Lunchtime walks around The Lodge have become much more productive in recent years thanks to the wardens creating a new heath and a path all around the edge for visitors to use. It's also the perfect way to spend your lunch break if you happen to work at RSPB HQ!
I had my suspicions that hobbies were nesting this year back in June when a pair kept returning to a particular clump of pine tress - and were making a lot of noise. Things all went quiet as the horrible summer of rain and wind progressed and I feared that the pair had given up, or perhaps had their eggs or nest washed away.
A couple of weeks ago, the noise started up again and I was first to spot a juvenile hobby - they had bred after all! Hobbies are incredibly secretive when they are nesting, but these guys had really pulled the wool over not just my eyes, but those of all the other birders that work here at The Lodge.
Joel and I have just got back from our lunchtime walk and the hobbies were performing brilliantly. Both youngsters from the nest were very vocal and sitting on different trees out on the heath and making themselves as obvious as they could. They were flying within a few few feet of us and playing with each other, chasing one another off their perches for fun. We were also treated to the sight of one of the parents bringing in prey and the two youngsters shuffling along a branch and up a treetrunk in the hope of getting a bite.
If you're quick, you will see hobbies at The Lodge before they finally migrate to Africa. I reckon they'll be around for another week to 10 days before they are off. They'll be back next year though, so come and pay a visit to RSPB HQ then to see our dragonfly-munching falcons on the new heath.
You might recognise the illustration above from Birds magazine and our spotlight on hobbies in the Wildabout pages, which led to a lot of readers getting in touch to tell me about their favourite hobby-watching spots and successes in seeing them.
Last Monday, it was down to London – the Mall Gallery to be precise – for the British Wildlife Photography Awards presentation ceremony and exhibition opening.
For the last two years, organiser Maggie Gowan, has kindly invited me to be a judge for these prestigious awards. I shortlist entries for the fantastic “Animal Behaviour” category and then spend a day with Maggie and the other 10 or so judges (that include Sue Herdman from the National Trust magazine and Steve Watkins from Outdoor Photography magazine) at Canon’s Headquarters at Reigate in Surrey. We go through all the shortlisted entires and select winners for all the categories. It’s a tough and challenging day, but I really enjoy being part of the panel.
The ceremony was a chance to let my hair down and do some serious “schmoozing” with some of the winners and celebrities (like BBC producer, film maker and author Stephen Moss – a friend of Birds magazine who has written features on herons and the recent "60 years of change").
Also making the trip down from Sandy were Birds designer Joel, Mark Boyd and Tony Garratt from the Youth and Education Team and Olivia Betts from the PR team – the latter adding some much needed glamour to the RSPB contingent.
The paparazzi were out in force at the glitzy BWPA Awards ceremony
After picking up my judges copy of the superb BWPA book (to feature in the next issue of Birds), looking round the exhibition and patting myself on the back for helping to pick so many worthy winners, the free drink appeared, As Stephen presented the awards, I partook in a glass of champagne, or two (cough), and got down to some networking with fellow mag editors, photographic industry professionals and some of the UK's best wildlife photographers. A successful trip down to the big smoke and a big well done to all the winners and to Maggie for another successful year of BWPA. Cheers to BWPA – and sorry Stephen for any rowdy behaviour during the presentations.
I’m also pleased to say that one of the shots from my category was the overall winner: "Gannet Jazuzzi" by Dr Matt Doggett.
If you'd like to see the winners on exhibition, find out the tour dates here: www.bwpawards.org/page/exhibitions
We’re loving receiving all your photographs for featuring in Birds magazine’s “Your snapshots pages”, so keep them coming please to email@example.com