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.

Squirreling Away

June 9th, 2007

“IF YOU want a story, here's one you won't believe”. Well, there was a red rag to a bull and I just had to hear it. This is the fifth year of writing my column and I've learnt not to dismiss any stories about nature and wildlife, however unlikely they may seem at first.An angler was fishing in the River North Esk some way below Edzell. He noticed a red squirrel running along the riverbank towards him. Apparently quite fearless it jumped onto a boulder in the water beside him, so he put his hand on the boulder to see what would happen. The squirrel scarcely broke step and ran up his arm and perched on his hat.

After a few moments there seemed nothing of interest to delay it further, so the squirrel ran down his arm and went on its way. They are such timid animals normally that he could only think it was a youngster that hadn't learnt how perilous a young squirrel's life can be. His story reminded me of a photograph in a book (which I appear to have mislaid) of the Earl Grey of the time with a tame robin which would perch on his hat when he went into his garden.

My fisherman had another squirrel tale to tell. He watched an adult squirrel, which seemed to have an odd growth round its neck which made movement difficult, hopping its way across a piece of rough ground and over his garden dyke. It wasn't until it was in the garden that he realised that it was hampered by one of its young which was clinging to its chest and neck.

Mother and kit got treeborne and my fisherman followed them as they swung through the branches to the far side of the garden, where the mother deposited the youngster in an owl box that had been put up to encourage tawny owls. She went back for two more so must have been delighted to have found such a convenient drey for her family. The owls must just wait now until vacant possession can be assumed.

Out with the dogs I was excited to see something I hadn't seen for maybe forty years. We disturbed a bird which flew clumsily out of old rhododendrons into a wee stand of birch trees. It was a woodcock airlifting one of its young to safety, clutched between its thighs and claws. Normally, when alarmed, these birds jink and jouk at high speed to confuse pursuers but, like the mother squirrel, this woodcock hadn't its usual mobility.

Inka was very interested in what was under the spreading canopy of a large beech tree. I got him away and went to investigate. It was a pheasant's nest with eighteen eggs in it. That was worse than the old lady who lived in a shoe!