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.

Survival of the fittest

May 8th, 2010

GUERRILLA WARFARE has broken out between the red squirrels and the jackdaws.

Long before Christmas the Doyenne and I were bemoaning the fact that the squirrels appeared to have deserted our part of the woods and we couldn't fathom out the reason why   We had a few sporadic sightings of single animals over the winter months but about three weeks ago they made a comeback, and now we have at least four coming to the nut feeders   The greater spotted woodpeckers are also visiting again regularly, so it's just like old times.

The first indication of tension between the squirrels and the jackdaws was over almost as soon as it started   I was watching a single squirrel feeding peacefully, minding its own business, when a jackdaw appeared at speed from nowhere and, like a stooping sparrowhawk, flew headlong into the squirrel, bowling it off the feeder.

I can't say how often this might have happened but I've noticed since that whenever a jackdaw appears while a squirrel is feeding, the squirrel takes instant defensive action, leaping onto the top of the post holding the feeder and squaring up to the bird   In these stand-offs the birds are masters of the air and the squirrels masters of the trees; on balance the squirrels seem to be masters of the situation.

It was quite noticeable last weekend how spring couldn't contain itself any longer   For several weeks the weather played tricks   Just when we thought winter had really gone for the season it gave us another skelp round the lug to keep us on our toes, and we got another shower of snow or a hard ground frost overnight.

But we woke one morning and the buds on the trees had burst open   The stark outlines of the bare branches of the previous day were softened with tender green leaves   In a couple of weeks the woods will be fully clothed in their best summer suits.

Out with the dogs I pass several garden flowering cherry trees and gean trees, our Scottish wild cherries   The emergent elderflower blossom is still a light citrus yellow colour (it will turn to frothy ivory) and a clump of purple honesty has seeded itself in a corner of the wood.

It's good to hear the buzz of bumble bees feeding on the blossom for there are fears they could become an endangered species, and we need them to pollinate the trees and flowers   I don't see any honey bees and that's a concern, because I saw very few last year and it would be sad if they have died out around here.

The mistle thrush that nested in the clematis across the yard has hatched her eggs   We watch the parents tirelessly

Written on Saturday, May 8th, 2010 at 5:16 pm for Weekly.