Out very early this morning I turn a corner along a deserted woodland path. In an instant I’m frozen to the spot. In one of those rare magic countryside moments there, only twenty or so yards away in the middle of the path, are two fox cubs at play completely oblivious of my presence. In the dappled morning sunlight I watch, spellbound for what seems like an age; they get my scent and are off. What a privilege to get so close to such a timid and beautiful wild animal. I shared a similar moment on a woodland track at the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Maryland last year. This time the fox was tame, very tame, staring us out before slinking off into the field. Such moments stay in the memory.
Foxes in Britain have spread into urban areas in recent decades and are now very common in city centres. Unlike their wild cousins these urban foxes are bold, often very tame and can often be seen in daylight. They make dens under garden sheds and other buildings, even occasionally underneath the floors of houses. We put out scraps for our foxes most evenings and when I can accept the carbon guilt, I turn on the light by the old willow tree. We’re delighted to see them wandering around the garden after dark ignoring the hedgehogs, but always noticing the neighbourhood cats.
I move on, recording every bird I hear or see. This mixed woodland contains no rarities, just common species, but it holds a good population of woodpeckers. I’m sure there are Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers here, I hear them from time to time, but all I detect today are Great-spotted. I’m always green with envy when visiting my friend Colin’s garden in Annapolis. Woodpeckers abound at any time of the year; Downy, Hairy and Red-bellied visit his bird table and in the summer months there’s often a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker too, not to mention the Flickers in the adjacent woodland. I can’t compete, but whatever I find in the countryside is beautiful, wherever I am.