Ebony paws tread lightly upon matted grass tussocks; white claws are stained as they gain purchase on the damp bark of a long-fallen branch. Cover of hedgerows has been forsaken as both light and rain fade from the once fitful sky.
She listens not for the laugh of the woodpecker who briefly alights on a bare bough of a birch. She cranes her neck to focus her ears through the impenetrable forest of grass stems that obscures her eyes. Her muscles tense, her brush, grey but flecked with black, flagged out straight behind her; whether it is a counterbalance or just an involuntary expression of mood, I cannot tell. She describes a low arc, flying with silent precision, yet her prey - be it rodent or insect - seems to evade her. Failure is no deterrence. With quiet patience she resumes her hunt.
Evening is falling; and more, the first signs of the summer's end sprinkle the hedgerows in the form of blackberries that have lost their sour green hue. Out on the farm, the wheat has been harvested and the hay baled. Time cycles without ceasing, yet the most frantic procession of the seasons is revealed in the land's most subtle details. Those details I keenly seek. I have reasons aplenty to be longing for the autumn.
-Just a few random observations from what was a quintessential meadow fox sighting
The trailcam has been out on assignment for the last week or so, down on the south coast. I never take anything for granted with this device, handy though it is. I haven't quite forgiven it for last year's infamous cougar incident, and getting the ideal image, even of wildlife far less elusive than big cats, can take some experimenting.
As most of you will know, badgers have caused me some difficulty in the past. They are much more reclusive and nocturnal than foxes. On this occasion, I sort of hoped to get a badger's back or somesuch glimpse, but...
They really outdid themselves! Three adults in the same clip?! Not to mention the surprise guest who seems to be living in part of the sett! (Please press F5 to refresh your browser if the video doesn't work.)
For once, I don't think that I could have asked for more from the trailcam. It's provided a nice glimpse of our largest surviving land carnivore, and given me footage that I would have hugely struggled to obtain any other way. __
I haven't been out with the camera today, but still have plenty of photos from yesterday's hike to process! Here's a few more to further illustrate yesterday's post.
What an unpredictable existence the wildlife tracker has I have barely picked up my camera for the past week, with sombre skies and lack of time and general lack of sightings to point to as the cause, and ventured out this evening with Leila with little expectation of getting more than a distant meadow fox or two. But what fun would it be if I always knew what I would find?
Tonight's hike turned into one of those (for me) rare occasions when mammal photography opportunities come in multiples, a sort of roll-call of encounters, any one of which would normally be a major highlight of my wildlife-watching week in its own right, and would probably be worth a blog post on its own. It's nice when that happens So...who was about?
This doe had two fawns with her; twins no doubt. Long ago I saw a roe deer with three tiny spotted triplets, but that is uncommon. These fawns have already lost their spots and are well on the way to gaining their mother's sleek looks, but it will be another year at least until they reach full size.
Foxes grow faster, and many of this spring's cubs have already reached the lanky "teenager" stage. They can still be distinguished from the adults by their short coats and slimmer build, not to mention slightly crazier behaviour Most of my cub sightings lately have been after dark, and I wasn't particularly thinking of the young ones when I saw this fine adult (probably a male) posing in a meadow.
Quoth my notes.
I saw the male fox sitting under a medium-sized tree, apparently calm yet vigilant. After a while he stood and climbed onto a fallen birch trunk, looking over to the western side of the field. He went on to scent mark the eastern hedgerow and then melted into the long grass. Continuing down the track, I suddenly noticed another rufus form on the western side of the meadow, a cub of about five or six months, and then another - adult, probably the mother, well concealed in the far hedge, then a second cub, and finally a third! One cub briefly assumed an ears-back mouth open posture at a littermate, but there seemed to be little overt aggression. Instead, they tussled in the grass, springing one after another with the fresh energy of youth, and two eventually slipped through the distant fence. Shortly afterward, I heard some chatter-screams coming from that area, so perhaps they had chanced upon some food worth protecting from each other.
But I have to say that the star for me tonight was this handsome fox hunting either insects or rodents in the freshly cut grass over one of the meadows
Finally (as if this hasn't been a long enough post already!) I feel I ought to post this squirrel too, if for no better reason than it seems to be several months since one of its species last got on here!
Summer is reaching its zenith and yet the air is cooler and more pleasant today than earlier in the week. Breezes rustle the hedgerows and as the sky softly fades towards evening, foxes appear on the high ridges.
I saw this small male fox tonight slipping silently between empty horse paddocks and waited hopefully alongside a fence along his path. He seemed oblivious to me, chewing at something in the grass - crickets, perhaps? - and weaving back and forth.
He was so quiet. Foxes, of course, can be astonishingly talkative, and I hear their piercing, squealing chatter in the darkness several times a week. But today, this fox made no more sound than a velvet-footed cougar, yet he spoke in other ways. I noticed his obvious hunger, his stream-lined summer coat, his speedy walking: hints of his fortunes in the last few days.
Higher still, horses waited for dusk.
But back down in the residential areas, I spied something perhaps less beautiful but even more eloquent, in its own way.
First rule of living in Fox Country: tennis balls left unattended will be appropriated without hesitation. It's worth a smile. Some fox had a fun game
The sun is beating down, the crickets are chirping in the meadows, and the humidity is fairly fierce. It does not seem to be weather that would encourage activity, yet swifts wheel and dive high overhead, and even back on terra firma, some creatures rebel against the sensibility of resting in the shade
In early evening, foxes can be found in meadows, typically not doing too much
Though occasionally showing a bit more life.
But mammal sightings are peaking sharply after dark at the moment. Unfortunately, the night that a beautiful sow (female) badger decided to pose in plain view front of the car was one where I didn't have the camcorder with me but even so, I've got a fair amount of footage in the headlights over the past few days.
This clip starts with something I see very rarely - a roe deer fawn young enough to still have a few spots! If you look carefully, you can see some fox eyeshine in the background about 41 seconds into the footage I've also included some recent footage of a wild cub out and about in the local area
(Please press F5 to refresh your browser if the video doesn't work)
One other picture today - this frog surprised me on a local footpath. It was impressively well camouflaged
(And one other thing, if I am allowed a gripe, it would be nice to upload pictures on Opera without a Proxy Error just once in a while. I don't mind the occasional error / downtime but this has been going on for weeks now! Please sort it out!)