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.

As good as a rest

February 22nd, 2003

DOGS ENJOY a change just as much as we humans. Like us they can get bored with the same walk every day and no variation to stimulate them. We are fortunate to have such a choice of walks close to home. But a visit to son James and his family who live in Gorebridge meant new sights, sounds and smells for Sheba and Macbeth. Macbeth is most sociable and meeting new dogs in parks is a real treat for him.

We took an extended-family walk over the Braid Hills golf course which lies on the south side of Edinburgh. This is a city which is blessed with numerous green spaces. There must be plenty of small mammals and bird life living in the broom and whin covered hillocks round which the golf course has been built.

Two kestrels were quartering over the ground oblivious to us humans and all the other dogs out with their owners. We are obviously just part of the landscape to be taken account of when out hunting. I saw rabbit tracks in the last of the snow which was lying in the shaded parts of the course. There were fox droppings which probably meant that some of the rabbits had met an untimely end. I believe urban foxes are very common in the city.

I had a call from an enthusiastic country life observer. He had been walking his two dogs along the bank of the River South Esk opposite Arrats Mill, which lies about halfway between Brechin and the river's entry into Montrose Basin. He had seen a seal in the river with what he judged to be a seven pound salmon in its mouth.

I discussed this with an old friend, Charlie Lorimer, who has known the river all his life. He confirmed that it's not frequent, but not uncommon, for seals to swim far up the river. He has seen them sunning themselves on the gravel banks by the Bridge of Dun. Like me, he had never seen one flourishing its lunch like a trophy.

I've been missing the calls of the geese in recent weeks. For me they represent one of the authentic voices of winter. They are just not around in the same numbers as last winter. The farmers won't mind because they can do much damage to winter growing crops. However, on the car journey to Edinburgh we saw three to four hundred greylag geese feeding on stubbles close to Kinross, not far from Vane Farm Nature Reserve.

The snowdrops are still going strong and the daffodils are growing well. In the more sheltered parts of the garden they have reached the “pencil” stage. This is the point when the immature buds point skywards like a pencil, before the blooms fall over in their characteristic droop.

I've noticed there's a fever about salmon stories that produces a frenzy of optimism in their telling. A seven pound salmon, indeed! Not even Macbeth fell for that fishy tail.