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.

Heightened senses

August 23rd, 2003

SO MUCH happens at this time of year it is difficult to choose the things I want to write about. The countryside is buzzing with activity. This year's young birds and animals are adults now and off leading their own lives. The crops that were planted at the start of the year have ripened, ready for harvesting.

We're well into the hairst, or harvest, which is a critical time for farmers. Will the crops be good or poor? Will the weather stay settled and let them get in their crops in best condition? All their hard work throughout the rest of the year is focused on the few weeks of harvest time which contributes so much to the year's success.

Fields that were butter-yellow with ripe, waving barley and oats just days ago have been combined, the straw baled into giant “swiss rolls”, and the bales carted off the fields. The stubble from the cut corn is still butter-yellow, and the dogs have new walks and smells to enjoy until the tractors come in again to plough for the next crop.

The dogs love the summer weather but the recent heat has been a bit much for both of them. They are outdoors much of the time, but I've noticed they spend a lot of it dozing in the shade, and some days coming indoors when the heat has been at its height.

Our woodpecker has been calling at the bird table – not regularly, but more often than in the past. It seems to be the male bird only that visits, flying in first thing in the morning to start its breakfast with peanuts. The smaller songbirds stay clear until he flies off as suddenly as he appears. The swallows are starting to hold committee meetings on the electricity wires, so I imagine they are thinking of flying south again to escape our winter cold.

Writing this diary each week is making me look and listen much more attentively. I heard a grasshopper, chirping away in a grass verge when I stopped to put the binoculars on what I thought was a roe deer. It's ages since I was conscious of hearing grasshoppers.

Dozing in the sun by the beech hedge I caught sight of a greenbottle. It was iridescent, electric green and about the size of a housefly. Looking up the books I find they are quite common, but I just can't remember ever noticing one before.

Two tawny owls were hooting to each other several nights ago, and it was really quite comical. One sounded like a teenager whose voice was breaking. Each call started confidently enough but finished on a high falsetto squeak. And the other might have been its father, or perhaps its mother, saying – “No. no, son. Like this”. And replying with a firm, mellifluous “keewick”.