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.

Cheap cheep

August 30th, 2008

ENCOURAGING WILDLIFE to the garden can be expensive. One way to do it is by planting the right flowers to attract bees and butterflies, and the right berry-bearing bushes and trees such as cotoneasters, rowans, cherries, hollies and hawthorns for the bigger songbirds like the blackbirds. A cheaper way is to leave wild areas in corners of the garden where seeding thistles and other weeds can flourish and support tits and finches.

We are fortunate to have plenty of natural food sources for the wildlife round the house. Fallen, rotting trees provide breeding areas for insect life which feeds on itself, in part, and also in the composting undergrowth. In turn they attract song thrushes and starlings which we watch foraging amongst dead leaves in their search for the bugs sheltering below.

A myriad of fungi have appeared again this year and large numbers of the caps have been nibbled by mice and other small woodland rodents. In several months the pigeons will be feeding on the beech mast from the beeches which are so widespread.

Our major contribution to the food chain is peanuts. We have four feeders and our efforts have been repaid by five red squirrels (there may be more) and several families of wood peckers that patronise us. Two strains of squirrel are evident. One has blonde, almost old-ivory coloured tails. We see three others scampering around the back green with brindled tawny and black-haired tails, each trying to outdo the others in their efforts to get most food.

There appear to be at least three families of woodpeckers that visit, however if the pressure on food gets too great the adults may chase this season's young birds away to fend for themselves further afield. It's quite common to see the two species feeding together, although the squirrels are definitely the dominant ones in the pecking order – if you see what I mean!

You'd scarcely believe the number of cups of tea that have gone cold while the Doyenne and I stand motionless at the window watching the antics of our woodland neighbours.

I've attached a niger seed feeder to the kitchen window with two sucker pads, hoping to attract goldcrests which are our smallest songbird, but no luck to date. The black seeds are tiny and the feeding slits very small, and only blue tits with their slim beaks have come to the feeder so far. They are messy devils and crack the husks of the seeds to get at the edible bit and discard the rest on the window sill, so there will have to be regular housekeeping to keep the “dining room” tidy.

And now we have a roe deer doe and her calf lying up in rhododendron bushes close to the house, despite being disturbed by the dogs whenever we walk round her way.