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.

…. the birds of the air have nests (St Matthew)

March 29th, 2008

IT'S EARLY yet for most birds to be building their nests but a pair of wood pigeons has been busy in the holly tree at the back door. I heard their mating calls – crroo coo cu – when I took the dogs out for their morning run. They don't seem to be getting used to their human neighbours. Whichever one isn't sitting on the nest, incubating the eggs, erupts from the tree every time we go out.

The first of the garden song birds to build their nests are the mistle thrushes. I caught sight of one with a lump of moss in its beak landing on a gean, or wild cherry tree. It was a bit nervous of the dogs dancing around below, but it didn't fly off. The nest is in the fork of the main branches where they spread out from the trunk, and I look forward to seeing the hen bird sitting on her clutch of eggs shortly.

A friend heard what he thought was a woodpecker drumming on an old branch. He went to investigate and found it was great tit trying to enlarge the entrance hole of a nesting box – I think that bird was a bit too ambitious!

It seems fully a month too early, but out walking with another keen countryman, between Forfar and Glamis, we came across a mute swan sitting on the great raft of grasses and rushes and other vegetation which makes up her nest. The female is the pen, and the cob was keeping a protective eye on her from close by. They had chosen a sheltered, sunny spot which may have encouraged the early mating.

A pair have taken up residence on the little lochan not far from the house. I've watched them for about three weeks now, quietly feeding and gracefully gliding over the water. Hopefully they will stay and nest but I wouldn't normally expect to see any building activity until nearer the end of April.

Dogs, Doyenne and I took ourselves down to Peebles last weekend to spend Easter with son James and his family. As a variation on the usual Farmers' Markets the town had organised a Continental Farmers' Market. Enormous pans, about two metres in diameter, bubbled with paella, and garlic mushrooms and prawn tails and potatoes.

There were all sorts of other temptations on offer – cheese and olives, bread and biscuits, and a tremendous choice of salamis and sausages, even Turkish Delight. In the end we settled for the spicy barbecued Polish sausages in a roll, and French crepes (enormous pancakes) dripping with sugar and lemon, and calories as well no doubt.

They said it was the coldest Easter weekend in living memory and I felt sorry for the visitors from the warm countries who were bundled up in thick jackets and hats and mittens.

Written on Saturday, March 29th, 2008 at 8:41 am for Weekly.