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Winter Magic

1st of December 2009

As you read these notes we are well into the long nights of winter and you are probably thinking of Christmas. As I take Ted, our Labrador, for his late night walk the cool night air is full of sounds, strange squawks, screams and hoots. Some creatures have things other than Christmas on their minds! They must establish their territories ready for the breeding season and for some that means driving out the previous season’s offspring. Mum does not want her young son cramping her style and dad doesn’t want to mate with his daughter or to compete with his son, so they have to go. This is the same for two very different creatures, Tawny Owls and Foxes.
The Tawny Owls have been making their haunting beautiful hoots for some weeks now. They must drive out the young and mark out their patch again. The old “to wit to woo” call is made by the pair having a chat. He says “hoo hoo” and she says “key wick”. I love to hear this sound as we go up the Lane and I try to work out how many pairs are about. We seem to be quite well supplied.
The foxes are a different matter. Their screaming and squawking makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end! I remember my dad wakening me one night when I was quite young to look out of the bedroom window and watch a fox screaming on Kings Langley Common. In bright moonlight we could see it sitting on top of the bank and throwing its head back and letting out the most blood curdling screams. Dad was worried that I would be frightened by it and had come to reassure me. It was a magical time spent together at the window that I will never forget. The foxes will mate in January but there will be a lot of noisy squabbles before then. The youngsters must be driven off and mates found. Both dog foxes and vixens scream to advertise their presence. Don’t be nervous and if you get the chance maybe you can share a magic moment with someone close to you.
Merry Christmas
Wendy Bathurst

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