is ready.  His studio was one of many locally that were open today as part of the Spring Fling and I visited four others while I was in the centre of town.

My favourite was the studio of Julie Dumbarton but as photography was not allowed, you will have to visit her website if you want to see what it is that I like about her work.  I would need a bigger house (and a much bigger wallet) if I was going to buy one of her paintings though.

Because I was thinking about  the two water colours that are being framed, I walked on down to Skippers Bridge to see if I could show the ancient and modern together.  It was not entirely possible but I did my best.

The view upstream in 1859 as seen by William Nutter…..

nutter distillery…and in 2015 as seen by me.

Distillery 2015What is most noticeable when you look at old paintings and photographs of the town is how many more trees there are today.  I couldn’t get down to the river on the same bank as William used for his picture of the bridge but I scrambled down  the other bank and got as far out into the river as I could. There were still too many trees.

Mr Nutter in 1859 saw this….

nutter skippers…and I saw this in 2015.

2015 skippers bridgeThe bridge has been widened by about a half since the painting was made.

The scramble down the bank was quite exciting and so I thought that I would take some pictures of my own while I was down by the water’s edge.  This is my view of the distillery.

distilleryAnd this is my view of the bridge disappearing into the spring foliage.

Skippers in springAfter a last glance at the river….

Esk…I scrambled arduously back up the bank….and noticed a much easier path a few yards further along.

My walk back home on the west bank of the river was made very attractive by a river of daises on the Murtholm….

murtholm daisies….a fine copper beech on the opposite bank….

copper beech….a burst of wild garlic at the end of the fields….

garlic…a swathe of bluebells in the woods….

bluebells…and a final flood of garlic down the banking just before the park.

wild garlicThe walk was full of sensation for the eye and the nose too.   It was rounded off by a cup of tea and a slice of banana and walnut loaf when I got home.

I didn’t have much time for bird watching in all this but a great tit is always a welcome visitor…

great tit

On the old feeder

…and greenfinches make me smile with their apparent solemnity.

greenfinch

On the new feeder

This reminds me that I found the new feeder on the ground when I came down this morning so the rooks have obviously been busy again.  I must tie it up safely before I go to bed tonight.

My flute pupil Luke came and we had a useful practice.  As we are playing in public on Saturday, I have arranged an extra go for Friday evening.  You can’t have too many practices before a performance, however brief.

Mrs Tootlepedal took Granny for a short but scenic drive after tea while I practised a little singing and cut the seventy pictures on my camera card down to a nearly manageable number.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.

flying sparrow

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Today’s guest picture is another from Liz’s visit to the Chelsea Flower show.  It shows the much admired Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth garden.  It is difficult to know what to think about it without actually being in it.

Laurent -Perrier Chatsworth GardenIt was Dropscone’s 74th birthday today and he celebrated by going round his favourite 20 mile morning cycle ride but found it hard work as the wind has still not relented.  He brought some of his Friday treacle scones round afterwards to be enjoyed with coffee.  I was trying to take a birthday picture of him but he was too quick for me and I only got this fleeting glimpse as he cycled away.

DropsconeAfter he had left, Granny and Mrs Tootlepedal and I left too but this time by car for a shopping trip to Carlisle.  We visited Aldi and managed to pick up a modestly priced garden chair and a very, very attractively priced little back bag for my (fairly) speedy bike.

saddle bagI hadn’t intended to buy the bag as I think it is a little too small for my requirements but it was so attarctively priced that I couldn’t resist it.  I reckon that can pack a small tool kit, a spare tube, a medium banana and an egg roll into it as well as a lightweight rain jacket so it will answer well enough for trips under 50 miles.   Looking at the picture above, you might well think that I need a new saddle too and you might well be right but it is hard to give up something that has been moulded by so many miles and is still pretty comfortable.

The morning was cold and windy and grey but by the afternoon, the sun had appeared and the temperature was finally at a reasonable level for the time of year, even in the wind.  We made the most of it.  Granny came out and supervised Mrs Tootlepedal at work on one of the borders.

Granny in the gardenI was busy with compost.  I sieved the last of the material in bin D for Mrs Tootlepedal to use on her border and then started shifting the material from bin C into bin D.

compostThere can be no better fun than playing with compost but my dodgy back means that I have to be careful to take things gently and the rest of the material will be moved in small stages.  Of course then I will be able to move the stuff from bin B into Bin C.  What joy.

I also mowed the middle and back lawns, easy work because of the dry conditions, and did some shredding so my horticultural enjoyment was complete.

I did need a little sit down with the crossword afterwards though.

By this time, it was so warm and pleasant that there was no alternative to a short cycle ride in spite of the persistent breeze.  I repeated yesterday’s fourteen mile trip and thanks to both the warmth and starting in the afternoon instead of before breakfast, I was able to pedal a lot quicker today.

On account of the recent very cold and windy weather, I have done a very poor mileage in May and I can only hope that June is a kinder month.   Last year I did just under 1400 miles in March, April and May.  This year I will have done just under 1000 miles so there is some serious work to be done to get back to full fitness and that needs good weather as I don’t want to damage my new knee by charging about in inhospitable conditions.

A weather expert last night on the TV told us that the cold spell was caused by stormy Atlantic weather during the past winter.  He wasn’t to hopeful that things would change so maybe today was another flash in the pan.

The garden responded to the warmth while it was around.

lithodora and bee

There were plenty of bees working away

apple and bee

Luckily some had chosen the apples.

soft fruit

Potential strawberries and developing gooseberries

Mrs Tootlepedal has a lot of bluebells but she is sad that many of them are Spanish bluebells (left) and not our native bluebells (right). The Spanish bluebells take over from the natives and she is thinking of digging them up.

bluebellsThe first of the rhododendrons is bursting with colour in contrast to the single azalea flower to have come out so far.

rhododendronazaleaThe fine yellow tulip has also spread its wings, revealing a very delicate red border to its petals.

yellow tulipThe little willow bush near the feeders is flourishing at last.

willowA new arrival is a pair of white and blue Polemonium, commonly called Jacob’s ladder.

polemoniumThe clematis over the back door is starting to look as it should…

clematis…but most of the flowers are still waiting to come out.

All in all, the day was one of promise.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I played a few flute and keyboard sonatas and we both agreed that in spite of enjoying ourselves, a little practice wouldn’t go amiss before we play together again.

It was a busy day and I didn’t have much time to bird watch so the flying bird of the day is a composite leaping and diving great tit.  A bit of a cheat but the best that I could do.

great tit

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Today’s guest picture comes from my elder son and shows one of his dogs having a grand postprandial snooze.

snoozing dogThe forecast was very good and the wind was light so it was a perfect day for a pedal and for once I had the time to take advantage of this.  Dropscone and I have been inveigled by the minister into entering a 50 mile sportive in Cumbria quite soon and the course there is very hilly so we thought that a 40 mile hilly ride of our own would be good preparation.

garmin 21 Apr 15This was by far the hilliest ride that my new knee had encountered so I persuaded Dropscone to take it very easily.  As this was a longer run than he is used to, he was quite pleased to comply.

In the event, we got round quite well, though a couple of stiff climbs in the middle of the ride caused my legs to complain a bit.

We definitely felt that we had been working hard by the time that we got back but the alarming thing is that the sportive has an extra 1000ft of climb in only an extra 10 miles and two of the climbs are steeper than anything we met today so more work is probably needed.  Hm.

I did take one picture on the way round but it turned out to be so dull that I didn’t have the heart to use it.  Fortunately there was plenty to look at in the garden when I got home.  It was really quite warm and pleasant today and the tulips spread their arms out to welcome the sun.

tulipstulipsAnd the dog’s tooth violets had come on well.

dog's tooth violetAfter lunch, I drove down to Longtown to collect two pairs of new glasses from the optician in the town.  It was such a lovely day that I took a walk round the Longtown ponds while I was there to test  my new pair of long distance spectacles.

I could see the ponds looking very green.

longtown pondsI could see flying ducks coming in to land on the river.

flying ducksAnd gorse bushes glowing in the sun.

gorseThere were quite a few butterflies about but as usual they were hard to pin down.  One peacock butterfly did a little sunbathing on the track in front of me.

butterflyIn the course of my walk, I saw three herons, one flying, one fishing and one doing some rather odd disco moves.

heronsThere were quite a lot of swallows about and several waterfowl too.  The swallows were too quick for me and the waterfowl stuck to the middle of the ponds so photo opportunities were hard to come by.  Here are a couple of shots which are representative of my efforts.

duck and swallowThe new glasses were certainly letting me see quite a lot of birds but they also seemed to alarm them too as they either swam or flew off as soon as I approached.  I saw goosanders, oyster catchers, tufted ducks, coots, herons, mallards, curlews and even a lone lapwing but in the end I had to settle for snapping first some slower moving fauna….

cattle…and finally some actually static flora.

wild flowers

Probably ladies’ smock

wild flowers

With added insect

celandine

This is definitely celandine

Spring was really springing.

spring at LongtownSpring at LongtownlichenI was pleased with my new glasses.  But even with my old gasses I wouldn’t have been able to miss the bridge over the Esk.  This is one of my favourite views.

Esk bridge at LongtownWhen I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal had returned from making the final preparations for a group presentation at a WRI competition this coming Saturday and was back filling and painting the floor in the front room.  I am looking forward to seeing her design very much.

I had time to look at some pretty flowers on the edge of the dam round the back of the house…

aubretia…before having my tea and going off to Carlisle with Susan to play with our recorder group.  We were just a quartet this week and enjoyed the music that our librarian Roy got out of his apparently inexhaustible big cupboard.  My second pair of glasses is set up to help me read music and look at computer screens.  They worked very well for the music but they are not so useful for a laptop as I am too close to the screen.  Perhaps I need longer arms.

This was the first really warm day of the year in our area and I felt that I had made good use of it.

The flying bird of the day is an oyster catcher from Longtown.  One of the many birds that flew off as I approached.

oyster catcher

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