Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Tale of Two Hares

My local Brown Hare site has been ominously quiet over recent months and I was started to get concerned following reports that some youths had taken it upon themselves to shoot them for 'fun' last year. Given the apparent complete absence of hares I wondered if this sad activity had carried on and tipped the numbers over the edge, resulting in extinction of this small population.

I can happily report that over the last couple of weeks the hares have begun to return, although numbers still appear low in comparison to a few years ago. Whether this is the result of the alleged shootings, or a result of a natural cyclic fluctuation in numbers that is common in hare populations and partly driven by the rather atypical climatic conditions of the last few years remains to be seen. What I do know is it is great to see them back and it was a pleasure to put some in front of the camera for the first time this year on my brief session with them a couple of weeks. The sight of the hares reminds me that Spring is not too far off now and hopefully will see an end to the diabolical winter weather we have suffered this year. Below is a selection of photos from the session.

Very early in the morning in low light.
Incoming hare.
A shallow depth of field turning the long foreground grass to mush.
Up close and personal.
Running towards another hare nearby.
Still in their thick winter coats.
Last weekend saw a slight chink in the weather and saw me heading out once more looking for Mountain Hare in the Peak District. I thought it would be nice for readers to be able to compare images of the two hare species. Following a successful session with these upland hares in early January the weather has proved frustrating in preventing a return. I made one visit in the intervening period but the forecast proved very wrong and a complete white out blizzard quickly descended across the plateau. I was very glad I use a good GPS and plot my route as such conditions are incredibly disorientating and potentially dangerous with a steep valley to one side. The conditions cut the session short as I was concerned about the snow on the road where my car was parked. This is a good example if you are going to head off into the mountains always make sure your well prepared and also let someone know where your heading to. 

Wind the clock forward to last weekend, the mountain weather forecast indicated it was going to be windy but the cloud base would quickly lift in the morning. I figured that a 35- 40 mph wind and accompanying wind chill was just about bearable and headed off through the cloud to return to the plateau. The hares on this occasion were quite different in behaviour from my encounters 5 weeks earlier and were very skittish. Part of the cause seemed to be that many had now paired up and frequently when trying to approach one it was not possible to the second one lurking nearby. The second hare would take off taking the target hare with it. Despite the difficult conditions and hare behaviour I managed to get a few more photograph to add to the collection. I am very rapidly turning into a mountain hare addict, a condition for which I hope there is no cure.

A welcome sight at a long trek but difficult to keep the camera on the hare in the buffeting winds on an exposed slope.
Sheltering from those biting uplands winds
Sat amongst the red upland grasses
Starting to pair up for Spring breeding.
When sat in amongst the long grass, despite being white, they can be extremely difficult to spot. This is why on occasions a hare seems to appear as if from nowhere from right by your feet.


Peter said...

Super images - great clarity and light

Steven Ward said...

Great blog and writeup Rich , look forward to your next encounter and images . Steve

Barbara said...

Beautiful. I love these guys.

The happy wanderer. said...

They do look so different, but I've enjoyed seeing both, and will look forward to seeing more later.


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