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.

Natural regeneration

May 6th, 2006

THAT PARTRIDGE in the pear tree has always been the only hint I've had that partridges might perch or roost above ground. I've always regarded them as completely ground dwelling birds when not on the wing. Up till now, that is

I came bowling round the corner at the back drive of the big hoose and there was a French, or red legged, partridge perched on top of the gate pillar, about twelve feet off the ground. Maybe there are readers who can confound me with similar stories, but this was the first time I've seen a partridge stationary above ground level.

Not ground-breaking news, you may say, but these unexpected sightings, which are not part of the routine of life, become something of events. Much like the mallard drake I saw flying out of a tree on the road between Fern and Tigerton, which confirmed that mallards occasionally nest in trees.

Many years ago I saw a sheep sitting like a dog, on its hunkers, on top of a wall on the roadside at Strontian, the west Highland village where the A861 road splits right to Moidart and Ardnamurchan, and left down to the pier at Lochaline and the CalMac ferry to Fishnish on Mull.

And, similarly, I saw a bullock – or maybe it was a bull, my line of vision was restricted – sitting in a field beside Rescobie Loch. I was told later that these animals were suffering from trapped wind, and sitting down like this helped ease it.

Perhaps my partridge was just playing  King of the Castle' to impress the ladies – it's that time of year, after all. The Doyenne called me to look at the yellowhammer perched on the fence wire outside the kitchen window. From its bright yellow head and breast it was obviously a male, and he was crowned with the early morning sun. He perched there, bursting with excess hormones, singing his heart out to attract a mate.  A little bit of bread and no cheese' is the traditional interpretation of his song, repeated over and over again.

A pair of blue tits are taking building materials into the nesting box above the bird table, and the Doyenne has spotted a new thrush nest in the honeysuckle at the front of the house. Swallows have returned to two of the mud nests at the front door. I go quietly when I take the dogs out last thing, so as not to disturb the roosting birds and panic them into the blackness of the night.

A pair of French partridge have been appearing in the garden, down near the stream. And a cock pheasant and a wee  harem' of two hens call most mornings for early breakfast at the bird table.

All welcome signs that Nature's cycle of regeneration is in full swing once again.

Written on Saturday, May 6th, 2006 at 5:22 am for Weekly.