Cuddle of Kits.
Well, what else could I call this? Mama, dad (mostly off hunting) and four kits, wrestling, frolicking and just generally being happy in their first spring together. I was pretty happy as well, witnessing a window into nature that you do not often get to share.
It is good that nature knows which season it is, as this year I have seen only rare signs of spring in the West. April and May so far have been mostly wet and downright cold. While I reveled in my time watching this fox family, I was fully layered in a hat, gloves, down coat, and down jacket. I am sure a warm heart helped as I watched this playful family, but as soon as they disappeared into their den or the brush, I was dancing and stomping trying to get some feeling back in my extremities.
“In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.”
But it must be spring? Right? Trillium, always my first indicator of the end of winter has recently bloomed and are now in a beautiful magenta and purple phase as their too short season (for me) ends. Passover, Easter and Mother’s Day have passed. Elk calves and buffalo babies (in Yellowstone), yard rabbits and squirrels, and obviously fox babies are up, out, and running around. State Highway 20 (cool video) across the North Cascades opened last week. The eastern entrance to Yellowstone, over Sylvan Pass at 8,000+ feet opened May 6th (and promptly closed temporarily after a spring dump of snow). And of course, getting out to catch first light and sunset is getting harder to do as the days get longer (and pushing my personal rule of not getting up before five am).
Even if still cold, it seems there is enough spring in the air to get people thinking about travel and adventures in June, July, August, and September. Friends are planning back country spring ski trips, or road trips to the Southwest. Stephanie and I are joining a Middle Fork Salmon trip in July, where it will be warm if not hot, and planning for that with the current weather is really hard. Just the thought of shorts, t-shirts and water-shoes sends a chill as we look out the window.
I love you. Where's dinner?
For humans, the March 20th equinox, ‘equi’ in Latin for equal, and ‘nox’ for night, designates the official arrival of spring -- also named the vernal (meaning new or fresh) equinox. For wildlife, the meaning of spring is simpler -- warmth and more daylight. Those two factors translate into budding plants, available food, and abundant nesting material. Bugs and birds make their appearance, chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits as well. The food chain moves into high gear and for some species triggers migration and breeding. For these young foxes, it means time for play, learning hunting skills, sun-bathing whenever possible, and learning not (hopefully) to become part of that unforgiving food chain.
Spring is a wonderful time to reconnect with the natural world. To put aside work and anxiety, and just submerge yourself into the wild and the absolute cuteness of spring adolescence. Just dress warmly!
While seeking out and enjoying the innocent delight exhibited by young species of any kind, I always try to remember that my proximity and actions have an undeniable effect on their lives and future, and that I have a moral and ethical responsibility to keep them safe, healthy, and with a reciprocal respect (or distrust) for human interaction. The local Washington Trails Association has a great article on ethical wildlife photography, or you can dig deeper by going to Nature First and learning about the principles of ethical wildlife photography. And I would add one additional anticipation – the willingness to walk away from a great shot when your presence might be harmful or when you could set the wrong example for others.