Flanders Moss NNR
It was one of those moments when something made me look up. Maybe a moving shape caught the corner of my eye or subconsciously, wildlife activity triggered my attention. But as I trudged across a wet, ditched part of the moss, watching my feet carefully so I didn’t end up with a welly-full, I spotted a whip quick shape hurtling through the air across the Moss. Black silhouette, long, sickle-shaped wings bending and curving with the strain put on them, incredibly rapid flight jinking across the sky. It was a hobby – the most dashing of falcons.
Hobbys are one of the most exciting birds to watch. A small falcon about the size of a kestrel, it is unusual as it is a migrant – the birds summer in Scotland and winter in Africa. Part of the reason they only spend the summer here is their food is only about in the summer. Hobbies feed on the fastest of fliers, dragonflies and other aerial insects, and swallows and house martins and other small birds. To catch these prey on the wing hobbies are very fast and very agile, racing across the sky pulling breathtaking maneuvers in pursuit their fast moving food.
Hobbies are gradually moving into Scotland to breed though they are still a rare bird here. At this time of year migrants that breed in Europe during the summer pass through the UK on their way south to Africa. This bird could have been either resident or migrant. Flanders is a good place for hobbys: it is a giant hobby food factory, producing large numbers of dragonflies and other insects that then draw in swallows and more insect feeding birds. So it isn’t a surprise to see a hobby here, though as it was my first at Flanders it was an absolute pleasure. Maybe this is them discovering Flanders, so next spring, when they make the return journey from Africa to Scotland, I will be keeping an sharp eye out for them.
This hobby was too fast to photograph but here is one, below, seen on the Isle of May.