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.

Westering home with a song in the air

June 19th, 2010

BARELY TEN minutes after landing at Lochboisdale from the CalMac ferry which we had sailed on from Oban, we saw our first golden eagle   I'd have been satisfied if the only sight we had of the magnificent birds was as dots, soaring on the thermals above Ben Hecla or some of the other high points on South Uist   I certainly didn't expect to see one keeping pace with the car as we drove to our host's cottage.

He explained that the eagles fly down to hunt for rabbits on the machair, the sand dune pasture which is unique to the Outer Hebrides   As they are probably feeding chicks at this time the demands to come down from their normal territory are more pressing than usual   Anyhow, this set the tone for an unexpectedly full ornithological weekend.

Redshanks and greenshanks, swans and cygnets, lapwings, a solitary shelduck, native breeding greylag geese with their goslings in a tail behind them – all within a hundred yards of the roadside   Benbecula and the Uists are sparsely inhabited and the wildlife and humans live relatively at ease alongside each other.

We had several more good sightings of the eagles, and one sat briefly on the top of an electricity pole about seventy yards from our bedroom window   The Doyenne saw her first cuckoo, as opposed to just hearing one, on another pole even closer to the cottage   Short eared owls – they are the only owls that hunt in day time – quartered up and down the brae faces beside the cottage   Three ravens paid a visit and croaked a throaty greeting.

Down by the shore wheatears showed us the way through clumps of yellow flags or irises which are flowers that take me back instantly to many happy, childhood west coast holidays   We watched an otter swimming purposefully up the bay and disappear   Three stags gazed down on us imperiously from the heights of a precipitous cliff.

When the sun had passed the yardarm, and we could relax with a glass of wine, we watched a pair of blackbirds flying in and out of the garden shed, beaks stuffed with insects for their four chicks   We stayed indoors for the midges could scent new blood and came to welcome us in battalions.

Most memorable however, was our first sighting of a pair of hen harriers on their distinctive questing, low level hunt over the brown moor   I had to refer to the bird book to be sure I was identifying them correctly from the prominent patch of white feathers on their rumps.

By this time I was taking a bit of a ribbing from my host, and called a bird twitcher   But if greater spotted woodpeckers and red squirrels, which we watch daily from the kitchen window at home, turned up on near treeless South Uist I wouldn't be the one twitching!

Written on Saturday, June 19th, 2010 at 9:56 am for Weekly.