Last winter I decided I would like to photograph mountain hares, ideally in snowy conditions. I did some research on mountain hares (lepus timidus), their habitat and how to approach them, hopefully without scaring them off.
I've now visited the same location four times, with varying levels of snow cover, from virtually no snow to a white-out. On each occasion, although I found hare footprints at lower levels, I had to climb several hundred feet before seeing a hare. The day of the white-out wasn't too successful as the wind at higher levels was vicious and the snow blowing into the lens wasn't practical for photography. Each time I came down again the wind and weather was milder, but the hares weren't there. And when I climbed again, I had the wind and hill fog to contend with. I only saw hares at a distance on this trip, except the one I almost tripped over (but he, or she, was off in a flash and I was as startled as he was).
Some mountain hares are more comfortable than others when a human approaches. I have succeeded in getting fairly close to a few hares without them running off. I have seen some hares close their eyes for a nap when I have been approaching slowly, so I can only assume they were not worried by my presence. I've also observed that activity or noise from other animals and birds can scare them off too. Just when I was getting close to one hare, a squawking crow scared it away.
Mountain Hare - Wrong CamouflageWhen there's no snow, these mountain hares are easier to spot. However "easier" doesn't mean easy. You still have to climb to the right location, and every patch of snow seems to look like a hare!
So far my favourite mountain hare photo was taken on a day where the hill fog was forecast to clear from the mountain, but never did. I kept hoping that by climbing higher I would get above the fog, but it wasn't to be. I did get quite close to a few hares, but the poor visibility was not good for photography. However one very grey image popped in Lightroom when I moved the Dehaze slider - the hare was sharp and I just needed a few small adjustments to get a pleasing image.
Here is a selection of my favourite hare photos - so far. I'll be back next winter for more.
Mountain HareSheltering from the wind. Mountain Hare (in Fog)Difficult to spot an almost white mountain hare against white snow in the fog! Mountain HaresTwo mountain hares briefly at rest on the snow-covered mountain side.