A species that we most commonly see pursuing dragonflies on our lakes, gravel pits and wetland sites is the beautiful and speedy Hobby.
Here in Leicestershire and Rutland the best places to this species are the many reservoirs scattered around the counties in particular Rutland Water of course, although this species can be found in areas of rural farmland.
At the start of June, I was walking my usual route around the patch watching Yellow Wagtails and Skylarks when I heard the recognisable shriek of a falcon calling. Of course, presumed it was one of the many local Kestrels but upon further inspection when looking through the bins the bird’s back was too dark to be a Kestrel, quickly dashed back home to grab the scope and luckily the bird was still present. It was a Hobby; further scan showed another bird sat in neighbouring tree with a corvid nest nearby. It is well known for a pair of Hobbies to use corvid nests once the crow chicks have fledged, so knowing this I kept an eye from a distance over the coming weeks to see whether the Hobbies would take to this nest.
Come mid-June the Hobby pair hadn’t been seen for over a week so I’d presumed they’d moved on, but on the 19th June, I was walking round the normal route on patch checking for Yellowhammers when I noticed one of the Hobbies sat in the tree next to me, on further inspection the other bird was sat tightly in a different crow’s nest presumably incubating eggs. Along with other species such as Barn Owl, Hen Harrier and Kingfisher the Hobby is protected due to its schedule 1 status, which therefore means it becomes illegal to disturb these birds when nesting. Luckily this nest could be viewed from a gate with the nest only 150m away and using the scope I could easily see what was going on in the nest.
As we moved into late July, I knew the eggs would be hatching any time soon given that the average Hobby incubation period is 29 days but not fully knowing when these eggs were laid, there was a bit guess work needed which narrowed down a 10 day window… on the 6th day in this window I went to check the nest and could make out the tiny, white, fluffy heads of 2 chicks being fed by one of the adults.
Over the coming weeks it was great to watch these chicks grow, watch the adults catch prey which mainly consisted of small birds such as Chaffinches and Dunnocks. And then the anticipation that had grown all summer finally paid off when on the 16th August I went to check on them when I noticed neither of the chicks were in the nest, to my surprise they’d both fledged with one chick sat on the closest hay bale to me whilst the other was in a nearby tree. It was such a great feeling to see these chicks over the coming days flying around the fields, begging their parents for food knowing that soon they’ll be off migrating south to Africa.
Keeping my fingers crossed this pair will return next year to breed but regardless of that it has been an incredible summer to get so close to such a shy, secretive species.
Throughout this entire process of monitoring this pair of Hobbies measures were taken to minimise disturbance despite nesting next to a road. Visits were made every 7-9 days especially when the pair were incubating and had small chicks, kept my distance at all times and all the information I collected was uploaded to the BTO's Nest Record Scheme which you can find out more by following the link below.
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