In my Cotswold village there is a surfeit of hares right now. After years of seeing few and photographing none, this weekend they were everywhere. There are five European Brown Hares, Lepus europaeus, in this photo, out of a total of eight that I saw today:
If I wasn’t too close, they watched me warily:
If I played Grandmother’s Footsteps, moving slowly and smoothly when they put their heads down to graze, and freezing when they looked up, I could get close enough to photograph them.
These two did a few seconds of the boxing for which they are famous:
When they run, they cross a large field at up to 70 Kmph, those huge haunches delivering the power of a kangaroo, and the back feet overtaking the front ones:
It may not be obvious, but this one is running fast, straight towards me!
They share the field with variety of birds. This is a Red-legged Partridge, introduced from France for culinary reasons, and now common.
After five or six hours of silently stalking them, I came back for one last session, pulled my car over, got out and loudly slammed the door. When I turned round there were two hares by the road maybe 50 yards away, not overly perturbed.
One settled down for a good grooming after the previous night’s rain:
And then a bit of sparring practice:
They were not only eating the wild grasses, but also nibbling the edges of the wheat fields, which the farmers must find infuriating, but they did not seem to go into the centre of the wheat. Apparently they can become a pest, and it is legal to shoot them in certain circumstances, but not in the breeding season. In online farming forums, I found as many messages of appreciation for their beauty as I did complaints about crop damage.
*My title is verse 6 (June) from Anna Crowe’s poem A Calendar of Hares. The full text is here: