WHEN driving in my car last week between Dollar and Muckhart, a red squirrel scampered across the road ahead, making it safely to woodland on the far side.

Crossing roads is always risky for squirrels, but this animal had timed its dash well and was in little danger of being struck.

As I drove on, I pondered about red squirrels and how they seem to be doing well at the moment in this north east corner of Clackmannanshire.

Both grey and red squirrels occur here, but for some reason, the reds seem to be more numerous than ever – which is encouraging, for they are native to our shores, whilst the grey was introduced from North America.

One possible explanation is that pine martens have moved into the Wee County in recent years, and they find grey squirrels easier to catch, because they are larger and spend more time on the ground.

Certainly, over the last year or so, I've increasingly found pine marten droppings in local woodlands, which are often deposited on prominent places such as tree stumps, rocks and grassy tussocks, and which serve as territorial markers.

My trail cameras have also caught pine martens on film on several occasions.

All this is encouraging for the future, but threats still loom, most notably squirrel pox virus, which is fatal for reds but not to greys.

Our native wildlife is often in a state of flux, but for the moment, our precious red squirrels seem to be more than holding their own.

And that is something we should all be celebrating.