The image accompanying this short post has absolutely nothing to do with what follows, however I observed this earlier in the year at Wells Cathedral and it made me smile.
Monday, 5 June 2023
The Fox, The Cat, and The Crow
More recently for the last few nights the carrion crows in the area have been kicking up one heck of a din around and after midnight. Nights of course are short in June but this raucous harsh cawwing has pierced the silence of the darkness and has continued regularly for the last week or so. I first heard this commotion about 11.30pm one night as I stood in the garden before bed. Alerted to the noise I could see the carrion crows flying about silhouetted against the still feint blue sky to the west, but that was all. No other sound aside from their caw-caw-caw. On another occasion there was an almighty din coming from the field at the rear of the house at around 1 am. In that instance two maybe three crows were being very vocal and moving about quickly. I suspected there was a nocturnal predator about but couldn't see anything or be certain.
But now I think I have solved the mystery - a fox.
We have a lot of foxes around there, making best use of the mixed habitat of the very rural landscape all the way to the sea and the very built up suburbia with scavenging opportunities. Each of these two habitats is separated by the lane which runs behind our house to the village itself. On Friday night, or should I say at 2am on Saturday, our cat who is a fully trained mafia boss woke me up for a feed. Duly fed he popped outside to sit on the drive, something he regularly does after a handsome meal. Moments later there was an explosion of caw-caw-caw from the trees behind me. The calling drew closer accompanied by wingbeats and then across the street a fox casually lolloped along the front gardens of the houses opposite, being followed, well below roof height, by a pair of crows becoming more agitated by the minute. Eventually the fox leapt up over a fence and went behind another house, closely followed by the noisy sentinels. After what seemed an age but was more likely only a minute the noise of the crows faded then died away, silence resumed.
Gingernut our cat sat on the drive watching this unfold with resigned bemusement. He is a marvellous cat as he has absolutely no interest in birds and simply observes them even if he and they are on the lawn together. The resident hedgehog likewise gets a wide birth. I put it down to intelligence on his part after I educated him to not kill wildlife. Mrs Wessex-Reiver says he's conserving his energy as it is beneath him to react as it would be far too much effort to chase after a prey item. She may be right.
The question then on my lips is are the crows and fox interacting because of disturbance? Or, more likely, are young fledgling crows about that I can't see and the adults are simply being good parents? From what I saw of the fox it was patrolling the gardens not trying to get at something intently like a stricken bird on the ground. I can't be 100% certain every carrion crow cawing at night has been due to the fox as in the behaviour I witnessed, but it makes reasonable sense as foxes are a nightly occurrence, though of course rats or other cats may be to the creator of this darkest hour pandemonium on other occasions.
It is not the first time Gingernut our cat and the local foxes have been together. I suspect there is some interaction of sorts going on as he leads a very much nocturnal life. A month or so back I was woken by the foxes trashing a neighbours recycling boxes. Leaning out the bedroom window there were two foxes who seeing me fled down the street. Moments later Gingernut appeared from the exact same area as the recycling boxes and foxes and nonchalantly trotted over the road and into the house with an air of "nothing to see here". Was he across there with the foxes all three trashing the recycling boxes, or was he simply innocently passing? I have my suspicions he was with them and interacting to a greater or lesser degree with them as I've seen him twice now watching a fox intently on our drive, well before I have.
Non peer-reviewed research suggests foxes and cats do interact and by and large there is no combative competition. Foxes being bigger could of course kill a cat, but cats are mean street fighters and observational research suggests foxes avoid cats due to the latter's claws and lightning fast reflexes. Even Gingernut who we think is about twelve or 13 years old can show remarkable ferocity when the neighbourhood cats enter the garden, though with the street domiciled fox, he just watches the fox trot by, which is why I have my suspicions he is a feline co-ordinator of this mayhem, like a ginger Godfather.
Now - I just need a good, unbroken, night of sleep......
Further reading :
Are foxes a threat to cats (2014)