Hidden Places Around Portsmouth: Fox Territory

One of these is real… [Image © John Callaway 2020]

Local resident and photographer John Callaway gives us a glimpse into Portsmouth’s hidden places with his stunning photography. This week, John’s photos come from his own garden, as he turns his lens to the foxes that live there, alongside his chicken house…

Having lived on the chalk slopes to the north of Portsmouth for some 30 years, I can say with a considerable degree of certainty that foxes have become a much more regular sighting in the surrounding streets as dusk approaches. This summer has proved to be no different, although with the added bonus that the back garden has become the home and playground for one mother and her cubs.

First sighting… [Image © John Callaway 2020]
The first sign that there was more than the usual fox activity was the amount of random objects that appeared in the garden overnight. A squeaky pet toy, an old shoe, bits of cardboard and half a sandwich, to name a few, along with a number of half hearted attempts to dig into the lawn and small piles of animal poo that began to appear on top of compost bins, upturned flower pots, or around the chicken run. And then one morning, when letting the chickens out, physical proof on top of the garden waste pile.

And then there were three… [Image © John Callaway 2020]
Not that I’ve ever managed to photograph more than two or three together at any one time. Most of their activity has tended either to be under cover of darkness, or hidden in the undergrowth. Over time though, there are a couple that have become a little more audacious, although still alert to the possibility that they might suddenly have to run…

Photo shoot…. [Image © John Callaway 2020]
Occasionally an attempt to blend in with the surroundings proves to be only partially successful. Remaining alert whilst sleeping with one eye open suggests that the fox is constantly in tune with the soundtrack of its life…

One of these is real… [Image © John Callaway 2020]
I’ve learned from bitter experience that foxes will, given the opportunity, kill chickens. I’ve certainly lost a few over the years. Foxes are opportunist omnivores, and, despite the received wisdom that they are wanton poultry murderers, the reality is a little more subtle. Foxes see food, lots of it, in a single location. And, I would suggest that they are a little lazy, or in ecological terms, great conservers of energy. So why not kill them all and return to the larder later?  It doesn’t make it any easier when you find that a fox has got into the run, but…

One leghorn, one speckled… [Image © John Callaway 2020]
Anyway, the current occupants of La Maisonette Des Poulettes take an existentialist view of their circumstances, preferring instead to strike a pose for the camera whilst engaged in deep philosophical thought.

Why does the chicken cross the road…’

‘Il n’y a de réalité que dans l’action.’ (‘There is no reality except in action.’) Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism (1946 lecture)

Searching for cat food… [Image © John Callaway 2020]
Opportunism takes many forms, and given the current operational  security levels at La Maisonette Des Poulettes, an open back door suggests untold riches, or at least uneaten cat food.

And if all else fails, there’s always somewhere to sit and wait for something or somebody to come along.

Will Godot never arrive…? [Image © John Callaway 2020]

And if you’ve got this far, and read the caption on the last photograph, a final thought: Samuel Beckett grew up in Foxrock, a suburb of Dublin. It must mean something…

This article was originally published on John Callaway’s website, Ideas & images from Portsmouth and beyond. You can read more of John’s writing on his website and also see his live music photography.

Images by John Callaway.

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