Saturday 20 February 2010


Well today I saw a fox and about time too, say I. And was this fox sighted in the neighbourhood of our temporary abode? No, it was not. It was on a site visit to the rubble-strewn wasteland that is our real house, currently unoccupied.

Of course I had to check on my little ponds - (not a sign of frogspawn, thin sheets of ice) and the wall crossing beside the grass heap. At the latter a very strong smell of fox. Nothing to be seen in Martin's, though. I checked the shed and was glad to notice the underground entrances smooth as if from use. Looking over the back wall into Jackson's, I heard a scuffle and glancing to my left, glimpsed a large fox climbing to its feet and gracefully loping away. I could only see that it was a bright orangey colour, thickly furred (suitable for the coldest winter in 40 years!) and had a small neat white tail tag.

Well that did me the world of good, it has been far too long since I saw my totem animal. Of course we do see them at night if coming home late, etc. in the Dublin streets - but proper suburban dwellers seem to be missing from the nearby district where we now reside.

By the way the house is coming along nicely but the garden will need radical remodelling!

Sunday 3 January 2010

New Year, new house, new animals

Hello there! It's been far too long since I posted anything.
Just to update - there was practically NO visible fox activity for those months anyway.
They were about in the neighbourhood, but they sure were avoiding my garden and the nearest gardens: food left out at night would be taken, but otherwise nor hide nor hair was seen. forward: we have moved house, temporarily: our own place is having some long-overdue renovating, which includes demolishing and rebuilding the kitchen and garage...and the builder wants us OUT, with every twig and leaflet that we own, (which is lots.)

So we are now installed in a bungalow about a mile away, very near the N11, with our furniture and possessions around us and a dreary little north-facing garden.

What we have seen, several times, are squirrels: grey ones of course, on the ground, and in the grounds of a nearby school. I'm told they are very good eating...any offers??
I saw no sign of any foxes until this week when snow lay on the ground, and took the chance to check the garden for prints.
Lots of woodpigeons, small birds and - yes, look! Fox prints!! Just one little line of but I'm happy.
So I upgraded the bird-feeding arrangements to a largish upturned wooden drawer as a suitable feeding table and now await developments.
That was yesterday, and the inviting, smelly end of a Brie rind that was left out overnight is still there..but we'll work on this and lure them in.
New Year resolutions: to post regularly, here on the blog...and a happy New Year to all my readers!

Sunday 30 August 2009

All quiet on the western front

If there's one think foxes love, it's heat. And if there's one thing that they hate, it's rain.
So that might explain why we have seen so little of our fox family this summer.
Barring a couple of glimpses which I have not yet described:

Once, for instance, I went down the garden to the compost bins and tossed my bucketful of scraps into its container. I noticed the foxy smell and glanced at the hollowed-out places under the nearby shed. They are well worn by now...
Outside one of these runways a straggly end of marmalade fur lay limply on the earth:
-Oh no, I thought, one of the little brutes has killed a cat!
(you always hear of this but never seen it...)
Bending over to look closer, the "end of fur" was hastily pulled under the shed to the sound of agitated clonks and scuffles from overcrowded home with no room to stow a tail away!

That was a couple of weeks ago and not much has been seen since.

However last week there was a fine hot day, a nice novelty, and there sure enough, punctual as clockwork, lay a young fox on Mary Martin's concrete path, blissfully snoozing in the sunshine!
I couldn't see which one it was, but one of the Middles is likeliest.
Mama fox has not been sighted, and Sandy has not been seen either.
But today, a very small fox appeared on my terrace while we prepared lunch. She checked the dishes and scampered away.
Small, dainty and a bit thin, it was certainly Charmer.
Didn't I say that the small ones are often survivors?

Tuesday 30 June 2009

Little charmer!

We have been watching the fox family, and feeding them. Although I always leave food on a plastic dish beside my frog-pond, others are less careful: My neighbour's garden is a wilderness of shredded packaging. In fact, another neighbour, also elderly, is away on holidays and I am watering her houseplants. Her back lawn is also covered with rubbish, including a shopping bag spilling out onions and potatoes. How do foxes know when a garden is unvisited?
Yesterday P and I stood at our bedroom window looking at the vixen and one of the cubs: comfortably couched quite near us, playfully nuzzling and nipping, grooming, open-mouthing and generally the picture of relaxed affection. The mother has quite bad mange so the drops I add to her food have not helped much if at all. I can only let Nature take its course - the possible interventions are all complicated, uncertain and possibly counterproductive.
Today I went down the garden and stood up on my grass-clippings pile to squint over the wall into Martin's. out from the shrubbery on my right trotted the smallest of the cubs, quite oblivious of me: I was downwind of him, above him, but only about 10 feet away!
S/he paused and cocked her head, pointing perfectly like any retriever, poised on three paws, the fourth daintily lifted. Then she scampered back into the bushes, entirely unworried and unhurried.
I have seen this little charmer before: the cub family consists of a Large (Sandy) two Mediums, (nameless) and a Smallest, this little sweetheart here. Many fox families that we have seen over the years follow this pattern: the littlest one is often one of the survivors, because the shyest and most cautious!
It is impossible to sex fox cubs by eye alone but I'm guessing female, fairly randomly I admit, just because she seems so delicate and feminine i.e. small! I hereby christen her Charmer!

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Four cubs and a vixen

Calloo callay! Spotted tonight, bounding around in the long grass of Martins' uncut lawn; first Sandy, the groundbreaker. Then another very small cub. Then a third, and then Mama, shaking her head Mary Poppins-style and sitting down heavily under the palm tree to watch her brood. And then we noticed that two cubs were scrapping to our left. And another two to our right. Definitely four! That is,unless a last and shyest one has yet to appear.
They scamper and swivel like otters, like greyhounds: they are very fast and they love to chase, one of them had a ball of white paper, it appeared, and the others pursued and hunted it.
Wow, I love watching cubs play! And we have had a couple of years with no cubs.
This bunch we assume to be the young Stringfellow tribe: ominously, their Mama has a large bare patch of mange on her left haunch. I will dose their food carefully from now we must choose names for all the cubs.
All are sandy, a surprisingly pale colour for a fox. Almost beige, some of them.
Sandy, big brother. What else is sandy or beige? beaches? deserts?
All suggestions gratefully received...

Sunday 24 May 2009


We have been seeing a half-grown cub in our garden and next door. He, or, of course, she, was first seen very shortly after the sad demise of Stringfellow. He is a good size and sometimes seen with an adult. If he was born, as most cubs are, around St Patrick's Day, he is better grown than some would be at this stage.
It is unusual that we have seen no others: a single-cub litter seems rare to us who have watched fox families for years. But it is possible that there is a more unpleasant explanation...
For the first few weeks after birth, the cubs remain underground in the breeding earth, with their mother. The dog fox brings food for her which he lays outside. Gradually the little foxes' blue eyes open and their chocolate brown fur becomes paler. After a while the vixen begins to leave them for short periods and the children, left alone, fight among themselves. This may account for the tumult of yelping, shrieking and growling that we have sometimes heard at dead of night very early in the year: I read somewhere that the cubs fight for dominance at this time and it may happen that the strongest one kills all the others.
Or possibly, Stringfellow and his missus just had a small family!
Whatever the reason, Sandy is so called because he is sandy in colour, quite pale for a fox cub, and full of mischief! He has been skittering around Martin's, exploring the lawn, sunbathing, and jumping around the adult that we presume is his mother, the quondam Mrs Stringfellow.
Fox cubs are as charming as puppies and kittens and just as lively: a delight to watch! Poor Mary Martin now has a garden full of ripped plastic bags, chewed shoes and food wrappers...ah well, kids grow up fast!

Friday 1 May 2009

Rest in peace

I heard along the neighbourly grapevine how Stringfellow's story ended. We last saw him crawling along the hedge of the house directly behind mine, on a Monday. Evidently he had a way through, for the following Wednesday, the mother of that household found a dead fox about midday on the grass verge in front of her house. She found that a local vet would not dispose of the body free of charge, but the body was eventually removed by the DSPCA. The description corresponds exactly with poor Stringfellow, who apparently hung on for about 48 hours from when we saw him.
Mange is a horrible, horrible thing: material for another post!