Living in the hills, close to the forest, has its own advantages and disadvantages. Wild animals keep visiting us. Hares having a field day in our vegetable garden, or wild boars digging out potatoes are a common occurrence. But, early morning walks in the forest when the tiny critters and small animals can be spotted, are a definite plus.
Nowadays, since the winters are over, early morning forest walks are quite comfortable and enjoyable. Birds also get up quite early. With the break of dawn, the Blue-Whistling Thrush that lives just outside my window breaks into a melodious song. Then some other birds start walking and jumping around on the roof creating a ruckus. It is a mixed feeling. Sometimes I imagine that the birds on the roof are providing some kind of percussion support to the song.
Today I woke up quite early and went for a walk towards the forest. I had my camera along to photograph some birds. Birds of all kinds were chirping around. Sitting on top of the trees, they were waiting for the first rays of the sun to warm them up. Bulbuls, sparrows, tits, various other tiny colorful birds to large magpies and jays. They were all there.
I took a long route, using an ancient stone pathway that villagers used to use. This runs just outside of my orchard. Some magpies came quite close to me. I was carrying a 150-500 mm telephoto lens zoomed to its 500mm end, but for photographing the magpie, I had to reduce it. It was strange seeing so many magpies so close by. They are not scared but rarely do they come so close, or rather allow someone to go so close to them.
( Orange Billed Blue Magpie – Sitting about 2 meters from where I was walking. It didn’t fly away. There were a few others too nearby. )
A little distance away, some small birds were also sitting perched on a bush, chirping quite loudly. They seemed quite excited but not scared (as it happens when a snake or a leopard comes by). If only I could understand what they were saying.
The stone pathway is covered with trees on both sides. It also turns after every few meters.
I am now moving towards rewilding our garden. With dense bushes and foliage all around our garden and orchard, it is a nice place for small animals and birds. I have also made small gaps in our fence so the small animals can come and go as and when they want to. A little damage to our vegetable garden is fine, as long as those hares also show up when kids are around. Their happiness in spotting a wild hare is even more than on opening a Christmas present. Rewilding restores a natural balance of things. Bees and butterflies fly around. All kinds of wild flowers grow in our garden.
It was, therefore, natural for me to expect and be happy about so many birds sitting just outside my place on the sides of the stone path.
I captured a few more photographs of the small birds there and moved on. Just as I turned, I spotted the reason for the commotion. A small fox was lying on the side of the pathway. It seemed to be hurt. On seeing me, the fox did not even try to move around. Maybe it was one of the visitors from our garden and somehow knew me. On looking a little closer, I spotted that it was bleeding from one of the legs. Maybe it had hurt itself. Maybe some other predator had pounced on it and somehow the fox had saved itself.
I took off my camera bag and camera. Placed them on a tree just inside of the fence. With my hands free now, I cautiously approached the fox. It looked at me but lay there. Slowly I picked the fox up in my arms. It was almost like a largish puppy and somehow did not object to being picked up. It did give out a soft sound when I picked it up. Maybe it felt a little pain.
The sun was starting to rise. I took the fox back to the home. Placed it carefully on a doormat just outside my door. I keep an emergency medicine kit at home. Living away from the city, this is one essential item that I always keep properly stocked. I took some povidone-iodine solution. When I stepped out the little fox was still there. The birds too had flown along and were sitting on a tall pear tree just opposite my door. I cleaned the wound and tried moving the leg. The movement seemed unrestricted though the fox winced a little. The wound was a sharp cut but not gaping too much. So I just cleaned it and provided a safe place for the fox to rest. Gave some biscuits and water too.
Then I hurried back to where I had left my photography equipment. Though hills are quite safe in this aspect and everyone in the region would associate the camera and other things with me, yet I was a little concerned. After a few minutes, I reached the spot. The camera was there, the bag was also hanging there. A village boy curiously asked me if I was trying to photograph something using a remote or a timer by placing the camera there. I answered in affirmative. This gave an indirect indication that my photography equipment was in my sight all the time. Maybe, this was a kind of an insurance for the future. Maybe this response was due to the lack of trust I have developed over the years with mankind.
At the place where I had picked up the fox, I spotted a broken glass bottle of country liquor (‘Gulab’ as it is called, meaning Rose in Hindi) sold in this region. Its edge was stained with some dried blood. Someone had tossed it next to the pathway and the poor fox had hurt itself on the sharp edge of the broken glass. As far as I could guess, this was one of the frequent visitors to our orchard and while coming out or going in, it had sustained the injury.
I walked back to the house. The fox was still resting outside the door. It had not touched the biscuits but the water was gone. I went inside. After handling the bleeding fox, and with the scare of various diseases, I wanted to change my clothes and take a bath. Afterward, I got busy with some work. The hours went by.
Later when I came out in, the fox was not there. So, it was fit to move around. They do recover quite fast. I felt nice. Though, I forgot to click photographs. They would have made a nice addition to this write-up.
I opened a can of beer and went out. The days are warm now. Sun is harsh. The chilled beer hits the right spot at this time of the year.
The birds were still there. The green-backed tits and some russet sparrows were hopping around but seemed relaxed. Maybe they were relieved and happy that the fox had been helped. Maybe that was my imagination and they were simply tired in the bright sun.
With the can in my hand, I walked towards a place where we have planted some grapevines. I spotted wings of a black-headed jay there, and the fox sitting happily under the sun some distance away. That’s the natural order for them. I helped the fox but now the fox had feasted on the jay. The cut that the fox had sustained from the glass was not natural. So, I feel I did the right thing. The fox also has to eat and so it did what it had to do.
On a more philosophical note, we should not interfere in nature. Let things happen as they should. Throwing away glass bottles is not natural and so I felt that I had to interfere. However, the food-chain is natural. Yes, the feathers made me a little sad but that is their natural way of life.
After all, even my efforts at rewilding my garden are towards restoring the natural balance.
Wilding the Garden (opens in a new tab)