I HAVE been checking my local fox dens and badger setts over the last week.

While there are plenty of signs of badger activity, the fox dens traditionally used at this time of year for cubs have remained stubbornly empty.

I am not sure why this should be the case, but I imagine there are other dens in the area that the foxes are using this year, which I have yet to find.

However, one interesting discovery when on my fox quest was an unusually spherical, ball-like stone, which was slightly smaller than a tennis ball.

Whilst the stone may just be naturally shaped this way, Dollar Museum has examined it, and says it is a possible stone cannonball or shot, from perhaps the 14th or 15th century.

They are now carrying out further investigations to determine if this is indeed the case.

Spring is now really gathering pace and it was wonderful to spot the first sandpipers on the River Devon last week.

They are such charismatic little waders, continually bobbing up and down and uttering their peeping calls.

In an elaborate courtship ritual, the male often runs behind the female with fluttering wings.

He will also pursue her in the air, following an erratic course with deliberate and rather stiff wing beats.

Mink are a perennial danger for sandpipers, with their eggs and chicks being especially vulnerable to predation.

Sandpipers are spring and summer visitors to Clackmannanshire, with most arriving around mid-April.

They are here for a short period with the majority having left again by early August.

They are such fleeting visitors that I always savour their presence on the river, for they bring so much vibrancy.