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 a busy time

April 12th, 2014

THERE’S A rookery about half a mile from home. We hear the rooks gossiping noisily in the morning and again last thing before they settle for the night. You’d wonder what they find to blether about so much.

The dogs and I took a walk round by their bit of the wood. They are social birds, nesting in colonies and as often as not seen in company with jackdaws. Rookeries are frequently established close to human habitation, like this one in the beech woods beside Fasque House, near Fettercairn. A single tree can be home to half a dozen nests, or more if the tree is big enough.

I wanted to see how far forward with nesting our neighbours were. If I was going to spend some time gazing skywards I reckoned I’d be best lying down. I found a dry, comfy bank and stretched out, binoculars at the ready. It all suited Macbeth who is up for a rest any time. Inka settled down with a long-suffering sigh.

The birds’ dusty-white cheeks and pickaxe beaks showed up clearly against a cloudless, azure blue sky. Seen on the ground, in bright sunshine, the short feathers covering their heads have a glossy, purple sheen contrasting with their otherwise shiny black plumage.

I watched rooks flying in with nesting material in their beaks. A pair will often return to last year’s nest or, if first timers, take over and repair an old one. The nests are such an untidy rickle of sticks you might wonder how they survive the winter storms without blowing out of the treetops.

The intricacies and natural engineering know-how of nest building really is one of nature’s marvels. Getting the first two or three twigs and branches anchored for the base, let alone completing the whole structure, in high branches swaying in the wind, would likely test the most skilful human ingenuity. Rooks don’t need to be told how – it’s intuitive.

Although they lead such communal lives rooks are territorially defensive of their nest areas. They will readily plunder nesting material from neighbouring nests and I watched several would-be bandits being chased off very vocally by the rightful occupiers.

Spring cleaning and refurbishment is keeping them busy and it won’t be long till they start laying.

It’s a busy time for the bird world generally. Spring brings its own spontaneity and instinctive urge to reproduce. Breeding plumage, especially in males, is more dazzling than usual and intended to attract a mate and continue the species.

A male pied wagtail hopped into the garden. He knew he was gorgeous. The sharp delineation of the black and white plumage on his head and cheeks, and the sharp white stripe running down the outer edges of his long tail was the come-hither invitation to all the lady wagtails.

A patch of moss had been stripped out of the grass verge beside the house. No human hand was responsible – it had been starlings foraging for the bugs and slugs and spiders that they thrive on.

They have a medley of whistles and chuckles in their call range and are also great mimics. I listened to one sitting on the point of a neighbouring roof imitating a black headed gull’s scolding call – it was a first in my experience.

It’s surprising what can be found on just a splash of water with some rushy bits round about it. We passed a flood pond which dries out in the summer. A pair of sandpipers rose from the fringes with their distinctive piping cry (which accounts for their name) and flew into the cover of the rushes.

A pair of mallard duck, and then a second pair and a single drake all of which had been roosting quietly at the water’s edge, flew off with disapproving quacks.

To my surprise, because it was pretty much out of place in this particular pond, a dabchick flew out of the rushes and settled on the water. It dived, surfaced and finally flew clumsily off, hopefully to rather more suitable surroundings.

What gave me particular pleasure was standing in the mid-afternoon sun listening to the full-throated song of larks showering the earth with ‘a rain of melody’. That was something to lift the spirit.

Written on Saturday, April 12th, 2014 at 9:40 am for Weekly.