A low winter sun shimmering above Dumyat, making the hills around me sing and dance on an unusually mild day in the Ochils.

As I soaked-up the wonderful panorama below me in Menstrie Glen, a glint caught my eye. It was a hovering kestrel, which then went into a short glide, followed by another hover as it scoured the ground for field voles. Kestrels are beautiful little falcons, which are sadly on the decline. As a child, I recall kestrels being a common sight, often seen hovering by the sides of motorways or over fields and moors.

Why the decline? Well, a number of factors are involved, including changes in farming practices that has reduced the number of voles for kestrels to prey upon.

I might be wrong, but I suspect that it is no coincidence that the fall in the kestrel’s fortunes has coincided with the rise in our buzzard populations, which over the last few decades has gone from a scarce bird to a common one in the countryside. Not only has this resulted in extra competition for food, but I imagine buzzards must also predate upon young kestrels when in the nest. But that’s nature, I suppose.

As I made my way down into Menstrie Glen, a most unusual toadstool glimmered from a patch of grass. It was a species known as a curry milkcap, so-called because if bruised, this toadstool will excrete a milky substance, and also because this species rather bizarrely, smells of curry.

On my final leg down the steep track that leads into Menstrie, it was a joy to find some wildflowers still in bloom – ragwort, herb robert and bramble. I stopped for a while to savour their beauty, mindful that in only a short time these flowers will wither under the onslaught of winter frost and wind.