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.

Shut that door

November 26th, 2011

SMOKE RISING vertically from the chimney pots, not so much as a whisper of breeze to twitch the topmost branches of the tallest trees or shiver the fragile grasses in the hedgerows, and white duvets of mist hanging in the field bottoms. I wish I was talking about a fairytale morning with a frosty nip in the air and a warming sun burning off the mist.

There’s no profit in moaning about the weather but we seem to have had more than our fair share of rain recently. Thankfully much of it falls overnight but the ground is thoroughly saturated and doesn’t get a chance to drain properly from one downpour to the next. The dreich conditions have usually cleared by lunchtime and the dogs and I make the best of the afternoon sunshine to take our main walk.

It’s unseasonably mild too and the Doyenne and I have noticed little woodpecker and red squirrel activity at the peanut feeders outside the kitchen window. The tits still find plenty to eat without extra help from us, taking four or five days to empty a feeder, compared with last year when the snow was lying and a full feeder scarcely lasted the morning.

I regularly meet a wee covey of three French red-legged partridge when I leave by the back drive. They won’t take flight and race off in front of the car, criss-crossing from side to side and slowing me down almost to walking pace until they finally collapse into the verge, exhausted, and let me past. There were originally six so I can only assume that the other three have provided tasty meals for hunting foxes or buzzards.

The red-legs are an introduction from France and Spain and their red legs lend them their name. They are confident looking birds with a red beak, bold eye stripes and chestnut barring on their flanks, and a distinctive chucka-chucka call.

Our native grey partridge is a smaller bird, altogether more douce, lacking their Continental cousins’ flamboyance but recognisable from a horseshoe of dark plumage on their breast. For me, one of the true evocative sounds of the countryside is sitting quietly in an autumn dusk listening to the grey partridge settling down to roost, calling to one another with their creaky call-note, sounding like a rusty gate hinge that could do with a good squirt of oil.

Clearly habit dies hard with some dogs. There’s a gate on a regular walk that has been padlocked shut for as long as I can remember. It’s never been a problem because we can walk round it and continue up the track. This week it has been unlocked and left wide open. Inka and I walk straight through but, in his mind’s eye, Macbeth still sees the closed gate and walks round it.

Strange, but then Macbeth is!

Written on Saturday, November 26th, 2011 at 10:06 pm for Weekly.