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.

Solitary birds

February 15th, 2003

A HERON has been working between the Cruick Water and some scrub grass by the side of the road. They are solitary birds and you rarely see more than one at a time. There must be food, possibly frogs or small rodents, for this bird to be seen so regularly. They are very efficient killers. It seems pretty unfazed by passing traffic though it didn't linger when I stopped by the roadside for a chat.

There is a heron roost at the foot of the cliffs on the road to St Cyrus Nature Reserve. The trees are too low for nesting, but it's a fine place for the herons to have a midday snooze after a morning's fishing on the River North Esk

The Revd. James Landreth of Logie Pert Church, writing in his Grampian Diary, which appeared in the “Dundee Courier” in 1917, compared the heron with the golden eagle. Describing the eagle he said – “The only other bird that might be mistaken for him by an inexperienced eye is the heron, which is also hugely winged €¦.” There the comparison surely ends. If the Minister hadn't made his comments I certainly should never have made the connection.

The manse at Logie Pert was home to me for thirty-six years. For the latter twenty nine of those years La D. and I brought up our own family in what was a wonderfully secluded, country backwater. The Gallery Burn runs through the garden and occasionally a heron flapped in to check the menu. Moorhens nested on the banks of the burn and mallard ducks in the herbaceous borders in the garden.

I drove down the Westway, which is part of the town-centre bypass for Arbroath, on a frisky, bright morning. The view was crystal clear and the sun was bouncing off a calm sea. Eleven miles out or so, the thin pencil shape of the Bell Rock lighthouse rose on the horizon from the Inchcape Rock. It's not often the weather conditions are so good for viewing this – well, seamark? Visit the Signal Tower Museum, which was originally the lighthouse keepers' homes, to see the difficulties that were overcome by Robert Stevenson (grandfather of RLS), the engineer who built the light.

“Bright spells will develop over Angus”, said the weatherman. I was charmed by the thought, though I nearly got my comeuppance the next morning when I thought the wind would blow the day inside out. But the sun did indeed smile on Angus.

Driving from Rossie Island into Montrose I saw eider duck congregating in the low water between the road bridge and the railway bridge. The drakes are most handsome with their pattern of white feathers above and black at the waterline. The females' browny feathers can be confused with mallard ducks' colouring, but the eider's straight, sloping bill helps with identification.

I can mind when Rossie Island really was an island, with a bridge at each end. Does that say something about my age?

Written on Saturday, February 15th, 2003 at 9:21 am for Weekly.