Winter Wildlife Wonders

Laura White
Laura White

The nights are drawing in and it’s dark in the mornings when the alarm clock goes off. As a person who really struggles to drive in the dark, this is one part of winter that I hate.

But to make myself feel better I have been thinking of all the things that winter brings that inspire happiness and in doing this I dredged up a wonderful memory. I grew up in Farnham, Surrey, which is a town on the train line to London but surrounded by some beautiful countryside.

There was a park just up the road from where we lived and as my brother and I played there one late autumn afternoon in the late eighties, we suddenly noticed a woman coming out of a gate in the hedge carrying two carrier bags. She motioned for us to be quiet and still then took out bits of raw chicken from the bags, sat on the floor and waited.  We were entranced and slightly nervous of this strange woman behaving so oddly, until a few minutes later a female fox appeared from the dusk and boldly approached the woman.

The vixen sat down about fifteen feet away and waited for the woman to deliver her dinner. We were then regular visitors to this ritual and were rewarded for our months of un-childlike stillness when in the spring of the following year the vixen brought her cubs with her to the feast.

Now living in rural Devon, I understand that people here aren’t quite so enchanted by the fox that will kill all the chickens in the coop and foxes are blamed for the loss of livestock such as lambs too.

Just to dispel a myth here – foxes in the wild will kill more than they can eat at the time and bury the rest for later when hunting isn’t so successful. When one gets into a chicken coop it will do the same but clearly there are too many birds for it to bury so out of instinct it will kill them all and take just a couple. It’s not really done out of malice.

Anyway, this memory led me to think of things I could do with my children this winter so that they could have wonderful winter memories to look back on.

Winter is a great time to go on a beast hunt – the muddy ground is perfect for capturing animal prints and plaster of paris can be found easily in your local hardware store or online. Take a cast of the print, then follow the tracks to try and find your beast. A winter scavenger hunt will encourage children to pay attention to their surroundings and they can collect things to make a winter work of art on the way.

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