Friday, December 17, 2010

Hares on the Run

The animals went in two by two, hurrah, hurrah! These running hares reminded me of one of my best-selling paintings, 'Hares on The Run'.
The lead hare is a female with the males running enthusiastically after them.

She runs to test their strength. Eventually she will mate with the fastest and fittest.
It is amazing to see the hares expend so much energy courting when many animals are struggling just to survive in these harsh conditions. They have had to resort to eating twigs and bark on the hedges, though.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hare Watch

I spent a total of 10 days watching this large group of hares in arctic conditions.
One day a group of five hares ran straight towards me.
This one froze on the spot as soon as he got downwind of me and picked up my scent. He then briefly stepped closer to investigate me.
Before dashing off into the distance.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hares Boxing in Winter

The heavy snows have made life difficult for everybody up and down the country.But for a wildlife enthusiast such as myself it has provided one of the most exciting photographic opportunities ever. For the first time in my life I've seen up to 50 hares together at one time. I've had to brave temperatures of -14C and blizzards that have lasted for hours wearing a customised snow suit made from ton dumpy bags and a DIY spraysuit to see them!
Hares don't just breed in March. They are solitary animals and if you see more than one at a time it means they could be courting. In this photograph I captured 27 hares at once.
But the conditions were extreme. The hares would hunker down, with their backs to the wind during blizzards which could last for hours. I used these times to creep closer to them.

After a blizzard they would recover.Stretch.
And then resume courting. Here the one of the males dared to test the female's scent. But here a female rebuffed the male's amorous advance with a swift box that sent him springing.
After several days of snow storms, I was glad of some good light on a crisp sunny day and although it was -14C when I set out the bright light and heat haze coming off the snow played havoc with my auto-focussing.
The sunlight also put paid to my disguise since the hares could also hear my every footstep
crunching through the snow.

Click here to read more about my experiences in this month's Yorkshire Post.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tawny Owl Injured

I photographed this tawny owl roosting in its hole on Millington Pastures. It often sits there - a dusting of snow made the picture.As I drove on I spotted another tawny owl closer to the road. It's so unusual in the daytime to see a tawny owl close up, I thought I had struck gold. But when I focussed my camera the owl's right eye was clearly badly injured. I tried catching the owl but it was still very mobile and flew off.
Unfortunately I don't think this one will make it through the winter. It may have been hurt fighting for territory or it could have been hit by a car.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Snow Fun for Barn Owls

The Yorkshire Wolds looks beautiful in its winter coat.Pictured below is the view across the dale of Fotherdale, my home and gallery.But whilst it looks very pretty, the cold has been very tough on wildlife. Just this week five barn owls in this area have been reported dead. And when I went to check on the one that lives in this box I found it too had died of starvation.
I did, however, see this, very beautiful, one attempting to hunt in the 18"deep snow in Millington Pastures.
As the snow fell relentlessly she took to shaking it off in quite a comical manner!

And then she was off, looking for a vole.