where the wild things are ...


I went to sleep last night thinking about foxes.  Not surprising really, as I had just been reading about them.  When we first came to live here there were a lot more foxes about than there are now. Often you would see them trotting across the back field; on their way to some destination unknown to us.

The fox roamed stealthily over the fields looking for his dinner...   Moon and Fox by Carry Akroyd:
moon and fox by carrie akroyd
Before the advent of 'wheelie bins' our refuse bags would be ripped to shreds by the foxes in their hunt for 'easy pickings'.  My hens got hit quite regularly too.  Not only did we see them about; a quick glimpse of copper-coloured pelt, or their brush disappearing through the hedgerow; but we heard them too.  An eerie hoarse barking in the dead of night, a mating call that echoed around the valley.  I can't remember the last time  I heard that sound.


They are creatures of the night, but if you are lucky you may come across one in the early morning on its way home after a nights hunting.  This happened to me once; we came face to face down the lane; we made eye contact; I stood very still, then he turned and nonchalantly wandered off into a field, with just a curious backward glance.  Wildlife encounters never fail to thrill.



The thing that started this chain of thought is 'common ground by rob cowen'; a beautifully written book; part memoir; part natural history observations; part novel - I am loving every minute of it. 


Unfortunately, I have never been able to capture a fox on camera, (the photos I have shown are borrowed from the book 'The Great British Year'.)

"The smell was there when I returned at dusk to carry on plotting the next side of the perimeter, the edge-land's northern boundary.  Turning right at the viaduct, I took a rough track leading east along the edge of the meadow's curtain of trees and down into the wood.  
  Despite the onset of night, I followed the Nidd downstream, guided by the weak circle of a head torch, past drowned trees and along a muddy edge.  The water tricked and teased, appearing still, not even a ripple giving away movement.  I noticed a branch and a plastic cider bottle held in its surface overtaking me. 
  The sudden presence of the fox was just as bewildering.  Its scent, strong and sharp as cut lemons, crowded, pressed and pushed me, as though the animal was dancing between my legs, mocking my cumbersome, slithering progress.  At moments I was sure it must be right behind or beside me, but each time I turned, my beam only emphasised the wood's emptiness, silvering briefly the bars of beech and oak and bristling the banks. 
[...] The fox manifests as I kneel there trying to catch my breath and work out where I am.  I begin to right myself when a tree's shadow morphs into an ebony silhouette, a shape from another realm trotting, head raised, along the treeline, fifteen, maybe twenty metres away. 
  It is large, full-grown and winter-pelted, with a thick tail that it drags semi-submerged through the scrub like a rudder, scenting in its wake.  Seconds pass and I realise I am holding my breath, immersed in the smell, the stillness, the sheer immediacy of it all; I'm willing it to drag me under, entranced by its indifference." ( extract from Common Ground)
The town fox seems to have replaced the country fox; maybe they are still out there but have just become wary of showing themselves when they have been persecuted for so long - who can blame them!

Elaine

Comments

  1. I have had several encounters with fox on our back country highway. I love those moments of eye contact and stillness. The book, Common Ground, sounds like something I would love. I will seek it out. Glad you mentioned it!

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    1. If you love stories about the natural world, then you would love this book - it has me totally enthralled.

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  2. I have seen a fox in my yard in the late fall when ripe persimmons have fallen to the ground, and another time there was one crossing the street as I was driving. We live in a near St. Louis older suburb.

    Each time when I have seen a fox, by the time my brain had time to comprehend it was a fox, it was too late and the fox was already gone. Almost like it had never been there at all.

    I have thought that someday I would like to set up a video camera under our persimmon trees during fruit-fall and see just who all is showing up for snacks there.

    Common Ground does sound like an excellent book for nature lovers.

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    1. Our garden is well fenced off now so I think a fox would trouble visiting unless it could jump the fence. I like seeing them out in the countryside but wouldn't necessarily want them visiting at close quarters. I don't keep hens any more so they have no incentive to visit.

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  3. Funny you noticed that too Elaine. In the previous city house, the fence behind us (wooden) had rotted and fallen down. No one lived in the house and the fox slept on the fence. The first time I noticed him, I thought it was a dog then saw the tail and quickly realized what I was seeing. It was mangy and I felt sorry that it had to live in the city. They do sound different than any other. I did put some food out there which I know I shouldn't have done.

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    1. I think life must be hard for any wild animal really, the city dwellers probably have more chance of raiding dustbins and finding something to eat, the country ones have to get on with real hunting. A lot of people feed them dog food, but I wouldn't really want to encourage them int o the garden.

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  4. i enjoyed this post. Thank you.

    I bet they hide because humans have decided to domesticate them . . (yes, it's a thing - having a fox for a pet) - i bet, to a wild being - that is a concerning and frightening thought . . . well, maybe . . .

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    1. I think it is more that they used to be hunted by horse and hound - this has been banned now - but memories run deep.

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  5. I haven't seen a fox for several years. Like you I once had a strange encounter with one. I was walking along a woodland path, and Mr Fox suddenly appeared in front of me coming my way. He looked at me and simply continued, passing by my side just a couple of feet away. I've never mentioned this to anyone simply because it seemed so absurd.

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    1. All sorts of things seem to have disappeared from round here - we used to see hares in the back field, and loads of field mushroom, and murmurations of starlings and loads of swallows - they all seem to be a thing of the past - I miss them all.

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  6. Encountered them a few times while out cycling, as you say, always a thrill to see wildlife. (I love the Moon and Fox painting by Carrie Akroyd.)

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    1. Sometimes see the odd dead one at the side of the road, along with dead badgers and rabbits - I think someone goes driving around deliberately aiming for them.

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  7. Like Sue I enjoyed seeing the painting by Carrie Akroyd - We still have many foxes around here, in fact we have a fox route pathway running across our lawn, but I have noticed that many of them now have mange. You would imagine that because they are not hunted down now that we would see more of them.
    I think that your observations must be correct, and that because they can no longer find leftovers from our plastic bags due to recycling bins that they are making their way into towns looking for scraps.

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    1. They have a tough life don't they, wondering where their next meal is coming from, at least town foxes stand a bit of chance of surviving, although they can be a bit of a nuisance. My husband used to have a pet vixen when he was young, called Vicky - in the end his mum took it out to the countryside to release because it was getting very smelly. Poor thing, I wonder how it fared after being kept as a pet.

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  8. The book looks wonderful I must look out for it. We were watching foxes in our garden last night, our neighbours feed them and they trip back and forth across our garden. We had four of them a few nights ago but there is just one male who regularly visits and peers into the conservatory windows as he passes by. Love the Carrie Ackroyd painting:)

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    1. I am sure you would enjoy it Rosie. They do become quite bold don't they , I would be a little thrilled if one came and peered at me through the window. We once had a badger come right up to the house one snowy winter's night, it was eating all the peanuts that had fallen from the feeder.

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  9. I see a fox occasionally here and even in broad daylight. They're beautiful but a bit of a mixed blessing. I would love to keep ducks and geese but they (and I) would always be on tenterhooks.

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    1. A mixed blessing definitely, I have lost so much poultry to foxes and badgers that I stopped keeping them in the end - it is very upsetting to see something that you have cared for with its head bitten off :(

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  10. A friend has foxes visit her garden and I keep meaning to visit with my camera. It's a case of getting the timing right.

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    1. You would probably have to keep up a day and night vigil before you captured them on camera - or they might appear just when your camera needed re-charging.

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    2. They come into our friends garden in daylight each day.

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  11. Foxes do visit our garden and I have taken photographs but not so much now although, I think they are still around because we get brown spots on the lawn !!!! Our daughter lives in London and there is quite a fox problem .... you can see them strolling along the pavements, especially when it's bin collection the following day and everyone has put there bins out !!
    I always get quite excited when a fox visits our garden Elaine. XXXX

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    1. They have visited our garden but only when we're not there - how do I know, because of all the dead chickens they have left behind. But now that we don't keep them any more I would love so have a visit from one.

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  12. We do see lots of foxes here and they have "routes" across certain fields. We are always losing chickens to them and are currently down to nil because it is believed the nearby fox was feeding her young in a den in the woods. I have written before about my encounter with the fox in Bethnal Green when I lived there a few years ago. The fox plus another came up to me when I was carrying a kebab back to my lodgings. I sensed I was on the verge of being attacked by them and I dropped the kebab and ran. As Jackie says above, the urban foxes in London are quite a problem, and they are very bold. I love the cover of the book you show here. I will look out for it as it sounds interesting.

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    1. I imagine that must have been a bit scary ~Rachel. We used to see more of them in the hunting season, running for their lives, I always felt so sorry for them. But now it has been banned, how do the hounds know they are not meant to track them and rip them to shreds, when that is what they have been bred for.

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  13. A lovely post about wonderful animals. That book is on my 'to read' list. Sadly I've not seen much of the resident allotment site foxes over the past couple of years compared to previously. Flighty xx

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    1. Thanks Flighty. I remember your posts on the allotment foxes - wonder where they have gone - it's a shame we don't seem to see them roaming the countryside any more.

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  14. On a recent camping trip we were awoken each night by the foxes in the campsite, the howl, oh it went right through me in a whirl of ecstasy, the two of them merely metres away. Foxes have always fascinated me, but I never thought I'd hear not one but two! Never seen one in real life though :(

    I know we have them - the evidence of the dead pheasants from the big estate next door shows that, but I guess I'm just not out at the same time.

    That seems like a beautiful book.

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    1. Oh the foxes barking, really an eerie, haunting sound. I was once exploring a small woodland nearby and could hear a female pheasant clucking, sounding just like a domesticated hen - as I wandered further into the wood, there it was dead - I had obviously disturbed the fox making his kill.

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  16. Such a beautiful post. Foxes seem like special moon magic to me. I will be seeking out that book, it looks wonderful.

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    1. There is something mysterious about them that's for sure. I am really enjoying the book it is very engaging.

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  17. Lovely post - I do like foxes, but then I am a town dweller with a fox in the neighbour's garden and not someone in the country with chickens! Actually I haven't seen the fox for a while so it could be that it has been put off by our new wheely bins instead of easily-ripped rubbish bags.
    Great choice of images - especially the painting at the top with its unusual proportions. I don't believe all pictures should be postcard shaped.
    I haven't smelled a fox myself but when a tree man came to inspect next door's garden he said he could smell the fox's lair.
    Nice one :)

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    1. It's funny really, it was the reading the book that made me realise just how long it is since I have seen a fox round here. They really were very common in the village at one time.

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  18. Dear Elaine - like you I occasionally catch sight of a fox in the early morning. Often they call to each other at night. Their voices depending upon who they are speaking too make many different sounds. They are truly a beautiful animal. Your excerpt from the book was lovely. Hope your August is off to a beautiful start. Hugs!

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    1. Dear Debbie
      Thanks for stopping by - hope you got all the jobs done while you took your break. I seem to spend less and less time on the computer - there always seems to be plenty to do at home and in the garden at this time of year. The weather has been fine and we are getting desperate for rain, the garden is wilting and I seem to spend a lot of time watering just to keep everything going.

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  19. There is something romantically elusive about the fox, isn't there? All that fairy lore, I suppose. We used to see them regularly around here, but haven't for a long time. Either they have become more stealth or they have gone to other places. I blame the fracking and oil well drilling that boomed here on the prairie in the last few years. All that noise from trucks and rumbling deep in the earth can't be good for them. While the corn fields used to give them refuge, now the pumping and storage stations share their space. At the Garden Spot, they leave the hens alone because the pen is a fortress. Enjoy your week

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    1. They do seem to be elusive - I keep my eyes open hoping to see one somewhere to no avail. I thought my hens were secure but foxes are wily and managed to find a way, as did the badgers. Now I don't have to worry about them, but I do miss keeping hens.

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  20. Some beautiful illustrations Elaine.
    I have always had an affinity with the fox. They are one of my favourite wild animals.
    I used to see many when we first moved here. We had one who visited the garden regularly. He only had three legs. I wondered if someone had found him injured, a vet did the surgery and he was released into the wild again. He used to half bury his killings in our small wood.

    I have not see a fox for ages in this area...........sadly.

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    1. Hi Cheryl
      How are things with you - hope everything has settled down after all the trauma of the past few months. Foxes were always part of the countryside around us, and I would have thought that without them around there would have been a proliferation of rabbits, but we don't seem to see them either. I am not brave enough to go out after dark to seek them , so their disappearance will have to remain a mystery.

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  21. We usually hear the fox during their mating season. Their cry is so eerie, we know there are foxes around as our dog always seems to manage to find their poo and roll in it! The foxes seem to be one of the wild creatures that you are more likely to see. When we were staying in the Alps in Switzerland we were lucky enough to have a Mother and her cubs in the field next to us. It was a delight to see them playing together. Sarah x

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    1. It is such a haunting sound which we used to hear quite regularly at one time - as with the hooting of owls - I can't remember the last time I heard either of them. Now the only time I see foxes is on nature programmes on the television.

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  22. What a treat this post was for me. Just loved it! I had a similar encounter to you once, I was on the beach and a fox came around a bend and instead of running off, sauntered away in the most relaxed manner.
    Those pictures are gorgeous, especially the close up of the eyes. I shall look out for that book, sounds just the business!xxx

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    1. Thanks Dina. I was wondering if you were still helping that man who looks after rescue foxes - you haven't mentioned it on your blog lately.

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  23. We have foxes around us but I have never seen them. We just get hints at their presence. I am not sure if they take the local chickens as I don't keep them but plenty of people do. A beautiful post, thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks SM. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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  24. Once when we were walking in the forest above my husband's Swiss village I saw a young fox ... when I pointed the fox out to my husband ... the little fox had melted away unseen by the second pair of eyes!

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    1. They are very secretive, what a shame your husband missed it.

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