Sunday, 31 August 2014

A Bright Blue Patch

Some work was recently done at the Upper Largo end of the Serpentine Walk and a patch of earth levelled off. In no time at all it was covered in vegetation, the most striking being these cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus). At one time cornflowers along with poppies brightened up the cornfields, although no doubt considered a troublesome weed, however, modern agricultural methods have led to it becoming quite a rarity.

Monday, 25 August 2014

A Tiny Rock Pool

A tiny rock pool on the beach (middle-shore) approaching Lower Largo Harbour from Lundin Links. Lots of barnacles and some limpets but my eye was drawn to the centre of the pool where there was a mass of  minute blue-grey larval-like creatures (about 3mm in length) that were in continual rapid motion although maintaining the roughly circular shape of the mass.
Looking at the close-up photo (click to enlarge) they are segmented, with antennae and paired legs. That suggests arthropods and crustaceans. (Crustacea is the major group or subphylum of the phylum arthropoda  that includes the crabs, prawns, and sandhopper types of animal.) I think that these are very small marine crustaceans of the order isopoda, although I wouldn't like to hazard a guess at the species. The land-based woodlice belong to the same order - they have an ‘armoured’ body or exoskeleton with lots of limbs and joints, and their body is flattened from top to bottom. Can see the resemblance to woodlice in the close-up below.
Update (August 2015) - Thanks for the comments and especially to the person who identified them as marine insects of the order collembola  rather than crustaceans, with the name Anurida maritime or seashore springtail.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Comma Butterfly and Others

On the path leading down to the back of Lundin  Golf Course car park there is a large stand of buddleia and it's a good place to see butterflies. Today spotted a comma butterfly (above, unfortunately did'nt get a very clear photo), only the second time I've seen one in Fife and the first time in Lundin Links. The last one was at Balcarres near Colinsburgh in 2011. The comma has gradually been extending its range northward and is now relatively well established in the Borders and Central Lowlands.
 There were several peacock butterflies and in the photo below there's also a red admiral.

Buddleia attracts bees as well as butterflies

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Jellyfish Stranded on the Beach

Have quite often seen quite large numbers of moon jellyfish stranded on the beach around Largo Bay but the last couple of days on the beach at Lundin Links have seen several of these reddish coloured ones in various states of decomposition. At first I thought they might be compass jellyfish but they look much more like the photos of the lion's mane (Cyanea capillata) which is the world's largest  - their bells can be over 2 metres across. However, they vary greatly in size and the bell diameter can be as small as around 10cm. The ones I saw stranded on the beach were around 15 to 25cm across. They have a mass of thin tentacles that resemble a lion's mane, which is where they get their name from.
They can deliver a painful sting, even once washed up dead on the beach and so should not be touched.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Tomatoes Growing on the Beach

On the beach just beneath the swings in the Massney Braes, I was surprised to see tomato plants apparently thriving - and not just one or two, there must have been at least 20 to 30 plants. They must be very tolerant to salt, because in the afternoon the high tide was only inches away from them.

Some of the plants already had small tomatoes, forming although I think it's probably unlikely that they will grow and ripen before the first frosts.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Hairy Yellowish-Green Caterpillar

On the top of the bridge crossing the Keil Burn in Lundin Links noticed this strange looking caterpillar. Not sure of the identification. The only photo in my field guide that it looked remotely like was  a pale tussock moth caterpillar. However, the guide says that it's range does not extend to Scotland. I suppose that, perhaps, with the warm summers it's coming further north.

The hairs of the pale tussock moth caterpillar (Dasychira pudibunda) are an irritant and can cause a painful rash.

Friday, 8 August 2014

On the Move in the Forth

With Berwick Law in the background the barge carrying a giant sub-sea jacket for use in the oil industry being towed by the tug Toisa Elan. Its eventual destination will be the Solan field west of Shetland.
Can also just see a gannet flying in front of Berwick Law and a line of wind turbines on the hills beyond. (Click to enlarge)
A few days ago, final preparations for loading the jacket on to the barge were being made at the BiFab yard in Methil.

Can see the tug the Toisa Elan, that will be used to tow the barge, waiting off-shore.

The large wind-turbine at the same site.
Also off Largo Bay in the Firth of Forth this week, the world's largest semi-submersible heavy-lift ship Dockwise Vanguard carrying the Ocean Patriot drilling rig.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Peebles War Memorial

Visited Peebles a few weeks ago and discovered through an archway from the High Street, the impressive Peeblesshire War Memorial which is set in pleasant gardens. This unusual memorial, designed by the architect Burnett N. H. Orphoot of Edinburgh, is a white stone hexagonal shrine, surmounted by a dome sheltering a Celtic Cross of Sicilian limestone with inlaid mosaic. It was unveiled by Field Marshall Earl Haig on 5th October 1922. Those lost in the Second World War are remembered in two tablets on the wall on either side.

The Celtic Cross of Sicilian limestone with inlaid mosaic and behind that the names of those who died in the conflict in Peebles and the other towns and villages of Peebleshire.The bronze memorial tablets are set into the walls at the back of the shrine and these are also framed with Sicilian mosaics.
The memorial carries the names of 541 men and women of Peebleshire who lost their lives in the First World War, amongst them two of my mother's young cousins, so it seemed appropriate to remember them, 100 years to the day since the outbreak of the Great War.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

More Sea Mats

Now that I know that the grey patches on laminaria fronds are sea mats, I've taken more notice of them. Was quite surprised to see the two most common species growing together. Membranipora membranacea colonies have quite a smooth curbed outline whereas Electra pilosa forms an angular roughly star-shaped colony.   

Close up can see the lacy structure. This photo shows quite well the difference between the rectangular shape of the individual cells of Membranipora membranacea on the left and the oval shaped cells of Electra pilosa on the right. (Click to enlarge)

Saturday, 2 August 2014


A patch of mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris) on the banking just east of the last house at the Temple in Lower Largo.
Mugwort is a rather nondescript grey-green plant but one with an interesting history.  It was believed that John the Baptist wore a girdle of mugwort in the wilderness and in the Middle Ages, the plant was known as Cingulum Sancti Johannis (The girdle of St John).
Mugwort was important in Druidic and Anglo-Saxon times, being one of the nine herbs used to repel evil and poisons. The common name may be from the Anglo-Saxon mucgwrt, "midge plant", because of its use in repelling insects. It was known as the "Mother of Herbs" and was associated with witchcraft and fertility rites. On the Isle of Man mugwort is worn on the national day, July 5 (Tynwald Day) and is known as "Bollan bane".
Mugwort has long had a place in traditional Chinese medicine. It is the herb of choice for acupuncturists who practice moxibustion - a form of treatment in which dried mugwort is burned, either in the form of a cone (moxa), or on top of an acupuncture needle.
Mugwort was used for flavouring beer before the introduction of hops. It was also smoked in cigarettes and one of its names was 'Sailor's Tobacco'.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Sea Mats

I had often seen grey patches on fronds of laminaria washed up on the beach and had thought wrongly that they were probably fungal growth. However, I  bought a new fold-out guide to the seashore and right in the front was a picture of a sea mat colony and realised that was what I had been seeing. Sea mats are small colonial creatures belonging to the phylum of animals Bryozoa. They can encrust seaweeds, stones and shells. They form a lacy pattern of cells and and in each cell  is an individual animal or zooid which have tentacles that can be projected to filter food particles from the sea. The main predators of sea mats are some species of nudibranchs (sea slugs).

The sea mat Membranipora membranacea  on  a laminaria frond. Close up can see the lacy structure. The rectangular shape of the individual cells differentiate it from the other commonly found sea mat Electra pilosa which has oval shaped cells and forms an angular roughly star-shaped colony.