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15th September 2011: I am hiding amongst trees at the north end of North Pond, settling down to a bit of watching and waiting – a fun thing to do, if you have the time. The evening light is beginning to fade. Something has spooked a cock pheasant at the far end of the line of trees that extend to the electricity pylon. This is where Poncey lives; he spends a lot of time close to that pylon, roosting in an oak tree. The pheasant’s squawking is getting louder as he closes in on my hiding place. He is flying low over the pond. He is turning towards an open area of ground to the east of the pond, close to the five-bar access gate to the lagoon field. This is one of Poncey’s favourite places. I watched him doing his courting there earlier in the year, and I have kept a close eye on him ever since. He could be found perched in his oak tree most evenings. He always made a hasty and noisy exit when he saw me approaching, though. Over time, I have managed to creep increasingly closer to his tree before he sees me.
Anyway, the pheasant, most likely it is Poncey, has landed in the area next to the five-bar-gate. I could see his head bobbing above the grass a few seconds ago, but I can’t see him at all now! I can hear him making a terrible noise, though. A noise I have heard many times on the marsh. Now everything is quiet. I quickly climb up the tree I was leaning against, to get a better view. I already have an inkling of what might be happening, and it’s just as I thought! Two marsh foxes are running off towards the lagoon field fence, one of them with the pheasant firmly clamped in its jaws. Poncey’s head is flopping about all over the place. The fox carrying Poncey is scrabbling under the fence. The second fox is already on the lagoon side and quickly snatches the bird from the other fox’s mouth. They are now running to Withy Wood, where they will eat poor old Poncey. The marsh foxes obviously find that hunting as a pair works well for them. The foxes carry large prey to the privacy of Withy Wood to eat it.
Poncey was a large pheasant, and I considered him a smart pheasant. Any bird has to be very careful where it lands, particularly at this time of year. Hiding-out in an oak tree was one of Poncey’s better ideas, but landing in any area close the North Pond, without checking it out first, is very definitely not recommended. The North Pond is a favourite hunting place for the marsh foxes.
I have checked Poncey’s tree on a couple of occasions since, and his absence is proof enough for me: he is dead!
This episode proves that getting too involved with a wild animal is not a good idea: it will end in disappointment. It also shows the folly of investing a lot of time studying a single wild animal: it will either drop dead, or another animal will eat it.