Wildlife watching and photography is one of my very favorite hobbies. Ever since my first photo tour to the Nevada desert six years ago, I have happily gone miles and miles out of my way for a chance of glimpsing birds, mammals, reptiles...I love it all. I feel so incredibly fortunate to be able to take these journeys, which give me joy in the moment and after I've returned home, when I get to edit and enjoy what I've seen.
I do have my favorite animals and birds to photograph. Wild mammals of all kinds, much rarer than birdlife, are always wonderful--the ponies of Assateague, jackrabbits out west, bugling elk in the fall, up in PA's Elk County. Young animals are always precious, also rare. Let's face it: There's basically no animal as cute as a young fox kit. So, for several years, the chance to see and photograph mature and young red foxes has sent me on many chases: three hours to Island Beach State Park in New Jersey, an hour to a friend's backyard in Harrisburg, two hours to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. Even with my efforts, I don't think I've had the good fortune to photograph red foxes in about two years.
Until this week.
We were enjoying a lovely s'more campfire here on the property the other night: Carl and I, my dad, and the boys. It was a lovely evening, replete with bats careening overhead and stars beginning to become visible as the light from the sunset faded. And suddenly, we spotted her: a small red fox, snuffling through the grass at the edge of the woods. I couldn't believe it, getting the chance to see such a beautiful creature right here on the property, when I was camera-less and least expecting such a special encounter. (I snuck away to retrieve the camera, to see if I could catch our friend in the fading light.)
The pandemic has curtailed travel for all of us, but I've had no reason to complain about having all of this time here on the home property. Throughout the past fourteen months, I have spent many many hours watching the wildlife right around us here, photoing the songbirds at our feeders and deer munching on fallen apples and snapping turtles laying eggs in the garden. I felt incredibly fortunate last summer, when another of my favorite creatures--a pair of great horned owls--became reliable twilight visitors above the vineyards. I spent tons of happy evenings sipping cocktails out of my travel mug and watching the owls watch for prey. I was also grateful for the hummingbirds and butterflies who found our zinnia garden. While we could not go out into the world, it seemed more than happy to come to us.
Looking out our windows here, I've learned many lessons about gratitude and about making hay (or picking grapes) while the sun shines. We've been fortunate to stay safe and to continue to live and thrive in a place of both wild and cultivated beauty.
But still--it was extra-special to meet this red fox (Latin name Vulpes vulpes). As it snuffled around, not minding our banter or campfire smoke, we got to watch it for at least twenty minutes. I happily clicked away, not minding the smeared melted marshmallow on my zoom lens casing.
Seriously, there's nothing cuter.
I feel the gratitude on many levels: If my dad hadn't been visiting, for instance, and if our boys hadn't been home, we likely wouldn't have had a campfire that night. We would have missed those bats and Venus and the first fireflies of the year. Somehow our return to togetherness seems to have manifested a magical night, which in turn welcomed a magical creature. For life here at Allegro, it doesn't get much better than that.