Saturday 24 May 2008

Where are they?

Just chatting with Mary Martin last week, we were exchanging remarks with the gardeners who are still working at the next house over, a large corner site. Someone mentioned the foxes, and one of the gardeners piped up: "And there are cubs as well! We saw them last week, didn't we, Jim?" And the other chap described how they had heard sounds like dogs whimpering one morning about half-eleven, and had propped a ladder against the wall to look over, and had seen maybe six cubs! And Mary herself chimed in, that she had seen cubs too, five or six of them.

So where are they? I've set my clock for 5.30 a.m. just to look for cubs, and seen none. We've all stared out upstairs windows and over walls, and seen none.

Even as I write, all three adult foxes are sprawled in blissful sleep on the lawn next door, soaking up the sunshine in a row like some Riviera beach. There's nothing to suggest that the family has "moved house", as foxes are sometimes wont to do, moving a litter to a new location.

Last night I did think I heard a little chattering at the bottom of the garden. I'd love to see them, though.

Friday 16 May 2008

Hasty Update

Was away last weekend and had a busy week, so I haven't kept this up to date with the latest.

Anyway, all three adult foxes are now regularly seen. All three look well, and they have been seen several times sprawled out in a neat row like sucking piglets, soaking up the sun in Martin's Riviera! Hers is a very large, secluded, walled, overgrown, south-and-west-facing garden.

The one I call Roisin has grown a bit. The official informations claim that foxes reach adult height in their first year, but I really disagree on the basis of many years' observations. We have often seen a smallish fox in the springtime - often, as in this case, an ancillary female - and as the year goes on, this yearling fills out and acquires an adult strength and build, and a little height and breadth.

Roisin is now an exceedingly handsome vixen, amber coloured, pure white cheeks, and a lovely white snowball tail tag.

It has been beautiful hot weather: in London last weekend, it was burn-your-arm scalding. Our foxes look peaceful and healthy. I'm still feeding them, of course, and adding mange drops to the food.

Until next time!

Sunday 4 May 2008


It has been a beautiful, sunny day in Dublin. Growth is lush in garden and park and the barbecue season has begun.

If there's one thing foxes love, it's a sunny spot for a snooze, and so it was today. A brown bundle could be seen beside the yellow privet, and I took it to be Halftail. Great was my surprise, and pleasure, to observe, when it got up and walked off, my old friend Ragtip! He strolled away towards the den area, and what's this? behind the spot where he had lain, another fox still lay, curled up in a cosy heap. After a few minutes, this one also got up, and it still wasn't Halftail, but a smallish, coppery fox with a perfect tail, round white tag.

Well, well, well! Ragtip and Roisin, still on the territory, and both headed for the den area! Our three adult foxes still on the job!

I'm amused at the coincidence (after yesterday's report) and delighted to see them.

Saturday 3 May 2008

Teasing Teasels

Don't bother planting teasels in your garden. Some books reccomend this for attracting goldfinches, who are said to enjoy the seeds. I have never seen a singkle goldfinch, or any other bird, on any teasel. Even the option of spraying the seedheads gold for Christmas soon palls, they are very prickly. They spread like wildfire and their only wildlife benefit is the little pool of rainwater that forms at the bases of the leaves. Because of their biennial habit, new rosettes of prickly leaves are always popping up. They are a snare and a delusion, don't bother with teasels.

Wild Garden

First, some good news from our country estate: we found frogspawn there, in an old bucket full of stagnant green water. Took a jamjar-full, and have put this into our two little sinks here at the home station. Now crossing our fingers!
And continuing the theme: this morning, mooching moodily around the garden, missing my cigarettes, I heard a splashing and there was a large frog in the terrace pond! As big as my closed fist, and healthy looking, not bleached or blackened or reddened. He or she hovered at the water surface, opening and shutting little eyes, while a few bubbles rose to the surface. Do frogs fart?

While I watched, I muttered: Be careful! Two dead frogs found in this garden since the spring began! Get under a leaf and stay still when foxes are about! And then, interrupting the reverie, a large queen wasp emerged from the weeds and I beat a hasty retreat; (I have a strong wasp allergy, potentially very dangerous)
She flew gracefully around the water, sometimes swooping, but did not stoop to drink as I have sometimes seen wasps do.

Perhaps this large lady was acting as a bodyguard to the frog! I just hope she does not pick a nesting site too close to us.

Back upstairs to housework and happened to look out, and what do you think? There was Halftail, alert, in Martin's back garden, scratching as usual. The tail is no worse, at least, and the general condition of fur looks better. Had a good look at her. The bib is really very dark, mottled grey and black. Even the fur on her back is very dark, and she is a large, stocky animal, (as foxes go).

Ragtip, her presumptive mate, hasn't been seen for ages. But Halftail cannot be the smallish, orange-furred one that I regularly put up as it sleeps on the ground near Jackson's shed. Probably the presumed auntie, Roisin, but some of these ascriptions are necessarily tentative! Roisin could be a male, the father, possibly.

If there were any cubs under that shed, we would expect to start seeing them around now; but we must set our alarm clock to wake very early!

Our own garden shed now has almost a young tunnel leading under it.

Things are happening in the garden, but not before our eyes, or to our timetable. Life teaches humility, does it not?