Monday, 30 July 2007

this morning (Tuesday)

This morning, en route to work, I diverted to check on my local pair of hobbies. These engaging little falcons are a good deal smaller than our peregrines......and much harder to find!

So I was pleased to see what I assume was the male sitting on his favourite dead oak branch. With his back turned to the warmth of the sun, he was quietly preening, behaviour exactly mimicking that of the male peregrine I had watched on Sunday morning on the cathedral. High up near the top of this old oak, where the crow's nest that was commandeered back in May is situated, I could hear its mate calling which gives hope that this pair have managed to keep their brood alive despite the endless days of rain.

Hobbies are acrobatic fliers and fast enough to catch swifts, swallows and martins on the wing, as this fine watercolour by Peter Partington demonstrates.

With their rust-coloured thighs and deeply streaked breasts, their white cheeks and dark moustaches, hobbies are handsome birds for sure. No wonder that they attract the attentions of bird artists like Peter and, in more modern style, Greg Poole.

Greg's painting captures not just the bird but also its liking for dragonflies and damselflies and the wetland habitat they occupy. In this case it is the low-lying Somerset Levels, no doubt severely flooded still.

While my very amateur digi-scoped photo below leaves a lot to be desired for sharpness, it does at least hint at the sense of mystery which surrounds this magic falcon, here keeping watch from its oak tree.

Before long, these birds and their offspring will begin their southward migration which will take them down through France, Spain and over the Sahara to wintering grounds in southern Africa. Here they will wander across vast plains, savannah and miombo woodland, searching for thunderstorms which trigger termites to swarm in their thousands, providing a ready supply of protein-rich food.

So, a very different sort of winter lies in wait for these hobbies than the one the cathedral peregrines will experience. In complete contrast, the fledglings will stay within 50-100 miles of Derby, perching on pylons, aerial masts, tall buildings and trees too no doubt, coping with whatever our winter has to throw at them.
Nick B

Ps. And just so you know what this bird really looks like, here's a great photograph by John Miller, taken with his permission from - a website which displays excellent photos of birds such as this for all to see and admire. Please note that this photo should not be used commercially or for profit without the express permission of the photographer.


Karen Anne said...

What beautiful birds. Those raptors are something indeed.

(Now I know why the peregrines have been sitting on the nest box with their backs facing outwards, for the sun.)

Audrey (London)UK said...

In case anyone is interested there is a live streaming video re the Hobby (it has 2 chicks) on the RSPB site, they are gorgeous.

audrey (London) UK said...

Oops...forgot to say the site is in the New Forest.

Anonymous said...

Pax. B.C. 10.41am
Audrey, thanks for the info on the
RSPB, found the video, the chicks are so cute :-)

Anonymous said...

Another beautiful bird. And Nick B, your garden looks beautiful too. Sorry the flycatchers didn't survive the bad weather. I wish I could see more "exotic" birds in my garden. I had a woodpigeon a while ago which would come and lie on top of the bird table for an hour or so each evening, but I've not seen it for a while. And just last week I saw a dad blackbird feeding his youngster. I get a few sparrows and starlings and have seen the occasional wren. The food goes out for them and I keep trying.

Incidentally, I have seen comments that it is sad that the peregrines take other "nice" birds. I thought so too but when I went to look at them live before the youngsters fledged, I said to one of the volunteers that it was a pity the peregrines didn't just eat the feral pigeons. She asked me if I would like to eat the same meal every day...

Pam - Derby

helenhoward said...

yet again what fantastic photos and taken in mid flight as well!!

Anonymous said...

Pax. B.C. 3.45pm
Falcon on the nest box

Karen Anne said...

Handsome bird, preening on the nest box.

Anonymous said...

Pax. B.C. 12.11am I was just at the RSPB site, and saw one of the parent birds bring food to the two chicks, one chick got quite a big mouthful, and the other chick was trying to pull it out of his mouth!

Sue H said...

At the risk of sounding like I know what I'm talking about (I don't really!) .... there is a great site "down south" to see hobbies when they are newly returned. This is the Tring reservoirs (Tring being about 30?? miles north-west-ish of London) The friends of Tring Reservoirs (see organised a hobby walk back on 6th May this year to welcome back the hobbies. There is a site around the reservoirs where they congregate at first. Then they go off to nest - I have no idea where! (mabe Derby!) There will be another such walk next year. They are an excellent organisation and are very lucky to have such a special site. I went on this years's walk and it was the first time I'd seen a hobby - and, let me be honest, I hadn't even realised prior to this that they were migrants. They often have events (a great "bat walk" is coming up on 11th August). If anyone finds themselves down this way, I do recommend it - it might not be worth traipsing all the way from Hong King or Rhode Island but UK residents might find it interesting! A trip could reasonably be combined with a visit to the Tring Museam which is an outpost of the Natural History Museum. Maybe see you on the 11th at the bat walk - I'll be there!
Sue H

Anonymous said...

I read the blog everyday and even though I rarely post comments, I found it all really interesting!!
Heather, Derby

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone!
I am following this site for the past Spring. On the Italian forum there is a thread about Derby peregrine falcons at
I'll come to East Midlands (Rangemore, Burton on Trent)the next week and would like to visit the cathedral. Hope the falcons are still around.. :)
If possible, I'll be happy to meet a Project Member.
I'll try to contact via e-mail the Derby Museum.