Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife


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.

Highs and Lows

I thought it was going to be a sunny walk down at Kincraig, but the weather didn’t play ball (although there were some beautiful light effects out on the Forth).

I was happy to find this lovely Viper’s Bugloss at the top of the field, with red clover.

It was nice to hear Eider ducks, and to see the males back in their smart plumage. And I promised myself I’d go back soon for another look at the moss on the rocks at the foot of the cliffs (with handlens next time).

This one is the Schistidium maritimum.

But my mood took a dip when I saw a Sea Wormwood plant ploughed up at the side of the path.

OK, there are more plants on the other side of the path, but the farmer seems to plough right up to the path now, leaving no room for the field margin plants like scarlet pimpernel.

It didn’t help to see the poor ribbon tree covered with old socks and plastic bags – it looks so tatty and seems disrespectful to the tree. Even the ribbons aren’t a good idea – this one is cutting into the bark.

Anyway, with some difficulty I removed one of the plastic bags and felt slightly better. But then I watched cockle pickers make their way to shore with huge heavy sacks of cockles. I don’t know if it’s illegal. It certainly looks unsustainable. To add insult to my injured peace of mind, there was a quick shower of rain (waterproof in car…).

However, I cheered up on the walk back because the flowers are still good, and there was more VB to admire.

I also found these ceramic looking Earth Stars beside the path.

Back at the car park, I decided to have another look at the field edge going up the hill. It’s a spectacular display just now. (Which perhaps makes up for the one at the top of the hill!)

I saw Red Campion, Field Pansy, Cow Parsley, Hedge Mustard, Annual and Prickly Sow Thistle, a Fumitory, Sun Spurge, Poppies, and then those yellow brassicas…I think it’s Rape.

Maspie Den

Today was really about re-checking some of the mosses and liverworts Mgt and I found a couple of weeks ago, but there were lots of other things which caught my eye.

This Stag’s-horn fungus was the brightest thing in the wood.

Mind you, my favourite liverwort is also very colourful.

Still to ID it properly, thinking Scapania.

There was a hollow Ash tree, still alive but surely on borrowed time.

A slime mould above one of the holes.

Up close, it was less like a cauliflower and more a beautiful heap of shiny white globes.

I loved this little colony of moss capsules, in the middle of a wide rocky plateau.

Under the trees, there was confetti from the conifers.

I think these are from an Abies, but not sure which one.

More Tentsmuir

Just a quick reminder to myself of the latest trip down to Tentsmuir (moss expedition).

Tide coming in, sandbank getting smaller.

Seals along at edge of reserve.

Haven’t seen nostoc for a very long time.

This wee car park plant had me confused but Mgt sorted me out – Knotgrass. For some reason, I thought its flowers were pink…

The star of the show, a late-blooming Twayblade.

Somewhere else (Dunbar)

I decided on a day trip to Dunbar to continue exploring the coast up from Berwick. Dunbar is a bit further on from where I left off, but there were cheap rail tickets available and my game, my rules.

I walked south from the town thinking I might get to Torness power station. The first part wasn’t enjoyable because you’re made to feel very much an intruder on the long, long golf course. However, where I could, I went down to the shore, and with the tide quite high there were some good birds.

Not shown in this picture, but there were not one but four Brent geese pecking about on the rocks. Felt pleased that I could recognise them this time.

Further on, there was a great sweep of Sea Wormwood.

Back home, I found out that Sea Wormwood isn’t Artemisia, but Seriphidium maritimum.

Here, it was beautifully mixed with the red stems and seeds of…something.

Best guess is Grass-leaved Orache, Atriplex littoralis, But I forgot to check the leaves.

I do like these silver-grey plants with nubbly little flowers. Cudweed is another favourite.

Anyway, after the golf course were a couple of bays with good beaches but also lots of dog walkers. And a cloud factory.

Then there was the lighthouse.

When I went past it the first time, there was a crowd of starlings fluttering about at the top.

Coming back, I took a picture but only one or two birds this time. What I thought was a decorative pattern of yellow and white triangles turns out to be created by the birds!

There were some strange round pools.

The power station was getting closer. I went as far as this little memorial.

It commemorates young men from St Giles’ Church in Edinburgh, who died in the war. All so young.

Decided not to go further as my feet and legs were beginning to feel it. Coming back, I saw leaves of (possibly) creeping cinquefoil, several butterflies, and a wheatear. It was good to have the “other side” of the Bass Rock to look at.

I wish I’d taken a picture of the lion and unicorn finials on a house in Dunbar high street. Liked them.

Tentsmuir in the September sun

Tentsmuir in September is always lovely, with flowers not yet over and grasses not quite faded. I went there moss-hunting, but as ever there was so much else to look at.

In the dunes, the Grass of Parnassis is still flowering (but it was too bright to get a good picture) and so is the Evening Primrose.

And both Common and Seaside Centaury (think this one is Common).

I also noticed lots of birch and willow saplings along the path – they’ll need to come out soon.

It looked as if someone had been enjoying themselves up in the air.

One of my absolute favourites is Hare’s-foot Clover – so soft.

I found leaves which might – or might not – be Astagalus danicus, higher up, near the forest.

It was a good moss spot, so I’ll remember to go back next year.

Talking of moss…I’ll keep most of it for the moss blog, but this was a very fine mossy tree.

Coming back through the trees, the light found these oddly-angled spiders’ webs.

And made the trees magical.

I heard a chacking noise, and sure enough, high above me was a red squirrel showing its displeasure.

There was a good growth of grass on this fallen pine, and I thought I really should try to identify it…

Pointed ligule, so not Poa nemoralis is as far as I got.

What an amazing place it is.

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.