The Noak Bridge
Nature Reserve Society
Hello once again and welcome to your Winter Newsletter. May I on behalf of the Committee wish you all a very happy New Year; we hope you all had a very pleasant Christmas.
2013 bought us many challenges, not the least with our grant applications which at the time of writing are still ongoing and very time consuming. Both sets of steps are in need of a major overhaul with the Spanish Steps (the straight ones) constantly breaking up so needing attention every work party. Talking of grants, we are hoping in the future to replace both sets of steps, re-instate a couple of sections of lost walkway, and level out the parts of walkway that are prone to flooding.
We also hope to do something about the waffle grid walkway that runs from the centre of the Reserve to the Spanish Steps. This however is still under much debate as to the best way to deal with it as it is very uncomfortable to walk on, as I am sure many of you will agree. We also hope to make the East Meadow accessible but that will be a major task and will depend solely on obtaining the grant. To complete all of this work, if it can go ahead, will take up to two years, with the Spanish Steps taking priority.
The work parties are ongoing as always and we are pleasantly pleased when new faces turn up to help out. The tasks vary from simple litter picking, clipping back twigs and thorns from the walkways, installing Bat and Bird boxes, carrying out surveys of wildlife to repairing the steps, barrowing wood chippings and much more. Of course being a volunteer means you get satisfaction from the work you do and we don't delegate the work so much as ask if you would be happy to carry out the particular task.
As we don't have a work party in December our last one of 2013 was on the 19th November. We repaired two more treads on the Spanish steps - that make's six this year. We also installed a Bat Box, had two volunteers litter picking, one clipping walkways and one volunteered to cut a new pathway through the undergrowth towards Meadow Pond. This was a job that would have been tasked to a contractor for the sum of around six to seven hundred pounds, so you can see the importance of our volunteers - well done, Jean, for the sterling job. Our work party was covered by a photographer from the Echo newspaper and we were given the centre spread the following Friday.
Our Work Parties run from 1pm to 3pm on the third Tuesday of each month from January to November, weather permitting. We meet at the main gate (Eastfield Road Junction with Bridge Street) at 1pm. If you have a couple of hours to spare and fancy having a go come along and join us, or just come along and find out what it's all about. All tools are provided.
Hope to see you there!
The Noak Bridge Nature Reserve Society
As you walk around the Nature Reserve you will almost certainly see a fox at some point. He or she will often stop, look at you for half a minute then run off into the undergrowth. Here are some facts about the fox.
The Red Fox: Vulpes vulpes
Almost all habitats - woods, farmland, coasts, mountains, towns and cities
Description: dog-like appearance with pointed muzzle and bushy, white-tipped tail ("brush"); reddish-brown coat; lower legs and backs of ears are black.
Size (length): male (dog) 112 cm (tail is a third of this); female (vixen) 108 cm.
They tend to live for just 18 months to 2 years in the wild; a few may be lucky and live to around eight years, up to 14 years in captivity.
Their food is mainly earthworms, rabbits, rodents, birds, insects, fruit, carrion (dead animals); coastal foxes eat gulls' eggs; urban foxes scavenge for leftovers.
The red fox is the most widespread and numerous predator in Britain. Although man has persecuted the fox for centuries, it is still a very common animal. Its success is mainly due to its ability to live almost anywhere. It has even moved into cities in recent years.
A dog and vixen and their cubs; group members also include between one and four other foxes, males and females, perhaps from the litter born the previous year. Although foxes live in a family group, they spend much of their time alone. A fox's range varies according to its habitat; the home range of an urban fox covers between 25 and 50 hectares (1 hectare = 2 football pitches) whereas a country fox may wander over 2,000 or more hectares.
Foxes are mostly active at night, their eyes being specially adapted to night-time vision. The fox's hearing is also excellent, helping it to locate prey easily. Throughout the hours of the night a fox will roam its territory, foraging for whatever food is available. A country fox will eat carcasses or kill small mammals, especially voles and rabbits in summer. It will eat beetles and fruits in the autumn.
A town fox visits households that regularly put out food for them, and generally scavenges for anything edible. Town foxes are sometimes accused of killing and eating cats but they rarely interfere with each other's activities - an adult cat is more than a match for a fox who is likely to be the first to back down in confrontation! A fox may, however, take a pet rabbit or guinea-pig if it is not caged securely. Earthworms are an important part of the diet of all foxes. Any spare food is often buried for later, although another member of the family group may find it first! Although foxes forage alone, members of the group do meet up briefly, perhaps to play with or groom each other. During the daytime, foxes usually rest somewhere, perhaps under bushes, in the lower branches of a tree, in a sunny spot on a low roof, or under a garden shed.
Foxes breed only once a year, most mating occurring in January or early February. Courting foxes can be heard barking or uttering unearthly screams; the dog and vixen hunt and travel together for about three weeks before mating. The vixen looks for a suitable den or 'earth' - she may dig one under tree roots, or find a hole in a rock crevice, under a garden shed, or even in a pile of rubbish!
A litter of four or five cubs is born in March or April after a gestation period of 53 days. They are blind, have round faces and short ears, and are covered with dark, chocolate brown fur.
The vixen stays with her cubs in the earth until they are two weeks old, relying on the dog fox to bring her food. The cubs grow quickly, their eyes opening when 10-14 days old. At around 4-5 weeks they begin to come out of the earth and their dark fur starts to change to red-brown. Non-breeding vixens in the family group may help the mother to rear her cubs. As the cubs grow up they play, squabble and fight amongst themselves. From as early as four weeks old they fight quite viciously - sometimes even to the death - and in this way they establish their social position.
In October and November most of the young dog foxes and some of the vixens leave the home territory to try and establish territories of their own. Others stay at home. At this time of year many young foxes are killed by cars, dogs etc., or die of starvation or cold during a hard winter. About 55% of foxes die in their first year without having had a chance to breed, and 80% die before they are three years old.
The short life-span of a fox means that females will breed only two or three times on average, while males usually only mate once.