Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A Deal With the 5-Acre Fox?

Call it mad folly, but we have come to a verbal agreement with our 5-Acre Fox. You might want some explanation around that statement, so here goes.

Campaign Map
I have posted earlier that we have killed three foxes including, we are sure, our foolishly brave 'Daylight Raider' of 12th January and his 'wife' and maybe a daughter grown-cub from this family who we think live(d) in the whin scrub down the bank and across the stream from us (see map, top right). The red box on this map is 'our bit' and North is upwards. Unfortunately on the late evening of the day of the third shooting I got that sinking feeling when I saw, way off in the 5 Acre field to our west, the yellow/green reflections of the eyes of yet another fox.

We have come to know that these foxes are creatures of habit and, on the plus side, this fox seemed to stick closely to his (or her, we have no way of knowing but I'll call him 'him' for these purposes) own set of rules. He has only ever been a bit of a 'scaredy cat'. leaving some scent in our woods (see blue shading on map) at around supper time, well after dark and after bird lock-up but then scarpering quickly into the 5-Acre field at the first sign of me or dogs. He runs a good 50 yards diagonally across the field (blue arrows) before pausing to look back over his shoulder and then vanishes, presumably through the very gappy hawthorn hedge and tumbledown barbed wire fence. We have never seen him in daylight or closer or for longer than that. I just see the eyes, at a distance, when I get round to our (wired up) gate (orange on map).

Coppicing more ash in the 'Secret Garden' (now pig paddock)
So why don't we hunt him down and kill him? Well, If I'm honest, I have 'done' 3 and I have now no more stomach for this work. I hate that they kill chickens but I hate having to get them shot, seeing that beautiful and so dog-like shape change from an animated, lovely living thing, in an instant, (Bang!) into a limp shape, steam rising from its mouth as it cools down. I know I needed to kill my Daylight Raider, who would have given us no peace, but the '5 Acre Fox', I am sure had no part of this. The whin-scrub family always came and went up and down the bank-fields; this guy from away across the fields to our West. I think this guy will do me no harm as long as he stays a nocturnal 'scaredy cat'. So I decided to cut him some slack and do a deal with him.

Yes, I know. I was out with the dogs on the Friday evening at 10 pm and saw him, as usual, way off so I heard myself calling to him and then talking to him as he stayed there, blinking occasionally, as if he was listening to me and trying to work out what was going on. Was I going to let the dogs go after him or pepper his butt with shot? "OK", I said, "you got away with it this time. If you can stay out of our cross-wires till Sunday Night, we are calling off the campaign. If you stay scared and nocturnal and don't catch any of my chickens then you can live". He heard. He blinked a couple of times more, then vanished, presumably through the gappy hawthorn hedge and off home, where ever that may be.

Pulmonaria (lungwort) coming into flower.
I also realise that this may have been folly, that he/she will grow up and get hungry and possibly as brave and reckless as our Daylight Raider, but if that happens, then we can always call the guns back in and swing back into action. I have not seen him, nor have the dogs picked up any scent for the last few nights, since the thaw. Perhaps we should have hunted him down, but I do not want this 'mission' to 'creep' from killing a nuisance fox, to trying to eradicate foxes from the townland. I suspect we'd not win that one anyway. I have my doubts about whether we'd even 'get' this one, that's a big field and has none of the restricted 'creep-in-under-the-fence' access of the Bank Field(s) and our sheep fencing.

The pig ark is ready, but when will we
get the pigs?
As to 'eyes', I got quite good at eyes over the fortnight. The fox with his yellow-green, slitty, close together, blinking eyes is easy to distinguish from the local competition. Blue the cat has big round eyes which reflect back more a blue-green in the LED head-torch beam, plus he tends to sit there, gazing at you across the lawn, unblinking (as opposed to running away) and then comes bouncing across towards you, which the foxes don't tend to do (!). The sheeps' eyes are much further apart, being on the sides of the animals head and are a dull blue-green plus, easy to spot, there are 3 pairs of them, 2 pairs on tall animals and a little, smaller pair, lower to the ground. 'Feste' the lamb of course. As another clue, as soon as they see us they set up calling, 'baaa-ing' for a late supper or in protest at no longer being allowed to sleep indoors.

Amusingly different widths, left to right, Lily (no longer pregnant)
Feste and the broad-in-the-beam, in-lamb bulk of Polly.
So what else is new? We have been enjoying more signs of spring with the Pulmonaria in the woods coming into flower but we are, again, a few weeks behind Mentor Anne, who has snowdrops and primroses out already. We have more snow and cold forecast for tomorrow, though. I have been out coppicing some more ash and logging it up, all good work for the chainsaw. I have also been chasing up some possible pig suppliers ready for our 2015 maybe-Berkshires. We are going to have to start some eggy baking - we are getting 2 goose eggs every other day now. It's never dull, this small-holdering.

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