A BROWN object in a grassy field; a rock perhaps?

I bring it into focus through my binoculars and see long swept-back ears and a rounded haunch – a brown hare!

This was a welcome sight, for hares are uncommon in Clackmannanshire, which is a pity for they are one of our most charismatic creatures.

I watch the hare for a while longer from my vantage point by a lane near Vicar’s Bridge by Dollar, but it doesn’t move an inch, happily at rest and relying upon its low profile for concealment.

The reasons for their nationwide decline are complex, including the intensification of agriculture.

But a new threat is looming on the horizon with reports that the deadly myxomatosis virus has made the transmission jump from rabbits to hares.

The consequences of this are potentially catastrophic, especially since hares don’t breed at the same prolific rate as rabbits, making it difficult to replenish populations depleted by disease.

I leave the hare in peace and wander further down the lane. The white rumps of a pair of retreating roe deer flash across a nearby field and rooks and jackdaws wheel about in the late afternoon sky.

This is a wonderful area of fields and woodland undulating down to the River Devon, a place where there are wildlife surprises around every corner.

A sharp-winged bird soars overhead at a considerable height – a peregrine on the hunt for woodpigeons.

It completes two lazy circles before swooping away to the north, heading towards the white-glazed frostiness of Seamab Hill near Muckhart.

Above me, in a tree, perch a pair of woodpigeons, totally oblivious to the lucky escape they’ve just had.