Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife

Other places

Last day out?

I made sure I went somewhere quiet today, but have a feeling this was probably the last outing for a while. Along at Leslie, I followed the path by the river Leven. Gave up the path to Auchmuir Bridge because of impassable mud, but found another route which turned into a circular walk in lovely countryside.

The river was lower than a few weeks ago, but still rushing along, lots of noise and movement.

There weren’t many flowers, but lots of fresh young leaves. Think these ones are Arum maculatum, Lords and Ladies.

There was a good spread of young garlic leaves by the river.

On the ground, still some scarlet Elfcups, but looking a bit battered.

I passed by a farm with a garden which was half submerged – not sure what happened there, but I’ve never seen anything like it. The farmyard (dry) had these lovely coltsfoot.

Finally, a picture of the amazing shaking bush from a couple of weeks ago – now only the smallest tremors as the river is so much calmer.

Yellow Star of Bethlehem

For several years I’ve wanted to find the Yellow Star of Bethlehem, Gagea lutea. There have been a few unsuccessful attempts (e.g. the abundant 19th century colony at Logie is no longer there) but Margaret told me about a fairly recent record from the Perth Nats at Inveralmond. As flowering seems to be early this year, I went off to have a look.

I walked up the Tay from North Inch, not a walk I’ve done before. It was good to see lots of people out enjoying the weather, and most of the dogs were well behaved. I passed the flooded golf course.

Circular ripples looked like rain drops but must have been escaping air coming up from below?

Along at Scone Palace, there were groups of birds at the water’s edge – cormorant, oyster catcher, gulls and wigeon. I decided these were Lesser Black-backed gulls, as there was a glimpse of yellow leg and they just didn’t look big and black enough to be the Greater.

There were pussy willows just beginning to emerge.

I found my way to the Inveralmond bridge, and pondered over these leaves – Gagea lutea or baby bluebells?

After checking out the M&S foodhall, I started back. I went down to the river to admire a grey wagtail. And it was just a few yards further along when I saw the first glimpse of yellow…

I found it!

There were only 3 or 4 in bloom, so I might go back with the Plant Ladies later. But what a lovely delicate little flower it is, with very subtle green marking on the back of the petals.

I also checked around Niel Gow’s oak at Dunkeld – again there were lots of leaves which might or might not be Gagea, but no flowers to be seen. However, Town Hall Clock, Adoxa moschatelina, was just beginning to come out.

Although I was trying not to think about moss, there were some spectacular bryophytes, including this stand of Plagiochila.

And this lacy purple liverwort on a beech trunk.

And this carpet of Ceratodon purpurea.

But there was no doubt about today’s star.

Drumcarrow hill

Or Drumcarro craig as Charles Howie knew it.

It was sunny and much, much less windy and a good day to be out there. Very cold though – some of the mosses were frozen solid, but at least this helped with the mud. A drip had encased these grasses in ice.

I found a single primrose, but it wasn’t open yet so no picture. But there was a wild thyme plant in flower, a very welcome sight.

The Polytrichum piliferum added colour, with its red ‘flowers’.

Even when I don’t know what they are (i.e. most of the time), I do love the way mosses look.

The views from the top were wonderful.

I also took a picture of Cassindonald bog completely flooded.

Skylarks were singing. I lasted about an hour and a half before the cold wind got too much.

After the rain

I went down to the Eden walk to have a look at moss, but the path was flooded.

The boggy area which was dry but full of reeds in the summer is now completely under water.

A lady told me that the water had been much higher yesterday, covering most of the path up to the entrance.

Coming back, I saw a cormorant beside the burn at Moat Hill – first time for that – but I would have thought the burn was too fast for fishing just now.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.)