A Foxy Day at Huntley Meadows - tylerareber Photography

On a chilly morning in mid December 2018, I ventured out to a park that I've frequented many times over the years - Huntley Meadows, just south of Old Town Alexandria.  My main goal that morning was to try and get some decent (close) photos of the Northern Pintails...a duck which had been tricky to say the least in recent years.  Upon arriving, I quickly found the pintails in their normal spot.  I slowly made my way around the boardwalk (the the long/scenic route), hoping that if I moved slowly enough maybe I could approach without startling them too much.  Naturally, trying to sneak up on them  was only moderately successful with a handful of ducks flushing before I even got remotely into position.  Eventually...when a few of the pintails that remained weren't looking, I slid up to a spot on the edge of the boardwalk and sprawled out.  Here I would remain for the next hour as these punk ducks tried to avoid my lens at all costs.

Thankfully, as you can see, I was able to capture at least a couple nice shots.  Not only does it take a lot of patience to wait for them to get close enough, but even then once they do, you have to hope against hope that they'll actually put their heads up.  If you're lucky, they'll stop gorging themselves on random swamp goo for a few seconds here and there and you'll be treated to that beautiful brown, white and purple head (yes there's a bit of purple (and even sometimes green) iridescence in there).  In the second shot above, the male managed to surround himself with three females, who are equally pretty...unfortunately, they were too busy preening to bother with me and my camera.  

But you're probably wondering...'why is this post named "A Foxy Day" if all you're going to talk about are pintails?'.  Well...because after that first hour or so of laying in Goose poop to photograph these delightful ducks, I decided to venture into the woods in hope of maybe spotting a fox that I had seen a day or two prior (seen here to the right). 

On my initial walk back into the woods, there wasn't a whole lot going on.  The squirrels were quite active gathering acorns for the COLD WINTER WE'RE TOTALLY HAVING, but aside from them and their shenanigans, the woods seemed a bit boring.  That was until I started making my way back out.  As I slowly walked up the trail scanning the forest floor, I noticed something odd about 50 yards away.  It was an orange color that didn't really match anything natural (plant life) in the woods at that time, and the shape didn't appear to be that of a stump or anything similar.  I pulled up my camera to take a closer look, and through my viewfinder, I saw this.  

Immediately, my heart started beating a little faster.  For as often as I've seen foxes in the wild, I've never found one sleeping in the woods.  It's particularly adorable because they curl up like little cats and just nap wherever they see fit.  Thinking how cute it would be to try and get a picture of this little fellow, I tried to come up with a plan to sneak a bit closer.  Unfortunately due to the dry conditions that week, the leaves were quite crunchy which mostly ruins ones ability to be quiet in the woods.  I managed to make it about a dozen or two steps towards the little fox before it finally must have heard me, causing it to look up from its slumber and lock in a staring contest with me.               

To say my heart was only beating a little faster at this point would be a lie.  It was thumping.  I stood there holding my camera/lens up for what seemed like minutes...eventually getting too tired to continue.  As I tried to slowly lower it back down, the small fox decided it was time to go, leaping up and running briskly away from where I was now crouched down.  However, as this was happening, I heard a noise behind me.  I spun around just in time to see ANOTHER fox running about 20 yards behind me, towards where I had originally entered the woods.  It had clearly seen me and seemed intent on getting to wherever the smaller fox had ended up.  I can only imagine that this was the mother of the smaller fox...that or a male mate perhaps (as it is getting to be that time of year).

I watched as this larger fox, circled around to my left making its way towards a large fallen tree.  As it worked its way around me, it was sure to keep a watchful eye on my location.  I tried to stay as still as possible while I continued to shoot.  My hope was that maybe this fox, being a bit older and maybe more used to the sight of people, would help the smaller fox feel comfortable enough to come back out and maybe I could get a few photos of the two of them together.  I should point out, that as this was all unfolding in front of me, the lighting was shifting very much in my favor.  The clouds from earlier that morning had parted and the sun was finally breaking through the trees causing an amazing back-light on the older fox as it made its way through the woods and across some various logs (seen here to the left and below).  This type of light on a fluffy fox with its winter coat is just stunning as it creates a sot of  halo affect on the animal.  

As I hoped and suspected, the older fox was making its way right to where little sleepy had run.  There was a short meetup as the two located each other and started trotting back and forth across another large fallen tree.  I watched as they walked around sniffing and inspecting the area and each other.  This interaction between them  probably only lasted a few minutes, but having the good fortune to be there and witness it is something I'll cherish.  I manged to capture a few more shots, including one of the pair together before they slowly worked their way deeper into the woods, eventually disappearing from view.  

Having never really seen this behavior, of foxes just casually hanging out on an elevated log, I'm completely in love with this scene and find it hard to pick a favorite shot, so here's basically all the remaining photos that I decided to edit.  


The Rest

Pumped and still a little shaky from the adrenaline of getting to watch these two beautiful foxes, I made my way back to the start of the park boardwalk.  Surprisingly enough, those fun pintails were still hanging around.  The morning wasn't over yet.  As I made a quick pass, I slipped back into my prone duck position and snapped final few shots...


That'll work!  :-) 


Thanks for reading!  I'm really going to try to post more of these this year.  I guess that'll be my New Years resolution!  Happy 2019 all...and good luck with your photography! 

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