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.

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This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Nature does it for me

October 4th, 2014

I THINK we’ve said farewell to the last of the season’s swallows although the past month, the driest September on record, may have misled some to stay on longer. Colder weather is forecast which will reduce the flying insects that the swallows feed on so they’ll be off anyway when the temperature dips too low.

I watched a swoop (such an appropriate collective noun for swallows) circling high above the house, coffee shopping amongst themselves. I don’t know if they were hunting or preparing to fly south but one landed on the rone long enough for me to get some pictures.

Out walking with Inka I met two ladies photographing trees. You’re the man who writes in the Courier, said one. I had to admit it, and stopped to chat. They asked about Macbeth and I explained that he’s elderly now and spends most of his days sleeping. He can’t keep up with Inka and couldn’t go the distances anyway. I take him his own short walk when I get home.

I directed them to a particularly photographic old Spanish, or sweet, chestnut tree which appeared in this column in March. I hope they went home with some good pictures.

Inka and I took the track to one of my secret ponds at the back of a neighbouring farm steading. It’s quite small but I’ve learned that whatever you see when you first peer into a pond like this rarely tells the full story.

Two cock pheasants were eying each other up on the opposite bank and two tufted duck were sitting motionless on the water. I watched them for a short while but Inka was agitating to get on so I stood up. Pandemonium.

Two tufted duck became three. A spring of teal tucked into the reeds fringing the pond exploded off the water. The pheasants took flight, complaining loudly and taking another cock and two hen pheasants with them.

I didn’t see the pack of mallard which rose noisily from behind willow trees. As often happens with mallard, they circled round and flew in again over the steading buildings but, seeing us, they departed for more congenial company.

I never learn! If I’d just been a bit patient who knows how much more I might have seen.

I’m asked how I can write an article every week, and I say that nature does it for me. My walk on Wednesday is a good example.

It was a warm, sunny evening and I bundled Inka into the car and drove to a favourite walk up the bank of the River North Esk from Inveriscandye Farm, below Edzell.

There’s been so little rain and the river level was low, but with rain forecast for the weekend I know that can change overnight. With the shortening days the sun is getting low in the sky around six o’clock and the bushes and vegetation on the opposite bank were reflected in the smooth glides of the slow running pools.

I was wondering if I might see an autumn salmon when a grilse of about five pounds obligingly leapt out of the water and fell back with a satisfying splash. Grilse spend one winter at sea before returning to their mother river to spawn. The lack of water in the river will have delayed this one getting upstream to the spawning beds of its birth.

Several nice sized trout feeding on an evening rise of insects poppled the water. The sun was still warm on my cheek.

All I saw of the roe deer setting off up the riverbank was the white scut of its tail. I’ve no idea if it was a doe or a buck and it wasn’t hanging around to discuss the time of day.

There’s a stretch of slack water where, more often as not, mallard duck rest. True to form, half a dozen rose with protesting quacks.

Inka bounded on ahead. A buzzard came out of a tree, flying back low about my head height, not realising I was there. It was so close that if the sun had been in the east I’d have seen its glittering, yellow eye.

It’s like I say – nature does it for me.

Written on Saturday, October 4th, 2014 at 8:59 pm for Weekly.