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.

Natural harvest

August 27th, 2011

BEECH TREES belong to the same family as oaks and sweet chestnuts and, like the other two, produce an edible nut   You can find old recipes which include beech mast, although by all reports the nuts are rather bitter and a bit indigestible.

I'm told that during the last war they were harvested and roasted in the oven and then ground up as a substitute for coffee, but I'm too much of a youngster to have any memories of that.

The red squirrels thrive on beech mast which has a three or four year cycle which culminates in bumper crops   This is obviously one of those bumper years for, out with the dogs, I'm finding spots in the woods littered with the woody, spiny outer cases which split into four sections, chewed open by the squirrels to get at the triangular-shaped nuts inside.

The squirrels have been gorging themselves and should be building up a good store of fat to help see them through the lean, winter months that are coming   For the time being we see them only occasionally, for they don't need to rely on the peanuts we put out for them   But all that will change.

The woodpeckers, too, are finding plenty of their natural food of beetles, bugs, moths and the larvae which they peck wood to get at   When the going gets harder we'll see them too back at the bird table   They are no different from any other bird or animal – us humans included – looking for the simple option.

An occasional visitor to the bird table has been a solitary greenfinch   He – or maybe it is she – has olive green plumage and a stout beak adapted for cracking seeds, but powerful enough to break open the protective inner casing of the beech nuts   But there's only ever the one   Where is its mate?   I hear them calling in the woods, so I know there are more about   I like to see them, for they are bonny birds.

The change of seasons brings changes in animal and bird behaviour   The tawny owls go quiet in the breeding months but when the dogs and I are out last thing we hear them chiming up again    €œKee-wick € calls one;  €œhoo hoo hoooo € replies the other   Both sexes kee-wick and hoo, hoo, hoo, but the same bird will never utter the two calls together – if you see what I mean!

To clear my head before I sat down to write this week's piece I took the dogs out for the afternoon walk   I counted at least eight Red Admirals – there may have been more, but the blooming things would not keep still – on a buddleia bush   That's probably two or three times more butterflies than I've counted at any one time throughout the season   It's the most encouraging thing I've seen all summer.

Written on Saturday, August 27th, 2011 at 11:19 am for Weekly.