The leaf twitches.
There are plenty of moving leaves in this thicket just a few yards from my home. A dense jungle of ivy and bramble, cow parsley, willowherb and fallen branches that adorns the bases of some tall ash trees, it’s alive with movement from a gusting breeze that is moving occasional teased-out-cotton clouds above me and bringing the temperature down from hot to mild. The flat white flower heads of the cow parsley jiggle, the ivy leaves flutter. But this leaf is different. This one twitched.
Above me, a pair of squirrels play tag through the treetops. Yards beyond this small thicket, someone is using a power tool on metal of some kind, which is screaming in protest. A woman in fluorescent running clothes jogs past, towed by an eager dog. She doesn’t say what she makes of me, sat quietly wearing camouflage clothing on a section of grass recently mowed by the Council , but I can guess her thoughts.
The leaf twitches again. My arms are starting to ache now: I’ve been holding my camera up for about 15 minutes. A bus thunders by. Someone a few gardens away starts their electric mower up. I suddenly see more than a leaf moving. A buff-coloured shape, curved, like the top of a spearhead, lifts. It stops suddenly and retracts. A couple with a dog walk past, footsteps crunching on decaying asphalt. Silence returns, broken by a nearby wood pigeon with love on his mind. The leaf twitches again. The shape lifts. It’s an ear. Furry. Then a face peers out at me from behind the random scrollwork of goose-grass stems. A long face, sharpened like the front of a pencil. Two brown forward-facing eyes. The fur, ginger above then white below, so cleanly separated and level that it is as if someone painted them using a ruler. It’s a fox cub.
Moments later, a second joins it. Each takes it in turns to stare at me, bothered but not worried by the sound of my camera, before they vanish back into undergrowth. Half an hour of patient waiting has given me an encounter barely a minute long. The sun has settled a little lower in the evening sky. The man in the nearby house tortures some metal again. A couple walk past with yet another dog (There are so many lockdown dogs now). But none of them know what I know, that they are all walking or working just yards from a new family of foxes, the cubs just starting to be adventurous.
It’s sad but true that like the seagull, more foxes live in urban areas than in the countryside. I’m an experienced wildlife-finder and I’ve never found an occupied earth in the countryside, although I have seen country foxes. But the fox is an adaptable creature, quick to exploit opportunities, and humans (and in particular our wasteful ways with food) are a resource just crying out to be exploited. Personally, I welcome them.
Another leaf wobbles. But this time it is just the wind. Probably.