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.

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This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Years flutter by

August 10th, 2013

THIS WEEK I went hunting for butterflies. I’d read Robin Page’s Country Diary in last Saturday’s Daily Telegraph – no, I don’t have split loyalties, but it’s useful to know what is happening in other parts of the British countryside – and he was reporting blizzards of butterflies on his Cambridgeshire farm.

I took the dogs on a familiar walk where there are purple and white buddleia bushes – if I was going to find butterflies it was there. In past years I’ve seen small tortoiseshells, Painted Ladies, ringlets, Red Admirals, small whites and Peacocks – all butterfly memories from childhood.

I suppose my expedition was relatively successful. At the most there were about a dozen small tortoiseshells, a single small white and a meadow brown feeding on the purple blossom. In past seasons there have been much more impressive showings.

Some butterflies seem constantly on the move and it needs patience to photograph them successfully. Others, like the small tortoiseshell in the picture, are more accommodating and allow the aspiring photographer time to think what he wants to do.

I watched them feeding, their long proboscis, or flexible feeding tube normally kept curled up inside their mouths, probing down into each individual buddleia floret for the life-sustaining nectar.

Several varieties of bumble bees were on the bushes. They also feed through a long proboscis. As the summer has progressed their numbers have increased but I still hardly see any honey bees, which has to be a cause for concern.

I’m getting busy with the annual hunting and gathering. It started with wild gooseberries. Their protective spines are longer and sharper than those on cultivated bushes and it’s always a bit of a nightmare picking them.

The Doyenne came out with me on Tuesday evening to pick wild raspberries. It’s a good season for both quantity and quality of fruit which some seasons can be pretty scabby and tasteless. The Doyenne will boil the first picking into the most delicious jelly and I’ll pick some more for wild raspberry vodka which will be ready for the Christmas celebrations.

Buzzards have clearly had a good breeding season too. Everywhere I go, and we were up in the Black Isle last weekend, I see them and hear their thin, mewling cry which seems totally inadequate for such large birds. One would question whether their numbers will eventually outstrip available food sources and, if they do, what might they turn to instead.

Last year a buzzard was filmed taking an osprey chick from the nest, from right under the beaks of the parent birds. Akin to dog eat dog, you might say, but they are large, powerful raptors and there’s plenty of domestically reared prey that they could be attracted to.

I was sitting in a Kirriemuir garden drinking a glass of red wine, watching swifts swooping round the chimney heads. “Like a rushing comet sable / Swings the wide-winged screaming swift.”

They are the first of the summer migrants to leave and fly to their winter destinations in southern Africa, so there may not be too many more opportunities to see them this year. However, my attention was drawn to a rowan tree growing out of a neighbouring chimney pot.

You might wonder why someone would have a rowan tree growing out of their lum. The timing of this sighting happened to be appropriate because I’d noticed, when we were in the Black Isle, the rowans were red ripe on the trees and they are hardly turning pink down here.

If rowan jelly to embellish your Sunday joint of roast lamb was uppermost in your mind, it could save a deal of trouble if all you had to do was wriggle out of a skylight in the roof, shoogle your way along the roof ridge to the chimney head, and reach up unsteadily to pick the rosy berries. There’s usually nothing better than home grown, after all.

Several weeks ago I reported that the Doyenne had made her annual batch of elderflower cordial. These warm evenings we’ve been fortifying ourselves with a refreshing gin and tonic. The Doyenne came up with the idea of adding a shot of elderflower cordial.

One of her more enlightened ideas I have to say!

Written on Saturday, August 10th, 2013 at 7:52 am for Weekly.