BRIAN CARTER: Sun, shadow and prey
CLOUD shadows drifted across Tor Bay and the farmland between the seaside urban sprawl and the River Dart.
The hunting kestrel glided low above the hills and valleys.
The small male bird was the colour of autumn bracken and brambles.
Alert in all his senses, little of what was happening below escaped his attention.
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He spent most of his life in the sky and could ride the most savage gales.
Looping down to get close to the grassland, he noted the hedgebank mouse, the butterfly flirting its wings among the field corner wild flowers, and the skylarks rising from the wheat.
Tacking into breeze, he saw a slow-worm slithering through the nettles beside the tractor shed wall, close to the farmhouse in the bottom of the coombe.
The kestrel had spent most of its life quartering the fields each side of the dual carriageway.
He loitered close to the rodent runs and beat low across the water meadows.
The breeze strengthened.
Grass curled at the tips and trees and shrubs gently rocked.
Half-mesmerised by it all, the bird was always on the lookout for tell-tale movements of prey that rarely escaped when he struck.
The valley was alive with light and shade.
The smell of damp farmland advertised the passing of showers.
Meanwhile, the kestrel hovered close to the lower slopes.
For a moment, he hung in the bottom of the sky, wingtips flickering as he decoded the movements in the grass.
Then he fell and closed his talons on fur and flesh to squeeze the life out of the mouse.
The small creature died quickly and was carried to the quarry ledge where the kestrel's mate sat on the nest.
The male bird watched her accept the furry takeaway, before he returned to the valley where sunshine and cloud shadows continued changing places on the fields.
It was a classic British countryside cameo and a celebration of the new season that began a couple of weeks ago.
Well, despite our self-interested disregards for harmony with nature, life continues to pass to life, from coast to countryside as the seasons change.