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Inquisitive cubs and raucous chicks

Well, it finally got me.   After 27 months keeping my head down, I succumbed to covid!  Fortunately, my symptoms are not bad but I’m still confined to barracks and my camera hasn’t been out for well over a week.  But, just before my confinement, I was feeding my tawny owls at the bottom of the garden when I spotted four young foxes playing in the field below the house.  The following evening, I went down the field, sat myself down on the grass, covered myself, my camera and tripod with a camouflage bag-hide, and waited.

I can sit for hours like this provided I’m relatively comfortable, and I’d positioned myself with a convenient fence post behind me so I could lean against it.  Even in the pitch dark when there isn’t much to see, there’s plenty to listen to as the sounds of nature’s night come to life.  

As it happened, I didn’t have to wait for long.  About 15 minutes after my arrival, a young fox cub popped out from the long grass by Oxfield beck.  The sun was falling, the light was beautiful, so I chanced a shot to get at least one in the bag.  The click of the camera didn’t go un-noticed and the young cub looked straight at me.  His curiosity then got the better of him and he set off towards my camouflaged shape to investigate.  I clicked a few more frames and he stopped, sat down and watched.  He was then joined by a sibling and I managed a few more shots. 

Red fox

I played for a few minutes and they approached a bit closer before deciding that discretion was the better part of valour and they slunk off into the undergrowth.  Fox cubs are cute.  They’re smart, tidy and beautiful in their new coats.  They’re also cunning and efficient predators.  Like many wild animals, the fox’s appearance belies its true nature, but that’s life in the animal kingdom.

Back at home, and I’m now restricted to the garden for my outdoor entertainment.  I’m still feeding my tawny owl family each night but it’s getting to that time of year when dad is encouraging the two youngsters to fend for themselves.  I decided to put out my trailcam again, to see what’s going on.  It seems that the youngsters now know where dad gets supper but the first time I checked the footage, one of the youngsters flew in, looked at the day-old chick I’d left on the apple tree stump and flew off without it.  Presumably, he thought it can’t be food because it wasn’t handed to him on a plate, as it were.  (I can think of some human analogies here…)  Anyhow, it didn’t take them long to work out that they were on their own and, finally, they are now helping themselves, but not without some sibling squeaking, squabbling and snatching.  It is so nice to watch these two young chicks growing into healthy, lively and independent teenagers.  If all goes to plan, they’ll be looking for a mate in 18 months time and, hopefully, producing offspring of their own by summer 2024.  I’ll continue to feed them for a few more weeks after which dad is likely to send them on their way to find a home of their own.

Tawny owl

This time of year presents a good opportunity to see a young tawny owl.  As soon as dusk approaches, they start to call to their parents for food.  Their call is not your typical adult ‘twit twhoo’ but rather a repetitious squeak and the only sound from the treetops that you are likely to hear at this time of the evening.  Follow the sound and you might just find the bird.

Watching my owl(s) is a daily event for me but I never tire of it.  Everything else stops at dusk.  If you want to see my two chicks picking up their supper, head to Youtube and watch for yourself.  You can find a short clip by following the link at the right of this page.

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