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.

Rare sightings

February 21st, 2009

THERE'S AN explanation for everything, though often it may not be immediately evident. I've been hearing reports of several wildlife sightings which on the face of it are improbable and are certainly unexpected.

Within recent days a golden eagle was seen flying over a house in the Keithock area, just north of Brechin. Most people's reaction would be to cry “Impossible – eagles are birds of the high bens and mountains.” Eagles are certainly found in the remoteness of the Angus glens, tucked away from everyday sightings but, “as the eagle flies”, not so very many miles from Brechin. Is it impossible that a bird was caught in the high winds we experienced during the snow falls, was blown out of its highland fastness and temporarily found itself at Brechin?

More persistent have been stories of wildcats. Some months ago, again in the Keithock area, a dead cat was found by the side of the road and identified by knowledgeable people from its size and markings as almost definitely a wildcat. In this case an authoritative answer is more likely as the body was handed to Scottish Natural Heritage for examination, and I look forward to learning their conclusions.

Received wisdom says that true Scottish wildcats are now found only in habitat margins between moorland and mountains, well away from human disturbance. Long ago they were commonplace throughout Scotland but habitat decline and hunting pressure pushed them further and further into desolate places.

There have been other rumours of wildcat sightings. A likely explanation is that they are hybrid cats, progeny of wildcats interbreeding with domestic cats gone wild. But who is to say that it is impossible for a true wildcat to be found so close to population centres? I report on what I'm told but I hesitate to express too partisan a view.

After the snow the snowdrops and the yellow aconites are fully flowered and the pattern of spring looks set again. The snow's departure has triggered an outburst of wildlife activity and mornings are transformed by the dawn chorus heralding the birds' daily competition to claim and defend territory. And at this early time of year the male birds in particular are tuning up to attract a suitable mate.

  

Yesterday I was awoken by the familiar kleep, kleep call of the season's first oystercatcher. Traditionally they were coastal birds and they do spend winter there, but they have got into the habit of coming inland to breed. They never seem to be completely at rest and Macbeth and I will hear them whenever we are out walking whether it be first thing or the middle of the night.

I should have got up and made the Doyenne a cup of tea but when I opened my eyes the dawn was just breaking and the clock said 6am, and I hadn't the heart to wake her!

Written on Saturday, February 21st, 2009 at 10:01 am for Weekly.