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Posts Tagged ‘hares’

A fresh cover of snow on the ground usually reveals where snowshoe hares have been travelling.  Their numerous tracks often overlap in the woods where ‘bunny trails’ lead to and from favorite resting and feeding areas.  But not this year.  There isn’t a snowshoe hare track to be found. 

Snowshoe Hares

It’s been several months since I’ve caught sight of a single hare in the yard or along the Salt Marsh Trail.  Up until this past summer, it seemed like their numbers were growing.  They were visible on lawns and in the woods and parks.  However, snowshoe hare populations are known to rise and fall, usually every ten years or so.  This phenomenon takes place all across Canada.  In northern regions, their cycle coincides with that of the lynx.

Over the past year, bobcats have been sighted in Cow Bay.  Like the lynx,  they too prey on snowshoe hares, as do coyotes, foxes and eagles.  With so many predators in the area, as well as loss of habitat due to deforestation, it’s no wonder that hare numbers are low.  

Another factor that may have affected hare populations is that we didn’t have snow until recently, making any hares sporting winter coats easy targets for predators.  Hare coloring becomes whiter as daylight hours decrease in number.  

Next month, February 3rd will mark the first day of the Chinese New Year.  The 12 year cycle of animal years makes this coming year one of the rabbit.  Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll be seeing many bunnies this year.   At least not in Cow Bay.

Each thing is of like form from everlasting and comes round again in its cycle.
~  Marcus Aurelius

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It’s not easy keeping cool when the heat and humidity conspire to drain you of your energy and motivation.

Snowshoe hares know how to make the most of the dog days of summer by relaxing in the clover. They’re not running and hopping around as much as they did earlier this summer. 

My yard is a haven for them as I don’t have a dog.  Hares know how to stay cool by winding down activities and keeping a low profile.

In ancient times, the dog star Sirius was considered responsible for the sweltering heat.  Back then, its coincidental rising with the sun in July and August was thought to bring on the worst in men and beasts.

But there are many ways to tame the beast within during these ravaging hot days…

Taking a moment to pause and smell the roses is always a good way to refresh yourself through scent and beauty.  The wild rose bush is in bloom in my yard.  With its single layer of petals, it resembles the Dog rose (Rosa canina) often used in heraldry.

Even if you don’t have roses nearby, so many other beautiful flowers are in bloom at this time of year, both in gardens and in the wild.

Certainly one of the best ways to beat the heat is to take a stroll along the seashore.  Morning and evening walks are especially refreshing. 

Collecting seashells along the shore is a quiet activity sure to take the focus off the concerns of the day.  

Over the years I’ve collected a variety of Dogwinkles (Nucella lapilus) both at Rainbow Haven and Silver Sands beaches.  Worn smooth by the waves and bleached pale by the sun, they even feel like summer as you roll them between your fingers.

Of course the best way to be refreshed during the dog days of summer is to take a plunge in the water, be it a stream, lake or the sea.  Nature beckons.

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Spring’s longer days bring about a change in the color of hare fur. A hare gradually loses its winter white guard hairs as daylight hours increase.  While a white hare may be well camouflaged in a snow covered landscape, if it still has that white fur after all the snow has melted, it becomes an easy target for predators.

This year, an earlier spring has been enjoyed across Canada.  The ground is completely bare of snow earlier than usual in the season.

Recently, I’ve noticed two hares in the yard that seem to be at different stages of shedding their winter coats.  One is much whiter than the other.  The whiter hare is barely camouflaged while sitting on light colored grass.  The browner hare seems to blend in well either on the grass or in the woods among browned leaves.

Snowshoe hares play a vital role in the ecosystem of the Northern Boreal forest by providing food for such carnivores as  coyotes, foxes, bobcats, lynx, weasels, fishers and eagles.  There’s concern in the scientific community that fewer days of snow cover due to global warming may pose a negative impact on the hare population.

Both hares have been grazing regularly in my yard together for the past couple of weeks.  I’ve often found nests of baby hares in the wild rosebushes in past years.   Having survived the winter, hopefully these hares will also survive long enough to reproduce a litter of kittens later this spring.

For more information on the effects of climate change on snowshoe hares, see:
White Snowshoe Hares Can’t Hide on Brown Earth at Science Daily

For more information on Nova Scotia’s hares, see:
The Hare Whisperer and The Advantages of Being Harebrained

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You never know what you’re going to find in the woods… especially on Saint Patrick’s Day.  The Little People, or leprechauns as they’re more frequently known, are in the mood to have fun on this, their favorite of days. 

Unwilling to part with their treasure, it’s understandable that leprechauns have a natural fear of humans.  It’s no wonder that they keep a low profile in the woods throughout most of the year.  But today, they’re so focused on their dancing and merrymaking, that they could possibly let down their guard. 

Leprechauns are solitary creatures, if they’re out at all in the open during the day.  However, if taken by surprise by a cat or human, a leprechaun can always rely on clever evasive tactics, such as transforming himself into the shape of a hare. 

I spotted these two hares this morning in the front yard.  

At first I thought they were the usual snowshoe hares found in Cow Bay, but as I approached, I noticed a mischievous gleam in their little eyes.  Could they have been leprechauns in disguise? 

Now hares can easily evade predators by running in a zigzag fashion and changing direction on a dime.  They can also sit very still and conform to the landscape.  It only makes sense that a leprechaun would choose such a form in order to escape detection. 

If you do get lucky and manage to see a leprechaun today, it’s best to leave him alone.  The Little People are far too clever to be outsmarted of their gold by humans, and one may just take a notion to put the come hither look on you.

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male and female pheasant

 In the past week, pheasants with a death wish crossed my path twice on separate occasions while I was driving.  The first time, the corner of the vehicle caught a female who continued her flight into the woods after leaving a flurry of feathers in the air.  The second time, an enormous male came within inches of the windshield as he flew to safety across the road.  

Female Ring-necked Pheasant

There is an amazing wildness to the look of these large ground birds when seen up close.  Feather patterns are strikingly beautiful and eye and beak colours assumed to be a dull grey from a distance, are anything but.  

Although pheasants are visible year-round in Cow Bay, and are often seen crossing the roads in a leisurely manner, they seem even more out in the open at this time of year.  I don’t recall seeing so many females along the side of the road in years past.  I’m either getting better at spotting them or they’re getting bolder.  Maybe they’re just trying to get out of the woods where hunting season is in full swing for their species until December 15th.

Earlier this week I noticed a male working very hard at directing a female’s movements in the front yard.  I’m not sure what that was all about.  Mating season is over and males usually congregate by themselves as the winter approaches.   Maybe he was trying to tell her to stay here where it was safe, instead of wandering into the more dangerous woods.

Yesterday a ruffed grouse that didn’t want its picture taken suddenly appeared in the yard.  They are much more secretive than pheasants and quick runners.  Their feathers certainly help them stay well camouflaged, so it may have been hanging around for some time before I managed to see it. 

November’s shorter daylight hours bring about a change in the colour of snowshoe hares, making them easier to spot on the landscape.

Snowshoe Hare in November

A favorite resting area for them during the day is under the spruce and fir trees.  Although they’re visible year round, their lighter fur in the fall is more eye-catching than usual, even on grey rainy days such as this one. 

This particular one looks quite rounded and ready for the winter.  But if the snow doesn’t fly soon, it will have to be extra careful to keep itself hidden from predators.

Snowshoe hares, ring-necked pheasants and ruffed grouse are all hunted in Nova Scotia at this time of year. 

For more information on regulations regarding hunting small game in Nova Scotia, see http://www.gov.ns.ca/natr/hunt/smlgame.asp

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autumn through living room window

Sometimes, even when sunny skies beckon, we still have to stay indoors.  Sometimes it’s because there’s house or office work to be done.  Other times, it’s because we’re sick.  Such is the case with me this week with a diagnosis of pneumonia.

From behind glass, there’s still much to see of nature outside.  Trees continue to change colour and some of the vines on the house have turned red and pink.  They adorn the edges of the living room window.  There’s no time like the present to appreciate them as the wind will soon blow them all away.  In the summer months, they make drapes in the window unnecessary and bring nature’s colours up close.

second storey vines

Vines can also be seen from one of the second storey windows.  Although their colours are still bright through the screen, they’re even prettier seen from the outdoors, as in the photo taken on the weekend. 

leaves through front door windowSilhouettes of leaves can be seen trembling in the wind through the glass of the front door’s window as well.  By the time witches and goblins show up at the door in a couple of weeks, they’ll be all gone.

I’ve been so accustomed to stepping outdoors several times a day.  There is something about fresh air and sunshine that makes us feel better just by being outdoors. 

So why do we tend to stay in when we’re sick?  I wonder if perhaps we would recover more quickly outdoors.  The challenge would be to not engage in too much tiring activity. 

From the kitchen window I can see a large snowshoe hare that’s decided to come close.  Its ears are perked and it’s sitting just below the window, posed perfectly still for a photograph.   Sometimes, when you can’t go out into nature, nature knows, and comes to you.

hare from window

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