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.

Black & blue

July 12th, 2008

OUR SQUIRRELS are back after goodness knows how many months' absence. We'd seen a very occasional one coming to the peanut feeders but it was the Doyenne, at the start of the week, going downstairs to make an early cup of tea, who saw one on each of the two feeders outside the kitchen window.

A small article in the summer issue of the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) magazine reports on jackdaws attacking a squirrel which came to feed on the peanuts put out for the birds and driving it off, never to return. I've written in the past about our frustration over the jackdaws which have regularly fed on the peanuts we've put out, driving off the woodpeckers which are much more interesting and attractive. We've not seen them attacking the squirrels, but perhaps that was the cause of them apparently deserting us.

It's interesting that the contributors in the BTO magazine would rather have the jackdaws come to their garden than the squirrel. It may have been a grey squirrel, of course, but we regard the jackdaws as bullies and are delighted that they appear to have found sources of food elsewhere and for the time being, at least, have disappeared.

We're lucky that in much of rural Scotland there is generally a healthy population of red squirrels, although reports of the grey variety become increasingly common, especially in urban areas. They are very aggressive towards our smaller red variety and can pass on squirrel pox which they are immune to but is pretty well fatal to our native strain.

The jackdaws may return for easy pickings at the peanut feeders when food gets scarcer in the autumn, and we shall lose our summer visitors again. Meantime we get the greatest pleasure watching a woodpecker on one feeder and a squirrel on the other, and all the garden songbirds which provide constant diversion.

A fortnight ago I wrote about our holiday in Ardnamurchan and I mentioned  blue' foxgloves. I'm not at all sure how I came to make such a mistake (I meant pink, of course), but if I'd managed to find one it would likely have made me my fortune.

Producing a blue foxglove is probably the unattainable goal of foxglove breeders the world over, much like the story of the Dutch bulb growers in “The Black Tulip” by Alexandre Dumas (he also wrote “The Three Musketeers”). They were prepared to go to any lengths, even lynching their competitors, in the race to grow the elusive black tulip and gain the honour, fame and riches that would follow success.

So to the very nice lady who asked if she could have a packet of blue foxglove seeds, the answer is regrettably “no”. I can only resort to the time honoured excuse and admit that “an error appears to have crept in”!

Written on Saturday, July 12th, 2008 at 5:54 am for Weekly.