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 Patsy

January 31st, 2009

EVERYONE KNOWS that there are no snakes in Ireland because St Patrick, the patron saint, drove them into the sea and banished them for ever. I was in the company of an Irishman recently who noticed mole hills in a field. He asked if I knew whether there were moles in Ireland because he couldn't remember ever seeing any of their earthy eruptions.

I feared I was being set up as the fall guy in some terrible Irish joke because if you're an Irishman you surely know if you have moles in your ain kail yaird! It was a relief to have the matter settled by an Irish girl who quickly confirmed that there are definitely no moles in Ireland. We jaloused that somewhere about Jurassic times, or whenever Ireland split off from the rest of Britain, all the moles were visiting their relations on the east coast and didn't have time to get back to their comfy wee homes on the west when the breakaway occurred.

Dusk was falling as Macbeth and I walked quietly to the fringe of the wood and looked out over the wee lochan. There were the usual resident ducks coffee-shopping amongst themselves, and two mute swans. They are not really mute but their call is a rather weak trumpeting for such stately birds.

I stood in the shadow of the trees while Macbeth explored the fringes of the water. Wildfowl are renowned for their inquisitiveness and while I stayed concealed the mallard swam into the shallows to investigate the white roly-poly article on the bank.

This inquisitiveness was the death of ducks, quite literally, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Lincolnshire fens held huge populations of ducks which were lured into decoys or curving net-covered ditches or  pipes' ending in a purse net from which the birds could not escape. Reed screens were erected at intervals along the length of the pipes and a dog called a  piper' ran in and out of the screens arousing the ducks' curiosity and leading them to their fate.

I believe the method is still used at the Wildfowl and Wetland Centre at Slimbridge (the vision of the late Sir Peter Scott, who visited Montrose Basin in the 1950s) to catch ducks for ringing and release.

Never mind the first cuckoo of spring, or that one swallow doesn't make a summer, I've heard my first woodpeckers of the season drumming in the woods. Like a woody xylophone several birds were tap-tapping different notes on different trees hoping to attract the approval of the lady woodpeckers, a sure indication that the sap is rising and young love is not far round the corner.

I met our neighbour walking her springer spaniel, Rocket. She was also exercising a yellow Labrador and a black one. Fair put me in mind of Inka.