Watching out for Mountain Hare in Marsden

A last look for Lepus Timidus – Mountain Hare ..

I took my two boys to look for the Easter Bunny this weekend. I’ll reframe that (to change the scene in your head): they’re 25 and 21 and we were after Mountain Hare. But the Hares were harder to find than all those badly hidden Easter eggs in the garden over the years. Despite lots of tell-tale Maltesers in evidence (keeping the chocolate theme going), no Hares were seen this time. The lads were home for Easter weekend and we’d set off early in the evening on the final round of the two grid squares I had been allocated for the National Trust annual Mountain Hare survey.

I had only spotted one Hare in the accumulated eight hours or so that I had spent surveying my allocated areas – centring around the March Hill area. That one encounter was worth the hours though, bursting out as it did from the heather in front of me, to rubberball away in its white winter coat. A white coat against the purple, brown and tan of the spring moors landscape. Once you see one you can’t believe they are so elusive and infrequently seen at this time of year.

Where I saw it is about the northern extremity of the Peak District heartland for Mountain Hares. There are bigger populations in Scotland where they have survived since the ice-age, albeit fluctuating in density in recent times (from what I’ve read). The English population was reintroduced in the 1880’s and they prefer the higher moors and heather habitats, compared to the Brown Hare (its larger interloper cousin and a Roman introduction).

So, on this last occasion no Hare was seen but as we sat on the top of March Hill looking across to Buckstones in the fading light, I was a happy man. I was thinking about a mesolithic father, sat with his kids (and dog.. Brodie being me on this last survey) in the same spot a few thousand years ago. Discussing the Hare they had hunted – with a different outcome of course – and enjoying the smell of the temporary camp’s fires behind them. No smoky smells for us but the taste of the Jura shared from my hip flask more than made up for it.

Marsden Moor March Hill West Yorkshire
Joe and Ronan getting in the tracking zone .. and nicely modelling the hats Anita had knitted for them around Christmas time.
Marsden Moor March Hill West Yorkshire
Should be some kind of album cover.. or an Ad for Marsden tourism 🙂
Marsden Moor March Hill West Yorkshire
A short break from the surveying.. Joe capturing me..
Marsden Moor March Hill West Yorkshire
and me capturing Ronan (holding the big camera)
Marsden Moor March Hill West Yorkshire
Looking out from March Hill towards Buckstones. The peace of the evening (and the chance of seeing any distant Hares) was shattered by the noisy youth who had left their car up on the A640 lay-by and were now cavorting down across the moor to head up towards March Hill summit. Which was cool for them but bad timing for us.
Marsden Moor March Hill West Yorkshire
Even with two pairs of binoculars and my DSLR’s telephoto lens we didn’t spot any Hares across the moor.
Marsden Moor March Hill West Yorkshire
Brodie wanting to join me as I survey the area towards the Pennine Way which transected one of the grids

ps – After I posted this entry I realised I hadn’t mentioned the fauna we had seen (or heard). It’s a well worn adjective but the plaintive calls of Curlew could be heard on the moors to the side of March Hill. And we spotted one as it flew at a distance away from us. At one point we watched a Grouse strut about and announce the impending gloam in irritable fashion. Some Canadian Geese gave as a sqwonking V shaped fly-by on their way to March Haigh Reservoir whilst a couple of voles dashed for cover as we walked to a small knoll for a good scanning position. So, lots to see and even more to hear but alas no Hare in sight this time.

3 thoughts on “A last look for Lepus Timidus – Mountain Hare ..

  1. I was in that very area with my walking pal she we were at the corner of March Haigh under Buckstones when we saw some people about a mile away who hadn’t really moved for ages they were just looking around , this puzzled her I said perhaps they were Hare spotting and told her about it, just about then I saw something shining in the sun in the grass a few yards away so I went to investigate it was a small golden pendent with the head of a hare on it, ok it was probably a rabbit but for the sake of the story hare ! When I showed it to her she freaked out and accused me of somehow planting it there and engineering the story round to hares ,
    I still have it

    • It may well have been hare spotters, Gary. Spotting the golden hare (okay, rabbit) at that same time is a pretty cool coincidence! Two follow up coincidences: I read this comment on my phone earlier, whilst out with the dog up near Tunnel end. As I put the phone away she zoomed off, a rabbit had broken cover from the bushes. On the way back to Marsden I bumped into Rob the National Trust ranger who organised the ‘how to spot hares’ walk I went on last year.
      Yikes, etc.

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