The Fox Theme Continues

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Friday May 6th 2011: I want a photograph of a marsh foxes with its kill, so I need to be in a position where I can wait without the foxes being aware that I am watching. I need a good all round view of the pasture. I know it’s a long shot, expecting a fox to walk past me with a rabbit, pigeon or pheasant in its mouth, but they have to eat, and if I don’t make the effort,  I am unlikely to get to get the image I want.

The problem with this strategy is that if the fox sees me too often, even though he might not realise what I am, because of my camouflage, he will be suspicious when he/she is next in the area. One of the ways that might help to ‘out-fox’ the fox, is to approach the pasture from a different direction each time; another might be to vary my camouflage; another might be to get in position really early and wait, probably a long time, until a fox appears. At the end of the day, luck is involved and there is no guarantee of getting the shot that I am after, but I am going to give it go. It would be nice to get some shots of their cubs, too.

Fox’s dinner.

Anyway, I skirted around the North Pond this evening and waited a while to see if the vixen would appear again on the pond bank: she didn’t. The mallard and her eight ducking and the two coots were there, though, and yellow flag irises were beginning to flower.

As I walked around the end of the wood there was already a fox on the pasture and it looked as if it had made a kill, but it was too far away to be certain and the grass was long. I snapped off a few shots and inched carefully forward. The fox remained in the same place and its head was going down to the ground every now and again, as though he was eating.


I knew the game would be up for this evening if the fox saw me; he or she would high-tail it out of there and wouldn’t be back any time soon. This fox wasn’t going to stay in place was for too long, either, so I kept inching forward, taking photographs as I went. Then the fox looked my way. It was too late. I had spooked it. I stood as still as I could, but the fox wasn’t looking away: its gaze just narrowed and its head dropped a little. The game was up now and the fox began to move away, not very quickly, but it soon disappeared amongst the trees and bushes. I was pretty sure that the fox hadn’t picked-up my scent, because the breeze was blowing towards me; I think it was probably wondering if the bush it was now looking at had been there 5 minutes ago.

I waited around for almost an hour, but I didn’t see another fox. I will try again, though. There are more than enough rabbits, pigeons and pheasants on the north marsh, and particularly on the lagoon field, to ensure that they will be back another evening.

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Foxes, foxes and more foxes!

Fox in the pasture.

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Wednesday May 4th 2011: This evening I decided to try my luck at shooting a few decent images of the north marsh foxes. I photographed them yesterday, but the shots were opportunistic and I am not happy with them. So at 6:30 this evening I pulled on a pair of brown trousers, slung my Ghillie jacket and camera bag over my shoulder, and walked down to the marsh determined to hone my tree mimicking skills.

Coots, and the female mallard with her eight ducklings, swam happily in North Pond. I stood watching the ducks when a vixen appeared on the opposite bank: looking for something tasty to eat, no doubt. The mallard, being far too smart for this fox, moved her ducklings to the safety of the reeds. I was a tree, so the fox didn’t pay me any attention – for a while at least. She looked up, down and across the pond and sniffed the air. She must have seen a glint from my camera lens, or heard the clicking of the shutter. Perhaps my tree mimicking was not quite slick enough. She stared at me for around 15 to 20 seconds, from a few different angles, trying to work out what she was looking at. My tree impression had not fooled her after all. She quickly turned and ran into the wood.

Fox stalking the duck and ducklings (She has spotted me!)

I settled down in the north pasture to wait for the foxes to reappear. Twenty minutes later the vixen squeezed through the pasture fence. She sniffed the air and began working an area of grass in front of me. With her nose close to the ground, I saw eyes her eyes glinting in the bright evening sunlight. I stood exposed in the middle of the pasture; she was unaware I was watching her. After a while, perhaps 4-5 minutes, I noticed that her eyes had zeroed in on my boots. She trotted towards me. Her nose continuously sniffed the air, and her eyes were fixed on my boots – she thought my grey fabric boots were rabbits I expect. I was a little concerned that my boots might be about to get a savage gnawing. As her head filled my viewfinder she hesitated, stopped, thought better of it, and ran off towards the pasture fence.

A few of the images I made this evening are in the slide-show, below:

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Foxes and a Great Spotted Woodpecker …

Cormorant on the North Pond pylon.

Tuesday May 3rd 2011: … a couple of coots, a female mallard with half a dozen ducklings hiding amongst the pond reeds, were amongst the varied wildlife I saw on the north marsh this evening. The level of the pond continues to drop and it is now possible to cross between the north end of the pond and the swam without getting one’s feet wet.

Buttercups are showing quiet widely on the marsh now and Common Carder Bees are all over the place.

A cormorant, the first I have seen in a couple of weeks, was sitting on the north Pond pylon and there were a couple of foxes prowling the southern end of the north pasture.

I photographed the Great Spotted Woodpecker at around 07:30 this morning. I was hoping to shoot the Green Woodpecker, but he has avoided my lens once again.

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Blooming lovely …

Monday May 2nd 2011:  … Today is a very windy day. I thought I would walk through Hoo Wood and then through the north end of the marsh, photographing all the different blooms on the way. Hawthorn is the blooming bush at the moment in Hoo Wood.

The photographs in the slide-show are in order, walking north to south through Hoo Wood and South to north through the north marsh.

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A few unleashed dogs …

2011_04_30 Demoiselle Fly.

Friday 29th April 2011: … and their owners are still roaming the north marsh, totally ignoring the ‘Private’ signs. On the southern end of the marsh, the ‘Private’ signs have been pulled down and destroyed – by a disgruntled person, or persons, I suppose.

I have seen a number of  pregnant muntjacs on the north marsh, and I know of at least one owner who actively encourages his large German Pointer to chase the marsh animals and he is not shy about telling people this, either:  ‘This is what these dogs are bred for,’ he reasons. Whilst I don’t have a problem with using dogs to hunt –  as long as it is carried out responsibly and in an approved and controlled environment, I do have a problem with large dogs rampaging through the North Pond and the swamp during the breeding season – this is a nature reserve, after all. Such activity is likely to drive animals away from an area that is supposed to be a sanctuary.

The problem is that dogs are seen as predators by the marsh animals. Dog owners have used the fact that foxes are predators in an effort to justify running their dogs free on the reserve. Foxes are indeed wild animals, this can not be denied, and they are, by their very nature, effective predators, but foxes are also stealthy, hungry, animals that need to hunt and kill to survive, and they are part of the natural fabric of the marsh. Domesticated dogs, on the other hand, tend to run around  all  over the place like mad things, making a lots of noise, chasing anything that moves, and generally disrupting the daily lives of the reserve animals.

‘I’ve been walking this marsh for ‘X’ number of years and no one is going to stop me now,” is another statement sometimes used as a justification for roaming the reserve. The fact is that the marsh is privately owned. However, permission can be obtained from the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, who are marsh owners and managers, to access the marsh, subject to various rules and regulations being adhered to. The rules and regulations are necessary in order to protect the existing fauna and flora, and also to encourage new wildlife to live and breed on Wilden Marsh Reserve.