Trying to find places to photograph Brown Hares is hard, either they are too far away, or they are too worried by humans and don't stay around long enough. I started researching possible locations but even this was difficult. Due to hare coursing many understandably don't share locations. By chance I found out about a location through the RSPB website, an uninhibited island near Orford, Suffolk. The island is only accessible by boat and is open on special days through the year. A few days after booking tickets to the RSPB visit I found out about a photography day ran by Kevin Sawford.
The day meant an early start as it is over 2 hours for me and the boat was to leave the quay at 09:30am. The boat arrived and the 12 of us took a short but not uneventful trip to the island. About half way there someone noticed we had sprung a leak, unluckily we we close to landing so it wasn't a problem, and not one of us was worried about being stranded on an island full of Brown Hares!
As I had visited the island on the RSPB trip the previous week I already knew the layout of the island and where the hares where found. The previous week I had found several hares but due to the number of people constantly walking around the island the hares were often scared away. With this knowledge we headed to the far end of the island where I had previously seen the hares in the gorse bushes. There is a large patch of gorse bushes where the hares hide in and it is surrounded by areas of grass. The island is smaller than I expected, there is only one path that runs the length of the island. Majority of the island is made up of lagoons for the wading birds.
We soon encountered our first hare but the light was quite harsh so the images were not great. Throughout the day we were able to approach more hares, gradually learning how to approach closer without disturbing them too much. When they did move off we gave them a little time to settle down before trying to approach them again. As the day went on the photos I took started to get better, some of these images can be seen below.
I've never been able to get as close to a hare before that was not at all worried by our presence, some even fell asleep in front of us. We were getting within 8m of the hares, on one approach I was able to get within 4m of the hare to capture a portrait of its head. I was stunned to see the reflection of the surrounding landscape in its eye.
The day was worth the effort to be able to get so close to a wonderful animals that all I usually see is a clean pair of heels as is runs off across the field. Havergate Island is not just inhabited by Brown Hares, there is plenty of bird life too. One of the highlights was several Goldcrests although I didn't manage to get any photos. There are hundreds of lesser black backed gulls, I managed to get a sharp flight shot I was really happy with.
In all I quite liked Havergate Island, the ability to get so close to Brown Hares was great. Its one place that I will definitely visit again. The visit also gave me a chance to test out my new D7100, so far I'm still testing out what it can do but is looking good. Much has been written about the D7100, and some have encountered a few problems. Once I've had a good chance to test it further I may write a blog entry to share my thoughts.