SOME mornings, when dawn is breaking, I take our lively Welsh springer, Lottie, to the top of a wee hill on the edge of the Ochils.

There is a cluster of Scots pines on the rounded summit and on our approach we often disturb a raven that takes to the air like a huge bat silhouetted against the emerging morning sky.

As we watch it swoop away, memories flood back of a raven's nest that I used to visit regularly in Perthshire that was perched high on a remote corrie.

The ravens shared the cliff with a pair of breeding peregrines and it would be hard to envisage two more irritable neighbours.

They literally could not stand the sight of each other and spent so much time engaged in aerial combat that you wondered how they ever found the energy to find food for their own youngsters.

The ravens liked nothing better than to taunt the peregrines with the odd mischievous swoop in the hope of snatching one of their young chicks.

It is this opportunistic side that is typical of raven behaviour and has helped provide its rather dubious reputation.

The raven has been both reviled and revered from early historical times – but probably more of the former with the bird inextricably associated with ill-fortune, suspicion and fear.

Much of this notoriety stems around the belief that ravens are never far away whenever there is the hint of a carcass to feast upon.

Shakespeare's Macbeth refers to the raven croaking himself hoarse on the fatal entrance of Duncan, and King Kenneth 1 of Scotland was hailed as the 'raven feeder' in reference to the bodies of his opponents left behind on the field of battle.

No doubt this is the reason why marauding Vikings so eagerly welcomed the appearance of ravens as an omen of victory.

Greenfinches have also been capturing my attention over the last few weeks, as a couple have been regularly visiting our Clackmannanshire bird table.

Greenfinches have been a notable absence from our garden in recent years and the arrival of this pair has been most welcome.

When I was a child, greenfinches were amongst the commonest garden visitors, but numbers have since plummeted due to the infectious disease, trichomonosis.

It has been a sad loss, and I especially miss the spectacular spring courtship display of the cock greenfinch, for when the mood takes him, usually when it is sunny, he will sing in the air with wings fluttering in slow and exaggerated beats.

Truth be told, he looks a bit like a large butterfly and the poet Francis Duggan described the accompanying song as "the beauty born of nature for us all to enjoy".