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.

Spring dance

March 13th, 2010

I'M THANKFUL that spring is showing serious signs that it has made up its mind to stay!   I've enjoyed the winter; enjoyed the snow and watching the grandchildren sledging; savoured the crisp, bright mornings when the dogs catapulted themselves into the garden for the morning walk and danced around on the frosted grass.

Brisk afternoon walks with the dogs, happed up* against the cold, and getting home with tingling cheeks but warm from the exercise   And some spectacular walks last thing at night under moonlit, starry skies when it was freezing hard, but the wind had dropped away to nothing and so long as I kept moving there was scarcely any sensation of cold.

Now I'm ready for a change.

Some days ago I discovered a new walk for the dogs down a track off the Lang Stracht, past Capo Quarry and down to the River North Esk   I was rewarded by seeing a pair of long tailed tits, which are amongst our most delightful woodland birds, darting amongst the branches of a hazel tree   They often nest on the outskirts of woods and on Wednesday I bundled the dogs into the car and went in search of them again.

There was no sign of them but the pendulous lamb's tail catkins had flowered and I stood for a moment to enjoy them   The white capped foothills of the Grampians stood out in added grandeur against a sky which had fused from almost flawless blue to duck egg blue – perhaps absorbing the reflection from the snow clad summits.

If I'd missed the long tailed tits I was more than compensated by hearing the pleading calls of lapwings   I was at boarding school in Musselburgh and the playing fields were beside the shore of the River Forth   We saw flocks of peesweeps – a traditional Scottish name for them – pattering rapidly across the short grass to bring up worms   They would rise as one when disturbed, and I have the clearest memory of the sharp contrast between their iridescent green back feathers and their conspicuous white undersides as they wheeled and twisted before settling again.

A teuchit storm is another old-fashioned expression and refers to unseasonable March weather (though not this year) which coincides with the arrival inland of the teuchits (lapwings) from the coast to breed   I watched a pair tumbling about the sky in a spectacular courtship display   The sexes are alike so I couldn't tell which was which, but perhaps it was the male indulging in testosterone fuelled aerobatics to impress the female, rolling and twisting earthwards, apparently out of control, but flicking out of danger at the last moment.

The days may be getting softer but by three o'clock the sun was losing its heat and the wind coming off those snowy hilltops was getting nippy   It was time to head for home.

*happed up –   literally  heaped up' but in this instance  warmly dressed'.

Written on Saturday, March 13th, 2010 at 6:51 pm for Weekly.