ometimes, a bird doesn’t just appear in your field of view, but forces itself instantly into your consciousness. So, as soon as I noticed a movement in the skies outside my office window, I instantly knew that it was something special. And it was: a hobby, scything through the warm spring air like a swift on steroids.
The hobby is to a kestrel what a Ferrari is to a Ford: the same basic blueprint, but honed into a high-speed version, built for agility and rapid response. Hobbies don’t pursue earthbound mice and voles, but aerial insects such as dragonflies, which are pretty fast flyers themselves. Indeed, the name of this slender falcon comes from a medieval French verb meaning “to dart about”.
If you get a good look at a hobby, you’ll realise that its plumage simply adds to its attractiveness. A gunmetal blue-grey head and back, dark hood, pale throat, streaky underparts and, if you are really close, that distinctive rusty-orange patch at the base of its tail.
This particular bird wasn’t hanging about, though. As soon as I saw it, I yelled to my wife, Suzanne, to come outside – but, having given me a spectacular low-level flypast, it headed south and out of sight, moments before she appeared.