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  • Writer's pictureAlistair

Hare today, gone tomorrow?

Updated: Feb 26

Many changes at Cefn Garthenor over the last couple of years are hard to see, even if they are important.  For example, we had water voles back in 2021 and now we have more and certainly they are in areas where they were not at the beginning.  And, while there was always lots of blackthorn, we now have even even more, spreading out from the hedges and providing great habitat for small birds.  As I say, important stuff, but difficult to get people that enthused about.  Small rodents and spiky bushes just don’t seem to have the required charisma.  Hey ho.

 

A couple of recent spots are a bit more exciting because they are of species that I have not seen on the land before and perhaps are more newsworthy, being famed as boxers and serial killers respectively.  Neither is extremely rare, but both are facing increased pressures and have certainly been in decline in recent decades, in part due to changing farming practices.  I saw both on the same weekend a couple of months ago in mid-December but have only just managed to get some footage of them on camera traps.

 

Let’s start with the boxer, the first spotted.  It wasn’t actually doing the mad-March boxing thing (it was only December), but it was a certainly a brown hare.  I was walking across a field one afternoon and there was no mistaking it, despite having never seen one before.  They are big!  Rabbits are two a penny, often seen on the track into the yard, heading straight into the hedge if they realise that I’m around.  The hare is bigger, leaner and has distinctive black tips on its ears.  I saw him (or her) half a field away and on spotting me she (for the sake of argument) lolloped (with no great urgency) across the field to an open gate and into the next field.  That was that.  I gather that if you do see a pair boxing in the spring, it is quite likely that, rather than two males fighting over a female, it is a female fighting off the over amorous advances of a male.

 

The following day, while checking the Galloways, I saw a hovering kestrel on the lookout for prey on the ground below.  As a kid in the 1970’s they seemed pretty common, but I can’t remember the last time I actually saw one.  Over the following weeks I saw quite a lot of him, often sitting on the outer branches of a tree surveying the fields, once being harried by a rook, who very successfully saw him off for whatever reason.  He might be a killer kestrel, but not big or stupid enough to deal with a much larger rook who wants him out of the way.  But it is another bird of prey to add to the list which of sparrowhawk, barn owl, tawny owl, buzzard and red kite.  The last two are very common in the area, but I assume that the owls and kestrel are enjoying the increase in voles and other small animals which are enjoying such great success at Cefn Garthenor, despite their lack of charisma.

 

This month I finally got footage of both.  So, neither is, it seems, a fly by night character.  The hare was in the same field I saw her in thanks to a camera trap set up by Vaughn, ecologist from the Initiative for Nature Conservation Cymru.  Just doing her thing.

 



The kestrel was caught on a camera trap I had, rather lazily, set up looking towards a gate post just off the yard.  I’d seen the barn owl sitting on it, so thought it was worth some surveillance, although truth be told it was more as it was easy to set up before rushing off somewhere.  I got footage of the owl, but also had the kestrel sitting on it for an hour last Saturday morning.  He arrived with a vole, still twitching, before devouring it and (you’ll need to watch to the bitter end) giving a grand finale and the camera a hard stare.  Brutal, but with charisma and an eye for the camera for sure.



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1 Comment


deanbaker
Apr 13

You've likely greatly improved your already trained eye for wildlife and fauna identification!

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