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.

Back door drama

December 26th, 2009

THERE WAS correspondence in Craigie Column several months back about the scarcity of wildlife in readers' gardens   We noticed it here but assumed that there was so much natural feeding in the hedges and woods that the birds and red squirrels didn't need the bought food we put out – and they would return when they were ready to do so   I'm beginning now to wonder if this is really the case

At this time in previous years the peanut feeders were mobbed by songbirds and squirrels and woodpeckers and I often had to replenish them by lunchtime   The recent endless rain soaked the nuts into an unappetising mush which I thought might be discouraging them, so I cleaned the feeders each evening and put out dry nuts   But with the exception of the woodpeckers and some tits, many of our regular visitors have deserted us.

Most of all we miss the red squirrels   In the spring we regularly had three or four scampering about outside the back door   Now we're lucky to see one feeding alongside flocks of pigeons on the beech mast littering the ground, and showing no interest in the nuts.

Squirrels are one of the buzzards' favourite snacks and the birds swoop in and snatch their quarry off the high branches   There are fewer buzzards around than there were a year ago – maybe they have cleaned out our squirrel population and moved on to more productive territory.

But the blackbirds have returned for the winter   Their claws are unsuited for gripping the mesh of the feeders so they rely on scraps of nut dropped by the tits and woodpeckers which the blackbirds forage for   With the snow there's been a pugnacious robin defending its territory and its food supply against other robins – they are very aggressive birds for their diminutive size.

A solitary oystercatcher called as it flew over the house     I expect it flew straight back to the seashore, where it came from, and where the mud it feeds in with its long, probing beak isn't frozen solid, like it is here.

The cold weather resolves any differences between the dogs   In the mornings we find Macbeth cosied up in bed beside Inka – but then Macbeth's aye been a heat seeking missile!

In the breaking morning light a roe deer doe stepped daintily out of the woody walk onto the grass at the back of the kitchen   She was perfectly composed, if a little wary, at being so close to the house   Her calf followed more cautiously and the two of them stopped briefly to stare at the Doyenne and me watching them, framed in the window with the light behind us   This was a bit too close for comfort and the last we saw were the white scuts on their rear ends disappearing through the break in the wall.

Written on Saturday, December 26th, 2009 at 10:55 am for Weekly.