The Fox And The Duck

I was packing up after work today, when I heard an almighty racket from out on the meadow.  I grabbed my camera and ran round the house to see what on earth was going on.

I couldn’t see anything untoward at first, but then I caught a glimpse of burnt orange amongst the meadow-grass; a fox with something in its jaws (click on photos to enlarge – if you like).

Only then did I notice the female mandarin duck and …

… realised that it was her making all that noise.  The fox (holding on to its mandarin duckling) …

… started to make off, pausing only to throw a glance in my direction.

But, suddenly, the duck was back …

… flapping over the fox’s head to land nearby hoping, I think, to divert the fox’s attention away from its prize.

Thwarted in her attempt, she tried again, swooping low and …

… again landing nearby.

But, her efforts were in vain; the fox unconcerned by her feints and squawks …

… carried his/her booty away.  Leaving behind …

… a bereft (and very beautiful) mother.

I didn’t even know that the mandarins had raised a brood this year (they didn’t use the owl nest-box like last year).  I certainly hadn’t seen any ducklings – except for today, in the mouth of a fox.  Though I often find clumps of feathers and the remains of birds and rabbits about the Priory, I do forget that it is a place of death – as well as of life and beauty.

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55 thoughts on “The Fox And The Duck

  1. Oh B………. foxes i hate them, i have lost a few hens to them over the years…………..their so sneaky! The garden is looking beautiful and green after all the rain.

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    • I’ve lost two chickens (out of three) to a fox in the last few months, Andrea (we gave the third away and are having a break from chicken keeping now) but I still don’t hate them. Unlike the farmer at the Priory who detests them with a passion. But then she has lost many, many birds over the years. D

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  2. Great shots Dave; that kind of interaction often goes unseen and is a great a reminder of the fact that this green and pleasant land is so much more than a scene to be admired but that it is teeming with life and that this life is constant competition for survival. In our place at the top of the food chain we forget this.

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    • Too true, Jason. The Priory certainly is teeming with wildlife; deer have been back and grazed on a row of four Ferdinand Picard roses and a rabbit has found a way in (not sure where yet) and stripped most of the bark of a young tree. If I don’t find the latter, I’m hoping the fox will. D

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      • Deer are certainly a pest; at one of the gardens I work in they munch through most of the roses on a regular basis, so much so I’m surprised there are any left! Still I guess that’s part of the price of living in a beautiful rural location. It is odd though that with a quite rampant deer population in this country I recently read that we import venison!?!?!

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  3. Ever thought of a job with the BBC wildlife unit? Utterly amazing to capture that sequence. I’ve spent years erecting a Colditz style fence to keep foxes away from my bantams. And then what happens? I lose four in one morning to a buzzard…I wish I had been on the spot with a camera. Buzzards are a plague here. Protected, so over-populated and half starved.

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    • It was my dream job when I was in my late teens, Mr K and I used to be speechlessly jealous of Simon King (who’s about the same age as me). I didn’t know buzzards were a problem in that way, sorry to hear of your loss – I thought they were more of a carrion kinda bird. I had a text from Margaret (the farmer) after this post appeared. On Thursday night she lost five chickens and four guinea fowl to a fox and wrote “good fox pictures but why didn’t you shoot the b*****d with a gun instead of a camera?”
      Colditz style fence, eh? Watchtowers? Machine guns, spotlights and electrified wire? Serious fencing indeed. Dave

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      • I arrived at the buzzard by elimination – having even gone so far as to padlock the run in case it was a ‘two-legged fox’. Feathers, no corpses, no holes in wire, no tunnels…..unless we have a golden eagle around, I can’t think of anything else it can be, although I’m surprised buzzards have that amount of lifting power.

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        • The birds that Margaret lost were in a run with six foot wire fencing – they climb over it. And I’ve seen a fox on top of the six foot wooden fence in my own garden. Could a fox not have climbed over your Colditz wire?

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          • I didn’t even know that there was a proposal to destroy buzzard nests until the u-turn was announced yesterday. And it was proposed on the basis of no figures on how many pheasant chicks are lost to buzzards and using tax-payers money. No wonder it was dropped. And God forbid that anything catches fish – other than fisherman of course. (Shakes head). D

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    • Thanks Janet. I know – I’m not used to drama at the Priory. It’s normally soooo quiet – just the sound of me muttering or singing to myself. I was quite breathless with it all. Dave

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  4. Hi Dave,
    Ive the pic (not good quality as via mob) of what the “fox” did in Margarets chicken run over the field from you if you want them

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    • Nah thanks, Nick. Margaret texted me to say exactly how she feels about foxes (not that I didn’t know) and about the carnage one caused on Thursday night. I can imagine the image. Her poor guinea fowl. Dave

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  5. Very good pics Dave! And a really good timing too! I’m sorry for the little duck but the fox has to eat, right? That’s how nature works. What really moved me was the desperate attempt of the mother to save her baby… I hope the fox has puppies somewhere too, one death for one life.
    The meadow looks great, apparently all the latest showers made it good!
    Why don’t you capture wild rabbits for the fox? The fox could give you a favour and leave your mandarines…

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    • Hundreds of rabbits outside the Priory, Mr A – to which the fox is eternally welcome. When, occasionally a rabbit does get into the gardens, I kinda rely on a fox to get rid of it for me. They mostly do. D

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  6. Wow, Dave — amazing story and photos. At least we humans mostly have the option of forgetting just how epic daily life can be. If you’re a duck or a fox, epic is probably par for the course. The meadow is quite a sight to feast on — better than grubs or feathers any day of the week.

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    • I am aware, Stacy how my life isn’t so very epic – and I’m very grateful for it. Mostly. The meadow is coming into its own at the mo – I’ll post more photos soon. D p.s. I like grubs and feathers.

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  7. Oh, so sorry. But, I suppose the fox has to eat, too. Poor mother duck. She gave a valiant effort. Your photos are amazing. I would have not had the presence of mind, I don’t think, to start taking pictures with all that activity going on!

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  8. Ow, oo, yikes, Dave. Yes, since I was a boy, seeing these things horrifies me. The mother duck is so brave. It’s so sad to see her labour lost. The fox is traditionally taken to be a blackguard and killer, and yet the fox is only eating, as we all do. Amazing, to see these things happening in your garden. Better it be like this, than that there were no life in your garden.

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    • Hi Rob, absolutely. There have been so many instances (so many) where I’ve witnessed something and NOT had my camera. So it was nice, for once, to both have my camera AND the right lens. D

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  9. Nature can come across as ruthless sometimes but it’s all part of maintaining it’s own balance. I’m astounded though that you got the timing right to be able to capture in photos what the commotion was all about, superb photologue!!

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  10. Great images David, yes, nature is hard but that is the way of things. I think we, humans, can be a wimpy about ‘nature in the raw’ but this is still a better life and death than a factory-farmed chicken or duck that many are happy to buy and eat. Chrisitna

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  11. Great post, David. Obviously not so great for the mandarin family but that’s nature for you, the fox will have cubs to feed. Pretty amazing to capture the drama so well. We were at an RSPB place last summer in the cafe watching the the birds on the pond and cooing over the baby moorhens, only for a heron to swoop in and grab one of them right from under our noses. We were all sat their quite gobsmacked. It was sad to hear the cries from the mother as she tried to gather up the rest of her brood. That female duck is very beautiful, hopefully she has some more young and the fox doesn’t get them all.

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    • Absolutely, WW – all part of the intricate web, most of which we never see or are aware of (other than on the telly). It is a little shocking when we do, as we have (mostly) become sheltered from how harsh life can be. D

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    • No happy ending I’m afraid – I think the duckling was dead from the out-set – thank goodness. A fox got one of my chickens the other week. I chased him away but then had to finish its job as the chicken was so badly mauled. Not a great start to a Sunday. D

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  12. Heavans, it was a wonder you could hold the camera still!! Sorry for mother duck, but that is nature in the raw I’m afraid.Great photos.

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    • It was quite exciting (and moving), Pauline, being party to all that drama – and thinking these photos are going to be blurred, these are all going to be blurred (it all unfolded about 40 odd metres away). D

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