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.

Silent night and busy days

January 3rd, 2004

HAVING TIME during the holiday period to see more and hear more, creates its own dilemma; there's so much more to write about.

Taking the dogs out for their final walk has been different. When we leave the house there is the noise of the stream which is running much fuller and more noisily right now, because of rain and melted snow. Away from the house I expect to hear the constant noise of traffic on the motorway about half a mile away.

For several evenings the silence was deafening, until I realised that for some few short minutes no traffic was on the move. It was “silent night” until the light of the torch disturbed the pigeons roosting in the pine trees bordering the road, which fluttered in some agitation until we passed.

An old cock pheasant roosts on a branch overhanging the road and obviously thinks nobody has guessed. White droppings on the road give his game away.

Big flocks of pigeon, several hundreds strong, have been feeding on fields of oil seed rape. They can cause a lot of damage to the crop when they attack it in such numbers. Once they have a crop-full they settle in nearby beech trees to digest that meal, getting ready to fly in for second helpings. (That second “crop” is the bird's gullet, which it fills with food and partially digests, before it passes to the stomach).

Geese, which I love to hear flying over the house with their winter calls, damage the winter barley which was sown in the autumn. They feed on the young shoots, sometimes pulling them out by the roots. And their large webbed feet can “paddle” the ground to a hard pan surface which hinders future growth in the springtime.

All must eat; but there is a conflict between man's management of the land and the countryside, and this most basic need of all animals.

The cold weather has brought several robins to the bird table at once. One very pugnacious fellow claims the table as his own and expends most of his energy seeing off the competition. We had wrens around all summer, but they seem to have forsaken us.

We thought our woodpecker had deserted us and expected our red squirrel would have begun to hibernate. But late starts during the holiday mornings have meant we are about when we would normally be working, and both have put in welcome appearances.

Snow on the hills behind the house has been beautiful to look at and changes the whole character of the landscape. The Christmas weather generally was disappointing, but in our neck of the woods at least, we've had some lovely morning and evening skies to compensate.

Christmas is over and the stockpot is on with the bones of the turkey – the Doyenne is preparing for Hogmanay.

Written on Saturday, January 3rd, 2004 at 2:10 pm for Weekly.