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.

Winged pirates

March 10th, 2007

BAD NEWS? We were heading – the dogs and I, that is – for the lochan which lies, through the wood, not quite a mile from the house. A line of larches fringe its bank, the water lapping at their roots.

As we left the cover of the wood and came into the open I saw the black, ominous bird etched against the sky, sitting on a high branch of the nearest larch. Then I saw the mate (I presume) sitting on a lower branch, and the dogs rooting about the foot of the old drystane wall quickly caught their attention.

I was looking at a pair of cormorants, which is not good news for a wee loch. They are really birds of the coast and the sea but are no strangers on inland waters – I wrote some while back about the damage they do at Rescobie Loch between Forfar and Montrose. Inland they frequently nest in trees, and my concern is that they were spying out a nesting site.

Now, that really would be bad news. They are supreme fishers and with a brood of youngsters to feed, and the supermarket just downstairs, they could quickly deplete such a small piece of water of its fishy population. Their name is derived from two Latin words meaning  sea crow', which gives you an idea of the bird's reputation.

We disturbed a flush of oyster catchers preening by the waterside. They rose and swept over the water, so low they almost brushed the surface, then banked to fly back the way they had come. In the sunshine their finely delineated black and white plumage was as distinct as their clear, piping  kleep, kleep' calls. Their name is a bit of a misnomer – there's no evidence that their beaks are strong enough to break open an oyster shell, though they certainly feed on mussels and cockles.

A convoy of tufted duck, paddling across the middle of the water flew off when they saw us, taking half a dozen mallard duck with them. The bubbling call of a whaup – as my father always called the curlew – like a note on a woody flute, sounded from the top of the field.

Several nights earlier there had been the eclipse of the moon. It was the Doyenne who reminded me about it, and having missed McNaught's Comet several weeks ago because of the poor weather I was determined to catch this latest celestial event. Each time I went out to monitor progress the dogs followed me, certain it meant another walk. Each time they were disappointed.

But we've been out for their morning run and they've had their morning feed. The sun is shining out of a clear, clear sky, sparkling off the frost which came down in the early hours. It's just a cracking day for living.