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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Mountain Hares

Ever since I saw  some pictures of mountain hares or blue hares as they are sometimes known,  I,d always wanted the challenge to photograph these fantastic looking animals!I figured that now,as we were about to approach December,they would be  about to moult into their winter attire.They are usually to be found in altitudes above 500metres,with the peak district of Derbyshire, offering me the best chance of success.With one eye on the weather,and conditions seeming favourable, I decided last Mon, was worthy of a recce to the pennines, were I,d heard that good numbers of hares had been reported in the past.
On arriving at the destination,low cloud was still covering the hill tops,my heart sank,as I am no mountaineer, and the last thing I wanted was to get lost in the misty conditions.I was once caught out unexpectedly, on Pendle hill whilst photographing Dotterel and I didn,t enjoy the experience one bit. I had to sit it out until conditions had improved,but it was a very unnerving experience,to say the least!

Anyway,after a few cups of coffee, whilst sat in the car, the mist started to lift,  and I togged up, ready for the climb ahead.The area that I was heading for, was a good 45 min walk  and my spirits were high in anticipation, that I would connect with a few of these blue mountain hares.With there not being any snow about at present,the hares should be relatively easy to spot,up against the grassy/peaty moorland .After only 10 mins of walking, I spooked one that had been led up against a peat hag and managed my usual shot of the hare departing at a good speed of knots...Ah well it looked that I was at least in the right area!
Scanning with the binoculars, I picked up another hare, at a distance of about 300yds away...,this one had spotted me and was sat bolt upright watching my every move.
Continuing the climb, I came across another hare,squatting hard up against a peat bank, this one allowed me to get reasonably close to it, before I backed off,leaving it in peace. I was feeling quite confident now of  obtaining some reasonable images ,plus  a big bonus, was that the moorland was full of gullies,dips,and  bankings, which I could use as cover, in order to keep myself concealed from the hares.
I noticed immediately, that some of the hares were in different stages of moult,some being a very light shade,some still dark and others in between, which would make for a pleasing array of images.
These animals were introduced to the peak district to supplement the sportsmen of the day and they frequent heather clad moorland,which is more suited for grouse.They are reputedly known for carrying a tick, that also affects the grouse and therefore are now persecuted terribly, on the managed heather moors.In the Lammermuir hills in Scotland, hundreds of hares are reputedly shot every season!

Carrying on ahead, I found another hare, a very light individual,  hunkered up against this peat bank,which afforded it shelter from the elements.I had purposely kitted myself out in my full goretex, waterproofs,  which from previous experience,had made crawling through the wet mossy terrain that little bit more bearable!The moss and damp heather acts like a sponge here and you would soon end up sodden without them on!
This really dark individual never batted an eyelid that I was there,but I did crawl 20 yds commando style to capture the moment!
The shots above and below, were of 2 hares that were among a rocky outcrop.They were only a few metres apart. Again I spotted them from quite a distance and used the banks and hollows to gain ground on them.I particularly like the hare below with its contrasting moult!
It decided that he,d had enough of me and quickly about turned, making for the higher ground!
I believe that they breed in march through to August and can have about 4 litters of 2 to 5 kits, with the female being slightly bigger than the male.Throughout the morning I must have seen about 14 different hares, some close and some distant.Once I got my eye in, I could usually find one laid up somewhere amongst the tussocks and peat hags,.....What a different story it would be when the snow is on the moor,which leads me nicely on to my next trip to the pennines,hopefully to photograph these stunning animals in their natural winter environment!

A big thank you as ever for looking in on my blog and I hope to bring you more tales of our wonderful fauna in the not to distant future!!!!!!!