My walk down natureís trail this morning led me up to some open fields on the ridge. The recent warm weather had melted most of the snow so I wasnít able to see what animals had left for tracks.
Along the edge of a picked cornfield the melted snow had made the ground rather wet and muddy. The tracks of a raccoon and a possum followed the first two rows. I could see where the possum stopped and gnawed on an ear of corn. Normally he would be somewhere snuggled in a warm place in hibernation but the thaw has stirred his hunger and he will eat whatever he can find.
The tracks left in the mud by a cottontail rabbit led from the brushy fence-row and also ventured across the mud where another hidden corn cob was found.
When I came to the end of the cornfield I stood and watched across a large grassy area for awhile. Thinking I saw some movement in the tall grass a hundred yards away, I raised the binoculars for a closer look. This is a good place to see deer who like to bed down in the tall grass. Itís also a place where a red-tailed hawk or a kestrel may be hunting for field voles.
I watched the grass where I thought I had seen something move and to my surprise, a red fox stood up with her ears raised straight above her head. She sniffed the air for any signs of danger and glanced all around before continuing her search for voles.
I was standing down wind from the fox and she didnít pick up my scent. Standing behind a wooden fence post I watched as the fox leaped high above the dry brown grass and pounced down out of sight. Quickly she came up with a fat vole in her teeth. She tossed her meal high into the air and again pounced, cat- like. This game continued several more times before the fox finally and hungrily chewed the vole a few times and swallowed her prey whole. The beautiful red fox then licked her chops and continued her hunting trip through the tall grass.
I decided to leave the fox alone to her business and I slowly snuck off in the opposite direction. Little did the fox know that I had seen her and that she had truly made my day.
The foxes have finished their mating for this season but may stay together until well after 4 or 5 kits are born in April.
Itís not often I get such a good look at one of these beautiful animals but when I do, I never forget it.
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