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.

Emotion recollected in tranquillity

February 4th, 2012

IT’S SO frustrating! About ten days ago I was electrified to see a small flock of long tailed tits mobbing the bird feeder outside the kitchen window. There were seven or eight, or there might even have been nine of these delightful, tiny feathered lollipops. Flickering in amongst the coal tits and great tits, fighting to get a share of the food, there was so much movement I couldn’t count just how many there were. They were the first long tailed tits I’d seen in the garden although they are birds of the woodland fringe and we are surrounded by beech trees.

Their principal diet is insects but these were feeding on the peanuts, and I dashed to put out some niger seed too as seeds are a common alternative to their main diet. Sadly they only stayed three days, and now they are gone. They are quite nomadic in wintertime so I guess they just kept on travelling – in this open winter they really don’t need to rely on us humans for extra food.

It was so exciting to see them and I was so hopeful I could persuade them to stay and entertain us with their acrobatic grace.

Another first – once again looking out of the kitchen window. We have a feeding station on the edge of the drying green. Sitting on the top rail was a female sparrowhawk. She was turned away from us but it was clear from the humphybackit, crabby arch of her back that she had just failed to make a kill of one of the feeding tits, and was mightily put out at missing her dinner.

They rely on high speed surprise attack as a hunting technique and occasionally one comes into the feeders like an Exocet in the hope of snatching one of the small garden birds that are their favourite prey. If they don’t kill first time they normally fly on looking for the next opportunity.

This lady had decided to take a rest and think about her next plan of action. Eventually she turned round and looked straight in the kitchen window at us. She spread her wings and, as she took flight, we could see the broad expanse of her barred slate-grey breast.

So long as she was sitting on the bird table there wasn’t another bird to be seen; not even pigeons which sparrowhawks will readily take. The instant she was gone the birds were back at the feeders making up for lost time. Fear seems to be a temporary emotion.

Aconites, crocuses, snowdrops – all hastening springtime on. The lengthening mornings lift the spirits and the dogs and I get out earlier for the morning walk. There have been some spectacular sunrises with pinks and soft mauves all illuminated by a hot, golden sun. You could say the sunrise is another temporary emotion – blink and the coiling patterns of cloud have twisted and spiralled like oil on water, creating new textures and shapes.

The woodpeckers are back in action, drumming on the dead trees round the house. It’ll be both the greater spotted and the green species which are common round here. I haven’t yet heard the green woodpeckers’ moidered, haunting call that is the yaffle – but I probably will by the time you’re reading this.

The Doyenne and I were blethering with Denis Rice who is well known to Montrosians of a certain age. He has a fund of doubtful stories but he told us a true one about his father, Willie Rice, who was the vet in Montrose when I was a youngster.

It seems that the lines of professional responsibility sometimes got a bit blurred in those days. Denis met one of his father’s clients who was extolling his father’s healing skills. “My wife”, said the man, “had varicose ulcers on her leg. The doctor couldnae shift them, but your faither did.”

It matches a story I got from a, now retired, GP who was roused from his bed in the early hours by a woman who demanded he get round to her house post haste to treat her cat. Drawing himself up with as much dignity as a GP in his jim-jams could summon, he said frostily – “Madam, I am a doctor.” “Aye”, came the reply, “but you’re free”!

Written on Saturday, February 4th, 2012 at 11:37 pm for Weekly.