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.

Autumn glow

October 27th, 2012

SO OFTEN it’s being in the right spot at the right moment that provides me with the next story or observation to share with readers, or recall memories and give me inspiration for the next article.

Wednesday started dreich and rimey and I was glad to get indoors again after the dogs’ early walk. It was altogether different when we went out about four o’clock and walked up to the wee loch at the back of the house.

It was so calm and windless even the topmost branches of the trees didn’t so much as shiver in the still air. The temperature had risen and coveys of hardy midges, oblivious of the dire forecasts for the weekend’s weather, were cavorting themselves in wild dances of predestined death.

I settled myself in the comfy hollow at the base of my favourite old beech tree to watch the duck.

The iridescent green plumage of the mallard drakes’ heads gleamed in the low autumnal sun streaming in from the south-west. It’s the ducks that are the noisy ones – interminably coffee shopping and quack, quacking at the drakes. By contrast, a pair of douce tufted duck were minding their own business, puddling about in the shallows at my end of the loch.

For the last several weeks a couple of rafts of teal, numbering maybe fifty or sixty in total, have joined the mallard. They are our smallest native duck and unusually (in my experience, at least) the visitors to the loch all seem to be ducks – not a drake to be seen among them.

With binoculars you can’t miss the drakes’ distinctive chestnut head and metallic green stripe running from the eye to the nape of the neck. And I’ve not heard their characteristic whistling call note either.

Unlike the resident mallard which are quite accustomed to me and the dogs, the teal are edgy and nervous and take flight as soon as we appear, climbing away steeply on rapid wings. Like a well-drilled squadron they turn and twist over the lochan in a display of precision flying until they are confident it is safe for them to land again.

Their landing technique on the water is another sort of splashy affair – feet thrust forward, acting like brakes to slow them down in showers of spray.

One of the disciplines in clay pigeon shooting is called springing teal which is meant to replicate the teal’s explosive survival response to danger, “springing” off the water to get airborne.

For half an hour I was lost in my own wee world and the time passed without my noticing. The dogs react differently to the enforced inactivity. Inka sits impatiently, poised to leap up at the first sign that we’re going to continue the walk. Macbeth sinks down thankfully, always ready for a power snooze.

The rushes and the trees fringing the loch were mirrored in the motionless water, but it was the light and the autumn colours that were so special. The leaves are dying back and the dwindling sun picked up the browns and burnt orange and shades of golden yellow.

On the walk back through the woods there were still splashes of sunlight filtering through the trees, casting long fingers of shadow. By the time we got home the sun was dipping behind the hills.

It’s turning out to be rather a spectacular fall – a time to jump in the car and drive into the country to enjoy the display of autumn leaves. There are even a few wild flowers like spear thistles and purple campion hanging on in sheltered spots and providing sparks of colour.

It’s always the luck of the draw but I was in the right spot at the right time. The conditions were right and the timing was right, which all made for a memorable afternoon.

A fortnight ago or so the Doyenne and I walked the dogs up to the wee loch. We heard geese nearby, clearly flying low, and took cover beneath an elderly rowan tree overlooking the water.

I reckon around a thousand pink footed geese flew in to roost on the loch and the adjoining grass field. It was a noisy and exciting moment for the Doyenne who had never experienced the wildness of geese quite so close.

Written on Saturday, October 27th, 2012 at 3:04 pm for Weekly.