Above: watching a passing hot air balloon
There are a great many species in the UK with which I am a little obsessed and foxes are certainly one of them. Over the years I have spent hundreds of hours scouring the countryside near my Derbyshire home and it is something of an annual April routine for me now to check on the 10+ fox earths that I know of locally and that I know have been occupied at some point in recent years. Rather frustratingly however there has always been a major flaw with each and every one of the sites. A couple of them are too public and I have had to endure the extreme irritation of my (Kevin Keatley £200) hides being either vandalised or stolen. Other sites have been too inaccessible/unattractive due to the dense vegetation or, most commonly, they are simply in the wrong place for either the morning or evening light. This year however I managed to get a little bit luckier .
My fox project had actually began in October of 2010, just before I left for 2 months in India. I had recently been inspired by the work of my good friend and fellow snapper Ed Kats who had produced some wonderful images of a fox in snow in his native Holland. It was something that I had always wanted to work on myself but had been procrastinating about it until such time as I can afford to move into the countryside proper. With some fortuitous timing however some good friends of mine had, in the last few years, bought a smallholding near to my home village. They very kindly agreed to start putting some fox food out every day in a quiet corner of one of their fields, a site where I knew foxes had denned in the past but had been persecuted by the previous owner. I hoped that, as in previous years, winter would not arrive in earnest until January, just after I was due in the country and hopefully long enough for the foxes to have found, and profitted from, this new food supply.
As it turned out though, much to my chagrin, the winter snows had been and long gone by then so my mind instantly turned to the possible arrival of cubs so I persisted with the daily routine of putting out food even though I suspected that I was achieving little more than fattening up the local corvids. All of this time my hide had been in place and so I was confident that if foxes were present then at least my hide would now simply be a part of the landscape. During late April-early May I decided to check out the field margins for fox activity and was delighted when an old badger hole seemed to show a number of the classic signs of fox occupation.
On my first evening in the hide seven beautiful little fox cubs came tumbling out of the earth and in that moment every other plan (not much really!) that I’d had pencilled in for the next 4-6 weeks was shelved. Project fox was on. Over the following weeks of watching and photographing I was able to learn a tremendous amount about photographing foxes and whilst the image that I had in my mind of the cubs playfighting never quite came to fruition it was a delightful project to be involved in, not least because it was so close to home and the site had none of the negative attributes listed earlier.
As for foxes in the snow? With a bit of luck there’s a chance there might be at least seven extra hungry mouths in the area come October so I’m more than happy to start the whole process again.