YELLOWHAMMERS are wonderful little birds, typically found along farm hedgerows, but sadly their numbers are much diminished nowadays.

It was, thus, a pleasant surprise to discover several of these lemon-tinged buntings last week as I took the farm track down towards Tullibody Bridge, where several males, so brilliant in their golden plumage, fluttered up into the air before me.

The 19th century poet John Clare so aptly described the plumage as being ‘with yellow breast and head of solid gold’, but he could easily have gone further, perhaps waxing lyrical about the wonderful russet rump and the distinctive pale-edged tail feathers.

The song is popularly described as sounding like ‘a little bit of bread and no cheese’ – comprising six or seven quick musical chirps followed by a longer undulating final note.

Unlike most other birds that have a relatively brief singing period lasting only weeks, the song of the yellowhammer rings out right through until the end of summer.

There was other colour around, too, as I made my way along the track, in particular the brilliant white display of hawthorn flowers.

On one of these white-frosted bushes perched a buzzard, carefully scanning the ground below for field voles.

In a field next to the River Devon, a congregation of around 15 mute swans had gathered.

Obviously, non-breeders, they seemed to be enjoying the company of their own kind, and as I watched them, several more swooped in from across the Ochil scarp before making an awkward landing, spilling one of the birds over onto its side.

Swans are most elegant on water but when it comes to terra firma, their grace and poise all but disappears.