Monday, 19 February 2018

Brown Hares and first moth of 2018

Lade - mild and miserable - These past couple of days have been grim with a steady drizzle, low cloud and murky weather conditions throughout, although it brightened up for a while this afternoon as the wind picked up from the north. Still, at least its mild, in contrast to the sub-zero day time temperatures forecast for next week Tramping around the local patch has not been particularly rewarding with just the usual wildfowl on south lake, including the two wintering Long-tailed Ducks.
  For a change of scene we walked the beach at Dungeness behind the fishing boats where a couple of Skylarks were the only birds of note. Visibility offshore this morning was only a couple of hundred yards. Down at the Patch the original brown looking 1st winter Glaucous Gull was present and later noted on Burrowes along with another paler individual that also put in an appearance at the fishing boats mid-afternoon (PB).
  Whilst driving to the point I noticed a winged insect flying around in the car, so pulled over and potted it up. It proved to be a pristine Double-striped Pug, my first moth of the year, although not exactly in the circumstances I was expecting! How it got there remains a mystery...

                                Double-striped Pug, found in the car!

The other day whilst studying a large flock of Golden Plovers and Lapwings on Boulderwall fields I noticed a movement in a fold in the land. Closer inspection revealed it to belong to the black ear tips of a Hare, and after a while it emerged into the open in all its glory sporting large back legs and bulging eyes set atop an alert head, features which distinguish it from the commoner and smaller rabbit.
  It was the first Brown Hare that I`d seen this year and as it gambolled into cover and flattened its body against the earth it all but disappeared; to be abroad in daylight hours is a risky business for a mammal that is largely nocturnal and on many a menu.
  About now their mating ritual gets underway. The bucks pursue a doe who refuses their advances by rearing up on her hind legs and `boxing` the bucks away, signifying that she is not yet ready to mate. Formerly this behaviour was considered to be rival bucks fighting for territorial rights and led to the popular idiom of as "mad as a March hare". Indeed, they are also steeped in the folk lore of these islands and famously featured in the Alice in Wonderland tales, while in Anglo Saxon culture hares were considered symbols of fertility and heralds of spring.
  Brown Hares are prodigious breeders having several litters of young from February until September. The leverets are born above ground in a depression in the grass known as a `form` and emerge into the world fully furred and ready to run, which is essential to their survival considering how many enemies they have, such as Fox, Stoat and Buzzard.
  Sadly down here on the Marsh the sight of `boxing` Hares has become an all too uncommon sight as numbers have declined sharply in recent years. Large tracts of farmland more suitable to the Hares` needs have been converted from sheep production and are now intensively farmed arable deserts where few creatures can survive. Combine that with the fact that illegal coursing with long dogs still continues, plus Hares can be legally shot as a game species, it is nothing short of a miracle that any remain extant today.
  But survive they do, against all the odds, and long may they do so as the Marsh landscape would be all the poorer without the Brown Hare, one of our most fascinating and endearing native mammals.