Thursday, 13 September 2012

Hobby Hunting with Ben & Holly!

I have just recently spent a fab few days at the ICBP helping out at their annual Falconry Weekend and as always Jemima made me feel very welcome as did the rest of the team and it all went very well!

I got to meet so great new people and also some old friends, I ran a little activity area for children as it was also International Vulture Awareness Day on the Saturday so we did lots of fun vulture related activities right outside Delectable the Griffon Vultures aviary! Make sure you visit the Owl evenning are due to begin!

Now I have heard several people at the ICBP talk about Hobby's flying over the centre and even that they breed nearby and it has always intrigued me. The Hobby (Falco subbuteo) is a small but long sharp winged falcon that is classed as a British bird of prey but not one that winters here, at this moment in time I imagine many British Hobbies will have started their migration back to Africa. The migration is based primarily on food supply and weather, the Hobby loving to hunt birds like Swallows and House Martins and Dragons flies and other bugs. Our warm weather wakes up the dragon flies and brings the Swallows and House Martins back to their breeding grounds along with the Hobby.

Hobbies have spread fairly well over the last 10 years or so from parts of Eastern UK across and up into the Midlands and North of England. My area of Cheshire has a few hotspots for seeing them especially when feeding and it is not unheard of to find a number of Hobbies hunting over the same area.

Whilst packing away some fencing with Ben after the ICBP event I heard a falcon(s) calling excitidly. It call didn't quite fit the call I am more use to of the Kestrel but sounded like a group of falcons which I put down to young birds with their parent(s). I thought could it be a family of Hobbies still around?

The next day I was in the horse paddock moving another fence and it was another fine sunny day when I heard the calling again, fast repetitive kew kew kew kew as if an adult was being greeted by hungry young beaks! I mentioned it to Ben a bit later on,  he had heard it the day before and sad as I am I played both the Kestrel and Hobby calls which I have on a phone app. He agreed that it sounded more like aHobby so we decided to go and see if we could get a visual.

I know Hobbies often use old crows nest which are usually on open ground in a tree like Oak. We heard the calling of what I thought was young birds but in the next field on and as we walked along a band of trees we got our first visual, four Hobbies playing and chasing each other above trees in the distance. We stopped under a tree and watched as the birds came in and out of view, sometimes the birds landed and one went up and into a large Oak and out again. An adult bird came in and the young started calling, rushing to meet the bird one youngster looked to receive a food item in mid air. Then the noise subsided and they vanished off over the woods. Ben seemed to get a couple of long distance shots with the camera and we made our way back to the centre.

That evening Holly wanted to see the Hobbies so we made our way across the the fields to the site where me and Ben had stopped. Sadly no sign of the birds this time but I walked a little closer to get a better look with my binoculars at the Oak presumed to be the nest site, sure enough a large stick nest could just be made out in the tree.

I read afterwards in Anthony Chapmans book The Hobby that the birds start to disperse from their breeding sites around 4 weeks later. It is important to point out that the species is protected by law and nest sites should not be appoached during the breeding season to avoid disturbance.

A real highlight for my summer sightings this year!

To find out more about such a stunning little falcon check out what Arkive have to say  

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