ON SUMMER evenings when walking the country lanes of Strathdevon, I have been lucky enough to hear yellowhammers singing their little hearts out.

The cock yellowhammer just loves to sing, usually from a prominent perch such as the top of a bush or a telegraph wire.

The song is popularly described as sounding like ‘a little bit of bread and no cheese’ – six or seven quick musical chirps followed by a longer undulating final note.

Unlike most other songbirds that have a relatively brief singing period in spring, the song of the yellowhammer can be heard right until the end of summer.

But the male yellowhammer makes his mark in other ways too and there can be few more startling colours in nature than his vibrant yellow plumage.

It is quite stunning especially when the sun shines bright, and this, combined with the russet coloured rump, ensures that the yellowhammer is a bird that very much stands out from the crowd.

The poet John Clare aptly described the plumage as being ‘With yellow breast and head of gold’.

Curiously for such a benign and beautiful bird, the yellowhammer in times past was associated with the devil and was persecuted in parts of Scotland, with youths and boys seeking out their nests and destroying them.

One theory for this bizarre association with evil was because the pale eggs have scribble markings on them, which were thought to have some kind of secret demonic meaning.

Yellowhammers belong to the bunting family, and their close relative, the reed bunting also occurs in our area, most especially in thick tangles of vegetation near the River Devon, Gartmorn Dam and the Blackdevon Wetlands.

The sparrow-sized male bird looks very smart with his black head and thin white collar.

But he is a weak singer in comparison to the cock yellowhammer, his song consisting of a series of rather feeble notes.