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.
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.