5th February 2012: It snowed last evening and overnight. This morning I thought the snow cover offered an excellent opportunity to see how much animal activity occurred on the marsh since 4 pm yesterday.
Entering the marsh at the Hoo Brook end, early this afternoon, I saw a pair of boot prints stretching out ahead of me and another, the same boot print, coming back along the track and out onto Wilden Lane. Fifty meters down the track, the person must have had second thoughts about continuing his morning walk on the marsh.
Almost immediately I saw fox and badger tracks in the snow. There was a dozen small yellow urine marks in amongst a particularly dense concentration of badger, fox and rabbit paw prints. A little further along the brook was the unmistakable foot prints of a pheasant; fox prints ran along either side. It quickly became clear that there were animal tracks all over the place. I took a look at a badger’s set, the one I suspect being a fox earth, there were fox prints leading up to the entrance and others leading away from it. A track made by a single pheasant also climbed right up to the sett entrance, stopping at the very edge of its rim. Possibly, the pheasant fell down the hole – I think not; perhaps it flew away, or maybe the fox had grabbed it. My brain now complained of information overload. Nothing is ever clear cut on the marsh!
I checked out Hoo Brook wood; the un-grazed pasture between the River Stour and the swamp; all around the North Pond, and the north pasture. The story was the same in each case: where there were animal tracks, the foxes had stalked them; they even followed the muntjac tracks. A single pheasant track ran from the North Pond all the way to Hoo Brook; a distance of around 400 meters. A fox had picked up the pheasant track about fifty meters from the pond and followed it all the way to the brook.
Rabbit tracks were everywhere. The foxes have not eaten all the marsh rabbits; they just prefer to stay at home on cold winter days. I think it is fair to say that there is a lot of animal activity on the marsh during the night, as borne out by my remote cameras.
I found what could be a fox den entrance under a brash pile; the entrance is the right size, and it is freshly dug. This might be the den I have been searching for….