It is a close race as to which of our spring migrant birds will be the first to arrive in the Wee County.

A lot depends on the mildness of the weather, but in most years the sand martins, wheatears, meadow pipits and chiffchaffs will form the spearhead of a wave of different species that will arrive here right until the start of May.

However, this year, it has been the chiffchaffs that have been the clear winners as first arrivals, and I heard my first birds singing in mid-March. It is the distinctive repetitive double-note call of the appropriately named chiffchaff that really sets the scene for the coming season. It is a small greenish-yellow and rather unremarkable looking warbler, but with a most easily recognisable song. On sunny days throughout spring, in clearings and glades where the first primroses have burst into yellow flower, the ‘chiff-chaff’ song rings out. In Germany it is known as ‘the ‘zilpzalp’ and in Holland the ‘tjiftjaf’. I find the slightly different interpretations of the song by people from other countries intriguing and an indication of the various nuances of our spoken word.

Sand martins have also now arrived on the River Devon and at Gartmorn Dam, and even on blustery cold days, they can be seen sweeping over the water in search of early emerging insects such as up-winged flies.

From the middle of April onwards, they will seek out their breeding sites in in the sandbanks of rivers and quarries where they will excavate small tunnels to breed. The poet John Clare was entranced by these engaging birds and described their tunnelling as: “Drilling small holes along the quarry’s side, More like the hants of vermin than a bird”.

Last year was a bumper breeding season for sand martins on the Devon, with many new colonies appearing. But it is always a risky business and in some years the rising waters of an early summer spate can spell the end of any chance of successfully rearing chicks.

Up in the Ochils the first wheatears can be glimpsed bobbing around drystone dykes and boulder fields, while in the air above, skylarks rain down their sweet, liquid music. Spring is here – but it will advance at an incredibly fast rate, so make the most of this season of procreation and get out into the Clackmannanshire countryside to enjoy what is surely the most wonderful season of them all.