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.

Seen from afar

May 17th, 2008

A BIRTHDAY present of binoculars has opened up a new world for me, in a manner of speaking, over the last few weeks. The family all chipped in to help buy them and now I hardly leave the house to walk the dogs without my new toy around my neck.

The amount of activity amongst the birdlife, in particular, make it one of the best times of year to enjoy the benefits of extended vision. Migrant visitors like the willow warblers and the swallows have arrived and, along with all the native birds, are preoccupied with nesting and breeding. For the time being they are less wary about us humans and provide endless entertainment from the kitchen window. But it's up at the lochan at the back of the house that I'm having most fun.

There are now five families of mallard and I can watch the ducklings clearly from a distance, scampering amongst the reeds fringing the shore. As soon as the mother birds are aware of the dogs they call their broods off onto the safety of the water. A wigeon drake patrols up and down the same stretch at the top of the loch. He's a handsome devil with chestnut coloured feathers on his head, broken by a creamy-buff forehead and crown. His mate will be tucked away on her well camouflaged nest not too far from the waterside.

The tufted duck has laid her eggs too, as has the coot whose white wattle flash I see peeping above the untidy nest which it has built on a semi-submerged branch out from the shore. A family of dabchicks (little grebes) will be hatching soon. Curlews, tumbling peewits with their wistful, plaintive calls, and oyster catchers call in to bathe in the shallows at the top of the loch. A speculative heron glided in too hoping, perhaps, for a snack of young frogs.

And there's so much else. I'm hearing and seeing bumble bees; and wasps are coming into the house and have to be dealt with. I've seen just one butterfly, a Peacock, and rather hoped if I'd seen one I'd see some more – but not so far. Perhaps it's still a bit early. Thinking back, the hedgerows and the woodland fringes used to be so busy with a variety of the pretty insects. I paid little attention to them then and just took them for granted. They were so common and now it's quite a treat to see one.

Less welcome are the ticks which both dogs have been picking up. Traditionally, margarine rubbed on, or a drop of paraffin painted on suffocates them and they eventually fall off. But son-in-law Gibson bought me a special tick remover which nicks them off cleanly and I then put a dab of Germolene on the spot to disinfect it.

Written on Saturday, May 17th, 2008 at 12:08 pm for Weekly.