Tag: Spring

Mad as a March hare

This is an expression I grew up hearing in the UK, where hares are – or were – quite common in rural regions, but I never gave a great deal of thought about why these animals were considered ‘mad’.

It’s only since living in Tasmania, and my particular corner of it, that I’ve come to fully appreciate the reason. These normally quite elusive and solitary animals really do behave quite differently in spring. Or now in other words, during September and October, when the urge to mate and breed is uppermost in their minds, and they appear happy to risk life and limb sometimes in order to do so. Certainly their behaviour can be extraordinarily reckless, and not for the first time since living at this property – one that’s surrounded by the open paddocks and grassy vacant blocks that are ideal hare habitat – we’ve spotted hares casually hopping along the driveway seemingly oblivious to Della dog, who’d normally be after them like a shot.

Fortunately for the hares, Della’s attention is currently fully occupied on the rapidly expanding rabbit family, that’s taken up residence under one of the sheds, and she’s patiently waiting for one of the youngsters to stray too far from the burrow, perhaps tempted by the lush grass that’s a bit further away than is safe.

If we see a hare or three while on our morning walks though, it’s a different story. Then, it’s all on to hold her as she strains to escape the leash and chase them. And before the development that is relentlessly taking over what was once prime farmland, but which has now been sub-divided into residential blocks, she could and did do just that. Not that she ever succeeded in catching one, but it wasn’t for want of trying and they led her a merry dance for the duration, so she certainly got her exercise even if it never translated into a meal.

Sadly those days of being able to run free to sniff and explore are a receding memory as the opportunities to do so dwindle in a landscape that’s being recalibrated. Once a haven for wildlife, the semi-rural area we moved to so many years ago has seen ever more development being approved as rules have been relaxed to enable more housing to be built.

All the development has, and is, displacing wildlife, and along with the risk of species’ loss, roadkill is often the result. At this time of year, roadkill includes hares. Never mind they’re an introduced species with all the controversy that entails, it’s still confronting and immeasurably sad to find a roadkilled hare that a few hours before would have been leaping and running about, full of the joys of spring, but for a crazy misguided moment when it leapt in the wrong direction.



Spring – a time of new life

It’s always a relief when September arrives and we can finally wave winter goodbye for another year. While it’s true the lengthening days don’t always mean a sudden (and welcome) rise in temperatures, the bulbs are a colourful herald of summer, and iris, daffodils, freesias and bluebells are a cheerful sight, as well as a sure sign the garden is waking up.

The swallows are back from their winter retreat, flying around, checking out last year’s nests, and building up their strength after their long flight as they prepare to start their families. Lambs and calves in the paddocks are more signs spring has arrived. So are the loud, proud and daily announcements of our chooks after the girls have laid another egg. Some of them go on a bit, as though their achievement is somehow unique, and then there are always the ones that are particularly motherly and simply cannot wait to sit, and hatch some chicks. We have to keep an eye on these free-ranging bantams, and watch where they nest. Chooks are canny, and are past masters at remaining hidden as they sit motionless on their eggs in a trance-like state, seemingly oblivious to everything around them.

The dark side to this cycle is that the seasonal pattern is well known to predators, and despite their much lauded vigilance and protective characteristics when it comes to their offspring, sometimes the predators win. More than one hen has vanished without trace over the years, presumably taken while on her nest. Or, as happened this week, when a newish and very protective bantam lost her chick to a rat or feral cat. The murderer then went on to dine on the three tiny eggs the same bantam’s teenage daughter had laid in a nest close by. We can only hope it won’t return for seconds.

On the roadsides there is evidence of other casualties; a flurry of feathers suggesting its plover or magpie parents lost the fight, as well as the bodies of roadkill: hares, rabbits and frogs, usually, but occasionally there is a duck from the Indian Runner flock up the road, or a guinea fowl from the same farm.

Lambs can sometimes fall prey to predators too, and reports of unrestrained packs of neighbourhood dogs are not uncommon in this semi-rural area, but thankfully this hasn’t been an issue so far this year.
So while spring is certainly a harbinger of renewal and new life, like every season it has its darker side, and it can also be a season of untimely death.