With deadlines conveniently juggled we managed to contrive some time to be out and about this week - destination harebears. Arriving earlier than normal at their field our first task was to pour ourselves a mug of medicinal coffee. At first it all appeared very peaceful, the hares relaxing in their usual locations, but within a whisker's twitch all things can change and a calm scene can quickly transform to 'carnalage'! I'm not sure what the hare equivalent is of 'come on over big boy', but first one doe gave it to her beau, followed swiftly by another doe to hers and after a few rounds of boxing, the towel was well and truely thrown in. For a while the scene was similar to that of recent activities in our pond, but not so wet. Pleasantries were short in duration but frequent. Once unnecessariness' were complete peace broke out in the form of some indifferent grazing interspersed with periods of grooming, which continued until the next twinkle shone in her eye! This cycle of events continued throughout our time with them. We were both able to make useful sketches, but only between the moments when our eyes were not blushfully adverted. Exhausting stuff and we were only watching (is there such a thing as 'hare dogging'?)!!
To recover we popped over to a nearby wood, only to discover that there were Wildlife Trust volunteers tidying it up. So much for it being quieter during the week. Onto woods number two then, all was quiet here and a very pleasant couple of hours were passed looking for signs of spring. Rosie painted sweet violets, accompanied by a bee-fly. I mooched around watching a chiffchaff, a lot of brimstones, commas, peacock, red admiral and queen bumble bees.
And onto Beacon Hill. Here mooching activities were resumed. Nuthatches greeted us with a fanfare of calls, a red kite drifted over at treetop height and a pair of bullfinches slipped silently through the hazel coppice. Brimstone butterflies were in abundance, with males patrolling manically along the pathways and females basking in the glorious sunshine. Making our way back to the carpark I caught up with a couple of bee-flies, sporting their fine long noses. All signs that spring is starting to sprung with force.
Finally as we pulled into our close I noticed a deal of gull activity just over the houses, looking closer we picked out a red kite flying among their ranks being comprehensively escorted out of the area.
The hares were charming this weekend. Things had changed since our last visit, the two boys that were usually seated nearest to us now have girlfriends. Things appeared normal with the other pairs in the field, so we spent our time watching one of the new couples.
We snuck 'laneside' along the hedgerow to gain a better vantage point and tucked ourselves against an oak to keep ourselves hidden. Fat chance! They were onto us instantly with ears alert and eyes starring straight at us, but they didn't bolt. Although only about thirty metres from us, they assessed us to be no immediate threat and held their ground. Not once did the male take his gaze away from us and gave us the impression that he would like to move, but the famale - 'Blue-eyes' appeared to have made a scrape and she was reluctant to leave it. The male - 'Grey-back' fussed around her, being attentive, sometimes too attentive, resulting in the occasional box on the nose. All this suggesting that the bond is new and the male is making sure that the female dosn't lose interest in him.
Every now then a party of cyclists would pass by, their bright jersies startling the hares. This gave the male his chance to lead the female away from us, but not for long, moments later she would bundle back to her scrape with himself not far behind as if pulled on an invisible lead. Maybe this is where she will have her leverets.
During this time the farmer had been spraying his crops nearby. We noticed him moving his tractor to a field adjacent to the 'Hare' field, within seconds hares were appearing all shapes. It would have been mad trying to shake a stick at them, there were just too many. The dynamics were now in turmoil, with hares, haring all over the place. No boxing involved, but we discovered just how fast these magnificent creatures can motor when they want to, demonstrating what those unlikely lengthy backlegs were evolved for. Suitably warmed and entertained by the sojourn, we left them to settle down and restore order to an oversubscribed 'Hare fest'; we were off to suss out some woodlands.
Activities have quietened down a little in the pond, for now.... left are a few bachelor boys musing at the fantastic night skies we've had of late, plus two tonnes of spawn. Jupiter knows where the newts are going to put their eggs once they get going.
Went to Sandy Point, Hayling on Saturday. Ok walk, saw a Stonechat!!
Meanwhile back at the hares.
All our previous visits to the hare field were early in the morning. For a change we wanted to see what the hares get up to later in the day and so with weather set fair on Mad March 1st Hare day, we were once again tucked into the hedge watching these fascinating beasts. The light was low, warm and casting great shadows. The colours on both hares and winter wheat glowing, making a change from the more acid greens of previous trips.
We counted fifteen hares in the main field, with another five or six in the satelitte fields. They seemed very relaxed, preparing themselves for the rigours that the ensuing night will bring. Some casually grazing, others spending time carefully grooming, paying special attention to their long legs and toes, in the process forming comical poses, which were both fun and challenging to record.
Although we can't pick out individuals yet, we now know pretty well where the pairs will be stationed and where the unattached boys will sit and watch activities from. Hopefully we will be able to sort out some telltale features on a few hares and work out whether these areas are important territorial citadels, with a turnover of individuals holding sway on them or the same hares sat there each time we visit.
The reliability of their presence is one of the joys of coming back to this group. As the light slipped away from day, we left them in still grooming and chomping in the knowledge that the next time we drop in on them, there they will be. In any case it was time for fish n'chips.
If you're expecting words of wisdom from Dan and Rosemary you may be sadly disappointed. However, if you want to keep up to date with our current projects then pick up the feed at the top of this column.