. . . but it’s a bird, not an avocation. In fact, until yesterday morning I didn’t know what a hobby was until I got the following picture (I’ve cropped it a bit) from reader Christian with this note:
It’s a bank holiday here in London, and I spent some of the afternoon on the bank of the Thames watching a Hobby, a pretty rare sight in London. Not the best of shots, but attached are a couple of photos, including one of it eating a dragonfly which I saw it catch in flight. Alas I’m not a good enough photographer to have caught the hunt itself, but an amazing sight.
Here’s one of Christian’s shots; you can see the dragonfly in the hobby’s talons.
But of course I didn’t know what a “hobby” is, so I asked Christian and got this answer:
A hobby is a small falcon. It migrates to Africa following swifts/swallows, and breeds in the uk, although there aren’t many of them around (I think they are however slightly more common that the peregrine). They are amazing in the air and can catch dragonflies, swifts and swallows on the wing—first time I’ve seen it today, an incredible sight.
Wikipedia tells me (shoot me; it seems pretty reliable on biology) that there are actually four falcons in a monophyletic group, each of which is called a “hobby.” This one is apparently the Eurasian hobby, Falco subbuteo, whose skills are described below:
It flies powerfully and fast. It will take large insects, such as dragonflies, which it transfers from talons to beak and eats while soaring slowly in circles. It also captures small bats and small birds like swallows, swifts, pipits etc. in flight. Its speed and aerobatic skills enable it to take swallows and even swifts on the wing, and Barn Swallows or House Martins have a characteristic “hobby” alarm call. It is known to harass swallows while they are roosting and dispersing from roosts. When not breeding, it is crepuscular, hawking principally in the mornings and evenings. While on migration, they may move in small groups.
Have other readers seen this bird in London?