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.

In the midst of life……

September 20th, 2003

WHITE PHEASANTS in my experience are even more uncommon than white blackbirds. I saw maybe my fourth such mutant this past week. It's a young cock pheasant and he's completely white except for the scarlet wattles on his cheeks. He was running about the roadside, luckily a back road well away from the heavy traffic. If he doesn't learn his kerb drill fast, he'll be no sort of pheasant at all very soon.

Thrushes have been absent from the garden for many weeks. A wise friend has suggested that they depend for much of their feeding on earthworms, and that the grass has been so parched the worms have burrowed too far below the surface for the birds to catch them. The recent rain may have been enough to tempt some worms nearer the surface because several thrushes have been back to visit us.

One in particular, a mistle thrush with a spectacular speckledy breast, has been catching my eye. He, or perhaps it is she, parades around the garden for all the world like a Brigade of Guards drill sergeant. The ripening elderberries may be another food attraction.

I watched the leaves cascading off a beech tree like a peaty stream. With the prolonged dry weather many trees have suffered from lack of moisture and the slightest breeze is all that's needed to loosen their leaves. It's very inconsistent because others are still green and seem to be thriving. Our Scottish Fall, much like the American Fall when they go “leaf peeping”, is going to be early this year and may be pretty short lived. It'll be part of the price of such a long, hot summer.

Rowans, too, have suffered from the dry spell. Most of them shrivelled on the branches before ripening and I had to scour the countryside to get enough for the Doyenne to make rowan and apple jelly, the best accompaniment ever for roast lamb.

By comparison the brambles have flourished in the good weather and they are well formed and juicy. Pick out the fattest and ripest and have them with ice cream. Or mix them with your breakfast cereal, that's a great way to kick-start your taste buds. Brambling usually means hands and arms covered in scratches and nettle stings, but the discomfort is a small price when the berries are as good as this year's.

A tiny, forlorn shrew sat on the stone step, with its back to the door, shaking with some terminal sickness. It never stirred when I opened the door and sat on the step to look at it. I picked it up and it sat feather light in my palm, still trembling. Only when I put it down did it make a half-hearted attempt to take cover under a leaf. I expect nature will have taken its course by now.

Written on Saturday, September 20th, 2003 at 7:40 pm for Weekly.