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.

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This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Yellow and blue perfection

June 27th, 2015

A GRAPHIC designer told me a long time ago that the perfect combination of complementary colours for use in graphic design is yellow on blue. It might have been blue on yellow, but it doesn’t really matter for what I’m writing about this week.

Along with red they are the primary colours, of course – colours in their own right that can’t be produced by mixing other colours, for instance yellow with blue to produce green.

It’s walks with Inka that have prompted the art lesson. The woodland floor is shot with patches of bright colour, but very noticeable are the blue and yellow flowers. It’s a good year for bugloss – perhaps it’s been the amount of rain that’s fallen recently. The five-petalled blue flowers with white centres really sing out amongst the green of the grasses.

Look out for sprays of dainty speedwell too on slender, long stems fighting through the undergrowth to reach the light. You can’t miss the contrast of the clumps of abundant yellow buttercups. And you’ll see them in great profusion in some of the fields up Glenesk.

Cuckoos
I drove up the glen earlier in the week and heard the cuckoos calling again. I had a word with retired farmer Angus Davidson, who was born in the glen and has lived all his life there. This is the first summer that house martins haven’t nested in the eaves of his house, and he is missing them. Sand martins nest regularly in the glen too, but their numbers have steadily declined in recent years.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the pair of house martins building a nest under our own eaves. The nest was completed but the birds appear to have deserted it. I would have expected to see evidence of droppings but the window sill below it is quite clean. It’s most disappointing because we were so careful to do nothing that might disturb them.

By way of a however the swallows have returned in some numbers and it’s good to see them. Out with Inka I watch them hawking low over the fields feeding on the summer insects. It’s always a pleasure to walk round the lochan at the foot of Glenesk and see them skimming the water’s surface with their agile grace in the constant search for food.

A pair built a nest built under the eaves last year and I’m waiting for them to return and lay another clutch of eggs. There’s still plenty of time – about five years ago a pair raised a brood in the garage in August.

The start of summer’s end
So much for flaming June. A man told me that the temperature last Sunday, the summer solstice and the longest day, was the same as 21st December last, the shortest day and the winter solstice. I haven’t checked how true it is but there have been chill winds and cool days this past month and several nights when I’ve taken Inka out last thing it’s been positively back-endish.

Each solstice marks a turning point in the year and even if it feels as though summer has never arrived the solstice marks the start of summer’s end.

Unlike the thousands who flocked to Stonehenge to see the sun rise and celebrate the solstice, the Doyenne and I rose at a decent Sabbath hour. As it happened there would have been no point in rising early for the sky was quite overcast and we were much better off tucked up in bed.

I sat at the window watching a tree sparrow and its fledgling on the lawn. The adult bird’s diet is mainly weed seeds and grains, but nestlings need a richer diet to provide protein to aid development.

We must have a very productive lawn for the parent bird hopped all over it tirelessly picking up creepie crawlies and other delicious insects and stuffing them down the ever open beak of its offspring. The chick was stimulating the parent to feed it by rapidly flapping its wings to attract the parent’s attention.

St Bride’s Servants
I have a Guide to Scots Bird Names that I refer to when I come across a vernacular bird name that I don’t recognise. I’ve just read a name, St Bride’s Servants, in a journal that my father wrote of a voyage through the Caledonian Canal. I never heard him use the name and it doesn’t appear in the guide.

Bride, or Brigid, was an Irish saint and, traditionally, she has connections with the Hebrides and the north-east of Scotland. Her servants were oystercatchers and the legend is that she sent them to guide mariners to safety in stormy weather – hence the name.

I pass a horse chestnut tree every morning when I take Inka out for his walk. The white pyramid candelabra blossom has died away and tiny conkers are forming in its place.

Elder trees are just coming into flower and the rowans are starting to fruit. Wild raspberries are forming on the canes. I’ll be on the lookout for all of them for the Doyenne’s kitchen when the fruit is ready for picking.

Written on Saturday, June 27th, 2015 at 7:23 am for Weekly.