A TANGERINE dream floated in the air above the sweep of purple-headed creeping thistles by the River Devon.

It was a comma butterfly, the orange on its wings so vibrant that the creature shone like a precious gem.

It alighted on a thistle to feed upon its sweet, life-enhancing nectar, providing the opportunity to creep close and capture it with my camera.

The orange wings were beautifully patterned, and when they were briefly folded upwards, the underside revealed a little white, comma-shaped mark, which gives this butterfly its name.

Commas are on the wing throughout much of the summer and have several broods. The perfection of the colour on this individual made me think it had newly emerged from its pupa.

The caterpillars feed on nettles, elms and willows. After having suffered major declines, the comma was once a rare butterfly in Britain, confined to the Welsh borders.

However, in recent decades it has spread its wings, and is now found in many parts of Scotland, including Clackmannanshire.

Small tortoiseshell butterflies were also abundant around the stands of thistles, and in grassier areas nearby, meadow brown and ringlet butterflies swept up into the air on quick-flashed wings.

The lepidopterist Richard South in his 1906 book, The Butterflies of the British Isles, maintained that the meadow brown's wide distribution and general abundance meant it could be regarded as the British Isles' commonest butterfly.

He wrote: "It appears to be always on the wing in dull weather as well as in sunshine, and, except for a short interval in early August, it is to be seen in hayfields, open places in woods, or grassy slopes, or borders of highways and byways from June to September."

I'm not sure whether the meadow brown could be regarded as our commonest butterfly today, which is a direct reflection of the nationwide decline in meadows and grasslands, and where flowers are not so abundant in hayfields.

As I wandered further along the bankside admiring butterflies, I noticed a mallard in the river with her brood of fluffy ducklings.

There were four ducklings, but over the coming weeks they will have to run the gauntlet of predation by mink, otters, crows and gulls – and if luck is on this mother mallard's side, she may be able to raise at least one or two to adulthood.