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.

Garden birds and wild flowers

June 11th, 2005

  

IT'S NOT unusual to look out of the window at the bird table and see half a dozen jackdaws, a couple of pheasants and a pigeon scratting away at the seed spilt from the bird table. Hopping in and out among the big birds are sparrows and wagtails and yellowhammers.

The hanging feeders are just as busy with tits and finches, siskins and garden warblers. Blackbirds and thrushes and robins patrol the grass in search of insects and worms foolish enough to get too close to the surface.

If there was a pear tree we could probably add a partridge to the list. But some species, like the long tailed tits and the starlings, seem to have deserted us since the nesting season started.

From early hours woodpeckers fly in for the peanuts. They are so frequent there must be several families calling on us now. This year's brood are easily recognised by their size, but one gave its inexperience away by hanging onto the nut basket and furiously pecking through the mesh at fresh air!

The young birds also peck into the grass, which is something I've not seen the adults do. They don't seem to be feeding, so perhaps they get some mineral benefit from the soil.

The jackdaws have discovered that they can hang, rather precariously, onto the nut feeders. But their beaks are too thick to get through the mesh to feed, and they soon get frustrated and fly off. They are grain and seed eaters, and prey on chicks and nestlings too, so the garden here must seem quite a well-appointed restaurant.

I've tried to discover the collective name for jackdaws. They talk about a parliament of rooks, and a siege of herons, but does any reader know the description for an abundance of jackdaws?

Walking with Macbeth in the woods I see the wild flowers flourishing. In springtime yellow seems to be the predominant colour. Now it's blue clumps of tiny speedwell poking out amongst the grass. Violas, or wild violets, are scattered everywhere, and pink campion shows up along the hedgerows.

Ferns form a ground canopy, and every now and again we flush out a cock pheasant which clatters off indignantly. Several times we've disturbed a hare and I'm wondering whether there may be a litter of late born leverets tucked away in the undergrowth.

Macbeth recently marked his fourth birthday. They say that a human year is equivalent to seven dog years, so in reality Macbeth has reached the grand age of twenty-eight.

A happy family event was grand daughter Mathilda's christening, which we celebrated in the family's garden in the Borders. At the critical moment it started to rain, but Mathilda behaved with great composure throughout. Swifts, nesting under the eaves, swooped overhead during the short ceremony and everyone just ignored the fickle weather.