SOFT winter sun and a gentle breeze, ruffling a sea of winter-wilted grass across the Black Devon Wetlands by Alloa.

We might still be in the grip of winter, but the signs of spring were all around, including hazels with their dangly lime-coloured catkins hanging like shiny baubles.

Alders were also heavy with catkins, although the male flowers lack the vibrancy of those found on the hazel.

A soft piping drifted across the air from one of the hazels. It was a pair of bullfinches – our very own version of the love bird.

They hang around in pairs all year round and if you see one, then the chances are its partner won’t be far away.

I’m not sure why bullfinches should exhibit such lifetime fidelity when most other songbirds don’t.

Although on thinking about it, such a strategy does save vital energy in spring by not having to look and go courting for a new mate.

An established pair will also know their breeding area intimately and the best places to find food.

I ventured up a path towards Alloa Park, following the course of the Black Devon, before retracing my steps back to the wetlands

Here, from the RSPB viewing platform, I spotted goldeneye and tufted ducks bobbing out on the water.

The low winter sun made these waterfowl hard to discern, their dark silhouettes set against silver-sparkled water.

A buzzard soared above me on slow-flapping wings, before spiralling away towards Alloa.

I pulled up my jacket collar and headed for home, leaving in my wake the twittering of a small party of goldfinches that had gathered in a nearby hawthorn.