April Showers...

“Then God spoke to Noah and his sons with him, saying: “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you:  the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth.  Thus I establish My covenant with you:  Never again shall all flesh be cut off  by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”                                                                                         Genesis 9:8 – 11

As the last days of winter melted away, the ground became soggy from the melting snow.  Everyone was once again happy to run with abandon across the pasture without worries of a slippery icy terrain.  With the melting ground, came a lot of mud.

We had seen signs of our resident fox on the prowl.  His mate was tucked away in their den along the creek bank taking care of their newborn young.  It would be a good month or more before the baby foxes would venture out of the den to start exploring their new world.

Alert ears and posture tense, they are ready to flee at less than a moments notice should some danger be lurking.  Ember became alert, looking at the far hills, seeing something moving in the distance.  But as we watched, it was Papa fox coming back to the den after a day of hunting.  Ember soon relaxed as she has learned there is nothing to fear from the family of foxes that have denned on our pastures for years now.  She has taken her cue from Abi, her alpha, that there is nothing to be afraid of.  The foxes and our horses have learned to co-exist on our land.  The foxes have no reason to fear the horses and the horses, in turn, have learned that the foxes pose no threat or danger to them.

We were thrilled when we saw the first of the fox kits emerge from their den.  They did not stray far the first few days as their eyes became clearer and they gained a little more confidence.  Momma or Papa fox was always nearby keeping an eye on them.  We counted 6 kits in this litter.  We were excited about the coming days, knowing the youngsters would be running and playing and scampering about the pasture without a care in the world.  It would be a while yet, before Momma would teach them to be wary of different dangers that surround them.

I set up my photography blind out in the pasture with a clear view of the foxes den.  In doing so, I also have to put up a mock fence around it to keep the horses from tearing it down in their endless curiosity.  I always chuckle to myself each year as Terry and I put the blind up that we should call it something else.  It certainly is not a ‘blind’ when I have to put high visibility tape around it to keep the horses out of it.  Momma and Papa fox are well aware of it being there.  They know when I am in it too.  The way Papa fox acts in a nonchalant way, I would venture to say that he was raised here.  He is probably one of the young from a previous year’s litter.  Momma fox isn’t as comfortable with our presence as her mate is.  That is fine.  I want her to teach her young to stay away from people.  I have no desire to habituate these beautiful foxes to humans.  That would surely be a death sentence for them.

We all know the famous saying that April showers bring May flowers. And we all love the beautiful flowers that appear in Spring, bringing a fresh splash of color to the drag browns of the fading winter. The rains of April were heavy, with little to no relief.

The ground was over saturated and soon the steady rain had no place to go except out of the creek banks and into the pastures. Knowing God’s promise not to flood the earth again was a great comfort to me as the water kept rising.  I knew it would stop eventually.  The majority of our pastures are on the other side of the creek from the shelter of the barn. As I have mentioned several posts ago, we keep our horses in a free roaming environment. The barn is always open should they decide to come inside. Or they are free to stay outside if they so choose. Our pasture and creek banks have plenty of trees to take cover from downpours.

During the first heavy rain of the season all of the horses except for Touchy made their way to the shelter of the barn.  Touchy is our 30 year old who only has one eye and the sight in that eye is probably only about 50%.  She relies on her memory of where everything is to find her way.  Abi has been a wonderful leader for our little herd.  She rarely ever lets Touchy out of her sight.  She protects Touchy in a way that only a good leader would do.  On this occasion though, Abi left Touchy behind.  That was very odd of her to do so.  As the rain continued to fall, the creek began to rise.

As  the water overflowed the banks, Terry went out to get Touchy.  We needed to get her on the barn side of the creek before she got stranded over there all alone.  Terry called her name and she perked her ears up.  He called again and she followed the sound of his voice.  She soon came to the place where they cross the creek.

Terry continued to talk to her, to let her know where he was.  She did not hesitate to cross the rushing water that had risen quite high.  The current took her a little off course, but with Terry talking to her the entire time, she changed her direction and came straight to him.  The rain continued for days.  The barnyard became a huge muddy mess as the horses had very few places to go.  We opened up the small paddock above the barn so they could graze and have some room to roam.

When the flood waters finally subsided enough for the horses to cross to the pasture side of the creek again, we coaxed them over with hay.  We knew they would be happier on the pasture side, with the new spring grass growing and much more room to run and play.  Being cooped up on the barn side of the creek was wearing on them all.  They needed their space.  So we took some hay over to the pasture.  We walked across our ‘foot bridge’ to get to the other side.  Ember was the first one to brave crossing the creek that was still quite high.

Once on the other side of the creek, the horses enjoy some hay that we put out for them.  I was proud of all of them for facing the rushing rapids of the creek water to get to the other side.  Image, Ember and Lady Gray had never seen, let alone crossed, rushing water such as this.  They all handled it quite well.

As the horses enjoyed the hay, the sun finally came out.  I think we only had about 2 days of sunshine until it started to rain again.  Once again, the rain water overflowed the banks of the creek.  Only this time it was much worse.  Thankfully all of the horses stayed on the pasture side of the creek.  The grass was growing quickly now, so there was plenty of grazing.  As long as they were all together, we were not worried about them being over there.  They had plenty of water and grass.  And we were still able to carry hay over to them.

Our ‘foot bridge’ started to float as the creek water floods the pasture.

Sadly, the family of foxes didn’t fare as well.  Their network of dens runs along the creek banks.  We watched as Momma fox rescued 4 of the 6 kits from the den and moved them to a different location.

She came back time and again searching for her 2 youngest.

Momma fox is frantically searching for her young.

We fear the flood waters were just too much for the 2 smallest of her litter.  It was interesting to watch the change in her behavior as she went from ‘search and rescue’ mode to ‘survival’ mode.  After an hour and a half of searching each den over and over again for her youngest, she switched gears and began unearthing every bit of food she had cached near her den, taking it to her new location.

It was difficult to stand back and watch this happen without interfering and trying to help her.  I kept telling myself that this is what natural selection is all about.  It didn’t make it any easier as I watched Momma fox search in vain for her missing little ones…

Since the flooding, our sightings of the fox family have been few.  The remaining young will visit our pastures occasionally, but only to stay for an hour or so.

As April faded into May, the ground began to slowly dry.  May held it’s own showers of rain, but thankfully it was not as much as April.

Image is still infatuated by Lady Gray.  She will tolerate his advances for a little while and then she tells him to back off.