With the new year now upon us I'm looking forward to my photography plans for 2015, but it also seems an opportune moment to pause and look back on what was probably my favourite project of the past year.
On reflection, 2014 was a pretty good year. I got to see wild otters in Shetland, soaring gannets (again in Shetland and also on the east coast), red squirrels, foxes and more red kites than you could shake a stick at.
Coming into 2014 though, I resolved to put concerted effort into another species. Living on the edge of the Peak District, I'd known for a good while that mountain hares were to be found up on the moors (indeed the one location outside of the Scottish highlands where they exist in any numbers), but I'd never managed to see one myself.
After a fair amount of research and many hours criss-crossing the peak district moorland in a variety of weathers, patience started to pay off. There's a moment, I find, when out with my camera when after a number of hours of no-shows your heart starts to sink a little and you feel that today might not be your day.
But then you'll spot some movement on the horizon and suddenly everything changes.
This was taken from one of my first trips at the beginning of February and with no snow covering the ground, the hares were quite distinctive in their white winter coats against the moorland grass and heather. Getting close enough was a different matter though. If the wind is not in your favour and they catch your scent, see your distinctive human form against the skyline or hear you coming with those radar-like ears, you've had it. I ended up with plenty of blurry images of the backs of hears disappearing into the distance.
Gradually, I was able to work out a way of getting closer without disturbance. By the beginning of March, their summer coats were starting to come through on a few individuals.
Finally, a couple of weekends later, the patience finally paid off with a cooperative subject, good light, time and a healthy dash of luck.
With being away during the summer, and other demands on my time, I resolved to go back and see how they were getting on as autumn set in. As the autumn colours took hold, they were a little difficult to pick out from amongst the bracken and heather, their summer coats still in place, but it at least made for a nice splash of colour.
Finally, as the year came to a close and we saw the first snows of winter, their trademark white coats were once again back on show.
I really enjoyed the time that I spent in the company of these beautiful animals this year and despite whatever else I get up to this year, if a winter or early spring weekend morning brings some sunshine, frost or, even better, a covering of snow, it's more than likely I'll once again go and try my luck.
Thanks a lot for reading and more hare photos can be found in my gallery from the photography link at the top of the page.