Friday 2 December 2016

One Down

Chivers admiring her spay scar which came back from the vet
painted a pretty silver (zinc?) colour and with very fetching,
dissolvable purple stitches. 
Enough of this foxy frivolity now, twirling the things round our heads by their tails. It all got much more serious last night and it's not anything you can tell funny stories about. We don't like doing it and we wish we did not need to. Some of our friends have objected in firm tones but, so far, they have accepted that we are all entitled to our own opinions. Foxes are definitely a controversial area which result in some heated discussions and forcefully put views. This post contains some text and pictures you might like to avoid, so I have deliberately included the material down-screen. It will not hit you when you first open the post, and if you want or need to avoid it then be warned. Do not scroll down this story.

We have had some very foggy mornings
It has been a painful time in which we have felt a bit 'pinned down', unable to leave the poultry out and un-attended because the two foxes we know about seem to work both night and day. Liz had her 'fox-flinging' event on Monday during the morning, and I saw foxes both Tuesday and Wednesday night. On Thursday morning Liz was given time off work because they had the auditors in, so I went shopping and Liz had another encounter, this time with no physical contact.

A lovely gift of eggs from Sue and |Rob.
Patrolling round the house, she stuck her head into the "empty" turkey house and looked along the building towards a low wall that divides it in two. Peeking at her over the wall was Mr Fox, who must have climbed half way up the chickens' perching ladder to look back at her. He scarpered before Liz could sneak the doors closed.

Copper Marans hen. One of 3 Marans hens who survived
Wednesday's attack (along with 2 roosters)
The foxes, though, were not going to be allowed it all their own way and on Thursday we upped the ante. We have borrowed a big cage-trap of proven ability and also welcomed a friend who lives nearby and who we know through Facebook, who came armed with a .22 rifle. I knew nothing of guns and had never even been close to a "Two two" so I was looking forward to seeing it in action. It is extremely accurate to 200 metres which easily met our needs. My job was going to be to hold the torch.

Fox cage-trap. The pale grey plate is the
pressure pad. The bait goes behind it.
Mr Fox stepping on the plate drops the
gate at this end of the trap.
In the event went very differently to the plans. Our first young fox got himself caught almost at the same time as my rifle-man was arriving, so was under arrest for barely 10 minutes and shot within the first 15 minutes of the visit. After that we never saw another fox despite walking all around the patch for almost 3 hours more.

A .22 Rifle and the result. The rifle was not really needed
in the event, a range of less than ten feet!
We think we heard the old vixen shouting from way away to the SW, possibly calling her now-dead child, but for us there were no eyes reflecting in our lights. It was very parky and we had dressed up warm for all the motionless, silent waiting. It was good every now and then to retreat back indoors for a hot drink and slice of cake. I had offered my man a share of our lamb ragu supper, but he'd eaten so much cake he was full up! We called it a day at around 7:30 pm, leaving the trap set in case our girl showed up on hearing the shooter drive away. She is no fool.

I woke up today, then, expecting a full trap but was disappointed; still set, open and empty. I was faced with another day of vigilance but wondered whether the big, dark vixen might keep to her 'Lizzie' schedule of mid-morning after the car had been driven away. I decided to keep all the birds shut in their bedrooms so that the only prey a sneaking fox would make contact with was the dead hen in the trap, bait. Again, no luck. Not a sign of her.

Sheep go from frosty to dry via steaming in the morning sun.
At 11:30 I let all the birds out and started my 'pinned down' anxious wait going about my chores but with my ears pinned back for the slightest squawk, honk or Guinea-cackle outside All I got were false alarms including one where the Guineas, flying up to a fence could suddenly see, from their higher viewpoint, where I had dropped my shot fox into long grass.

Christmas-Card morning where the
freezing fog last night had built long
fronds of needle crystal on plants
They could see enough red fur to trigger a positive fusillade of screams, cackles and raucous swearing which took me a few minutes to interpret - I'd raced round everywhere and knew there was no actual live fox about. I was trying to calm them and they were obviously yelling at my stupid, idiotic face "It's a fox! It's a fox! Look! Hiding in the grass!". If only I spoke Guinea Fowl.

Our lane this morning. 
We made it through to 4 pm, then, with no misadventures and it is now a huge relief to be able to shut away the birds and turn off the high-alert vigilance. It is no way to relax, let me tell you. Then, wouldn't you know it, I was through supper and had delivered Liz to the train station when the vixen showed up? I swear that lady knows that I have no gun and, unless she goes into my trap, no way of doing her any damage. My rifleman was only available that one night this week.

Just to add to the worries Liz has now hefted the little dead one by the tail and thinks that it is not, in fact, 'hers'. It is obviously a boy and she is sure that the one she was waving around did not have "that equipment". The angle she was looking at the animal from, she says, she would have noticed! This might mean that we actually have 3 foxes in this adventure, the vixen and 2 youngsters, a dog and a vixen.

More on all this as it progresses.

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