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.

What a ‘carrion’

June 21st, 2014

FOR SEVERAL mornings a reader had been finding unusual, iridescent chuckie stones, some the size of an egg, on his lawn, which hadn’t been there when he checked last thing before going to bed. Could I throw some light on the matter?

My first fevered thought was might they have been meteorites falling from space? If so, they were admirably selective and precise about their destination as none of his neighbours had been affected.

There are a number of documented Biblical-style natural phenomena which have occurred in Scotland. In October 2005 I wrote about the shower of herring which was reported in Lorn, Argyll in 1821.

It was thought that a shoal of herring was caught up in a waterspout which ran out of energy and rained its unlikely contents onto the land. In the absence of reports of waterspouts around Arbroath, flying chuckies seemed a non-starter.

Not in the same category perhaps, but several months later in December, I wrote about finding a golf ball in the middle of a grass field near the village of Memus. Kirriemuir is the nearest golf course, six miles away. A thieving crow seemed the likely culprit but even so I was a bit sceptical about a crow having the perseverance to fly so far with something so bulky.

There’s some debate about how attracted to shiny objects crows are, but, on balance I reckon the answer to the reader’s query is that his neighbourhood crows were picking up the shiny chuckies nearby and dropping them into his garden.

Why, is harder to explain. Crows only lay one clutch of eggs in April or May, so I don’t think it can have been a courtship ritual. It may just have been a game.

Scottish mythology is full of ignorant, mediaeval superstitions about toads. In the Middle Ages they were regarded as witches’ familiars or supernatural animals. They believed then that you could cure warts by rubbing them with a live toad.

It doesn’t help that they are night time hunters. There is something about meeting them when it is dark which arouses visceral Celtic fantasies and gives us the creeps. We hardly see them other than in the car headlights as we are about to splatter them beneath the tyres.

A reader, who is redesigning his garden, called to tell me he had found five toads tucked up together in a cavity hollowed out as their daytime sleeping quarters beneath a garden slab. Three more were cosied in under another one.

Actually we should be more charitable towards these misjudged amphibians for the reality is that they are the gardener’s friend. A mainstay of their diet are the slugs that are the bane of every gardener’s life.

On our recent Highland holiday we popped into two bookshops that defy the depressing trend for independent bookshops to close. They proclaim their seniority in the marketplace and offer an experience that’s better than clicking on a mouse – an alternative to the digital onslaught of e-books.

The Ceilidh Place in Ullapool, as its name suggests, is a meeting place in the north. I bought Wild Flowers of the North Highlands of Scotland by Ken Butler with photographs by Ken Crossan. I recommend it to anyone holidaying north of Inverness. The descriptions of plants are clear and instructive and the photography beautifully detailed.

Achins Bookshop at Inverkirkaig, near Lochinver, in the shadow of Suilven, is reputed to be the most remote bookshop on mainland Britain. It was probably contrary to all accepted marketing logic that a bookshop should have opened there at all thirty five years ago. I bought an anthology of pre-Robert Burns Scottish poetry and an omnibus of JM Barrie novels.

If you want a personal and knowledgeable service by people who care that you will want to come back, whatever the distance, visit these two lovely bookshops if you are anywhere near.

I greatly admired the writing of David Stephen who was a largely self taught naturalist with an immense understanding of the natural world he wrote about. He told a delightful story about a wee lass who knew fine what carrion crows were. They were the ones that were always carryin’ things awa’.

Like shiny chuckie stones maybe!

Written on Saturday, June 21st, 2014 at 10:30 am for Weekly.