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.

Sound of autumn

October 18th, 2014

SURF BREAKING on the shore is one of the timeless sounds that keeps you company on the walk down the bank of the River North Esk from Kinnaber to the rivermouth. I hoped to see the Canada geese that were reported to have spent some days there.

I was hardly out of the car when a ragged chevron of pinkfoot geese flew overhead, heading into the Mearns and chattering amongst themselves. A single bird straggled behind, repeatedly calling as if fearful of losing touch. Regular readers know that the arrival of the grey geese is one of my autumn highlights and I look forward to hearing their “cryin’ voices trailed ahint them in the air.”

A hen pheasant exploded out the riverbank and headed for the safety of the far bank. A harsh croak had me fooled for a moment until a pair of herons flew overhead. Ungainly-looking birds on land and in flight too, with legs trailed out behind them and head sunk into the long, drawn back neck, but their powerful, steady wing-beats move them through the air with unexpected grace.

A pair of mergansers flew purposefully downstream. They migrate to the river estuaries in winter. Along with their cousins the goosanders, they are known as saw-billed ducks because of their serrated bills which prevent wriggling prey from escaping. They are not the fishermen’s favourite, as you can imagine.

The river here is tidal and the level drops noticeably when the tide is fully out. Shallow runs of broken water rattle over the gravel riverbed down to the sea. In another six hours, when the tide is full, it will be a black strap of fast-running water.

The inevitable mallard duck were puddling about in the slack water. Packs of the grey geese cruised down to feed on Waterside Farm on the other side of the river.

The aftermath of the recent spates was thrown up on the riverbank – flattened grass and the usual flotsam of fencing posts, tree trunks and branches left when the water subsided.

I couldn’t identify a dark bird tucked in at the water’s edge and partially obscured by a shelf of mud. Because I was so near I drove round to the St Cyrus SNH Visitor Centre on the north bank of the river.

Therese and Kim, the resident Rangers, had been watching the bird from the SNH hide and identified it as a Pale-Bellied Brent goose, probably from the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway. It was an unlikely visitor because the great majority overwinter in Ireland. But it was a first for me.

I only had Inka with me and he had a wonderful time diving in and out of the water. We followed a line of roe deer slots – the name for their tracks – along a path in the sand. I’ve seen roe deer running on Lunan Bay beach and wondered what the attraction is as the coarse bent grass must have little or no nutritional food value.

We crossed the dunes close to where the river meets the sea and slid down onto the beach. We had the place entirely to ourselves. The sun blinked out and we sat and watched the ceaseless metronome of the waves breaking on the shore. There’s something comforting in knowing that however troubled the rest of the world is the tides are an enduring constant.

The spire of St Cyrus church to the north pokes skywards from the top of the cliffs; to the south, Scurdie Ness lighthouse marks the southern limit of Montrose Bay – welcome navigation marks, surely, to generations of fishermen and mariners.

Thousands of gulls, mostly common gulls and herring gulls, were roosting out on the sand. They rose in clouds of raucous protest when Inka ran anywhere near them. A single cormorant flew steadily up the tideline and joined three others drying their wings in the stiff breeze. Curlews probed the shallows with long curling beaks.

I didn’t see any Canada geese – but a pretty good morning’s work, don’t you think?

And Macbeth lay, soundly sleeping, in the back of the car dreaming of the puppy days when he hunted the same whin bushes and scampered along the beach.

Written on Saturday, October 18th, 2014 at 8:58 pm for Weekly.