A FLASH of movement on the track ahead of me in the Ochils as a lizard scuttled across at tremendous speed.

Lizards are scarce in the Ochils, but this part of eastern hills near Muckhart is a hotspot for them and I generally see at least a few at this time of year.

They are hard to spot in among the thick tussocks of grass, but sometimes individuals can be glimpsed basking in the sunshine in the morning.

Never try and catch one, for the chances are it will shed its tail as a defence mechanism.

A new tail will grow back from the stump, but as the 20th Century naturalist Maurice Burton noted: "…it is always a poor, ungraceful affair."

Skylarks and meadow pipits are abundant in the Ochils at the moment. Skylarks are always wonderful to watch as they spiral up into the air on quivering wings, raining forth their melodic songs.

Shakespeare described the skylark as 'the herald of the morn' and as the song is indeed an inspiring beckoning to the joys of a new day.

After hanging in the air for a while, a skylark will typically take a slow descent before disappearing in among the grass and heather.

The trilling song flight of the meadow pipit may not be as dramatic as that of the skylark, but these birds are still wonderful to watch as they ascend and float down on parachute wings.

Wildflowers are also worth seeking out in Ochils at this time of year, and there is no more beautiful one than the mountain pansy.

They are among our most stunning wildflowers, little purple gems of perfection, with their two large top petals looking somewhat akin to rabbit ears.

In the centre of the flower is a glowing heart of sunshine, gently inscribed with darker lines, which are honey guides to help lure insects into the centre of the bloom.

Most mountain pansies in the Ochils are purple, although a few yellow ones occur, which is the predominate colour in other parts of their UK range.

Wild pansies often show great variation and different species may hybridise with each other, which is one reason why they are such a great favourite among horticulturalists.