So begins the list of ‘Names of the Hare in English’, a late 13th Century poem from Shropshire – an incantation of 77 names recited to bring the animal under the hunter’s power.
The common, or brown, hare is a special and enigmatic animal woven into the fabric of folklore and mythology, and an unfortunately rare sight across most of the country. Hares declined by 75% in the years after WW2 due to the all too common causes of intensive farming, agrichemicals, removal of shelter hedgerows and general habitat degradation.
‘Welcome, pale Primrose!’ exclaimed John Clare in his ‘Rural Poems’ and there can be few more heart-warming sights than this herald of the returning Spring. With their subtly-beautiful pale yellow flowers with orange-custard centres, Primroses have an almost ethereal presence as they shine gently from hedgerows and amongst woodland leaves as nature unfurls itself in the gradually warming days.
For many people the arrival of Redwings, Waxwings and Fieldfares flying in on cold, starlit nights marks the approach of winter, and their departure a few months later just as surely means that spring has arrived. Now is the perfect time to see these flocks of beautiful migrants.
There is an old legend that Holly first sprang up under the footsteps of Jesus with scarlet berries like drops of blood and the leaves like a crown of thorns – in Northern Europe it is known as Holy Tree or Christ’s Thorn. An early Chiltern name for Holly is Christmas Tree, which may have given Christmas Common its name.
October’s Species of the Month focuses on the wonderful world of fungi… occupying their very own kingdom alongside plants and animals.