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.

A colourful wonder

April 18th, 2015

COCK PHEASANTS are at their most resplendent at this time of year. Erect feathered ear tufts and scarlet cheek wattles, a distinctive white collar, metallic-green head plumage and iridescent copper-hued body. And as if that isn’t enough – russet tail feathers as long again as its body trailing grandly behind, glittering eyes, a supercilious attitude and you can understand why they are one of nature’s exquisites.

Not content with one mate, you’ll see them guarding harems of six or seven hens – more if they can keep the competition at bay. They have sharp spurs at the back of their legs and are quick to use them to see off rivals.

They are rotten parents and desert the hens as soon as they have laid their eggs – I have seen eighteen in a nest. When the chicks hatch they are nowhere to be seen.

Strutting around in their mating finery, fizzing with testosterone, they forget about the realities of life. Their broken bodies lie by the roadsides, victims of their own conceit and the speeding motor cars they forgot to pay attention to.

Sometimes I’m so busy looking I don’t see the evidence before my eyes. I had long assumed there were no red squirrels on a particular walk through a wood of elderly beech trees and conifers. This week I saw the ground littered with pine cones stripped of their scales by squirrels hunting for the small edible seeds.

As we walked on a squirrel burst out of the undergrowth and raced up the track towards us. I stood stock still. Luckily Inka was at my heel and sat when I told him, but he was quivering in anticipation at the small figure dashing towards us.

Red squirrels are preyed on by buzzards which might have explained its haste, but there was no such danger that afternoon. Perhaps it was just in a hurry to get off the ground and into the security of a tree.

It was only a handful of paces from us when it became aware of the two large and unfamiliar animals in its path. They are agile wee creatures. He – or, maybe, it was she – whirled round and scampered up a friendly ash tree and sat swaying in the topmost branches, balancing itself with its bushy tail. I know to look out for squirrels in that wood now.

I came across something strange at one of my secret ponds. I watched a heron repeatedly stabbing its beak violently into the water but I was too far away to see what it was catching. When it took flight I went to look and found it had churned the water into a foam – and I’m still no wiser as to why it behaved in this odd way.

Drive round the back of Brechin, as the Doyenne and I did last weekend, and you’ll see a lot more sky. They’ve been cutting down trees and all of a sudden the landscape has changed.

We forget that trees are a cash crop. It’s the same as growing neeps and tatties, it just takes longer to get the cash in. Seventy years in this case.

We owe it to future generations to protect and conserve ancient woodlands like the remnants of the Caledonian Forest. Like all living things trees have a finite natural lifespan so we should be planting now to replace the old warriors when they die naturally.

But we should expect commercial woodlands which have reached their harvestable age to be felled. Most will be replanted and the landscape will gradually evolve over another seventy years until it’s time for the next harvest.

I’ve just watched a cock blackbird busily filling its beak with worms. An early brood of nestlings will be close by – first of possibly three broods for the season.

A reader had an experience that so easily could have ended in disaster. A keen follower of the horses, he had placed a number of bets on last Saturday’s Grand National. He was horrified on Sunday to find that his dog had eaten the betting slip. But a kindly fate had intervened and he remembered that none of his horses had been winners!

Written on Saturday, April 18th, 2015 at 10:13 pm for Weekly.