THE Ochils are situated right on our doorstep and are such a marvellous range of hills that abound with wildlife.
Recently, I took the circuit that starts in Glen Sherup and then heads up the north-west side of the glen to Skythorn Hill, before striking across to Tarmangie Hill and then returning via Innerdownie Hill.
The first part of the walk takes you through mature spruce plantation, which is a great place to hear the gentle twinkling calls of goldcrests and siskins. They are pine tree specialists but tend to keep themselves to themselves and are often hard to see.
Once across the dam at Glen Sherup reservoir, the path gradually ascends through an area of young native tree plantation. This area is owned and managed by Woodland Trust Scotland (WTS). It is a place full of natural diversity and part of an ambitious project in the area that has seen over 1.5 million native trees planted so as to create a forest that mirrors the landscape found in historical times.
Here, I caught sight of several meadow pipits engaged in their aerial courtship displays and falling through the air on parachute-like wings. Skylarks also soared high into the heavens, delivering their rich outpouring of notes and sometimes hanging in the air for several minutes before rapidly plummeting to the ground again.
But the best part of the day was still to come. As I approached the summit of Tarmangie Hill, two large birds appeared above me.
It was an immature sea eagle which in turn was being mobbed by a red kite. Both are rare birds of prey that have been reintroduced back into our landscape in recent years.
I’ve seen sea eagles and red kites before in the Ochils, but never together at the same time. The red kites in particular seem to prefer the Strathallan side of the hills and only occasionally do they ever venture over into Clackmannanshire.
Why this should be so, I have no idea.