A Tale of Two Tails
I awoke one morning and the sun was dazzling through the upstairs window. Despite the imminent winter storm making its way across the country, it could have been seen as a full Spring day. The strengthening wind threatened a trip out with my camera, as I knew that there would be a lot of birds and animals reluctant to venturing out too far, which would result in a poor day of photography. I don’t let this thought get to me as I always enjoy being outdoors, and I favour the feeling of fresh air blowing into my face and watching little miracles of nature rather than aiming to get the ‘perfect’ picture of anything.
As I made my way downstairs to start the day, I was compelled to look out the window to the view over my back garden, where a large farmer’s field lies beyond it. I noticed quite a bit of movement across the near flat landscape, and I knew straight away that is wasn’t anything like a bird bounding it’s way across the field to a nearby ditch. Without a second thought, I grabbed my dark green outdoor jacket over my lounging clothes (admittedly not the best combination for going out in a strong winter gale!) and grabbed my camera with the longest lens attached. As I quick walked to the end of the garden, I crept through a small gap between the end of the garden fence and a row of large conifer trees, and managed to crouch down somewhat comfortably in front of a small mount of earth. Some thorny branches were hanging just above my head, providing an adequate natural hide, and the wind was blowing across to my left as opposed to going across the field, which would undoubtedly impede my chances of not being spotted, or smelt, by the mammals that were running freely across the field.
Two brown hares. I didn’t doubt that they would be anything else. I see them when I am driving to and from work. I see them as I travel to neighbouring reserves, but I very often see them as mere, brown specks on the horizon. This was very much the case when I got settled in the little space behind my garden fence. They were very active, not in the least bit phased by the winds as they bounded back and forth over the small ditch inlet in the middle of the field. On the opposite side of the field is another row of houses, and in my head I thought ‘maybe I would have a better chance seeing them closer on that side?’ But I remained patient, remembering once more that I always allow nature to come to me, and to refrain from ‘chasing’ a subject which may cause distress to the animal. So I sat waiting, the biting wind nipping at my cheeks and fingertips as I gripped the camera and lens tightly. At least fifteen minutes passed before I saw the two hares run into the ditch, and emerged on the closest side of the field heading in my direction.
Both of the hares stopped on occasion to smell the air, rotating their large ears, and even had a quick clean of their paws and face. I took the chance to get images there and then, as I didn’t know whether they would venture any closer towards where I was hiding. The early morning light appeared briefly through the fast-moving clouds and each time this happened, a halo of light appeared around the hares’ bodies, giving them a golden glow around their unruly body fur. Before I knew it, one of the hares was filling up the space in my lens. My heart quickened and I held my breath as the hare ran directly towards my position. It stopped once more to sniff the air, but it appeared as thought that it wasn’t aware of me at all. I was in awe, especially when I lifted my head slowly above the camera to see just how close the hare was from me. If I was to guess, I would say it was roughly ten metres away, but I have never been good at judging distances!
I marvelled at the animal and continued to take multiple shots, still managing to glance up at the hare now and again. The second hare, which had moved to the right hand side of the field as the first one made its way towards me, had come back across to be together again. Suddenly, they gave chase and ran after each other with their bodies low to the ground; their powerful hind legs pushing them forward a good few metres at a time. I wasn’t quick enough to zoom my lens out to give space between the fast-moving mammals, but I managed to get a couple of very nice action shots as they darted back and forth right in front of where I was hunkered down. After chasing one another, they once more stopped to survey their surroundings, and slowly began to make their way back to the right hand side, out of view.
It is funny to think that the greatest and most memorable wildlife encounters can happen so close to home, literally in my case! I have an ever-growing list of locations to visit throughout my life, both in the UK and abroad, but now and then I often think that I don’t need to travel miles and miles to seek those wonderful, almost secret, moments with wildlife. And in this case, it couldn’t be more true.
The images shown will be added to my website and potentially sold as prints on my Etsy shop in the near future.