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.

Sun lifts the spirits

March 15th, 2014

SUN, GLORIOUS sun! What a difference a couple of days of sunshine makes. It fair lifted my spirits, and the dogs enjoyed it too.

There was warmth in it and out with Macbeth and Inka I stopped in sheltered spots to soak some of it up. Inka quickly gets bored with inactivity and needs to be on the move again. Macbeth likes the idea of a power snooze!

Maybe it’s just a general feeling of wellbeing but I’m conscious of a sense of increased energy, especially amongst the birds. There’s more birdsong for a start. The garden and hedgerow birds are more engaged in attracting mates than avoiding a man and his two dogs when we walk by.

There’s more activity around the feeders in the garden. The goldfinches and siskens queue up to feed on the nyger seeds. A pair of woodpeckers don’t call as often as we would like, but are regular visitors.

The starlings deserted us for the winter but have returned. Their iridescent springtime plumage – purple, green, blue, black – is very handsome. They don’t have the right claws to cling onto the feeders but they hoover up the discards that the fussy finches toss to the ground.

From my seat at my computer I watch house sparrows – spuggies in my world – sipping the rain water lying in the rhones.

The Doyenne and I took the dogs for a wander round The Burn estate, outside Edzell. It’s been a favourite walking place for a number of years – a mix of woodland and the riverbank walk through the famous blue door at the Gannochy Bridge.

Snowdrops and aconites were putting on a good show round the big hoose. Lenten lilies for, of course, Lent started on Ash Wednesday, 5th March, were in full bloom. We look forward to the display of daffodils each spring. They are still at the pencil stage when the buds are tight closed, like newly sharpened pencils in a pencil box.

They’ve cut back and cleared a lot of old rhododendrons in the grounds. They self-seed and spread and get to the point when they hardly flower – not much better than big weeds. Letting in more light to the woodland floor will encourage wild flowers to grow.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the geese coming to a flood pond between Fettercairn and Edzell which is drying out fast in the better weather. They fly in for a wash and brush-up, just as they do on the Montrose Basin. Some will be away already but they’ll soon start their big migration north to their breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland.

You can’t mistake the strident, squally calls of black headed gulls. Many winter on the coast and they fly inland for the start of their breeding season. Right now you’ll see them following the plough, feeding on the earth worms and insects uncovered in the turned soil.

Whaups my father called them, the countryman’s name for the curlews. Listen for their loud, plaintive cry – coor-leee – which probably accounts for their name. It’s often accompanied by a long, liquid bubbling call in flight which always makes me think it might be a special stop on an organ console.

I’ve written before of our ancestors’ enthusiasm for planting trees of character. Although they would never live to see it, they had the vision to see a mature tree in the landscape and in relation to the other trees about it.

A regular walk with the dogs takes me past this sweet, or Spanish chestnut. Thought to have been introduced to Britain in Roman times, they are not especially common in Scotland, usually planted as ornamental trees in estate parklands.

I’ve seen it in all seasons and all weathers. I’ve looked at it from all angles and in all lights. One winter evening after a light fall of snow its silvered branches gleamed ghostly in the light of a full moon – quite magical.

It must surely be a couple of hundred years old, gnarled and twisted with the elements. It – no, surely she, is certainly a tree of character – puts me in mind of some demented Medusa.

But whatever emotions she stirs in you, she’s a living sculpture.

Written on Saturday, March 15th, 2014 at 1:24 pm for Weekly.