Wednesday 25 June 2008

Bird dogs

Nice summer afternoon, today about half past four. Halftail slumped on the neighbour's lawn, quite near the house, much closer than usual to me and my binocs. In front of her, a cocky magpie, stalking up and down, jerking its chin up, challenging. Halftail watches, alert but not on standby: it is as though she waits to see what this conceited creature will do next. I watched this show for a while, but I've seen it before and I was very tired and sleepy. I went off for a much-needed nap, just like any sensible fox would do.

An hour late, Halftail had fallen back to a favourite perch on top of a pile of grass-clippings, - a young haystack, really; must be warm and soft. Over on our side the garden, two magpies jerked and chattered, apparently showing each other insect places around a flower planter.

I've often watched magpies interacting with foxes. It's ten years ago now since we began to see foxes regularly in our own and neighbouring gardens, and the very first summer was when I saw magpies mobbing a fox. It was about seven o clock on a June morning and my attention had been caught by the fierce Gattling-gun chatter. Looking out, I saw the dog fox pursued by a crowd of magpies: more sat on branches of trees nearby, making loud noise; the ringleaders fluttered above him as he walked down towards the breeding earth. Every now and again, a braver young buck would flutter down and aim a peck at the tail end. Really, you'd think they had heard of the expression "a kick up the arse".

Mr Fox was a bit annoyed and rattled, so to speak, but not on the run: he did get out of the way pretty smartly, probably by going underground.

Later that summer, I managed to peep behind the shed and saw many magpie feathers, aming many others. We had seen cubs play with feathers - they love toys! And I had seen foxes, on two occasions, aim a swipe at a bird, one even jumping high with outstretched paws like a cat. They never had a hope, of course.

One of my sons saw a fox walking down our suburban street on the footpath, one evening in broad daylight: a dead magpie carried in it's jaws as it jumped the front gate and onto a party wall, and so into the Martins back garden, presumably to feed the cubs. I'm guessing that that's where the feathers come from: roadkill!

So the strutting show-off magpies might have saved their posturing. A fox won't really catch a healthy magpie, but it won't turn down a dead one. Halftail wasn't scared!


Norie said...


I found your site through a common interest: "Urban Wildlife". There are five of us on blogger who named that interest with those words!

I wish you had a camera to add some photos of your foxes, but I look forward to reading more about what you see.

I live in the USA, in a southeastern state called North Carolina. Have a narrow wooded area that I see from my home office window and I watch the squirrels and birds. I also photograph the wildlife at two local parks with lakes.

I've never been to Ireland, by my first name is Irish, and my married name is Irish too!

Kind regards,


Foxwife said...

Very nice to hear from you, Norie! I don't take many photos, why keep a dog and bark yourself? My husband is the Canon-gunner.
If we ever catch any good, interesting shots of our suburban wildlife, I will certainly post them!

Foxwife said...
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