Town Fox, Country Fox
We’ve always had urban foxes passing through and spending time in our garden, but there seems to be an excess of vulpine activity in these parts of late. Their fine sense of just how long it’s safe to stare at the stupid human before flowing silkily under or over the fence to safety displays a magnificent comic insolence. And now that their activities have taken on a destructive and faintly macabre air I feel like the slow witted butt of many a foxy joke. It’s almost like Wiley E Coyote is getting his own back in a small suburban English garden, and I am the one who’s playing the straight guy.
They’ve always dug the occasional hole in the grass, and they’ve always dumped bones in the flower beds. We have become blasé to their eerie nocturnal shrieking and if they eat an occasional bird… well, they are only making a living after all, and I bet they eat a good many rats, too. We rub along together pretty well. But last week I was astonished to find a whole sheep skull under the rosemary bush looking at me through empty eye sockets like a prop from a remake of Lord Of The Flies. And yesterday our neighbour in the flat downstairs (who is a strict vegan) found two large meaty bones abandoned on her back doorstep. Presumably someone is feeding them, or they are raiding illegally dumped food waste. I’d love to know where this stuff is coming from, but the foxes aren’t telling.
They’ve dug up our carrots and they’ve strewn Kentucky Fried Chicken boxes around like a bunch of truanting kids. They pulled up a tomato plant, just for fun. There is nothing they like better than gnawing at and playing football with our flowerpots, and they especially love my old workboots which I planted with geraniums; I never know where I’m going to find them from one morning to the next. They treat our garden the way rock stars treat hotel bedrooms. And I would love to see them doing it.
But oddly, the best sighting I’ve had all this year was of a wild country fox, hunting voles in a lush spring meadow. Country foxes are warier beasts all together, so I guessed all we’d get was a brief glimpse before it saw us and vanished into the long grass. But we were screened by a thick hedgerow and the wind was in our favour – the fox had no idea we were there at all.
It combed the meadow, listening intently for a sound that might betray a rodent or bird. It was a lesson to see how it went about it’s business, calm and patient yet utterly focussed, and it wasn’t long before we saw it pounce and eat some small unlucky thing.
It came closer and closer as it quartered the field, I still can’t quite believe it came so close that I could get these pictures with my humble point-and-shoot camera. I’ve hesitated to photograph wild animals before, out of respect and and a desire to not spoil a moment with the clattering of the shutter, but watching this creature go about it’s daily business did not feel intrusive. A lesson in methodical patience, it went about the chore of feeding itself with a relaxed unhurried alertness and I tried to do the same as I recorded it.
We must have watched it hunting in the sunshine and long grass for ten minutes or more and I would have gladly stayed longer, but we were only half way through our walk and needed to keep going if we were to make it home before dark.
As we continued to walk along the field edge the fox continued hunting, its beauty glowing bright in the sun. If I ever felt the slightest irritation with it’s city living cousins those feelings got melted utterly as I looked over my shoulder and watched it, still stalking the long grass, till it was out of sight.
To read more Nature Notes, why not visit Rambling Woods – in fact, why not write a Nature Notes post of your own?