Hobbies and Other Raptors

1st to 14th SEPTEMBER 2010

Before we start on the raptors, here is a rather startled-looking Jay standing beside our pond. He is there at least once a day for a bath, usually followed by other members of his family. After the bath, the favourite place is the apple-tree, for a shake and thorough preen.

After a hospital appointment, Penny & I drove south to Thursley Common, where I took a walk while Penny enjoyed the sun. I saw a bird of prey soaring over the common, later identified as a Hobby (Falco subbuteo). When first seen it was eating something in flight, possibly a dragonfly, from its claw.

Soon afterwards, I disturbed a Kestrel sitting in a tree.

I went down to Painshill to see how the Grebes were gettng on. The family had split, with each parent looking after two chicks in a different area of the lake. I was fascinated to watch this adult catch a fish and bring it to the chicks. He shook the fish a few times, then released it close to one of the chicks, immediately ducking his head under the water to watch what was going on. The youngster missed the fish, so the adult recaught it (presumably it was a bit stunned by the shaking) and repeated the procedure until the youngster was successful.

I've been doing a lot of work in the garden, and from time to time a flock of Green Parakeets passes overhead, making their continuously repetitive screeching as they go. One day I noticed a slightly different screeching, and looked up to see three birds of prey flying with the Parakeets, one making a lot of noise. The noisy one stopped for a while in the pine tree. During the week I saw them most days, and on several occasions managed to get a picture, from which I was able to identify the birds as Hobbies. It appears likely that it is an adult pair and a juvenile.

On Saturday we visited the remains of Woking Palace, where there was an open day and falconry demonstration. This Kestrel was part of the demonstration, and is sitting on the roof of a tent.

The Kestrel flew around as it pleased, and landed on the shoulder of a spectator, much to her surprise.

A Peregrine Falcon also demonstrated its skills.

Next day, the Hobbies flew over our garden again.

The Goldfinches have been making good use of the niger feeder and seed-bearing plants in our garden. And why, you ask, is a juvenile Goldfinch included in a page of raptors? Only because our lawn was one morning liberally sprinkled with down and feathers, including several in black and yellow. I don't think it was the result of a preening session!

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