Hobby © Jon Hawkins
Look skyward over reedbeds and wetlands where this handsome falcon gorges on dragonflies.
Springtime in a wetland is an exciting time. Bring a pair of binoculars and a packed lunch, and make a day of it
Amongst the many migrants returning from their winter in warmer climes, the late spring sees the return of the elegant hobby to our skies. A sleek little falcon, the hobby is dark, slate-grey above, with a bold black moustache, white cheeks, streaky underparts and a surprising pair of gingery red ‘pyjamas’. Having flown all the way back from sub-Saharan Africa, this master of the air has one thing on his mind - food! And for a hobby, there are few more tasty snacks than a damselfly.
The end of spring sees the emergence of large numbers of damselflies and dragonflies from gravel pits, lakes and reedbeds, and these are the perfect portion size for a hobby. With aerodynamic, swept-back wings and a narrow tail, the hobby has both speed and manoeuvrability, enabling him to not only chase and catch his prey, sometimes reaching out and snatching a damselfly from the sky almost as an afterthought, but also to eat it on the wing.
A master at work.
How to do it
Springtime in a wetland is an exciting time. There will be cuckoos calling, terns flicking over the open water, maybe a little egret hunting quietly in the shallows, or the ‘plop’ of a water vole in the nearby ditch. Bring a pair of binoculars and a packed lunch, and make a day of it. For the hobbies, things won’t get going until later in the day: things need to have warmed up enough for the dragonflies and damselflies, the hobby’s main food, to have taken to the wing.
If you can’t get to the special places listed below… To find out more about our most elegant of falcons, you could do worse than reading “The Hobby” by Anthony Chapman.
The largest concentrations of hobbies can be found over extensive reedbeds in southern England, and there are few places better than Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Westhay Moor NNR where counts of 20 or more are certainly not uncommon.
Hertfordshire, Tring Reservoirs
Essex, Fingringhoe Wick
Rutland, Rutland Water Egleton Reserve,
Cambridgeshire, The Great Fen
Yorkshire, Wheldrake Ings
Suffolk, Hen Reedbeds
Derbyshire, Willington Gravel Pits
Surrey, Barossa and Poors Allotments
Norfolk, Upton Broad and Marshes
Hobby with dragonfly © Andy Morffew