And if it’s so we only pass this way but once
What a perfect waste of time – ‘My Sad Captains’ / Elbow
Yesterday was Easter Saturday and we had the most lovely day. We visited our favourite spot, had a pretty decent undulating walk (at least my leg muscles say it was this morning), had a picnic outside (granted, we scoffed with increasing speed as our hands got cold once the sun moved off) and spent some quality time in the car with our coffee.
My husband pretended to read through closed eyelids (he watches TV using the same rather odd technique) and I spent about an hour with my binoculars welded to my face watching a handful of hares, just being hares, in an adjacent field.
I know that this is the perfect time of year to see hares, when they become more active during daylight in the pursuit of a mate and I also know that this area is good for hares, as we regularly see glimpses of them, so I was hopeful that I might get to see more activity than usual. And boy was I not disappointed.
As we settled in the car with a cup of coffee and books etc., just to enjoy the peace and the view – as we do at every opportunity (I suspect this is an activity that only becomes attractive beyond a certain number of years lived), I commented that three bunnies appeared to be engaged in some early evening shenanegans and were just chasing each other in circles.
We laughed at them running around and turning back on themselves and how the order of the chase changed often and it was only when I decided to get a better look with binoculars that it became evident that they were hares and not bunnies at all – the distance we were from them had completely skewed the scale and once seen properly, it was very obvious; their huge black tipped ears and much warmer colours, distinct yellow eyes and long hind legs. They can apparently run at up to 35 miles an hour, so it’s no wonder I struggled to keep up with them with binoculars.
The chase disappeared from view into the thick reeds and I scanned the field looking for signs of movement. I just passed over the field of view where they emerged from the reeds onto a flat green raise in the surface, just in time to see two of the hares leap right up from the ground, to land in boxing stance and put on the most fabulous, albeit fleeting, display of mad March hare boxing. I’ve only seen it in person once before at distance and as on that occasion, it was over before I could swap binoculars for camera and try to get a shot. Just a brief spat of handbags. Unfortunately, they calmed after that burst of energy and from then on they were only interested in feeding, no more chasing, or boxing.
By the time we decided to leave for home, we calculated that we’d seen at least 6 or 7 different hares. I found that after watching them for a while that I could easily identify individuals – one had a very fluffy white tummy, one had markings on its back, almost stripey like a tabby cat, one had a very fluffy tail and one a long skinny tail. At one point, a movement caught Barrie’s eye in the car mirror and one was crossing the road behind us. On the drive home, we spotted at least another half dozen in fields and at the roadside.
As I was scanning the field for activity, the light caught a shape in the grass and I wondered if this might be one of the forms that hares sleep in, usually during the day, before venturing out at dusk to eat. I knew that they made rudimentary forms from a scrape in the ground amongst long grasses for camouflage and shelter and certainly since I’ve got home and researched it, I’ve seen several photos of similar structures where a sort of tunnel has been formed in long grass in this way.
I’d also been watching a kestrel, rising up on evening thermals and hovering whilst hunting for food – we regularly watch a kestrel in this same spot. So it was an extra treat so be able to watch it settled on a nearby hawthorn bush, surveying the ground beneath intently.
Quality of the photographs:
I’m sorry that I’m not able to share better quality photos, but in all of these cases, the hares and the kestrel were some considerable distance away and whilst I could really enjoy them through binoculars, my camera unfortunately doesn’t enjoy the same magnification or clarity. So these photographs were taken at an equivalent zoom of a 720mm lens and are significantly cropped too. Plus, there were several objects between me and the animals, such as tall weeds, wire fencing etc., hence some odd blurry patches disturbing the details. I could have got out of the car to try and get closer, but I think that was likely to have spooked them and I preferred to go on enjoying watching them quietly, as it was such a privilege to spend some time in their company. But please do click on any of the photos for a larger version.
I don’t think I ever posted about my Christmas present from my husband in 2014 – which I have yet to enjoy.
En route to this favourite spot, we pass a local glider school who are often flying when we pass, so we tend to pull in and watch for any take-offs, as they’re winched into the air and it makes quite a spectacle to watch. I’ve often commented that I fancied having a go, so I now have a voucher for a ‘lesson’ in one to be taken at some time this summer. Whenever I think about it, my stomach does a somersault of excitement and terror, just about in equal measure. Watching them yesterday just heightened both sensations.