No matter how quietly you move about the countryside on foot, you often get the sense that many of its creatures are aware of your presence and retreat on your approach. How many times have you caused a hare to bolt, a fox to slink into a bit of scrub or a herd of red deer to trot away with the anxious upright stance of a chorus of young ballerinas scuttling into the wings. The alternative approach, to find a suitable spot and to simply sit and watch, is invariably more rewarding.
Just the other morning, sat in some rough grassland by a patch of gorse, I had the privilege of having a brown hare approach to within a couple of feet. The hare remained oblivious to my presence, behaving quite normally, until it had just about blundered into my legs, which were stretched out on the grass ahead of me. I had been able to watch the hare as it got closer and to take in the colour and character of its fur, unkempt in comparison with that of a rabbit. Then there were the hare’s eyes; these carried within them a wildness which seemed to accentuate the sense of scrawny hunger that appears ever present in these creatures.
I am not sure if the hare finally saw me, resolving my shape from that of the bush in front of which I was settled, or if the slight lifting of the breeze cast my scent in the hare’s direction. Either way, the hare turned and exploded away from me, its powerful hind legs making short work of distance. Perhaps unsure of whether or not it had spooked itself unnecessarily, the hare checked its run after forty or so metres, turning to fix its gaze on me as I continued to sit motionless. This pause probably only lasted for a few seconds, but it felt much longer, before the hare turned and casually began to work its way up the slope and back towards the pasture fields beyond, where the hares are most often seen. Encounters such as this leave a lasting impression and deliver a sense of the possibilities for interacting with nature in a manner that is more rewarding.