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.

Surviving winter

February 8th, 2003

THE HEAT starts to go out of the sun around noon at this time of year. Two more hours or so and daylight is starting to fade. With the arrival of the snow there have been sharp sunny mornings and the hedgerow birds have been busier than usual searching for the constant supply of food they need for survival.

Wildlife in this part of the countryside is well served by the foresight of past landowners who planted miles of beech hedges and woods of deciduous, broad-leafed trees. The finches and tits, robins and wrens, and bigger song birds like thrushes and blackbirds, have had shelter from the worst of the winds, and there has not been too much snow to completely obliterate the ground. Numerous scrapings in the snow and overturned leaves show they are having success finding all manner of bugs and beetles.

The priority for food makes the birds less cautious about me being close to them. One robin in particular so lost its fear that if I had had some crumbs, I believe it might have come to my hand.

Both dogs love the snow. It brings out the puppy in Sheba. Macbeth believes that because he once was white, and I use the description guardedly, he is completely camouflaged. He crouches in the snow and leaps upon Sheba like a snarling tiger. She is too considerate to point out that, in fact, he looks like a rather tired white pudding well past its sell-by date, and he sticks out like a sore thumb!

This is the time to look for animal and bird tracks. I've found rabbit tracks, despite seeing no evidence of them before. I thought they must have been cleaned out by the activities of the buzzards. And there seem to be a couple of local hares, which is most encouraging because they have not been a common sight for many years. Cock pheasants leave very distinct tracks with a line in the snow between their footprints, made by their trailing tail feathers which are longer than the hens'.

The Doyenne has made marmalade, which will shift like snow off a dyke once the family get to know about it. Grandson James came for a weekend visit which is always welcome. I'm still a better snowballer than he is, but I guess my time is running out.

Lilac, pink and light grey clouds have brightened some wonderful evening skies, and the sun has dazzled out from behind them in a last surge of brilliance before fading into the inky hills. The star turn amongst our colourful visitors searching for food has been a bullfinch, feeding greedily on seeds in the weed and grass heads outside the kitchen window. With his rosy breast feathers he's like the memory of a pink sunset.

Carry on filling your bird tables with food and ensure your gardens are filled with bird life in the spring. The added pleasure will repay such small effort many times over.

Written on Saturday, February 8th, 2003 at 9:33 am for Weekly.