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.

The fight goes on

March 8th, 2014

A FAR-FLUNG Australian cousin, Rev. Hamish Christie-Johnston, and his wife Hilary, e-mailed from Phillip Island, near Melbourne, in response to my comments a fortnight ago about the effects of the flooding in the West Country on the wildlife.

“You will be saddened to hear of the loss of our wildlife here from the bushfires. The kangaroos and wallabies can flee (with a bit of luck) but everything else is lost to the fires.

“Photos show kangaroos with all four extremities on their limbs bandaged for the burns – particularly on their feet. There are shots of fire fighters giving drinks of water to koala bears in the trees. The flames move so fast and the eucalyptus oil in the gum trees is so volatile that the animals cannot escape as the flames roar through the trees.

“People take refuge in waterholes and dams, sharing them with snakes and other creatures. The loss of the smaller creatures is terrible to think about. Farmers have been shooting their burned and suffering sheep and cattle – fences are destroyed and the animals wander in search of fodder.

“Up in Queensland the tropical areas have been coping with cyclones and torrential rain, but inland the unrelenting heat has caused whole groups of flying foxes to drop dead from the trees.

“Here in the south of the country we have had a bad bushfire season. An open-cut coal mine has been on fire for two weeks and will go on for months. The smoke haze hanging over the nearby town is causing huge health problems. The fire fighters are suffering from exhaustion; the danger is extreme which adds to their stress.

“Yet our current PM is a climate change sceptic! Yes, Australia has always suffered from drought and then floods, and from bushfires, but these extreme events are becoming more frequent.”

So, life on the other side of the world is no easier than here. And, as here, it is the wildlife with nowhere else to go that pays the highest price.

March First is St David’s Day, an important day for the Welsh, celebrating the life of their patron saint. The first Sunday of the month is Crow Sunday, an important day for crows in Scotland and traditionally the day on which they start to nest.

Often there’s more than just a grain of truth in these traditions. They are the legacy of years of practical observation when there were few distractions such as television and taxation. Folk had time to look and listen and think on what they had seen and heard.

It’s almost a month since I saw the first rook, a member of the crow family, land on a solitary pine tree with a twig in its beak – a fair indication of nesting intention. I stopped for a moment to watch a jackdaw, another corvid, perched on a sheep’s back, tugging out tufts of wool to line its nest.

Cock pheasants, crucibles of testosterone, congregate around the fringes of the woods. It won’t be long until they are fighting each other in the struggle to hold together the harems of hen birds they gather around them, and settle down to domesticity.

I followed a dipper, flitting along the Crichie Burn which winds its way round the back of Fettercairn. Such attractive wee birds with dark brown plumage and a white bib, they nest as early as March. I’ve gone back to see if there might be two of them now. But it looks as if it may have been a chance sighting.

Last Sunday in the company of friends, glass of white wine in hand, we watched a classic example of the woodpigeons’ courtship display.

The male bowed low in front of the female, pressing his beak along the ground and fanning out his tail feathers. Half a dozen times he repeated it.

Some girls need more persuading than that. This one hopped into the herbaceous border and pecked, rather indifferently I thought, at the foliage. A clear message, you might say, that an invitation out for a green salad lunch was a quicker way to a girl’s heart.

Luckily I didn’t have to stretch out on the carpet and kick my legs in the air to get my Sunday lunch!

Written on Saturday, March 8th, 2014 at 12:09 pm for Weekly.