We may be stuck indoors but the skies are a source of ornithological wonder. Experts reveal what’s out there, where to look – and how to get competitive about it
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I saw the falcon – a peregrine or a hobby? – gliding high, silhouetted against the glare of a late summer afternoon. Behind me, small birds chattered obliviously in their favoured thicket. The falcon dipped and disappeared. I wondered where it had gone, then sensed a movement where no movement should be and, suddenly, for a fraction of a second, I was face to face with a hobby at full throttle – hurtling at the unsuspecting sparrows behind me. There was a rush of disturbed air against my ear and I caught the ferocious intent in its yellow eyes and it was past me, rearing up over the shrub and diving beyond it as a dozen small birds scattered.
This didn’t take place in an RSPB reserve or on a moor. It was right in front of my house in Catford, south-east London, as I cycled back from Tesco, and was a reminder that genuinely exciting wildlife drama can happen right on your doorstep.