Over the winter and spring I've set myself a personal target to try and get some photos of brown hare in Kent. I've read in a few places that the track to Elmley can be a good place to see them so I headed in that direction over lunchtime today. Certainly the access to the Isle Of Sheppey has changed with the new bridge now spanning the Swale but to get to the entrance for the Elmley track you still have to go over the old bridge and travel the old but now much quieter road onto Sheppey. Today I noticed a good sized flock of fieldfares and redwings in the hawthorn that ran alongside the track to the clay pigeon shooting site to the right of the Elmley track and decided to try my luck with an odd photo or two. The thrushes were very flighty around 150 fieldfares and 30 redwings and even using my car as a hide it was difficult to get very close. Annoyingly I had taken the wrong tripod mount for my camera so handheld shots it had to be or nothing. With the subject being back lit I had to compensate by setting the exposure against a more neutral colour even with spot metering. Greens and greys are useful for this so I exposed against the green hawthorn leaves and hoped to luck.
Certainly both the fieldfares and redwings were feeding on the hawthorn berries and even drinking from a puddle in the road but these were just to skittish to enable a photo. I think fieldfares are one of the most handsome looking of thrushes and I have been lucky enough to see both fieldfare and redwing close up in the hand on the Orkneys. Certainly a redwing in the hand would not be a good advertisement for the merits of bird ringing as they make one hell of a racket, anyone passing by would think the bird was being murdered. On the contrary a fieldfare in the hand is totally passive, or at least the ones I have seen were. Anyway, I then went back to the start of the track up to Kingshill Farm and the Elmley RSPB reserve. The area looks just fantastic with grazing groups of cattle, flocks of lapwing, feeding curlews and the odd marsh harrier and kestrel but no sign of any hares. As I approached the car park at the farm I noticed a brown lump in a short cropped field just off to my right. Looking through my bins I confirmed that the lump was in fact a hare. At this time a helicopter decided to fly over and I took my eye off the hare for a moment. When I looked back into the field I saw two hares running toward me and across my front. Their turn of speed is just so impressive and they accelerate with such ease. I couldn't believe my luck when the two just stopped on the dirt track in front of me. I was still in the car and slowly poked my camera lens out of the car window expecting them both to race off but they sat there for a few moments.
They then ran off into some thicker grass and I lost them. I certainly hadn't expected to see two hares in quite this way, what a treat. I turned my car around and headed back down the track to wait and see if they would re-appear. Eventually one did appear in the thick longer grass and a few more photo opportunities presented themselves. If only I had a more powerful lens.....still I'll have to save up for one but in the meantime a few more visits over the winter to hopefully see more of these wonderful animals.