Posted 18th May 2018
Late spring will see another one of the many migrants returning from their winter spent in warmer climes - in this case, the elegant hobby
A sleek little falcon, the hobby is dark, slate-grey above, a bold black moustache, white cheeks, streaky underparts and a surprising pair of gingery red 'pyjamas'. After flying all the back from sub-Saharan Africa, this true master of the air will only have one thing on his mind - food. For a hobby, there are few things that will be tastier to snack on than a damselfly.
A large number of damselflies and dragonflies will emerge from gravel pits, lakes and reedbeds towards the end of spring, and these are the ideal portion for a hobby. With aerodynamic, swept-back wings and a narrow tail, the hobby has the speed and manoeuvrability to not only let him chase and catch his prey, but to reach out and snatch it from the sky almost as an afterthought, but also to eat it on the wing - it's a true master at work.
How to do it
Springtime in a wetland is an exciting time. There will be cuckoos calling, the terns will flick over the open water, maybe a little egret hunting quietly in the shallows, or the 'plop' of a water vole in the nearby ditch. Be sure to bring a pair of binoculars and a packed lunch to make a day of it. For the hobbies, things won't get going until later on in the day - by then, it will have warmed up enough for the dragonflies and damselflies to have taken to the wing.
The largest concentrations of hobbies can be found over extensive reedbeds in southern England, while there are few places better than Somerset Wildlife Trust's Westhay Moor NNR, where counts of 20 or more are 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
Text and information courtesy of The Wildlife Trusts / image courtesy of © Andy Morffew