A BIRD with long slender wings and a prominent forked-tail soared high above me in Menstrie Glen, the sun briefly catching its russet feathers.

It was a red kite, and the third one I had seen here this year.

I watched it soar over Colsnaur Hill and then out of sight, enthralled at encountering such a magnificent bird of prey.

The flight of a kite typically appears haphazard compared to other birds of prey, almost as if it is at the mercy of the winds.

This is a deception, for such erratic motion is down to the kite displaying its superb aerial manoeuvrability, using flicks of the wings-tips and twists of the tail to constantly alter position.

Red kites had previously been persecuted to extinction in Scotland, but a reintroduction scheme near Doune in the 1990s has led them to become well-established in parts of central Scotland.

Bizarrely, as the population increased, the Doune birds spread mostly northwards into Perthshire, and have been reluctant to move east into Clackmannanshire and beyond.

But now, there are indications they are coming this way too, which is great news.

This hill circuit through the newly planted Jerah Wood is, for me, one of Clackmannanshire’s most scenic walks, taking-in the bowl-shaped panorama of Menstrie Glen.

The newly planted spruces and pines are places where voles thrive, which no doubt had attracted the red kite.

I also saw a couple of kestrels, frequently hovering in the air, as they too scanned the ground in their constant quest for small rodents.

A stonechat flickered-up into the air ahead of me and perched briefly atop a gorse bush, its orange-glowed breast providing a startling splash of colour against the autumnal hill landscape.

Stonechats are vulnerable to cold winters, so hopefully the one coming will be benign and kind to these charismatic little birds.

With the air around me relatively mild, it was hard to imagine that frost and snow will soon be upon us, and for much of nature, life will become a dangerous lottery.