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.

The birds

April 10th, 2004

THREE MALLARD drakes and a duck were unconcernedly stepping out along the road in that distinctive rolling sailor's gait that they have, as the dogs and I stepped out of the wood. I wondered why they chose to walk just there as the pond is a hundred and fifty yards in one direction, and the stream much the same distance away, in another.

I brought the dogs to heel and watched until the birds were about sixty yards ahead of us, and then followed on as quietly as I could, thinking they might be heading for the pond. Unfortunately dogs don't understand about silently walking on tarmac, and not excitedly crashing about in the dry leaves on the verge.

Inevitably the birds realised we were behind them and (forgive me!) they ducked under the beech hedge and into the wood we had just left. We followed on slowly, but the duck were getting a bit unsettled, and as we moved back into the wood they popped out onto the roadside again.

The game of hide-and-seek couldn't last long before the duck took flight. I expect after a couple of turns in the air they came down again onto one or other of the bits of water nearby. Having seen very few duck all winter compared with last season, they are making a bit of a local comeback as the nesting season gets closer.

Black-headed gulls are also getting pretty excited about the prospect of spring. They are flocking in some numbers on the newly sown fields close to the house, and are easily recognised by their raucous screams, and the black hood of feathers (they are actually brownish when seen close to) which they lose in wintertime.

Despite being seashore birds they regularly come inland when there is plenty feeding for them. Many nest in colonies in bogs and marshes sometimes surprisingly far from the coast.

A single red legged, or French, partridge made an appearance scratching for spillages from the bird table. They are rather flashy birds compared with our native grey partridge which are much more doucely Scottish. But I'd be delighted if a pair of either brand decided to nest somewhere close by.

Last Saturday the Doyenne and I visited the exhibition of predecessor Colin Gibson's work in the Eduardo Alessandro Studios in Broughty Ferry. It was a great pleasure to see so much of his work on show and we spent an hour looking at many scenes that will be old friends to Angus folk and Dundonians.

Colin Gibson had a turn of phrase that was distinctly his own and he enriched his writing with his trained artist's skills. We bought a picture of a moorhen which is full of action and life. A copy of the article it originally accompanied is pasted on the back, which adds further interest.