Outfoxed . . .

THREE times a week I’m up at seven for a pre-dawn walk. The sun doesn’t rise in the Alpujarras until about 8.05am, and the lanes are quiet in the blue-grey half-darkness. I follow the riverbed, scale a steep track up its western bank, pass through an olive grove, then a copse of eucalyptus, and then another olive grove, before emerging on a long, rocky ridge clad in prickly furze. On the crest of the ridge I sit myself down on a flat boulder to watch the sun climb above the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Perfect peace . . .

One morning, while following the track along the ridge to my boulder, I spy a fox a few metres ahead of me. I unzip my camera case but the fox is away into the furze before I have the camera in my hands. I feel slightly miffed. All I wanted was an image of this enigmatic beast, el zorro, in his native countryside. Still, there will be other opportunities.

I alter my routine. I follow the riverbed, climb the bank, pass through the olive grove, the eucalyptus copse and the second olive grove. But before I mount the rocky ridge I withdraw my camera and set it for repetitive shooting. I stick religiously to this routine for several days, with no sign of the fox on its furzy hilltop. So the only thing I photograph is the sunrise.

Then one morning this week I follow the riverbed, climb the bank, pass through the first olive grove – and there’s the fox in the eucalyptus copse, standing facing me as bold as brass. This big dog-fox is only four metres away in the middle of the track, its eyes staring into mine – and my camera’s still in its case. Bladdy hell.

I unzip the case but the fox is away. El zorro slips into the shadows with a crackle of eucalyptus leaves before my fingers have touched the camera. I am more than slightly miffed; I feel cheated and outsmarted. This fox isn’t playing by the rules.

I alter my routine a second time. This morning I dispense with the case and ensure the camera is active before I leave the house. I follow the riverbed in the half-darkness, climb the bank – and there’s the fox on the track at the edge of the first olive grove. He’s surprised me again. I click the camera but it refuses to take a picture because there is insufficient light. Bladdy hell and sod. I fumble to activate the flash, but by this time the fox has shown me the backs of his black ears and skipped leisurely into the trees. I think I can hear him laughing.

Defeated, I follow winding paths to the rocky ridge, sit on my boulder among the furze, and take pictures of yet another sunrise. I now have more sunrise pictures than the International Space Station.

Sunrise over Orgiva: The silver strips in the middle distance are the panels of a solar power station on the outskirts of town. The huddle of little white buildings to the right is the fireworks factory. The buildings are a set distance apart so if one blows up, the others don’t join it in a big bang

This episode has taught me several important lessons: wildlife photography should be left to people who know what they are doing; foxes cannot be trusted with the simplest of routines; the only thing in life on which we can depend is the sun coming up in the morning.

Sixty-one next month and still learning.

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29 thoughts on “Outfoxed . . .

  1. That had me laughing as much as the fox(es)! I’m hopeless at capturing wildlife on camera so now I just stick to seeing and remembering and being glad I saw!

    What’s furze by the way? I was thinking gorse but it doesn’t look like it in your photos. And lovely sunrises/sets!

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    1. Strictly speaking, furze is gorse. But the stuff here isn’t quite as sharp as the gorse in the UK and is a bit softer. I didn’t know what to call it, to tell you the truth, so I opted for vagueness.
      Cheers, Alen

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  2. That routine sounds horrendous ! I’d much rather plod over the wet moors here in Bowes and watch the rain fall (well pile horizontally into my face) and commune with the midges ….. Seriously though when I used to go to hot places for holidays I used to hire a bike (leave the Mrs on the beach) and pedal hopefully inland with a litre of Sangria (and a drop of water) and wonder at the dryness and heat everywhere ….. no wind – just the sound of Chickadas in the Olive groves. Great times !

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    1. Hi Adrian. I’m feeling quite homesick after reading that. I used to live near Scotch Corner and many of my outings were over Barningham Moor and around Bowes and Barney. I even miss the rain and wind, but not the midges. Must admit, though, the heat is nice. And the sangria.
      Cheers, Alen

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  3. Outfoxed by a real fox. What you need is a dashcam strapped to your head and then wait for the fox to say ‘gdah, never thought of that…’ (Except in Spanish.) Or have your face tattooed on the back of your head so that . . . hang on, I haven’t really thought this one through. It involves walking the wrong way up the path.

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    1. Ha ha. Some good ideas there. My dad used to tell us he used to catch foxes by putting salt on their tales. Then when they turned round to lick it off he grabbed them by the head. You could catch rabbits and pigeons the same way, apparently.
      Cheers, Alen

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  4. Hi Alen. I enjoyed your tremendously enthusiastic story about the fox, who has his own agenda.
    We have discussed how to get the picture in the box.
    Can you get hold of a liver paté? Danish foxes are pleased with paté 🙂
    Then go out an early morning. You know where the fox likes to be.
    Sit down and wait patiently without to much rustling paper, in other words: Keep a low profile.
    The camera is ready, taking into account the light setting and the fox fast movements.
    It could be a lot of fun to see the Red Master himself 🙂
    I also had several good laughs!!

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    1. Hi Hanna. That sounds a bit like my father’s method of creeping up behind the fox and sprinkling salt on its tail. I think the flaw in the liver pate method is that I would be tempted to take some crispy biscuits with me and eat the pate myself if the fox did not show up in the first five minutes.
      Anyway, I went out again this morning and there was no sign of the fox at all. I did, though, see a man digging a hole in the road to fix a burst water pipe.
      All the best, Alen

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