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.

Nature’s raw side

December 6th, 2014

LAST TUESDAY dawned bright and sunny and, after the previous week’s catalogue of rain and dreich, it would have been criminal not to get out and enjoy it. I’d had a report that large numbers of swans were roosting on a flooded stubble field beside the River Isla on the road from Meigle to Alyth, and I set out to investigate.

The Grampians were looking their best against the backdrop of a cloudless sky. Across the Strath I picked out several houses that I know well. A prominent landmark is the Airlie Memorial Tower, atop Tulloch Hill and overlooking Cortachy village, built in memory of the 9th Earl of Airlie, killed in 1900 at the Battle of Diamond Hill in the 2nd Boer War.

On the east side of the Strath, in an equally commanding position above Forfar is Balmashanner War Memorial, commemorating the dead of WW1, which is very similar in construction to the Airlie Tower.

I turned off onto the A94. Through Meigle I took first right onto the A927 and was shortly at the Bridge of Crathies which crosses the River Isla.

Much of the flooding had subsided but there was still about an acre of flood water in the field on the Meigle side of the bridge.

Half a dozen swans were puddling about on the far side, mostly upended and feeding on the bottom. A pack of pinkfoot geese was resting and preening in the middle of the pond. Herring gulls drifted in and out and I could hear wigeon and the inevitable mallard.

I left Inka in the car, which didn’t please him, but I hoped to get a photograph and didn’t want him bouncing all over the place. The geese were edgy and took flight almost as soon as I appeared in the field, taking everything else with them.

Scattered feathers on the ground looked like another fox victim – and it likely was. But it wasn’t a goose as I thought – the chestnut head identified it as a female merganser.

I’d not seen one close to before and took the opportunity to open its beak and inspect the rows of sharp, backward slanting teeth that give it, along with its goosander cousin, the name of saw-billed duck. They are fish eaters and no fish is going to escape those vicious barbs.

The feathers had been stripped off its long neck and a little flesh on the shoulders had been eaten. The meat probably has a strong, fishy taste and perhaps it was too unpalatable for even a hungry fox to eat any more.

I carried on to Blairgowrie, stopping at Bunter’s in the Wellmeadow for a sustaining bacon roll.

The road out of Blair marked St Fink takes you up onto the shoulder of Strathmore and the views get better and better. While there was still warmth in the sun I walked Inka round a couple of grass fields.

At Alyth I turned left on the road round the foot of Alyth Hill. A notice warned walkers to Be Aware that wild boar are loose on the hill and to keep dogs on leads. I’d be inclined to let Inka run free, with a chance of escape, if there was a likelihood of him being attacked by wild boar.

The light goes quickly after three o’clock so I pressed on to Craigisla Bridge and over the River Isla. You can park there and walk to the impressive Reekie Linn cataract.

I followed the finger post to Balintore, skirting Lintrathen Loch and crossing over the B951(Glenisla) road. A narrow road climbs steeply to Balintore Castle standing stark and brooding on the bare hillside at the summit. On a clear day there are memorable views across the Tay and into Fife

It’s downhill then to Auldallan Farm and on past Pearsie and Kinwhirrie. Dropping down into Kirriemuir in the fading light the Sidlaw Hills were silhouetted against an indigo sky.

I took a last detour by Inverquharity Castle, but it was almost dark by then so I headed for home via Shielhill Bridge, Memus, Fern, Tigerton and Edzell to a welcome cup of tea.

And I only went to Meigle for a photograph of swans!

Written on Saturday, December 6th, 2014 at 9:13 pm for Weekly.