AS I TROD carefully through woodland by the edge of Alloa, a kestrel took to the wing ahead of me, sweeping through the trees with confidence and agility before alighting on a branch.

This bird was a male, and what a beautiful little falcon he was, with his slate-grey head and tail, combined with wonderful soft-brown back.

But it was the lines, the sleek body lines that really drew the breath away; so slim and beautifully proportioned, with wings folded over back in impeccable symmetry.

It was as if some architect of nature had designed the consummate creature.

Sadly, kestrels are not as common as they used to be. I might be wrong, but I suspect it is no coincidence that the fall in the kestrel’s fortunes has coincided with the rise of the buzzard, which over the last few decades has gone from being a scarce bird to now being our commonest bird of prey.

Not only has this resulted in extra competition for food, but I imagine buzzards must also predate upon young kestrels when in the nest.

It certainly seems likely that tree-hole nesting kestrels are more successful than those that habitually use old crows’ nests because of the better protection offered.

I recall several years ago on a barn owl ringing trip in Clackmannanshire encountering a kestrel nest in a tree hollow, where inside three white fluffy falcon chicks huddled, their eyes gleaming out.

It was a wonderful sight.

Later, on my Alloa woodland walk, I glimpsed a buzzard soaring over the trees, wings large and expansive, the eyes focused on the ground below in the hope of spotting a mouse or a vole.

For such a large bird of prey, they have adapted surprisingly well to the busy human environment of central Scotland.

There are always winners and losers in nature, and the buzzard and kestrel are two perfect examples that lie at either end of this spectrum.