If we had our time over again …

The European Red Fox Vulpes vulpes was introduced to Australia in the mid 1880s for recreational hunting. It might have seemed a good idea at a time when there was little regard for its potential impact on native wildlife, but with the wisdom of hindsight it can be seen for what it is … an unmitigated disaster.

I wonder what reaction the first fox released into the bush provoked from the local bird life. Nowadays birds are alert to the danger – as evidenced by the behaviour of a small party of White-winged Choughs that I observed on Friday evening at Green Gully. Initially I was intrigued by the apparently odd behaviour of one chough, as it clambered up a eucalypt, flapping its wings excitedly. That’s when I spotted the fox – busily sniffing the ground – perhaps picking up the scent trail I had left a few minutes earlier. The choughs then made a number of aggressive swoops over the fox, before it spotted me and trotted off.

Fox

Red Fox swooped by White-winged Chough, Green Gully, 23rd October 2015.

Fox2

Picking up a scent trail.

Ground dwelling birds are especially susceptible to fox predation, one of the reasons that we have lost species such as the Bush Stone-curlew and Grey-crowned Babbler from the Newstead district since the 1970s. Other species, such as the Brown Treecreeper, which nests in small hollows, generally above the ground and the Rainbow Bee-eater which nests in earthen tunnels that are often inaccessible to predators, are doing OK.

TC1

Brown Treecreeper

TC2

Nice crest!

BE2

Rainbow Bee-eater, Newstead Cemetery, 23rd October 2015.

6 responses to “If we had our time over again …

  1. Oh Geoff…
    Easy to to think we would have done differently, but when we don’t always make the morally right choices now; so can we really expect the weight of tradition to be stopped so suddenly by piercing enlightenment?
    You’re doing you bit to help spread awareness of what we need to save. We all need to apply ourselves to ridding ourselves of these unwanted legacies so as to save what native species and ecosystems we have left.

  2. Thanks Geoff, thought provoking and wonderful photos!

  3. Great photo, again, Geoff. I have thought about that chough and the fox for a while and yesterday evening, looking out our kitchen window, I saw some of ‘our’ choughs flying low in a group and a fox came out of the coffee bush. I was astounded and very pleased that the group were on the job. They are building a mud nest in the tree next to the house, and I would have thought too high up for the fox, but good to see them protecting all the little birds.
    Cheers,
    Helen

  4. Lovely photos and observations as usual, Geoff! Regarding your comment about the fox potentially following your scent trail: I’ve become concerned about my own behaviour, and other birders, who seek out rare sedentary birds such as emu-wrens, heathwrens, and fairy-wrens. Am I leading foxes or cats directly to these vulnerable birds? To add insult to injury, a recent article in the Conversation suggests humans may be making animals ‘less scared and easier to eat’ ( http://tinyurl.com/o752a4l ). One recent afternoon, we futilely searched a known location for Mallee emu-wrens in Hattah. The following morning, we went back and saw a fox right where we had been searching. Spotting the emu-wrens in the same location shortly afterward was then bittersweet–they are so achingly vulnerable. We notified the park service of our observations, but I feel wretched thinking that us bird-lovers may be inadvertently aiding predators in finding their daily meals.

    • Hi Nancy – it’s a tricky question and one that I’ve often pondered. On balance though I think that getting close to nature is likely to have great benefits than costs!
      Cheers, geoff

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