For some time we have known that our local common was home to a number of rural foxes. We’d seen one carrying off a rabbit and occasional heard them calling at the start of the mating season. In 2016 we invested in a trail camera to record the comings and goings of the hedgehogs in the garden. Only to find that an adult fox, possibly a vixen with a damaged leg was a regular visitor. She stayed around for most of that winter. But we have over the years struggled to get any photographs, other than those from the trail camera.
With the country forced into lock-down and travel restricting everyone to their local area we had the opportunity to explore. Suddenly more of the villagers began reporting regular sightings of foxes in daylight on the common. Some capturing images of a vixen and cubs that had set up home not far from our house. Considering most rural foxes are very wary of people our challenge was locate the foxes, Then to find a way to capture some images of them behaving naturally. The garden trail cameras at this time were recording nightly visits from a fox. That looked to be a young cub together with a badger from a local sett that was feeding a number of badger cubs.
After a number of evenings spent walking on the common searching out possible locations where we might find the foxes we met with success. Our first encounter was a fleeting glimpse of an adult disappearing back into to the hedgerow.
A few evenings later we encountered an adult fox strolling along the side of the drain. Giving us out first opportunity to capture a full coloured image, but from a distance. After talking to a local gentleman, Robert, who had been monitoring the villages wildlife during the lock-down. It turned out that our first encounter was with a vixen who had been living on the common for some years.
Unfortunately she had lost the sight in one eye and as the result of a possible shooting had a portion of her jaw missing. Despite which she was raising eight cubs in an earth not far from where we had spotted her. Our next encounter was with a cub, whilst I was staking out the badger sett. Initially I thought it was the youngster who was visiting the garden each night. However after speaking to Robert who was monitoring the foxes, it turned out that there were in fact two active earths very close to each other. One very close to our house and that our garden visitor was one of the eight cubs from that earth.
First afternoon at the Earth.
As Robert was regularly monitoring the earths. I joined him one afternoon to see if it was a possible to get some closer shots of the foxes in daylight. It turned out that my first visit provided to one of those rare times when the wildlife puts on a show that you can sometime only dream about.
We arrived at the earth in the late afternoon and positioned ourselves and cameras close to a hedgerow and with the wind blowing from the earth towards us. Within five minutes a cub had appeared from a hole in the far hedge. Soon to be followed by a second and then a third. The first one appeared to be keeping its eye on us. While the other two engaged in what can only be described as greeting behaviour rubbing their rumps and tails together. Something I had not seen before in any wildlife documentaries. This was followed by the cubs engaging in play fighting before they all disappeared back into the hedge. This left me with hundreds of images to sort through. before returning another day to see if it was possible to get even closer.
Cubs at Play
Below are a few of those images of the cubs at play, developing the skills that they are going to need as adults.