A RECENT holiday trip aboard resulted in a short period of self-isolation on my return to comply with Covid regulations – but despite this, my small Clackmannanshire garden kept me fully engrossed with its wild visitors.

The stars were undoubtedly the red squirrels, which have become increasingly common in eastern parts of the Wee County in recent years.

Indeed, over the summer just past, I had noticed oak saplings sprouting from flowerpots and in other corners of the garden, despite their being no oaks overhanging the garden.

I pondered how they had got there, and then the answer sprung upon me – red squirrels!

Memories quickly flooded back of watching these endearing creatures burying food items into the garden lawn, which I presumed were peanuts from the bird feeder.

However, it now appears acorns were also being stored, collected from a nearby wood. Once each little nugget of treasure is nestled within its newly dug hole, the squirrel patters the soil carefully back into place with its front paws.

For the squirrel, this was a clever ploy to store acorns and seeds for retrieval during the dark days of winter.

Of course, red squirrels are not that smart because they can't possibly remember where all their underground food caches lie, thus the following spring tree saplings emerge from the soil.

It is nature working at its best, almost as if guided by some force from above, because the squirrels are helping to secure the future of the woodland in which they live by carefully planting tree seeds.

The oaks benefit, as do the squirrels and host of other creatures that depend upon woodland for their survival.

Another interesting visitor to the garden has been a female blackcap. Normally a summer visiting warbler, small numbers from central Europe regularly spend the winter in Scotland.

Only the males have a black cap, the female instead sporting a rusty-brown bunnet.

The one in my garden has been feeding on berries on ornamental garden bushes, but I have yet to see it attracted to the bird feeder.

However, once the berries diminish, and the prolonged periods of frost arrive, then she will have little option other than to forage for scraps from the bird table.