A morning breeze gently caressed a spur of Tarmangie Hill above Dollar, but the soft rush of the wind was soon broken by an almost hypnotic call – ‘coo-koo, coo-koo, coo-koo’ – a sound that seemed to penetrate every fold and gully of the hillside.

The cuckoo paused and then called again, a seemingly benign resonance, but one that potentially sounds the death knell for the soon-to-hatch chicks of ground-nesting meadow pipits.

Once mated, the female cuckoo will sit and watch, perhaps for hours at a time, scanning the hillside for the tell-tale movements of adult meadow pipits that might reveal the location of their nests hidden among grassy tussocks. Then, down she will swoop, devour one of the pipit eggs and lay a replacement, which once hatched, will push the young pipits out from the nest, so that the imposter now has the full attention of its unwitting foster parents.

I sit listening to the cuckoo for a bit longer, and as I did so, simultaneously admired a clump of flowering colt’s-foot on the ground beside me. Resembling a dandelion, colt’s-foot is one of our earliest flowering spring plants. In the past, colt’s-foot was used as a remedy for coughs, colds and sore throats, and is sometimes called coughwort. The plant flowers before it develops leaves, giving it the folk name of ‘son-before-father’. The leaves, once unfurled, are large and hoof-shaped, which is where the plant’s common name derives from.

My attention was soon drawn to another bird song, more liquid in resonance compared to the fluty notes of the cuckoo. It was a skylark, soaring heavenwards on flickering wings and raining down his sweet music across the landscape.

Shakespeare described the skylark as ‘the herald of the morn’ and as this one soared ever higher, his song was indeed an inspiring beckoning to the joys of a new day. After hanging in the air for a while, he made a slow descent and disappeared in among a thick flush of grass.

As I rose and headed on my way, meadow pipits fluttered up into the air before me, excited by the onset of spring and eagerly seeking mates. Their trilling song flights may not be as dramatic as that of the skylark, but they are still wonderful to watch as they ascend and float back down again on extended parachute wings.