Have you ever caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of your eye and thought to yourself ‘Hello! I wasn’t expecting THAT!’…
Maybe I’m easily distracted. Or maybe I spend too much time looking out of the window, but earlier this afternoon I saw a dot in the sky that had me running for my camera. And the reason I ran was because I knew this bird was something special. This wasn’t any old bird. This bird was a Falcon. BUT what type of Falcon is it? In the UK we have four types of Falcon – Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine and Hobby. This isn’t a Merlin or a Kestrel, but distinguishing between Hobby and Peregrine is much harder especially when it’s just a dot in the sky.
Hobby or Peregrine?
According to the RSPB there are about 2,000 pairs of Hobby and 1,500 pairs of Peregrine in the UK. The UK covers about 242,000 km². So if Peregrines were distributed evenly (which they’re not) you’d have to cover more than 160 km² at the same time if you wanted to catch a glimpse of one. Fortunately for amateur twitchers, Peregrines are quite happy living in towns and cities. Our nearby cathedral in Chichester is home to a pair of Peregrines and I’ve enjoyed watching plenty of Peregrine in central London.
The Hobby on the other hand is very different. You won’t find a Hobby in a busy town centre, they prefer open country, heathland and woodland edges. And don’t expect to see a Hobby in wintertime either, they’re summer visitors that head off in September for some winter sunshine in the Congo and Angola.
What do you think?
Take a look at the three photos below. The first two photos are from the BTO website where they have an excellent video about Peregrines and other UK Falcons. The last (rather blurry!) photo is my mystery Falcon. What do you think? Tricky isn’t it?
I think it’s a Hobby and I’ll explain why
Where we live on The South Downs is a hub for migrating birds. We’re on the sheltered, north side of the Downs which is a popular Autumn stop-off for huge flocks of Martins and Swallows. And guess what Hobby Falcons like to eat? You guessed it. Martins and Swallows.
Most years we see a Hobby or two in September; they follow the Martins and Swallows on their journey south which is logical if you’re a bird of prey. Follow your dinner all the way to Africa and you’ve got ready-meals and snacks whenever you need them.
There’s possibly a clue in the photos too. Peregrines have slightly thinner wings than a Hobby, and the trailing edge of a Peregrine wing is straighter. Though there’s not a lot in it as you can see from the photos!
For the next week I’ll keep my telephoto lens on my camera just in case we get another flyby. Hopefully next time I’ll get a better photo and we won’t be left guessing the Falcon identity from a blurry silhouette!
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A quick update from some local ‘twitchers’ who feel certain this is a Peregrine Falcon after all! I’m still not certain so we’ll leave this as unconcluded business! Either way – it’s nice.
I’m reliably informed that this is a Peregrine and not a Hobby which blows my theory right out of the water! Though I’m still not sure!!!