It was enjoyable to watch a frenetic little pied wagtail on the riverside path at Cambus.

Wagtails are energetic little birds and I can’t recall ever seeing one standing still for more than a few seconds. But it is the tail that really attracts the eye, for it just can’t stop wagging, and the more excited the bird gets, the faster the tail wags.

Gilbert White, the 18th century nature diarist, observed that the tail "bobs up and down like that of a jaded horse".

And John Clare summed up this busy behaviour of wagtails in his poem ‘Little Trotty Wagtail’: "Little trotty wagtail, you nimble all about, And in the dimpling water pudge you waddle in and out."

Wagtails are among our most endearing birds. In Clackmannanshire, we have two breeding species, the pied wagtail and the grey wagtail. If ever there was a misnomer, then it surely must apply to the grey wagtail, for rather than being drab as the name suggests, it is one of our most colourful birds, especially the male with his most striking yellow underparts.

The pied wagtail is our commonest species and is known in some parts of the UK as ‘dishwasher’ and ‘washerwoman’ or derivations thereof, possibly because the black and white plumage resemble the clothes worn by washerwomen of old, or maybe because they often occur along the edges of ponds and streams. In folklore, a wagtail tapping on a window is considered an ill-omen, while in Ireland the pied wagtail was reputed to have a drop of the ‘devil’s blood’.

Pied wagtails like to feed on tiny flies and they can be found pretty much anywhere that has plenty of small, winged insects and other invertebrates.

The grey wagtail, on the other hand, is a specialist of fast flowing rivers and burns, and can sometimes be seen on the upper reaches of River Devon and Black Devon and their fast-flowing tributary burns. They often hang around in pairs and have a distinctive ‘chirrup’ call. Although they are quite flighty birds when disturbed, they will soon alight again, often on a boulder in the middle of a burn.

Their sheer energy and zest for life define why wagtails are such a treasured part of our environment. They are always a delight to watch as they run this way and that, forever alert to the movement of the smallest insect. These are birds that really do like to live in the fast lane.