KelsaeJohn's picture

Brown Hare in mature woodland

Observed: 4th June 2013 By: KelsaeJohnKelsaeJohn’s reputation in MammalsKelsaeJohn’s reputation in MammalsKelsaeJohn’s reputation in Mammals
Brown Hare in mature woodland
Description:

This is the second time in a week I have come across 2 hares together in this same wood. Unfortunately, I only managed to get a shot of one of them

Identifications
Species interactions

No interactions present.

Comments

Gill Sinclair's picture

Black nape

Noticed that this animal has a black nape to its neck, then when I Googled images of brown hares it seems some do have that marking and some don't.
There is another species on the Indian sub-continent Lepus nigricollis (the Indian or - amazingly - black-naped hare) which always shows this marking.

Gill Sinclair
OU Certificate in Contemporary Science
www.gillsinclair.net
Twitter @Gill_Sinclair

KelsaeJohn's picture

Black nape

That's very interesting Gill. I hadn't noticed. I wonder why some have it and some don't.

the naturalist man's picture

Hare

I wonder if the black nape is a colour morph and whether the Indian species is really a separate species or just a geographically separated population?

Of course this opens up the can of worms known as 'what is a species?'! If you have a burning desire to discuss this tricky topic we have a forum post where the issue is aired.

http://www.ispot.org.uk/node/19116

Also it is good to have a photo of a hare in its other preferred habitat, woodland. I think this may be the first photo on iSpot of a hare in woodland - though I'll happily stand corrected if that is not so.

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'
http://www.ispot.org.uk/forum/8411

Gill Sinclair's picture

Splitting hares (arf, arf)

The same thought crossed my mind as soon as I saw the marking and I thought "Oh no - more hare confusion". As well as the debate about whether our brown hares are actually Cape hares (Lepus capensis), I also saw lots of Starck’s hares (Lepus starki) when I was in Ethiopia's Bale Mountains and thought "Hurrah, new species", but then when I got home and started researching the species - darn it - some people believe they may be a population of flippin' Cape hares that got isolated on the plateau. I shall ignore those people:-)

Gill Sinclair
OU Certificate in Contemporary Science
www.gillsinclair.net
Twitter @Gill_Sinclair

the naturalist man's picture

Splitter!

Birders have a name for people like you - Splitters - wanting to split species so they can get another tick!

I guess all the messing about with hare species, joining, splitting, joining again . . . is just a case of 'hare today, gone tomorrow' - sorry counldn't resist that one.

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'
http://www.ispot.org.uk/forum/8411

KelsaeJohn's picture

Hare in woodland with black nape

Thank you for your comments Graham. I had a look at the forum you suggested. I think will take a rain check on that one! a bit beyond my expertise.

However, it is gratifying to know that I (may) have posted the first photo in this kind of habitat. It certainly seemed like a novel experience for me, especially given that I had 2 sightings of a pair (almost certainly the same pair) in the space of a few days.

To change the subject slightly (back to the question of 'What is a species' I remember, a number of years ago, when I lived in Central Scotland) there was a colony of black rabbits that I used to see over a number of years, located close to a farm steading. I have googled that subject but could find no definitive answer as to whether these were hybrids/sub-species/former domestic or whatever. Do you have any knowledge of the subject?

the naturalist man's picture

Black rabbits

It is possible they were released domestic rabbits, however, rabbits are born in all sorts of colours including varying shades and amounts of black. In fact black rabbits are relatively common.

You don't see them because they stand out in their habitat and are eaten by predators, usually long before they have a chance to pass on their genes for black fur. If they live in a habitat with few predators then they stand a chance of surviving and can breed, passing on the gene for black. If there were a colony of black rabbits that would suggest either there were few predators or the black gave them some kind of advantage, e.g. living in a dark woodland or on a coal spoil heap!

The definitive text on this was "The Private Life of Rabbits" by Ronald Lockley who lived on Skomer, an island off Pembrokeshire where there were no predators. Since the 1940s, when he lived there, buzzards have moved in and now predate the rabbits heavily, they are also thought to be responsible for introducing myxomatosis to the island in 1987/88 by bringing over an infected carcass from the mainland.

Lockley found rabbits with all sorts of colours and patterns living on Skomer and carried out research into proportions etc. I suspect it is long out of print and being a classic I bet copies sell for a high price. However, you may find it in your local library; it is an easy, yet very informative read and well worth the effort of finding a copy.

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'
http://www.ispot.org.uk/forum/8411

Gill Sinclair's picture

Black wild rabbits

There are always a few black rabbits in a population near me, where the animals graze either side of a busy road. Perhaps the predators don't venture there to hunt much because of the traffic, so standing out doesn't put the black rabbits at a particular disadvantage (in fact, perhaps a black bunny is more visible on tarmac than a brown one and therefore less likely to get squashed by a vehicle?).

Gill Sinclair
OU Certificate in Contemporary Science
www.gillsinclair.net
Twitter @Gill_Sinclair

KelsaeJohn's picture

Black Rabbit colony

Thank you for your feedback Graham; very interesting.
As far as I can remember every individual in this particular were black. With regard to the type of habitat, I always saw them in an uncultivated field immediately behind the farm buildings which seemed only to be used as a graveyard for old agricultural machinery/equipment. The ground was dominated by thistles & rushes (juncus sp.) with a couple of small ponds. There was, indeed, a dark woodland immediately to the east of this but no old coal spoil heaps in the immediate vicinity - although there were no shortage of them within a mile radius.
As regards predators, the only likely predators in the area (as far as I know) would be foxes and, probably, weasel and/or stoat although I never saw either of the latter in that particular area, but have recorded weasel about a half mile away.
Most interestingly, however, was that Buzzards moved back to the area in 1998. (My first sighting was on 12th June of that year). I believe buzzards had been absent from that part of the country for around 100 years!
A couple of years later, I discovered the nest of what had now become a resident pair - in some woodland just a quarter mile or so from the rabbit colony so your theory about predation seems very plausible. Unfortunately I do not have any records to indicate when I last saw the rabbits.
As for R M Lockley's book I actually have a copy although I haven't read it in a great many years. I was reading it at about the same time I read another fascinating book on ethology by Konrad Lorenz 'On Aggresion'. Are you familiar with it? I have re-read that book more recently (I rescued and cared for a young Jackdaw - a species featured in Lorenz's book. I think I will now re-read Lockley!

Thanks again

John

the naturalist man's picture

Ethology books

I used to teach ethology to undergraduates so am familiar with Lorentz, Tinbergen, Skinner etc. I always found that side of animal behaviour very interesting, more than the 'talking' chimps and horses.

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'
http://www.ispot.org.uk/forum/8411

KelsaeJohn's picture

Ethology

Yes, a fascinating subject. Lorenz had a huge influence on me. Have heard of Tinbergen but haven't read any of his work. I think the only other similar works I've read are Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey

KelsaeJohn's picture

Black wild rabbits

Hi Gill, just seen your latest comments. Your 'tarmac' theory doesn't apply in this case; no roads anywhere near the site. I would tend to go with Graham's 'predator' theory in that this area, which I knew well was subject to every kind of illegal activity you care to think about - illegal shooting, poaching, badger baiting, trapping, egg theft etc. etc. This would certainly account for a lack of predators.

Regards

John

the naturalist man's picture

Predator removal

I'm surprised the rabbits have not been bashed as well then!

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'
http://www.ispot.org.uk/forum/8411

KelsaeJohn's picture

Predator removal

I would say the reason for their survival was due to their close proximity to the farmyard/house. It would be an exceptionally stupid person who would think about shooting or snaring etc.