I HEARD the grey seal before seeing it – a puffing, exhalation of air as it surfaced in the muddy waters of the River Devon at Cambus, its head glistening and nostrils flared as the animal hungrily breathed-in the cool air above.

It was high tide, and grey seals regularly enter the Devon estuary at this time of year to intercept salmon and sea trout that are migrating up-river to spawn.

The weir at Cambus impedes this migration, and the fish will wait in the estuary until the tide is high enough to enable them to negotiate the weir.

This provides the seals with a good opportunity for an easy meal, although I always wonder at how it is possible for a seal to detect a fish in the murky estuarine waters.

Dusk was approaching, and the air was alive with the honking calls of greylag geese, which had congregated on the ephemeral pools on the eastern side of the estuary.

It was too early in the season for these to have been migrants from Iceland and these were most probably resident Scottish birds, whose numbers appear to be increasing.

The greylags soon took to the air and swept over the estuary before heading up the Forth towards Stirling to roost.

The calls of the wild geese are always mesmerising, and watching the birds brought back fond memories of past ventures at Cambus in deepest winter when the air resonates to the sound of greylag and pink-footed geese at dawn and dusk.

A handful of teal were about, and their numbers will rapidly increase over the next few weeks as birds arrive from their breeding grounds to spend the winter.

They are delightful but shy little ducks, full of boundless energy as they busily feed in the shallows.

By the track edge, late flowering tansies, with their yellow cushion-pin blooms brought vibrant colour, as did bright scarlet dog-rose hips.

A bolete toadstool also caught my eye, which made me ponder – would the long dry summer make this a poor autumn season for fungi?

The sound of the puffing seal drifted across the estuary once more, and I briefly caught sight of the creature, before it slipped below the water once more and disappeared in the fading light of the gloaming.