A Fascinating Hobby

All the usual warnings of images that contain material that may ‘offend’ some viewers, and the plea to be sure to contact the appropriate helpline.

Ahh, political correctness.


I have, it must be told not ever thought about Falconry as a pasttime.
Not the sport of the rich and regal, but rather the Falconer, and their intimate relationship with these amazing birds of prey.

That such a bird could in fact be domesticated in itself seems hard to grasp.

It is also true that I’ve never spent any more than a few glancing seconds with any of the falcon family (exception being Brown Falcons, but let’s face it, they don’t have the same mystic of the Peregrine or Hobby.)

So, to have a close encounter with a pair of Australian Hobbys (sic—my spelling of the plural) and their resulting young has been quite a thought provoking experience.  Over the past few weeks EE and I, Mr An Onymous, and Neil  A. have clocked up quite a few hours learning a little about their habits, character and approach to life.

In no particular order some bullet points from my field-notes.  I must stress this is not scientific research, and is quite anecdotal-bordering on the anthropomorphic. (Again the usual warnings also apply)

  • Hobbys seem to like to sit on the highest branches available. If there is a higher one, they will move to it.
  • Hobbys seem to favour nesting in the tallest tree in the area.  And they don’t build new nests, but rather inhabit existing, mostly magpie, nests.
  • They have a wariness of humans, but at the same time seem to have developed an awareness of human habitation and used it for their benefit.  We regularly see a pair hunting through a supermarket carpark. Hard not to be impressed with a bird at over 70kph skimming over the parked vehicles.
  • This pair have used the same area, and I think the same nest for at least the past three seasons.
  •  The female sits the nest. The male brings in food.  Unlike other raptors she does not complain until he arrives. She is usually quiet.
  • He too is quiet on arrival.  A couple of short croaky calls, and he then sits on an conspicuous branch and she quietly comes and removes the catch.
  • They are both masters of efficiency.  A glide will do instead of a wing-flap. The change over is precise and almost instant.
  • He always carefully watches after she takes the food, I have concluded that if she were to slip and it fell away, he would be on it before it had dropped more than a metre.
  • This pair have feasted on Wattlebirds, Starlings, occasional Welcome Swallows and quite a parade of young Fairy Martins.  Also other larger birds that were unidentifiable as he had pre-plucked before arrival.
  • Any passing raptor, or raven is chastised from afar, and if it still persists then one, or usually both, will take close quarter action. It consists of gaining height and rolling over into awesomely fast stoops on the interloper(s).
  • I can’t find a reliable reference, but it seems they can clip along around 85-90 kph in a straight flight.  In a stoop, the speed might be as much as 150kph  or more. They are only short bursts, not the long running dive of the Peregrine.
  • In Falconry, the male is called a “Tiercel”and Old English word meaning Third. Perhaps because he is as much as one third smaller than the female. Or is it she is one third larger?

From a bird I have had only the briefest of encounters with, it has given me quite an insight into why they could be trained and how much skill a falconer must have accumulated.

Here is an a couple of days activity before the young were flown.

Click on the Gallery for larger view and slide show.

11 thoughts on “A Fascinating Hobby

  1. Fabulous images, David! The Hobby is a fascinating bird to observe, especially through the nesting. They are so efficient in every way. In flight, feeding the young, a very ‘no fuss’ bird. I admire the skill and knowledge of the Falconer but could never be one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are such a beautiful bird, my burden if any is that I’ve not had the time to spend with them that they so rightly deserve. The short times however have given me a much better understanding of them.

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    1. Thanks Ashley, hope 2021 is a refreshing year for you at all levels.
      My problem, (?) working with them is finding the right nuance for the story. They invariably work up high. Wing flap only when they need to, and then are gone behind the trees and away. Hard to run all that into a coherent story.
      Also I know some folk are disturbed by birds that eat other birds and the confronation that brings.

      Been listening this evening to Joe Cocker’s version of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross”. It was a classic at our home a few years back when we faced some tough times.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi David,

    Not being a “social media” person, I only became aware of your wonderful blog (right term?) earlier this year. I really enjoyed it and was literally almost blown away by your stunning photographs, being someone who is interested in bird photography myself. However, in early April, we decided at short notice to sell our house in Melbourne, which necessitated an intense period trying to get the house reaonably presentable after 30 plus years of living in it, moving, locating somewhere to rent in Geelong, settling in, and then looking for a house to buy, which we have done even if we can’t move in until early May next year. Consequently, I totally lost track of your posts, until today when I saw your article about the hobbys and your photos. I really enjoyed reading it and viewing the attached photos.

    I thought you may be interested to listen to the interview with Peggy MacDonald on Radio National recently, if you haven’t already heard it. It is very interesting, and she is an inspiring person (there are links to her Raptor Centre):

    https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/peggy-mcdonald-raptor-whisperer-best-of/12944946

    Regards, and keep up your good work, John Renowden

    On Wed, 30 Dec 2020 at 20:25, Birds as Poetry —— Just because I WANDER –

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello John, welcome back, glad you posted as it’s always interesting to find how others have been tracking this past year.

      I didn’t hear the interview iwth Peggy, but do know of her work. So thanks for the link. Appreciate that.

      Moving is such an experience. I think there is research that rates it up near the loss of a loved one on the stress scale.
      We moved to a Retirement Village just on 7 years ago. Downsizing in more ways than one, and began to build, (rather than rebuild) a new life style with a totally new bunch of people.

      As I wrote to Ashley above, on this last day of 2020, I’ve been listening to Joe Cocker’s version of “Many Rivers to Cross”
      Thought this line appropriate
      ….And it’s only my will that keeps me alive
      I’ve been licked, washed up for years
      And I merely survive because of my pride…

      Good luck with the move. Things do settle, and you eventually find things in boxes. 🙂
      I’ll have another chapter of the Hobby Saga early in the new year.

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  3. Sundays like this one today (rain/sun/rain again) should be indulged slowly, unless one can sleep during the day. I am lucky to have several of your superb posts to read through. This one is so informative and wonderfully illustrated that I may dwell on it for a longer while; then maybe listen to the podcast recommended by John-regentparrot and round it all up with “Many Rivers to Cross”. I’ve got Joe Cocker’s and Eric Burdon’s versions at home…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. G,day, Adam, it’s well worth googling Jimmy Cliff’s version, he throws himself into it. (But I still like Joe’s) 🙂
    I’ve got a few more pages from the Field Notes to share so there is plenty to look forward too.

    What a strange day it was today, so much so that I’ve pretty much lost track of the layout of the week. Another Skyhooks moment.
    🙂

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  5. Somehow I missed looking at this post when the message arrived in my Inbox, but I have now enjoyed both reading your comments on the birds’ behaviour, and also of course looking at your beautiful images of the pair.

    There is a wonderful book called “H is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald, about her training of a Goshawk, which she did while trying to recover from the sudden loss of her beloved father. It’s beautifully written and fascinating in terms of how she worked with the bird. Highly recommended.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the Headsup on this one Eleanor, Just ordered the book.
      I can’t imagine how complex dealing with such a creature could be.
      These one’s are a bit like being a Grandfather, you can hand them back to the parents. 🙂

      We had hope to be out early this week, but the rain is welcome, but a damping of plans too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I do hope you enjoy it. It contains a lot of references to T H White’s book “The Goshawk”. That is a tough read because his training methods seemed to be more brutal than hers are.

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