IT HAD been a while since I had ventured to the inner Forth estuary.

So, last week, I took the shoreline path that leads from Cambus to Alloa, and it didn't take long to become immersed in its open horizons and compelling skies.

Near Cambus, in a thicket of hawthorn and brambles, a family of whitethroats churred contentedly, with the parent birds busily bobbing back and forwards to feed their young.

The feeding was prolific, and the adult male whitethroat was able to snaffle several large insects, which were then eagerly devoured by the fledglings.

Whitethroats are summer visiting warblers from Africa, and they have a distinctive scratchy song, which is frequently heard when wandering along the hedgerows of Clackmannanshire.

In among the brambles, the exquisite yellow flowers of meadow vetchling glowed like little beacons.

This plant grows on spindly stems and in this instance, was using the strong growth of the brambles as a form of support.

Soon, I emerged out onto open sheep pasture which borders the Forth and ahead lay the vast reedbeds on the pancake-flat island of Tullibody Inch.

Several shelduck were feeding on the mudbanks, their bills sweeping rapidly sideways as they sifted the mud for its rich bounty of tiny invertebrates.

In among the reeds, the song of a male reed bunting floated across the breeze, and after a while, I caught sight of him as he spiralled up in the air.

Reed buntings are sparrow-sized birds with the males having a distinctive black head.

They are feeble songsters though, the tune consisting of a few rather weak notes.

A sedge warbler was also in full song, his hoarse grating music carrying far in the wind.

I turned back for home, and ahead of me a broad panorama unfolded towards the Wallace Monument, which was backdropped in the far distance by the peak of Ben Ledi.

As I neared Cambus, I heard the whitethroats once more, and life felt good, so incredibly good.