This year when I had no nesting birds or beech martens the clear highlight of my nature watching were the fox visits to the garden. This has been a first for me, I’d never previously seen or recorded a fox in the garden although we live in the type of suburban environment in which they shouldn’t be so rare.
The first fox recorded was on the 18th April and then the visits were pretty regular throughout the year until the last visit on the 24th October, since when nothing has been seen. A total of 131 visits for 2022.
Early on I started recording the time of each visit and from this simple data I’ve made the chart below.
The vast majority of the fox visits were in the early hours of the morning, the quietest period of the night. I only had a very few before midnight and I never actually saw the fox with my own eyes, only ever recorded on the garden trail cameras.
I also noted during the year how easily startled the fox was, particularly terrified of the cats, who actually seem quite unperturbed by the presence of the fox.
This all gives me the impression that the fox visitors I had were extremely timid. I know in London my Mum has regular fox visits to her garden and there the foxes seem much bolder. They are often seen lounging in her garden during daylight, sometimes in groups. They basically wave whilst see takes a picture on the iPhone. My experience has been very different with much more secretive and timid animals.
I know that there is a big difference in the behaviour of rural and urban foxes, with rural foxes being extremely wary, whilst urban foxes are much more at ease in proximity with human activity. It seems that the behaviour of the fox or foxes I’ve been watching has been much closer to the rural rather than the urban type. So maybe I’ve been watching summer visitors into my suburban environment and now they have returned back to ‘the wild woods’ for the winter. It will of course be interesting to see if the visits restart next year.
Another important question I never really managed to answer was whether I was watching one fox or several different foxes. I understand that the best way to identify foxes is by facial features but I honestly found this too hard. I tried studying the pictures, when I had good, close up facial shots but I could never really make out distinguishing features.
The only clear evidence that there was more than one fox was the fight I managed to capture between two individuals.
If I get another chance next year I would hope to see if I can improve my skills in fox ID and perhaps have a more definite answer to the number of different fox visitors.
But mainly I just hope that they come back as they have been a completely wonderful addition to the garden wildlife.
Weather : Still very hot, still very dry.
Notes : As a postscript to the fox fight, yesterday morning I found this in the middle of my lawn.
It’s quite a chunk from the tip of a fox tail.
Really unfortunately, but I’m afraid rather typically, I didn’t have any trail cameras out on the night in question, so no images.
It may have come off one of the foxes following the original fight or perhaps it’s evidence of a new fox fight.
Last I had the cameras back in the garden and the only fox that visited didn’t appear to have any obvious damage to its’ tail.
If the tail remnant came from another individual it’s a sign that multiple foxes are still visiting the garden, even post fight.
Weather : Very hot, dry weather.
Notes : A second fox, yes a second fox, this week came into the garden for a brief visit and it resulted in a rather dramatic fight between the two.
Firstly my ‘regular’ fox arrived.
I’m still struggling with a reliable means of identification but it does seem to be the same individual, and it continues to visit most nights.
Then a little while later a second fox entered the garden. The video is just a couple of seconds, it seems quite hesitant and it definitely looks to be a smaller, darker individual.
Then, only some seconds later it bolts for the fence hole where it is intercepted by the other fox, and a fight takes place. (I very much like the arrival at the end of the spectating cat, two fighting foxes is clearly not enough to phase this cat!)
Finally later that night, after the fight, the first fox returned to the garden, seemingly unharmed in any way.
I find all of this interesting in several ways. Firstly that there is obviously more than one fox in the area. Are they part of the same group, perhaps the fighting indicates not, or is it a complete coincidence that these two cross paths? And is it a sign of a generally increasing local population? I will need to keep watching to have any idea.
However this year is the first that I’ve had any fox visitors and now there are two, I’m classifing it as an abundance of foxes.
Weather : Generally warm and sunny but with occasion rain.
Notes : Fox highlight of the week was the night it made a rather concerted effort to get the food inside the hedgehog feed station.
It could obviously smell the cat biscuits inside and was hungry enough to try very hard to get at them.
There’s no real way that it could dig in, although it had a good try. The best way in would really be from the top, the lid is only held down by a bit of brick, and it did nearly managed to dislodge it.
The fox spent quite a bit of time trying to get in, so I’ve speeded up the video.
Weather : Very, very hot.
Notes : It’s mid June and the weather is already extremely hot. Our first heat wave of the year, with temperatures at 40oC is already with us.
The fox, and I’m still working on the assumption that it’s always the same fox, has become a very regular visitor to the garden. It’s now appearing nearly every night, with or without the enticement of food.
It always enters the garden via the hole in the fence I created for the hedgehogs and I have been keeping records of the time of night that it visits. I don’t know if this will lead to any sparkling insights but it seemed a good place to start. There are of course outliers but in general in comes in between the hours of 01:00-03:00 in the morning, really the darkest and quietest period of the night.
I still haven’t managed to ID it in any way, for example by face markings. There may be a patch of fur which is quite ‘obvious’ on it’s left hind leg but I rather hesitate to use this as an ID. I don’t know if it is something common or even normal for foxes, I have no frame of reference. So I’ll keep looking.
After it’s close run in with one of the cat the next creature the Fox has come across in the garden is a hedgehog, on film here.
I wouldn’t have anticipated anything dramatic, a shouldn’t fox would bother a hedgehog, but in this case the fox seems particularly wary. I’ve also seen it become very scared of the cats so I think in general it’s very nervous, possible a sign that it’s a young fox.
Weather : Cooler temperatures, occasional rain.
Notes : The fox has become a regular garden visitor, although I have been bribing it by leaving out eggs for it to take.
This is obviously fantastic, but I did have a slight worry, what would happen if it met up with one of my cats. I thought that this would probably by a problem for the cats and I didn’t want them to get scared or injured.
Well recently it happened, the fox met one of the cats during the night, and it turns out there was no need for my concerns.
It seems from this that the Fox was much more scared of the cat that the other way round. Despite it being much bigger and I imagine stronger.
Maybe the visiting fox is just a juvenile and therefore quite easily scared, or maybe it’s just the difference between domesticated and truly wild animals, that I guess are naturally much more cautious.
However I was quite surprised by the encounter and now I hope that it’s not the cats that scare the fox away.
Weather : Very Warm sunny weather, no rain.
Notes : Happily the fox did come back, although only for 1 visit this week, but it is obviously still around.
I had been leaving out an egg nearly every night, I think the only night I forgot was the night the fox actually visited.
Weather : Warm, still very little rain.
Notes : I’ve been leaving out the egg every night this week but I’ve only had 1 fox visit, during the night of 2nd-3rd May. Nothing since.
It is highly possible that the fox who has been visiting has now moved on and I’ll have to wait another 2 years to see another.
I’ll keep going again with the egg this week but this risks to be a very short log.
Weather : Slightly cooler weather, no rain.
Notes : It’s almost exactly 2 years since I started this blog, recording all of the various visitors to the garden, and on the 18th April this year my first fox arrived. Happily recorded here.
It’s not particularly unusual in a suburban environment to have a fox but I had never seen one here and I just thought that perhaps this wasn’t a good area for them. I was absolutely delighted to start having a visitor.
Since that first visit I’ve seen it on several occasions, I assume the same individual, although perhaps I’m mistaken and I’ve not been able to identify it as a male or a female.
My first priority was to keep it coming back so I wanted to leave out some food. I decided to go with a hen’s egg which I’ve been leaving out now on most nights.
The Fox doesn’t make an appearance every night but when it does come by it’s very happy to take the egg.
I also set up a camera giving more of a general view of the garden, including the pond, to give a better view of its’ movements in the garden. In the video below he has a little scoot around and definitely takes a drink from the pond.
Hopefully the presence of readily available food and water will keep it coming back to the garden.
By keeping this log I’ll try to keep recording the movements and hopefully learn a thing or two from watching. I should start by trying to sex the fox in question and also to identify it, to be sure that it is the same fox. For the identification I need to look closely at the facial markings.
For determining the sex, I’m really not sure. I’ll need to do some more reading on this. My fox education starts now.