Today it is a pleasure to move from technogeekery of gear to the subject matter that we love and care for on this blog and hand over to Mark Williams for a guest blog. It has been a while since we have had any guest posts and we welcome them from photographers whose work or approach we like.
I haven't met Mark in person, but we have 'met' through twitter and I have followed his tweets this year with interest. It seemed from his activities that he was always on 'Harewatch', a subject I have never had the patience to get to grips with so with that in mind, I thought it would make an interesting blog, so over to Mark for his story.
Somebody asked me recently what it is that makes me want to go and watch and photograph hares and this got me thinking as to when my interest started with these enigmatic mammals. I think it began when I first watched them from my parents' garden, We used to see them in the field behind the house and there seemed to be an abundance of them, but the spectacle was short-lived as a new housing estate was built before I had even started my teens.
Living in Lincolnshire meant that I was in one of the last strongholds of an animal that was introduced in the country by the Romans. The fields of our farms provided both shelter and food to these, our fastest mammal.
Moving from Lincolnshire down to Cambridgeshire recently, I've experienced a steep learning curve. As far as watching and finding hares is concerned, I was expecting a similar population to that I'd enjoyed just 50 miles away but was sadly disappointed to find the fields here are devoid of them - we can see the odd one or two, compared to up to a dozen previously.
Hares are creatures of habit and with a little patience you can soon see where they are located. The most obvious signs of their presence are their droppings which are different from their cousin, the rabbit. Hares are manily seen at dawn and dusk which, for photography is when we have the best light of the day, so it's an ideal time.
(An excerpt from an autumnal morning session watching hares)
There is nothing to beat being out before dawn to get the hide in place ready to photograph these animals in their natural habitat, listening as the tawny owl makes its last forays in search of food and then, as the sky turns grey in the pre dawn light, the birds begin the new day. A distant screech from a buzzard comes closer at it circles over the field. I can now make out the shapes in the field as the light gradually increases. A pheasant calls with its strangled cry and a blue tit flies by. The shapes in the field are now clearly hares and there must be half a dozen of them within a hundred feet of the hide.
The sun clears the horizon but its golden globe is immediately swallowed by the low cloud. The hares are now running and jumping in the field, almost dancing to greet the dawn. One inquisitive hare hops towards the hide and eyes it suspiciciously. I hold off, resisting the urge to press the shutter button but it has spooked him and he turns, taking off at full speed across the field. I stay in the hide hoping that the hare will come back but he's now over the far side of the field running with a couple of others.
A noise to the right of the hide has me craning around to catch a glimpse of the perpetrator but nothing can be seen as the woods are still quite dark at this stage. The sound of a raptor nearby has me looking to the left of the hide, there's certainly a lot happening at the moment. A buzzard has decided to use a post some thirty feet away to land on and he sits there, preening. Again a noise from my right and the sharp report of a twig snapping and three Roe deer appear. Looking around constantly, their ears moving to pick up the slightest noise, they raise their heads and sniff the air. A hide not only masks your form but luckily your smell as well, these skittish animals would be away very quickly if they had my scent. They move out of the field but you can see that they are ready to move quickly if danger is spotted so I settle back enjoying the spectacle, as they are now out of reach of my lens and past experience has shown that even the mechanical noise from the shutter can have these animals fleeing. It's not always about the image but getting out from behind my office desk and enjoying nature - and especially the hare.
As Autumn moves into Winter and the days shorten, the hares will spend longer foraging for food as it becomes scarcer, so look to the fields and you may be lucky to spot one. The shortening days also mean that my hare watching will mostly be confined to the weekends during Autumn and Winter, but when I'm out with them, I will be tweeting so look out for the hashtag #harewatch
Here are a few images from this year.
More work can be seen here, G900photography is Mark Williams and Alison Campling.
Thank you Mark - that was a great blog, and I loved the way you related your experience in story telling mode. It is not a style that we have seen much of on this blog, but it has certainly provided a great feeling for the experience you feel when hare watching.
Mark can be followed on twitter as @gollum900, and I would recommend that you do if you are a tweeter.
If you would like to feature as a guest blogger and you have an interesting story or experience that you would like to share with us, contact us through the comments as the first point of contact, which we wont publish but will allow contact to be made. We would love to hear from you and if we like your story, then you could be on here too.