Poised several metres above the meadow a kestrel hovers on rapidly quivering wings (pictured).

Facing directly into a slight breeze, head facing downwards, he constantly adjusts wings and fanned out tail to ensure he remains in exactly the same position relative to the ground, thus enabling him to detect the slightest movement below.

After a few seconds he drops a metre, hovers, then drops another metre as if he is being let down on a string. Three metres above ground he closes his wings and plunges into the long grass.

Seconds later he flies up with what may be a vole and zooms  into the nearest tree to consume his meal.

Voles comprise the kestrel's main diet and he detects their urine trails in the grass which emit ultra-violet rays. Beetles, grasshoppers and a range of insects are also taken.

Contrast the kestrel's hunting method with that of the sparrowhawk.

A master of ambush, he employs a lightning smash and grab approach. He may fly fast and direct at low level across a meadow hoping to put up a feeding flock; speed over a hedge and swoop rapidly down on the other side to catch unwary prey or gink through light woodland, his comparatively short rounded wings having evolved for just such a purpose.

Both raptors are consummate hunters in their own right.