Having recently written about a shortage of hares on the Chayne, it’s worth mentioning that I had some interesting news while down in Norfolk at the end of last month. A few years ago, I found a streak of fluff spread out beneath a gatepost on the hill where buzzards often sit. Looking back through my notes, I see that the date was the 5th June 2014, and my first reaction was that some unfortunate rabbit had met its end. However, as I began to sift through the mess, I started to wonder if the fluff might have belonged to a hare – or more specifically, a leveret. Brown hares are relatively uncommon in the upland areas of Galloway, and while I started to convince myself that this provided evidence of their presence on the Chayne, I wasn’t going to be able to answer the question once and for all on my own. I picked up a big clump of fuzz and tucked it into my wallet, knowing a man who could help.
When I pulled out the twist of hairs and passed it around an audience of country folk from across East Anglia at the shoot, I was delighted with their response. They unanimously agreed that it came from a hare, and this was confirmed by a keeper friend whose authority is sufficiently rock-solid to finally dispel all doubt. After all, this part of Norfolk bristles with hares, and if these people didn’t know hare hair (ahem) when they saw it, then something would be grievously wrong.
So there it is – the first hard, tangible evidence of hares on the Chayne in almost eight years of observation. Aside from this, I had precious little to go on; I once found what I believed were hare tracks in the snow, and the old shepherd claimed to have seen a hare while out on his bike. This latter would be proof enough on its own, but his wildlife ID skills were appalling and it may easily have been a rabbit. After all, this was the same man who told me he had seen a “pheasant with a white arse” on the hill.
I take odd solace from the confirmation of this discovery, not because some idle buzzard has gobbled up a young hare, but because young hares are simply extant there. I have a good grasp on why hares have declined from the Chayne, and many of the habitat improvements I’m working on for black grouse and grey partridges will also help the hares, but it’s a source of huge encouragement to find that despite cataclysmic declines elsewhere, I still have a few on my patch.