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.

Nest eggs and superstition

February 21st, 2004

OUR BIRD-TABLE has a nesting box built as a sort of upper storey above the feeding tray, and last season two families of blue tits were reared from it. Tits mainly build their nests in holes in trees and crevices in walls, but readily take to nesting boxes.

I didn't know whether I needed to clean out the box to attract new broods this year, or whether last year's nests would be recycled by this year's new pairs of breeding birds. Anyway, I took a look inside to see what the next step should be.

I unscrewed one side of the roof and found two nests inside, and the rest of the box, which measures ten inches by eight inches, filled wall to wall with nesting material too. The industrious birds had collected sheep's wool, feathers, dry grasses and moss to make the nests, which really are marvels of construction.

What a lot of extra effort they went to, which could have been avoided if they had nested in their customary sites. You may remember my story which appeared in the Craigie Column last year, about the nest which completely filled a paella dish that was left in the garden shed. It seems to be the case that the birds need to fill up all available space.

Inside each nest I found the desiccated skeletons of three chicks which just hadn't made it. I looked up the bird book and found that blue tits lay from eight to fourteen eggs. If parent birds are busy feeding a dozen chicks or more it's not surprising, in the fight for food and survival, that the weaker chicks get shoved aside by more dominant ones.

The nests measure only three inches across so there hardly seems enough room for so many eggs. And what a scramble it would have been for the hen bird if she had to settle on a squirming bundle of up to fourteen chicks overnight. It's as bad as the Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe!

I'm going to clean out the box with its sad wee remains, and I can look forward in a couple of months to seeing prospective tenants viewing the property.

I was speaking to a solicitor about Friday 13th February. She told me she never has any house transactions to complete when a Friday falls on the thirteenth of the month. We agreed that there was quite enough trauma in a flitting without tempting fate by doing it on Black Friday!

I'm sure it's just a coincidence of her personal experience because lots of people must move house on Friday 13th. But there could be a wee reflection of our Scottish psyche in it all, and some of us still allowing such superstitions to influence our thoughts and actions. It would never apply to me of course!