Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife


January waves

Beautiful sunshine with a keen wind which meant bird-watching was kept to the minimum. And flowers were few and far between. Instead, today was all about the waves, blowing onshore in the breeze.

Two windsurfers were heading to the water, having some trouble with their sails. Butterfly men.

It was too cold to stay and watch them, but later I got a glimpse through the binoculars. Brave men.

After collecting a small moss sample from Ruddon’s point, I walked along Shell Bay with the wind behind me and the waves lively and sparkling in the light.

The walk along the foot of the cliffs was difficult, with sun in my eyes and that wind, but the sight of the waves crashing on the rocks was well worth it.

Felt I’d earned my lunch. And saw a kestrel hovering on the way home.

A beautiful end to 2019

What a perfect day. The frost didn’t melt in the shade, but the sun had some warmth. The sky was cloudless, and the sea was flat calm silvery blue with a dark blue horizon.

The dipper was singing as I came up to the metal bridge, so I stopped to listen. Then I saw a grey squirrel winding its way round a tree trunk. Flowers were few and far between, but the gorse was good.

I was hoping to see a ringed plover, but no luck. But I finally felt sure enough to add Corn bunting to this year’s list. And on the beach a little stonechat joined the fidgety rock(?) pipits.

I liked the clear line between the sand and the stones at the edge of the beach.

And this shell sand stone combination.

This frosty log had interesting stripes.

And although I try not to get too interested, I do love the seashore lichens too.

It was such a refreshing, calming sort of walk, even when the path stopped being completely deserted and other people came out to enjoy the day. The rocks looked so good in the low sun. This one appears to be a perfect balancing act – it’s hard to see how it’s supported.

Coming back, I tried to identify a large flock of small birds way too high in the trees. The branches were beautiful against the sky.

I resisted the moss and just took one picture of this plagiochila liverwort. The way it holds its leaves is so very elegant. I think it’s probably Plagiochila asplenoides but I’ve found both plagiochilas along the bank.

At the end / beginning of the path there’s a lovely shuttlecock fern showing no sign of frost damage.

December ducks

I took the chance of a walk round Birnie/Gaddon in some unexpected mild, sunny weather. There was a lot of noise from Gaddon, and when I peeped through the fence at the bird hide, loads of ducks.

Most of them seemed to be Wigeon, with some Dabchicks, Tufties and Mallards among them. (I think it was the Dabchicks I’d been hearing.)

Then I got distracted by an elder tree covered in moss balls.

Very beautiful, with the lichens.

I think it may be Orthotrichum pulchellum, because of the markings on the capsules. But I wouldn’t swear to it…

Further round the loch, there was a lovely family of swans on the bank.

Six fully grown cygnets and the two adults. Not scared at all – probably used to people.

Then there were several Goosanders.

They seemed to have gold colouring on their breast, and I wondered whether they might have become stained, like the whooper swans a couple of years ago.

There were lots of little birds too, including two lovely long-tailed tits. But the main highlight on the way back was when I stopped to admire fresh hazel catkins, and discovered several little pink hazel flowers.

This seems very early to me. But they were quite typical in being almost impossible to photograph – only one picture in focus!

Winter weather at Tentsmuir

It was one of those windy days where the sun is out but the rain is on the horizon…I went to the Tayport side of Tentsmuir just for some fresh air and to see what could be seen.

Plant-wise, the only flowers I saw were white dead-nettle, gorse, and this ragwort. It looked as if it was flowering on new growth, with the old stem still standing.

There were plenty of birds out on the estuary – Curlew, Wigeon, Shelduck, Mallard, Oystercatcher and “gulls”.

The moss/lichen bank was looking very good, with bright green patches of what I think is Dicranum scoparium. Possibly. Maybe.

I walked out towards the point. This time last year I photographed the erosion eating away the base of one of the standing blocks. Went to see if it’s still standing – and it is.

There are quite a few blocks with erosion at the same bottom corner.

I went over to the shore, and found several clumps which I thought had come off the dunes, but they may have been washed in by the tide.

They were full of plant material and plastic, all intertwined, some of the plastic very small and degraded. I didn’t have a wombling bad, so just took a token few small bits of twine to show willing.

I found a wonderful old railway sleeper which has become a rabbit toilet-cum-moss garden. It was too cold to study them in detail but maybe another time…

The weather began to change. There should be a rainbow in this picture.

The rain was hanging in the air.

However, I escaped most of it. Walked back through the wood and found a new path, which wound its way through the trees…

…and then along the foot of these big hillocks.

Dunes? Or created when they planted the forest? They make the woods feel completely different.

Ultimate November

There are days when you just have to embrace the bleakness.

Tentsmuir was shrouded in mist, no views today. It was quite eerie hearing invisible dogs barking, and the gunshots from across the water were muffled.

The water droplets on the rushes were beautiful.

This groundsel was the only plant which seemed happy to be in flower.

I like the pared down, stark beauty you get on these days, like the birch cones against the sky.

It troubled me that someone had dropped citrus peel at regular intervals for a long length of the path. Leaving a trail, I guess – but just rubbish to the rest of us.

However, most of the walk was taken up with happier thoughts, admiring the beautiful mosses.

The green they bring to the dunes and the forest at this time of year is wonderful.

I thought at first that these shapes were seals out on the sands – but they weren’t.

The beach has been bisected by an inlet. I’m always surprised how it changes all the time.


I could have gone to Earlsferry, but went to Elie instead, hoping that the weather would hold long enough for a beach walk. Good choice!

The tide was high. The sky was dramatic.

Piles of seaweed on the shore. Not many birds, but I think I was looking at a turnstone (from the snatched shot of its back as it flew away).

Then a rainbow started to emerge next to the Isle of May.

It became so strong that I could see colours off to the sides, after indigo and red.

Then it became a full bow in front of me, a glowing arc of colour which I felt I could almost walk under.

The rain was blowing in my face but it was the best place to be, at that moment.

Eventually though I turned and headed back to the car. I hoped this picture would show the rain falling in the sunshine, but it will just have to remind me.

Took a slight detour round the headland where there were more lovely effects with the sun and the clouds.

Tentsmuir frost and flood

It was a beautiful frosty sunny morning and Tentsmuir was looking good. Flooded, but good.

I’ve never seen it quite so full of water in the dune slacks. Even my usual path was covered.

There were lots of orchid spikes half submerged in the icy water. I wonder if this will affect them next year? They were so abundant in 2019.

The winter colours were lovely.

The frost had worked its magic on these fungi.

And the Glittering Wood Moss (Hylocomium splendens) was living up to its name.

The mosses were also looking good. I puzzled again over these two, which look so different but are they really?

Plantwise, the flowering stars were Heath Groundsel and Centaury (not sure which centaury).

I saw two woodpeckers, and the light through the trees was wonderful.

Birds and flowers and waves and sunlight

Yesterday it poured and poured with rain and felt truly Novemberish. Today was a different world altogether, unbroken sunshine. I decided a beach walk would be best, as everywhere else is so wet.

Down at Lower Largo the sea was sparkling, the beach was pretty empty and there were sanderlings.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. On the way along the railway track, there were loads of flowers to look at, including Greater Knapweed – not just one lonely flower, either.

There was also Fairy Flax, growing tall by scrambling through the grass clump.

And one remaining Meadow Cranesbill flower.

On the beach, piles of shells.

I walked along to Ruddons Point, enjoying the empty beach and watching the sun blow spray off to tops of the waves.
Some magic moments.

I found more of these weird “jelly ears” – think they’re called Sea squirts but haven’t found out anything much about them.

There’s always so much to see. I loved this lacy razor shell.

At the saltmarsh, I picked up about 50 cotton bud sticks. Now wondering what to do with them. On Ruddon’s Point, the tank traps haven’t fallen yet.

I had a look at the mosses on the traps and also on the hillock – will have to go back. Today wasn’t a moss day.

There were two chaffinches and two pipits (I think) sunbathing on the footbridge, so nice to see. Got a picture of one of them.

Coming back, saw what looks like the beginning of a fightback for the eroding dunes – beginning to stabilise at the base?

Finally, this little Aster caught my eye, but I didn’t look properly – now not sure whether Sea Aster or Michaelmas Daisy, and can’t tell from the photo.

Just have to go back…

Autumn at Tentsmuir

There were a lot of cars in the car park, but I saw no one on this long walk. It was a greyish afternoon, a bit windy for bird watching but good to get out. And still plenty to look at (never mind the mosses!).

I was very happy to get this shot of Blue Fleabane, considering the way it was jumping about in the wind.

I found a large colony of willow and birch in one of the dune slacks – probably not great news for the plants, but it just shows how quickly things can change.

The wind had left its sweeping marks on the dune sand.

There were reminders everywhere that we’re well into autumn now. The sunny yellow of the Sea Sandwort leaves stood out.

I also liked the way the Silverweed leaves colour up then make silvery curls.

And there were bright red stalks on the sycamore seedlings.

Moss-wise, I took pictures and a sample of the vivid green moss which looks like a miniature forest, for later ID, but also couldn’t resist these furry clumps of Grimmia pulvinata on the tank traps.

I stopped to look at a bird, and became aware that a squirrel was tutting at me behind my back. I listened and watched for a while, but never saw it. However, there was plenty of evidence on the ground…

At the end of the path, the tide was too far out for many birds, but there were a couple of seals on a sandbank.

Decided to go the long way back, down through the wood, along the side of the military base, then across the moor and up the road to the car park. It turned out to be a bit of a hike. However, there were some good things to look at.

I also saw the rusty liverwort Nowellia curvifolia on its rotting log, some Lesser Stitchwort still flowering on the moor, two kinds of heather in the wood (too dark to photograph) and – finally, when I was getting quite tired – two squirrels scampering about at the foot of the beech trees beside the road.

Somewhere else – Backwater reservoir

It was such a beautiful day and I just wanted to go for a walk without looking at mosses etc.

The morning was so still and sunny, with just the slightest breeze disturbing the surface of the water.

The quietness was profound. I kept stopping to listen to it.

Along at the trees, there were bird calls, and I watched blue tits, chaffinches, a dunnock and…goldcrests! The first I’ve seen this year, although they’ve been audible so often in other places. I should have tried for a photo but didn’t.

The sheep on the road were an easier camera target.

Then it was up through the trees, where there were lots of this large white fungi at ground level.

Out into the open, and I followed a vague kind of path through another field of sheep.

Ended up in a bog, with vivid clumps of deer grass.

I crossed the burn on this log bridge (feeling very brave).

Scrambling up the hill, I found the feathery leaves of Spignel.

Lunch – I tried not to look at the lichens on the stones, but they were too pretty to resist.

It was clouding over. I set off on the walk back, first along farm tracks and then a road march. Loved the big balls of wool on these farm gates.

Had a chat to a farmer who was fed up about a car blocking access for his trailer. Nodded to a guy unblocking a flooded ditch. But on the whole, it was just as quiet on the road as it had been walking up the other side. The problem was my sore feet. I started counting flowers, and was very happy with No. 3.

After looking at the book, I think it could be Apple Mint, which would probably make it a garden escape in these parts. But it could be Round-leaved Mint. Whatever – the smell of it was very refreshing. I got to 12 flowers by the time I was back at the car.