I met up with a few other folk (including walking compadre, Jenny) above Marsden, early on Saturday morning. We were going to be shown how to spot for signs of the (elusive, as it happened) Mountain Hare. Signs that will help us complete an NT survey within the individual 1Km squares of Marsden Moor that we have been allocated.
Alyssa, one of the rangers from the National Trust, organised the meet and it was great to meet her and Sam Bolton (from Greater Manchester Ecology Unit, I think). Sam gave us lots of great info and tips on how to spot either the Hares themselves or the tell-tale signs of them.
The 6.45 start and the unrelenting chilly wind were soon forgotten, it was a really enjoyable two hours or so. I really didn’t know that much about Mountain Hare before this – despite having flushed out a few in the past during my moors meanderings. I knew they were beautiful to watch with their high-speed twists and turns across grass and heather. But I was never sure before if I had seen Brown* or Mountain Hares.
The Hares we were looking for were Mountain Hare, the indigenous species that was here pre and post ice age (but died out around 6000 years ago due to changing landscapes/flora). They were reintroduced to the area (Derbyshire / Dark Peak and surrounding moors areas) in the 1800s. I think the most northerly Mountain Hare populations (outside of Scotland) are found on the northern side of Marsden Moor/ Buckstones area. Which is the area I’ll be surveying on another early morning in the the next couple of weeks..
More info about Mountain Hares:
http://www.hare-preservation-trust.co.uk/mountain.php and http://www.derbyshiremammalgroup.com/species_status/mountain_hare.html
*Brown Hares, it turns out (meaning, I had no idea), were introduced around the Iron Age and tend to stick to lower climes (but there is some crossover of populations around the edges of the moors).