Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife


Tentsmuir – best way to spend a Monday morning!

Apart from the dog walkers at the car park, I didn’t see a soul this morning. It was cold but sunny, with a chilly wind which got stronger through the morning.

I went to the right, and found myself going up the little hillock which I don’t usually do. Behind it were several pools of flood water.

Alders reflected in the pool – they look like dancers.
But no birds. A few crows / rooks, and that was it. Tentsmuir was at its most bleakly beautiful, with not a flower to be seen, apart from lovely gorse, which is really enough in itself.

There was just enough colour from the sky reflected in the pools.

And who needs flowers when the moss is looking this good?

I’ll need to do some work to be sure whether there’s one Orthotrichum or two on this slab. Beautiful capsules, some like little toffee apples.

I walked along to the estuary (one black-backed gull) and didn’t linger as I could see rain heading my way. But back in the shelter of the pines, it felt quite warm and I ended up watching a troop of coal tits flitting up and down, feeding in the branches and on the ground. They never stay still. I got one photo – never knew they have little blue feet!

Then there was a rainbow – faint at first (as in my picture) but strengthening to a full bow.

Rain on the wind. I hurried back, stopping only for a close encounter with a red squirrel on one of the young pines. There’s always something special at Tentsmuir.

Close to perfection

The sun was out, the wind wasn’t too bad, and Tentsmuir was full of winter life. I set off from Tayport and had a good view of Shelducks, Mallards, Wigeon and others, even though I missed the Egret which I was told had just flown up the estuary.

Further along, there was a gathering of sleepy birds at a safe distance from the shore.

I didn’t want to disturb them. From this long-range shot, I think they might be Bar-tailed Godwit, as they’re about the same size as the Oystercatcher.

On the beach, the waves were gentle and well-behaved. I liked the squiggly lines left by the tide, and tried to photograph the series of matching lines left by successive waves on the sand.

It was just beautiful

I was being watched…the tiny black blob in the last picture was this seal, who kept an eye on me for quite a while.

Over at the moss trees, I found an old willow which seems to deserve the name “Tree of Life” because of the number of species now growing in/on it.

I’ll have to re-visit to check the IDs, but here are my best guesses.

Some kind of Crepis / Hawk’s-beard.

A member of the Pea family.

Pine seedling

A thistle and a grass. Shame on me for not doing better with these two.

The Alders have catkins, but still tightly closed. The trees looked splendid in the sun.

I felt very happy to be here.

Coming back, I had another look at the Twinflower leaves, but much more exciting was this moss nearby.

Ptilium crista-castrensis, Ostrich-plume Feather-moss, quite unmistakeable. I’ve never seen it here before.

A sunny winter’s day pottering about in a quiet Tentsmuir – one of the best.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Tentsmuir magic

Such a lovely morning at Tentsmuir with Mgt. The first excitement was finding three of these classic fungi in the dunes, well away from the trees.

We looked at the Grass of Parnassus (lining the path, having a good year), the Marjoram, the Evening Primrose, and the Sea Pea. Both kinds of Centaury. And I resisted the temptation to take yet more photos of these much-loved flowers.

We re-found the Creeping Lady’s-Tresses hollow and took a grid ref, but then found they were everywhere. I did try a photo but, as usual, it was out of focus.

Then we went looking for Mgt’s helleborine. After some searching, and getting distracted by Twayblades (Listera ovata) and Wintergreen (Pyrola media) (and mossy trees), we did eventually find it, but still not flowering. So we’ll try again next year.

Coming back, I took some pictures of Lesser Skullcap (blurred) and bur-reed flowers (slightly better).

Then we wandered into orchid heaven. There were groups of purple flowers everywhere in the trees.

It seemed too late for Northern Marsh Orchid, but after keying out, that’s what we decided.

Such a deep purple, and a good solid kind of flower.

Then Mgt saw exciting leaves among the orchids…then a flower, and it was the Lesser Twayblade, which I’ve never seen. So small and delicate.

I only got one good picture, but we saw about 30 spikes, very encouraging. And now I know what the leaves look like. I would have completely overlooked the flower.

Great days.

Tentsmuir at last

I get twitchy if I don’t get down to Tentsmuir fairly regularly – the thought of all I’m missing…but finally got the combination of weather and free time. So much to see at this lovely time of the year.

The first thing I looked at was the feathery fronds of the tall grass at the burn, sparkling in the sun.

It might be Common Reed, Phragmites australis.

The centauries were in full bloom, and fairly widespread. This little colony was down by the burn.

The Seaside centaury, Centaurium littorale, is much smaller and a darker pink than the Common Centaury, and has little strap-shaped leaves. Looks like a cake decoration? Also in this picture is the Blue Fleabane, which was everywhere in its softness.

Going along the path through the dunes, it was good to see that the Evening Primrose is doing well – many more plants than when I first noticed it several years ago. It’s jumped the path in that time, too, and I found a plant some distance away from the main group, down near the marshy part of the dunes.

The Sea Pea is also thriving.

There was a fine stout sedge (possibly Carex otrubae, False Fox Sedge?) complete with ladybird.

Also needing identification is this lovely neat grass. Classic Tentsmuir picture, with Blue Fleabane and Sea Sandwort.

The area which was cleared last year is beginning to look more “natural” again.

The clearing work is going on – I guess that’s good for the dunes, but I hope they don’t go too much further as that’s where I found a shady hollow with around 50 spikes of Creeping Lady’s-Tresses (Goodyera repens). So beautiful in the dappled light.

Every ragwort, no matter how small, seemed to have attracted the stripy caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth.

Coming back through the trees, because it was too hot in the sun, I stopped to listen to the birds and watched several coal tits splashing about in a puddle.