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.

Aah, spring fever!

April 20th, 2013

BILLING AND cooing isn’t just for us humans, you know.

I pulled into the car park on Edzell Muir to read my Tuesday Courier. Perched on the back of a park bench twenty feet in front of me was a pair of amorous woodpigeons. They were totally absorbed in their courtship ritual, gently crossing bills and caressing each other’s necks, taking not a blind bit of notice of anything but themselves. Aaah, Spring fever!

Last Sunday the Doyenne and I took the dogs a favourite walk from Inveriscandye Farm steading up the bank of the River North Esk towards Edzell. Apart from 360 degree views all round the Howe of Strathmore, as often as not there’s something of interest – a bonny sky, the sun on the hills or the colours of the countryside, a memory to take home.

On the walk we got a lesson in natural camouflage.

Inka was halted in his tracks by a compelling scent, his eyes and muzzle fixed on a spot in front of him. The pheasant feeder at the side of the track and the grains of wheat scattered round it gave a clue to what might be there.

At this time of year cock pheasants are glossy and resplendent in their mating plumage. Hen pheasants are altogether browner and understated, consummately camouflaged to escape detection when sitting on eggs, for they are ground nesters.

If indeed it was a cock bird it’s tempting to think we might have seen something of the scarlet wattles on its cheeks or the iridescent green feathers on its head, for the feathers on its back are a wonderful camouflage of russet woodland colours. Despite their size pheasants can hide themselves in the sparsest cover.

But there wasn’t even the glittering eye that sometimes is the only give-away that a bird is concealed at your feet, ready to explode skywards if you take another step.

I pulled Inka away. If it was a sitting hen I didn’t want him clumping about with his number 10 boots which would be enough to make the bird desert her nest. There’s no question something was there, using every scrap of the thin cover and its own natural camouflage to remain undetected – and that’s how we left it.

On my travels round the countryside I’ve seen quite a number of red legged or French partridge paired up. They have rather taken the place of our native grey partridge which have been in decline for the past twenty-five years.

I miss the grey ones – social birds for most of the year but the coveys break up when they pair off to breed. Many an autumn evening I’ve quietly sat at a field’s edge listening to their creaking calls – a bit like a strand of rusty fence wire being scraped through a staple on a fencing post – as they settled for the night.

Red legs are an introduced species from the Continent. Bigger than our native bird, they seem better able to adapt to the changes in agricultural practise that have probably contributed to the grey species’ decline.

However, I believe the wheel can turn full circle and I have faith in the greys’ ability to adapt and recover their numbers. Brown hares seemed to be in terminal decline a generation ago, but they are making a welcome comeback in many places where they weren’t seen for years.

For only the second time in my dog owning experience a dog has trapped a hind leg jumping a wire fence. I gave Inka the command to cross into the next field. Perhaps he took off badly, but he certainly didn’t get enough height to properly clear the top strand. His hind leg slipped between the top and the second strands which closed together like a vice. He was left dangling, his whole weight held by the one leg.

Not surprisingly a dog is scared when this happens and Inka started to struggle. Thankfully I was beside him and could free him immediately.

It’s not a comfortable thought what might have happened if I hadn’t been so close. The lessons are, keep your dog under control, don’t let it range all over the countryside and have it in your sight all the time.

Written on Saturday, April 20th, 2013 at 11:16 am for Weekly.