Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Sixty-seven

23 May 2020 | Posted in Michael Blencowe
Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Sixty-seven
Hobby photo: Radovan Vaclav

This weekend's Back Garden Bird Race will be tomorrow, Sunday 24 May (10-11).

All the information, rules, I.D guides and downloadable phone app is on the Bird Race website here.

You can leave your results in the comments section below today's diary, on the Facebook page or in the phone app.

Bird race in style with our snazzy Back Garden Bird Race t-shirts (here)

Day Sixty-seven

The highlight of last week's Back Garden Bird Race for me was the spectacle of a low-flying Hobby barrelling through the cul-de-sac. .  This bird would have flown all the way from the Congo Basin for this fly-past and it was a real thrill to see.

Wilmshurst 
(Hobby Photo by Roger Wilmshurst)

Hobbies look debonair and dashing. With their black ‘eye mask’ and drooping ‘moustache’ there’s a touch of Zorro about them. And, like that enigmatic swordsman, Hobbies are famed for their speed and dexterity.  Superficially the Hobby looks similar to the Peregrine which along with the Kestrel makes up the trio of falcons that breed in Sussex. But Peregrines are very different birds; they're up to four times heavier than a Hobby. Peregrines hunt by putting their weight behind their attack whereas Hobbies use aerial agility and acceleration; the ninja to the Peregrine’s sumo.

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(Hobby. Photo by Radovan Vaclav)

Its unfortunate victims are the reason for the Hobby’s 4000 mile journey from Africa and the reason for they are one of the last migrant birds to raise a family. The late birth of the hungry Hobby chicks is perfectly synchronised with their food supply which is most abundant in the Sussex skies in July and August.  Hobbies specialise in catching the uncatchable; swallows, martins, swifts and dragonflies - all accomplished aviators themselves who probably thought that they were invincible whilst airborne.  Watching a Hobby hunting is watching an accomplished predator at work. Their slender scimitar wings slice the air as they twist, turn and tumble to pluck their victims from the sky in their talons.

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(Juvenile Hobby. Photo by Bob Eade)

If you’ve been on a wildlife walk with me you’ve probably already heard my favourite piece of Hobby trivia.

In 1946 Mr Peter Adolph of Langton Green, Kent had an idea. Presumably, with that surname, the preceding seven years had been a tough time for Mr Adolph, but now he was free to unleash his incredible invention upon the world.

Now, I have never had any interest in football. How anyone finds a bunch of men kicking a ball up and down a field interesting amazes me. Mr Adolph’s invention was equally as baffling; a game which involved flicking wobbly model footballers up and down a tabletop. This game, he insisted, would be a great hobby for boys and he named his invention just that ‘Hobby’. But when it came to registering the name the Patents Office said that ‘Hobby’ was too general a term, he needed a more specific name.

So, as he couldn't call it 'Hobby',  Mr Adolph, a keen birdwatcher, took the scientific name from his favourite falcon instead.

And that's how the agile Hobby (Scientific name: Falco subbuteo) gave its name to a bestselling game and became forever linked to wet Saturday afternoons flicking headless Crystal Palace midfielders around the dining room.

Subbuteo

Subbuteo playersP1010292

I'm aware that some readers will be upset that today's scheduled F.A. Cup Final has had to be cancelled.

However you can re-create some of the action and excitement of the F.A. Cup thanks to Mr Adolph's Subbuteo and by watching this clip  (here) from the 2:15 mark. Looks just as thrilling as the real thing if you ask me.

So,  here's the sound of Falco subbuteo (here) and, for those missing the football, here's The Subbuteo Sound (here)


 


Comments

  • Paul Nason:

    23 May 2020 08:52:00

    That’s great, I have heard this bird many times but have never known what they were.

  • Robin Harris:

    23 May 2020 11:05:00

    I believe Mr Adolph was Polish and served in the RAF during the 2nd World War, using some sort of ‘de-mob gratuity’ to start the production of Subbuteo. My Aunty helped me, as a small boy, to send away for one of the original games (sadly now lost) from a small ad in the daily paper. My parents wouldn’t help me because they believed all such adverts were a con! No fancy club shirts in those days – one of the teams in my purchase wore red shirts, the other blue.

  • Vanessa Hancock:

    23 May 2020 12:41:00

    Thank you Michael,I’m sure now it was a Hobby I saw up mill hill on Tuesday.Had me spell bound with its aerobatics but didn’t recognise the silhouette or the bird song

  • Ginny-Vic:

    23 May 2020 18:00:00

    That is fascinating. I hope I see or hear one tomorrow!

  • Bob Eade:

    24 May 2020 10:12:37

    I can’t believe all the collared Doves have gone!! Always one of the first birds on the list and today, well, silence on that front!!
    19 today, so creeping towards the magic 20.

    Herring Gull, Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Chaffinch,Skylark, Magpie, Sparrowhawk, Starling, Swallow, Swift, Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Robin, Dunnock, Bluetit, Buzzard, Greenfinch, Stock Dove, Goldfinch.

  • Margaret from Wales:

    24 May 2020 10:13:07

    17 – no Raven, no Woodpecker even
    Blackbird
    Buzzard
    Chaffinch
    Crow
    Goldfinch
    Gull
    Kite
    Magpie
    Nuthatch
    Robin
    Siskin
    Sparrow
    Swallow
    Blutit
    Coal tit
    Woodpigeon
    Wren

  • c hydes:

    24 May 2020 10:16:00

    Walberton. Highlight was finding a red kite for the first time on these bird races! Equalled my best (23) but no great tit or swifts despite 20 minutes scanning the sky. Thanks Michael for organising the bird races.
    robin
    house sparrow
    woodpigeon
    starling
    herring gull
    rook
    crow
    collared dove
    goldfinch
    greenfinch
    chaffinch
    dunnock
    red kite
    wren
    blue tit
    magpie
    jackdaw
    buzzard
    blackbird
    swallow
    house martin (first sighting of the year)
    mallard
    kestrel

  • Chris Brown:

    24 May 2020 10:18:12

    Chris Brown, Brighton.
    Nothing in the 2nd half hour till a Goldcrest with 5 seconds to go!
    House Sparrow
    2. Blue Tit
    3. Robin
    4. Starling
    5. Wren
    6. Herring Gull
    7. Coal Tit
    8. Blackbird
    9. Feral Pigeon
    10. Carrion Crow
    11. Woodpigeon
    12. Collared Dove
    13. Great Tit
    14. Dunnock
    15. Long-tailed Tit
    16. Goldfinch
    17. Jackdaw
    18. Magpie
    19. Goldcrest

  • Sally Watson:

    24 May 2020 10:20:00

    Garden Bird Race:
    Wood pigeon, Robin, Chiffchaff, Blue tit, Chaffinch, Magpie, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Swallow, Herring Gull, Carrion Crow, Wren, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Buzzard, Mallard Duck, Gt Spotted Woodpecker. Total 17 from Hellingly. 10 seen, 7 heard

  • Colin & Janet Holter:

    24 May 2020 10:22:18

    From our garden in Steyning this morning:
    Blackbird
    Carrion Crow
    Dunnock
    Starling
    Wood Pigeon
    Jackdaw
    Wren
    Herring Gull
    Greenfinch
    Rook
    Buzzard
    Goldfinch
    House Sparrow
    Magpie
    House Martin (a flock of 7)
    Blue Tit
    Kestrel
    Great Tit
    Swift
    Pied Wagtail
    Robin
    Stock Dove
    Mallard (2 flew past)
    Great Spotted Woodpecker (heard)
    Pheasant (heard)
    Song Thrush ((heard)
    Chaffinch (heard)
    27 species. Best was probably the group of 7 House Martin’s (still on passage?) Buzzards enjoying the fresh NW breeze!

  • Ralph Gilbert:

    24 May 2020 10:23:25

    Woodmancote
    15 birds
    Pied Wagtail
    Jackdaw
    Mallard
    Great Tit
    Blue tit
    Long-tailed Tit
    Great Spotted Woodpecker
    Wren
    House Martin
    House Sparrow
    Crow
    Wood Pigeon
    Goldfinch
    Magpie
    Blackbird
    Great spotted Woodpecker ad Bluet Tit, both feeding young in same tree

  • Owen Hydes:

    24 May 2020 10:24:52

    Not very good in Mannings Heath today – a bit too windy – so only 16 species as follows: Nuthatch, blue tit, great tit, coal tit, dunnock, robin, blackbird, great spotted woodpecker, carrion crow, magpie, jackdaw, wood pigeon, buzzard and heard but not seen pheasant, blackcap, song thrush.

  • Nigel Kemp:

    24 May 2020 10:25:10

    14 species at Heathfield. It was a real struggle just to equal my lowest score so far.
    Dunnock, house sparrow, wood pigeon, jackdaw, herring gull, goldfinch, buzzard, blackbird, wren, swift, starling, greenfinch, carrion crow, magpie.

  • Evelyn Wagstaff:

    24 May 2020 10:25:11

    Spotted Flycatcher
    Greater Spotted Woodpecker
    Robin
    Blackbird
    Goldfinch
    Chaffinch
    Wren
    Pheasant
    Blue Tit
    Great Tit
    Goldcrest
    Buzzard
    Wood Pigeon
    Kestrel
    Magpie
    Total 15

  • Anne Hart:

    24 May 2020 10:33:06

    Countryside near Crowborough
    Stock Dove
    Magpie
    Great Spotted Woodpecker
    Great Tit
    Blue Tit
    Carrion Crow
    Buzzard (mobbed by Crow)
    Jay
    Wood Pigeon
    Dunnock
    Jackdaw
    Coal Tit
    Nuthatch
    Starling
    Blackbird
    Song Thrush
    Wren
    Robin
    Pheasant
    19 species
    Quieter than Friday afternoon when over 250 starlings landed in the garden – an amazing sight.
    Thank you Michael

  • Liz C:

    24 May 2020 10:36:24

    Well I wore my new Bird Race T-Shirt but it didn’t seem to help my score. However I was lucky to be entertained by a White Throat singing and displaying for the entire hour. 17 this week: Blackbird, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch (really excited about this, the first pair I have seen this year), Dunnock, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Magpie, Nuthatch, Robin, Song Thrush, Starling, White Throat, Woodpigeon, Wren, White Dove plus a few I couldn’t identify, which is very annoying! Thanks again Michael, I look forward to this each week and learn so much from your blog and Nature Table.

  • Simon Linington:

    24 May 2020 10:37:40

    Hi Michael, A bright but breezy morning here in Barcombe with a total of 24 species recorded (18 seen and 6 heard) including a 59th minute showing by a Crow that has spent the last few weeks amusing itself by pecking on our back window:

    Wren (heard)
    Blackbird
    Collared Dove
    Jackdaw
    Blue Tit
    Great Tit
    Woodpigeon
    Herring Gull
    House Sparrow (heard)
    Swift (at least 6)
    Starling
    Goldfinch
    House Martin (at least 7)
    Skylark (heard in song)
    Buzzard
    Greenfinch (including a male wheezing throughout the last 30 minutes)
    Song Thrush (heard)
    Chiffchaff (heard)
    Dunnock (heard)
    Rook
    Robin
    Red Kite (1 at 1050)
    Kestrel 1
    Crow

    Liked the article on the Hobby – it’s got to be in my top five favourite birds! Cheers, Simon

  • Whitakers, london Se9:

    24 May 2020 10:39:00

    Sunday bird challenge: 8 species only in somewhat parky conditions plus only one of us (least competent) recording and some of the regulars lying low. Robin, wood and feral pigeon, house sparrow, starling, goldfinch, crow, swift and one large soaring something that I’d like to think was a buzzard but sportingly (? Regretfully) not added in!

  • Martin Buck:

    24 May 2020 10:40:22

    Not easy with the Isle of Man TT being reinacted in the background. 17. Blackbird, blue tit, Great tit, feral pigeon, wood pigeon, Robin, starling, dunnock, collared dove, wren, herring gull, goldfinch, greenfinch, chaffinch, magpie, carrion crow, nuthatch

  • Robin Harris:

    24 May 2020 10:41:01

    18 species recorded during today’s (Sun 24/5/20) BGBR – up from 15 last week. Quite sunny, but breezy. The increase in traffic, especially the noisy motorcycles, together with some garden machinery perhaps made bird song and calls a bit harder to detect this morning. Full cast, in order of appearance :- House Sparrow, Carrion Crow, Robin, Wood Pigeon, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Collared Dove, Jackdaw, Dunnock, Buzzard, Great spotted Woodpecker, Starling, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Herring Gull, Song Thrush, Wren and Great Tit.

  • Clare:

    24 May 2020 10:59:00

    Brighton 9 today (and local fox!)
    g tit
    b tit
    h gull
    f pigeon
    W pigeon
    robin
    blackbird
    m thrush
    wren
    (no sparrowhawk today)

  • Alan, Lewes:

    24 May 2020 11:01:00

    A lot of birds seem to have followed Dominic Cummings example and gone away to visit relatives.
    14 today: Blackbird, Jackdaw, Collared Dove, Chiffchaff, Herring Gull, Magpie, Chaffinch, Woodpigeon, House Sparrow, Starling, Blue Tit, Robin, Carrion Crow, Swift (?)

  • 24 May 2020 11:44:00

    Garden Bird Race 24 May 2020 28 species today from my garden just north of Rye;

    Rook, Robin, Wren, Magpie, Black-headed Gull, Great Tit, Cormorant, Swallow, Jackdaw, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Blackcap, Swift, Green Woodpecker, Buzzard, Great Black-backed Gull, Raven, Dunnock, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Bullfinch, Pheasant, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Starling, Stock Dove, Carrion Crow and Song Thrush.

  • Patrick Bonham:

    24 May 2020 11:57:00

    Here in Rye 22, one less than last week but with 5 new today: Red Kite (2), Buzzard (2), Swift (20+), Crow, and Goldfinch (pair + juv.). Also Herring & B-h Gulls, W. Pigeon, F. Pigeon, C. Dove, H. Martin, Wren, Robin, Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Magpie, Rook, Jackdaw, Starling, Sprog, Chaffinch.

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