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.

Early steps

June 26th, 2006

THE WOODPECKERS have been the stars of the garden show this week. A family comes to the bird table each morning and they provide endless diversion.

I'm sure that Bill Oddie, in his TV wildlife series last year, mentioned that he had never seen two woodpeckers sharing a peanut feeder. My experience too – until this week. The Doyenne called me to watch two  peckers feeding together. It didn't last long, however, because the smaller female attacked the bigger male to chase him off. He couldn't hang onto the wire mesh any longer when she began to peck his bottom.

I sympathised with his dilemma. When he flew onto the bird table and the female began to feed him, it was clear he was still a young bird.

We have seed dispensers which cause problems for some of the fledgling song birds. They are clear plastic tubes with four holes that the adult birds know to perch at to feed. The youngsters crash into them, trying to cling onto the smooth plastic, until hunger and experience teaches them that there is always a third way.

Scarcely quarter of a mile from home a buzzard rose from the verge, clutching either a rabbit or a leveret in its right talon. I braked to avoid it, and it made an emergency landing in the tattie field beside the road. It looked like a juvenile, and I reckon it was on a training flight because an adult bird was circling overhead,  mewing' encouragement.

I'm told that ground-nesting birds like pheasants and partridge suppress their scent while they are sitting on eggs, so as not draw unwelcome attention at such a vulnerable time. So it must have been just sheer bad luck for the hen pheasant that Inka got wind of.

She had built her nest – just a scrape in the ground lined with dry grasses – in a weed-filled strip, less than a metre wide, beside a farm track used by tractors and a man with two dogs. Thankfully Inka hesitated, and before he went ploughing in with his big paws, possibly smashing eggs, I managed to grab him as the hen left the nest.

I've been round there since, with the dogs firmly at heel. All seems well. The bird is still sitting and, unless there's a worse crisis, nine eggs should hatch successfully.

Macbeth's shrill barking had me at the door to see what was happening. Inka was capering round a rolled-up hedgehog, trying to work out how to carry it – as a wee gift for the Doyenne, no doubt. Macbeth, as senior dog, took the initiative – and lifted his leg on it. Not discouraged by such a warm welcome, the hedgehog was back in the garden a couple of days later. Inka got just as excited, and Macbeth? – I hardly need tell you!