Our own 'garden watch' reveals night time visitors

Fox in Sheila Meades' garden

Sheila Meades captured this night time visitor to her garden - Credit: Sheila Meades

We’d long suspected that we had nocturnal visitors to our garden on the west side of Sidmouth. The tell-tale signs were there – digging and snout-shaped holes in the borders and tunnelling in the compost heap. We’d occasionally seen foxes and badgers across the road in the hedgerow at night but never in the garden. Intrigued to find out more we decided to treat ourselves to a camera trap for Christmas.

There’s a tunnel under the fence at the bottom of the garden which we’d seen the neighbourhood cats using so, on the first night, we positioned the camera to face it. In the morning, we were thrilled to find we’d captured several videos of a fox coming and going through the tunnel at various times and sniffing around the vegetable patch.

We left the camera in the same place for a week and the fox appeared each night. But was it the same fox? We soon realised that we were seeing two foxes with slightly different markings. The videos are black and white but we could tell that one fox had a dark tail and another had darker ears and different markings on its legs. We suspected that they were a male, with a broader forehead, and a female with a slimmer snout. On one occasion a smaller fox came bounding through the tunnel with great energy. We’ve not seen that one since but we thought it could be one of last year’s cubs.

The foxes had a good sniff around and frequently stopped to scent-mark.  From now on I will always wear gardening gloves and wash the home-grown veg thoroughly! We started to put peanuts down from time to time to encourage them to linger longer and have got some lovely videos of them settling in for a nutritious feed.

After a week we moved the camera to a different location and captured a badger having a root around near the compost heap and spending twenty minutes hoovering up spilt bird seed from the feeder. One of our best captures was seeing the badger drinking from the pond.

But it’s not all about the big creatures. One of our favourite videos is of a brown mouse scurrying around feeding on bird seed, jumping on and off a low wall and disappearing through gaps in the bricks which we can hardly see.

It became clear that the foxes and badger(s) are just passing through our garden, stopping off for a brief feed on anything they can find. We are just one small corner of the wide area they will range in overnight to locate the food they need. After exploring our back garden they pass by the side of the house, through the gate and across the road into the hedge, off to investigate the fields and other people’s gardens.

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It’s so lovely to watch these mammals in their natural state, exploring and feeding at their leisure, not realising we have an eye on them. Thanks to our Christmas present to ourselves we now have our very own nature watch camera and a clearer picture of what is going on in the garden when we’re fast asleep.

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sidvalleybiodiversity@yahoo.com and find us on Instagram @sidvalleybiodiversity

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