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.

It’s all natural

November 9th, 2013

IT’S TEMPTING, but misguided, to attribute human emotions to wild animals. However, on their own level, I don’t doubt that animals share some of the basic emotions we humans experience.

A buzzard flew across my path as I drove out of Fettercairn. Its destination was a low-lying wood which I know as Mosside Wood but which appears on the map as Eslie Moss after nearby Gosseslie Farm. The bird’s pale undersides caught the mid-morning sun as it rocked and rolled in a strong, gusty wind.

Somewhat ungainly when taking flight, once in the air buzzards are masters of their environment, graceful and unconstrained.

From their appearance and size there’s no doubting they are birds of prey – that hooked beak is the giveaway – but they are less predatory than some of our other raptors. They’ll readily feed on carrion and I’ve watched a pair hunting for earth worms on a newly ploughed field. Small mammals and insects, such as beetles, form another part of their varied diet.

They do take game birds – I’m told that red legged partridge are a favourite prey. Redlegs are an introduced and farmed species, so it’s better them than our native grey partridge which have suffered a worrying decline in recent years although it has little, if anything, to do with buzzard predation.

I sat for ten minutes watching my bird tacking, wheeling and soaring as it quartered the wood, banking, side-slipping, stalling almost motionless into the tugging wind – always in control. I waited for it to do a victory roll or loop-the-loop.

I have no doubts that this buzzard was having fun. In buzzard terms it was experiencing pleasure.

Driving past cut grass verges between Hillside and Montrose I saw a seagull apparently dancing a Highland Fling. I drew into a slip road and watched.

It beat a tattoo with its webbed feet on the grass, stopped briefly and started again. It was comical to watch but in fact the bird was mimicking the sound of rain to attract worms to the surface to feed on. I can only report that it was on short commons that day – I didn’t see it raise one worm.

Where are the fieldfares, I was asked several days ago. I’ve hardly seen any myself and they start to arrive in the north-east around the beginning of October.

They are a migrant member of the thrush family, similar in size and colouring to the mistle thrush but with a pale grey nape and back. The mistle thrush is a solitary bird but the gregarious fieldfares congregate in large, chattering flocks.

Travelling back from Memus to Edzell I saw several small packs in stubble fields around Tigerton. If the hard weather continues I’ll likely see a lot more. They feed voraciously on berry-bearing trees like rowan, holly and hawthorn, and garden shrubs such as cotoneaster and berberis. They descend en masse, strip the branches bare and move on.

The onset of hard weather means it’s time to keep your birdfeeders well filled. The small birds, in particular, need a regular supply of food to keep warm, especially overnight. Help them through the winter and they’ll repay you with the pleasure they give in the spring and summer.

A country reader passed on a story about a cat. Her neighbour, out walking, heard the piteous squeals of a rabbit in extremis – you need to hear it to appreciate how distressing it can be. She watched as a stoat despatched a rabbit which it had ambushed, in the ruthless and swift manner of its kind.

Nature red in tooth and claw undoubtedly, but it’s how it is in the wild world – it’s how stoats get their tea. We humans send our prey to the abattoir where it is humanely despatched, well hidden from our sensitivities.

As the stoat began to drag its victim away a cat which had watched the whole drama from the cheap seats, motionless throughout, pounced on the stoat, chasing it off and claiming the rabbit for itself.

I’ve not heard such a thing before and it put me in mind of the proverb – why keep a dog and bark yourself. That cat had got it right!

Written on Saturday, November 9th, 2013 at 11:59 pm for Weekly.