The regular fox sightings near our field pond and wild garden paint a fascinating picture of a thriving ecosystem in our backyard. Here’s an expansion of our observations.
The visiting fox, is likely a vixen, she is displaying classic hunting behavior. Her sniffing around rabbit hole could be for two reasons:
Prey Scouting: Looking for potential meals in the future.
Den Site Selection: Foxes give birth in dens, often repurposing existing burrows like those made by rabbits. So our vixen is hopefully looking for a place to bring up her fox cubs.
The time difference between our fox and rabbit sightings suggests a well-established coexistence. Rabbits are highly attuned to predators, possessing excellent hearing and sight. They detect the fox’s presence and retreat to their burrows for safety.
Foxes are more than just cunning hunters. They play a vital role in the ecosystem by controlling rodent populations, including those that can damage gardens and crops. Their presence also indicates a healthy environment with a diverse food chain. Unfortunately they do have a taste for chicken.
Another week by the pond, and not much to report. Plenty of rabbits, a definite need for an AI application to filter them out of the videos. A grey squirrel, an import from the USA, unfortunately it has found the bird feeders now, but has not learnt to climb. A sighting of a Muntjac deer most evenings. One sighting of a Fox.
The relentless drizzle had transformed our field into a patchwork of glistening puddles. Few green blades of grass, just grey puddles reflecting the leaden sky. A new habitat perhaps?
Drawn by the waters, flocks of starlings arrived, their speckled plumage gleaming against the grey backdrop. They alighted with a flurry of wings onto the makeshift islands, their chatter livening up the drabness. Their beady eyes darted, scanning the water’s surface for morsels, their movements a blur of avian industry.
But the stars of this soggy symphony were the Egrets and Grey Herons. Tall and elegant, they stalked the flooded fields with an air of regal entitlement. Their long, sinuous necks dipped and probed, their sharp beaks spearing unsuspecting invertebrates from the murky depths. Each successful strike elicited a guttural croak, a triumphant fanfare echoing through the wet air.
Their movements were almost balletic. The Egrets, poised and delicate, walked across the water, their snowy plumage a stark contrast to the muddy green canvas. The Grey Herons, larger and more imposing, waded with measured steps, their piercing yellow eyes missing nothing.
This soggy interlude, born from the whims of the weather, has transformed our familiar field into a vibrant wetland teeming with life. It was a reminder that even the most mundane corners have the potential for unexpected beauty.
While we were sitting outside eating lunch, we became aware of some paragliders flying over us. In total there must have been around eight. Some were high, and a few were quite low. I was expecting these to land in fields around us. They recovered and found some lift and were soon very high.
They were moving in a north easterly direction being blown along by the south westerly wind. Where had they come from and where were they going? I had heard of previous flights from Combe Gibbet and Milk Hill and landing somewhere in Norfolk. I read a report about a flight on the 26th of July from Milk Hill to Kings Lynn but have not seen any reports of this August flight.
This week’s fox cub video was a success. The battery did not fail, and I was able to capture footage of three cubs playing and exploring their immediate surroudnings. I moved the camera partway through the week to a lower vantage point, which allowed me to get better shots of the cubs.
There were originally two vixens and six cubs, but this week I saw only three cubs and no vixens. I believe one vixen has moved home. Towards the end of the week, only one cub remained by the den. I believe the other two cubs have begun to explore a larger area. Last year, they were often seen sleeping under the willow trees. There are also many other large holes on this side of the earth mound and the other sides of the mound.
I am eager to receive my new camera trap. The model I ordered is currently on back order, but I am hopeful that it will arrive soon. In the meantime, I will continue to monitor the fox cubs with my current camera.
I am also pleased to report that the rabbits have returned to the area. They were seen exploring the fox den several times this week. I believe the cubs are not a threat to the rabbits. Too small, or ignorant, to hunt?
Beating the Bounds is a tradition where members of a parish walk around their parish boundary. In the case of Grendon Underwood this is around 15 miles. The walk is performed once every 7 years, and has a number of strange customs. Crosses are chopped into the bark of prominent trees on the boundary, failing a tree, a cross is cut into the soil.. Children are supposed to have their bottoms smacked with a spade at these locations. This is to remind them of where the boundaries are. In our woke society this becomes men and women having their turns at being beaten. Thankfully the police were not around, with their new arrest powers what would they have made of us, carrying spades ands axes along and across the HS2 line.
As you can see there were a couple of detours which added to the distance. Nesting birds neccesitated us to walk around the perimeter of the BBOWT nature reserve and not along the Tetchwick Brook. Because of newly laid concrete by HS2 we had to take a detour around the incinerator to cross HS2.
The day was an ideal walking day. No rain, a breeze and not too hot. The ground was wet underfoot, the recent sunny weather had not yet dried the land out,
We started the walk at Gallow’s Bridge, walking around the perimeter of the reserve, being led by the BBOWT warden, Ilona. (As I said, the walk along the bounday of Tetchwick Brook not being allowed because of nesting birds.)
There were a further couple of short detours from the route before we reached Edgcott, these because of unsympathetic landowners.
We stopped at Prune Farm for tea and cakes and then headed onwards to the Energy from Waste incinerator and HS2. A large detour around the incinerator, because of newly laid concrete, back on track we headed to Finemere Hill House for our packed lunches. Lovely views, but spolit by the Incinerator and the workings of HS2.
After lunch we headed on down the hill and across HS2, almost on the correct path. In all these crossinsg we were helped by four HS2 employees to ensure we didn’t tie ourselves to the trees. After that, we were back in wild Buckinghamshire walking through Grendon and Doddershall woods, stopping to view the King Tree. We met up with the Waddesddon boundary walkers at Ham Home Wood. Another welcome stop was in store for us, beer and sandwiches at Canaletto. The sandwiches kept on coming!
Now the final couple of miles and we were back at Gallow’s Bridge. in all we walked 25.4km, taking 9 hours and 20 minutes. We started at around 51 meters, and rose to a maximum altitude of 135 meters.
This is useful view, you can see where we strayed from the parish boundary. There is one tracking error in the route. I some how turned off the tracker as we exited Doddershall woods, and failed to reenable it untilwe had walked a 100 meters along the road. The Google maps track is correct.
We have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of this year’s fox cubs, and on the 25th of April we were delighted to catch a glimpse of one cub. The little furball popped out of the den for a few seconds, curious about the world above ground. The next day, we saw two cubs emerge for several minutes, stumbling around on their tiny paws. The video shows how the vixen visits the den regularly to feed her babies. You can also see how the rabbits seem oblivious to the danger lurking nearby. This could prove fatal for them; the previous video shows a fox carrying a rabbit back to its family.
Fox cubs are born blind and deaf, with dark grey fur and floppy ears. They weigh only about 100g at birth. Their eyes open after two weeks and change colour from blue to amber after a month2. Their red fur starts to appear on their face and their muzzle turns white as they grow older. By six to eight weeks, they are weaned from their mother and start to explore outside the den. They are incredibly smart and have a keen sense of sight, hearing, and smell. They are also very adaptable and can survive in a wide range of habitats, from woodland to urban areas. Foxes are social animals and live in loose family groups, sometimes helping each other to raise the next generation.
A couple of videos of our foxes from Christmas until April. We believe these are the same two foxes starring throughout both videos. The Fox with the bushy tail is a dog fox, while the fox with the skinny tail is the vixen.
Hopefully the next video will be some fox cubs. Now the sun is out, I am assuming they will be venturing out from their den.
We have several rabbit holes under and through the compost heap. Often, they get taken over by foxes and badgers. Here is a video of one rabbit digging some earth out of its burrow. Instead of digging and scattering the dirt into a mound behind itself, this rabbit also pushes the soil forwards using its front paws, spreading it out into a low flat low layer. Very neat. It worked alone over a couple of days. Starting just before sunset on January 28th, and then over a period of 40 minutes on the morning of the 29th. It was amazingly neat. Finally in the last minutes of digging, a Redwing bird comes and helps out.
Rosemary spotted a Grey Heron near the field pond. I rushed out to take a photograph. I was far from it, and it was standing down the slope to the pond, so little of the Heron was in sight. I grabbed a few frames from about100 meters away, and then walked towards it. Of course, it flew off.
I looked at the frames I took, not technically good, but you could see it was eating a frog or toad. So worth keeping them. I think it was a Toad, and so does Rosemary.