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.

On the scent

January 29th, 2011

IT'S SURPRISING what the dogs and I come across on our walks   Some are long dead and in a state of high decomposition. As a puppy, Macbeth rolled joyfully in such remains – dog owners will know only too well what I'm talking about – and galloped back to share the exhilaration of his latest fragrance with us   He was always much affronted when we threw him in a bath for his troubles.

One theory given to me to explain this canine behaviour is that it is a throwback to dogs' wolf ancestry   The ancient wild dogs rolled in foul smelling ordure to mask their scent so that they could sneak up more easily on prey without being detected.

I can see several obvious defects in this so far as Macbeth is concerned.

If the smell is too foul this will surely alert the prey rather than reassure it   When hunting animals stalk their prey up-wind, the victim's scent is blown down towards the hunter and the wolf's own scent is carried away from its quarry   And despite his ferocious nature, it's hard to imagine a wild, ravening wolf Macbeth's size presenting too critical a danger to the other animals in the prehistoric hunting field.

You'd have been spared the natural history lesson if we hadn't come across a hen's egg lying in a wood where I know the nearest domestic hen is at least half a mile away as the crow flies   And therein probably lies the answer.

The late David Stephen was a self taught naturalist whose marvellously descriptive writing on Scottish wildlife I greatly admire   Writing about the carrion crow, he said that it was a  €œgey humpher € – meaning it can carry heavy objects (in relation to itself) long distances.

The egg had a hole at one end where a pickaxe beak had punctured it and sooked out the goodness inside   I reckon a gey humpher had poached it from a nest beneath a sheltering hedge, which wouldn't be enough to hide it from a sharp-eyed egg thief like a hungry crow   A fresh egg would have been a lifesaver during the hard weather.

Despite jays' conspicuous plumage I rarely see these wary, woodland birds and usually only hear their  €œskaak skaak € alarm screeches as they slip through the cover of the trees   Like all members of the crow family they are great survivors and they bury larders of nuts to return to in wintertime shortages   They'll have had short commons this winter trying to recover their caches from the iron grip of the frosty ground.

I've missed the wild geese   The snow has kept them around the coastal parts where open feeding was available   Their ragged chevrons are flying over the house again and I rush to get a good view of them whenever I hear their  €œcryin' voices €.

Written on Saturday, January 29th, 2011 at 10:15 am for Weekly.