Rural: Nature Note

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The slender hawks which you see hovering over motorway verges are kestrels, drawn to those raucous places by the mice and voles living in the grass beside the road. The birds themselves normally make little noise, except when nesting; then their cry is a shrill, insistent whistle - kee, kee, kee.

Biking up a lane between fields the other day, I was surprised to hear the sound coming from close at hand. The only tree nearby was a stunted ash, standing beside a stone wall; and, with the branches already bare, I could see there was no hawk in it; but when I got off the bike and looked over the wall, I immediately spotted brown feathers barred with black. There were two kestrels, on the ground, feuding beak to beak. The instant they saw me, they were off - but they left no prey on the ground, and no clue as to what the argument had been about.