I HAVE never heard a skylark singing in a blizzard before, but there’s a first time for everything.

And as I hunkered down behind a peat hag to seek shelter from the swirling snow near the top of Craighorn Hill in the Ochils, its sweet music rained down upon me from the sky above.

I was out on these hills on last week’s May Day holiday, and the weather was a mixed bag of four seasons, with snow, sleet, rain and sun all having their moments.

I had ascended Craighorn from Alva, and on the way up spotted several wheatears, their white tails flashing every time they took flight.

Slightly larger than a robin, wheatears are most attractive little songbirds, and are real hill specialists, especially favouring areas where there are boulders or drystone dykes. There were also numerous meadow pipits about, bounding through the air on erratic wings

Despite the cold weather, wildflowers, too, were showing well, including dog violets and yellow-flowering tormentil.

In the past, the woody roots of tormentil were the source of a red dye, and they were also used for tanning hides as an effective substitute for oak bark.

From Craighorn, I struck across Alva Moss to Blairdenon Hill. A curlew soon rose into the air, its wonderful liquid trilling call swirling across the breeze. Curlews are sadly rare breeders now in the Ochils, and hopefully this bird was one of a pair.

I then struck a course back for home, taking in Bengengie Hill and Craig Leith on the way.

As I descended back down into Alva, a goldfinch fluttered out from a gorse bush, its twinkling song trailing in its wake.

Goldfinches are prospering at the moment and are much commoner than they used to be.

I suspect the popularity of bird feeders in gardens nowadays has helped their fortunes; and in the world where humankind is responsible for so much natural destruction, it’s reassuring that we are also capable of giving nature a helping hand.