THE track by the River Devon estuary at Cambus is always a productive place for late-season wildflowers because the sea-level location and proximity to the Forth creates its own microclimate, which is milder than many other parts of the Wee Country.

Despite being early November, on my most recent visit, the yellow, pincushion flowerheads of tansy were still in bloom, as was the delicate, pink-frilled flowers of red clover and a solitary ox-eye daisy. These were flowers enjoying their last breath of life before the first frosts arrive, which will surely happen any day now.

The white florets of yarrow were also shining out, which is a plant steeped in folklore and revered by herbalists since the earliest of times. The legendary Greek warrior Achilles was said to have used yarrow to cure wounds, and in Anglo-Saxon times it was utilised as a charm against bad luck and illness.

In the past, people had a bindingly close connection with nature, knowing which plants had medicinal uses, and those to avoid.

These remedies were passed down through the generations and would have first been discovered through trial and error, and by watching the various types of plants and berries eaten by wild creatures.

Today, this empathy with the natural environment has largely gone, which is a pity, for so many of our commonly found wild plants have great cultural significance and are part of the very foundation of humankind.

After a while, I stopped searching the trackside for wildflowers, and focused instead on the bird life in the estuary.

Many teal have now taken up residence, and I watched a small group as they busily swept their bills in the mud to glean invertebrates such as amphipods.

Teal are enchanting little ducks, and the drakes are especially attractive with their chestnut heads, broad green eye-stripes, and shimmering silver bodies.

As I scrutinised one drake through my binoculars, it was like gaining a glimpse into natural perfection, such was the vibrant colour and gentle body lines.

Teal have a wonderful whistling call, and can be especially vocal at dawn and dusk. The early 20th century field naturalist Thomas Coward described their calls so eloquently: “There are few more talkative ducks than the teal; birds in winter flocks chuckle conversationally, and on the meres, the loud clear call, a short sweet whistle, rings out incessantly.

"When the drakes are courting the low double whistles run into a musical jumble, a delightful chorus.”