Well I'm back from my little subjoin to Hertfordshire now and what a cracking day was had by all yesterday. We couldn't have picked better weather if we had tried. In the middle of an unsettled grey, wet and blustery week, we had sun, clear blue skies, hardly a breeze and after a light frosting, warmth on the winter ravished skin. It really did feel like spring was in the air. I even heard skylark song ascending, the first of the season while sitting quietly watching the wildlife I'd come to see, the Brown Hare. (click on an image to enlarge - they spot humans well before we can get close to them)
I don't know Hertfordshire very well, although I did spend a lot of time as a child not far away in Essex, a place called Rickling Green if any of you know that area. I have to say though, being so close to London, apart from the traffic on the main roads, this area was very rural. I liked it, as I'm fond of farmland landscapes and the wildlife they contain. Such a glorious morning, as witnessed by the view as we began our day (above).
So off we went, in search of the hares. Our guide has been studying hares on this farm for a few years now and can count up to 100 individuals, all was excitement. No sooner had we emerged from the woodland edge, but there in front of us was a hare, in its form (below)
From this vantage point our guide then spotted 10 hares around us, all lying in their forms, resting, and easy to overlook if just out for a stroll. We had to plod on though, and so as we did they began to move away from us, not too far though, just enough to see them on the skyline. Sadly, this being open arable farmland, getting close to the hares was impossible, and my camera will not zoom that much, but what you see here is pretty much what I saw. Through binoculars fantastic.
But the best action apparently was to be found further on, this part of the farm being just the warm up act. However moving further on had some risk taking involved - take a peek at the sign (and there was me thinking hare watching wasn't risky)
But the risk taking was worth it, despite the risk of being shot. Mating hares, boxing hares, running hares, as far as the eye could see there were brown objects dotted about the winter cereals.
The farm also has a wild herd of fallow deer, including a white individual. The herd are truly wild arriving in the winter to munch through the farm before dispersing in the spring. I liked this farm, which has to remain secret, for obvious reasons. This farmer is just keen on wildlife. He doesn't get any subsidies, or ask for help in conserving nature, he just loves wildlife. No shooting is allowed on his farm, unusual around these parts, and possibly this is why hare numbers are high. All very good news, as even with the hares and the fallow deer rampaging through his land he still makes a profit. An enlightened hero, who avoids publicity or acknowledgement, as do many other farmers across the UK. They're not all bad.
Above is a view of the fallow deer and infront of them a little group of hares, and if I turned 180 degrees behind me (photo below) more hares. I guess in total we must have seen 25 - 30. Just brilliant.
But that wasn't the only wildlife. Sitting still in the lee of a hedge is the only way to observe wildlife in the wild; in my book anyway (a long way off from being written) which would also include a flask of tea, a groundsheet, and a good pair of binoculars. Skylarks were just everywhere, singing and ascending. Buzzards, linnets, corn bunting, and even a few buzzy wuzzies making the warmth on my face feel like later in the year with their drone like buzzing. As I sat, I heard a cronk. And another. 4 ravens, 2 pairs actually flew over and in front of me for a good 15 minutes. They were sky pairing in a synchronised silhouette flight, tumbling, barrel rolling and a few times flying in formation as a foursome. I never ever tire of ravens in flight.
Can you imaging how I felt sitting there on a warm spring day, hares everywhere, ravens above, peace and quiet, not a soul around us, just magical. I'd forgotten I was there to work, well almost. Oh nearly forgot, one mammal we didn't see, but very common on the farm is a fox. Funny that, a predator of hares in a place full of hares, I wonder why? I did see signs of a fox though, marking its territory.
All too soon I had to pack up and we headed back to Bristol, but just time for one more hare, if you can spot it........
...... and this view of the copse area of the farm, just because I loved the composition of the fields, hedges and trees.