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I suspect not.

I cannot believe that it is approaching two years since I blogged. How can the time have flown so fast? I was distracted by a tumblr site I started last year to enable me to post quick batches of photos of places we had been and things we had seen but even that has fallen into disuse. And it’s not as if I don’t have plenty of wildlife to blog about…

A friend has been having the fun and interest of watching hares – of various sizes – visit her garden since spring so in view of the fact that hares are on my mind, I’ll take the opportunity to write about Grunty the Leveret. That should also please a certain Madame Cardy…

It was a hot and sunny afternoon in early June about 7 years ago. I’d noticed Pepper the dog lying in full sun, looking hot and uncomfortable but intent on something in the long grass. I didn’t think much of it but about an hour later, noticed he was still there, panting hard and he’d been joined by several cats who were also looking down into the grass. Odd.

On closer inspection, a small creature sat up on its hind legs and grunted loudly and aggressively at me. The cats backed off, Pepper wagged his tail and I picked up what I assumed was a rabbit and then realised must be a leveret, a baby hare.

Oh blimey !

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Leveret, estimated to be between 24 and 48 hours old

Young rabbits don’t emerge from the warren until they are well developed and mobile. This feisty little creature was too small and not sufficiently mobile to be a young rabbit so it must be a hare. And I’d picked it up. Having picked it up, I’d transferred my scent to the animal so even if I could figure out from where Pepper had found the leveret (which was not possible) Mama Hare would reject the leveret because it now smelt ‘wrong’.

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The unevenness to the round shape of the eyelid and the slightly crinkly ears are the clues as to his age established via photos by Susan McClure of Harebells in the UK

First step was to find out how to keep the animal alive. Google was my – and the leveret’s – friend. I found the wonderful Hare Preservation Trust’s website and also an exceptionally knowledgeable and helpful woman – Susan McClure – who patiently talked me through the first few days.

The site (at that time) recommended powdered kitten milk as being the product most easily available from a vet in sensible quantities for most people. However, the gold standard was ewe replacement milk for lambs – for reasons of high fat content, apparently. Happily, though we had no ewe replacement milk in the house, we knew where we could get it so while I got to work with some glucose solution in case the leveret was dehydrated, Patrick went off in search of a friendly neighbourhood farmer who was bottle-feeding lambs and therefore had a scoopful of powder available. And my mission to Grow A Leveret began…

…How to grow a leveret – part 2 to follow in a few days.

 

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No news is good news…

Well, the past few mornings and evenings, I’ve been out leveret spotting and the good news is… I have no news. There’s been no sign of them and I think their migration from the comparitive safety of the field was due to a herd of young cattle in that field, trampling around them. Patrick is fairly sure that, during the afternoon, the electric fence had been relocated to give the calves a new strip of grazing and that may have interfered with the leverets. I hope they went back, tucked themselves in close to the hedgerow (not ideal but out of the way of bovine feet) and were found and fed by their mother on schedule.

Hares prefer to give birth – and lie low themselves – in pasture which is either lightly managed (ignored!) or grazed by cattle. Sheep graze pasture closely which leaves no daytime cover for either adult hares or leverets whereas cattle ‘browse’ more and often leave tussocks of grass and weeds more or less untouched. This uneven ground is perfect cover for hares who scrape themselves a slight depression and hunker down, ears flat, to wait out the day. Though they do sit up occasionally to check out the lie of the land…

Hare in maize field, early summer – s/he knew I was there with a camera and was deeply suspicious

Getting ready to make his excuses and leave…

It occurs to me that I’ve never written about Grunty, a leveret brought home by Pepper, a yellow labrador X that we had till a few years ago. I’ve a lot of blog-worthy things to catch up with – mating moths, glow worms, Loose & Leafy Tree Following (which I’ve not got around to publishing this past two months) but I must also make time to post about The Leveret Summer – when we raised a 48 hour old leveret from a few hundred grams to a very healthy release weight. In October, when I have a little more time, I think. 🙂

Grunty the Leveret, post feed, aged 2 – 3 days old

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As if I haven’t enough to fret about… this evening, just as it turned dark, I was driving back from the village to La Fosse when a small creature hopped across the road. At first glance, it was a young rabbit. At second glance…

…it was a leveret – a young hare.

A beautifully camoflaged leveret on the roadside verge – taken with flash

Hares are remarkable creatures. The female gives birth to eyes-open, fully furred, young. She parks them in a field or similarly suitable rough grass where they’ll blend into the foliage and earth colours.

Depending on season and availability of food, she’ll give birth to between 2 and 4 leverets and they nestle into the ground, in the open, in all weathers from day one. Mother Hare returns morning and evening to feed the youngsters and the milk bar is open for about a minute before she is loping off again and leaving the leverets to wait until her next visit. They’ll wait through blazing sun, heavy Normandy rain, frosts and even snow.

Note the black ‘notches’ on the ears which are held flat to the back to present as streamlined and invisible a profile as possible

Whereas young rabbits (born hairless and with eyes closed underground in the warren) will try and run away once they are old enough to be above ground, young hares rely on their camoflage to keep them safe. They don’t run, they fold their ears back and hunker down in the hope that the danger – the predator – will pass them by. So as I’d established that the one I’d seen was a hare, I drove home to pick up a camera in case they were still there when I got back.

They were… two of them (but possibly a third further up the bank at the back of the verge) and judging by their size, they are about 4-5 weeks old. I’d expect them to still be on mother’s milk and am concerned that they were on and adjacent to the road. However, they are big enough to be mobile – though not fast – perhaps they sensed danger in the field (a marten, stoat or weasel?) and decided to move. Or perhaps something has happened to Mother Hare and they were moving in the hope of finding her. The timing, shortly after dusk, certainly fits with feeding time. Well, I can’t know but I am really hoping that these little leverets will survive.

I’ll look for them in the morning, of course, but doing the right thing is impossible to gauge. If I touch them, that’s it: as I have to assume they are still being fed milk, I would have to take them and finish raising them to release weight. If I touch them, Mother Hare – if she is still around – will smell my scent on them and will abandon them.

I hate these natural world conundrums… life is precarious for these little creatures but interfering if you don’t know the circumstances is not a good idea. If I’d seen a hare dead on the road I’d have no hesitation in making an assumption, scooping up these little creatures and helping them over the next few weeks with ewe replacement milk (richer in fats compared to, say, kitten milk) and then weaning them on to grass and herbs. But if Mother is still doing her thing, they’re better off with mum than going through the shock of adapting to being bottle fed.

And if I’m honest, even if they do continue to survive with or without mum, just as they get their legs – the powerful back legs which give them their speed and ability to change direction in a heartbeat – the hunting season will start and if a local gun spots these magical creatures, I can confidently predict the end of several short little lives.

I am not against hunting for the pot, but hares are fascinating, secretive animals and their behaviours are not fully understood even now and I’d really rather see them running wild at dawn and dusk than providing a few mouthfuls on a plate.

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And another month has passed. This year is speeding past at a scary rate. We’re rapidly approaching the longest day and yet it feels as if spring has hardly sprung.

It has been a really good month in some respects – lovely guests, some great weather, 70th Anniversary of D-Day commemorations on 6th June (or 5th June if you count the 50 miles of coordinated firework displays along the landing beaches on the evening before), some spectacular views of the International Space Station as it scuds across the clear night sky, the roses are beginning to flower in profusion and the scent at the back of the house has to be sniffed to be believed, particularly in the evening… and the insect activity has to be heard to be believed.

But for now, I will stick with the Tree Following project…

Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) at La Fosse – June 2014 – which is part of Loose and Leafy’s tree following project

Isn’t it looking fabulous?

Until the beginning of June, the weather was distinctly chilly even if it was a sunny day. I was still taking a hot water bottle to bed until the first few days of May. Okay, I admit, sometimes that hot water bottle was a great furry Maine Coon cat called Gussie but even so, the effect was the same… though it’s easier to get out from underneath a hot water bottle. An 8 kg cat can dig in for the duration. So that’s a roundabout way of saying that while we’ve had some exceptional spring days (in a good and sunny way) overall I think it’s been a fairly standard year and trees and flowers are where they would normally be at this stage.

The sweet chestnut from the top of the drive

Looking around the fields, first cut silage was done several weeks ago; hay is cut and lying in the sweetly scented fields as I type and it’s ready for baling up tomorrow, the maize – a cattle food crop – is planted and making much better progress than it did last year in the sodden spring 2013 ground. And then there are the crops that have to be grown under licence… more about that in a separate post.

Silaging in the field across from La Fosse

Altogether, it’s looking a more average year… which means the sweet chestnut flowers will be out within the next few days. Pooh.

Leaves and catkins which have yet to open… but they’re close to flowering

In fact, the stale, damp and sweaty, several days old gym kit scent won’t be too bad if it doesn’t rain… it is when it rains that the scent swirls around in its full glory. Oh, it’s not as bad as when the local farmers are muck-spreading and spraying wonderfully nutritious brown stuff around but even so, on a warm and humid day, if a strong, old gym shoes whiff takes me unawares, I do have a panicked moment trying to remember if I showered and used deodorant that morning. 🙂

I do have more to say but I don’t want this to be a too long : didn’t read sort of post, especially as it is quite photo-heavy so I’ll stop there and post a few more details in a few days.

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While I like to (very sporadically!) keep track of bits and pieces of wildlife and nature generally that I spot while I’m out and about, this part of Normandy is beautiful and I take lots of photographs that don’t fit into this nature section.

So I’ve started adding photographs of some of the things we do and see – mostly on walks with the dog – and those will intermittently appear under What’s happening in Normandy…

As I hear about up-coming events, I’ll include those too – for example, it is the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy this year so I’ll provide some details about the services and other commemorations as I hear about them.

Hope the photos and information appeals. 🙂

. . .

A gentle reminder:

++ All photos on lafosse.wordpress.com are original and taken by Carole Head, and Carole Head owns the copyright with all rights reserved. If you’d like to use a photo, email me and I’ll send you a high resolution file. ++

carole.head @ gmail.com

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…but occasionally when I’m walking the dog I just stand and stare at the views. Pepper thinks it’s pretty darn good too. 😀

View across Sylvain's field over the valley to Juvigny-le-Tertre

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A few posts ago, I showed a photo of a garden umbrella which had been used as over-wintering quarters by a number of ladybirds. Opening it for some guests who were going to watch the sun setting while they sampled a bottle of wine or two, we noticed that someone had started building summer quarters.

Probably a solitary wasp... perhaps a European Paper Wasp...

…but I’ve got to try and get someone knowlegeable to validate that identification via a slightly clearer photo.

Zooming in on the beautifully constructed nest, it appears that eggs and larvae are already in place.

Closeup showing eggs and larvae

I will be trying to get confirmation on the type of wasp and also keeping an eye on it to see whether the cells are capped which will mean there are pupae.

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country life on a farm in England

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Mostly a wildlife and plant diary for this part of Normandy in the Vire / Mortain / Villedieu-les-Pôeles area. But also a record of a miscellany of thoughts, events and activities. Pictured below are Red Admiral butterfly, Great Green Bush Cricket, a glow worm and a Jersey Tiger moth

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