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.

In from the cold

December 19th, 2009

CHRISTMAS SHOPPING can be a bit of a trauchle but, by way of diversion, if you look about you it's surprising how much wildlife there is to see that has become accustomed to human company and cheerfully adopted urban living  

Town and city centres are busy places for shoppers and home to lots of birdlife   Common sights are house sparrows and starlings, urban pigeons and sometimes even blackbirds, flying through shopping centres and hopping between the feet of busy shoppers in their constant search for food   There's always a ready supply of that, left behind by messy human eaters – otherwise the birds wouldn't be there.

I sat out on a balcony in Dundee's Overgate shopping centre drinking a cup of coffee and eating a bun, and was joined by a couple of cheeky pigeons at the next table which hoovered up the half finished muffin left by another shopper  

The Doyenne and I sat at a garden table at Dawyck Botanic Gardens, near Peebles, down in the Borders.   Tits and finches joined us and hardly let us finish our meal before they hopped onto our plates in the rush to be first to guzzle up the crumbs.

I've written before about the peregrine falcon which took up residence at the top of the steeple of the Auld Kirk in Montrose town centre. At 220 feet above the ground its home is a bit more remote from humans than the other examples I've given, but it shows how readily wild birds accept our company and get on with their own lives if we don't disturb them.

Here's a piece of incidental information – the Suzuki motorcycle company's fastest production model is called the Hayabusa which is the Japanese word for peregrine falcon   The motorcycle is capable of doing 195mph which equates with the maximum speed the peregrine can achieve when it goes into its spectacular aerial dive, or stoop, in pursuit of its prey.

The dogs led the way on our familiar walk up to the pond at the back of the house   I stood beneath the bare, widespread branches of an ancient beech tree listening to the usual cacophony of disapproval from the resident mallard ducks, cross at being disturbed   Four other ducks flew over and circled round, perhaps wary about landing on unfamiliar water.

Their whistling calls identified them as wigeon and after a couple more turns first one couple and then the other skidded in on stiff wings   It was only when they swam out from the shallows that I realised they had joined a pack of a dozen more concealed in the shadow of the trees fringing the shore.
There was a bit too much north in the wind, with sleety rain which nipped the cheeks   I was glad to get into the shelter of the wood for the walk home.

Written on Saturday, December 19th, 2009 at 9:53 am for Weekly.