Monday, August 01, 2011

Definitely not badgers!

When someone told me about an area of woodland within a walk (or short drive) from the village where they had seen badgers it sparked my interest.  As so often around here it can be hard to find a spot where others (walkers or dog walkers) don't go, but within a few hundred yards of the described location I found a spot where there was a natural looking track between two slightly raised areas.  I scattered some peanuts around and set up the trail camera.  Next day nothing seemed to have gone, but the day after the nuts were missing, a pattern which continued over a couple more nights.  Retrieving the camera I had a pleasant surprise - no badgers but a fox family - 4 cubs, still suckling, but old enough to have fun.  They weren't there every night, but what was exciting was the fact that a couple of appearances were in the early evening.
This isn't a place you could use a hide.  In fact there was only one spot where I could lie down between some plants and get a view of the area.  However I have found that if you are low (I lie flat with a large bean bag - not so good for the neck though), draped in camo and the only real view the target will get is of the lens, then you can get often get some shots.
I had three concerns.  I knew I would do a bit of feeding to ensure the foxes came, but I had to limit this to avoid any dependency.  I wanted to avoid any habituation with people.  I wanted to avoid giving my location away to others.  There are enough people in this area who will target foxes, so I didn't want to put them at risk.
I have never seen anyone else there, so that's a start.  One night when I had put down some food a fox appeared as I was walking away.  It turned and fled, so no evidence of getting used to people yet.
The first night I staked out the venue I felt that strange mix of anticipation tempered with resignation that the chance of actually seeing let alone snapping a fox was limited.  Suddenly a small shape wandered out of the bramble patch and with barely a glance around it settled down to a few peanuts.  Bingo.  This was my first shot from the site, and even if I didn't get any more I would be content.  In fact it did stick around for a few minutes, enabling some more shots.

This isn't somewhere I can go that often, and even when I have gone then I've only seen a fox perhaps half the visits, so the next snap was a month later.  The cub had clearly grown though ........

but it was a couple of weeks later when I next saw one, then two, that I felt they were really growing up.
 They would come and browse the food, but even when I had put down a bit of dog food ( the night with the camera) they didn't go mad for it, again reassuring. 
They would react to the birds flying over, and on the night when two appeared the one there first visibly stiffened and adopted a defensive posture.  No actual fighting or growling though.

I don't think they clocked me as a person, they were too confident, but I know from looking back at the setup that the lens reflected the sky to some extent, so they would have seen something unusual.

Overall I'm quite pleased with the results so far, even though the light there isn't great and quite a few of the shots were taken at high ISO settings.
I hope the weather and my timetable allow one or two more visits, as from my reading we must be nearing the time when at least some of the cubs will move on.

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