A BITTER wind swept over the ruffled waters of Gartmorn Dam, but at least the whipped-up waves ensured the loch was ice free, which was good news for the abundant waterfowl feeding in the shallows.

There were plenty of mallard ducks and coots about, and near the loch margin, a large group of black-headed gulls had congregated, taking to the air every so often on flickering wings before alighting back onto the surface of the water.

Black-headed gulls are such graceful and elegant birds, with sleek body lines and pastel grey and white plumage.

They lose the dark colouration on their heads in winter, but with spring approaching, their breeding garb will soon take hold once more.

It’s a shame these wonderful gulls tend to get overlooked, and on warm summer evenings, I particularly enjoy watching them hawk for mayflies over the River Devon and on the Ochil reservoirs, sweeping this way and that on agile wings.

I walked further round Gartmorn Dam where I discovered a pair of tufted ducks, frequently diving under the water in search of aquatic weed and small molluscs to feed upon.

I counted the duration of each of the dives, and 15 seconds seemed to be the average. It would be interesting to know how deep they were diving.

Also, out on the water was a small group of Canada geese, so distinctive with their black necks and heads, which is broken by a white crescent that sweeps under the chin and then up each side of the face.

As the name suggests, they are not native to the UK, having been introduced at various times from as early as the 1660s.

It is a rather noisy goose, with a distinctive ‘honking’ call, and in some parts of England they have become real pests, in particular through fouling the edges of ornamental lakes in public parks.

Numbers in Scotland seem to be increasing, and I’m certainly seeing more Canada geese nowadays in Clackmannanshire, including feeding on the haugh of the River Devon and at Aberdona ponds, but only time will tell whether they will ever attain nuisance status here too.