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.

Mothtly about moths

May 12th, 2007

LOLLIPOP MAN to a brood of mallard ducklings was not on Arthur Grewar's mind as he drove into Brechin, but approaching Brechin Castle gates he saw the duck with eight ducklings making their precarious way along the roadside. A lifetime countryman, Arthur knew the danger the wee family was in if just one car drove too close to the verge.

He stopped, and for ten minutes directed traffic away from the ducks until they made their escape into a cottage gateway. It's likely the mother was looking for water, but she was going in the wrong direction. If she had headed back along the Forfar road she could have got to the pond at Brechin Castle Centre where they'd all have been safe from vehicles but at risk from natural predators. Nature doesn't have time for sentiment.

There are about ten times more species of moth than there are of butterflies. I know this because I've been speaking to a man who has been a lifetime enthusiast about these nocturnal aviators. We met as the evening turned to dusk and he set up his moth trap. This is a round perspex dome which is lit throughout the night by a mercury vapour bulb and attracts the insects.

The temperature was rather cool which is not good for mothing, and it was unlikely he would equal one night's catch of 212 moths early in April. The pussy willows were out then and the nectar is an important food source for the macro moths, energising the process of mating and laying their eggs. I learnt about the Common Quaker, the Hebrew Character and the Clouded Drab which have wingspans of up to an inch.

Many species spend winter as a pupa in their adult state ready to hatch when the right weather conditions trigger activation, and then have only a short lifespan. Some migrating species, such as the large Death Head Hawk Moth, float across on wind currents from the Continent. It has an image of a skull and crossbones on the back of its head and if you touch it, it squeaks like a mouse – which sounds unnerving!

Next morning the moth man was pleased with his catch which were resting docilely on old egg boxes in the base of the trap. It's obvious when you're told, but of course their daytime is our night-time, and vice versa, and they were all sound asleep!

Because they are so vulnerable during daylight hours they have wonderfully complex camouflage. One of the small micro moths was coloured and veined in light grey just like a piece of dead lichen on a tree. Another could easily have been mistaken for a shrivelled up beech leaf. I shan't think of moths as lampshade marauders any longer – they are another fascinating strand of nature that I want to know more about.