OVER-INDULGENCE during the recent festive season led to a welcome circuit around Gartmorn Dam where the cool air and abundance of waterfowl provided a wonderful soothing tonic that brought the senses tingling with joy.

A heron stood like a lone sentinel by a tangle of withered marsh grasses by the water margin, eyeing me closely as I passed by.

It was too far back from the water to be hunting for fish, so I presumed it was resting.

However, voles and mice will be scurrying around in the vegetation by its feet, and the heron was no doubt keeping half-an-eye out in case an easy meal should suddenly materialise.

Herons are charismatic birds, and they seem more abundant than ever, and only a few months previously I had stumbled upon a small nesting colony in conifers near Muckhart.

There was once a heronry in woodlands at Sheardale between Dollar and Tillicoultry, but they appear to have abandoned this site about a decade ago.

I always find it strange that such a large and ungainly water bird should nest in trees, when reed-beds look a much more appropriate option. However, this is one reason that herons are so successful, as tree nests are safe from ground predators such as foxes.

Out on the reservoir, small groups of tufted ducks bobbed on the water, diving frequently in search of small invertebrates and water plants to feed on.

Tufties are wonderful little ducks, the drakes sporting ‘punk-style’ head streamers that always catch the eye.

There were also a few goldeneye ducks on the reservoir, which look similar to tufted ducks and are winter visitors from Scandinavia.

Goldeneye is a most appropriate name, for their eyes do indeed glow like little orbs of glorious sunshine.

By a stand of waterside alders, a brown shape in the branches caught my eye.

It was a buzzard, keenly scrutinising the ground below for rodents.

Unfortunately, my near presence spooked-it, and the bird took to the air on slow-flapping wings.

It wheeled over the water before swooping back over the trees to search of a new hunting perch. It was a brief encounter that left me feeling wonderfully exhilarated – but then again, nature does that to you.