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.

Season of activity

April 19th, 2014

A FULL moon on Tuesday lit up the track for the dogs’ night time walk, and I could put away the torch. It’s surprising how much bird activity there is in the darkness hours. Fieldfares, autumn migrants arriving in September, often fly here overnight possibly for security from daytime predators.

You’ll hear the grey geese bugling away to each other on bright, moonlit nights as they move between roosts and grazing areas. Their night-time activity increases the fuller the moon becomes.

Despite their size it’s unlikely that you’ll see them unless they fly across the face of the moon, even if they pass almost overhead. In a cloudless sky there is nothing between them and infinity to be reflected against. They are mostly gone now, of course, back to their northern breeding grounds and I won’t hear them again until the autumn.

A cock pheasant klokking away and waking up his neighbours is probably giving warning about an intruder. They won’t fly at night unless seriously disturbed. Black headed gulls sometimes set up a dreadful racket which is likely due to disturbance too for they nest as well as roost on land.

But it was oystercatchers, which are as active at night as during the day, that kept us noisy company on Tuesday evening. I couldn’t see them, but a pair accompanied us for fully ten minutes crossing in front and behind us, all the while scolding us with their shrill cries.

They are starting to nest now and male oystercatchers are very protective through the nesting period. If hen birds were sitting on eggs nearby this pair could have been seeing us off.

It’s hard to decide which season I like best but spring’s sense of rebirth is special. The woodlands are carpeted with yellow celandine and dandelions illuminate the roadside verges. King cups are flowering along the burns and ditches. It’s not all yellow. On your Easter walks in the woods look out for the white, star-like wood anemones. They grow singly but because of the open winter they are growing in great profusion this spring.

The white blossom in the hedgerows is blackthorn. Driving round the country roads I’m seeing the white wild cherry blossom of our Scottish gean on the woodland fringes. Which is good news, because I’m seeing numbers of bumble bees too and they need the nectar to feed on.

In February I wrote about guinea fowl and last weekend the birds’ owner gave us half a dozen guinea fowl eggs. Much the same size as pullets’ eggs but pear shaped, they are buff coloured and spotted all over in varying shades of brown.

They are delicious. They have a rich, orange yolk and a meatier taste than hens’ eggs. One boiled for breakfast, with a slice of the Doyenne’s home-made bread, toasted and smothered in her home-made marmalade, was as filling a meal as if it had been a bigger hen’s egg.

Guinea fowl lead interesting social lives and like to hot nest when it comes to egg laying. A number will share the same nest, taking time about to fulfil the demands of motherhood.

The kind friend who gave us the half dozen counted sixty eggs in one nest last year. Doubtless they make their own arrangements when it’s time to brood such a cairn to fertility.

The shells are thicker than hens’ eggs. I had to resort to a carving knife to decapitate one of mine to get at the meat. Emerging chicks must have wonderfully strong beaks to break out from their protective shell home when the time comes.

I heard her before I saw her. Gentle quacks, insistent and warning, had an explosive effect. Three dark, feather bundles showing a surprising turn of speed for such small creatures, scampered across the surface of the old mill pond to the refuge of the mother mallard.

The duck’s plain brown plumage was perfect camouflage for her surroundings. There were five more ducklings and gathering her whole brood together she herded them into the safety of the undergrowth.

Ducklings take to water within hours of hatching and these were so tiny they can’t have been more than a couple of days old. They were my first for the season.

Written on Saturday, April 19th, 2014 at 9:10 am for Weekly.