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.

Church raptor

September 2nd, 2006

MACBETH IS the most fair weather dog I know. It's not so blisteringly hot as it was in July and the temperature is about right for him and his  woolly jumper'. He's lying out on the grass soaking up the sunshine. Inka's lying not far off; his coat is shiny and he's looking the picture of health.

I know what will happen next – one of them will decide it's time to come back indoors again. There will be an unseemly rush to see which can get to the kneehole of my desk first, and squeeze in below it and lie on my feet. It's very cosy when there's just one. When both insist on creeping in, I end up typing at arms length and (the curse of short sight) not quite able to read what I've typed.

I had a welcome meeting with Ben Reid, known to a generation of Montrosians as  the meter man', from the days when he called at houses each quarter to read the electricity meter. He told me about the peregrine falcon which has taken up residence high up in the Old Kirk steeple which dominates Montrose.

It's been there for about two years now and seems to be established permanently. I went to have a look for myself, hoping to see it. It's surprising how quickly you can gather a little crowd round about you if you stand staring intently skywards. Everyone wants to know what you can see that they can't.

I didn't see the bird but I saw evidence of a recent meal. In a corner of the church was the remains of a tern. Just two fully feathered wings connected by a skeleton which had been picked quite clean. Close by was a pellet or dropping which had small feathers sticking out of it.

I phoned Rev. Laurence Whitley, minister of the church, who told an amusing little story against himself. When the peregrine first took up residence, and left its victims' skeletons lying around the church precincts, his first thoughts were that some voodoo cult might be targeting him and his church. He was greatly relieved to find out that the reason was very much more straightforward and natural!

Peregrines are essentially birds of moorland and open spaces, but moving to a town address more or less assures a ready supply of pigeons and garden songbirds for tea. Our Montrose peregrine also has the shoreline as well as the terns within the Glaxo Wellcome site (mentioned several weeks back) to seek its prey.

During both world wars they were shot and trapped because it was believed they posed a danger to military carrier pigeons. They are amongst the fastest birds in the world, reaching speeds in excess of 120 mph when diving, or  stooping', on their prey. At that speed the victim's death is instantaneous.

Written on Saturday, September 2nd, 2006 at 2:32 pm for Weekly.