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.

Avian flew

February 17th, 2007

IT'S BEEN a mixter-maxter last few days, weatherwise. I really hoped the snow would lie for a little longer than it did. I like the snow. We Scots have an affinity with snow and winter weather. I, and lots of folk my age, have happy memories of being out in the snow, and the fun we had sledging, snowballing, and – heaven preserve us – making icy slides in the school playground!

Now it seems, not only is political correctness agin us, but global warming is doing its bit to ensure the present generation gets little chance to indulge themselves in these youthful diversions.

On the plus side, however, there's been great activity amongst the birds. Out with the dogs, especially first thing, it's been like a corp of drums round here, with woodpeckers pecking wood nineteen to the dozen.

I watched a pair high in the topmost branches of an elm. The male was drumming his little heart out to attract the attentions of the female. She was obviously a pretty flighty piece and kept on flirting higher and higher up the tree, till the male lost patience and flew after her in a high speed spiral pursuit until they were lost from view.

Two blackbirds were so intent on knocking nine bells out of each other they paid no attention to me when I walked out the front door. One was giving the other such a pasting I really thought it might kill it. They tumbled and scrapped and the loser kept on trying to escape, until they too flew out of sight. You somehow don't expect to see such ferocity in such small birds.

Their screeching  skaak skaak' cry seems somewhat at odds with the jay's exotic, colourful plumage. There are a couple in the woods round the house and they call out their harsh warnings as the dogs and I go for the morning walk. It's an ugly sound to the human ear but, as springtime and the nesting season hasten, no doubt it's music to the ears of Miss Jay.

Last thing one evening a tawny owl sat in the holly bush at the front of the house giving out an eerie  hooo hooo'. I can't have been twenty yards from him, but of course he was hidden by the foliage. In an adjoining tree the female answered  kee-wick kee-wick'. The outdoor light was on, and I was moving about, but the two of them were too engrossed with each other, and thoughts of wee fluffy baby owls, to give two hoots about me!

I hardly hear the geese calling now. I love their wild, chilly cries and must be patient until autumn comes round again, and the grey beating wings return.

In the garden the douce, nodding snowdrops and modest, yellow aconites are telling us that spring is just down the road.