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.

Bird visitors

May 24th, 2003

IDLE MOMENTS drinking a cup of tea and watching the bird table turned into an hour of fascinating bird watching. It was a bright sunny morning which had woken me early. I've noticed that feeding at the bird table doesn't get busy until there is some heat in the sun, however early, otherwise it's after about eight o'clock. I realised again just how alive the garden is with bird life.

There are greenfinches and chaffinches, and the occasional bullfinch. The male bullfinch is particularly handsome with a beautiful rose-pink front. And blue tits, and their bigger cousins the great tits which have a big sooty patch running down their breast. They all have gripping claws and cling to the peanut and seed feeders which hang from the bird table. The birds with heavier beaks seem to favour the nuts which they attack with stabbing enthusiasm. Others have slender beaks and prefer the seeds.

Many of the birds are ground feeders. Sparrows, or spuggies as I've always known them, clear up the seeds and scraps of peanut which fall from the feeders.

Robins and wrens (even male wrens are called Jenny) sit on the top strand of the wire fence and judge the moment to dart down and do their bit of hoovering up. Both are pugnacious little birds and won't stand any nonsense from their neighbours. They also feed from the tray of the bird table, and a very favourite food is a crumbled up, over baked croissant. It must be the butter and fat that attracts them.

Blackbirds come to the tray too, but the thrushes seem quite cautious about it. These two spend a lot of their time foraging on the lawns, and sometimes pull the most enormously long worms out of the grass. It's really quite comical and a bit like a cartoon.

Other visitors are occasional yellowhammers, and lots of siskins. Pied wagtails, or Little Tommy wagtails as I grew up calling them, bob across the grass. We've some starlings which I always think of as the spivs of the bird world. Swallows flight up and down the stream catching insects. There's more than one, so summer seems assured! They've been joined by some swifts.

However the most exciting visitor has been our first great spotted woodpecker which appeared on the Doyenne's birthday, which surely must be significant. He attacked the nut basket vigorously for just a brief time and then flew off. I watched the direction he went and put up more feeders to tempt him, and his family too, back to the garden.

A little blue half eggshell lay in front of me as I mowed the lawn. A hedge sparrow I think, which had dropped the empty shell well away from its nest so as not to advertise to hungry predators that there were defenceless nestlings nearby.