AGAINST the distant backdrop of the Ochils, this flight of shelduck veered in a tight turn and splashed down in a flourish of spray into one of the large pools at Cambus, right by the estuary of the River Devon.

It was a tremendous sight and the shelduck looked in good trim for the forthcoming breeding season.

Shelduck are such charismatic birds and in appearance terms are a bit of a half-way house between a duck and a goose.

They are also rather shy birds, so I was fortunate to have had such a good view without them detecting my presence.

This part of the inner Forth is a great place for shelducks as the tidal mud banks are rich in tiny invertebrates for them to feast upon.

I didn’t want to disturb them, so I crouched down low behind a bramble bank and slowly crept away.

I moved across to the west side of the Devon estuary where small groups of teal rested on the mudbanks, enjoying the sun.

There were definite signs of spring about, with ramsons, or wild garlic, unfurling into full leaf by the path edge. It is interesting how they were much further developed in growth here, compared with ramsons in my home patch in Strathdevon, whose leaves are only just beginning to emerge.

I also came upon a hazel tree, dripping with lime-coloured catkins. Often known as ‘lamb’s tails’, these dangly catkins are the male flowers, but look closer at the branches and the tiny bud-like red female flowers can be seen too. Pollinated by the wind, these will develop by autumn into small hazelnut clusters.

Hazels are easy to over-look in woodland, but at this time of year you just can’t miss them.

In some parts of the country it was once believed that a prolific show of hazel catkins would herald the birth of lots of babies, or as the saying goes - plenty of catkins, plenty of prams.