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April 17, 2010  •  Leave a Comment


I just posted the image Spring Fox today, but I didn't post _the rest of the story_.

As I mentioned before, I'm getting images of fox kits this year, dammit.  Every Spring for the last few years I've devoted significant chunks of time to finding and photographing fox kits.  I know where the foxes are (as evidenced by waaaaaay too many fox images), I even know where the den sites are.  The fox parents are reasonably comfortable with my presence.  And I spend waaaaay too much time there in the pursuit of fox kits.  But despite all that, I've never seen a fox kit there.

I've come close.  Last year, I devoted 1 day away from the Fox Kit Project to photograph coyotes, and it seemed like "everyone else":http://www.redbubble.com/people/kcline78/art/2936031-2-i-didnt-do-it-mom-i-swear but me got fox kits.  I've almost literally camped out near fox dens.  I've seen parent foxes coming and going, but I've never seen the kits myself.

I'm prepared this year.  I take a camping stool with me so I can comfortably hang out by the den site (just _standing_ around is for rookies).  And this morning, I was out (again) before the sun, had my camping chair set up behind the tripod, and I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And got bored.  And waited.

Maybe they had moved den sites.  That's something they often do, and maybe the reason I hadn't seen the parents much recently was because they moved the kits to a new den site.  so I wandered to the field to the east, to check out another den site that's been active in the past.  When I got there, I ran into another photographer friend, Dan Walters  (a very talented wildlife photographer), who had seen nothing on the east side, and we walked a ways, both of us looking for fox kits.  He decided to keep hiking to the west, hoping to see hawks in the nest, and I wandered back to the east (because I'm getting fox kit images this year, dammit).

I set up my stool and tripod, and waited.  It was a great day for images too - the overcast sky diffused the light, the grass was a vibrant green.  And I saw nothing.

Eventually, I heard movement in the underbrush!  My heart skipped a beat, and I scanned the surrounding area.  Movement - I focused the lens in and saw . . . whitetail deer.  Three of them.  There are lots of mule deer in Colorado, few whitetails.  I'd never seen deer in the park, although others had seen some before.  As they wandered away from me, I noticed Dan had returned, and we passed again.  He'd seen no foxes either.

I decided to check out the original den site again on my way back to the car.  I wasn't expecting to see anything, so it was a genuine surprise when I rounded a corner and saw the daddy fox curled up outside the den.  Maybe he'd bring the kits out today!

I set up my stool and tripod, and got a few decent images of him.  He's a pretty calm little guy, and doesn't mind me hanging out as long as I keep my distance.  As I've mentioned before , I sometimes talk to my wildlife subjects (and discovered that many other wildlife photographers do the same).  "Hi there - it's good to finally run into you today.  Gonna bring the kits out sometime soon?"  I took a few more images as the light was gorgeous and the grass made for a beautiful background.

He abruptly stood up and starred at something.  A dog walker was approaching on the nearby trail.  He watched them for a moment and apparently felt threatened enough that he went trotting by me, no more than 6 feet away, turned, and went up a ridge.  As he trotted by, I remarked, "Hey!  You're coming back soon, right?  'Cause I've been out here all morning and this is the first I've seen of you in days . . ."

It was right about that time I noticed that someone was on the trail just behind and to the right of me, standing there, watching me.

"Morning"
"Were you . . .  just talking to that fox?"
"Uh, yeah . . ."
Long pause
"Does the, uh . . . fox . . . ever . . . talk back to you?"

I should point out at this point that I'm a licensed mental health clinician.  My one Super Power (yeah, I know it's not a *REAL* Super Power, but it's as close as I'm likely going to get, barring some bizarre lab accident, so bear with me) is being able to place folks on a Mental Health Hold when their condition warrants it.  I quickly recognized that I'm the one usually on the other end of these kind of conversations.

"Um, no, not usually . . . "
"Oh . . . OK . . . bye"

And with that, she turned and quickly went back down the trail the way she'd come.

Personally, I think talking to foxes helps me stay sane.

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