Friday, 3 July 2015

The mountain hares of the Lammermuir hills

Yesterday I joined a group monitoring the mountain hares (Lepus timidus) of the Lammermuir Hills.  Last year the mountain hares in this nearby run of hills was subjected to a cull. Unsurprisingly, outrage ensued.  The landowners'  reason for the cull was to maintain a healthy grouse moor - so those poor creatures can be shot as well.  I will say no more, except to offer this link to another blog which will elaborate, and you can draw your own conclusions http://www.robedwards.com/2014/09/revealed-landowners-massacre-mountain-hares-in-the-lammermuir-hills.html

The project I joined up with yesterday has a number of objectives.  To establish estimates of numbers of the mountain hares, and where they hang out over the course of a year.  They record sightings of the mountain hares, monitor the pattern of pelt moulting during the year (keep in mind that these lovely creatures turn white in the winter, for camouflage in snowy times), and lastly to record the distribution of the brown hare (Lepus europaeus), in the areas close to the mountain hares' habitat.
We saw one or two orchids, and below is a pretty collection of heath bedstraw, tormentil, and milkwort.
Our first sighting!  The mountain hare has shorter ears than the brown hare, and it's body shape doesn't seem to be as angular either.  Maybe that's because it has thicker fur to cope with cooler temperatures.  I don't know, but should find out!
Here is top of Lammer Law,  529m / 1736ft, with wonderful views all round.  The visibility wasn't the best, but good enough to be able to dimly see Arthur's Seat in the direction of Edinburgh, North Berwick Law, the Bass Rock, Trapain Law and all the way round, north, south, east and west.
I topped the cairn with a small stone and then took in the view.  The wind was light and comfortable.  It was one of those times when you breathe in deeply, give thanks for where you are and enjoy the peace.
In a month or so the heather will be blooming.  The grey-purple patches on the hills at the moment are the areas where there has been some controlled burning of the heather.  I think that has something to do with managing the hills for the grouse.  
This is not very clear, but here is the leveret, which leapt up in front of us and hopped a short way off into the cover of the heather.
So, I had a very good walk, in excellent company of three others.  We saw four hares and a leveret.  It was a blissful time.  High, peaceful, worthwhile, and I am looking forward to next time!

PS : Saturday morning, and they have just played a piece of music called 'The Cuckoo' on the radio, which reminded me that we heard the cuckoo up there on the hills, just once.  I've never heard a cuckoo in July before, so it was a very special treat.

1 comment:

  1. So glad your early start was worthwhile! Divine peaceful time in god's country!

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