WOOD pigeons are often overlooked, but I always enjoy their presence, and several flocks whirled in the air around me when walking recently through the Harviestoun estate between Tillicoultry and Dollar.

These transient windblown gatherings of pigeons tumbled across the leaden sky, their grey wings catching the flat winter luminescence.

It was impossible to appreciate their plumage in such circumstances, but when seen up close and in good light, wood pigeons are rather attractive with their puffed-up pinkish breasts.

Unfortunately, many farmers regard the wood pigeon as a nuisance because of damage inflicted on crops.

This is encapsulated by John Clare's 19th century poem, The Shepherd's Calendar: "Wood pigeons too in flocks appear/By hunger tam'd from timid fear/Picking the green leaves want bestows/Of turnips sprouting thro the snows."

Winter's chill ran deep as I continued along the path towards Tillicoultry. A lone robin perched on a branch and watched me carefully as I ambled past. It was hard to imagine that this little beauty has a darker side.

Both sexes are territorial, but the male is particularly so, and should another male alight on his patch, then with feathers ruffled and wings drooped he will do everything in his power to see off the unwelcome intruder.

Usually, it is all about threat and posture with both males squaring up to each other with necks outstretched, showing off their vibrant red breasts.

A vicious chase will often ensue, as one bird pursues the other in short darting flights, before intermittently stopping to face up to each other again.

Often this is enough to settle the dispute, but sometimes a furious fighting bout will result, with one robin pinning down the other in a frenzy of aggression. Occasionally, one of the combatants will get killed in the unseemly brawl.

Such aggressive behaviour may seem a bit over-the-top, but for a robin its territory is of all-consuming importance, for it provides an exclusive food source during the lean days of winter and an area to raise young during spring and summer.

Other birds brought welcome colour to my winter walk, including great tits and blue tits. A watery ditch by the track edge stopped me in my tracks.

Covered in a patchy film of limey-green duckweed, I peered into its shallows in case there were any water beetles or other invertebrate life lurking on the bottom.

I couldn't detect any movement, but that will soon change when new life stirs into action as the weather warms over the coming weeks.

By the middle of February, this little ditch could even be resonating to the sound of croaking frogs – a wonderful herald to the approach of spring.