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.

New Zealand niece and kiwis

September 10th, 2005

POOR MOLDYWARP, lying quite dead at the side of the road and so easily mistaken for a lump of earth. It seemed to have been hit a glancing blow by a vehicle – quite enough for such a small animal – for when Inka brought it to me there was just one drop of blood on its snout.

Their subterranean life means you don't often see moles, but what muscular little powerhouses they are. About 14 centimetres long (5-1/2 inches to my generation) from nose to tail tip, and no evidence of fat on its body.

The oversized front paws, like shovels compared to the rear ones, still had earth on them as though it had hit the road's foundations and surfaced to cross over. All the power is in their front half and their necks merge into their shoulders, a bit like some athletes you can see on TV.

The fur is short, almost velvety in texture, to ease their way through the tunnels they dig in search of worms. When moles were trapped in large number, gloves and waistcoats were made from the skins. Presumably moleskin fabric developed from the popularity of the real thing and not enough quantity to meet demand.

The Doyenne and I spent a happy weekend in Cumbria at a family wedding. Niece Claire had flown over from New Zealand to join the fun, and it was fascinating to hear about her job.

She manages part of the Department of Conservation's Kiwi Recovery Programme. This is a potent example of conservation in action to reverse another of man's ill-considered decisions to introduce non-indigenous animals into a country.

First, rabbits were introduced as a food source. When they became unmanageable, stoats were introduced as a biological control. Originally kiwis had no native ground-dwelling predators and through evolution became flightless. But now their future is threatened.

The stoats have found the kiwis much easier prey than rabbits and devastated their numbers. Attempts to trap the stoats and dispose of them have been frustrated by their natural caution and mistrust of baited traps.

Claire's programme is funded by the Nga Tahu Iwi Maori community and is part of a national programme to save New Zealand's national icon from extinction.

The eggs are collected from the wild and incubated, and Claire and her team have had a successful breeding season. 86 chicks hatched, which is a 90% hatch rate and leads to a 90% survival rate on site. 70% of chicks returned to the wild survive which is an impressive record compared with 5% survival of wild-hatched birds.

They have also learned that kiwis can swim. They are the only bird which have their nostrils at the end of their bill. They swim completely submerged except for the tip of the bill, which pokes above the water like a snorkel.