Bird Watching (UK) - - Challenge #my200birdyear -

To start with, in many parts of the UK you could rea­son­ably ex­pect to com­plete a full set of our breed­ing fal­cons – Hobby, Kestrel, Mer­lin and Pere­grine. You’ll need to be quick off the mark to get the for­mer, as many will al­ready be well on the way to Africa by the end of Septem­ber, but some will still be present in the south of the UK well into Oc­to­ber. Check gravel pits, lakes and ponds where there are plenty of dragon­flies, while roosts and gath­er­ing points for House Martins and late Swal­lows will also at­tract them. Kestrels are eas­ier – just look for their dis­tinc­tive dead-still hov­er­ing while hunt­ing, of­ten along­side roads, as well as birds look­ing for food from perches atop street­lights and tele­graph poles. Mer­lins will be on the move from their moor­land breed­ing sites to low­land win­ter­ing ar­eas (usu­ally coastal marshes, but some in­land fens, too), and can turn up just about any­where as they do. Their low, dash­ing hunt­ing flight is some­times var­ied with a ‘bouncy’ flight seem­ingly cal­cu­lated to look like a thrush’s, and po­ten­tial prey in­cludes thrushes, chats, and gath­er­ings of small birds such as Sky Larks and Meadow Pip­its on stub­ble fields and sim­i­lar habi­tats. Most field guides will tell you that Pere­grines also wan­der at this time of year (their name means ‘wan­derer’, in fact), mov­ing to sim­i­lar ar­eas as are used by Mer­lins. And in­deed many do, par­tic­u­larly those from the species’ tra­di­tional up­land strongholds. But in re­cent years, of course, many have es­tab­lished them­selves in towns and cities, as well as in low­land quar­ries, and th­ese of­ten stay put dur­ing win­ter.

The rea­son why ur­ban and sub­ur­ban Pere­grines re­main on their breed­ing ter­ri­to­ries all year, you might well think, is the am­ple sup­ply of food avail­able, es­pe­cially pi­geons. Well, that’s true, but stud­ies in lo­ca­tions such as Derby, Bris­tol, Bath and Ex­eter have shown that they also hunt a wide va­ri­ety of other species, in­clud­ing mi­grant waders, of­ten tak­ing them as they fly over at night.

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