Mountain hares in the autumn

Mountain hare in November lightA mountain hare in unseasonably warm (hot) November sunshine in the Monadhliath hills.


After a summer which was regularly cold, grey and challenging for photography, the autumn has been remarkably kind to us in the Highlands. We have had plenty of days with crisp light, warm conditions and beautiful autumn colours. However in some ways it has been a bit frustrating, as a lot of my time has been spent on the admin side of being a photographer, sitting in my office answering emails and editing images with unbroken sunshine streaming in through the window.

It has been difficult to know where to concentrate my efforts on the days when I’ve been out with the camera, but I’ve been at my mountain hare site once a week as usual. The autumn is a fascinating time to watch mountain hares. In late october the very first signs of change start to appear in the fur of some of the hares, but there is a huge variation between individual animals as to when the change starts. Right now some hares are already largely white, whilst others are showing very few signs of changing at all.


Mountain hare close-upA new hare that I’ve only started to photograph in the past 2 weeks. So far this individual isn’t showing many signs of the winter coat coming through.

Young mountain hareOne of this year’s leverets. Its fur is considerably greyer than in early October. I have photographed this individual from being only a few weeks old to now looking almost adult.


My aim over the last couple of weeks has been to photograph these very subtle early changes in the hare’s fur, not to mention the changes in their environment. Nearly all the heather flowers have died back to brown, the red grouse are flocking into much larger groups and are constantly on the move, the red deer are seen increasingly further down the hillsides and the river is running that little bit higher.

Recently I’ve concentrated my efforts on different hares to the ones I mainly photographed during the summer. With some searching I found a couple of individuals much further up the hill which allow me to get very close, after a very delicate and slow approach. With the much lower sun now this area of the site also has far more available light, and allows me to get images with different backgrounds and context.


DSC_3641copy1Very warm conditions on the hill in early November.

Turning whiteA few of the hares already look largely white, mainly the individuals found higher up the hill.

Mountain hare The hares are becoming a bit less-difficult to approach than they were during mid-summer.

Low November sunLow November sun, and beautiful light for photography.


I’ve taken great interest in getting images with white showing on the hare’s fur, as they sit in warm sunshine. Yesterday it was 20 degrees C on the hill, on the 3rd of November, not ideal for those hares which are now very white and very noticeable to passing golden eagles or foxes. It is now a fairly regular situation that the hares will be in almost full winter coat before snow arrives.

There is the potential for colder weather and possibly some snow in the next couple of weeks, so I’ll be spending a lot of time with the hares trying to capture this significant event in their season.

James

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