Last summer, a little fox cub ventured into my urban garden in broad daylight. I was watering the lawn and a little curious russet cub walked up to the hose, fascinated by the water spray. The fearless cub started playing with the water stream and then came even closer to check me out, looking straight into my eyes. I had never been so close to a wild fox before and could not believe my luck. In the past any foxes visiting my wildlife garden came only at dusk and bolted as soon as they spotted me, even peeking through the window.
A first encounter with Freya
At the time I thought this might have been a one-off amazing encounter, but the following day the cub returned and this time brought its siblings along. There were four of them, tumbling one by one on the lawn, still a little unsteady on their feet. Together they explored, played and turned my garden into their playground. They dipped their paws into my pond, chewed the nozzle of the watering can, chased bees and foraged for snails.
Within a week or so it was just one pair of fox cubs who visited my garden every day in late afternoon and stayed for many hours until just after sunset. I soon became hooked on watching and filming them. I started posting my little video clips on the Nature Watch Facebook group and soon the cubs had a big following. The group named the cubs Freya and Faith. Later it became apparent that Freya was a dog fox, however the name stuck. Freya was the larger, more confident and dominant fox, while his little sister, Faith was much more timid.
Dora welcomed the foxes but never attempted to tame them
I loved that these foxes always came and left of their own accord. I made a point of not taming them. They were born free and had to remain wild – for their own safety. I allowed Freya and Faith to come up to me and sniff my hand but never reached out to touch them. They tolerated my presence and because I did not bother them they would behave naturally around me.
Every evening throughout the summer I watched Faith and Freya for hours on end and never got tired of observing, filming and photographing them. This was so much more exciting than watching TV or being online. It was a privilege to see Freya and Faith grow up into confident juvenile foxes right in front of my eyes over four months. Like toddlers they progressed from playing with chew toys to more exciting games. When my sun lounger came out, they used it as a training ground for hunting, practising the famous fox pounces.
Freya and Faith became celebrity foxes when a video clip of them playing on my sun lounger went viral online and was seen 2 million times. When the John Lewis Christmas ad featuring animated foxes on a trampoline came out, the foxes made headlines as the “Real John Lewis Foxes”.
The real stars of the show
Freya and Faith started coming less frequently as they grew into adulthood and last visited my garden a week before Christmas playing on the lawn together late one evening. I was sad to see them go but I now use a motion-sensitive night camera, so I can watch for any nighttime visits. To my delight, a vixen that I believe to be Freya’s and Faith’s mum now visits with her partner and is currently nursing. I can’t wait for her to bring her new cubs to my garden, so I can be foxed all over again.
I created my documentary “Foxed” to tell the story of Freya, Faith and me as I wanted to show how close foxes really are to our most loved pets – dogs and cats.
Watch a clip of Foxed
I hope my film will inspire people to accept and respect foxes and maybe even look out for them by providing some shelter, water and if needed medication for easily treatable ailments.
Dora Nightingale is a filmmaker with a passion for wildlife, nature and alternative lifestyles. She has travelled extensively to shoot documentaries for clients, such as National Geographic. She spends her free time watching the wildlife in her garden, swimming in the sea and treasure hunting at jumble sales www.doranightingale.com
“Foxed – Freya, Faith & me…” is now available in full on youtube.
All image: ©Dora Nightingale