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.

Enjoying butterfly moments

September 9th, 2017

DSC03716MONDAY EVENING, setting out with Inka after the ten o’clock news for the final walk, and I still had no idea what to write for today’s column.

A month ago I could have taken him up the familiar track without the light of the torch but now, a month later, the evenings are getting dark quite early. As often happens as darkness falls the wind drops, and when we went out there wasn’t a breath to shiver the grasses or stir even the topmost branches of the trees.

The tawny owls were tuning up and in good voice. Sometimes they are sitting in trees practically overhead, passing on the message that Inka and the man are in the wood. On Monday I could hear their tu whit calls carrying on the still air from woods I knew to be a mile away and answered by another just as distant.

In his comedy, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Will Shakespeare wrote “…. nightly sings the staring owl, Tu-whit, tu-who. A merry note, while greasy Joan doth keel the pot.” I don’t know why unfortunate greasy Joan is singled out for attention but it is tawny owls the poet writes about. The ones round here aren’t usually so vocal and I mostly hear them calling only two or three times a week.

I always enjoy the late walks. It can be the only time of the day that there is no intrusive noise of traffic and it’s just me, my dog and nature.

Butterfly moments
Butterflies, in any numbers, come late to our garden which is small compared with previous gardens, but we’ve planted bee and butterfly-friendly shrubs and flowers. We have a pink buddleia and a white species which flowers later and which have proved an attraction

Last year was our best year for butterflies and we expected they would lay their eggs and provide an even better showing this year. It has turned out rather disappointing. We’ve seen Small Whites but fewer Red Admirals and Peacocks, and no Small Tortoiseshells which are one of the commonest species and have been regular visitors in the past.

It’s strange, because a garden within easy flight reports a bumper year of Red Admirals and Peacocks. Why that garden should prove so popular and ours not, is another of nature’s conundrums that I have to grapple with.

Several years ago I wrote about seeing clouds of Ringlets in a wooded area I walk in regularly. I remember stopping counting at sixty. Several days later I went back and there was scarcely one to be seen. And I haven’t seen any in the same spot since. Availability of food will affect numbers, but adverse weather, particularly during the pupating and caterpillar stages, will likely be a more significant factor.

Biting bugs
There have been recent warnings about ticks and the danger of tick bites on dogs and humans. Inka has picked up only a couple this year, poking about the undergrowth when we’ve been out walking. They show up on his black hair and I remove them without delay. Fortunately, none of the dogs we’ve owned have ever had adverse reactions to the nasty little bloodsuckers.

Ticks can transmit the very debilitating Lyme Disease to dogs and us humans too. If your dog displays loss of appetite or lethargy or other unexpected symptoms it may be Lyme Disease and it’s best to seek your vet’s advice sooner rather than later.

I’ve only once required to get medical treatment for a bite and was given a course of tablets lasting a fortnight and strict instructions to finish the treatment without fail. I did what I was told – I was too concerned about the consequences if I didn’t.

Smells and farewells
I stopped to watch a man ploughing a field. He was driving a monstrous tractor with a seven-furrow reversible plough – that’s seven blades on each side. You’d think it would be a cumbersome piece of equipment but he handled it with the light touch of skill and experience.

The comforting, loamy smell of fresh-turned earth was carried on the breeze. Fresh cut grass, newly cut corn, and tatties new out of the ground – they’re all the honest, natural scents of the countryside. Too often we tear past in our cars, never heeding what’s going on round about us, telling ourselves we’re too busy to take a moment to stop and connect with the authenticity of nature.

There are still swallows hawking over grass fields as I go out early with Inka. We took a turn round by Fasque Lake and the last stragglers were hunting over the water.

It can’t be long until they set off for their winter destination in southern Africa. It’s another of nature’s miracles that these wee creatures, some born only a couple of months ago, raised on a diet of flying insects and bugs and weighing just ounces, can undertake such epic 6000 mile journeys. If we humans could harness such strength and determination for ourselves we’d rule the world.

So there was plenty to write about after all.

Written on Saturday, September 9th, 2017 at 3:06 pm for Weekly.