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.

Grey bandits

September 26th, 2009

THE BEDROOM window is sometimes the best vantage point to watch the domestic wildlife as we get dressed in the morning. Right now a whitebeam tree, which would have been planted originally for ornamental purposes, is mobbed with blackbirds and thrushes feeding on its juicy red berries. It provides colour and pleasure in the springtime too when the pink blossom flowers.

In the past week, when the dogs have taken me out for my afternoon walk, I've picked up four newly hatched pigeon eggs which the parent birds have dropped well away from the nest and its vulnerable chicks, known as squabs.

The wood pigeon is a prolific breeder and lays up to three clutches of eggs a year usually between April and September, although nests with eggs have been found in December and January. They are unique in that they are the only bird, so far as I am aware, to feed their young with a milky substance known as pigeon's milk regurgitated from their crops, rather than their normal vegetable diet which for pigeons is mostly grains and brassicas and beech mast.

The birds' gentle cooing calls to each other and the males' courtship displays are fair indicators that mating is on the agenda. Males adopt several posturing displays to attract the females. Most common is to fly steeply skywards and, at the height of their climb, make a clapping sound with sharp, powerful downbeats of their wings, and then glide down again on stiff-set pinions. That fair catches the attention of the ladies!

Courtship dances take place on the ground where the male bows low towards the female, extending its head and neck towards her, and flicks its tail straight up behind in a tempting “come hither” sort of manner. You can also see courtship feeding of the female by the male.

Probably no bird is a greater enemy of farmers. No sooner have the green shoots of a new-sown crop appeared than flocks of woodpigeons, or cushies as we call them in Scotland, descend and they can cause devastation to the farmer's hopes. My father thought a plump pigeon was a dish fit for kings. He covered the breasts with streaky bacon and casseroled them with cider and mushrooms seasoned with celery salt, and a mealie pudding thrown in for good measure.

Two scatters of grey feathers on the ground indicated that not only father thought a plump pigeon is the ideal supper. Two unwary pigeons were victims of a sparrow hawk patrolling the fringes of the woods on the lookout for easy prey.

“Far abune the Angus straths I saw the wild geese flee” – the cries of pink footed geese, early arrivals flying in from Greenland and Spitsbergen to overwinter in Scotland, lifts my heart. Regular readers will know that for me this is true voice of autumn.

Written on Saturday, September 26th, 2009 at 3:38 pm for Weekly.