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.

Sounds natural

October 15th, 2011

COUNTRYSIDE SOUNDS are often as big a giveaway of what’s going on round about you as actually seeing. There are the obvious examples of birdsong and identifying the singer, or the sound of livestock warning me to keep Inka in about. A fox’s sharp bark when we’re out last thing at night or a roe buck’s rasping cough are less familiar but tell me what’s on the move.

I heard the sweeping sound of great wings before I saw the four swans flying in line just above the top of the trees at the back of the house. It’s one of the unmistakeable sounds ingrained in me from childhood and even if I hadn’t seen them I’d have known what birds they were. Their wing beats are so steady and deceptively slow but they must displace a great volume of air each time because their actual speed through the air is quite tremendous.

Equally familiar is the pheasant’s explosive whirr as it rockets over the treetops, and wood pigeons and mallard duck are instantly recognisable. I don’t need to see them to know exactly what’s passing overhead. You can’t really mistake the sound of a blackbird busily foraging through dead autumn leaves. They are such noisy devils and don’t seem to care who knows what they are up to.

There’s usually little doubt about the hedgehog’s plodding tramp through the undergrowth on his midnight search for supper. It drives Inka mad, and he gets even more frustrated when he finds one curled up in its protective spiny ball and he can’t retrieve it. I always know when he has found one because, oddly, it’s the only time that he barks – and then he gets a cursing because I think he’ll disturb the neighbours.

Regular readers will know of my annual love affair with wild geese – I can’t get through a winter without writing about them at least a couple of times. “A lang, lang skein o’ beatin’ wings” as Violet Jacob wrote, flew over low as I was leaving Montrose. I didn’t see them, their bleak calls were the first I knew about them.

I realised how much I had missed them and drove round to the railway station and stood on the bridge connecting the two platforms. It’s an ideal viewpoint to watch the wildfowl on Montrose Basin and the geese roost on the mudflats at low tide quite close in to the town – possibly something to do with shooting being permitted at the top end of the Basin.

A photographer with the same idea was there before me, hoping to get a dramatic photo of several thousand birds lifting off together to fly to nearby stubble fields to feed. I couldn’t wait for it to happen but I’d had my first goose ‘fix’ of the season; I hope the snapper got his photo.

Written on Saturday, October 15th, 2011 at 9:46 pm for Weekly.