An Autumn Fox Sighting in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

Dear Readers, I accidentally managed to publish this post early yesterday (thank you WordPress for making it so easy to do that!) This is the completed piece. I hope you enjoy it. 

Dear Readers, nothing quickens my heart more than that glimpse of russet and frost fur that is usually all I see of the foxes in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery. On Saturday we got lucky, though, because this beautiful boy got to the edge of the woods and then paused for a moment to look back and see what we were up to. I have rarely seen a fox in such beautiful condition, from the tip of his bushy tail to his alert, curious expression. I had time to take just a couple of shots before he melted away. What a privilege it is to spend a few seconds with a wild animal.

It’s the turning point of the year in the cemetery: the summer visitors have left, but I saw my first flock of redwings flying overhead. There was a right old commotion in one of the trees, where the robins were chinking with alarm and the blackbird was having its usual conniptions. I imagine that the influx of large numbers of Scandinavian thrushes must be quite a shock every year for our native birds, especially the blackbirds who also depend largely on berries at this time of year. I wonder if they are displaced into our gardens by the redwings and fieldfares, who are much more wary of humans normally?

The one time that I have encountered redwings and fieldfares at close quarters has been when we’ve had heavy snow. One year, when I was still living in Islington, I took a walk to Culpeper Community garden, and every tree was heavy with grounded redwings. There must have been several hundred shifting uneasily in the street trees.

On my first year in our current house in East Finchley, a fieldfare lost his flock, again during heavy snow, and set up home for a few days in the crab apple at the bottom of the garden. What a feisty character he was! I took to putting a dish of grated apple out for the thrushes, and he would take on all comers. I think the blackbirds (and at this point there were easily half a dozen using the garden) were delighted to see the back of him, and I was there when he left. Another flock of redwings and fieldfares were calling overhead, and ‘my’ bird uttered a single call and then leapt into the air in a flurry of wings to join his fellows. What a relief it must have been for him to see his conspecifics – I imagine there is nothing more terrifying for a social bird than to suddenly find themselves alone.

I hope to get some photos of the redwings at some point (though they are very nervous and difficult to photograph). For now, though, you’ll have to make do with this crow, who was very pleased with whatever this white object was that s/he’d found. I do hope that it’s edible, and not one of those cotton-wool pads that you use for taking off eye makeup.

The colour changes in the cemetery are lovely to see. The Raywood ashes continue to impress…

The tulip tree continues to turn to gold.

And this is a very fine leaf. It looks like a sessile oak, but I didn’t know that they turned so red? Opinions, please!

And here’s a welcome sight – this is an earthstar fungus, and could indeed be the fruiting body of the same one that I saw in this spot in December last year. As I noted then, the spores are emitted in puffs when raindrops hit the centre of the fungus. What an unearthly-looking fungus it is.

And finally, I was pleased to see that someone has given the Scotsman a sunflower to go with the mimosa he was holding last week. I’m clearly not the only person to be very fond of him.

2 thoughts on “An Autumn Fox Sighting in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

  1. Ann Bronkhorst

    This handsome fox clearly isn’t Frank, the one with a sickle-shaped scar on his face who was named and fed by the security men back in the spring when he looked a sorry sight. I hope he is still alive and coping with what might be just one eye.


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