Flanders Moss NNR
In our current lockdowned situation wildlife encounters can be really important, either past ones, burned into our minds or current ones that we experienced in our hampered state. Past ones might be swimming with dolphins or going down in a shark cage or an African safari, something on the David Attenborough level of wildlife encounter but it doesn’t have to be like that. Sometimes a fleeting, intense moment with local wildlife can be some of the most memorable. Here is my close encounter with a Flanders fox from a couple of years ago – an intense moment seared on my mind:
The other day I had a close encounter with a fox, a very close encounter as it was only a few feet away and I nearly trod on it. I was walking across the moss, head down, mind elsewhere (strategic NNR communications if you must know) and 5 hours into a 7 hour plod taking water level readings. Suddenly from right between me and my beautiful assistant (Finn the bog dog) a fox shot off, with a rusty blurr and a rasp, behind me. Both me and the fox were shocked and not sure what was going on (the beautiful assistant was oblivious to all of this), my reaction was to jump and spin, his was to pin his ears back and flee like flaming lightning. It was only when my heart had slowed down and he had long gone that I worked out what was going on. And why a ‘him’? Well this is a bit of an assumption but it was a big fox and most females would be underground with their cubs at this time.
There was a big dimple in the largest sphagnum hummock around and he had obviously plumped it like a bean bag and settled down facing the sun for a deep midday snooze. Because we had come up wind and he was deeply asleep he hadn’t heard us and only when we came level did he wake and see us. With Flanders surrounded by so many sheep farms with lambs, foxes are not popular in the area and are hit hard so the moss must have seemed like a bit of a refuge for him.
These type of wildlife encounters feel very personal, a one to one experience. I felt awful for disturbing him and apologized profusely to his retreating brush. But the closeness of a wild animal, the fluid speed of his retreat, the warmth still in the hummock hollow and the vivid red of his coat were a thrill to experience. So where does it leave us both? Well I will remember that fleeting encountered for a long time and I can only hope that he will get to use his bean bag hummock again on a sunny but more relaxing day.