Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife


Birds and frost and sun – Loch Leven

The most beautiful kind of winter’s day, with sunshine and frost, blue skies and colour everywhere. I went to Kinross and headed off round Loch Leven, to see what birds were around.

The views across the Loch were wonderful, but the light on the water made it hard to pick out detail on the birds.

The tiny black dots here were tufted duck. Most of the swans I saw were like white boulders in the water, feeding steadily. There were Goldeneye and Wigeon, and possibly Pochard. But the sun was too dazzling to look for long.

The moss was thick and beautiful in the woods.

There was also a rather nice lichen which might be Parmelia.

I watched a Jay for some time. And I was so pleased to see Pussy Willows full out, with this Heron:

I went as far as Loch Leven’s Larder where I had a peculiarly tasteless cheese scone which came with strawberry jam (an improvement). Then I had a look at the geese in a nearby field.

Greylag, I think.

Coming back, there were several Reed Buntings on fence wires and in the trees.

I was intrigued by this overgrown chapel, but didn’t stop to explore.

It turns out to be Orwell Kirk, which gave me a jolt when I thought it was the church of one of my botanist ministers, but he would have been based at the replacement church, built with stone from this old building.


January bleakness

No sun today. I walked around the airfield to the end of the Eden estuary, all bleached out bleakness, thinking about what happened 40 years ago today.

The sand was half-frozen, which made for easier walking, and there was frost on some of the dunes.

I puzzled over these birds but with help from expert Mary, have got them down as Bar-tailed Godwit. Because they don’t look like Naomi Campbell, and are on a Fife estuary. With upturned beaks.

I also saw a tree creeper, long-tailed tits and a very shy robin.

On the path through the forest, I noticed a reddish-brown tinge on a fallen pine trunk.

A tiny liverwort, which will have to be studied properly tomorrow.

Coming back, the alder and hazel catkins were tightly closed, but there was a little viburnum (I think) scrambling through the thorny branches of a rose.

More winter light

After the misty sunshine of Wednesday, there was a different kind of magic on Sunday, looking out from Kincraig cliffs across the Forth.

The back-lit cloud was outlining Berwick Law and spilling over its shoulder.

It was so peaceful and beautiful, especially with the Eiders cooing to each other.

Not many flowers but I managed my 20 birds and flowers combined, including this lovely sun spurge, with its toothed leaves showing up well.

I was trying to resist moss…but these textures were too eye-catching to pass by.

(And I came away with a strange purple bryophyte to identify, but that’s another story.)

Winter light

I was lucky with the tide at Tayport, right in, on the turn. And there was the Little Egret (Little Egret!) on the shore, with all the others. Just a distant white blob in this picture.

Lots of gulls, etc.

The light was magical, with mist lingering over the fields and sunbeams slanting through the trees.

The Tay was truly silvery, and a superb setting for the Shelducks.

I was trying not to look at moss, but couldn’t resist this colony on a tank trap.

I always wonder how long this one will stay upright:

I went up to the dunes at the point, and found a stretch of sand which I don’t remember being there before. Is the sand shifting again?

Round the end of the last dune, the sea was close and powerful.

There were sand shadow shapes to admire.

And a long tide line of sea urchin shells, washed up after the high winds.

Eventually I headed over to the path and set off for home. There was a perfectly Christmassy lichen-covered hawthorne bush.

And two beautiful webs catching the sun and the mist drops in the heather.

I set off thinking I’d aim for 20 flowers and birds. This is what I found: Sparrow, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Wood Pigeon, Little Egret, Shelduck, Mallard, Curlew, Redshank, Sanderling, Gorse, Broom, Heather, Mayweed, Cormorant, Oystercatcher, Lesser black backed gull, Wigeon, Robin and a load of other gulls.

Kilminning in December

I went out on Sunday to see whether Kilminning would work well for our new year plant hunt (and to enjoy a beautiful sunny winter’s day).

There wasn’t much flowering at Kilminning – the sheep were doing a great job, chewing away. It made me appreciate this little clump of Mayweed.

The shape of the rocks always intrigues me.

No dolphins today, and not many birds, but there was a nice pair of stonechats. Round the headland, I thought I saw a bird sitting out on a rock, but too far to identify.

Then I began to wonder as the waves broke over it and it never moved…the photograph tells the true story – not a bird, just an old post.
The walk back down to the car park wasn’t the most peaceful in the world, with go-carts on one side and screeching car tyres on the other. But I found Mallow leaves, then spotted this yellow plant which I couldn’t place.

Little narrow leaves.

After poring over the books and checking with those who know, it’s come out as Senecio inaequidens, Narrow leaved Ragwort. Which is apparently spreading from the Inverkeithing area, but not common round here, so I was happy with this discovery.
Something else which made me happy was finding pussy willows almost out:

And one which has definitely reached full pussy willow status!

Somewhere else (in my own backyard)

I went up the hill to the listening station with a vague memory of a circular walk years ago with mum, which comes out above the hospital. Instead, I followed the muddly, puddly track through the fields which took me to a sign-post for a “viewpoint”.

The path went up to a farm with a wonderful Mullein still flowering.

Then another muddy track which took me to…

I was just snorting when I saw steps going up..

The actual view point lived up to its name, a little platform with 360 degree views to the horizon and plaques naming the features in the landscape. I didn’t know this was Craiglug, what a fantastic name!

It was quiet November hazy sun at first, with dramatic skies.

Quite a few flowers were still blooming, including Hairy Tare, with its hairy seed pods (2 seeds).

But this was the most spectacular “flower”:

End of October

It was a beautiful morning. Cold, and the wind was freezing, but lovely day to be out.

And it’s always good to find a mystery as soon as you step out of the car.

Margaret has suggested equisetum, which could well be right.

I went down the Shell Bay forest track, which has been a frequent choice for Sunday walks over the last couple of months.

It’s sheltered, and there are still lots of flowers. Is this Henbit Dead-nettle? I’ll have to check again.

I was playing about trying to get two flowers into each shot. Knapweed and groundsel (if you look hard).

Annual wall rocket and Viper’s Bugloss.

There was also a late Meadowsweet, Common Stork’s-bill, Shepherd’s Purse, and the remains of the Green Field Speedwell.

I went out Ruddon’s point to look at the birds, as the tide was out. Gulls and more gulls. Came across this very raggy little ragwort (think I like it better this way).

I had a quick look at the moss on the tank traps and took a picture, as I’m not sure how much longer they’re going to escape the erosion…

Along Shell Bay, where I filled a bag with plastic stuff and dumped it in the litter bin. It wasn’t obviously messy, but the speed the bag filled up shows how much plastic is there.

Along the path wondering if the Duke of Argyll’s tea bush might have berries, but it didn’t. Up the cliff, where I got another two-for-one shot, Smooth Sow Thistle and a Fumitory.

I decided not to go down the back of the hill, but round the long way…which was a very long way…but it meant I came across this beautiful little Burnet rose in bloom.

I took a couple of hips back home and sowed the seeds, fingers crossed.

October woods

There was the sweet sound of robins, the toffee smell of autumn leaves, and the unexpected pleasure of being out for a walk without a coat.

We were supposed to be meeting in Comrie at the weekend, to look at ferns, but I knew it was likely to be called off, and decided to make the most of this beautiful Wednesday. I did the Glen Lednock circular walk, only 4 miles but there was so much to see.

There were sweet chestnuts scattered on the ground – many of them sitting upright on the shattered husks, as if they were just ready to jump off and start a new life. But the nuts seemed thin and soft. Maybe the storm brought them down too soon.

Among all the leaves, these two seemed particularly well placed.

A whole spectrum of life on this tree (including black slug, which was glinting beautifully in the light).

Magical moss water drops.

Water on a different scale altogether, the Deil’s Cauldron.

The noise and movement were impressive.

I liked the way the polypody stood out against the waterfall.

Further on, a great view of the hills.

The footbridge goes right through these trees.

It gave a great view of the liverworts, beetles and moss growing on them.

Further on, I tried for a spectacular photo of bell heather for wildflowerhour, but didn’t pull it off. But it was a beautiful view. The grey skies never came to anything.

A real golden day.

Mycelis muralis

A short walk up the side of the golf course and through the wood – just enjoying the very last of September sun. I didn’t expect to find a new flower at this stage of the year.

The leaves were distinctive.

There were several plants growing in the wall – which made me fairly sure it was Wall Lettuce!

A member of the Compositae family – but I’m really not sure why? Whatever, it was a great way to round off the summer.

I love the effects you get, going up this path where the vegetation is at head height along the top of the wall.

The Fife countryside was looking just lovely, bleached stubble fields, the brown earth where ploughing has started, the muted gold of the leaves.

I found 23 flowers, and a ladybird sheltering in the heart of the hogweed.


End of September, but there was still lots of colour around.

The glowing orangey-red leaves of the Rosebay Willowherb were fantastic in the sun.

After this year’s wonderful Hawthorn blossom, it’s not surprising that there are some great displays of berries now.

I was surprised to see that the burn no longer runs down on to the beach – effect of the dry summer?

The sow thistles are still lovely.

I walked through the dunes, thinking about moss. I must get back to it. This one is in my head as the pepperminty green moss.

At one point, there were spreads of vivid green Polypody leaves.

Only some leaves had sori, and only at the top. I wondered if this is because it’s early in the season – do they extend downwards from the tip?

The pools where I heard the Snipe earlier this year have now dried up again. No birds to be seen or heard.

Along at the end of the beach, I sat and watched a group of seals out on a sandbank, as the tide came in.

There seemed to be two young ones and six adults.

A constant stream of terns flew past in a straight line, behind the seals, heading up the estuary. I became worried about one of the seals, which didn’t move when the tide washed over the sandbank, and became separated from the group. It didn’t seem to be able to move properly, just rolling back and forward. I stopped watching and moved down the beach for a closed view, but it had disappeared by the time I did this. Hope that meant it was swimming away.

Other wildife – heard a grasshopper, saw ringed plover and sanderlings at the sea edge. Some beautiful young puffballs – I liked the curved shadow of the grass on this one.

The sea rocket on the beach is in great clumps.

I found a really pale version in the dunes.

Prickly Saltwort – flowers or fruits? (Fruits!)

Tentsmuir – so full of wonderful distractions, it always helps.