Marty’s photo of the day #4779: At the Essen Wildlife Refuge (i.e. the 25 protected-for-wildlife acres where my wife and I live) we have an upper and lower level. The lower level is lush forest with a seasonal pond. Since we moved to Montana, in 1996, that pond has filled itself every spring and emptied itself every fall. We’re not quite sure what causes this, but our best guess is that the narrow irrigation ditch that passes through the upper level, some 300 yards away, raises the water table just enough to activate a spring. This year the pond stayed dry longer than usual. In fact, my wife was worried that something was wrong. Then, four days ago, we saw the first signs of water, and by yesterday—when I shot this photo—the pond was completely full.

The native wildlife appreciate the pond, and I moved one of my motion-sensing cameras down there to capture images of those in search of a drink. I do, however, wish the pond didn’t drain in the fall, because it would make quite the challenging ice-skating rink.

Update: After posting, I noticed something in the upper right-hand corner of the photo that looked man-made. Had an unauthorized person set up a hunting blind? To find out, my dog, Nellie, and I set off down the steep drop to the lower-level to investigate. Normally, Nellie runs leash-free, but I brought her leash along to keep her from going swimming. Once down there, I figured out that the thing in the corner of the photo was just a large tree, illuminated by the sunlight in just the right way. That’s when we saw the fox!

For as long as my wife, Deb, and I have lived here, we’ve had foxes living on the lower level. In fact, I spotted a fox here back in 1993, when the realtor showed us the land, making me instantly ready to buy.

Still, foxes are so reclusive that seeing them other than in photos from my motion-sensing cameras is rare. Today’s fox was on the far side of the pond. I don’t think he/she spotted Nellie and I initially. He/she just seemed more preoccupied with doing fox stuff. I was so glad Nellie was on her leash. The two of us sat on the near bank and watched. I had left my good camera at home, so I knew the few photos I shot with my pocket camera would be blurry. But that was okay. It was just fun to watch the fox pop in and out of view.

After a minute or two, the fox smelled us and froze. At that point Nellie was shaking with excitement. First she quietly whined; then the bark she’d been obediently holding in had to be released into the wild. That ended our fox-viewing experience.