With the New Year fast approaching, this is a good time to reflect upon the past 12 months and some of my Clackmannanshire wildlife highlights.

For me, it has undoubtedly been my best year ever for encounters with otters and beavers on the River Devon, spotting both animals on numerous occasions. I was fortuitous that on my stretch of the river, a mother otter and her full-grown cub had taken up residence for much of the year, providing the perfect opportunity for several close encounters.

It is great to see otters doing so well on the Devon, which is testament to the healthy population of brown trout and other fish. Similarly, beaver numbers continue to increase, with their activities helping to enhance biodiversity on the river and make it a better place for wildlife.

Sand martins had a good year on the River Devon, with larger numbers than ever arriving last spring, with many new colonies established. However, they didn’t stay around as long as usual, and many had departed by July. At the other end of the scale, house martins were only present in low numbers and they seem to be declining with each passing year. This is a tragedy and I fear for the future of these charismatic birds.

Over the spring and summer, an osprey regularly hunted over the River Devon, and red kites seem to be increasing in numbers, and I had several encounters with these magnificent birds of prey near Dollar and Menstrie. I suspect that in the near future, red kites will become an increasingly common sight soaring over the skies of the Wee County.

Nuthatches and comma butterflies are also increasing in Clackmannanshire, possibly because of climate change. Nature never stands still and is always under flux, but when such changes are caused by the hand of humanity, then that is something that should worry us all.

I wish you all a Happy New Year when it comes.