The Marsh Hawk (Northern Harrier) sitting in the grass off in the distance, was holding captive a bunny.
The bunny was staying still and the hawk was, surprisingly, not attempting to capture the rabbit. Perhaps because avian predators, like hawks, hunt by swooping in, and in a short distance stand-off, the hawk would have to sort of hop over to the bunny. Rabbits can hop to escape a great deal quicker than can hawks-on-foot give chase.
The Short-eared Owl arrives and the Marsh Hawk takes cover.
The Snowy Owl appears on the scene…
and the Short-eared Owls are nowhere to be seen.
The Bald Eagle, Ruler of Marsh and Meadow, swoops in. The Snowy departs.American Bald Eagle Juvenile
Why does this little rabbit look so different from the rabbits we see so often in our gardens, alongside roadsides, and in meadows and dunes? Because it is a New England Cottontail!
Massachusetts has two species of cottontails, the New England Cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) and the Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). The introduced vegetable-and-flower-eating Eastern Cottontail has flourished, while this beautiful and illusive little creature’s numbers have dwindled to an alarmingly low number.
Prior to 1930, New England Cottontails were present in all 14 counties of Massachusetts and it was the only cottontail species appearing among 59 reports, except for 7 from Nantucket where Eastern Cottontails were introduced as early as the 1880s. Between 1924 and 1941, at least 16,200 Eastern Cottontails were imported from the mid-west and released. Another 4,600 were raised and released at a state propagation facility.
The most critical threat to New England Cottontails is loss of habitat. They can only survive in the ephemeral landscape of newly emerging forests, which provide low ground cover for shelter. Once a forest matures, the low growing plants become too sparse to offer food and shelter. Today the New England Cottontail resides in only about one fifth of its historic range.
The photo above of the New England Cottontail was taken at Gooseberry Island in Westport. He shot across the path on the way to the beach and wish I had a better photo to share, but now that I know to look for them there, I’ll try again.
You can compare the difference in the rabbit species in the two photos. The New England Cottontail’s (above photo) ears are shorter and his fur a bit grayer than the Eastern Cottontail (below). When I caught a glimpse of him I immediately recognized the rabbits we saw daily at my grandparent’s home, built in the dunes on a bluff on Cape Cod, where at that time, there were few homes and lots of cool scrubby habitat for wild creatures. The ubiquitous Eastern Cottontail, Good Harbor Beach
Dwindling New England Cottontail Range Map.
As you can see, New England Cottontails have been completely extirpated from Cape Ann and Essex County.
Furtive creatures that peer at you, while you are filming and photographing them!
While recording audio for my Monarch film at the same field over a several week period, occasionally I came upon a deer family. Not quick enough to get more than a fleeting snapshot however, these two deer were spotted peering at me while I waited in vain for their return, so that I could peer back at them!
Surprise Turkey-in-a-Tree Encounter
Ubiquitous bunny, abundantly present on every film shoot.
The wrong end of the deer I am most likely to capture.