Country diary: a kestrel’s high hopes are brought down to earth

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Sandy, Bedfordshire: The hunt begins with glides and plunges, but ends in a stiff-legged sprint across a field

It was poised for a few slow seconds, in a high flutter over a meadow that was running with rodents. Then the kestrel began to descend its sky ladder. Hang, drop, hang, drop, until it steadied on the last invisible rung, five or six metres above warm fur and busy whiskers.

Though its beating wings were things of beauty, flecked feathers quivering in a fuzzy blur, I was drawn to the kestrel’s talkative feet. Down came its undercarriage, held at a 45-degree angle to its body, lowered a little more. Up went its legs, back into its feathers, then down again, making micro-adjustments of intent. Its talons were fixed in a clenched fist. Was it stabilising against a crosswind or preparing to pounce?

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