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A village Vixen

January 3, 2014

January is the time for foxes to establish their territories. Most nights, especially those cold starlit nights, a vixen’s sharp regular calls cut through the air from the old railway line. This particular night the call was much closer. I assume that it may be rich pickings in the immediate post Christmas period – perhaps the remains of a turkey carcass or similar – which draw gem in. This is when I am pleased that we have wheelie bins rather than the old black plastic bags. As I lay in bed, I try and remember whether I have shut the hens in their house and having satisfied myself that this was done, drift back off to sleep.

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Two Sundays before Christmas. Food in the hedgerows is in short supply. I hear news that a hungry fox has cleared out a hen house at Spratt’s Green. It is certainly at this point in time that the thrushes turn to the Hawthorn berries. Until now they have studiously avoided the bitter red pippy berry, but as we walk along the railway line we follow a cloud of Fieldfares and other thrushes as they work the hedge. They chatter and chortle as we arrive. Then move away as a flock, circle in our wake and settle to their task. Goldfinches and Linnets concentrate upon whatever they can glean along the margins.   Survival has become the key as the period of plenty has ended.

Vixen calling

December 3, 2013

Woken at 2 in the morning; the shrill cries of a vixen echoed around the valley. She made her way at some speed along the railway line, calling regularly until the distance and wind swallowed the noise.

One advantage of dog walking at dusk come from the heightened senses of the dogs themselves. This evening as we strolled westwards along the railway line, the slight breeze blew into our faces. Ideal conditions for a close encounter with deer or other mammals – at least before they see you. This evening the dogs pressed forward into their collars, obviously receiving a juicy scent. We were very clearly following something interesting although never is sight, whatever it was kept ahead of us and maintained a steady pace. Then, at the Blackthorn clump the dogs followed the scent into the hedge. We carried on. Climbing up the steps and glancing over the plough, a russet brown shape made its way back along the margin. Then it turned back to the hedge and onto the railway line again. The last thing to disappear being the unmistakable shape of a fox’s brush like tail.

The weather softens after a fortnight of snow and frosts.But the hard spell that we have just experienced served to expose the variety of wildlife within the parish. Hunger and the serious business of courtship pushed dog fox and vixen into the daylight. The urban fox has become a common sight in Norwich, but the country fox is a a much more wary creature altogether. Their travels and territories are defined by river and railway line and the thaw releases the strong scent in many places. A sharp frosty starlit night is punctuated by their barks and screams as boundaries are set.

Elsewhere, Jenny reports whole families of hunting otters in the gloomy late afternoon light. On the arable fields the destructive power of foraging Roe Deer show up as snowy excavations. Teal spring out from out from under the reed fringed bank of the Bure and Grey Geese graze on the whatever passes for exposed vegetation on the Common. In the garden flocks of finches cluster in a frenzy of shuttle visits around the feeders. The wintering Little Egret manage to contrast in shades of white with the decaying snow.

A short burst of sunshine and the presence of Celandines, Snowdrops and the early shoots of Daffodils in the churchyard promise the approach of Spring. The colour green seems to suddenly return from the overnight thaw.

a view in Winter

February 5, 2012

Wigeon arrive on the marsh as the village slumbers in it’s blanket of snow. A small flock of these fast-flying duck circle us as we scan the riverside snow for footprints. The meandering trail of a morning fox provided evidence of his thoughts – out for an unsuspecting Moorhen or duck – the trail followed any little clue to and fro to the water’s edge. Smaller creatures, mostly voles, scurried their tubby ways from sedge to bolthole. Swans which looked so white under normal conditions reveal themselves to be a rich cream against the backdrop of snow covered marshes. Snipe are here in numbers; they spring away and follow crazy zig-zag flight patterns emitting their wispy call. As we open the Church for Sunday a Woodcock flies rapidly at head-height through the churchyard, full of bombast and intent.

The marsh is full of noises

February 2, 2012

At sunrise on Sunday morning the river and woods swirled with mists and vapours. The temperature veered wildly as we walked along the Bure towards the Common.  The Keeper’s Wood resounded with an unworldly noise. The calls of a dog Fox and Vixen rang around the marsh – presumably engaged in creating the next generation.  I dispelled thoughts of the Sherlock’s Grimpen Mire and carried on. The light changing continuously from mist to translucence within a few yards, then eventually settling into what passes for normal at this time of year. It was a morning that JMW Turner would have appreciated.