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.

Wild cat and bird nicknames

March 19th, 2005

GOOD NEWS is always welcome. So I was delighted to receive a letter from Pauline the veterinary nurse at Robson's Veterinary Hospital, who adopted Angel the feral kitten I picked up off the road, frozen and near-dead, just before Christmas.

Angel has been renamed Holly because it better suits her  very loud personality'. Maybe it also reflects a prickly side to her nature as Pauline writes that “a lot of perseverance, and elastoplasts, have paid off”.

It's hardly surprising that such a creature, plucked from the wild, should take a while to get used to people and dogs, as she adapted to domesticity and settled into her new life. Her photographs show a svelte and contented young kitten who rules the roost over the family dogs.

Arthur Grewar phoned me with a story of maternal pluckiness that takes some beating. He was harrowing a field in preparation for ploughing and two very young leverets, about the size of his fist, ran out from underneath the tractor wheels.

A carrion crow and a buzzard quickly appeared, obviously intent on taking the two young hares. The mother hare got up on her hind legs and attacked both birds with such ferocity that she drove them off. In a lifetime on the land, Arthur says he has never seen anything so courageous.

We have another “first” success story from the garden. A pair of long tailed tits are feeding at the bird table. Their tails are about half as long again as their roly-poly bodies, hence their name.

They build a distinctive domed nest with an entrance hole near the top, and for this reason they are sometimes called bottle tits.

In the same vein, I have been investigating the origin of  Swankie's doo' which is a local by-name for a seagull. I came across it in a guide to Scottish bird names. I phoned Arbroath fish merchant Brian Swankie to see what he knew about the expression, and while it is well known about Arbroath he told me there is no family tradition attached to it.

So I called Bob Spink who is reputed to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Arbroath and its fishing heritage. Likewise, he had grown up with the name but had no idea how it came into the local parlance.

We agreed that it was sad to see old expressions and language disappearing, because they add so much colour to conversation. We both remembered when we called sparrows  spuggies'. Many years ago there was a man in Montrose called Spuggie Rennie, who I recall as a small bird-like person well fitted to his nickname.

I'd put the phone down when I saw in my book that chaffinches are called spinks or spinkies. I wonder if Bob Spink knows that?

And for the record, the Doyenne is a maist exceptional “bird”!