If March is famous for just one thing, it’s brown hares boxing. So, this weekend, why not try to see it for yourself? Now is a great time to see them as the vegetation and crops on the open farmland they call home have yet to grow too high.
Why do they box?
Although it looks fun, it’s all part of, well, spring! As the females come into season, the males take more and more interest, following them closely until ready to mate. This is known as ‘mate guarding’, it’s essentially the male making sure a rival doesn’t steal his girl away. But if he gets too close, fur will fly as she gives him a punch Mike Tyson would be proud of! The larger male hopefully gets the message and bides his time.
Personally I love hares. Back in the midst’s of time, or so it seems, I spent a week volunteering out on Havergate Island, one our nature reserves.
Suffolk’s only island is slap bang in the middle of the River Ore, sandwiched between the giant shingle spit of Orford Ness and the mainland. As well as being associated with the return of the avocet in 1947, it’s also home to a very friendly population of hares. Usually they’re timid, but the ones on Havergate can be anything but! I loved the week I spent in their fascinating company.
But before my time as a volunteer, I visited the island with my Dad. After looking through the scope at a distant bird (I can’t remember what it was!), we looked down at our feet, where a hare stared wide-eyed back. It had quietly sneaked up on us, but speedily shot off once we turned our focus towards it!
Where to look
In short, Havergate is a great place to see hares. Although you can only get there by pre-booking a place on the boat. But there’s plenty of other reserves you may see these boxing matches taking place, including Saltholme which has set up viewpoints throughout March. It’s not just reserves though, keep an eye out on open farmland and downland and you stand a great chance of spotting this enigmatic mammal performing one of the UK’s best signs of spring.
Have a great weekend, good luck and don’t forget to let us know if you see any mad March hares.