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.

Keep your eyes open

April 28th, 2012

HOW CAN you think up new things to say? It’s a question that I was asked again by a friend who had just discovered the Man with Two Dogs website. The answer is always the same – I don’t have to think up new things to say, Nature does it for me.

There’s hardly a day that I go out with the dogs when there isn’t something new to see or hear. It may be a variation on an old theme like watching red squirrels or a buzzard soaring on wind thermals, but nothing is ever completely the same.

Whether it’s change in the seasons, walking the hills or scrambling along the seashore, the daytime sky or the sky at night, sound, light, water – the variety is endless. All I have to do is go out with the dogs and look and listen, and write about what I’ve seen and heard.

Sometimes I’m lucky enough to get help from other people. In May 2007 I wrote about meeting a lepidopterist, a moth enthusiast, and joining him early one morning to inspect the contents of his moth trap. Moths are nocturnal creatures and are attracted into the traps by the blue light of a mercury vapour bulb.

History repeated itself. For two mornings this week I joined Professor Dick Byrne and Brittany Fallon from St Andrew’s University who had set up a moth trap in the grounds of The Burn House, near Edzell. When the trap was opened, sleeping peacefully on old egg boxes were Hebrew Characters which obviously breed well round here, and Red Chestnuts.

Moths don’t mind flying in wet weather but cold weather, like this past week, discourages activity which accounted for there being only the two varieties. The original moth men clearly had lively imaginations for there is an esoteric flamboyance about the names they gave some of the species.

The Professor’s daytime job of evolutionary psychologist seems no less esoteric – when the Doyenne and I were at Edinburgh University psychologists came in one size fits all. Brittany, at St Andrews from sunny Florida, is doing post graduate work at the university – I hope she forgives us for dumping quite so much rain on her in just two days.

Last week I was enthusing about the rise in the river level letting the salmon, trapped at the mouth, upstream to spawn. This week there’s an opposite problem. The prolonged rain has raised the level to such an extent that on Wednesday SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) issued a flood warning for the lower reaches of the North Esk, below Marykirk.

And that’s not the least of it. The Doyenne was speaking to a farmer driven near demented with frustration because the land is so saturated he can’t get on with planting his tattie crop – heavy machinery just gets bogged down in these sort of conditions.

Last weekend I saw my first hatch of ducklings on the wee loch at the back of the house. It’s not unusual to see mallard at this time of year but these were tufted duck, six little sooty balls of down paddling in line behind the mother. Tufted duck are normally quite late layers – May, even June – so perhaps the mild weather in March confused their reproductive time clock.

What wasn’t so good to see were three black backed gulls sitting on the water too. A tender duckling makes a welcome snack for one of these big birds. Luckily tufted duck can swim and, more importantly, dive within hours of hatching so they might have had a sporting chance of survival if they were attacked.

Everyone knows the Queen owns Corgis but I didn’t know that Winston Churchill owned a poodle, and not a bulldog as every wartime baby was brought up to believe.

It seems that the Duchess of Cambridge has taken on a cocker spaniel and her choice could reveal interesting aspects about her character. The British Psychological Society has produced a paper claiming a link between a dog’s temperament and its owner’s personality.

Heaven knows what my choice of a Labrador and West Highland terrier says about me but I’d be fascinated to know where a lepidopteral evolutionary psychologist fits into the personality mosaic!

You see – it’s all out there. I just have to look and listen.

Written on Saturday, April 28th, 2012 at 11:25 am for Weekly.