Saturday, 11 July 2009

Happening Upon A Hare

This brown hare had clearly never read a ‘How to watch wildlife’ guide. It was midday and in my fluorescent yellow vest, laden down with equipment and standing in the middle of an otherwise featureless field, I couldn't have been any more conspicuous. Yet, the hare was apparently oblivious to my presence and lolloped calmly and directly towards me through the furrows of the pasture. I turned the dial of my digital camera to 'video' and pressed record.

As the hare drew closer, I tried to keep the lens focused on it, but, I was too interested in watching it in the flesh to spend much time checking the LED screen. It had grizzled, tatty fur like that of a much loved teddy and black-tipped ears that swivelled at the slightest sound. I was down-wind of it, but even if it was unable to smell me, I couldn't understand why it hadn't seen or heard me. Apparently, hares aren't able to see well directly to the front, a fact that photographers sometimes take advantage of by lying in wait on a tramline within a crop. So, maybe that could explain its apparent disregard of me.

When it was almost at my feet, it sat up on its haunches and fixed me with a stare. I held my breath, expecting it to spin and speed away, but, it didn’t. Instead, it took a few more hops towards me, before turning back the way it had come and ambling off again in an unhurried way. Only when it was nearly out of sight did it pick up the pace and sprint, leaping effortlessly over the tussocky grass and away.



Now You Do It
Although brown hares are still relatively widespread and common, they are easier to find in some parts of the UK than others and are absent from the northwest and western highlands in Scotland. According to the guidebooks, brown hares are nocturnal, so you are most likely to see them at dawn and dusk.
The National Trust and Countryfile websites list a few places that they occur and the Slimbridge WWT reserve is also a good place to see them.

Conservation Status
It is thought that brown hares were introduced to Britain by the Romans. In recent years, they have shown one of the most dramatic declines of any British mammal (second only to the water vole), probably as a result of changes in agricultural practice. In comparison to the water vole, they receive relatively little legal protection, but they are a UK BAP Priority Species.

5 comments:

  1. Fascinating to watch, well done.
    We get Hare's here occasionally but they usually don't hang around long.
    I remember as a kid seeing them in the 10's running across arable fields, now its sad that they are declining as they are such an unusual mammal.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Hare Preservation Trust at www.hare-preservation-trust.co.uk will give you more info about these wonderful creatures. We should have a full ban on shooting during the breeding season and this is something the trust is lobbying for.
    Well done on the film.
    Jane Russ
    Editor of Hare Today the quarterly newsletter of the Hare Preservation Trust.

    ReplyDelete
  3. cool blog!
    Congrats and some great tips!
    Marcus
    www.ebirder.net

    ReplyDelete