Fittingly enough, this Easter week, I have noticed a whole bunch of bunnies in the fields near the cliffs. Natural enough you might say, but rabbits were never plentiful around here – as far as I could see. There are stonechats and goldfinches, gulls, rooks, choughs, kestrels and the buzzard, but no badgers or owls and very few rabbits. Perhaps because its open to the south westerlies. The only mammal that seemed to hold steady here is the hare.
I have been afraid of mentioning the beautiful hares for fear of attracting raids from the coursing crowd. But there seems to be no hares left now. Only two years ago, some miles from here, a friend looked out her window one night and spotted a crew with lamps hunting hares for their meets. Then there’s the cats which are increasing with the influx of new builds.
I am very conflicted about cats. I am an instinctive cat person. But out in rural areas they can lay waste to the birds. And hares. The cat next door carried off two leverets a couple of years ago, one from right under my nose. And last year it got another one right outside my door – I heard its scream but was too late. It still makes me sick that I could nothing. This spring was the first time ever I did not see any mad hares in March. Perhaps keep your cats in as much as possible around the spring time?
But what goes around come around or, as they say, there are swings and there are roundabouts – and pointless one way systems, like the one recently put in place near here. Drivers coming to the nearby cove find they have to loop around and drive back into the town and back out another road to get there now (seriously-whose idea was that?). One of the results of this is an uptick in irritated drivers and an increasing number of local cats sent sailing into their tenth lives.
Buzz the buzzard could have been blamed for the decline in the hares too – apparently they take baby bunnies – but Buzz seems to have disappeared too. Moved on, got old, or shot, who knows but it may be one reason why the bunnies are proliferating. Another is that there doesn’t seem to be any foxes about this year. A vixen appeared with four cubs in the spring two years ago. I would watch them playing around their den on the cliffs and find bits of sea gull, remains of their marine style meals. But there’s no sign of them these days. I suspect someone got to them. They weren’t very well concealed.
Anyway, though I prefer the hare, I don’t mind watching bunnies. Watership Down was – and is – one of my favourite books. Lying in a ditch watching the rabbits at their evening ‘silflay’ and thinking about General Woundwort and the heroic Bigwig has its compensations. For now. There is one particular rabbit that has been in the same place a number of evenings in a row. I call it Hazel because I like to think it is just getting ready to leave its body in the ditch after a long and eventful life. But it’s more likely it has ‘the mixy’ – the white blindness – as Richard Adams called it. In that case the newly arrived bunnies may not have long to run.
On that cheerful note…Happy Easter everyone!