In the 1950s it was believed that the breeding population of Eurasian Hobbies in the UK was no more than 100 pairs. In the years since, the population estimate has risen, though the elusive nature of the falcon means that it is still not clear whether Hobbies remain the least populous of the four British breeding falcons or if its breeding population has now surpassed both the Merlin and the Peregrine. But what is definitely true is that the Hobby has a 'jizz' like no other raptor, its wonderfully fast and agile flight, seen to perfection as it pursues dragonflies and other flying insects, or when chasing avian prey, captivating all who witness its hunting skills.
Hobbies are also remarkable for being one of the very few British breeding birds that migrate south of the Equator, the falcons spending more time in Africa than they do in the UK. These long migratory journeys cover thousands of miles and may involve a crossing of the Sahara Desert as well as the Equatorial Rain Forest. Even more remarkable, young Hobbies make the long journey south just a month or so after hatching, flights that they start many days after their parents have already departed.
This book investigates all aspects of the Hobby's life cycle, including breeding and the falcon's flight abilities, that have not been studied in such detail before.
Richard Sale is a physicist with a PhD in astrophysics, who now devotes his time to studying the three small UK breeding falcons and their flight dynamics. He has written several books on birds. The Gyrfalcon (co-authored with Russian friend Eugene Potapov) won the US Wildlife Society Book of the Year in 2006. More recently he co-authored Steller’s Sea Eagle with Russian colleagues Vladimir Masterov and Michael Romanov: the book won the US Wildlife Society Book of the Year in 2019. In 2021 Sale became the first author to win the Wildlife Society’s book award prize three times with his monograph on The Common Kestrel. His other books include The Snowy Owl (also with Eugene Potapov), the New Naturalist title Falcons and a monograph on Merlin.
Anthony Messenger is a data analyst in the water supply industry. He became interested in all forms of wildlife from the age of four, moving from insects, amphibians and reptiles to (mainly) birds by the time he was 10. He is captivated by the smaller, more elusive raptors and so found Hobbies a fascinating subject. Over the last 30 years, he has studied their breeding behaviour and population changes in Derbyshire. He is co-author of two papers on Hobbies published in British Birds, and author of articles in the county’s annual bird reports and a monthly bird watching magazine. He has given talks on the species. A lifelong Derbyshire resident, he is married and has two daughters and a grandson.