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.

Early one morning just as the sun was rising

January 30th, 2010

JANUARY FIRST always brings a series of other firsts in its trail. It was right at the start of the month while walking dogs, and the snow was still thick on the ground, that I heard the first mocking yaffle of a green woodpecker   He was followed just days after by the rattle of a great spotted woodpecker drumming on some resonant old tree trunk, drawing the lady woodpeckers' attention to its spectacular crimson, black and white plumage.

Pigeons, which have one of the longest breeding seasons in our bird world, have been clearing their throats and tuning up with their familiar crooning calls   It doesn't necessarily mean they are ready to start nesting, but they obviously think that spring is somewhere  €œjust around the corner €.

The recent snowy conditions seem to have encouraged the local birdlife to shake off the winter blues   The Doyenne has watched a couple of blue tits investigating the nesting boxes on the top of the bird table   I've heard reports of mallard ducks starting to pair off, and seen several pairs of cock pheasants squaring up aggressively to one another to claim territory and the pick of the girls.

All indications of really quite early mating behaviour; but all the more welcome after the dreary days when it was so dark as we got up in the morning that you would have thought it was time to go to bed.

Welcome too is the return of the red squirrels which have been largely absent much of the winter   Their fur is much darker coloured than we remember from the autumn. I'm wondering if this is a true colour change or whether the fur has grown in much denser as a protection against the hard weather.

The melting snow revealed our first little yellow aconites and a snowdrop, tucked in beneath the sitting room window   I learned long ago not to try and claim the first snowdrop of the season – like cuckoos, there's always someone who has got there earlier   You could be forgiven for thinking sometimes that the first one has appeared before the last one has died or flown away!

Another walk with the dogs along the bank of the River North Esk, just above Inveriscandye Farm where there are long tranquil pools, and the surface of the water was disturbed   A large dorsal fin rose and fell as my first salmon of the season rolled over on its leisurely way upriver to the headwaters to spawn.

Inka pulled two stinky salmon carcases out of the riverside vegetation   They could have been the remains of kelts, salmon which had spawned last season and were too spent to make it back to the sea, and got cast up on the bank to rot   Or maybe they were otter victims – but I've yet to see my first otter of 2010.

Written on Saturday, January 30th, 2010 at 9:55 am for Weekly.