West Stormont Woodland Group

West Stormont
Woodland Group

Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) SC051682

Join us today to bring Taymount Wood and Five Mile Wood into community ownership

Song of the Fox

With bated breath and eyes focused ahead for the slightest movement, the young teenage boy edges closer to the fox earth. After a 5 mile bike ride out of town and a steady walk in, only a few feet now remain before he can reach the old rotting log that will conceal him from the earth’s occupants.

He instinctively crouches as his eyes detect something out of place in the mosaic of colours and tones in the foreground – the dark triangular tip of a fox’s ear – just visible through the vegetation. Knowing how acute their senses are, he pauses and considers his next move, knowing everything could depend upon it. The ear flickers, teasing him to edge forward a little nearer. His meticulous planning and careful approach almost giving way to the impetuosity of youth, as he slips carefully behind the screening of the log. As anticipated, the wind favours him, carrying his scent away from the earth. The boy’s presence goes un-noticed by the fox cubs playing only a few feet away from him, as he settles down to enjoy the fruits of his efforts. An intimate engagement with nature that will be imprinted for life.

Around 1790 the Gaelic poet Duncan Ban MacIntyre wrote his Oran nam Balgairean (Song of the foxes):

“My blessing be upon the foxes, for they hunt the sheep-
The sheep with their brockle faces that have made confusion in all the world,
Turning our country to desert and putting up the rents of our land……..
The cubs, if they had what I wish them,
Short lives were not their care.
Good luck to them, say I, and may they never die but of old age.”

Needless to say his words would be unwelcome in modern day Scotland where sheep farming is a way of life for many. However, the “sheep-wrecked” hillsides are still with us, as are the foxes and in much greater numbers than in MacIntyre’s day, despite the relentless persecution of foxes by an army of gamekeepers and landowners. So much so, that a person is more likely to meet a fox in suburbia than in the countryside. Indeed many urban foxes are actively fed by their human admirers.

Upon emerging from its winter den, a mountain fox points its ears in opposite directions as it listens intently for sounds of both prey and danger.

The January to March mating period is when foxes are most vocal. This is when the triple bark of the dog fox and the cry of the vixen can be heard after dusk. The cubs, usually 4 to 6, are born 51 or 52 days later, usually in an underground fox earth. The vixen will dig out several of these den sites before choosing one and will readily move the cubs to a safe den if she is disturbed. May is generally a good month to view fox cubs sitting out at the den entrance. Any time of day is good although early evenings are usually best.

Foxes are unequivocally the forester’s friend, as they predate heavily upon field voles and rabbits, both of which are responsible for ring barking and killing thousands of trees a year at great financial cost. Northern and upland hill foxes tend to be larger and heavier than urban foxes, with the larger body mass retaining heat better.

The management of fox populations is an emotive subject for many people, with even the RSPB recently coming under heavy criticism for carrying out fox control to protect breeding bird population such as curlew.

The fox has no natural predators in Britain, although there are increasing calls for Scotland to join the ranks of many other European countries and reintroduce the Lynx to help restore ecological equilibrium to our much denuded forests. This once native cat has been found to reduce fox populations by up to 50% in some areas of Europe.

Few animals have shown more capacity for resilience and adaptation than the fox. Perhaps that alone is worthy of our respect.



Previous Articles

Community Monthly Update – November 2023

We are really thrilled to let you know that Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) has approved WSWG’s Revised Wildwood Proposal and Business Plan for Taymount Wood. This is the first big goal achieved in our Community Asset Transfer Process to bring Taymount and Five Mile Woods into community ownership!

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Community Monthly Update – October 2023

A highlight for the WSWG Project this month has been the timely teaming up of a group of employees from Aviva in Perth with some unexpectedly lovely autumn weather for a day of corporate volunteering. On 2 October, five enthusiastic Aviva colleagues spent the day with WSWG in the middle of Taymount Wood on a range of interesting and very useful tasks, quite a contrast to their usual office based working environment.

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Community Monthly Update – September 2023

Given the distinctly seasonal change in the weather of late, we thought we would bring our Word of the Month up to the top of our September update. Psithurism: (Noun) The sound of wind in the trees and rustling of leaves, from “psithuros”, the Greek word for whispering. Enjoy your woods this autumn!

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Community Monthly Update – August 2023

This month we really want to share with you a wonderful event we had – the joint woodland picnic on 22 July with Tayside Woodland Partnerships (TWP). We pitched our gazebos in a lovely grassy glade in Taymount Wood and set out a delicious picnic spread courtesy of Alison’s Kitchen in Blairgowrie – quiches, sausage rolls and cakes galore – on portable tables kindly lent to us by Stanley Village Hall. More food and home-baking was brought by the picnickers themselves. Despite weather forecasts to the contrary, it was a beautiful day with not a drop of rain or drizzle. After lots of great chat and good food, we heard a little about each of our organisations’ respective projects and then took a walk up the main track to King’s Myre Loch.

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Community Monthly Update – July 2023

First up this month is for us to say a big thank you to a lovely group of young people from Ochil Tower School in Auchterarder who had come on a mini-bus trip to visit Taymount Wood on 21 June … and just did a litter-pick whilst they were there!! What a great example of being good citizens – enjoying the environment and taking care of it together.

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Community Monthly Update – June 2023

We want to start with a big thank you to all WSWG volunteers who helped in the Wildflower and Mining Bee Rescue Mission this spring. Many times more wildflowers have come through along the various stretches of raked verge than would have been the case had they remained swamped by gorse mulch and, as seen in the photo here, mining bees have successfully emerged where the track surfaces were cleared to help them out too. And of course the cleared sections of track make for more comfortable going again for walkers and dogs. Lots more areas still need attention, and we will keep doing what we can when we can, but thank you again to everyone who helped make a difference for nature this spring.

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