Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife

Loch Leven

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.

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Somewhere else (somewhere steep)

A grey and blustery day, and I went up the hill at Vane Farm and followed the path over the hill. Dealt with the steep bits by counting flowers, 51 including Sneezewort, Sticky Groundsel and this pretty little Water Crowfoot.

Then I found a path that went up through the forest and then along the cliffs at the top of the hill, through a spread of heather. Somewhere else! Never been here before. Views were spectacular, even with the weather.


I went on until I reached a trig point.

The rain was heading towards me, so I turned back, but another day I’ll keep going.

Back down at the Loch, I was lucky enough to see my third Little Egret in two days (this one was later chased off by a heron).


Loch Leven – sunflowers and sneezewort

I was heading for the Lomonds but the tops were covered in cloud, so I went on to Loch Leven instead.

I didn’t expect to see this!
sunflowers1
sunflowers

The botanists had said that Ranunculus x levenensis could be seen (low water levels) and so I thought I’d have a look. Of course, I hadn’t checked to see what it actually was, and got misled by the buttercups, especially one with a double flower on a single stem. Now if the botanists had said “Loch Leven spearwort” I might have had more chance…I am definitely a plant-spotter, not a botanist.

However, the sneezewort was looking beautiful.
sneezewort heads
It sounds daft, but I only realised today that it is a close cousin of Yarrow – both are Achillea. Makes sense when you look at the cluster of individual florets in the flower head.
sneezewort
And there was a grebe out on the water, with Pochard, Tufted duck and swans.

The cloud lifted and I went over to the Lomonds, and followed the path up to the West Lomond, but more for a walk than to plant-spot.
west lomond


Mist

It’s been like living in a cloud for the last few days. Along at Loch Leven, everything was misted with droplets of water.
cobweb1

wet grass

gorse cobwebs

loch leven

mist

I was lucky enough to see hundreds of geese take to the air and fly from the far shore over to the island, with some ducks joining in the fun. Otherwise, the highlight was a Greater Spotted Woodpecker. And some beautiful cobwebs.


Liverworts

Cold and misty along at Loch Leven, but a damp day is probably the liverworts’ favourite weather. I was on the hunt after covering them on the botany course.

I was pleased to find some plastered along the banks of a small burn.
aliverwort1

aliverwort2
I was even more pleased to find some with sporophytes, wedged into the corner of the steps.
aliverwortcorner1

aliverwortcorner2
I still think it’s the most amazing thing, that liverworts and the other bryophytes are kind of back to front – what’s on show most of the time is the “gametophyte generation” and the sporophytes emerge from the gametophytes like stalks. In flowering plants, it’s the sporophyte which is the recognisable part. This whole thing with the two generations was such a new concept for me.
liverwortview
Anyway, these are clearly different from the Marchantia I identified in the St A car park away back in July 2011. From trawling the net, my best guess is one of the Pellias.
aliverwort3

aliverwort4
Apparently the sporophytes don’t last long, unlike mosses, so I’m glad I found them today.

There were glimpses of deer in the woods and a red squirrel high-tailing it up the hill. Also found blaeberry in leaf, with fruit forming.
ablaeberry

Lots of birds – heard chiff-chaffs and a woodpecker, and down at the hides I watched the lapwings fly about madly.

Near the car park at Findatie, there were multicoloured roots (?) on show where the ground had been disturbed. Do they belong to the grassy plant (sedge?) or something else? I know bogbean grows around there.
amysteryroot
Update – after doing a bit of googling, I think both the segmented roots and the grassy bits belong to bogbean.


A few minutes at Loch Leven

The marshy bit down from the Findatie car park is always great for flowers. I thought I might find Marsh Ragwort, but no. However, as well as around 100 mute swans out on the loch, I saw…
rattle and lousewort
Lousewort and Yellow Rattle
devils bit scabious
Devil’s bit Scabious
grass of parnassus
Grass of Parnassus
spider home
A lovely spider house
small copper
(Normal) Ragwort with small copper butterfly
sneezewort
Sneezewort
meadow vetchling
Meadow Vetchling

and a lot more…lovely.


Buds

Well, I think they’re buds…
buds1
buds2
I went for a quick explore up the hillside at Scotlandwell, and on the muddy, snowy path I found lots of these little green things. At first I thought they were sprouting sycamore seeds, but there was no shoot and no sign of the spinner. So I think they must be buds, but why they’ve fallen off the tree, I don’t know. Something that happens naturally? Or because of the cold weather?
buds3
It’s hard to believe that on April 4, the scenery looked like this.
loch1
But although I wish the snow was gone, I have to admit it was very beautiful.
loch2


Lapwings and Mimula

A warm, grey, muggy day. On the way down to the hides at Loch Leven I saw a chance to sort out two of the “like but not the same as” flowers that always catch me out. I think this one, with its narrow leaves, is Meadow Vetchling (Lathyrus praetensis).

And I think this one is Common bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus).

From the first hide, I watched a young pied wagtail, very close, quite independent but with its mother still nearby. Then I saw a lapwing…and after waiting patiently, saw a young lapwing emerge from the undergrowth. Further off there was another lapwing parent and chick. Good. Lots of geese resting on the bank, too.

All around the hide and over the islands was yellow mimula (or Monkeyflower as the book has it (Mimulus guttatus)) – I’ve never seen it in such profusion.

Outside the hide I noticed a willowherb which seemed different (but will have to check it later) and a very fancy white nettle…it turned out to be Large-flowered Hemp nettle (Galeopsis speciosa). I think the RSPB must have been using a wildflower seed mix after all their excavations…

I went to look for the bogbean, but too late – the flowers are over. And so is the grass of parnassus. But there were orchids, and marsh lousewort, and so many beautiful grasses. To inspire me to make a start on their names, I took a photo of one that I do already know – Quaking grass. Beautiful seed heads. Hard to photograph because of the quaking, though.


Where the monks were


Grasses are another area of mystery to me. But maybe a rare one is a good place to start. At Loch Leven we were introduced to Holy-grass, Hierochloe odorata, which is found in only a few scattered places in Scotland and very rarely in N. Ireland. Our guide explained that all the sites are near old monastic settlements, and it’s likely that the grass was planted and used as a strewing herb as it has such a powerful smell. The book says vanilla – I thought it was more like Ajax scouring powder. Apparently it’s genetic whether or not you can smell it, like asparagus and what it does to your pee(?)

There was a Culdee and then an Augustinian monastic community on St Serf’s Island in the loch. I wonder if the geese still came every winter then?

The close-up picture didn’t come out, so spot the rare grass in the meadow…

Would I know it again? Probably not, but now I know where to look for it.

I also learnt identification tips which probably everybody gets told at some point: Molly has hairy knees (Holcus mollis) and Foggy (Yorkshire Fog, Holcus lanatus) has pink striped pyjamas.


Speedwell

Speedwells – or should that just be Speedwell? have always confused me, and I don’t really know why – they’re quite distinct from one other and I like them. I like the name too. And their other name, Veronica. So no more excuses, this is the year when Speedwell and I are going to get sorted out.

I was really pleased when we found this one on the walk at Loch Leven – Thyme-leaved Speedwell, veronica serpyllifolia. It has untoothed leaves and pale flowers.

We also saw the more common Germander Speedwell, veronica chamaedrys with its two rows of white hairs on the stem.

Then at Tentsmuir I found this little plant half buried in the sand.

I think it might be Heath Speedwell, veronica officinalis, but it was some way away from the grasslands, heaths and open woods where it usually lives.