I’ve been writing a lot lately about the three eaglets as they explore the woods along the Nith River. As I have occasionally pointed out there are other species that sometimes make an appearance in this area and which I have been fortunate to encounter.

Thursday evening, while waiting for the eagles to descend from the tallest trees,  a fox came running around the bend in the river. Upon seeing me it turned quickly and ran in the opposite direction. So I waited too see if it might re-appear along that stretch of the river.

After five minutes or so, voila!

She sniffed around on the pebble beach about 40-50 metres away then wandered down to the river for a drink. Once she spotted me though she stood frozen for a few minutes before wandering towards the woods.

I wasn’t alone in observing her. I noticed the eaglets had turned their attention to her from above. The adult female eagle was perched in a tree too and made a few calls which seemed calmer than normal. Perhaps she was drawing her family’s attention to the intruder.

The fox sat down looking at me. I hadn’t moved and was happy to photograph her from a distance. After looking at my images on the back of camera I could see this fox didn’t look right. Skinny and lacking some fur on the tail I wondered if it is suffering from mange. Most likely she has simply shed her winter coat as foxes do each year. I couldn’t see any evidence she had been scratching – which is a sign of mange. Certainly she was a wonderful subject and a great surprise on this day.

She went  back to the river for another drink before staring back at me again for a couple of minutes.

I had not changed my position and I imagine she decided I wasn’t a threat. To my delight she went into the water and started swimming to the other side. Had I gone closer, before she entered the water, she would likely have left the area and not accomplished her goal of crossing the river.

Again, my patience was rewarded by allowing the fox to do what she wanted. A photographer must not interfere and cause an animal or bird to alter its behaviour just to get a picture. We should merely observe. I have found that this means sometimes I don’t get the picture I would have imagined but often I get ones I couldn’t have expected!

A tree trunk lies in the water here and once she reached it she climbed and used it as a bridge to the sandbank. Looking from side to side she wandered up the sand before vanishing into the woods.

Once again, I had gone to the river expecting to come home with some ‘eagles in flight’ photos but was treated to an encounter with an elusive fox. You never know what you might find when you spend time in nature. Please get out and experience the outdoors safely …..and ethically! 

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  1. Jeff P Evans

    I love the fact that this isn’t just a photo of a fox but a little story, a brief interaction in the wilderness of the Waterloo Region. Thanks for sharing Paul.

    1. Paul E Gains

      Glad you enjoyed the story of this fox encounter, Jeff. I find it fascinating to watch the behaviour of animals and birds. I try to imagine their thought processes but of course it’s just a guess. Although I remained at a distance she was wondering if it was safe to cross the river there with me 50 metres or so away. I am sure that the fact I stayed put made her decision to swim across there – a very narrow crossing – more palatable. Had I moved closer, no doubt, she would have dashed into the woods and I would have missed this experience. Worse, she would have been forced to find another way across. As you might tell, I am delighted with this encounter. Enjoy the outdoors, Jeff!

  2. Ron Craigen

    Paul I enjoyed reading about your encounter. It’s been quite a few years since we’ve seen a fox around here. Your subject turned up last year and sauntered by the house a few times while we were chatting with friends on our porch. I have occasionally glimpsed her running along the top of the ridge in the early morning hours. One evening last year I heard an animal scream in the woods. It was unlike anything I had ever heard before, a loud piercing scream that shattered the stillness of the night. A little research identified the source. Google “vixen scream” to hear it yourself.

    1. Paul E Gains

      Hey Ron! Thanks for your note. Glad it triggered memories for you. I have heard the ‘vixen scream’ here outside my apartment in Cambridge. Last night, in fact, I heard a fox in the woods behind the building. It’s been almost a year since I last saw the family of foxes that were regularly spotted – almost daily last summer – from my apartment balcony. I understand foxes will keep two or three dens and rotate. But I sure have heard them around midnight. Cheers!


    Good to see such a patient and caring wildlife photographer rewarded with so many awesome sightings. The next evening while sitting in our backyard, Jaellayna and I were rewarded with mentally recorded images. While entranced by multiple light trails left by more fire flies than I have ever seen before, a small indistinct animal ran by in the shadowy distance. Seconds later, after turning toward us, a delightful creature with a fluffy raised tail stopped abruptly about a metre from where we sat. After eyeing us briefly, this beautiful skunk about turned and scampered off. Lucky us!

    1. Paul E Gains

      Wow! You were very lucky the skunk didn’t view you as a threat. As for the fireflies we have many out behind my apartment building. I was literally telling my son an hour ago about having one enter my apartment one night when I left the screen door open too long. I turned out all the lights and was able to trace it. After the ‘light show’ I caught my newfound friend and let it loose on the balcony. I think I read there is an unusually large number at the moment. Glad to hear you are both enjoying summer nights John!

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