Another fox watching season begins!
14th March 2013.
Sunrise 06.25 am Sunset: 06.12 pm
This evening is the beginning of my 2013 fox watching season. The reason it begins today is purely down to foxes being on my mind for most of the week; this evening I made the effort to get things underway. I didn’t spend time up a tree watching a den, or trying to snap fox images. No, I mooched around – looking at the signs and formulating a watching plan. Last year I started too late to get images of little cuddly fox cubs.
A new eighteen foot wide fenced and gated corridor separates the lagoon field from the swamp, allowing cattle access to the far northern end of the reserve, including Hoobrook Wood and a small pasture along the east bank of the River Stour. This has worked out really well for me: a direct route to North Pond, between the swamp and the lagoon field.
On dark evenings, I can hear animals moving about on either side of the new corridor, and watch them through my night scope. The bramble tangle that covered the old northern-most filled-in lagoon has been flailed and a fenced and gated field for the cattle created. Through my night scope, I watched a couple of badgers and a fox foraging here this evening.
It really is a good time to begin things fox related. Walking through Hoo Wood this week I heard both the marsh and the Stour Hill vixens screaming. They were at it again this evening. The marsh is very definitely coming alive; no blooms yet, but rabbits are bounding about, and mallards, Canada geese, the resident moorhen, and toads are using North Pond.
When the vixen is confined in her den, and the dog fox is late delivering her dinner, she will scream from the entrance: “Call yourself a dog fox? You good-for-nothing excuse for a mate! Where’s my dinner?” The poor old dog is run ragged supplying food for the vixen and later the cubs, and it shows. He is hunting night and day. He roams the marsh as if he has the whole world on his shoulders. I’ve watched him collapse on a track exhausted. Five minutes later he is on the hunt again. He must dread April and May.
The north marsh vixen has enhanced her real-estate by digging a tunnel heading south from last year’s den, with a bolt-hole midway along its length. I am assuming her new tunnel is connected to the main den, because there isn’t any visible excavation spoil (soil). I guess she has deposited it in the old den’s birthing chamber. The vixen is very good at disguising her work; if you were passing through the area, it is unlikely that you would be aware of a den. Those not familiar with foxes and their dens would most likely think it a rabbit hole. In April, it will be the part-eaten mice, rats, moles, pigeons, rabbits, pheasants and other associated detritus scattered around that will give away the den’s location. The new tunnel is nicely formed, freshly dug, and the bolt-hole is just large enough for her to squeeze through.
If she hasn’t had her cub already, they will be born during the second half of this month. The absence of food around the den, suggests that she might not have earthed yet.
Fox cubs are born blind and deaf. The vixen will not leave their side for a couple of weeks. Unable to regulate their body temperature, they will rely totally on the vixen to keep them warm and stimulate them to urinate and defecate.
Sometime during April, the vixen will bringing her cubs above ground on warm evenings. I hope to photograph the cubs on one or two of these evening events, when the cubs are introduced to the world outside their den – if I can get it right this year. . . .