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.

Wonder of nature

March 22nd, 2014

NATURE NEVER ceases to surprise. Not being a trained biologist, zoologist, ornithologist or in this case entomologist, I welcome readers’ feedback because I’m always interested to learn more about the natural world.

A reader called with a story. On his walk he had stopped to admire the golden-yellow flowers on a whin, or gorse bush. In warm sunshine the flowers give off a distinct coconut scent.

The hard, prickly seed cases of surrounding beech trees littered the ground round about. Technically it’s the edible nuts inside the husk which are referred to as beech mast.

What caught his eye was one husk, emptied of its nuts, which was crammed with at least six ladybirds. Could I explain the phenomenon?

Thank goodness for Google. Is there anything that nobody hasn’t wanted to share on the internet?

I learned that ladybirds hibernate in aggregation – why not simply say in groups – and that the 10-spot ladybird prefers leaf litter and beech nuts for its overwintering habitat. The answer, in a nutshell, seems to be that my caller had found a ladybird winter bunk house. You can learn more in

The gorse starts to flower seriously in March although, in sheltered spots, you’ll find bushes all year round with at least a few flowers clinging on to the short, prickly branches in even the worst of winter weather.

I needed to blow the cobwebs away so I bundled the dogs into the car and drove up to Cornescorn on the south shoulder of Glenesk. The road stops there and while you can see traffic moving on the Tarfside road across the river, it’s too far away to disturb the peace.

Armadas of high cumulus clouds, the fair weather clouds, sailed majestically across the sky. Their shadows darkened the hillsides. The glen colours are mostly the weathered greys and browns of winter but spring, and regeneration, isn’t far off.

At the head of the glen Mount Battock’s summit, still with pockets of snow to melt, pointed the way to the Forest of Birse and Deeside.

The wind was warmed by the sun. I let Inka run free through the rushes and bracken – the nearest sheep were fields away. Macbeth prefers the short cropped grass which doesn’t scratch his low-slung undercarriage.

On the way down I stopped to watch the tumbling peasies (peewits) and listen to their broken, wistful calls. The world felt a good place.

I took a walk down memory lane earlier in the week.

For six years we lived at Keithock, between Brechin and Inchbare and walked all round the fields and woods. I decanted the dogs from the car and we started down the remains of the embankment of the long-dismantled Brechin to Edzell railway.

We walked as far as the Cruick Water which rises somewhere about Menmuir and joins the River North Esk below Stracathro. The old railway bridge over the water is still there but we walked down the stream. The early butterbur was flowering on the far bank.

A field of oil seed rape appeared to have been devastated by feeding pigeons. Scarcely a leaf seemed to have escaped their greedy attentions.

We headed for a strip of wood which was familiar to me and Macbeth but I’d never walked Inka there. I used to disturb roe deer lying up during the day and from the tracks in the mud, or slots as they are known, it was clear that it is still a favourite retreat.

Scattered grey feathers showed where two pigeons had met their end as victims of a sparrowhawk.

I called on my erstwhile neighbour Ronald hoping for a cup of tea. He described the rape field as being winter proud. He explained that this is where the roots are shallow and the foliage is too high. The foliage recovers from the pigeon depredation and the roots develop resulting in stronger plants and, more often than not, a heavier crop than might otherwise have been.

It was surely an enterprising young Scotsman who dreamed up the adage that kissin’s not in season when the gorse is not in bloom. We know the gorse is always in bloom.

What a chat-up line. Pity I found out about it when it was too late and I was already spoken for!

Written on Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 at 12:22 pm for Weekly.