Hobby Time

Hobby (c) Rob Husbands
Hobby (c) Rob Husbands

Rob Husbands has provided this update on what he’s up to now as the ringing season is progressing…

With the majority of our local day time raptors well on the way to fledging young, my attention turns to our only summering falcon – The Hobby.

As I am sure most birders are aware Hobbies are largely insect feeders for much of the year, turning to avian prey mainly during the breeding season, The male quite often presents a Swift to the female early on in their courtship as a mark of his hunting prowess.

The old nest of a Crow is most often selected as the site to lay the falcons eggs – mostly two or three but exceptionally four. I have only had one female lay four eggs. The pair fledged four young once, twice one egg failed to hatch.

Looking for breeding Hobbies can be time consuming and quite daunting at times, but very rewarding at the same time. The sound of Hobbies calling is for me the most electrifying sound in nature, probably a mixture of relief and mild elation when you finally track a pair down.

I tend to observe from a distance early on in the breeding cycle – watching natural behaviour is the key to understanding what is happening in front of you. At this time in late June, food passes near the nest are the best chance of finding breeding birds. To establish whether birds are present in an area the first part of May should show up displaying pairs (potential pairs) which is obviously past now for this year. Because I have logged many territories over many years I do not now have to find the potential pairs as a careful search of known territories usually throws up a few to work on.

Birds calling from known territories is often the first you realise the birds are present. They are fierce in the defence of their nests, especially with well grown young. Several times I have witnessed Buzzards being driven to the floor with repeated attacks, the ludicrous size difference making it quite comical, also young Peregrine and female Goshawk being driven out of the nest area by the feisty birds.

I have three territories so far with birds present, no nests as yet but time will tell.

Tips for Hobby hunters:
Observe from a distance – nothing much can be learnt from over disturbing any bird.
Patience and more patience – if the habitat is right Hobbies will be there somewhere.
Nests can be left for six hours or more in warm weather by the adults although the female will be nearby always, sometimes catching dragonflies and other flying insects near the nest.
Calling at dusk/dark – Anthony Messenger first noticed this as an aid to finding pairs on territory, not always infallible but very useful nevertheless.

Good luck to all intrepid Hobby hunters!