THE grassy tussocks in this little Ochil glen were pockmarked with field vole holes and as I made my way up the path, I even saw a couple of the small blurry-brown creatures scamper for cover.
Field vole populations typically undergo four year cycles of boom and bust, and clearly this part of the Ochils was experiencing a peak. The voles were everywhere and the local buzzards were taking full advantage of this bonanza.
During the course of a four hour walk I counted at least 10 buzzards soaring high in the sky. This vole abundance has come at a perfect time for the buzzards as it means there is plenty of food available for their hungry chicks. It is all about making hay while the suns shines – and times will be much tougher when the vole population crashes next year.
There were plenty of meadow pipits and skylarks about too, the meadow pipits rising and falling in the air on parachute wings while skylarks spilled their wonderful tunes from high in the sky.
Cuckoos are just about hanging on in the Ochils but they are rather scarce, so I was especially pleased to hear one calling. It is a call that carries far in the wind and is such an evocative sound of spring.
But the presence of cuckoos is bad news for the local meadow pipits. Carefully picking a moment when the female pipit has temporarily flitted her nest, the cuckoo will swoop down in a flurry of wings and quickly gulps down one of the eggs. She then straddles the nest with half-open wings and lays one of her own as a replacement, before erupting back into the air again.
Within the little pipit’s nest now lies a ticking time-bomb that once hatched will destroy the rest of her brood. And unbeknownst to the adult pipits, they will then go on to rear this interloper as one of their own.