by Richard Jones

The night air is rent by unearthly shrieks... It sounds like witches are murdering some poor soul deep in a well at the end of my garden.

FoxThe night air is rent by unearthly shrieks. Stammered yelps and horrid guttural whimpers cut through the silence. It sounds like witches are murdering some poor soul deep in a well at the end of my garden. The foxes are out in force tonight.

The first time I ever heard those calls, over 40 years ago, I really did have visions of witches in my mind. I could only have been eight or nine, standing on the attic stairway of my grandfather's farm, Holywell, with the skylight open, and peering out across the dark meadows towards Lower Halstow and the North Kent Swale marshes. My uncle was trying out his new gadget, a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder and he was hanging out of the window with the microphone as these eerie noises drifted over the house. I never quite believed it was only foxes until I moved to London and was startled by a gang of males trotting up the road only feet away from me, coughing and barking and yelping as they went.

Now I don't even have to hear them to know that they've been about. I usually look for muddy footprints on the slide of the kids' climbing frame, or across the roofs of cars parked in the street.

I make sure the rabbit is securely covered up though. There was the time when we were looking after some friends' guinea pigs and one escaped. Even with neighbours flood-lighting the gardens from their balcony we could not find the dratted animal. All I could hear was snails eating the nasturtiums. I slept fitfully that night. The calling foxes were louder than ever and I could not contemplate how to tell the six-year-old owner what had happened to her fluffy pet. Early next morning I went looking for the blood-soaked remains of the pig's furry skin, only to be met with the creature calmly munching the same nasturtiums that I had shredded the night before in my frantic search.

The blood curdling calls hold no fear for me now.

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Talkback: Foxes
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Gardeners' World Web User 30/01/2008 at 23:59

We are fortunate enought to have a house right next to a field which is used by a local stable to keep a dozen horses in. As there is no agricultural machinery rattling up and down it all through the year a family of foxes have made it their home. To watch the cubs playing in the late evening during the summer is a real joy. Just like squirrels I know they can be a real pest but you can't help but admire them for taking advantage of a situation. And maybe they are responsible for my Autumn sowed peas not suffering from mice. I guess there is good in everything if you look hard enough.

Gardeners' World Web User 03/02/2008 at 20:26

Fab write up. I live in a very old house, and was woken last week by foxes. I thought the house had a ghost, until I woke up and came to my senses. That time of year. I have a wildlife blog, be privileged if you would take a look.

Gardeners' World Web User 20/03/2008 at 16:07

Foxes and ducks. In january 3 of my ducks were taken by foxes. I have one original duck and a new pair. all has been well for 6 weeks but now the new drake is attacking the original duck. She is laying eggs now but the young drake is almost smaller than her and unable to mate her but is mating with his original mate.I have had to separate the original duck as the drake pins her down and "bites" her all over her body. Any ideas as to why and any solutions!

Gardeners' World Web User 23/04/2008 at 10:05

Reply to Jan: I don't know much about duck mating rituals, but I know that birds fight viciously, and that this is often emphasized in captivity. This was brought home to me last week when I discovered that one of my daughters' schoolfriends had just had six of her seven chickens killed by a fox. The birds were left out too late and the fox took advantage. The only one to survive was the only one which had been penned up, because she was being pecked by the others.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:30

When the fox bitches scream for attention and the Tawny Owls call across the fields and the night sky is full of a million stars; when the robin sings to the moon and the pheasant gets hysterical... that's the time to get the seed trays cleaned ready for the great planting. I love this time of year.