During my stomp about Manor farm I noticed loads of animal tracks. Intrigued (and hoping for an Otter, as one set of tracks in the snow looked very promising) I put out a couple of trail cams at strategic 'crossroads'. I had also noticed a fox, wandering around; the trail cams eventually picked up three or four distinct foxes. Eventually, I noticed one fox tended to hang around an embankment, which contained several holes. Whether temporary Badger setts or Fox holes, I know not.
I put out my trail cam at the most promising holes, and was thrilled to film fox cubs around one of them.
I don't think this adventure had a happy ending, I'm afraid. There were three cubs, when I first started putting out my trail cam. One night, the trail cam caught mummy fox seeing off another fox.
Not sure if it was significant, but a week later there were only two cubs. A week after that one cub. And then there appeared to be none. I have a sequence of shots where a distressed mother fox was going between the den two holes, crying out, but no cubs appeared.
The first two videos were captured during the week ending 14th April 2018.
I found all my cheap trail cams quite frustrating with night shots. They never seemed to video for the full 30 seconds. I bought cheap units (£45-£68) on the grounds I would not be too upset if some oik nicked it. The night shots are brilliant, as you can pick up the reflections from the foxes eyes well before making out the fox.
The next sequence of videos are from week ending 21st April 2018. By this stage it appears they were down to two. You'll also notice them using two holes. I'm not sure that the holes were connected under the embankment.
This final sequence is from week ending 28th April 2018. A lovely set with a cub playing with mum, it is slightly worrying that there is now only one cub. Were the others predated or did big cub eat the two little cubs? Remember, this was just after the two cold snaps, and I understand that prey animals of the small squeaky variety were thin on the ground.
I never saw the cubs again. The next set I captured the week after only showed the mother fox going between the two holes, both entering the holes and crying out. No cubs appeared. Frustratingly, the trail cam stopped filming the day after this. It didn't like the warm weather and sun.
I didn't put the trail cam out on the fox den again for a number of reasons, not least the suspicion that all fox cubs were dead. The route to the den involved trekking through thigh high grass and nettles. My trousers got soaked with freezing dew, not fun at 7.00 am on a cold spring morning. I also had to clamber up and down a high, very steep slope. Unfortunately, all foot and hand holds were now obscured by vegetation, particularly of the stinging kind. After loosing my footing (I have the grass stains on my botty), I decided it was too unpleasant and dangerous for an amateur (who was doing this for 'fun') to be climbing steep slippery slopes on my own, with no help nearby.
It was also difficult to find a decent position for the trail cam. The vegetation was growing fast and beginning to obscure the den. I didn't want to disturb the foxes by putting it too close; which would also involve me getting too close.
I also had immense problems with the trail cams, but that is a different story.
Some great videos there of the fox cubs and Mum, I wonder what happened to them. I haven't heard of the male sending them away or indeed preying on them, and it sounds as if you were filming them well away from dwellings so nobody else could have interfered with them. We will probably never know, thanks for posting Angus.
Great footage Angus.
It may be that she moved the cubs, we have some near me and they move them to a different den.
Looking back at my blog entries, I notice that after a hiatus of several months Inert commenced infilling Finch pond during the week of 14th April to 21st April. On the 23rd April they went at it with a vengeance. They had contracted at least 20 large haulage lorries to transport earth and rubble from the Hampshire part of the reserve to south shore of Finch pond http://www.artyousee.co.uk/fleet-hill-farm-and-manor-farm/lorry-jams-and-six-thousand-trees-planted-24th-april-2018
Starting at roughly 7:30am, there would be heavy traffic until roughly 4:30pm. Also there would have been one bulldozer pushing the earth/rubble into Finch pond, and up to two diggers feeding stuff into a 'boulder sorter outer'. Other assorted support vehicles would visit the site.
During the days leading up to the 1st May, Inert were working on forming a scrape in Cormorant lake http://www.artyousee.co.uk/fleet-hill-farm-and-manor-farm/its-a-scrape-on-cormorant-spit-1st-may-2018 Clearly visible from the den, which was about 75 to 100 yards away. The trail cam captures the vixen looking in the direction of the works several times.
It is possible that all this activity caused her to move her cubs. Shortly after this, work stopped on Cormorant lake as there 'might' have been some schedule one birds breeding around it. Work, however, continued on Finch pond.
The vixen would have been used to humans and traffic. The busy Longwater road is about 150 to 200 yards west of her den, though it and Finch pond is screened by the 'ridge'/embankment in which is the den. Her hunting territory takes in a small housing estate, farm and well used footpath some 100 yards to the north of her den. Traffic and humans would have been around on the south side of the site, but only light and sparodic for months.
Some of the videos do show her heading off east, which is unusual. There are many more holes/den along the embankment. Further to the east there is a disused drainage ditch, of the earth variety. Again there are several old dens in it.
As much as I would like to believe she moved her cubs, I really think they bought it. The clincher for me was the vixen bring back food to the den, but no cubs appear. Now it is possible she is very bad at counting, and she had successfully relocated her cubs. It is possible that one cub had done a runner, and she was looking for it. Again, sadly, my heart says no. But that's nature for you.
Now, on to the videos, which I reviewed today, and noticed some new behaviour.
This first video shows the vixen looking into the lower den hole. She has had just returned with some small prey item in her mouth.
Be patient with this one. The vixen is in the top left hand corner for some time. Possibly looking at all the activity on Finch pond. She eventually moves to the upper den hole and stashes the kill.
The next two show her searching the two den holes. HOWEVER, I just noticed that she goes shooting off to the right (aka east) of the videos. Previously, she never did that. She tended to head to the west and, in particular, the north to her hunting territories. This was also the direction where she tended to return. So perhaps, maybe, possibly, she did indeed relocate her cubs to a den to the east.
Unfortunately, some people do walk their dogs there. They shouldn't be there, but they do. I have the evidence on my trail cam.
The trail cam also picked up a Badger, trundling though this area. They have been known to take fox cubs, but it is very rare, and the trail cam didn't pick up any Badger near the original den.