Sunday, 9 November 2008

Starfish, brittle-stars

Brittle-stars - Ophiothrix fragilis (click to enlarge photo)

Walked down to Lower Largo today and noticed on the pier what I thought at first were clumps of tangled cord or part of a fishing net. Then I thought they were clumps of seaweed, which I thought had been washed on to the pier in the storm the previous night. On closer inspection, however, I found that the clumps were made up of the skeletons of dozens of these creatures.
They are brittle-stars. They differ from starfish in that they have an obvious circular central disc from which arise the five thin, very flexible arms which break easily, hence the name. They often occur in large number under stones lying on gravel and rough sand between large rocks. Perhaps the previous night's storm disturbed some rocks and hence these ended up stranded on the pier.

Update 13.11.08. I think I may have discovered why there were so many brittle-stars on the pier. There was a collection of lobster creels sitting there which also contained clumps of brittle-stars, so I think they must have been carried in with them.

The common starfish - Asterias rubens
Photo of a common starfish taken in September, again stranded this time on the beach in Lundin Links after a stormy night.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Sculpture, Totem-pole??

Walking along the beach in Lower Largo noticed this structure that had suddenly appeared in one of the gardens adjoining the shore. It has four different faces, and four arms. Not sure whether it's a sculpture or a totem-pole but it's certainly very striking.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Lower Largo Pier

Looking from Lower Largo Pier back to the village and the disused railway viaduct.

Lobster pots on the pier. Glad to say that the tip of the pier which was crumbling away after storm damage in March has now been repaired. The pier is a good place for birdwatching: herons, oyster catchers, eider ducks and redshanks are the most commonly seen on the rocks opposite and there are always the gulls. Today on the pier met a couple who said they had seen dolphins in the bay a couple of days ago.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Brent Geese, Female Goosanders

There was a group of Brent Geese close to the shore in Largo Baythis morning. I hadn't seen them in this area before. Quite striking black and grey birds with pale underparts.

Recently there has been a group of female goosander in the harbour area. They are very similar to the female red-breasted merganser but I think these were goosander because there was a sharp outline to the brown colour at the neck.

Monday, 15 September 2008


Echinocardium cordatum -a heart-urchin. Lower image shows the underside with the mouth visible in centre.

Due to pressure of work, visitors, holidays and rotten weather, haven't had time to post in the last couple of months. However, yesterday was a lovely warm and sunny day, so headed early to the beach. It was low tide and I found several of these strange looking objects. They were very fragile and some were broken. I thought they might be the test of a sea urchin, and on looking them up found that they are known as sea-potatoes, only they are animal not vegetable. They are known as heart-urchins due to their shape. They are adapted for burrowing and are usually found about 15cm deep in the sand (perhaps that's why they are known as sea-potatoes). When alive they are densely covered in yellow-brown spines.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

July Birdwatch

Wood pigeon 2
Blue tit 3
House sparrow 4
Starling - adult 4
Starling - juvenile 1
Crow 2

Not so many species this time. Quarrelsome starlings dominating the bird table at the moment.

Monday, 23 June 2008

I Know a Bank.....

A bank of Wild Thyme on the Massney Braes just above the foreshore in Lundin Links. The yellow of Biting Stonecrop can be seen top left of the photo.

I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows.
Willliam Shakespeare - A Midsummer Nights Dream.

Saturday, 21 June 2008


Heron amongst the kelp at low tide. In the background there is a cormorant on the rock.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Welsh Poppy

Welsh Poppy - Meconopsis cambrica

The bees love these Welsh poppies. They have nice open flowers with lots of pollen. Can see this bee's pollen sac very clearly. In some ways the Welsh poppies are a nuisance, seeding themselves everywhere, but they brighten up the garden and are obviously a good nectar plant. They have different seed pods to the red poppies, the seeds escaping from the ridges at the side, rather than the top of the seed capsule

Monday, 16 June 2008

A heaven in a Wild Flower

Marsh Orchid - Dactylorhiza sp. growing on the disused railway track, Lower Largo.
I do love these small orchids. I spotted a couple of these yesterday at the side of the old railway track. I think it is a marsh orchid, but the Dactylorhiza species hybradize freely, which makes exact identification difficult.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
and Eternity in an hour.
William Blake.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Flowers in Bloom - Mid June

Alliums- purple sensation

Oriental Poppy

Flowers in Bloom
Wallflower - perrenial and biennial
Hellebores (3 different)
French Lavender
Primulas - various
Welsh poppies
Oriental poppies
Jacobs ladder
Hardy geraniums
French lavender

Thursday, 12 June 2008


Viper's-bugloss - Echium vulgare
Vipers-bugloss is a very handsome plant that makes a splash of blue. The flowers are pink in bud, but vivid blue when open. The plant was once used as a cure for snake-bite, hence its common name.
A bright blue patch of viper's-bugloss growing on the bank beside the road going up to Lundin Golf Club. It prefers a light sandy soil.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Eider Ducklings

Female eider ducks with their ducklings swimming round the pier at Lower Largo. Female eider ducks operate a kind of creche system, and team up to share the work of rearing the ducklings. There are also mallard ducklings about. Sadly, as I feared the pair of swans that were nesting just upstream from the harbour on the banks of the Keil Burn were not successful. The nest was in the wrong place, and was underwater at high tide. They eventually abandoned their attempts.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Garden Visit - Upper Largo

The garden at Strathairly House near Upper Largo was open to the public on Saturday. This was the first time the garden had been open under Scotland's Garden scheme. Swans were nesting on the bank of the lake.

Lovely marginal plants round the lake - buttercups and ragged robin

Irises on the bank, contrasting with the buttercups.

Visitors in the sunshine enjoying the planting in the walled garden. Largo Law is in the background

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Stranded Jellyfish.

Every so often. usually on a hot day come across stranded jellyfish on the beach, sometimes in great numbers. Being nearly all water, they soon dry out so that almost nothing is left.

Book Reviews

The Girl of His Dreams by Donna Leon
Donna Leon's books pull no punches when describing Italian public life and how difficult it is to get beyond the institutionalisd lethargy and corruption. Having read nearly all of them, I feel that I almost know Venice intimately.

The Burning Girl by Mark Billington
This is a very dark book. The only redeeming feature is that there is a certain amount of black humour in it. I have now read all of the series featuring Tom Thorne, apart from the last one.

Friday Nights by Joanna Trollope
Another aga saga by Joanna Trollope. Still very readable. This one reminded me of Maeve Binchy's style. More about a group of people thrown together, rather than the dynamics of family life.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

A Bank of Poppies

A colourful bank of oriental poppies at the side of the road up to Lundin Golf Club.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008


Found this sea-urchin on the beach today. I think it is the green sea urchin - Psammechinus miliaris. It was stranded on the beach, so not sure whether it was dead or alive. They feed on young barnacles and sea-squirts.

This is the outer casing or test of the edible sea-urchin - Echinus esculentus. I found this one on Lower Largo beach many years ago. At that time there were a lot of these on the beach at Largo Bay, not many whole but a lot of broken ones, but it's a long time since I've even seen a small fragment.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

June Birdwatch

Robin 1
Wood pigeon 2
Dunnock 1
Blue tit 1
Great tit 1
House sparrow - male 2
House sparrow - female 2
House sparrow - juvenile 1
Starling 5
Chaffinch - male 1
Blackbird 1
Collared doves 2
Crow 2

Frenzied feeding activity from the birds at the moment, particularly the sparrows and starlings. Young sparrows nearly as big as their parents, still asking to be fed in characteristic fluttring pose. There is a great deal of screeching and diversionary tactics when the crows are nearby. It's almost as if the crows are waiting for the young fledglings to leave the security of the nest.
The swallows are still swooping overhead, hoovering up the insects, and also sitting on the telephone wires.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Horsetail - An Ancient Plant

When I first saw these stems at the side of the disused railway track in Lower Largo, I thought they were a type of fungi.
It was only when I saw them growing together with the bottlebrush like stems of the horsetail that I realised they were connected. The initial shoots are fertile and have cones on top.

Stems of Horsetail.
These are the infertile stems ad have been called the Lego plant because they are in sections, which can be taken apart and put together again.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Thrush on the beach

Thrushes are well known for their habit of smashing garden snail shells on a stone to get at the contents, but this thrush on the beach at Lower Largo was smashing a conical sea shell on a rock to get at the mollusc inside.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Terns at Lower Largo

Terns on the rocks opposite the pier at Lower Largo
(Click photo to see larger image)
Last summer saw a lot of terns plunge-diving into the sea near the pier at Lower Largo harbour, but this is the first time I've seen them sitting on these rocks. Not sure which species of tern these are.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Boats Back at Lower Largo Harbour

Small boats back at Lower Largo Harbour for the Summer.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Largo Bay - East, West, North and South

From the grounds of the excellent restaurant at Monturpie, just outside Upper Largo, there is a complete view right round Largo Bay. To the East in the above photo can see Ruddock's Point at the end of the bay, with the much smaller Shell Bay beyond that. To the South, across the Forth estuary can just see the outline of North Berwick Law and the East Lothian coast.

To the West are the towns of Leven and Methil. The chimney of the now moth-balled Methil Power Station can be seen.

To the North the dominant feature is Largo Law the neck of an extinct volcano, its lower slopes bright yellow with gorse.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Upper Keil's Den and Pitcruvie Castle

Keils Den Upper Bridge.

There are two bridges in Keil's den a lower wooden bridge and a stone bridge at the top which carries the road over the Keil Burn. It is a very attractive spot. In the Spring the walk is beautiful the area is covered in bluebells primroses, violets and other Spring flowers.

Pitcruvie Castle (Click photos to see larger image)

In the approach to the bridge, get a view of the ruins of Pitcruvie Castle. It was built in the early 16th Century by Sir John Lindsay of Pitcruvie.

Book Review

Sepulchre by Kate Mosse
This was a good read, but not sure I really like novels that jump back and forward in time. I just get into one strand of the book, then get transported back to a different time with different characters. Found the whole book a bit fey for my taste, but nevertheless quite enjoyable.
Peviously read Labyrinth.

Voices by Arnaldur Indridason
Not sure why I enjoy these rather gloomy crime novels by the Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason, but I do. Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Good plot, good characterisation. Get the impression that the long dark Icelandic Winters affects everything and everyone in Iceland.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Narcissus-Pheasant's Eye
The Spring bulbs are coming to an end. Mainly just some tulips and the lovely late flowering pheasant's eye narcissus (above) left. Welsh poppies and forget-me-nots have self-seeded everywhere and for the moment have taken over the garden.
Flowers in Bloom - Mid May
Narcissi - Pheasant's eye
Grape hyacinth
Bluebells (Spanish)

Other Flowers in Bloom
Wallflower - perrenial and biennial
Hellebores (3 different)
French Lavender
Primulas - various
Polyanthus - various
Welsh poppies,
Clematis montana
Hardy geraniums

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Pied Wagtail

A pied wagtail sitting on the wall underneath the viaduct at Lower Largo.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Bluebell Musings

A wonderful bank of bluebells on the edge of Keil's Den.
A bluebell, is a bluebell, is a bluebell isn't it. Well, apparently not. In Scotland the purists would call a bluebell a wild hyacinth, although 'Walking through a wild hyacinth wood' doesn't sound nearly so poetic. The Scottish bluebell is called a harebell in England and is a campanula and a much more fragile delicate plant.
And then there is the Spanish invasion. The Spanish bluebell was first introduced into British gardens as an ornimental plant around 1680, so it seems a bit late to start worrying about it. It was favoured over the native bluebell because it can grow almost anywhere and has sturdier, larger blooms. Its flowers range from blue to white or pink.
Another complication is that the Spanish bluebell hybridises with our native bluebell, and the hybrid is known as the Garden bluebell.
Top right is the native bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta). The flowers droop to one side and it has narrow strap-like leaves. The other three photos are of Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica). They are much more upright, have broader leaves and can be blue, pink or white. Most of the bluebells in Keil's Den appear to be the native bluebell. However, there are some patches of the Spanish bluebell and possibly the hybrid. These are mainly near the entrance to the den. Along the disused railway track at Lower Largo and the Serpentine Walk, the bluebells appear to be mainly the Spanish variety.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Swans Nesting at Lower Largo - 2

Mute swan sitting on nest. (Click photo to see larger image.)
Had another look at the swans nesting at Lower Largo. As the female shifted position, one egg could clearly be seen. The male was in close attendance and in the photo the outline of the egg can just be seen above his head.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Swans Nesting at Lower Largo

The pair of mute swans that have been resident in Lower Largo since mid-March now appear to be nesting just North of the harbour on the rocky banks of the Keil Burn. One or both swans have been at this spot for the last few days. I fear for them as it seems rather a public, exposed place. If we had heavy rain and the burn was in spate, or there was a very high tide, I think that the nest might be under water. Hope I'm wrong.

Click photos to see larger image.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Under the Shadow of Largo Law

A peaceful scene. Cows with their calves grazing with Largo Law in the background, seemingly quite oblivious to the traffic rushing by on the Main Road between Lundin Lnks and Upper Largo. The lower slopes of the Law are covered in the bright yellow flowers of gorse bushes.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Yellow's on the Broom

Broom - Cytisus scoparius

Broom in flower on the edge of Leven Links Golf Course. There was also a profusion of gorse or whin in flower. Both members of the pea family, the broom differs from gorse in having no spines.

When yellow's on the broom, When yellow's on the broom,

I'll tak' ye on the road again, When yellow's on the broom

Adam MacNaughton

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

"May Be Out"

Hawthorn (May) Flowers.

Lovely warm day and saw the first of the hawthorn flowers in the Serpentine walk and in the hedgerow along the main road between Upper Largo and Lundin Links. I think it is later into flower this year, but April was very cold here.
"Ne'er cast a clout, till May be out." Never very sure whether this referred to the May flowers blooming or the month of May being over. Seems more likely that it refers to the flower.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Periwinkles Making Tracks

Periwinkle. Can just see the tentacles coming out from the front of the shell.
Took a walk from Lower Largo along the disused railway line. Saw a yellow wagtail in the trees on the landward side of the path. Walked back along the beach as the tide was going out. Noticed there were tracked grooves in the sand, and then saw that it was the periwinkles that were making the tracks.
In this photo (above) can clearly see the track that the periwinkle has made.

Periwinkles attached to a nearby rock. The periwinkles on the move seemed to be going in the direction of this rock. (Click on photos to see larger images)

Friday, 2 May 2008

Woodland Glades

Spring woodland flowers. (Clockwise from top right - Wood sorrel, Bluebell, Wood Anemone, Lesser Celandine. Click on photo to see larger image)
Before the canopy of the trees fully develop, the early woodland flowers, notably bluebell, lesser celandine and wood anenome cover the woodland floor. Today walked through Keil's den, a wooded area on both sides of the Keil Burn which eventually flows into Largo Bay. This is an area of ancient woodland which is now managed by the Woodland Trust. The Spring flowers today were amazing - carpets of bluebells, banks of lesser celandine. There were also patches of wood anenomes, primroses, violets and wood sorrel.
At the edge of the woodland peacock butterflies were flitting about, and also orange tip butterflies, my first sighting of them this year.