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.

Sound, smell or sight

June 25th, 2005

SOUND, SMELL or sight – which sense do birds rely on when they are hunting for worms?

I spent an absolutely fascinating ten minutes watching a peewit hunting along a newly cut strip of grass, searching for earthworms and juicy insects to feed its chicks. The bird was scarcely six feet from the car as I quietly drove forward and back, following it over a stretch of some sixty yards.

It was obviously quite accustomed to vehicles for it took no notice as several drove in and out of a nearby car park. But if I had stopped my car and got out, I'm sure it would have flown instantly.

As I watched, it gathered about sixteen worms. It didn't just haul them out from the ground, which might have pulled them in half. If it was a long worm, it pulled it so far and then took another hold on it so that the worm came out in one piece.

Did it hear the worms burrowing their way through the ground? It's hard to think that worms make such an unholy din. Sight seems equally unlikely, as all the worms appeared to be taken from beneath the surface. So perhaps it's smell that the peewit was relying on to fill its crop with the next welcome snack for its chicks.

They are striking, bonny birds easily recognised by the upright crest of feathers on their heads. There don't seem to be the numbers that there were ten years ago, so I hope they aren't another species at risk.

The bird book calls them lapwings, but their piping  p'weet, p'weet' calls have lent themselves to its Scottish name, although locally they are called peesweeps or peasies. Before it became illegal to take them, their eggs were regarded as a delicacy, much like quail eggs. Peasiehill Road in Arbroath is probably built over lands where youngsters were sent out in springtime to hunt for nests and collect the eggs.

A newly fledged wren, still dependent on the parent birds for feeding, sat on the gutter above the front door. I could tell it was pretty dissatisfied with events because it called insistently for delivery of the next helping of spiders and other insects which are posh eating for wrens.

They are our second smallest native bird and have a piercing, trilling call. It was the sheer volume of sound from such a tiny frame that caught my attention and made me investigate.

For constructive time wasting nothing beats watching nature, but it's worth while keeping your eyes open in town, too. A car drew out in front of me with the numberplate  MAD 4 IT'. But that wasn't as good as one I saw in Pitlochry which read  THE BIN'. It took a moment or two to work out that it should really have read  THE 131N'.

Written on Saturday, June 25th, 2005 at 6:56 am for Weekly.