11 Apr 2013

Hunting for Hares

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

The combination of the continued low temperatures – the first week in April was colder than March – and dry weather has meant that most plants have remained in a state of suspended animation and the grasses have become increasingly brown. So we had few expectations as to what we might find on our weekly walk.

But four years ago a member of the Countryside Commission for Wales spotted a hare in the meadow beyond the Science Lab, near where the willow boar stands.  So as Spring is usually the best time of year for seeing them, we headed out in that general direction.  A day of almost normal temperature, dry again(!) with hazy sunshine, there were hints that Spring might actually be arriving. A beautiful clump of Primroses opposite the solar panels, then further on at the back of Science lab two enormous, obviously very old oaks, barely alive but full of interest for wildlife, including the blue tit you see below.  And along the edges of the road clusters of broken white edge snail shells, evidence of wood mice activity.  They love them – I wish they would do the same with slugs!

On beyond the Science Lab and up the hill past a well-worn track, probably due rabbits and foxes – we saw plenty of rabbit droppings as well as fox.  Further down along a sheltered path we quickly found evidence of Dormice – nibbled nuts – and heard a Chiff-Chaff.  Then high in the sky what we hope is one of the resident Red Kites.

Looking down towards the Aqualab the Derwydd Daffodils were a splendid sight. Then down around by the meadow where the hares might be, but even if any were present it was very unlikely that we would see them.  They normally live in arable fields and pasture with hedges and ditches and during the day are highly camoflaged, lying up in the long grass in depressions called ‘forms’ rather than burrows – we would probably have to step on one before they moved.  The brown hare is the only hare species native to Wales and has been in decline since the end of the Second World War.  Intensive farming methods and hunting have been blamed for an estimated 75 per cent drop in population, believed to be just 800,000 in the UK. The hare is much larger than a rabbit, with larger back legs and black tips on its ears.

On down past the Ice House and more Primroses and activity, rather limited it has to be said, in the bee corner.  Probably the best that can be said is that the bees are surviving – and we did see a couple of Bumblebees as went past the Spring Walk and along by the Apothecarys garden.  Then on to the cafe for the usual tea and chat.  With the prospect of improving weather in the next few weeks we should really begin to see Spring arriving.

If any members or volunteers want to join us or want more information, please contact Colin Miles.  And thanks once again to John James for these splendid photos.

Any sightings of brown hares in Carmarthenshire can be reported via email to Dr Lizzie Wilberforce via email.