I SAW my first incoming migratory geese last week winging their way along the Ochil scarp and down across Strathdevon, a dark V-shaped formation set against the pallid morning sky and a herald to the main influx that will soon arrive upon our shores.

Presuming they were greylag or pink-footed geese, I took some distant photographs and thought no more about them.

But when I examined the images later, I realised my presumption was wrong, for they were actually barnacle geese, a much more scarce type of goose altogether.

These barnacles were in transit, having come from their northern breeding grounds on the archipelago of Svalbard far north of the Arctic Circle and heading down towards their wintering grounds on the Solway Firth.

It was a good sighting and one which underlines the surprises that lie in store for the nature watcher.

Geese are obvious migrants because of their size, but throughout Clackmannanshire, other much smaller birds are unobtrusively slipping their way into our gardens and woodlands, including blackbirds, robins and goldcrests.

But of all these arrivals, it is the woodcock that I look forward to most. At one time woodcocks were known as ‘moon birds’ because of the widely held belief that they flew to the moon in winter.

This lunar association still holds strong to this day, albeit in a different form, with the first full moon of November often being dubbed as the ‘woodcock moon’.

For then, from under this celestial illumination, large numbers of woodcocks begin to descend upon Scotland from their breeding quarters in Scandinavia and Russia, supplementing our own resident population.

The woodcock is a most intriguing bird – a nocturnal wader that lives in woods rather than by the shore – and which always possesses an inherent ability to surprise.

No more so than when walking through woodland and the ground suddenly erupts beneath your feet and away fizzes a woodcock like a brown blurry missile. The bird twists and weaves on flickering wings, then a short glide, before suddenly dropping out of sight.

It is all over so quick, the mind wonders whether the bird was there at all; an autumnal apparition which contributes to the special aura of this time of year.