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.

Fussy eaters

December 20th, 2014

A READER wonders whether the recommended brand of bird seed mix she puts out is the correct one for her garden song birds as she sees the birds picking so much seed out of the feeders and chucking it on the ground.

It’s something I have commented on in the past and is not a cause for concern. Wildlife, whether it is birds, animals, fish, insects all have their own range of natural food which they recognise and prefer and which, other than in extreme circumstances, they generally stick to.

Having said that, there are a variety of household left-overs that birds will readily tuck into. The fat in suet and pastry helps keep up their energy levels in severe weather. But only put out fat from unsalted meat, and avoid bacon fat and chips too as the salt on them is poisonous for birds. Bread provides bulk but not much nutrition.

Split baked potatoes, grated mild cheese, raisins, sultanas and currants and chopped apples and pears are all welcomed. And, of course, don’t forget unsalted peanuts.

I use a bird feed mix containing kibbled (coarsely ground) maize, pinhead oatmeal, millet, sunflower hearts, nyger seeds and a variety of other seeds. I also mix a couple of handfuls of uncooked porage oats through the bag.

The goldfinches are the fussiest eaters and pick their way through the feeders, discarding what they disapprove of. Blackbirds and robins and woodpigeons, whose claws aren’t adapted to clinging to bird feeders and are natural ground feeders, congregate below and soon hoover up the discards. It’s a variation on an old story – one bird’s poison is the next bird’s meat!

All birds suffer in severe weather and everything you do to supplement your garden birds’ diet will pay dividends towards a successful nesting season next spring.

My study window looks out on the bare branches of an elderly, spreading hawthorn tree beside the bird feeders. It’s an ideal refuge for the birds if one of the neighbourhood cats should appear.

The birds are a source of endless entertainment. The house sparrows commandeer the tree each morning while they digest their breakfast and they play endless games chasing each other in and out of the branches. I can lose half an hour trying to count them, which is well nigh impossible as they are constantly on the move.

Talking with a friend I described a lady of my acquaintance as perjink and he commented that it had been an age since he had heard the expression. It was one of these splendidly undefined Scots words, but everyone knows what it means.

It’s a word that the Doyenne and I are familiar with and use regularly if infrequently. The Doyenne is a Yorkshire girl and has absorbed a fair amount of our north-east vernacular. Mind you, she’s lived in Scotland nearly three times longer than she lived in Yorkshire.

I was doubtful about the undefined comment and when I got home I reached for my indispensible Dr Jamieson’s 1880 Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language. The good Doctor confirmed the meaning as a person who is very particular about everything, so as to appear finical (finicky). The word was commonplace as far back as the latter half of the eighteenth century.

I enjoy using the old fashioned expressions which were part of our parents’ and grandparents’ daily exchange, and am sad to see them slipping out of fashion. There’s an inverse wisdom about some of them that’s particularly Scottish and they can encapsulate a whole philosophy of human behaviour in just a handful of words.

The late Peter Buchan, fisherman-poet and a caretaker of the north-east dialect, said in his introduction to Buchan Claik which he wrote with David Toulmin – …a race is a race so long as it retains its language; without that, it sinks into the mire of mediocrity.

But we haven’t lost the art of economy of language. A friend who had been a keen curler has had to put away his sliding sole and besom due to hip problems. Was he on the list for a new hip? I asked. Not yet, was the reply, you don’t fit winter tyres until it’s winter.

Written on Saturday, December 20th, 2014 at 9:18 pm for Weekly.