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.

Electric connection

November 28th, 2009

THE DANGERS of electricity power lines were sharply brought home to me recently. I watched a pheasant fly out of the edge of a wood, rising steeply as it went. For no apparent reason it fell to the ground. It took a moment or two for me to click that it had flown into an overhead power line – it was dead in the air.

Because the power lines are carried well above ground level on poles, or even higher on pylons, we tend to take them for granted and forget about their attendant risks.

After a number of accidents I think fishermen are now very well aware of the dangers of walking beneath power lines with their fishing rods held upright. Rod tips, especially those made from carbon fibre, have connected with the lines with tragic consequences. It's quite usual to see notices on riverbanks, where power lines cross the water, warning fishers to keep their rod tips down – a reminder of their mortality.

With an aerial approach, however, an electricity pylon can provide a secure foundation on which to build a home. A pair of ospreys built a nest on the top of a pylon behind the village of Meigle. It can still plainly be seen and the birds fished for plump trout in the River Isla to feed their chicks. Sadly, after many years, the ospreys failed to return this past season to breed.

I've written about Inka's bizarre hysterical barking whenever he finds a hedgehog. Macbeth's usual response is to cock his leg and spray hello! But I've been told of another Westie with a much more deadly technique.

When she finds a hedgehog curled up in its defensive ball she settles down beside it and patiently waits till the hedgehog thinks the danger has passed and starts to uncurl. The moment the hedgehog's shiny black snout appears the dog pounces!

Ian Lindsay from Edzell phoned to tell me that starlings were flocking above his house. It's something special to starlings and occurs as they prepare to roost. I jumped into the car and sped round to meet Ian.

Starlings are social birds and they feed in small groups throughout the day but as dusk begins to fall some communal instinct brings them together into large flocks of individual birds all moving in a single mass. Presumably it's a case of safety in numbers as a protection against predators.

The flock was wheeling and turning with aeronautical preciseness above the chimney pots. However large the numbers there's never a collision and you wonder how on earth they manage to avoid one another.

One moment we could hear the susurration of all those beating wings and the next there was silence as a collective decision – indiscernible to us humans – was taken to settle for the night into their roosting site.