Thursday 21 August 2008

Pee is for partiality

We haven't been seeing much of our foxy friends in the gardens because of the really rotten weather. It's been one of the worst summers I remember, rain every day. That's unusual in Dublin which is often very dry. Dwellers in other parts of the country may be more resigned to it -(in places where it rains most days anyway) but I hate it. And foxes hate it too.

I don't know where they go in the wet, but it's certainly never out in the open. I guess they must go into the underground dens or deep under bushes or sheds.
One result of this has been that I've slightly lost touch with them, which explains why I was not absolutely sure, yesterday, if the fox I was watching was really Roisin.

I lookd out of my bedroom window into Martin's garden, and was just in time to see two foxes arriving, sitting down in mid-lawn, stretching: this was about 4.30 pm.
One of them, Ragtip, lay down; but the other was playful and pranced around him. This is cubbish behavior, but it looked like Roisin to me: smaller, redder, with round white tag. This one licked Ragtip on his ears, then turned her back and crouched very near him. You would have thought she was peeing but very close to him. She played around some more and nuzzled his nose, open-mouth greeting him as foxes do.

Ragtip was not much interested in all this interaction and moved to his favourite spot behind a tussock. She followed, trying to stir up a game. She did more grooming, actually licking inside his ears! Then she turned around again and this time I had the binocs on them: she peed abundantly on Ragtip's bronzy haunch. I clearly saw the stream of urine flowing down his fur.
Roisin had been marking grass and outlying bushes etc but I've never seen this before; foxes' urine usually means "this turf is mine". Ragtip did not react to it, by the way: he did not lick the spot or shake himself, but sleepily ignored her.

I am at a loss to understand the incident; why would Roisin twice urinate on the dominant dog-fox in this family group? I've never seen this either between parents and cubs or mated couples.

Several explanations are possible: one is, of course, that I misidentified either or even both. I haven't seen the foxes close up for a while. Maybe Halftail's tail has grown back and is now a narrow, sketchy tail with thin tip. (Don't think so!)

Maybe the smaller one was not Roisin but a large, well-grown male cub from this year's litter.
More possible, but out of the blue, if so.

Maybe they are who they appeared to be and are showing intimate fox behaviour; it's just new to me.

Certainly this is a time of year when younger foxes stretch their wings so to speak: Roisin may have been saying, in effect, "I've been a maiden aunt for one season, but I'll be wanting more next year".
Halftail, this year's working mother, was absent from yesterday's incident and hasn't been seen for a while: the sub-vixen may be now making her bid for the queenship.

I dunno, but it's all very intriguing.

Tuesday 5 August 2008


Hello, all my faithful readers! I'm back on duty after a spell of annual leave. We had a very nice holiday in England, thank you, and saw plenty of interesting wildlife: though, oddly, no foxes!
Sad to see the annual death roll of young badgers by the roadside.

Best was seeing birds of prey - one I think was a Hobby - above the South Downs. Also bats in a barn. Also another big bird of prey that shrieked.

This puzzled us: why on earth would this fearsome hunter spoil the element of surprise and alert every little bird and mouse for miles around?

My husband took photographs but we have yet to identify it.

Back home, there is little to report on the vulpine scene. We've seen all three lying drunk with slumber, any warm day. Over the last week in the cooler weather, Halftail has been seen less and Roisin a lot more. Hmm, the annual reshuffle in fox family dynamics!

An example occurred last night: we were taking an evening stroll around the park and admiring a stunning sunset. We paused on seeing a young fox coming towards us, but it didn't hesitate: it stopped only fifteen feet away and looked at us enquiringly. If we'd been carrying anything tasty with a strong smell, I'm sure it would have begged from our hands! We hadn't any treats, so Cub pootled around, pawing for insects etc. and then wandered off into the woods.

That's one adolescent almost ready to leave home, but is being very tame really safe? Lots of us love the foxes, but some people hate them. Nature must take its course.