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.

An Arctic calling

April 11th, 2015

THE GEESE are flying north to their summer breeding grounds in Greenland and Iceland. Three large skeins have passed overhead this past week, following their traditional migration flyways. Their straggled chevron formations looked to be gaining altitude to catch the thermals to speed them on their way.

They are hardwired into making the annual autumn journey south for our milder winters and making the return journey in spring. Their internal body clock tells them when it is time to go and it is a call they can’t resist.

There’s still a pack of pinkfooted geese, around a thousand birds I reckon, feeding on winter cereals. I saw them from several hundred yards away and walked down the field towards them.

Watchful eyes followed me. A deep ditch separated our two fields and so long as I kept moving they seemed quite relaxed. The moment I stopped the birds on the fringes began nervously walking away from me. But they were altogether too wary and lifted off and flew to the safety of the far side of the field.

They will be gone soon too, their ‘cryin’ voices’, to quote Violet Jacob who was so emotionally attuned to the landscape and wildlife of her native north-east of Scotland, ‘trailed ahint them on the air.’ I shall miss them, as I always do, but I’ll be looking out for them again about the end of the third week of September.

Yellow and the season go together. Yellow fields of daffodils, paler greeny-yellow primroses, celandine and early dandelions growing on grassy banks – and cowslips too, if you can find any growing wild. Primroses are hard enough to find in any numbers but cowslips seem to be a childhood memory now. My father made cowslip wine and he and I picked pailfuls of the flower heads from the banks of the River North Esk for his brews.

We have a splendid Scottish proverb – kissin’s not in season when the gorse is not in bloom. It was surely an enterprising Scots laddie who dreamt that up. Even in midwinter you’ll find a scattering of the golden-yellow blossom on most bushes – maybe only enough for a peck on the cheek, but every love affair must start somewhere.

Whins they are called too and the roadside verges are awash with the spring blossom, brightening up drives in the countryside looking for good spots to walk dogs.

The Retreat Museum and Restaurant in Glenesk has opened for its summer season and I drove up there on Monday for a bowl of chicken broth thick enough, as my Orkney Granny would have said, to trot a mouse on.

A springer spaniel had turned up at the museum door without an owner, which is always a confusing situation. He appeared to have travelled a distance for he was rather muddy. But he was a couthy, decent dog and quickly settled down in the strange surroundings.

The glen had been very busy on Easter Sunday and the concern was that he had been lost on the hills for 24 hours. I suggested giving him a bowl of water and perhaps feeding him too. The Police can help in these situations – there is a Dog Warden based at Brechin and a pound to keep dogs in overnight.

Macbeth ran away once early in his career, almost certainly in response to the tantalising scent of a bitch on heat. He was picked up running down the road, completely lost, by a kind lady who took him home to Edzell and informed the Police.

That evening Macbeth put on a bravura performance for his hostess and her children who hoped he wouldn’t be claimed and they could keep him. We could so easily have lost him and it was my responsibility to have kept a better eye on him. We were grateful to Macbeth’s rescuer and I didn’t regret the small fortune it cost in sweets to make my peace with the children who had fallen in love with him.

It all turned out well on this occasion too and Buzz, as I believe he is called, was reunited with his owners. Macbeth gave himself such a fright he has never run away again.

Written on Saturday, April 11th, 2015 at 10:01 am for Weekly.