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.

John Buchan and unrelated subjects

May 21st, 2005

MANY COASTAL birds, confined traditionally to the shores and cliff tops, are now found well inland; sometimes to nest, but always because there is a ready supply of food.

A keen angler has been telling me about a colony of cormorants that have established themselves on Rescobie Loch which lies between the Forfar-Montrose and Forfar-Friockheim roads. Some of the rainbow trout the fishermen catch are badly scarred, and they reckon that the injuries are caused when the cormorants try to take fish that are too big for them to handle.

I've been getting more welcome feedback from readers.

Mr Gordon Dilworth from Moulin near Pitlochry, took me to task over my claim that John Buchan was the originator of the phrase  between a rock and a hard place'. Mr Dilworth has obviously done his homework, shame on me that I didn't, because he could tell me that the expression was commonly used in Arizona, USA, as early as 1921. There it referred to being bankrupt.

Mention of the hoopoe seen near Edzell brought a response from Mr Edward McBay of Johnshaven. He sent me copies of a letter and article written in 1969 by my predecessor, Colin Gibson, about Mr McBay's sighting of a hoopoe perched on a dyke in the fishing village. The article was accompanied by one of Colin's trademark scraperboard drawings of the bird.

There's a wee splash of a pond in the next-door wood and as Macbeth and I passed it I heard a familiar  kurruk, kurruk'. It was a waterhen, which has a surprisingly loud call for a bird about the size of a pullet.

They are waterfowl and my bird books call them moorhens which derives from the Old English  mere', meaning pond or lake. They have no connection with our Scottish moor- or muir-fowl, which are red grouse and blackcock.

The late Francis Blair-Imrie of Lunan told me of watching waterhens at this time of year in the fields beside the Lunan Water, pecking in the skulls of partridge chicks and killing them.

My father and I used to visit an old lady whose family caught waterhens to eat. They skinned them because the skin has a rank, muddy taste and steeped the carcases overnight in salted water. When they were cooked she said they tasted much like chicken.

Last month Craigie featured comments from Mrs Barbara Kennedy about sowing fields by hand from a hopper slung over the shoulder. The only time I saw it being done was in about 1961 above Stonehaven, but I believe it may have been dry fertiliser that was being spread.

 Broadcast' is the expression that I know it by, and I can recall quite clearly the farmer striding across the field,  casting' with one hand and then with the other, with a fast, flowing rhythm.