Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Fourteen

Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Fourteen
Brown Hare / Damian Waters

As the world shuts down around us the uplifting role that wildlife plays in our lives becomes more vital than ever. So, for my own sanity as much as anything, I’m going to keep a daily diary of what I find around my garden. Photograph the wildlife you can see from your window or in your garden and post your pictures on the ‘Sussex Wildlife Trust Nature Table’ page.

Day Fourteen

We’ve made it to the end of the month and I’m sure you’ll all agree that it was a very mad March. In fact, I’d go as far as to say, of the 584 months I’ve been on this planet, that was the maddest. 

When we were evicting the monster from the greenhouse on Sunday I found the skull of a Brown Hare. I can’t resist bringing home skulls I find on my rambles and I tried to remember whereabouts on the South Downs I found this particular one. But all this skull reminded me of was East London.

Many years ago, I had a group of friends in the big city and found myself attending their dinner parties in the gentrified terraces of East London. During one such soirée, a guest who was desperate to impress boasted that, as next week’s host, he would be cooking us all a hare (it must have been a recent recipe featured on some celebrity chef’s rural cooking show). Everyone was keen to try this latest food fad but it really angered me. I put down my cutlery and asked if anyone at the table had ever actually seen a hare in the wild. My question was met with silence and killed the party dead. I’d like to think that I then launched into an impassioned rant about the majestic, untamed magnificence of the hare and society’s disconnection with nature, before heroically throwing down my napkin and storming out. In reality, there was cheesecake for dessert so I wearily sighed and carried on eating. But from that moment I knew two things; hares don’t belong at trendy Shoreditch dinner parties and neither did I. I finished my cheesecake and never returned. And I still maintain that if you’ve witnessed the reckless energy of a Brown Hare cavorting in a Sussex sunrise then the very idea of killing and eating them is, well, madness. 

Darin Smith

(Brown Hare photo by Darin Smith)

On paper a hare could easily be dismissed as a big rabbit but they’re different beasts altogether; it’s all in the way they move. A hare possesses powerful hind legs; a pair of pistons that can send them rocketing towards the horizon at over 40 mph. Hares are mostly nocturnal. They don’t burrow underground but instead spend their days hidden in a shallow scrape (a form). Young hares (leverets) are all born in separate forms and attentive mother hares return to secretly suckle them undercover of dusk.

Bob Eade

(Brown Hare hidden in its form, photo by Bob Eade)

In spring amorous male hares approach females in the hope of finding a mate. But chatting up a hare is a risky business. Potential sexual partners can suddenly transform into sparring partners. Uninterested female hares rise up and strike a blow for equality by punching the males in the face. The frenzied ‘boxing matches’ that ensue are such a striking spectacle that they have given us the phrase ‘as mad as a March hare’. 

Eliot Neep

('Mad March Hares', photo by Elliot Neep)

Yet who are we to be questioning the hare’s mental stability? Us hare-brained humans used to believe that sprinting hares could start fires and that witches transformed into hares and could only be killed with silver bullets. Hares have been closely associated with Pagan springtime fertility rituals and the goddess Eostre. And they still play a role in our Easter celebrations (albeit watered down, chocolate covered and transformed into the Easter Bunny). Their prominence in the English countryside has also diminished. Numbers have declined due to changes in farming practices, especially the removal of hedgerows. 

I clean up the hare skull and put it on the shelf in the greenhouse alongside two badger skulls, more souvenirs from Sussex hikes.

P1030442

(two Badgers skulls found in Sussex woodlands and a Brown Hare skull)

It's time to put the madness of March 2020 behind us. The month that the entire world changed.

Now all we have to do is get through April.

Comments

  • Grace Davies:

    31 Mar 2020 11:33:00

    Michael, I have seen you give talks several times so am not surprised by your writing style and knowledge. But still this is a great project and I hope that you will be able to keep it going. It’s a great daily nature fix! Thank you

  • Diane:

    31 Mar 2020 11:42:00

    Loving your blog.

  • Eloise:

    31 Mar 2020 14:35:00

    I also collect treasure on my walks…. souvenirs of nature…

    Lets hope April brings promise of new ….

  • GaiL Greaves:

    31 Mar 2020 16:18:00

    Thank you Michael for these beautifully written daily diaries; my stock of novels has now run dry since the lock down and I was getting desperate for something to read, you have given me something to look forward each day.

  • Steve F:

    31 Mar 2020 18:37:00

    Great dairy.,enjoying this. Thanks Mr B

  • Ginny-Vic:

    31 Mar 2020 22:07:00

    Honestly you should write books! I am learning so much! Do you take requests? I love to read about otters!

  • Juliet:

    01 Apr 2020 08:38:00

    Hi Michael
    I liked your piece about Hares. I have seen dancing hares in Yorkshire, each time it was a wonderful site and quite unexpected. I have been looking out for them on the Downs lately but haven’t seen any. Are there many hares in Sussex?

  • Jan:

    01 Apr 2020 10:10:00

    Hares! Yes, sadly such a rarity nowadays. However, on 15th February I had stopped to speak to neighbours walking in woods adjacent to a huge open field not far from where I live and there, on the track, was a hare! Must by over 30 years since my last spot. A magical moment..

  • Richard Lintott:

    01 Apr 2020 13:30:00

    I remember seeing a hare running up the 9th fairway at East Brighton GC. It was a majestic sight. Thanks for your blog. Stay safe

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