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.

Unseen and seen

May 16th, 2009

THE DOWNSIDE of walking with two dogs is that they bound ahead – at least, Inka does. At eight months old his boundless energy means he sometimes puts up or disturbs wildlife that I could otherwise walk up on quietly and watch. But it works both ways.

I was pretty sure that at least one pair of woodcock had nested within several hundred yards of the house and this was confirmed when an adult bird got up in front of Inka and flew some thirty yards ahead of us. Seconds later three tiny brown chicks, barely able to fly, rose and flew off into deeper cover beyond their parent.

The parent bird landed on open ground and began a classic display of deception to distract us from its young. Feigning to be injured, it flapped its wings as if unable to fly and uttered a series of cries sounding like rusty croaks. I'd grabbed Inka by this time (Macbeth showed no interest) and once the woodcock realised there was no danger it sprang into the air and flickered off in search of its young.

Walking by the side of a stream, and berating Macbeth as usual for falling behind, Inka had raced ahead to retrieve what looked like a pine cone or somesuch. It was only when it took evasive action that I realised it was a very recently hatched chick – a duckling, I thought. For once Inka dropped his mouthful almost as soon as I told him to, and out popped a light brown bundle with dark markings.

It was a pheasant chick which was separated from the rest of its family. It was unhurt, for Inka had just held it in his mouth like a feathery mint imperial. As soon as it realised that it wasn't heading for an untimely end the chick scampered in below some rhododendrons.

I pulled the dogs into the cover of bushes and waited to see what would happen. We were scarcely out of sight when the hen pheasant appeared from the other side of the stream and was joined by a second chick which crept out of the cover of deep grass. I watched them slip into the rhodies in search of the first chick which had had such a miracle escape.

I nearly crushed what, at a casual glance, looked like a stone – but something made me turn the steering wheel slightly and drive over the top of it. When I investigated, it was a young thrush not fully fledged and still dependent on its parents for food. In its short life it can't have seen a car before, which must have been a life altering experience, but it's still running about the garden and it's the luckiest thrush in the district.

And I couldn't have had the interest of the first two encounters without dogs!