The landscape I am walking through is tinderbox dry, and everything looks worn out by the intense heat and lack of rain we have been experiencing this summer. There has not been any significant rainfall since March, and in the past week we have had the highest temperatures ever recorded in the UK.
Norfolk is parched, dusty and tired, and venturing out to find the hares is like walking through a wasteland. The ground is baked hard and the field margins are tinged yellow and brown, yet the grasses and hogweed look exquisitely brittle and delicate.
It does not look promising, but I persevere knowing that the hares are close and I have not seen them for a while. I am on a mission to reacquaint myself with my favourite British mammal.
I discover some hares along a margin neighbouring a crop of pale gold barley, and luckily there is a dense hedge to shield me from view. I am able to carefully creep along and find a gap just large enough to crawl through, although the prickly dry thistles are somewhat unforgiving as I lie on the ground.
Two hares meander towards me and I keep very still. The sun is behind them and I have to shoot through the swaying stems of the dried grass, picking my moment to press the shutter button. They come very close and I manage to get a few shots before they amble off in the opposite direction.
I find more hares in a cover crop that the farmer has already harvested once for silage and allowed to regrow, although they are incredibly hard to spot with just the tips of their ears giving away their presence.
Because everything is completely dry, every footfall makes an annoying crunchy sound, but I decide to try and get closer. After about forty minutes of painstakingly slow walking, I manage to get within reach to take some video and stills. Once again, the hares are obscured and it takes a great deal of patience to gain focus, but it is worth the effort and once I have what I need, I retrace my steps and quietly leave.
Here is a selection of the images and video I captured from three evenings out with the hares.
On the lookout.
I could only spot them when their ears popped up in the grass.
The hares felt safe and secure in the tall grass.
A hare peeking up to check me out.
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