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.

First footing

January 4th, 2003

“Dad, look!” – daughter Cait pointed out of the window. “There's a red squirrel on the roof of the garden shed”. It's exciting to think that such a cautious animal would come so close to the house. Several more feet and it could have hopped into the kitchen. Was this a new resident of the garden or just a flying visit?

Later, while I was busy in the garden Macbeth bolted up the drive. It was Cait's squirrel. He – or perhaps it was she – must have been working along the beech hedge and had come out onto the driveway. Squirrels are the greatest temptation for Macbeth. However much I tell him otherwise, he remains convinced that if he runs just a fraction faster he will bag one for himself. I do not share his confidence.

This squirrel wasn't going to hang around for Macbeth to expand his theories. He ran for the safety of a beech tree and was quickly two storeys high. It's thrilling to watch them in their natural element amongst the bare high branches. He crossed over the road, running to the end of one thin, whippy branch and launching himself effortlessly into the neighbouring tree. Airborne, he walked across seven of the leafless trees until I lost sight of him in a Scotch pine.

In autumn the swallows left us but the geese came in their place. Each morning and evening they fly over the house in their familiar trailing V-formations crying their sad calls to one another. Sometimes a single bird flies over, hopelessly calling for a friendly response. How did it get separated from its companions? Other times skein upon skein fly to their feeding grounds and the air is filled with their noisy conversation.

It is only cock pheasants that make an audible call, and we hear them at the start of the day and at dusk, “clocking” away to one another as they mark their territories. When we walk through the wood jays operate their early warning system. Their harsh screech precedes us as each bird warns its neighbour that danger is on the way. Wary wood pigeons clatter wildly from the treetops.

A flock of hedge sparrows appear to be establishing themselves in the beech hedge beside the house. It's home to lots of blackbirds which fly off with shrieks of indignation when disturbed. Self-confident robins and wrens busily go about their affairs. Buzzards circle overhead. There are roe deer in the wood but they hardly ever show themselves. Mallard duck fly to a splash of water in a neighbouring wood to roost and gossip amongst themselves,

One sound I miss is the creaking call of partridge at dusk. Perhaps this coming breeding season a pair or two will hatch a clutch of eggs in the safety of the undergrowth nearby.

There is a profusion of wildlife to be seen and heard and enjoyed. When spring turns to summer the variety will be greater still, and colour will add to our pleasure in the countryside.

In the far corner of the garden there are good strong buds on the rhododendron bush.

Written on Saturday, January 4th, 2003 at 10:01 am for Weekly.