Posted by: Ross Gardner | September 22, 2015

Everyone Needs a Hobby

Blaxhall Common a week or so ago.  A fine remnant of the Suffolk sandling heath, in a blaze of heather mauve awash with the late summer sun, ahead of what has since turned out to be a not insubstantial spell of rainy weather.  I’m not sure I can remember seeing quite so many dragonflies on the wing in a place where standing or running water was conspicuously absent.  Yet, without any exaggeration, Migrant Hawker would fill the air over favoured, prey-rich spots, dozens at a time, while the smaller Ruddy Darter tended to criss-cross the air-space beneath them in similar numbers.

Heading off of the common and into the surrounding tree-strewn, heathy habitat at the edge of Tunstall Forest, a persistent squawking could be heard among the pines.  To one with an ear for this sort of thing it was clearly a call being issued by some sort of raptor, but possessed something of an irate Magpie quality to it.  Walking until the noise was right on top of us, we still couldn’t find its owner among the canopy of needles.  Then we saw a pair of long, lithe wings break their cover and glide over the top of the surrounding trees and back into the pine.  It was a young Hobby, buff-breasted rather than white like an adult and calling to what we presumed was a sibling, not bold enough to fly in the open, answering from with the woods.  It was a delight to watch one at such close quarters.  So often they are birds seen flying higher, but easily recognised for their long, slender-winged profile, the perfect build for hunting such prey as House and Sand Martins, Swallow and even Swift, birds which they will follow south on their own autumn migration.  They will also take large, fleet-winged insects, the plentiful dragonflies presumably not lost on them as well as us.

A snapped photo won’t win any prizes, but was an opportunity to be cherished nonetheless.

Hobby - a juvenile (Falco subbuteo).  Ross Gardner 2015.

Hobby – a juvenile (Falco subbuteo). Ross Gardner 2015.

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