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.

Spring breaking out

April 25th, 2009

WHERE HAVE the green woodpeckers gone? They should be nesting by now and, based just on last year, I should have been hearing their mocking cries when the dogs and I have been out for the morning walk. The  yaffle', it's called and, especially from a distance, there's a slightly uncanny note to it.

The greater spotted variety are regular visitors to the peanut feeders but their green cousins are principally insect feeders. There's nothing I'm aware of that has happened in the course of the past season, such as a reduction in food supply, to cause the green woodpeckers to desert this wee neck of the woods. It's a bit of a conundrum.

I spoke to Angus Davidson, retired farmer who lives in Glenesk, beyond Tarfside. Despite there being fewer trees that far up the glen to provide feeding and nesting, there have been green woodpeckers in the woods around his house in previous years. However he has heard their calls on only two occasions this spring. Perhaps the answer is that last year was a poor breeding season for them.

Several weeks back I mentioned picking up an empty mallard egg at the side of the lochan behind the house. The whole clutch has hatched now and I see the duck proudly parading her seven ducklings to anyone, like me, who comes to this secluded, quiet spot.

There's a massive beech tree at a corner of the loch with a comfy curve for my back at its base, where I settle myself to watch the activity. Once I've got the dogs to settle too the wildlife soon forgets about us and goes about its business as usual. On Wednesday the sun was shining, the afternoon was warm, and I had remembered to take the binoculars with me.

As I chased Macbeth away from my seat there was a tremendous commotion and flapping of wings and a mallard duck burst out from a deep hole amongst the roots. I grabbed both dogs away before they could do any damage. Tucked inside the bole of the tree the duck had made her nest. I could see eggs but I don't know how many. I'll have to find another spot for my ornithological snoozing until these chicks are all hatched too.

Every spring is a special time of year – some are just better than others. It's too early to make a judgement on this one but, while it's lovely to see rafts of daffodils and other spring bulbs, I do enjoy finding the less intrusive spring flowers. It's the time to find the delicate wood anemones and the even more solitary and frail wood sorrel. Both grow in the leafy humus of hardwood trees and have white flowers, pink-tinted on the undersides. They seem similar but the wood sorrel has trefoil leaves like clover.

Written on Saturday, April 25th, 2009 at 1:15 pm for Weekly.