Mr Fox plays a very visible role in the Toby’s Tails children’s books series. This beautiful animal is a mixed blessing to have around. On the one hand he is a lovely wild creature who we love to see, and yet on the other, in his search for food he is a smallholders nightmare, being responsible for the death of many a chicken.

Toby first encounters as a puppy in the very first Toby’s Tails book, and discovers from his mentor Lucky, the old Golden Retriever that to farmyard animals he is similar to a fox. He is about the same size, has a bushy tail like a fox, and his tail has a white end to it like they have too. However in the UK and Europe the foxes coats are reddy brown to dark brown instead of Toby’s black.

Foxes live in pairs and bring up their young in a underground home called an earth. They feed mostly on rodents but they are opportunists too as Bubbles the hen’s chick found out in Toby’s Tails – The Chicken Patrol. Even though they tend to hunt in the evening, they are not adverse to taking chickens in broad daylight if the opportunity arises. In towns they live happily alongside humans feeding off of the rubbish in dustbins.

They reproduce once a year and the size of the litter ranges between 1 to 11 puppies. Like their canine relatives the dog, foxes are born blind, and their mother looks after the young, whilst the male (Dog) for hunts for food. The young foxes tend to leave the home to find their own territory when they are about seven months old.

One way that they do differ from dogs is that their eye pupils are vertical like cats and this enables them to see better at night.

If you live in an area where foxes are you can easily identify their call, listen to this video, then you will recognise it

If you are lucky enough you may see them playing like they are in the video below’


In the latest Toby’s Tails book, Toby’s Tails – A Kitten’s Tale Domino the abandoned kitten learns about foxes from Toby the Border Collie. Purchasing links to the Toby’s Tails series of children’s books can be found at





Next week Toby and I will be looking at the deer which live in the countryside around us

Bye for now.

Susan and Toby



Everyone looks forward to the summer, the doors and windows are open, lazy days, holidays…

However, whatever you are doing it is important to ‘Think Pet’. Many of us like to take our pets with us, indeed our Toby is our constant companion, however, in the hot weather unless he can come with us, or one of us is staying in the car with him, and can have the doors and windows open or him laying outside, he stays indoors. Yes, we get the reproachful looks when we go but deep in our hearts we know it is best for him. Dogs and other animals do die in cars, the temperatures inside the car are up to 40 degrees more than outside, so leave them at home!

Whilst talking about going out, careful thought must be given as to whether you want to take your pet on holiday with you. We personally are happy to forgo the shops and museums in exchange for sharing our holidays with Toby, however this does not suit everyone. Many beaches don’t allow dogs in the summer months, and not many restaurants are pet friendly. So when planning your holiday be practical and if you want to do things which will not involve your pet, then either get a pet sitter, or find a reputable kennels, both options should happily be able to provide you with references.

Also, please remember that although dogs pads are thick, they are sensitive to heat and it is unfair to walk them on hot concrete or tarmac as it could result in them getting burnt. Recognition signs and treatment information can be found here

In the heat try and walk your dog along shaded routes if possible and if they are elderly or infirm perhaps leave out their walks if the weather is too hot. Of course if there is a lake nearby your pet may like to have a swim, or if they are not brave enough, paddle like Toby. However, never force them, not all dogs like water.

We like to think of our dogs as intelligent, and they are, but they do not all have the common sense to lay in the shade or stop playing ball. Some dog are fixated on their balls and will sometimes play and play until they feels too physically exhausted to continue. This is very very dangerous in hot weather and could well result in sunstroke and even death, so it is vitally important that you don’t let your dog do it. There is an excellent article on symptoms and treatment here 

Remember, the links and information above are for guidance, it is vitally important that if your dog is unwell, or in pain, that you seek the advice of your veterinarian.

And also fresh drinking water should always be available for your pets throughout the year.


Susan and Toby






Oh it’s just a dog. This is a comment which one hears all too often. Those of us who love and understand dogs realise that dogs are not just dogs, they become members of the family. We lavish love and affection on them as they are just as much an important part of our lives as we are theirs. it is therefore not surprising that when their owners die they can become distraught and can behave out of character.

My father has just died and my parents have a lovely little dog who was with my dad 24/7. Dad had been in hospital a lot so Pickle had been used to him going away, however he always returned. Although he was in hospital this time, in the beginning, he came home to die, and Pickle was with him seeing him right until the end.

Since his death Pickle has been grieving terribly, he won’t settle at night, messes indoors, lies by the door all day waiting for my dad to return. all things which he never used to do. His world has been turned upside down, and he is confused.

So what can we do to help him?

Well  unfortunately not much. The most important thing is to recognise that he is grieving, he needs time to get used to the absence of his master and to realise he will never return, just as we humans have to. Unfortunately there is no quick fix, the loss of someone you love is devastating and only time can heal the pain, he might find comfort at night with a piece of clothing in his bed but otherwise all you can do is make allowances for out of character behaviour. Give him or her space, or cuddles, whatever they need from you at time time.


If you have a child who is having trouble coping with the loss of a pet, Toby’s Tails: Saying Goodbye to Lucky was especially written to help with this



See you soon

Susan and Toby


The air is full of the sound of frogs a wooing at the moment.

During the day, but especially at night, all we can hear is this.

The male and female frogs mated and the female laid the spawn between February and April depending on the temperatures. There is always a lot of frog spawn because it is food for a lot of the creatures which live in, on or above the lakes and ponds.


Usually it is laid at the edge between the reeds as a way of hiding it from newts, fish and other creatures.

Over time, the eggs evolve into tadpoles as this is a wonderful time lapse video shows.

Gradually the tadpoles develop legs, whilst living under water, then they drop their tails and eventually emerge as tiny little frogs.

Walking at the moment can be quite hazardous as the young frogs are hopping around in the grass. You see one jump and then the next thing you know there is a loud plopping noise, as it launches itself into the water.

Over the summer those young frogs which manage to survive predators will grow up.

If you look carefully along the edges of ponds, sometimes you can see a frog watching you!

In winter the frogs either go down to the bottom of the pond and bury themselves in the mud, or they find a place on land, under dry leaves or in a log, and hibernate.

When the weather begins to warm up the frogs will come out of hibernation and go back to the pond they left at the beginning of winter. Ready to start mating again.

Bye for now.

Susan and Toby



Great tits are the bigger relative of last week’s blog bird the blue tit. They are very colourful as you can see below. Although bigger than the blue tit, they are still quite small.

They are very common woodland birds, however they are also regular garden visitors where they enjoy the bird tables and feeders as they like to eat seeds and nuts as well as insects such as caterpillars.

Their nests can be found in all sorts of places from nest boxes to pipes and letter boxes. In fact anywhere where there is a hole will be a potential site. The nest are made of twigs or dried roots, and then it is lined with moss and soft material such as hair. If you are putting up a nest box for them it should be small and the hole should be 28mm in diameter.

The eggs are white speckled with brown, and they normally lay 7 to 9 between March and early July. They take 13 to 15 days to incubate and then the youngsters leave the nest after 18 to 21 days.


Bye for now

Susan and Toby



This week we are looking at a another lovely bird, the blue tit. These beautiful  little birds which flit around so happily with their bright blue and yellow feathers are easily recognizable, and they are very common in Europe, Asia, North West Africa, and throughout the UK, everywhere except the tip of Scotland.













Photograph courtesy of Stuart Lilley Photography.


The blue tit’s diet is varied, they eat small insects, seeds, nectar spiders, and you will see them in your gardens enjoying the nut feeders of course.

Their song is easily recognisable.

As with most of nature they time their egg laying to coincide with an abundance of food, which is normally in April/May. They have been known to lay another clutch later in the year, although this is unusual in the UK.

Their nests which are normally built in a hollow or hole in a wall or tree, are made of moss and grass which is then lined with feathers, hair and wool. The eggs are incubated for 12-16 days and both parents look after the chicks.

In next week’s blog we will take a look at the blue tit’s larger relative, the great tit.


Bye for now – Susan and 


Probably the most easily recognised and most favourite wild bird is the robin. His chirp is easily recognisable and because of his love of being around us, he has, over the years gained status in our folk-law, in that many people believe that when a robin is near it is the soul of a dearly departed visiting them.

The robin red breast is also very popular on Christmas cards, however it is only the adults of both sexes which have red breasts, young robins breast are speckled golden brown.

The above lovely photograph is courtesy of Stuart Lilley Photography.


Robins are very territorial and will aggressively see off other contenders.

Their nests usually can be found in nooks and crannies, hedges and climbing plants. The nest, which is cup shaped, is built by the female out of moss and dead leaves, she then lines it with hair. She will normally lay 4 to 6 beautiful blue eggs.

If you fancy having a go a making a robin next box, they are one of the easiest boxes to make because robins are open nesters which means the box doesn’t have a front on it.

Below is a video with some easy to follow plans, remember though to make sure the box is well hidden place.

For those who would like to have a sneak peak inside their box, please resist the temptation, the mother will abandon the chicks. Instead why not take a look at this excellent time-lapse video.

They are the gardeners friend as they eat seeds, fruit, earthworms and bugs, and they are also good companions as they sing most of the year. Below is a video of their song.

In our next blog we will look at another favourite bird the Blue Tit.


Bye for now…

Susan and



Winter is a hard time for birds, their food is scarcer, and water can often be frozen.

At Toby’s Tails children’s books we love to feed the birds, we have a wide range which visit us from starlings and sparrows to the beautiful chaffinches. The old seed heads of the thistles, and suchlike provide food for the flocks of goldfinches which we enjoy watching. There are still some insects flying or crawling along the ground, however putting out extra food for them helps tremendously.

Bird tables can be bought or constructed very easily.

However, along with bird tables or instead of if you prefer you can buy or make feeders, here are a couple of suggestions on Youtube, there are many more tutorials available.

The birds will also be grateful for fat and seed balls which you can hang from trees, or your bird table.

This is a simple water feeder.

There are many species of birds and this useful video will help you to identify some you may see.

Enjoy your bird feeding and watching.

Susan and Toby


Well, firstly I have admit, it’s not fun for everyone, but it looks nice, and Toby just loves to play in it.

The cats are not too sure, Cleopatra is three and so she sensibly decided to pass the snowy days curled up on the a chair, however it was the first time Domino has seen snow and so off the intrepid little hunter went. Unfortunately as soon as he got off the patio and onto the field the snow went over his shoulders…


And so he came in and spent the day asleep on a different chair from Cleopatra, getting over the trauma.

When we went out to feed Marine the horse, and give her some water because her trough was frozen, all he wanted to do was to go for a play.




How could I resist those pleading eyes, even if I did have to stifle a laugh at the snow on his nose.

So we went for a lovely walk around our neighbours frozen lakes.

What better way is there to spend a winter’s afternoon out in the snow, with the sun shining, and your best friend acting like a two year old, instead of the nine years he is?


Until next time…


Susan and Toby


We live on the edge of a national forest and so we are very lucky to see many wild animals, including wild boar.

Wild boar are wild pigs, or more to the point pigs were once wild boar, before humans domesticated them, and in fact if a sow pig escapes into the wild it can settle down and mate with a wild boar.

Like pigs the male is called a boar, the female a sow, and the babies piglets.

These beautiful animals get a lot of bad press, however, like most wild animals they will only attack if they are afraid and are cornered.

You should never let your dog chase wild boar because the boar if threatened could attack and even kill your pet.

It is a sad fact wild boar are hunted for their meat. Did you know, in yesteryear brushes and toothbrushes used to be made out of the hair on a wild boars back.

Wild boars have four toes on each foot, although they actually walk on the two middle ones. Below is a foot print we found in the forest.



Like pigs, wild boar are very intelligent animals, however, whilst pigs tails are curly, wild boars are straight!

They eat all sorts of things from frogs and fish to nuts, fruits and even small mammals.

They have a very strong sense of smell but poor eye sight.

The wild boar live deep in the forest usually in small herds of 6 -20, although really large groups of about 100 have been recorded.

The sow gives birth usually to between 4 and 8 piglets, however there can be as many as 13.

Here is a lovely video of a wild boar sow and her piglets.


Bye for now, Susan and Toby



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