Monday 20 April 2009


What a lovely morning it was today. I strolled around the garden, inspecting violets, checking on tadpoles, etc. Noticing that the fox food from last night was gone, but a strong smell lingered in the still, dewy air. I had gardeners coming to do some chores today so I went and fetched the petrol can and put it on the terrace table. Some bluebottles flew up.
We have suspected a leak in the sewage pipe near that spot. I peered under table, but could see nothing. A home-made hutch for Cleo the cat to sleep out in is under that table too, but Cleo was indoors. So why was there a paw sticking out?
I backed away from the table, and peered directly under it. There, not one foot from my own toes, was a fox in the box, on top of Cleo's cushion.
I promise you, gentle readers, I was so gobsmacked I was breathless! I ran quickly and quietly into the house and got my mobile phone, took a couple of pics. Fox barely moved - in fact at first I had thought it might be dead!
A runny eye blinked, flies buzzed around. The camera-phone has no zoom. But luckily, just then, I heard my husband arriving home from an early-morning errand. I called him, and son no, 4, to view the fox. "Pretty cool!"
Patrick is a keen photographer and he fetched his excellent camera. Took several shots of the fox in the box, and then the fox got uneasy and began to come out. We were shocked to see the mangy hindquarters so close - naked haunches: septic scabs: lame left back leg. He limped off down the garden.
Later, when the gardeners were working, one of them pointed out our poor sick fox asleep in the picnic area, and reported seeing him unable to jump the wall: banging his head as if blind in one eye, which was indeed very suppuratey.
I phoned the DSPCA, in distress: thay said that they would send a van if we could get it into a crate. But our attempts only caused Stringfellow to crawl through the only possible gap into a neighbouring garden, (Cassidys) and then further out of sight, unreachable.
So that was that. Poor creature, he looked on his last legs. Probably dead by now, already.
It was the nearest we ever were to one of our own foxes, and rather touching to see him in the cat's hutch. Near his food supply, in a comfy spot.
I think now of his vixen, probably nearby with cubs, but not in our or Martin's garden:
There is a row of houses further up where all the owners are elderly and their long gardens probably overgrown. Of course a sensible vixen will choose there. She will have to defend the cubs herself now.

Thursday 16 April 2009

Take a look at this!

Spotted by my husband on YouTube: lovely film of a fox in, I think, Yellowstone Park.

Saturday 11 April 2009

Wildlife watching in Offaly

Carl stood on the canal bank, fishing. Behind him, lower, was the cottage. On the opposite bank, fields sloped upwards to the road. All was quiet in that remote spot.
Carl turned away, pausing in his work: he needed more ground bait from the picnic table in the cottage garden.
Returning up the bank to the waterside, he heard a sizeable splash.
"Hmm, that's a good-size fish for me to catch", he thought.
Resuming his rod, he gazed at the water: but the surface was undisturbed. Then greatly to his surprise an animal climbed out of the water on the far side: it scrambled up the bank, shook itself, paused and looked back at the amazed Carl, and trotted away up the slope along the western hedgerow. Was it an otter? The first, likeliest guess? No. A dog? No. A mink, a stoat? No.
It was a fox. Definitely, unmistakeably. Carl is from South Dublin: he knows foxes well.
In fact, at the cottage, foxes are rarely seen. The few previous sightings were both in the area of that self-same western hedge of the opposite field - evidently a traditional track.
Could the fox have been swimming to catch fish? I've never heard of this! Though Carl reports that fish are scarce this year. And foxes are known to eat dead fish on the seashore.
Perhaps the fox routinely hunts on this side the canal, and prefers to take a shortcut home, instead of a 2-kilometre walk via the bridge.
Maybe the fox only checks out our side when people are about, because there may be food scraps in the compost, or bait.
Maybe he was hiding, taken by surprise, waiting his chance to get clear: I've seen foxes do this, they are very collected.
By the way, there is no other inhabited house nearby on our side: no henhouse or animal feed, no dustbins. Plenty of birds in our trees, and some mice and rats no doubt. One other holiday cottage, some cattle, troughs, rushes and boggy fields.
We have seen, over the years, rabbits and hares, and sheep. There are ducks and moorhens, herons and swans on the canal. So I suppose an enterprising fox could arrange to feed a young family, if he was willing to take a swim! At this time of year, there may well be cubs underground in the care of their mother. Papa fox must forage for them all.
Still, it was a very unusual sighting: and I am very pleased to record it here!

Sunday 5 April 2009

Mortality rate

Well, I did put green plastic trellis over the two little ponds. Alas, it mustn't have been tight enough: the spawn is all gone from the upper pond. I had left a gap so that the frog itself would be able to get in and must have nuzzled its head underneath at one side and scoffed the lot!
However, spawn survives in the black plastic one: developing well.
I have spent time over the last few weeks planting trees with the Irish Wildlife Trust, and a couple of little hollies at the cottage. Last autumn's hazels are doing well...
I stopped filling the bird feeders, and now see many fewer birds! The official guidance is to keep it up until about June, but I forgot...
Warm weather has warmed the soil, grass is growing, plants shooting up.

FOXES: We have seen nothing, not a sausage. Well, a sausage, little scat on the lawn. Overnight food gone. Frogspawn vanished.
10 days ago I heard night screaming, yelping, growling, snarling, at about 2 a.m. Maybe 2 animals, tho' it's hard to tell. I ventured to hope that it represented the mother fox giving birth, as I seem to remember that the same happens each year about this time...but it's a secret life they lead.
Denning is underground, and that's where the babies stay for 6 weeks or so. And adults are very cagey at this time, so it's mostly guesswork and patience until May. We shall see!