My ongoing search for the Duke continued last night. After work,I fought my way through heavy rush – hour traffic to Stroud, a one-hour journey that took me closer to two. I parked up and set off down the slope of the Hill to the place where I’d seen the Duke the previous evening. And as I had the previous evening, I saw it settle three times, but each time (as it had the previous evening)it flew off just as I was bringing my camera to bear. for the rest of the three hours I was there, I had to just stand and watch as it flitted relentlessly around, without ever once stopping. I’ve started to really, really hate that insect, which is an odd position for a naturalist.
But just as with my last visit,the evening brought an unexpected compensation. As I was driving home, disconsolate, and full of evil thoughts about spraying the bushes of Stroud with superglue, I glanced to my right and saw a Hare sitting in a field, very close to the road. Unfortunately there were no turning spaces on the road for a couple of miles, so it was a good 10 minutes before I could throw a U – turn and come back. There was a small layby very near to where I’d seen the Hare, so I stopped and got out. Traffic on this road travels very quickly and makes a lot of noise, so I was able to open the boot of the car and get my camera out without any sound being audible. It seemed that the photographs smiling me, because there was also a small gap in the roadside hedgerow that led into the very field where I’d seen the Hare. I picked my camera up and started to push my way through the hedge, only to stop short. For while I’d been driving back, the Hare had been hopping slowly forwards, and I realised, to my horror and delight,that he was barely 6 feet in front of me. If I moved, I would startle the Hare, and there was every chance that he would Sprint off far faster than I could get my camera set up to take a picture. Worse still, he might never return to that field if he’d had a bad experience there. So I had to grit my teeth and wait as he slowly moved away before I could set my camera up and take his picture.
Wiltshire was, sadly, home to the completely illegal hare – coursing world Championships this year. Many fields of hares that I’d watched over the years had been wiped out, so it was a joy to find not one Hare, but two, grazing in the field. And at least now I know that if I have a bad day with the butterflies, I may yet have a happy day with the hares.