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.

Life and death

November 13th, 2004

LAST SUNDAY the weather took a turn for the better and I spent much of the day in the garden. The dawn set the standard for the day and by the time Macbeth and I went out for his morning walk the clouds were high in the sky and the sun was shining.

It was rush hour for the geese, and skein after skein passed over us flying west to their feeding grounds. The sun is lower in the sky at this time of year and it caught the birds' light undercarriages.

Some of them were so high they seemed set to fly over the Cairn O' Mount. I watched small packs of the birds break away from larger groups and drop onto fields closer by. Away at the end of it all came a single bird, calling constantly in its efforts to keep in contact. How did it let itself get left so far behind?

Fieldfares, and their smaller cousins the redwings, are winter visitors to Britain from northern Europe. About a dozen of the birds descended on the last of the elderberries and stripped the bushes pretty well bare – to the irritation, no doubt, of our resident blackbirds.

These winter migrants are the same family as thrushes, and the breast feathers of the redwing can be mistaken for a song thrush. However, as soon as it turns side-on and you can see the red patch on its wing – hence the name – any confusion is soon cleared up.

Two small coveys of our own native grey partridges have been working the field edges and roadsides close to the house. They have been in decline for a long time, so it's a great pleasure to see them. Like hares, they used to be so common, and it would be very exciting if they could make a come-back to something like their past numbers.

A dead red squirrel, the body still warm, lay at the side of the road when Macbeth and I went out again for his evening walk. Just a little extra care could have been taken by the driver responsible, to avoid the needless death of another of our declining native animals.

We haven't seen a squirrel at the feeding table for some weeks. I'm hearing more reports of buzzards, which most certainly seem to be on the increase, regularly taking squirrels off tree branches.

Friends who put out large quantities of peanuts, and had a very busy resident population, report the same sudden drop in visits. They watched one buzzard flying off with a newly killed squirrel, its bushy tail flapping beneath the bird's talons.

Our Sunday ended with a really splendid sunset. I sat on a dyke, faithful hound at my feet, just watching nature seep away into the distance, and counted my blessings for being where I was.