Muscat: Beautiful things don’t call for attention,” says a photographer in the movie The Secret Life Walter Mitty just as he is about to film an elusive snow leopard. The same holds true for the Arabian Red Fox, an urban wildlife photographer’s prize shot!
If you are residing in areas close to mountains, you might have seen this creature with a burnished, brown-red coat and bushy tail swiftly disappearing into the bushes. The Arabian Red Fox is similar in colour and appearance to the common Red Fox. However, it is more adapted to desert life than its parent species.
Oman’s shutterbugs mostly focus on landscape. There aren’t many takers for wildlife photography. Both hobbyists and professionals often say capturing Oman’s wildlife is a herculean task due to limited access to its sanctuaries. A group of photographers is proving this otherwise by capturing stunning shots of the urban wildlife. They swear there are plenty of opportunities in Oman and even in the outskirts of cities. All you have to do is look closely with patience.
Since it is so hard to spot an urban fox, there are hundreds of myths shrouding around them. For those who have observed them closely, they are beautiful, caring, playful and intelligent animals, far from the ‘cunning monster figure’ usually referred to in the folktales. Though Red foxes are common in rural areas of Oman, finding one in urban areas is rare.
Biju Augustine, who works with the government of Oman, is passionate about Oman’s flora and fauna. He has been photographing some of the rarest birds and animals from across the Sultanate. He was so excited when he heard about the Red fox family living near Yiti hills from one of his fishermen friends. But finding out its exact hideout took months. The key to photographing foxes is patience! After numerous attempts, Biju managed to trace the fox family and its den.
“Basic principle of wildlife photography is to make sure your presence will not obstruct their free life. Foxes are quite shy, skittish creatures, making photographing them a challenge but with patience, they will learn to accept your presence,” says Biju.
Arabian foxes are mostly nocturnal. Some are also active during early morning hours. In order to capture some good shots, you have to get up at least by 3 am.
Urban foxes are much more accepting of people and are far easier to watch uncovered than their rural cousins. But it is suggested to use a hide or a net while photographing them.
“One of the things I love most about foxes is their piercing eyes but they get unnerved easily by eye contact. The easiest thing is to carry a camera with an angle-adjustable screen,” suggests Biju.
Biju doesn’t want to reveal the exact location of the fox family. He believes overexposure to humans might force the mother fox to travel kilometers with the cubs. He says not all wildlife photographers are sensitive when it comes to such things. Some even tried to throw stones at a baby owl at a natural park in the city to get the “perfect shot”.
For Biju, photographing the Arabain Red foxes is addictive. “Once you start it can be hard to pull yourself away. There’s something magical about watching their lives right in front of your eyes”.