A hobby

A hobby – an activity or interest pursued for pleasure and relaxation and not as a main occupation.

For me, as many people will know by now, its bird ringing. For those reading the Wild Barley blog on a regular basis (thank you!) it’s pretty much impossible to escape the fact. Most weekends, and occasionally during the week, you will find me getting up ridiculously early in order to go and catch birds, to age them, sex them, take a load of biometrics and to ultimately learn more about them. The ringing I do as part of the BTO ringing scheme is contributing masses to our understanding of bird ecology and populations. Understanding how and where they moult, breed, migrate, over winter, live, grow, behave…

My hobby – bird ringing

A hobby – a fairly small, very swift falcon with long narrow wings, specialist aerial feeders.

Oh what a bird! So awesome that even a popular table football game is named after it…. Ever thought how Subbuteo got its name…? well the scientific name for hobby is Falco subbuteo and the games creator was a big fan of this super bird.

Acrobatic and fast… soaring skywards before diving back to earth; racing over treetops or reed beds; twisting and turning in mid air in pursuit of dragonflies and sometimes small birds. No time to stop, with captured prey often eaten on the wing. The delight of warm summer evenings and a highlight of any days birding; winter sees them head off to Africa in search of more insects…

When attempting to catch swallows and martins at a roost however, the hobby is not necessarily the sight you want to see. The gathering flocks provide a tempting source of food for hungry hobbies especially when migration is nearing. Storming into the group, the hobby races after the sand martins and swallows, dipping, diving, twisting and turning… the martins and swallows flock closer together, with reactions so quick they seem to move as one, confusing the hobby, not letting it single out one individual.

In many cases the flock will move on, deciding the reeds they were attempting to roost in may not be safe enough and leaving the ringers with empty nets… on top of that catching a fast moving hobby in mist nets is tricky to say the least…

Although, there are those occasions where the right factors come into play, the fates align, one little thing leads to another and you come round the corner to find not a hobby bouncing out of the net and making a quick escape, not a hole indicating where a hobby has burst through the net, but a hobby caught in the net!

With dusk falling over the reeds and nets at Icklesham, Sussex, and just a single swallow caught in the roost, it was indeed an absolute delight to catch one of these superb birds.

A hobby – the bird 🙂

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