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.

Sounds of spring

March 9th, 2013

HAVE YOU noticed how nature can bounce back with just the least encouragement? I’ve been moaning about the state of the countryside and how little wildlife activity there’s been. It just needed a couple of days of settled weather at the start of the week for the birds, in particular, to be back in action.

When the dogs and I go out first thing the noise of competing rooks greets us from the rookery across the field. Greater spotted woodpeckers are drumming on ageing trees and I’ve heard the green woodpecker’s yaffle.

Song birds are chiming in too. Some are thinking about nesting and are singing loudly and longer each morning in their efforts to attract a mate.

I’ve seen just one mistle thrush, singing its heart out from the topmost branches of a tall beech tree. Maybe it’s a poor season for them but in past years I’ve seen more of these big, bold birds. They are one of the earliest nesters, starting to build in February, and their ringing song is usually the finest bird music that we’ll hear in January.

The song is not as mellow as the song thrush or as varied as the blackbird which are both regular visitors to the garden.

What a change from the last time the dogs and I were up at the wee lochan. We took a turn up there on Tuesday and there was tremendous activity.

The mallard have returned from the coast and the rivers where they were driven when the loch froze over.

And a lot of tufted duck – more than I remember seeing in past years. Wigeon too, their whistling whee-oo calls coming from all corners. From past experience most will disperse to rivers and other lochs to breed, leaving a couple of pairs of each to nest locally.

The oyster catchers have returned as usual, congregating on the same shingle spit that they do every year. They’ll stay long enough to pair up and once they are ready to nest I hardly expect to see them back again until the late summer when their chicks have fledged.

This early in the season the birds are still a bit edgy, lifting off and circling round whenever we appear. They’ll get used to us and soon they’ll scarcely give us a second glance when we walk round the water’s edge.

There’s a corner of another wood where the dogs and I walk and butterbur’s spiky pink flowers are starting to appear. Large basal leaves which are green on top and dusty grey beneath follow the flowers. There’s a tradition that the leaves were used for wrapping butter.

Butterbur’s not nature’s bonniest flower but when you see it, and the snowdrops, you can be sure that spring really is set.

There’s increasing mole activity, with molehills erupting along the road verges and in grass fields. Because they seem to disappear in winter it’s thought that they must hibernate. The reality is that they don’t store body fat in the autumn to see them through the winter months so they can’t hibernate.

Their main diet is earthworms which burrow deep in winter below the frost-hardened ground. Moles expend a tremendous amount of energy tunnelling through the earth and eat three-quarters of their body weight daily. They have to follow the food source wherever it goes.

Now that the ground is frost-free again the earthworms return to the surface. Established pasture is productive for them – the ground is settled, undisturbed by ploughing and less affected by agricultural chemicals. The moles follow the worms – hence the rash of molehills every spring.

Listening to the weather people forecasting a colder, blustery outlook for the rest of the month brought to mind the expression, a “teuchit storm”.

Teuchit is the bygone Scottish name for the tumbling lapwing or peewit – the peasie or peasweep – which winters with other waders on the coastal mudflats and freshwater margins. A teuchit storm is stormy or unseasonable weather which often occurs this month and coincides with the peewits flying inland to nest after wintering at the coast.

Keep an eye on the weather and for teuchits flighting in to damp, rushy fields or moorland places like the Angus glens – it’ll maybe be your teuchit storm.

Written on Saturday, March 9th, 2013 at 10:23 am for Weekly.