Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife


Brent goose

I set off to look at the mosses on the Kenly burn path, with the wind blowing strongly. And immediately got distracted by this fine caterpillar.

I think it’s an Elephant Hawk-moth. The largest caterpillar I remember seeing. The poor thing was being blown about on the road, so I (helpfully?) put it on to the grass verge.

In the trees it was calmer, but this tree – cherry? – had splintered and collapsed quite recently from the look of it.

I wonder how this place will look in a hundred years’ time? The ivy is taking over and many of the trees look unsteady. But then, I remember when it was a bluebell wood – change happens.

The moss was looking good.

Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed are unwelcome additions. I pulled some more plants out, but they’re winning.

Down at the shore, there were mallards, gulls, and a dark-necked bird swimming on its own along the rocky coastline. It turned out to be a Brent Goose. Just one.

I could hear other geese, and sure enough, the big flock of Canada geese were having a good feed in the stubble field.


The trees and the Tay

I was trying not to worry. A walk in the woods at Balmerino was a good distraction. I was pleased to rediscover the white coral fungus that I saw a few years ago.

Last time, I remember one big clump. This year it was like little snowballs on the ground, spread over a larger area.

The red squirrels were elusive but I watched one jumping from tree to tree, high in the tops.

This stylish plant, which I think is Carex pendula, was too big for one photo.

There was Enchanter’s Nightshade everywhere, lovely to see it still in bloom.

It seems to be a good year for beech mast. I love the velvety insides of the nut cases.

And the mosses were good, including this Atrichum undulatum (so nice when I can actually recognise a moss!)

Then I came across two trees which seem to have been deliberately burnt.

Why would anyone do this? The bark was blackened and resin was oozing out. It did look amazing, catching the light, against the black bark.

But surely the trees can’t survive this sort of damage? Gave me something else to worry about.


I’ve never seen a field like this – a haze of pink, at Hill of Tarvit.

It was Redshank, Persicaria maculosa.

Intentional? There seemed to be a crop in there too.

Lesser Stitchwort was also flowering away, and Bush Vetch, Vicia sepium, in some very fresh looking vegetation.

Rocks, crab, geese, haar

I went off to Boarhills to see whether my Himalayn Balsam weeding had had any effect. Which it had, but there was still lots in flower.

At the end of the path, the haar was rolling in. I could hear honking, and just made out a flock of Canada geese at the mouth of the burn.

I ate my tangerine on the headland, admiring the rocky landscape which had an end of the world feel to it, with the haar hiding all signs of civilisation.

Some of the rocks are have little stubbly columns all over the surface, like miniature stone forests or cities.

This one had a stone flap.

The pools varied too. Some were clean and clear – this one with the biggest pool crab I’ve ever seen.

Some were scummy.

This one had rock eggs at the bottom.

No sea anemones here, but lots of sea snails and shrimps.

The mist began to lift, and on the way back I got a clear view of the geese, and a flock of lapwings came in to land on the rocks.

The ever-changing Tentsmuir

The first new thing was finding a boggy area in the dunes to the right, which I’ve never noticed before.

It seemed well established with Carex otrubae (I think) and other marsh plants.

Along the path, the Grass of Parnassus shone out among the Eyebright and Tormentil. But I failed to get a nice close-up. I was a bit distracted by the beastie showing up on this picture, which was scuttling about on the lens but invisible from the front. I was sure it was a tick…

There was a giant fungi, maybe a puffball.

The “pool” is now a thing of the past – no open water now, although I thought I heard a moorhen among the reeds. I was intrigued by the dock leaves growing in shuttlecocks at the edge – possibly Northern dock, but I didn’t look for fruits.

Managed to nearly brain myself by crouching down to look at this wee thing with an open rucksack – binoculars hurt! Sagina nodosa, Knotted Pearlwort.

At the far end, I was happy to find another favourite – Astragalus danicus, Purple Milkwort. And happy too that I got a nice picture.

The sand stretched out with no human footsteps, just the marks left by rabbits and “something else”.

I liked the shadows cast by the Marram grass.

On the beach, I sat and looked at the sandbanks stretching away out into the sea. I’m sure they’re more extensive now. Surprised to see reeds beginning to grow in the sand, with the Rye grass. (Rye? Lyme!)

It was nice seeing the classic combination of Sea Rocket, Orache and Prickly Saltwort in clumps along the top of the sand. I managed to get a picture of the teeny tiny Saltwort flowers.

The fruits almost look like flowers in their own right.

More changes – the strip of land between the shore and the trees seems to have narrowed – I’m sure it used to be twice as wide. There were eroded chunks at the edge.

And the trees used to be further inland? Several dead ones at the edge of the sand.

I enjoyed walking back along the sand, but was upset to see a collie dog being allowed to chase the terns at the water’s edge. No wonder they don’t breed here any more. I went inland to escape the sight, and got distracted by dragonflies – some red, some greenish brown.

Other lovely things:

The sea urchin

I’ve never walked south from Arbroath, so went for a short walk on my way home from Balgavies on Monday.

It was lovely – must go back and do a proper walk soon. On a day when there’s a better view…

Some of the highlights:

A wonderful sea urchin.

I’ve only ever found the smallest fragments of shell. It was amazing to find the whole creature. And so vividly coloured.

I left it there, but brought back a small fragment.

The pebbles were beautiful, and it was hard not to fill my pockets and bring them back too. I resisted this one.

Loved this one, which looked as if it had been dusted with gold.

There were some good dunes, but showing signs of erosion.

Didn’t walk as far as Easthaven – next time.

Ospreys and Spearwort

A free Monday! and I decided to go up to Balgavies Loch to see if I could see an osprey or two. And have a look at the plants.

The first birds making their presence felt were these Greylag geese, along with a quieter Swan family.

There was a sweet little butterfly – possibly a Small White female.

I knew I was too late for the Yellow Loosestrife, but there were lots of other water-loving plants around. The star was this Greater Spearwort – huge buttercup flowers at my eye level.

At the edges of the loch were yellow waterlily and this pink flower, which I think is Amphibious Bistort.

Where the path goes behind the trees, the moss was enticing but the biting insects were fierce. The sticky willie was impressive, festooning trees and bushes, bending bramble to the ground.

I was so happy to find an oversized Toadflax – just love these flowers.

And then I was opposite the osprey tree, and so pleased to see one of the birds there.

I’ve watched the Loch of the Lowes ones so much that it felt quite odd to actually see one “in real life”.

Coming back, I liked the mix of Hogweed and fluffy Angelica in this field. (The marsh thistles were also good.)

Tentsmuir magic

Such a lovely morning at Tentsmuir with Mgt. The first excitement was finding three of these classic fungi in the dunes, well away from the trees.

We looked at the Grass of Parnassus (lining the path, having a good year), the Marjoram, the Evening Primrose, and the Sea Pea. Both kinds of Centaury. And I resisted the temptation to take yet more photos of these much-loved flowers.

We re-found the Creeping Lady’s-Tresses hollow and took a grid ref, but then found they were everywhere. I did try a photo but, as usual, it was out of focus.

Then we went looking for Mgt’s helleborine. After some searching, and getting distracted by Twayblades (Listera ovata) and Wintergreen (Pyrola media) (and mossy trees), we did eventually find it, but still not flowering. So we’ll try again next year.

Coming back, I took some pictures of Lesser Skullcap (blurred) and bur-reed flowers (slightly better).

Then we wandered into orchid heaven. There were groups of purple flowers everywhere in the trees.

It seemed too late for Northern Marsh Orchid, but after keying out, that’s what we decided.

Such a deep purple, and a good solid kind of flower.

Then Mgt saw exciting leaves among the orchids…then a flower, and it was the Lesser Twayblade, which I’ve never seen. So small and delicate.

I only got one good picture, but we saw about 30 spikes, very encouraging. And now I know what the leaves look like. I would have completely overlooked the flower.

Great days.

Pyramidal orchids

A lovely sunny Monday morning and I went off to Elie to see the Pyramid(al) orchids after encouraging reports from Mgt. And they were wonderful. The cows are off the field, and standing at the fence I could see at least 40, in one corner.

There were quite a few (at least a dozen) scattered about in the dunes and beside the path.

So nice to see them!

Also doing much better than I feared is the Lucerne. Last year it had been strimmed and the bracken was taking over. This year, still fighting with the bracken but around 10 plants, some scrambling up through the fronds, and generally looking healthy.

There were all sorts of lovely things to look at. Baby linnets with a parent, pink-striped bindweed, scabious in full bloom. Goatsbeard seedheads with red clover.

Summer sow thistles.

Behind the Lucerne, the field was full of Meadow Foxtail with its purple flowering heads.

I had a look at the back of this flower to see if I could find hairy backs to the petals…which would be an indicator for Torilis japonica, Upright Hedge Parsley. I get so confused with this one and Rough Chervil, Chaerophyllum temulum. But Rough Chervil has purple-spotted stems, and this plant didn’t. So although no signs of hairy petals, I think this one is Upright Hedge Parsley.

Wondered about this willowherb, growing in the marshy bit beside the path. It might be Hoary Willowherb, Epilobium parviflorum. Need another look.

Other things that caught my eye. On the beach, I noticed how the Sea Rocket and Orache are growing in neat clumps, like a proper little garden.

And a large crab is missing a claw.

Along at Newark castle, I headed for the shade under the cliff to eat my snack. Noticed these rather creepy creatures scuttling about on the stone.

Then I went to take a photo of the moss surrounding this little cleft in the rock and horror of horrors there were more beasties inside!

But the walk finished on a much nicer note, with this red-sailed boat moving slowly across the face of the Bass Rock.

Tentsmuir at last

I get twitchy if I don’t get down to Tentsmuir fairly regularly – the thought of all I’m missing…but finally got the combination of weather and free time. So much to see at this lovely time of the year.

The first thing I looked at was the feathery fronds of the tall grass at the burn, sparkling in the sun.

It might be Common Reed, Phragmites australis.

The centauries were in full bloom, and fairly widespread. This little colony was down by the burn.

The Seaside centaury, Centaurium littorale, is much smaller and a darker pink than the Common Centaury, and has little strap-shaped leaves. Looks like a cake decoration? Also in this picture is the Blue Fleabane, which was everywhere in its softness.

Going along the path through the dunes, it was good to see that the Evening Primrose is doing well – many more plants than when I first noticed it several years ago. It’s jumped the path in that time, too, and I found a plant some distance away from the main group, down near the marshy part of the dunes.

The Sea Pea is also thriving.

There was a fine stout sedge (possibly Carex otrubae, False Fox Sedge?) complete with ladybird.

Also needing identification is this lovely neat grass. Classic Tentsmuir picture, with Blue Fleabane and Sea Sandwort.

The area which was cleared last year is beginning to look more “natural” again.

The clearing work is going on – I guess that’s good for the dunes, but I hope they don’t go too much further as that’s where I found a shady hollow with around 50 spikes of Creeping Lady’s-Tresses (Goodyera repens). So beautiful in the dappled light.

Every ragwort, no matter how small, seemed to have attracted the stripy caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth.

Coming back through the trees, because it was too hot in the sun, I stopped to listen to the birds and watched several coal tits splashing about in a puddle.