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.

Natural change?

November 1st, 2014

A CALL from Montrose reader Denis Rice had us ranging across several topics of common interest.

Denis walks the links of Montrose Golf Course almost daily – indeed he has famously been filmed doing so – and for several years he has noticed an apparent complete absence of grasshoppers. A native Montrosian, he took for granted that in summertime he would hear their characteristic chirring sound – stridulation, it is called – made by rubbing their hind legs against their abdomen, and find them hopping amongst the golf course undergrowth.

His question was – when had I last seen a grasshopper? I know it was several years ago in Glenesk, below Colmeallie, where the road runs close to the River North Esk. I had lain down on the river bank in warm sunshine and a persistent grasshopper, stridulating as if its life depended on it, kept me from falling asleep.

Being a native Montrosian myself, like Denis I took the one-time abundance of grasshoppers for granted. When they dropped out of my consciousness I didn’t think to question their absence.

Why should there have been such a spectacular decline in the grasshoppers? I’m not a golfer but I doubt if you can point the finger at what might be called aggressive maintenance, as a cause. Take a stroll round the golf course and you’ll see how much wild-growing undergrowth and vegetation there is where grasshoppers could flourish.

Perhaps there is a reader who can provide an explanation for the disappearance of these attractive insects.

Denis has noticed a corresponding increase in woodpigeons, and their nesting activity, on the golf course. I had written about the rickle of twigs, thrown together on a wing and a prayer, that pigeons call a nest. Denis tells me he often finds eggs which have slipped through the untidy platform and will never hatch.

Pigeons, unusually, lay throughout the year and there is little likelihood of their numbers declining. Pressure on traditional nesting areas might be part of the reason for their colonising the golf course but ready availability of food is more likely.

We moved on to magpies which are not a common bird in many rural parts of the north-east. Traditionally, there has been a bulge inland from Montrose which has been magpie-free.

They are a member of the crow family and have all the cunning, thieving and apparent cruelty of their cousins. Their diet is mostly grains and berries and insects but they are inveterate robbers of song bird eggs, even partridge and pheasant eggs, and of their defenceless chicks.

Montrose, it seems, is no longer magpie-free. On his walks round the bents, near the Glaxo factory, Denis recently saw a pair of the birds in the town’s caravan park. I’ve no answer to why there should be this incursion into the town but, again, availability of food has to be one of the attractions.

I sometimes see a single bird, or pairs, in unconnected parts of the countryside. Near Capo Quarry on the Lang Stracht, the road linking the foot of Glenesk with the A90 dual carriageway at Upper Northwaterbridge. On the north side only of the woods at the foot of Glenesk, on the glen road to Tarfside. And on the stretch of road from Fettercairn to the Upper Northwaterbridge.

Several days ago Inka sprouted an unexpected tick above his eye. I’ve never had a dog assaulted by one of these nasty insects so late in the season. The mild, humid weather had helped it to survive – but not for long!

Out walking with Inka I passed a small dog which had a familiar look, but didn’t quite seem right. It was an Alsatian which suffers from dwarfism, a pituitary defect resulting in abnormally short limbs. It’s scarcely more than twelve inches tall and looks like a cute puppy instead of the adult dog it is. And I had never heard of the condition.

Whenever she gardens the Doyenne is joined by a friendly robin which pounces on the worms and creepycrawlies which she turns up while she is weeding. I caught him, singing his little heart out, in a break in the weather when the clouds cleared and the sun came out.

Written on Saturday, November 1st, 2014 at 5:25 pm for Weekly.