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.

Summer spell

May 26th, 2012

SOMEONE TOLD the Doyenne that summer would start on Tuesday. It looks like they were right.

After the wettest April on record and the first half of May very unpredictable it will be good to get some settled weather and heat into the soil for growing. I’ll be putting in more bedding plants – I’ve delayed up till now because there has been frost so many nights.

Honey bees get lethargic in the cold weather but the bumblers are better able to deal with it and a friend has seen four species feeding on the nectar on his shrubs. The unseasonal cold snap confused the butterflies and it may be too late for some of them to mate and lay eggs, with a loss of the pretty insects later in the year. The rise in temperature has brought out a number of solitary small whites in the garden and on the fringes of the woods when the dogs and I are out walking.

We hadn’t been up to the loch behind the house for a while, so we remedied that on Wednesday, which you’ll remember was a scorcher. As we arrived a heron lifted from the shallows and flew off, all grey and humphy backit as though it was in a bit of a huff – which it probably was for being disturbed.

I settled down at the foot of my favourite tree shaded from the heat by the fresh new leaves weighing down the overhanging branches. What with age and his woolly coat Macbeth finds too much warmth tiring; Inka still feels obliged to race everywhere and by the time we reached the lochan both were panting fit to bust.

There’s a misconception that dogs don’t sweat. They do – through the pads of their paws – which is a help, but their principal regulatory mechanism when they are hot, is panting. You’ve probably noticed that dogs carry on panting for ages, sometimes long after we humans have cooled down through the sweat glands all over our skin.

It was clearly hot out in the middle of the water. About a score of mallard drakes were sitting zonked out under the sun. I also counted seven chestnut and cream heads of seven wigeon drakes; I’ve never seen more than two of these colourful ducks up there. Three tufted duck made up the party.

So there were close on thirty drakes and not a female to be seen until a single mother duck with a tail of ducklings set off across the water. As she closed on the mallard she was joined by six of the drakes, then seven, then eight which escorted her and her brood until they reached the safety of the reeds on the far bank.

The cool shade was mesmeric, the dogs still gently panting and me half-asleep watching the world go by. A waterhen puddled about on the far side. Two black headed gulls were joined by a herring gull which soon lost interest and flew off again. I wondered if it had been raiding up there before, on the lookout for tasty plump ducklings.

As we got home I picked up an empty blackbird shell which had been dropped by a parent bird well away from the nest so as not to draw attention to it and the chicks inside it.

Thursday was just as hot and the dogs and I walked down the River North Esk towards Gannochy Bridge. There’s a handy seat overlooking the river where the channel starts to narrow and the water speeds up at the approach to The Loups, the start of the rocky gorge that extends down to the bridge.

We sat there in companionable silence. Shifting patterns of sunlight broke through the canopy of green foliage. The sun bounced off the dancing waters tumbling over the spate-worn rocks. The soothing white noise cleared my mind of the debris of daily life and I felt at peace with the world.

Then a cheerful voice greeted me to tell me it was a lovely day – as if I didn’t know! I can’t expect to keep days and places like that all to myself so I agreed, and the dogs politely got to their feet to say Hello too – and the spell was broken.

Written on Saturday, May 26th, 2012 at 6:17 am for Weekly.