Saturday, 21 August 2021

Enjoying My Hobbies

On Tuesday morning I witnessed a bit of birdy life-and-death drama. Scanning out to sea I spotted a distant, dark, angular bird engaged in rapid manouevres. My first thought was Arctic Skua, but quickly I realised the bird was actually a Peregrine. It was stooping repeatedly, but initially the range was just too great to see the object of its attentions. Eventually I picked up a tiny something-or-other dashing through the waves, making a rapid zig-zag course towards the beach. The Peregrine was relentless. Stoop after stoop after stoop, frequently forcing a major change of direction. The little passerine finally made landfall well to the east of me - seemingly intact - and appeared to dive straight into cover. Wise move. The Peregrine missed it by a whisker and plonked on the beach nearby, probably for a breather.

Seeing a falcon do its thing is right up there with the best birdy action moments. One of my autumn highlights last year was getting some video of a young Merlin consuming a kill at Cogden. And today I got to watch one of my all-time favourite falcons in action...

Hobby at Cogden this afternoon

My initial view was from the beach. Scanning inland I spotted a Hobby dashing across a crop field. Even though it was several hundred yards away I managed to get some record shots...

Distant Hobby in full flight. Inset bottom left is another shot from the sequence, and shows that the Hobby was busy dismantling a dragonfly or something as it belted along.

A bit later I came across my Hobby up near the ridge which carries the coast road. It was clearly on the prowl, and I'm guessing that insects were the prey. Although it spooked plenty of birds I never saw it chase any. Having said that, occasionally it would dash around madly, though I could never see what it was after. Here is a 'Spot the Hobby' shot, as it dived below treetop level...

Hobby dot: half way up, left hand side. Woodpigeons on the right, looking a touch jittery.

And then suddenly I realised that a second Hobby had just popped into view. Momentarily I had both together, then just one again. I managed one burst of shots of the second individual, and it's just as well, because every other photo features a bird with damaged primaries on its right wing. So here is proof that there were two...

On the left: bird 1 with damaged primaries. On the right: immaculate bird 2

Capturing flight shots of Hobby is a bit of a stretch for my camera, so I was happy to provide it with some easier meat down on the beach...

Wheatear, at Cogden early this morning

Fresh juv Wheatear this afternoon.

Another of this afternoon's Wheatears.

A quick, early jaunt in this morning's Stygian gloom netted 7 Wheatears and my first autumn Whinchat, while the afternoon Wheatear count was 10, and Whinchat, zero. However, the lack of Whinchats was compensated for...

One of two Clouded Yellows, and the first I've managed to photograph this year.

Apart from the few Wheatears and single Whinchat, passerine migrants were once again lacking today. Surely it's got to happen soon...?


  1. They're great birds those Hobbies, aren't they Gav? I became aware of them myself as a species through two books, 'An Eye for a Bird' by Eric Hosking and 'The Goshawk' by T.H. White. It was clear to me that in their day, they were incredibly rare. Incidentally, the latter of those publications is a classic read from a philosophical perspective.
    The first Hobbies I ever saw were hunting dragonflies over the Wilstone Reservoir reedbeds. They were clearly very successful.

    1. My first was at Virginia Water Ric, in 1978. At that time I had my eyes opened to a lot of birds which I thought only existed in books. Been one of my favourite species ever since. 😊

  2. Fabulous birds hobbies. I've heard that pigeons nest in the same oak as a hobby as they gain protection from predators that a hobby will see off. Good field craft note, find multiple pigeons nesting.

    I recently saw a kestrel fly out from its nest on the village church and lunge at a kite. It harried the bigger bird which was joined by a second kite that joined the fray. The kites swapped a food item between them on several occasions whilst being engaged by the kestrel. A third kite approached and the kestrel retreated.

    And me with no camera :o(

    1. There is definitely no love lost between the various raptors. Amazing bit of video did the rounds recently: Hobby raiding a Kestrel nest-box in order to nab the youngsters is caught in the act by parent Kestrel. Huge fight ensues - inside the box - during which the Hobby is killed! Brutal.