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.

Walk must go on

January 19th, 2013

I SOMETIMES think that the pleasure of snow is in inverse proportion to its depth. For a dog like Macbeth, with sawn-off legs, almost any depth of snow presents a challenge. Just three or four inches can seem like a snowdrift to him.

With snow on the ground you’d think the birds would be preoccupied with foraging to get enough food to see them through to the next day. I can report seeing a rook with a twig in its beak, suggesting that even at this early stage in the season nesting and breeding were on its mind.

I got very excited when a flock of five long tailed tits descended on the peanuts and I rushed out to top up the feeders and hopefully keep them coming to us. But they moved on and were seen the following day in a neighbouring garden. It’s most frustrating for they are a favourite of mine and the Doyenne has never seen one, but in winter they prefer the shelter of the woods.

As I had to go into Montrose for messages I bundled the dogs into the car and set off for Old Montrose Pier for a walk. You turn off the A934 Montrose/Forfar road at the former Maryton Church, heading for Barnhead and Bridge of Dun.

There’s car parking beside the pier. It’s an unprepossessing spot which belies the significance of its historical associations. It was here in 1715, after defeat at the Battle of Sheriffmuir, that the Old Pretender, the would-be James III of England and VIII of Scotland, boarded a small ship that carried him for good away from Scotland.

Somewhat ingloriously he had abandoned his personal hopes of restoring the Stuarts to the British monarchy. Thirty years later his son Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender, had even less success in trying to change the course of history.

It was mid-morning and the tide was out when we set off along the sea-dyke beside The Lurgies, marshy reed beds at the mouth of the River South Esk where it flows into Montrose Basin.

The geese which overwinter in such numbers on the Basin had flighted out to feed on the stubble fields but we were greeted by a curlew’s haunted call. Mute swans were preening on the cropped grass above high water mark. A heron rose from the shallows and flew off on lazy wingbeats with harsh cries of disapproval at being disturbed.

Snow showers, racing in from the North Sea, obliterated Montrose and even the familiar landmark of the Auld Kirk steeple in the town’s High Street was lost to view. But the dogs and I were committed to our walk and it was too early to turn back and before long we were white with snow.

The skirls of black headed gulls jeered at us from a shingle bank on the far bank of the river. You recognise them from their call as they lose their dark head feathers in winter. In a month or so they’ll start thinking of moving inland to nest.

A couple of pairs of Dabchicks, or Little Grebes, were paddling around the tidal gutters in the eternal quest for food. They are another bird driven to the coast by hard weather when winter comes. They rely on diving to search for food so need open water to survive.

“Kissing’s not in season when the gorse is not in bloom”. Jaggy gorse bushes grow all along the riverbank and even in this weather there’s enough scatterings of the golden-yellow blossom defying the frosts for a confident lad to take his chances with his lass! And there’s enough cover and feeding among the whins to shelter and support the wrens flitting amongst the short, spiny branches.

Most nights, out last thing with the dogs, tawny owls are tuning up all round us. It’s part of their nightly roll-call but they are early nesters and, at this time of year, are starting to stake out their territories in preparation of their courtship period.

Is this another example of political correctness gone mad? I went into the baker’s and bought a fly cemetery, except they’re called fruit slices now.

I grew up on fly cemeteries; I like fly cemeteries; what’s wrong with fly cemeteries? Bring back fly cemeteries, is what I say.

Written on Saturday, January 19th, 2013 at 6:11 pm for Weekly.