I am lucky enough to have open farmland around my garden and this has enabled me to have some wonderful encounters with a wide range of wild animals, including the rural foxes that use this area as their territory.
For the last 5 years or so, I have put a small amount of dried dog food out in the field adjacent to my garden so I could tempt them close enough to watch. These are wild foxes and I have never attempted to make any contact with them as I feel this would jeopardise their safety. Instead, I have used a variety of camera methods to photograph and film them instead.
This year, I have had a vixen and dog fox visiting and by early May, I could tell the vixen had cubs. It was clear she was feeding. This can be the best chance I have to photograph them, as her hunger drives her to the feeding station when it is still light. Shooting from an upstairs bedroom window, I can just lean out with my 400mm lens and, if I am lucky, I can snatch a few shots.
Highly nervous and wary of any unusual sound or movement, I managed to grab these shots before she disappeared into the dense hedgerow, only to return after dark.
The other method of capturing images that I use is a Bushnell trail cam. Triggered by movement, the unit takes full HD video footage of any passing animal. I take screen captures from the video clips, by moving one frame at a time, through the footage. In this way, I can select the very best images.
Capturing images of my vixen, obviously feeding cubs, is always exciting as it means that very soon she will bring her cubs to my feeding station too!
My feeding station simply consists of a corner of a field that is wired up for action! High definition CCTV-type cameras are mounted low to the ground to provide fox eye-level shots of any visitors. Cabled back to my office, I can watch the footage on my computer screens. The footage on these cameras is also recorded onto a hard drive meaning I can access any night-time happenings and watch them back without having to sit up all night.
By mid May, the tiny fox cubs were already making forays to my feeding station. At only about 8 weeks old, I am always amazed at their independence! The first views were at night and these cubs looked tiny!
I was then lucky enough to capture footage in early evening or sometimes in early morning. Judging by the size of them, their den was not far away. Creeping up to the fence one evening, I was able to peep through the grass; I was astounded! The cub I watched, less than a metre away through long grass, was tiny…. half the size of the average cat!
Sometimes more than one would visit at once and one evening, I saw 4 cubs together confirming my guess that there were at least three individuals.
As the weeks passed, so did their confidence and there were often lively squabbles for the food, with them actually sitting on top of each other one evening!
Before long, their bodies and legs were elongating and their tiny, rounded appearance was replaced with a more slender form.
I only ever put out enough food for a snack…. Nothing that will affect their natural hunting , but enough to ensure they treat me to a glimpse into their lives, even if it is for only a few minutes.
Sometimes they surprise me though, and I capture footage that I would never have predicted. This happened to me just recently. Checking through the night’s footage in my Hedgehog Diner I was astounded to see I had a rather unexpected visitor. Managing to squeeze through a 14cm square corridor entrance and round a corner, one of my fox cubs had managed to squeeze into the feeder! Feasting on the goodies on offer, illuminated by the lights in this feeding station, I captured some amazing video clips of this opportunist young canid.
Watching a capturing images and videos of this family has become part of my life and I feel very privileged to be privy to a tiny part of their lives.
You can watch the video clips of this wonderful fox family on my YouTube Channel HERE.
Kate MacRae, also known as ‘WildlifeKate’ has spent the last four years turning her rural garden in Staffordshire into a camera haven, allowing her to monitor the goings on of all the wildlife visiting. She has over 20 cameras set up, all wired back to her office, where she can watch and record the visitors. From inside nest boxes, to small and large mammal feeding stations, Kate’s cameras and set-up have appeared regularly on BBC Springwatch and Autumnwatch. Kate is also a keen photographer and avid user of Bushnell trail cameras and these form big part of her wildlife filming. Kate’s cameras stream live on her website and can be watched 24-7.