Castle Hill Kestrel and a fox update

We are fortunate to be on the doorstep of the Castle Hill Nature Reserve, which sits on the edge of the South Downs. It’s mainly grass chalkland and in the summer is ablaze with butterflies. It is also home to a number of rare orchids.

Castle Hill view

View across Castle Hill

I visited on Saturday, and had barely gone a few paces before I spotted a kestrel out hunting. That was good enough for me. It was tracking back and forth, hovering and swooping, and occasionally picking up a morsel to eat. I stayed and watched.


Kestrel at Castle Hill


Kestrel at Castle Hill

Typically kestrels will predate small rodents, but if they are not available they have a particular fancy for crickets. You can see one grasped in her talons in this shot taken as she flew away.

kestrel with cricket

Kestrel with cricket

As for the foxes, we are now approaching the time of year where they sort out their winter territory. Mid-September and everything changes. The younger foxes are ‘encouraged’ away from their home patch and forced to become fully independent. There will also be changes in the adult population as they seek out the best territory for breeding. As we move into winter they will also be seeking mates. The first obvious sings are that they change their habits. We are seeing less of the young foxes in the evening, but Pretty (a fully mature adult vixen) has been slightly more evident in the past couple of weeks. Their nightly arrival times are now later, and interestingly they are also becoming more cautious. Apart form a brief glimpse of Long Nose and Pretty in the early hours of Saturday morning, the only other visit this weekend was by Scamp, on Sunday afternoon.

two foxes

Long Nose (foreground) and Pretty Vixen visit in the early hours of Saturday morning

fox in long grass

Scamp relaxing in the garden on Sunday afternoon

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark II and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, apart from the shot of Long Nose and Pretty taken with the EF 70-200mm f/4.0L IS II USM lens.

Cormorant at Falmer Pond

Just a simple entry today, of the lone cormorant that’s been hanging around at Falmer Pond recently.




About to dive



Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark II and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens.

Scamp and Long Nose (fox special)

Both the young foxes were around today, and both were utterly charming and cooperative with the camera. Scamp was the early arrival, this morning which is when I took this back-lit silhouette of her.

Scamp, the young vixen in silhouette

Scamp, the young vixen in silhouette

We named her Scamp because of her early habit of scampering away into the undergrowth, but she has become rather bolder as time has progressed. She is still more reserved than her brother, but they get on well together.

fox sitting in foreground with second fox in background

Long Nose, the young male fox, with Scamp relaxing in the background

Long Nose was named for his long, elegant snout. He was the first of the cubs we named at a time we were still using physical identifiers for naming purposes. Given his relationship with Scamp (or Scampi), I sometimes think we should have called him Chips (Scampi and Chips). The more I see of him, the more he reminds me of one of last year’s cubs we called Black Tail.

fox reclining with head raised

Long Nose strikes an elegant pose

Long Nose has made a speciality of sprawling himself out int eh sunshine. He is undoubtedly one of the most relaxed foxes we’ve had visit. These shots are typical.

fox stretching

Long Nose stretching

fox relaxing

Long Nose without a care in the world

Scamp tends to be more cautious, or at least to pick slightly more sheltered corners to spread out.

fox leaning over steps

Scamp, sprawled but alert on the steps

fox in long grass (portrait)

Scamp, peering out through the long grass

This pair are the only two of the cubs who have remained visible through the summer. I think there is at least one other around, but each fox is different and some remain cautious and secretive. Over the next two or three months the annual redistribution of territory will take place and the chances are that at least one of this pair will move on to a new location. Last year only one of the cubs (Pretty) remained over winter (she still visits regularly). It would be nice to think that at least one of these two will stay this year.

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark II and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, except the silhouette which was taken with the EF 24-105 F4L IS USM lens.