Although there are no shortages of them here on the Yorkshire Wolds, to get photographs good enough to paint from, like these, is always a challenge.
The large arable fields leave little cover for a 6ft2” artist like me with a cumbersome camera and tripod.
But last week I stumbled upon a group of six hares and, knowing that hares are usually solitary unless they are courting, I set out to watch them.
I could see the female squatting inside a ring of males As I crept into position behind a hedge, a buck stood on its hind legs and started shadow boxing, like professional boxer limbering up.
The female rose and stretched. The dominant male took this as a sign that it was time to try his luck and tentatively, sniffed at her. But his cautious approach, intended to test the female’s receptivity, was rebuffed with lunging paws.
I watched as the other males ran in. A flurry of boxing broke out. Chaos ensued as hares leaped up into the air and crashed down onto each other. I lost track of who was who until things calmed down.
The females urinated and the males rushed over to test the scent and jostled to see who could roll in it first.
This added to the confusion. The males that had rolled in the female’s ‘perfume’ now smelt of females themselves and they were running round confused, sniffing one another.
The doe took advantage of the commotion and ran off. Then the chase was on. The doe likes to test her suitors in this way. If they can’t keep up then they are out of the picture. She only wants the fittest and smartest to father her young.
She zig-zagged as she ran, using a hedge for cover. But then, to her own surprise, she outsmarted all her suitors. Like a real flirt, she returned across the field and back to where it had all started, as if to she was encouraging them to catch up.
The chase was on again and a flurry of boxing broke out between the doe and one suitor.
After such a great morning I felt inspired to get my sketchbook out. I hope some of these will develop into a new painting.