I was feeling somewhat inspired after last nights BBC Springwatch episode and had a sudden urge to get outside and see what was about. The sun had already set behind the hills and I found myself in that time that isn’t light but is equally not yet dark. The evening chorus was in full flow with Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Robins calling from what seemed to be every direction. They were often outdone however by the numerous Song Thrushes and Blackbirds, the latter of which seemed to delight in erupting from the undergrowth just as I approached. I often wonder if they realise that just sitting tight would be a far more effective tactic at concealing their presence, but thus far any attempt at broaching the subject has been met with blank looks or a rapidly retreating black missile. But I digress.
A screeching call from down the valley had me scanning the area intently for any sign of an owl, a bird that I am sure must hunt this area and one which I have so far been wholly unsuccessful in finding. This night was to be no different. I turned around intending to continue along the path and was forced to stop dead in my tracks. There, standing out in the open about twenty meters further up the hill, was a magnificent Red Fox. It’s full attention was focused on me but it was clearly relaxed and seemed to be more curious at my unexpected presence than in fear of any perceived threat. We studied each other for what seemed like minutes but must have been only seconds, time slowing down in that way it does when experiencing one of those intimate encounters with nature. I was able to take in minute details such as the depth and sheen of the Fox’s coat, the slight dampness to its nose and the way it held it’s surprisingly bushy tail clear of the ground. After taking its fill the Fox took a few more steps across the path, stopped once more for another lingering look, and then disappeared into the bracken blanket that covers the valley sides.
I remained where I stood for a few minutes, hoping that the Fox would return or that another may be somewhere in the vicinity. When it was clear that I was once more alone I approached the place where the Fox had taken its leave. Here I found a clearly discernible path through the undergrowth, presumably indicating that this a regular route. I always find it amazing that chance encounters like this ever take place. The Fox probably walks that way once, maybe twice an evening so the probability of me being there at that exact moment must be incredibly remote. Whatever the odds I am always glad when they are soundly beaten.
One of my local bloggers Jeremy also had an encounter with a Fox this week, and his excellent photos can be seen here. Foxes have had a bit of bad press here in the UK over the last year (much of which has been scaremongering or plainly incorrect), and this is a great shame as they are fantastic animals. I have heard Foxes around our house on occasion and even been fortunate to see one once in the garden late at night. I am sorely tempted to purchase a camera trap and to place it around the local area to see if I can calculate the size of the Fox population and map where they range. Sorely tempted indeed.