What does the fox say? Look up

A fox surveys the neighbourhood from a tree. PHOTOS: Ann Brokelman

Fact: I love foxes. Why? I love their colour, their eyes, the way they move… and of course, that amazingly annoying song: “What does the fox say?” And how about how much fun the word fox is to say? It gives us terms like foxy, outfoxed, sly as a fox, and the foxtrot. So, yes, I love foxes.

The other day as I pulled into the driveway, my peripheral caught a flash of red running across the road.  I peered to have a closer look, and a huge, goofy grin spread across my face at the sight of a pair of stunning red foxes. They ran across the road and headed for the bluffs behind my friend Irene’s house. The whole time, my beagle Rory was up and barking at the window, clearly not subscribing to the story put forth by Disney’s “Fox and the Hound”.

A fox at an East End park earlier this month.

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) has beautiful red fur, a big bushy tail, and what look like cute black socks.

While I hope to see this pair again – though their presence does not bode well for the rabbits and squirrels that frequent my front yard – I’m most excited about the fact that they looked healthy. I have helped catch and transport so many sick and injured foxes, that it’s a pure joy to see this pair thriving.

Here are two random facts that I’ve recently learned about foxes. 1. Foxes are actually quite skilled at climbing trees, so don’t be too alarmed if you find one hanging around fairly high up on a branch. 2. Did you know they have whiskers on their legs, as well as on their face, to help them find their way?

Interestingly, my love of foxes grew a while back when I met a completely unrelated species that shared their name: the fox sparrow (Passerella iliaca). I don’t see these particular birds that often and getting a clear picture is rarer still.

A fox sparrow.

The last time I saw one happened to be my lucky day, as I spotted it calm and resting on a branch. It stayed still, though it kept its eye on me, long enough for me to get several great shots before it flew off and put an extra hundred meters between us.

A fox sparrow is a large sparrow that loves seeds, berries, and insects. For a sparrow sub-species they have notably large feet, toes, and claws that allow them to dig deep into the dirt, snow, or even bark on a tree.

So what do I want to see next? Keeping with the theme of this article: have you ever heard of the Eastern Foxsnake (Pantherophis gloydi)? It is one of Ontario’s largest snakes, with a shiny, rusty orange head and a golden to light brown body with dark blotches. The belly is light yellow and black. It is on my love to see list for 2017-2018.

Have a great day and keep those eyes on the sky for fox sparrows, in the bushes for foxes, and on the ground for fox snakes.

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