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.

A Kissin’ Year?

March 31st, 2012

THREE PAINTED Ladies on the Kirrie Dumplings – were they three colourful girls on a feeding frenzy? It’s the sort of remark my father would have made for he was born and spent his early years in Kirriemuir.

Well, no. I’m talking about three butterflies attracted by the unseasonal warm weather and feeding on Primula denticulata or Drumstick Primulas, known locally as Kirrie Dumplings. They are one of the earlier spring flowers and their dumpling-shaped heads, like dandelion clocks or drumsticks, are a pompom of lilac florets which provide nectar for early flying butterflies like Painted Ladies at the start of the flowering season when, usually, it would be much colder.

Bumblebees are active too and I’ve seen more this spring than I can remember for several years – which is good news for I’ve spent past seasons moaning about the dearth of these important pollinators.

It must be fully forty years since I last saw it. The dogs and I were on one of our favourite walks beside the wee loch at the back of the house when a pair of mallard duck flew out of the branches of an old beech tree. Normally they are ground nesting birds but occasionally they’ll nest in a hollow tree or take over an abandoned nest. Maybe these two hadn’t quite made up their minds whether to nest there for I haven’t seen them in the tree since.

The first time I saw such a thing, it was about May time; a mallard duck flew out of a pine tree on the edge of a strip of wood near Shandford Farm, between Menmuir and Fern. Her eggs would have hatched and she was likely setting off to get more food for her ducklings.

Two years ago a young neighbour pointed out an empty nest in the fork of an ivy-entwined tree beside his house where a mallard had raised a family. Frustratingly, I didn’t find out about it until the chicks had fledged. There’s still the remains of a hatched egg in the remains of the nest.

Tor Hill overlooks the wee loch at the back of the house. It’s not very high but it rises from a flat plain and when you’ve climbed it there’s a 360degree panorama spread at your feet. Geese land on the summit to feed on the grass and their droppings are everywhere. Sometimes they come down to the lochan for a wash and brush-up.

There are still occasional packs flying high over the house – maybe starting their annual migration north to their summer nesting grounds in Greenland. I’ll miss their noisy chatter but I’ll be looking out for them again about the end of September.

I’ve never regarded pheasants as the brainiest of birds; they certainly don’t have the guile of, for instance, the crow family but a cock pheasant that scratches around below the feeders hanging from the bird table has shown a bit of resourcefulness.

I put a curtain of chicken wire round the bird table to stop jackdaws getting at the food put out for the smaller garden song birds. However the mesh is wide enough for the greater spotted woodpeckers and the red squirrels to squeeze through to feed on the peanut nets, which I welcome. The pheasant has discovered that if it flutters up and gives the seed dispenser feeder a sharp peck through the mesh, it can knock a beakful of grains down to the ground.

Cock pheasants look their best at this time of year. Fizzing with testosterone, and with the sun bouncing off their bronze plumage and iridescent green heads, they strut around giving the hen pheasants the eye. Unfortunately they are so intoxicated with their own beauty they forget to keep an eye open for oncoming traffic which explains why so many shattered carcases lie at the roadside verges.

Yellow marsh marigolds, with heart-shaped leaves, are appearing along the sides of the burn near the house. Primroses, another of the primula family, used to be so abundant in the 1950s that my father made wine from them. Look out for their pale greenish-yellow flowers on grassy areas at the edges of woods.

Kissin’s not in season when the gorse is not in flower, as Father used to say. Great splashes of yellow gorse are brightening up the countryside – could be a good year for kissin’!

Written on Saturday, March 31st, 2012 at 11:05 am for Weekly.