Wishing a peaceful Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all!
Wishing a peaceful Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all!
It’s a long while since I caught up with WordPress. In fairness, a unusual number of things have happened lately:
It’s selling well with lots of good feedback, which has been lovely.
And although it’s not as fast as a Canon lens, it’s doing fine with nocturnal garden foxes too. I did consider a Canon prime, but having the flexibility of zoom is nearly essential with wild mammals because they are so mobile.
Here’s in hope it won’t be another couple of months until my next post!
My original blog on the much-missed Opera Community was called ‘The Sitting Fox’ in honour of a vulpine cliché: when watching something that they’re not sure about, they sit down.
But outright relaxation is not unknown. This vixen from the Across the Road Group dozed peacefully in the garden last week while her mate and a low-ranking male raged in mock battle – biting the hedgerow, half-chasing, talking with their tails like cats.
It didn’t turn violent. The younger male even turned his back on his rival between their squabbles.
The vixen hardly batted an eye. We’re coming towards the end of the breeding season, and she is almost certainly pregnant by now. Her mate is the Dun Male, here on the right. Apologies for the quality of this picture; it’s a still off the movie camera.
The Across the Road Group. Of all the fox groups in my village, they’re the ones whom I know the best. Six years of drama, and no sign of slowing. So many unforgettable characters have lived in this group: the original Vixen from Across the Road, who raised her cubs despite losing half her territory to builders; the White Socks Vixen, tiny, nervous and unquenchable; the Cavalier Cub, White Socks’ son, whose domineering, bombastic personality disrupted the fox territory network in multiple streets.
Let’s hope these two have some cubs and we can see what chapter comes next.
White Socks Vixen – 2017
January has two meanings for foxes: the breeding season, and voles. Subzero days coax field voles into daylight foraging, and their predators hurriedly follow suit. Happily for the fox-watcher, they are highly visible while questing for lunch.
And when they’re not thinking about food, they’re concentrating on each other!
Foxes have a complicated social life. Groups consist of a breeding pair, their cubs, and sometimes offspring from previous years. They do not hunt together like wolves, but protect a common boundary. But between – and sometimes within – these territorial homelands are a significant number of free-ranging, nomadic foxes, including dispersers searching for a vacant home.
Moreover, many large males trespass freely during the breeding season, sometimes triggering fights. We’ve had an interesting situation here this winter with an exceptionally high number of big roaming males, most of whom I don’t recognise. Doubtless they’ll disappear again before the spring.
Meanwhile, the courting pairs stay close, more or less ignoring their neighbours in the pasture.
The sheep seem to care little about fox territories.
But the grass knows – foxes have scent glands on the edges of their mouths, transmitting information that other vulpines will note.
Hopefully this pair will produces cubs. We’ll find out in the spring.
The wild species commonly known as ‘fox’ has been represented this afternoon by One-Eye, who never needs a second excuse to recline on the patio.
Or peer into the house, for that matter. Foxes are profoundly curious creatures.
I should stress that he is not ‘tame’. I strongly believe that foxes should never be allowed to enter houses – one householder might enjoy it, but the fox is likely to repeat that behaviour with a neighbour. Indoor foxes cause bad press at best, and serious human-wildlife conflict at worst. One-Eye sits by the glass because he is highly intelligent and understands that humans and dogs cannot reach him even when they are inches away. If the door is opened, he backs off at once.
Anyway, we do have a second species of wild fox here, somewhat. It is orange and very furry, and in its own way, just as adaptable as its namesake.
Fox-and-cubs is a member of the daisy family. It is not native to Britain but has lived wild here since at least the 17th century. It is quite tenacious and often grows on roadsides. This is the first one that I’ve found in my parish, and I will have to go back next year and photograph it before it goes to seed.
It will be interesting to see how the social dynamics of the other species of fox have changed by then.
Snow is a bit like a mime: it has a lot to say, but speaks no words. Instead it is signed by creatures in passing, and the watcher guesses at their onward travels.
This is a fox, of course; their tracks are not hard to find in the North Downs in any season. Something about this scene intrigued me – a journey from barbed wire into the sunlight – but for the fox, it is simply another small moment on a winter’s day.
In close up, a fox’s tracks resemble those of a dog, but there are subtle differences. A fox’s inner toes are set well ahead of the rest of the foot, leaving a long, narrow track. Most dog prints are rounded. My video describing the differences in detail is here.
Sometimes the story is more complex. This fox may have strayed too close to thorns – notice the drop of blood in the top right? Only a little, and the tracks lead away. Crossing them are the five-toed prints of a badger. Foxes and badgers rarely show overt violence to each other, although there is no question that the badger is always in charge.
And this is a roe deer, with a bird in attendance. Probably a magpie or crow.
Rabbits keep close to cover.
And the sun keeps close to the seasons.
The mime has left us. We are close to spring equinox now and snow has been replaced by flowers.
Hear Time beating on these walls – march forward, forward, forward…
See stones laugh at so many feet – they were building blocks of hills, carried here by Vikings, and humanity is a light burden compared to the sky.
Nature creeps into them.
They protect York’s markets.
They are watched by York’s grandest towers – pause there, for ‘grand’ is a shallow cry in this most mighty of shadows. Few buildings anywhere soar into your spirit like the Minster.
Within it are books close to their 1000th birthday.
Under it were found the bones of the even older Roman building – and the footprints of a dog, running across a Roman roof slate.
The Romans left wolves here, too.
And foxes are enthroned in glass on the great Eastern Window, celebrated in this modern sewing.
The organ notes resound and music echoes with the Minster’s vaulted arches. The tune rolls forward, like Time, like the rolling of the becks in the Vale to the north.
Travel with it, restless under the tempestuous autumn skies.