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.

Whale of a lot to do in the country

August 19th, 2017

024OUT EARLY with Inka when the morning sun is gaining heat the woodpigeons are already gently crooning to one another.

Known as cushies in the north-east, the ‘cu’ is pronounced as in cup. Their calling is a sign that some of them are ready to mate. The male has his own courtship display soaring upwards and, just before gliding down, loudly clapping his wings together to attract a mate’s attention.

Their main nesting time is from April to September but they have been recorded hatching chicks, or squabs as their chicks are known, every month of the year.

They are the only bird I know which feeds its newly-hatched young for the first couple of weeks on crop milk, a milky substance rich in essential proteins and fats, which it regurgitates from its crop. In the winter months when other food is scarce it enables the squabs to build up resources until they are ready to fly and forage for themselves.

Unlike other birds which sip water and throw back their heads to swallow it, pigeons use their beak like a straw to suck up water. They are as at home in gardens as on farmland and at this time of year you’ll see packs of them feeding on the spilt grain on newly cut stubble fields.

Fishy story
The humpback whales which have been sighted off St Cyrus beach have been a lot in the news. Perhaps by the time you read this I’ll have been able to get across to the coast to see them, but I have my own whale memories.

Thirty five years ago, when we were keen campers, the Doyenne and I took the family a camping holiday on Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides. We stopped off for two days at a campsite on the side of Loch Snizort on Skye so that we could visit Dunvegan Castle, clan seat of Clan Macleod, to see the Fairy Flag, the clan’s most precious heirloom and reputed to have magical qualities.

In the middle of the night we were awoken by what sounded like a shotgun being fired – and quite close-to. I leapt out of my sleeping bag and rushed out of the tent thinking that some drink-maddened gunman was on the rampage round the campsite.

It was in the morning that we discovered that the cause of all the alarm was a bottlenose whale which had swum into the loch and was playfully slapping its tail on the water. I had brave ideas of swimming out to meet the whale, eyeball to eyeball, as it were Then I remembered Jonah and I thought of my puir faitherless bairns if I should turn out to be a tasty snack for a bottlenose whale – and I funked it!

Star attractions
Last Sunday found me up Glenesk again – I’m involved in the production of a short promotional film about tourism in the area. I was meeting cameraman Przemek Wasilewski and assistant Natalia, and second assistant Calvin, a sleek, short-haired Jack Russell, at Loch Lee to film a classic north-east of Scotland glen.

As you might guess from their names both are Polish, and neither had driven up a glen before. It was warm and sunny – a good day to be introduced to your first glen. I’m pleased to say they were both carried away by the scenery and the atmosphere and the spilt claret of the heather carpeting the hillsides, which neither had seen before either.

Light and colour are important for filming and the mood and character of the hills changed constantly as the breeze chased the shadows of the clouds across the brae faces, and ruffled cats paws on the surface of the loch.

They hoped to see red deer but they are still in the high hills and won’t come down to the lower slopes until the colder autumn weather drives them down. The best I could manage was the wicker stag at the Glenesk Retreat and Museum.

A pair of garrons had no objection to being filmed and stood patiently by the roadside. I explained that these hardy ponies are traditionally used to bring shot red deer off the hill to the larder.

We watched a mewling buzzard circling on the wind thermals above a high cliff. A raven’s harsh kronk was carried on the wind, and swallows shimmied across the loch in their constant hunt for flying insects.

Dog collars
In the afternoon the Doyenne and I went to the Cortachy Highland Games – not as competitors, you understand – but it’s an annual event we go to, to meet folk we haven’t seen since the previous year.

We shared a dog owner’s delight whose black Labrador had won fifth place in the pedigree gundog class of the Dog Show, and had the pink rosette pinned to his – the dog’s, you understand – collar to prove it. I’ve never had enough confidence in Inka’s attributes to enter him in any dog show; but perhaps next year. There’s a Golden Oldie (7 years+) class which he might qualify for.

Written on Saturday, August 19th, 2017 at 8:40 pm for Weekly.