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Joined: 04 Aug 2005
Posts: 948
Location: Norn Iron

PostPosted: Sun Oct 07, 2007 11:12 pm    Post subject: On the move Reply with quote

N54 07.575 W006 26.185 1520ft ASL

It's not so bad here, now I've stopped. This small alcove of granite blocks is sheltered from the worst of the wind, out of the sun, above the damp ground. A good place to rest and rest I need, for sure. The climb up to here via the north summit of Slieve Gullion has knackered me utterly. Possibly I was knackered already, which would certainly explain it.

We've found one of the two caches up here and Mike's gone off on his own to find the second one, just under a kilometre away to the south-east. Freed at last from my delaying pace, he should be back in half an hour or so. It's quiet here and seemingly empty. Barring the heather tops and longer grass stems, nothing is moving.

Gullion is an interesting and varied hike given an appropriate level of fitness, which I clearly lack these days and is far less walked than the Mournes, away to the east. The whole mountain is (they say) the igneous core of a long-vanished volcano. It must have been gigantic, for its remnant is still ten miles around. Two neolithic cairns adorn the summits and between them lies a strange lake, black water even on the sunniest day.

No sign of Mike yet, but at least my legs have stopped hurting. Across from this position, at the far edge of the moor, a pair of ravens seem agitated about something. Repeatedly they soar and dive, using the updraft from a wide gully which carves into the east side of the mountain. A few metres away, a skylark peeks round the edge of a tussock before skulking away. The sun moves behind a cloud and the immediate drop in temperature makes me dig in my daysack for a pair of gloves. Yep it's October after all.

After a last protest, the ravens disappear. Then, something moves at the top of the gully. The movement comes closer, working through the heather towards the open trail. My camera, alas, is just too far away to reach without getting up...

It's a fox.

A young female- a vixen- honey-gold and drop dead gorgeous; not skinny and out of condition like the urban foxes (and myself) but compact and fit. She hasn't seen me yet, as she pauses at the track and then turns down slope.

What would a fox be doing up here? It's a good question Slieve Gullion is surrounded on three sides by rich farmland, and on the fourth by a large forest, no doubt with any amount of shrews and similar yokes in it. The season for ground-nesting birds is pretty much over. Definitely over at this altitude, in fact. So why a fox?

I ain't Attenborough and there's no straight answer. Perhaps she's crossing the territory of some other fox, and wants to take the shortest route off it. Perhaps she's heading over to the lake the only dependable source of fresh water in the area.

She sees me and freezes for a moment. This confirms the theory that she's a fox of the year a canny adult animal would have spotted me from far off, motionless or not, and it certainly wouldn't have stood still, even for an instant.

She takes off, moving low and fast in the direction of the lake, after all and is lost to view.

Minutes later, Mike returns in high spirits. He's logged the cache and photographed a Wheatear, left behind by its migrating relatives. I'm sorry he missed the fox, though.


A brussels sprout is for life, not just for Christmas
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Jack Aubrey
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Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 513
Location: Camptoun, Scotland

PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2007 9:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A fox that just fancied climbing a hill, eh? Maybe she was just one of those curious females and wondered what you and Wuthered had found up there!

Seriously, though you have some fine fox specimens in Norn Iron. FoF and I were so taken with the distressed sheep and the shed-climbing goats on our trip round Fair Head ("The Grey Man's Head" GCF170) that I quite forgot to note our sighting of a magnificent dog fox early on in the loop round the headland. A big, well-fed, fit and deep-brushed fellah with a long dark streak in his tail. As we breasted a rise out east towards the sea he stuck up his nose from the heather and decided to show us his easy "losing you suckers" paces. An object lesson in how to run away while leaving you in no doubt who's the boss round here!
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