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.

Following life through creatures

October 2nd, 2010

I'M LUCKY to have seen a pine marten, one of Scotland's most elusive mammals, living on the fringes and confined to remote forested areas of the west coast – but the reality about their numbers is, in fact, far more encouraging than I had previously thought.

I got a report that a pine marten had been seen around the foot of Glen Esk   In my ignorance I thought that this was something quite exceptional, if not almost unique   Fortunately I know people who know a great deal more about them than I do.

It is true that by about the mid-1950s numbers of pine martens in Scotland had declined dangerously, but then increased commercial forestry planting provided suitable habitats and the surviving populations recovered.

Even now they are not especially common in Angus, but they have been seen in the woods at Montreathmont Moor between Forfar and Montrose   It's no great surprise, then, to thems as know about these things, that a pine marten should be seen in Glen Esk.

Their varied diet includes berries, fruit, small rodents and, strangely, red squirrels   There is a healthy population of red squirrels all around the Edzell district and the arrival of one pine marten hardly seems likely to disturb the balance, especially when pretty well its whole range of food is available too. There's also a healthy population of tawny owls (which I hear calling most evenings), which suggests a ready supply of small mammals for the owls and the pine marten to hunt for.

I've seen a pine marten twice – first time, peering inquisitively from the roof of a stick shed at Kinlochewe Lodge, at the head of Loch Maree, and the other, running across the road near Appin in Argyll   I'm keeping my eyes peeled now whenever I'm out with the dogs, hoping to see one again.

Last weekend the Doyenne and I paid a flying visit to son James and his family who live near Peebles   As we drove past Howgate, south of Edinburgh, the Doyenne pointed out the corpse of a badger lying at the roadside – a hit-and-run victim of the previous night.

He was a hefty size, but because they are nocturnal animals and you rarely see them in daylight, you don't realise how big they are   This one obviously didn't have the last word, but he'll certainly have left his mark on the car that hit him, and caused major damage to its bodywork in return.

Two lines of neat hoof prints in the damp grass, showing up clearly in the torch's beam when I took the dogs out for their final walk about midnight, meant a pair of roe deer had crossed the lawn just before we ventured out. They are mostly nocturnal feeders and I guess these two were moving from one bit of grazing to the next.

And now there's more!

Read my new blog – A Breath Of Fresh Air From Scotland

Written on Saturday, October 2nd, 2010 at 4:08 am for Weekly.