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.

Avian thoughts

July 19th, 2003

I KILLED a yellowhammer. Not intentionally, but it flew out from behind a hedge right in front of the car, and there was nothing I could do. I saw it in the rear mirror fluttering on the road and reversed back. Its mate was flickering round about it, not understanding what had happened, and flew off as the car approached. They used to be such common birds, so I was sorry to be the cause of its death. “A-little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese” is the traditional portrayal of its song, and there's a Scottish version – “deil-deil-deil-tak-ye”.

Another hundred yards and I came on a dead hedge sparrow. Picking up the two wee bodies I could appreciate how thistledown light most of our small songbirds are. There doesn't seem enough flesh on their bodies to provide the muscles to enable them to fly so fast, and in some cases so far.

The traditional Scottish thistles are coming into flower. Their other name is spear thistles, which is very appropriate because their leaves end in pretty vicious spikes which are extremely uncomfortable to walk into. Their dusty green foliage is topped by a regal purple head and it's the plant we Scots have adopted as our national emblem. One of the old Scottish coins was known as a thistle dollar and depicted the flower on one side.

Walks with the dogs at this time of year often mean pushing through bracken and tall grasses. The undergrowth in the woods, and at the roadsides and in the ditches, is at its height. Of course for Macbeth the undergrowth becomes the overgrowth. He has begun to understand that if I can't see him he needn't come back to heel until the peep has just about gone from my whistle.

Polythene tunnels, or polytunnels, appear in many fields, and their numbers seem to increase each year. So far as I know strawberries are the main crop grown inside them. Farmers can extend the season in both directions so that the juicy fruit is available for our tables for much longer than used to be the case.

Agricultural fleece is also becoming a common sight. Its purpose is to accelerate growth and protect crops from disease. Whole fields are covered in the opaque material and several I have passed look like lochs that have appeared overnight. The Doyenne tells me that she has been told by another lady who knows about these things, that it is made from recycled plastic milk bottles.

Still in the environmental spirit, I took a load of empty bottles to the local bottle bank. I just love throwing them into the appropriate bins and hearing them smash on the bottles already there. It's licensed vandalism, it's very satisfying, and it's all in a good cause.