After comparing photos from two night sessions of photography in the blind, I think I can identify color differences between the two parents that help tell them apart. The fox on the right was seen the first night; the fox on the left was seen the second night. Can you see the differences?
The fox on the left has a grayer chest and faint gray-white fur above its eyes, missing in the fox (on right). In addition, fox on the left has grayer fur on its flank than the fox on the right (this is more obvious in other photos).
Now, how to tell which fox is which sex of the pair. Belly fur hides the anatomy you might use to determine sex, but their behavior around the kits is distinctly different.
During my first night session, one parent rested on the ground next to where the kits were playing, and I didn’t see it until it got up to take a look at what was making all the clicking noises off in the distance (my camera). The photo shows what could be interpreted as protective behavior, but no nose-to-nose or eye contact with the kits, which I observed in the other adult the next night. After staring at me for a minute or so, this parent disappeared and was not seen again. Apparently it did not sense a threat from the blind.
I didn’t see this parent resting behind the tree until the head popped into view.
As the parent stood up, the kits looked up at the parent for just a moment, but then immediately lost interest.
During the second night session, one parent ran up to the top of the compost pile several times over the course of 30 minutes to check on the blind and what the kits were doing. This parent made nose-to-nose contact with the kits, especially the smallest one, and continually turned its head to stare fixedly at particular ones as it stood on the top of the compost. The smallest kit attracted a lot of the attention from this parent — is the developmental delay of concern, I wonder?
Watchful parent: watching me, and watching the kit.
Watching over the smallest kit.
Based on these scanty observations of behavior, can you guess which fox (gray chest or white chest) is which sex — and why?
For those interested, here is a photo of the blind on the site location at which I took the photos appearing in the last three days of blog posts. It was the cheapest and lightest blind I could find at our local farm and garden store (Mills Fleet Farm) — a Grizzly G-10 ground blind, weighing just 8 lb! No poles are required, and it sets itself up once you take it out of its sack. Just stake it down, and you’re set. Windows open on three sides, with the door on the fourth. You can see the port hole I was shooting out of.
The blind was about 75 feet from the compost pile where the kits played. Photos were shot at 270 mm, ISO 400, f-6.5 to get shutter speeds above 1/100. Time of this photo is about 6:45 p.m. CDT, with dusky evening light.