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.

Shift in emphasis

October 8th, 2011

TALKING TO an experienced countryman, he reckoned we’ve lost a fortnight of the autumn weather – winter has come early. The thought was reinforced by son Robert who e-mailed a photo taken on Thursday morning outside his office at Ardverikie of the snow-covered peak of Carn Dubh. I’ve been checking out the winter woollies and the long johns to see what damage the family moth has inflicted since I tidied them away into the bottom drawer last spring.

It’s certainly the case that the trees are losing their leaves earlier than I would expect. The silver birches seem to have been shedding for weeks, and out walking the dogs I’ve noticed that the horse chestnuts round the house have been dropping conkers for nearly a fortnight.

With a bit of luck the weather might relent and give us an Indian summer – a wee heatwave which sometimes occurs in October or November after a period of hard frost. When it happens it feels like winter has been suspended, but really it’s just teasing us into thinking summer has got confused and might come back. It won’t.

The discussion moved on to the effects of global warming on the polar ice caps. The theory goes, apparently, that as the weight of ice on the poles themselves is reduced through ice melt, the earth starts to wobble on its polar axis and swings away from the sun, creating a mini Ice Age. I’m probably straying into deep grass now but, as I understand it, this is a cyclical thing and over the recordable millennia there have been a number of these mini Ice Ages – and there are those who say that another is on its way.

It helps explain why in Scotland we have stoats and arctic hares (our blue mountain hares) and ptarmigan, all of which are arctic creatures whose coats change to white as camouflage when the snows come. They got left behind when Britain broke away from the main land mass of Europe all those millennia ago, but they have never lost their genetic response to snowfall.

My thanks to the readers who got in touch about Katie Beardie who I wrote about last week. Her story may be even older than I thought, back as far as King James 1V of Scotland who was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, the last Scottish or English king to die in battle on British soil. I still haven’t pinned down exactly who the lady was although another snippet of information suggests she may have been a bearded he!

Look out for the annual flocks of fieldfares which have migrated here for the winter, feeding in the stubble fields and on the garden berries. They are related to our thrushes, which they resemble, but you’ll never see thrushes congregating in flocks several hundred strong.

Written on Saturday, October 8th, 2011 at 8:47 am for Weekly.