The chances of seeing an early summer seem to have stalled somewhat this week, with quite a bit of rain (over 50% of the average for June in the first few days of the month) and now some pretty stormy, gusty winds.
The wildlife seems to have quietened down a smidge n all – I’ve seen both adult little owls on their shed, but the urgent hunting and calling seems to have gone – and I’ve not seen or heard our screaming swifts for a while.
It’s at times like these I wonder how on earth our wildlife (especially some meat-eating birds) manages to find food. Owls can’t hear much in all this racket and birds like swifts and swallows must struggle to get their airborne prey into their gobs I shouldn’t wonder?
After my penultimate run this week (yesterday afternoon) I did spend ten minutes or so watch a mixed flock of hirundines swarm over a field of barley, picking off flies (and the like) that I think had been blown off the row of large oak trees upwind of the birds. AT least I think that’s what they were trying to do (I don’t know how successful they were).
These very strong winds and high(ish) rainfall totals are a little unusual in the UK in June –and have done a little damage I’m sure.
Anna and I planted an oak tree (kindly given to us by my old walking partner) in our large back garden at the start of the week – and a wee branch has already snapped off that – and I’m pretty sure (like I said) there’ll be some nestlings that have probably perished in the week down here, due to the fact that their parents have not been able to forage very well.
This morning on my dawn run I once again ran through a stiffish breeze, dodging the little branches that had been ripped from the roadside oaks and checked out the local wildlife as I ran.
The barn owl was still in its tree (I still find that a bit strange - a single barn owl roosting in a tree in the breeding season IN a breeding barn owls territory), the newly-fledged buzzards were testing their wings against the wind and orange sun, the partridge shuffled through the edge of the barley field - and, as I stampeded towards them, panting like an enraged buffalo, the rabbits all skipped into the brambles, (well… you would too, wouldn’t you!)
A first for me on this morning’s run though was a beautiful brown hare (Lepus europaeus), sitting in the road next to the tree-surgeon’s country yard.
Now, I may be known in some (photography) circles by my moniker “The Black Rabbit”, but truth be told, I’m not that fond of rabbits (unless they’re in a Kephalonian casserole).
I much prefer hares. To watch (and eat as it happens).
One of my earliest childhood memories is my father preparing (skinning) and jugging a hare on our kitchen table – I can even remember the smell!
Now, I’ve not eaten hare for years and years, but probably wouldn’t pass up the opportunity if it presented itself to me again – I do remember liking the taste the last time.
Apart from eating them, hares are great fun to watch. They seem more intelligent than their smaller, chunkier, cuter cousins (rabbits), they seem oh I don’t know…. wiser, more capable, better at pretty-well everything – running (they are our fastest mammals reaching speeds of up to 45mph!), fighting, hiding, you name it.
I find them much more fun to watch than rabbits - with their lanky appearance, deeper reddish-brown pelt (rather than the grey-brown of wabbits) and their beautiful black and white tail.
Of course, like rabbits, brown hares are not native to the UK (having been introduced by the Romans) and to be frank, I’ve not been overly concerned about the declining (brown) hare numbers in the UK over my lifetime.
Maybe I should be concerned though. I do really appreciate seeing them in the wild (I loved seeing one this morning on my run).
Yes… I think the UK would certainly be a duller place without our brown hares and being very much a lowlander, I personally would appreciate not having to trudge up those depressing black mountains in the highlands to try and see our only other species of hare, the Mountain hare (Lepus timidus, our only truly native hare).
Hmmm….maybe I should join the Hare Preservation Trust