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.

Walks by the water’s edge

February 11th, 2017

DSC04091STILL WATER, seawater and wild water are the themes of this week’s piece.

Last Sunday morning started encouragingly with a sunrise like a blush on the cheek of a girl. But the weather is a fickle spirit and can change rapidly so, after breakfast, I took Inka across the fields and through a strip of wood to see what was happening at the lake behind the house.

In the space of just an hour black clouds had backed up over Arnbarrow Hill and a light mist had fallen. It had gone unusually quiet – not so much as a whisper of wind to shiver the grasses or the topmost branches of the trees. As we walked up the rigg-end of a stubble field the only wildlife I saw was a pair of linnets hopping amongst the bare branches of a stunted hawthorn bush growing out of a ditch.

The lake was like mirror glass, the trees round its edge reflected in the surface. The peace was shattered when a pack of mallard duck, quietly minding their own business in the cover of a patch of yellow flags, erupted with squawks of irritation at being disturbed and flew to the other shore.

I found a comfortable tree to lean my back against and waited. Inka sat down behind me. He’s an impatient dog – always needing to be on the go to somewhere else. I heard a deep sigh and looked back to see him settling down with his chin on his paws, accepting the inevitable.

A ring of widening ripples showed where a fish had just broken the surface to suck down a newly-hatched water beastie that had swum up from the bottom. Entomology is not a strong point in my practical knowledge of the outdoors, so I’m afraid I can’t tell you what sort of beastie it was.

An intermittent rise continued for twenty minutes. The bow wave of a trout cruising just below the surface told me that another one was on the hunt for food.

A breeze got up and a light rain poppled the lake. To Inka’s relief I got ready to move on. I put my camera back in its case which was a mistake as I’d scarcely gone a dozen steps and I saw a red kite sitting on a strainer post. By the time I’d struggled to get the camera out again the kite had decided it had no taste for our company and flown off.

We walked back through the rookery wood – not a squeak from any of the nests, which was surprising. Inka put up a cock pheasant from the wood margin which flew off complaining loudly. And at the foot of the wood the snowdrops are out.

Seawater
On Monday I took the opportunity to walk Inka on Lunan Bay beach.

The sun was shining on the wet sand left by the ebbing tide. A gusty, tugging south-easterly wind scattered white capped breakers on the shore. Ahead of me was the rocky headland of The Buddon with the old limekiln sitting four-square on the point. It all brought back youthful memories.

Perhaps it was just too windy but, again, there was disappointingly little birdlife. A handful of gulls out over the sea were practising aerobatics in the strong breeze and several pairs of delightful little sanderlings were hunting along the tideline. They are winter migrants from the Arctic and, as their name suggests, they are most often found on sandy beaches.

They are constantly on the move, their legs almost a blur, hurrying along in search of shrimps and sandhoppers thrown up by the waves. They show little fear of humans and will let you get closer than other seashore birds but, because they are never still, they are a nightmare to photograph.

Wild water
The River North Esk is a spate river, meaning it is rain fed and its level can rise rapidly following heavy rain, and fall as rapidly when the rain stops.

The Loups, below the Rocks of Solitude, is a gorge where the rocky channel narrows and tumbles over a series of waterfalls which home-migrating salmon must loup or navigate on their journey upstream to the river’s headwaters to spawn.

Following the overnight rain on Monday I took Inka a walk round that way hoping to see some wild white water. I’ve seen it brawling through, the colour of Newcastle Brown Ale, and so high it covered the rocks on which the pier of the old footbridge over the river stands. But on Tuesday it was almost docile.

I wonder how many walkers have noticed the salmon pass, a stepped passage carved out of the rock by hand in the 1930s, allowing the salmon to clear The Loups in spate conditions and continue their journey upriver. You need to scramble down the rocky bank to see it properly.

Walking back to the car I was thrilled to hear the unmistakeable wild notes of a mistle thrush. What a treat, for just a fortnight ago for I was wondering when I would hear them again.

Written on Saturday, February 11th, 2017 at 6:28 pm for Weekly.