NEAR Tillicoultry lies a wonderful, sparkling wild pond that brims with insect life and is like a magical watery oasis.

Against the backdrop of the Ochils, it is a wonderful place to sit and reflect, and watch nature to come to you.

On my most recent visit, the pond was alive with common darter dragonflies, which flitted low over the weedy surface.

The darters were intent on mating, and on several occasions they coupled in mid-air before alighting on vegetation to fully consummate the act.

Once fertilised, the female will take to the air, and hover low over the pond, gently dipping the tip of the abdomen into the water to lay her eggs.

These darters have an almost mesmeric pull that draws me back to this pond continuously.

But their compelling elegance is sadly fleeting for they will soon be dead, on the wing for only a matter of weeks in the last stage of a much longer underwater lifecycle.

The eggs laid by the female will hatch into six-legged carnivorous larvae (nymphs) that lurk on the bed of the pond.

They are voracious predators that seek out a wide range of invertebrate prey.

Then, after a couple of years or more, the nymph crawls out of the water onto the stem of plant and from its larval skin emerges a dazzling adult winged insect.

It is like the unfurling of a sparkling jewel.

Blue-tailed damselflies were also about on this Tillicoultry pond, which were much smaller and more delicate in build compared with the common darters.

Damselflies also have a weaker flight and generally hold their wings together when resting.

Dragonflies on the other hand are more readily identified by their rigidly outstretched wings and large compound eyes.

Their two-paired wing arrangement ensures amazing agility and they can manoeuvre like an attack helicopter by flying sideways and even backwards, as well as being capable of sudden forward surges of speed.

It is this superlative aerial ability that makes dragonflies such deadly winged predators.

I was reluctant to leave the pond such was its irrepressible hold – but darkling clouds had gathered above Andrew Gannel Hill and the Law, and with the first pattering drops of rain, I pulled up my collar and headed for home.