OUR BELOVED ANDRE THE DOODLER IS OFF this week, muttering something as he trudged out about summer “holiday” with “the Missus,” but my oldest orange Clivia, which normally blooms in April, is present and accounted for (above). So are a pair of gray foxes, who decided to spend last weekend with me eating apples off my trees. True. I have a photo to prove it (not great, but hey, they were way across the yard; at least I tried).
Yes, the gray fox is some special animal. At first, when I looked up from my book-writing, I thought it was a young coyote, or a very big red fox, but the proportions and even the coloring were all wrong, I realized, though my binoculars. (Too bad I have no lens as long for my camera; the photo is a tiny spot cropped out of a big shot taken with a 300mm, all I could manage and not miss the chance, hence the graininess.)
What makes the gray fox special? Not rarity–though you don’t see them much, since they are neither nocturnal nor diurnal but crepuscular (meaning most active in the twilight of dawn and dusk). It’s their unusual claws. Thanks to hook-style claws that other dog relatives don’t possess, gray fox are one of only two canids who can climb trees. As in fruit trees, for instance, because these guys apparently like a fruit course with a summer meal of garden-fresh chipmunk. Amazing.
I got so excited I quickly emailed Jennifer Rae Atkins out in New Mexico, who draws a lot of mammals (and has challenged herself to draw every one on earth, all 5,000ish mammals on the planet, which even at one a day means she’s got 14-plus years of her own version of doodling ahead of her). But Jennifer quickly researched and drew the gray fox, which you can see here. I love the little extra touch she added in the foreground, and also that she said “this apple sniffer” is for me. Thank you!
As for the Clivia, you may recall I had divided it (about three years late, mea culpa), and each resulting plant is thriving on my back porch. So is my yellow one, but no blooms on it; it did its thing in more normal time, and is on a proper summer vacation of its own.