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.

Mark my footsteps, good my dog

December 4th, 2010

POOR MACBETH, the snowy weather fair tests his patience.

Conditions are hard for a West Highland terrier with such sawn-off wee legs   He's not a quitter, but when he's in deep snow every step is like climbing the north face of the Eiger   To make it easier I look for tyre tracks for him to walk in   Inka the black Labrador, on the other hand, thinks the snow is the best fun ever, bouncing through the drifts like some wild Jack-in-the-box – barking mad you'd think if you saw him!

You learn about the secret wildlife round the house when the snow falls   There are rabbit tracks everywhere, and a fox came round our way one night, doubtless hoping for a plump rabbit.

We had similar weather in January and I reported then that the red squirrels had disappeared   But they returned and until this most recent snow we had four coming daily to the peanut feeders.

There's a mistaken belief that squirrels hibernate, but in fact they continue to forage throughout winter   They would need to because they start their mating activity in January   In hard weather such as now they will stay in their drey for several days to preserve energy, but at least one comes to feed each day.

A couple of cock pheasants turn up at the back door, hoovering up the pickings which fall from the peanut nets   I reckon all the others we see on our regular walks have retreated deeper into the woods where the protective cover is thicker and warmer (for pheasants, at least), and feeding hoppers have been put out by the estate.

The garden songbirds will repay your efforts to put out food for them   They suffered from a shortage of food because of snow at the start of the year and in some parts of Scotland breeding numbers were significantly down   The current freeze is a bit of a double whammy and if you want the pleasure of their company next spring, they need help.

Blackbirds and the occasional thrush are still feeding heavily on the holly berries outside the back door – there was a tremendous crop earlier and I wonder how much will be left when we want holly for Christmas decorating.

I don't begrudge them – I would miss the blackies' scolding cries and the song thrush's repetitive call   The poet, Robert Browning, wrote  €œThat's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over €   It identifies it from the mistle thrush's ringing song which I'll expect to start hearing early in the New Year.

Great tits, blue tits and the little coal tits are constantly on the move between our three feeding stations   Chaffinches, an occasional wren, and three robins which are too hungry meantime to care about defending territorial boundaries, come in about too, scratching for the pickings missed by the pheasants.

Written on Saturday, December 4th, 2010 at 10:26 am for Weekly.