Sunday 30 January 2011

Brown Hares.

I recently had the good fortune to witness at close hand the fascinating behaviour of one of our most enigmatic mammals and was inspired to create some observational sketches and paintings to remind me of these encounters! Just before christmas last I was out among the vast open fields that run the length of a chalk ridge that climbs from the Beane valley out to the east of Herts and although intensively farmed for cereal crops, does nevertheless provide a refuge for Brown Hares. As I stood on the crest of the ridge I turned to face the wind and saw a trio of Hares on the next brow! I froze in the moment and quite literally so! as the temperature was well below freezing and the first snowfall lanced sideways and within minutes was coming thick and fast! The Hares were unfazed and were chasing each other in circles amid the spinning snow. They were leaping at times and boxing! and seemed stirred into a complete frenzy by the ever worsening weather. I must have stood watching for a good 30 minutes before they suddenly became aware of my intrusion and all three took off as one and raced away into the coming storm! Within a few seconds they had vanished completely!

The scene was quite magical and I felt very privileged to have shared in those intimate moments! By the time I had walked half way home the weather had unleashed its full fury and the snow was becoming quite deep! I did manage to see a female Sparrowhawk glide past me and alight not far ahead with what looked like a Blackbird gripped in her talons. It provided an unforgetable finale to a wonderful afternoon and inspiration for a future painting perhaps?

I have seen Hares on numerous occassions in the past and always marvled at their ability to endure the harshest of conditions out in the open in all weathers at all times of the year! Both Brown Hares and Mountain Hares seem to be impervious to frost and snow, rain or biting winds and are at the mercy of any number of predators, so it amazes me how they still manage to survive? They have my deepest admiration and respect!