Footprints in the snow

by Richard Jones

The heavy blanket is as much a duvet of silence, as a quilt of whiteness. But the deepening gloom as the sun goes down is not as empty as it might first appear.

Richard Jones's snowy gardenThe snow vanished as quickly as it arrived, and contrary to all expectations, there were no rotting mammoth carcasses exposed by the thaw. But now it's back again.

All looks still and quiet out there. The heavy blanket is as much a duvet of silence, as a quilt of whiteness. But the deepening gloom as the sun goes down is not as empty as it might first appear. There are things out, but they are moving slowly and cautiously.

A pair of magpies cough their way through the Leyland cypress a few doors down. There are three of four long-tailed tits in next-door-but-one's pear tree. A female blackbird is scavenging for bits of left-over windfall under our apple tree. The squirrels seem thoroughly fed up with it all, and chatter angrily at each other as they flick their way along the fence. Then there is the fox again.

Fox in the snowOur garden, it seems, is as much a thoroughfare as ever. I've a house full of coughing and wheezing children at the moment, so none of us has gone out to disturb the snow. But there are tracks up and down the lawn where migratory herds appear to have trampled. As far as I can make out, these are the combined footprints of our two cats, that fox, and several squirrels. They must have made the journey dozens of times.

The fox prints are clearer in our neighbour's garden, down the street. The holes in the snow are neatly laid out in one continuous line, as if the animal is walking some invisible tightrope. Our neighbours the other side have had something completely different going on in their garden. Like us they have a children's trampoline, but whereas ours is still perfectly covered with virgin snow, theirs is completely mushed. I think the foxes have been having a party on it.

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Gardeners' World Web User 23/12/2010 at 09:57

What a lovely piece of writing, Richard, all about the wildlife we have here in Bristol in our gardens. I seldom venture out in below zero temperatures asii am over eighty, but I go round all my bungalow windows snapping the wildlife and observing it. I have lovely pictures of the squirrel eating the bird seed, of the blackbirds chomping away at Bramley apples, of the cheeky robin who will not allow the pied wagtail near the seeds, and of the fox and squirrel prints in the snow. As I am in danger of getting withdrawal symptoms when I cannot get out in my garden the wildlife is my therapy. Before the mange struck the foxes in Bristol we used to have a posse of ten foxes who would meet through the night in the winter on our garden wall so you may be right about the party.

Gardeners' World Web User 23/12/2010 at 19:07

Your garden sounds like mine. We have a squabling family of 3 jays who dissagree continuously about who may eat the peanuts. A small femail rat lives under our decking and has made a furrow in the snow between the peanuts and her burrow during her food collection outings. When the squirrels come to dine, both they and Miss Rat carefully ignore one another but once, when they caught one another's eye purely by accident, a huge fight broke out! I'm not sure who is the most agressive of the two, even with the squirrel being far larger, but it was a close thing!

Gardeners' World Web User 24/12/2010 at 11:25

I watched a squirrel and a magpie having a tug-o-war once for an acorn. The struggle went on for some time and neither tookany notice of me, but eventually the magpie lost its temper and opened its mouth to give a great squawk, so the squirrel won. A lesson I think to always keep cool in a dispute.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/12/2010 at 21:45

The birds seem to be having disputes around here, two blackbirds were clashing and flying up and down, and a robin was terrorising a sparrow, pushing it backwards until it took flight. Would it be territory or food?

Gardeners' World Web User 31/12/2010 at 18:28

i havent seen my lovely fox since xmas eve,,,,i fear the worst now,i keep going out into the back garden calling him but nothing...i back onto woods so maybe just maybe hes still in his lttle den keeping warm,last night the food i put out was still there this morning..while ive been out walking my dog ive been checking the roads and fields where i live to see if i can see anything dead or alive [injured]...but nothing. i do hope hes well................ as he was/is a dear little fella.

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