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.

Hounds of spring

March 12th, 2011

THE DOYENNE was quizzed by a neighbour who had seen a black duck swimming on the lochan behind the house which she said had a flash of white feathers on its forehead   From her description I could only think it was a coot, which certainly has all black plumage and a featherless white frontal plate above its beak which I would describe as a white wattle   It's supposed to be the origin of the expression  bald as a coot'.

The dogs and I regularly walk round by the lochan at spring time and for the next three or four months it's a busy place with breeding waterfowl   A pair of coots has nested either among the branches of a half-submerged tree, or amongst the reeds close to the shore, for the last four seasons that I know of.

Wednesday morning was bright and sunny but the weatherman was threatening more snow   If his prognostications were correct I wanted to enjoy the best of the day so I chased the dogs out of the house and we headed through the woods.

As we left the comparative protection of the trees we were faced with a perishing, tugging wind   Jackdaws and pigeons whirled past on the gale, blown helter-skelter across the gusty sky   Each spring a pack of oystercatchers congregates at the same spot on the loch's bank   They won't start laying their eggs for another month and I think of it as a sort of display and courtship rendezvous where they can get on with a bit of speed dating.

The mallard duck have mostly paired up and I watched a solitary tufted duck drake swimming grandly across the middle of the water   Magpie divers they call the drakes in England because, like their landlubber namesakes, they also have white feathered underparts and black above; and they are necessarily expert divers as they feed on the aquatic weeds growing on the loch bed.

Wigeon are essentially coastal ducks but they come inland to breed   They like the security of woodlands and often nest in the undergrowth at the wood edges, but they are equally at home in the marshy margins of the loch.

I wonder if our neighbour could have been watching a drake wigeon for they have a creamy stripe of feathers on their forehead and crown, although the rest of the head and shoulders is dark chestnut coloured   From a distance it could be confusing.

On Thursday I drove across the Tay Road Bridge to give a talk in Glenrothes   The wind was, if anything, stronger than the previous day, whipping the surface of the river into cats' paws and whitecaps   I was following in the footsteps of the soon to be married Royal couple   I suppose you could say Fife is a sort of display and courtship rendezvous – without the speed dating!

Written on Saturday, March 12th, 2011 at 10:29 am for Weekly.