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.

……hounds of spring……on winter’s traces – Swinburne

March 1st, 2008

THE SOUNDS of spring are getting persistent. The past month has been predominantly sunny and almost rain free which has perhaps encouraged the birds, in particular, that it's time to think of the generation game.

Out with the dogs first thing I've been hearing the drumming of greater spotted woodpeckers in many parts of the woods. Also the mocking yaffle of green woodpeckers, although they are not nearly so plentiful. They are shyer than their smaller cousins and seek cover as soon as they see us walking beneath the bare branches.

The return of the oyster catcher is a sure sign that spring is fast approaching – I heard the first kleep kleep call about a fortnight ago when I had the dogs out for their bedtime walk. In winter the birds go back to their natural habitat on the coast but, as I've mentioned in previous pieces, more and more come inland to breed.

The afternoon was starting to close down and a mistle thrush in the upper branches of a beech tree was letting rip with a torrent of song, telling the world at large what a fine fellow he was and, by the way, this was his territory. For all the noise he was producing I couldn't spot him but I stopped for several minutes just to listen to the exuberance of the sound.

The geese that came here to winter must be mostly away back to their breeding grounds in Greenland and Iceland. The last big pack I saw was about ten days ago and was settling down to feed on a field of winter barley. For all their haunting cries and their beauty in the air they are destructive birds; not just eating the green shoots of the crop, but also  paddling' the earth into a hard pan, or crust, with their large, webbed feet and the farmers will be glad to see the last of them.

Several nights ago, in the gloaming, the Doyenne was walking the dogs for me. From the depths of a holly tree a tawny owl hooted at them. It was so close that Macbeth stopped in his tracks and prepared to leap to his mistress's defence. Five more times the owl hooted and each time Macbeth prepared for the worst. It's tempting to think that the owl had a sense of humour, but it was more likely just warning Macbeth to keep his distance.

The snowdrops and aconites are amongst the first indicators of the changing season. They were joined by a single daffodil which flowered days ago in the lee of a tree trunk which is a real suntrap and protected it from the wind. Now bright patches of the yellow blooms are appearing in the woods and on the fringes of the grass and colour is starting to come back to the countryside.

Written on Saturday, March 1st, 2008 at 8:07 pm for Weekly.