ALL of a sudden, the hawthorns lining the lanes and tracks of Clackmannanshire are full of cackling flocks of fieldfares and redwings, feasting upon the rich bounty of glistening haws.

These winter thrushes descend upon our shores in droves every autumn to escape the cold northern winter that will soon sweep across their breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Russia.

They will be joined too by many immigrant blackbirds, supplementing our own native population and making this one of the most vibrant times of year in the nature calendar.

But it’s not just the birds that are bringing so much colour, for there is an abundance of fungi about too, and last week on a felled conifer plantation on the edge of the Ochils I found two fascinating types which also boast wonderfully descriptive names – yellow stagshorn and snakeskin brownie.

The stagshorn was growing on a dead tree root and shone out at me like a shimmering gem.

It is such an appropriate name, as this tiny fungus does indeed resemble miniscule deer antlers, and this, combined with the vivid lemon colour, makes it such an unusual species.

The snakeskin brownie also has an apt name, for the stalk of this toadstool resembles the patterning of a snake, with the coloration of the umbrella cap a stunning orangey-brown.

Fungi are both compelling and frustrating: the former because of their infinite beauty and variety, the latter because they are often incredibly difficult to identify, even for experts.

Many have developed mutually beneficial relationships with trees and without fungi our woodlands would be much impoverished places.

In short, fungi make the natural world go round - they are recyclers, nutrient providers for plants and underpin every type of habitat there is.