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.

Hunting ground

August 23rd, 2014

ONE MORNING, as an Edzell reader opened his living room curtains, there was a tremendous thump on the window. Looking out he saw a dazed sparrowhawk clinging to the low branch of a larch tree in the garden, recovering its wits.

I can only imagine that, with the curtains drawn, the bird was fooled into thinking that the reflection of the background trees on the glass was safe to fly into – and it got a fair ding for its troubles. I’m assuming, too, it was in hot pursuit of a garden bird that had a very lucky escape.

Sparrowhawks are regular visitors to the village – so much so that the reader has stopped putting out bird feeders because the garden song birds flocking round them are just a butcher’s shop for hunting raptors. There’s plenty of woodland cover round Edzell but they will travel from further afield if word gets out that there are easy pickings available.

True birds of the countryside, sparrowhawks and peregrine falcons, buzzards, kestrels, tawny owls are coming more and more into urban places. Parklands and large gardens and golf courses are all profitable hunting grounds and provide nesting and roosting cover. I saw a sparrowhawk flying low and fast up a street in Fettercairn.

For six years we lived at the Courtyard House at The Burn, a Georgian house near Edzell, and I kept two feeders outside the kitchen window filled daily with peanuts. I started with bird seed but that disappeared so fast that I was refilling the feeders at lunchtime – which became expensive.

The peanuts were just as much an attraction and, as the house is surrounded by marvellous stands of mature Georgian beech trees, we daily had up to six red squirrels, a couple of woodpeckers and the seasonal song birds all calling.

Sometimes a sparrowhawk called. I never could find them, but there had to be several breeding pairs in the mansion house’s two hundred acres of woodland policies. One moment the feeders were mobbed by small birds, the next I’d see the flash of a slatey-grey assassin and the garden emptied as all the birds fled to the safety of nearby trees.

Sparrowhawks have short wings and long tails giving them great manoeuvrability in flight. They rely on speed and surprise when hunting. Sometimes the hawk made a kill, but it was by no means inevitable. Then we might see it sitting on the bird table all humphybackit and evil tempered.

How superstitious are we Scots? I stood at the top of the stairs to let a young lassie come up. In consideration of my age she pressed herself against the wall to let me pass. I asked if she knew that it was bad luck to pass someone on the stairs. She looked at me as if I was wandered.

I knew a middle aged woman who would run down to the bottom of the stairs rather than risk passing you on them. I don’t do that myself, of course, but I sometimes wonder if I’m tempting fate by not!

Walking the dogs in the woods at the foot of Glenesk I met a couple walking with their little girl and her smaller brother. They were from the city and spending the weekend at the Glenesk Caravan Park.

They were a bit apprehensive about just where in the woods they could walk. It seems strange to me because I’ve never the needed statutory access rights that we have now to walk the woods and hills, and the countryside generally, in what I believe has always been a responsible manner.

I assured them that the woodland tracks were safe for them to walk on.

They weren’t a dog family and the wee boy wanted to pat Macbeth who, as ever, rose to the occasion. Inka is a bit bouncy for small people but the wee girl was much more interested in showing me her first loose tooth.

I asked when it was going to fall out. She didn’t know, but before leaving home she had written to the tooth fairy to tell her where she was going for the weekend. Clearly a young lady who understands the importance of keeping tight control on her financial arrangements.

Written on Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 at 10:33 am for Weekly.