Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Springing to life

April 21st, 2012

THERE ARE times when a dog in the countryside, especially one as rumbustious as Inka, can be a drawback. At this time of year the focus is on nesting and breeding and it’s often possible, if you go quietly, to get closer than usual to a lot of wildlife. Going quietly isn’t really an option with Inka, but there’s still plenty to be seen.

A pair of jackdaws, one with a beakful of nesting material, sat in the lower branches of a beech tree, apparently quite oblivious to us while I stopped and watched them. I guess that they had a nest in a hole in one of the old trees, but their natural caution stopped them flying into it until I was gone.

It’s unusual to see as many as eight mallard duck on the burn near the house. If past years are anything to go by, hopefully at least a couple of them will pair off and nest somewhere close by.

It was Inka who disturbed a woodcock amongst the dead leaves just a few paces from where I had passed. Their plumage is perfect camouflage against that sort of background and if I’d been on my own it would have sat tight and I never would have seen it. I didn’t see a mate but there probably was one not far away.

First light can be a good time to see the woods waken up. Sometimes a hare ambles out onto the grass for an early morning snack. We’ve found leverets tucked up in the undergrowth near the edge of the wood, left there during the daytime hours while the parents rest up. If ever you should come across leverets apparently abandoned, leave them alone – the parents will return in the evening to feed them.

It’s not just the birds and the animals. Fields that were brown one day, the next show a faint stubble of green growth that has appeared overnight. Most likely to be spring barley, grown for malting barley for our whisky.

It’s the same with the trees. One day the leaf buds are tightly closed and the next there’s a delicate green veil mantling the branches where the new leaves have started to break open. Sycamore and horse chestnut are well forward and it won’t be long until their skeletal branches are lost from view inside the dense canopy of green foliage.

Look out for the frail wood sorrel’s white flowers topping slender, thread-like stems. They grow singly but there’s usually a confusion of them carpeting the woodland floor when you find them. There’s white blossom on the wild cherries – geans to you and me – and the blackthorn is another early flowering tree.

The river levels have been very low, but after the recent rain there’s plenty water now for the salmon to get upstream to the headwaters and their spawning redds. Walking the dogs along the North Esk at The Burn I met a party of fishermen up from the south who had caught nothing for their week. Fishermen’s luck being what it is, we agreed it would likely be better next week when they had gone home!

Inka came back carrying a baby rabbit minus its head. It had clearly only recently been killed for it was still warm. I wondered if it had fallen victim to a cat, but I don’t think cats have enough strength in their jaws to tear off even a baby rabbit’s head. More likely to have been an opportunistic fox which had dropped its prey and made good its escape.

Three cronies had paid their last respects to their old friend who they had gone to school with, grown up with, played football with and known all their days.

After the interment there had been a tremendous wake and the liberal provision of whisky had visibly raised their spirits. On the way home they agreed they could hardly pass their favourite pub where they had so often enjoyed the deceased’s company. It was soon clear from the unseemly mirth at their end of the bar that they had recovered from the day’s sad event.

One of them picked up a copy of the Evening Telegraph. Splashed across the front page was the banner headline, Local Man Dies. “Hope it’s someone we knew”, was the gallows humour comment.

Written on Saturday, April 21st, 2012 at 10:01 am for Uncategorized, Weekly.