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 loaded

April 10th, 2010

NATURE HEAVED a sigh of relief – at least round here, on Wednesday, she did   After the snow and the hard weather everything still looks brown and scruffy and we need some green shoots of spring to lift our spirits.

Wednesday afternoon saw the first real signs that spring is sloughing off the last of winter's stranglehold   I'd picked several bunches of snowdrops for the Doyenne, and brought her some of the daffodils that have seeded themselves in the local woods, but there was no great sense that these romantic gestures heralded a quickening of the season.

So when the wind dropped and the sun shone I grabbed the binoculars, whistled up the dogs and headed for the wee loch at the back of the house   I wanted to check out the story that mallard ducklings had been seen out on the water   It's always busy up there at this time of year but I wasn't prepared for the activity that greeted us.

The resident pack of mallard duck have mostly paired off and I watched them cosying up to one another on the banks of the loch, enjoying the warmth of the sun   Sharp, piping calls of wigeon came from two males   Two seasons ago a pair nested here and I watched the male patrolling up and down the loch guarding his mate and her eggs.

Half a dozen pairs of tufted duck kept station in the middle of the loch   A female dabchick, or little grebe, was diving for food and popping up to the surface again like a champagne cork out of a bottle.

The distinctive white wattle on the forehead of the bird puddling about amongst the reeds at the top of the loch, identified a coot   By comparison the black plumaged bird with the scarlet wattle on its forehead was a waterhen   It must have said something rather improper when it strayed in amongst the oyster catchers, because there was an outburst of angry calls from the black and white birds and the moorhen made a hasty withdrawal.

Black headed gulls are moving inland again to nest, and an unusual visitor was a redshank feeding in the shallows   As we arrived a large, light brown duck, which I think was a female eider, slipped quietly into the water and paddled to the other side   I couldn't see if her head had the distinctive Roman nose profile, so I couldn't be certain   It's unusual to see one so far from the coast, but a solitary male turned up a year ago, and left as mysteriously as he arrived – perhaps next year they'll coincide.

What with pigeons and rooks, pheasants and the woodpecker drumming away in the wood behind me – but no sign of ducklings – it was just another uneventful afternoon in the life of a man with two dogs.

Written on Saturday, April 10th, 2010 at 9:16 pm for Weekly.