It’s been raining for weeks now, ever since the drought was announced if I recall correctly. Time out with the camera has been decidedly limited and I’ve been itching to get a few decent shots – of anything really!
It’s my own fault. I went to a Tweet Up last weekend at the Axe Estuary (I’m @spuddrs if you want to follow my occasional discussions about wildlife,mixed with a bit of cricket). I made a concious decision to NOT take my camera as I was treating it more as a social gathering than anything else. Sure enough, there were photo opportunities galore -orange tips, redshank, kestrel, godwits and even a sedge warbler singing away in full view! Lesson learnt – take the camera along if there’s a chance of a photo.
I did just that the other day. A meeting at the Kingcombe Centre in the morning meant I might be able to spend my lunch hour on the Kingcombe Meadows Reserve – so the camera came with me. In fact, the camera had the best seat in the car as it was the front seat passenger!
I took the scenic route,coming off the A35 and heading towards Eggardon Hill before dropping down into the valley and onwards tio Kingcombe. As I drove, I kept my eye peeled for signs of wildlife (as well as on the road of course!). Large, open fields with low ground cover looked ideal hare habitat – but despite pulling into a layby and having a good scan around , none were obvious. The next field had only recently been ploughed..
Half way along, I saw two hares – one of which was heading my way, just inside the fenceline. As luck would have it, I was right next to another layby so pulled in and grabbed the camera. By the time I got out of the car and crossed the road, the hare had passed by and was heading away further down the fenceline. I considered running after it… there would only ever be one winner, and it surely wouldn’t be me!
The second hare,was also on the move and seemed to be heading for a gap in the fence – and would be crossing the road about 50 yards away. Using the sparse cover from the fencline as best I could, I hurried up behind a hawthorn bush and got ready for the big moment.. It didn’t happen.
The hare had evidently decided to stop in the field after all. Standing up, I fired off a few shots – but it was too far for anything decent and was facing the wrong way. One thing for it. I tried pishing.. That’s right, you read it correctly – pishing. It’s basically, puckering up your lips and sucking through them to make a noise. Birders use it to entice birds closer – and it seems to work with them, so why not hares?
The noise is not loud or sudden enough to cause any alarm as such, and often it at least causes the animal to look around, so you can get a better image.
I’m not sure what happened this time, but it worked beyond anything I hoped for! The hare stood up on it’s hind legs, turned and looked my way – exactly as I’d hoped. It then started loping down a furrow towards me..
I stopped pishing and started snapping away -as it passed about 10 yards from me, seemingly unaware of me (probably wondering what that ridiculous noise was that it had heard!).
I began to wonder if it was alright. I don’t like to take close images of animals that are unwell – it’s sort of like cheating. Not to worry in this case as the hare stopped just after passing by, looked around, saw me standing there – and promptly hit the accelerator! In no time at all it was gone from view, quite obviously a very healthy animal!
Bouyed by the experience, I continued on my way to the Kingcombe Centre. My meetings were timed to perfection and sure enough – lunchtime was spent in the meadows catching up with orange tips fluttering around the cuckoo flower. Perfect timing, having missed out on orange tips at the Axe. Pity there wasn’t a singing sedge warbler around to really make my day!
As a follow up to this I put a few images up on Flickr, and was astounded to find that one of the images was selected as a Flickr ‘Explore’ image. In a nutshell, Flickr select the top 500 images each day (from the vast number that are uploaded) through an algorithm measuring the ‘interestingness’. My hare made it in at Number 125! Not quite sure what it all means, but it sounds impressive anyway!