AS I TREKKED towards Blairdenon Hill above Alva last week the piercing wind was as bitter as any I can remember.

Despite the freezing conditions there was still life about, including several ravens that flew past me on open wings, wheeling and swinging in the sky like crazy kites.

Ravens are so much more common than they used to be, with a reduction in persecution helping to boost numbers.

Indeed, in recent weeks I have been watching ravens congregate at dusk by a communal roosting site in the eastern Ochils. It is a magical time and they seem to enjoy the company of each other, engaging in spectacular aerobatics before settling down for the night.

Shortly after reaching the mossy plateau by Blairdenon, a red grouse exploded into the air right by my feet. Red grouse are scarce in the Ochils because of a lack of heather but I see them most years.

And towards the Glendevon area, their cousin the black grouse can be found too, benefitting from recent plantings of native trees.

On the way back from Blairdenon, my descent through Silver Glen was made all the more enjoyable by a party of long-tailed tits chirruping their way through the trees. They are such sociable birds, continually calling to each other and always on the move.

Here in the protective embrace of the wood it was relatively benign and mild, the searing cold of the high tops belonging to a different world; a place so near yet so very different.