The nine-foot-wide bird of prey glides above our heads

It seems to come from nowhere.

A nine-foot-wide Andean condor suddenly and silently swoops inches above the heads of an audience at Warwick Castle.

The animal comes to rest with a falconer on the other side of the river Avon and there are gasps and even a few screams as the giant bird of prey lifts off again and glides back in our direction.

It’s an awesome sight which thrills more than 1,000 spectators gathered on the banks of the river to see the Falconer’s Quest drama.

Here is Hobby, who is working as a fisherman in 1356 and is tasked with replacing the Earl of Warwick’s collection of birds of prey.

One by one, the crowd is introduced to stunning birds who fly out from hidden points around the landscape as Hobby spots them and claims them for the earl.

A beautiful barn owl flies out from under a bridge, followed by a white-tailed sea eagle – the largest bird to be found in this continent in the 14th century.

Then, a Steller’s sea eagle emerges before a peregrine/gyr falcon hybrid dances around the sky at incredible speeds as it tries to grab the falconer’s “lure”.

The bird reaches around 120mph on a normal day, according to staff, but is actually able to peak at double that.

Then comes a Harris’s hawk – dubbed a “wolf of the sky” due to its tendency to hunt in a group – followed by the massive condor mentioned at the top.

(This reporter felt the need to cower – because the bird soared intimidatingly close to the scalps of those of us sitting in the front row).

A bearded vulture and bald eagle are the final animals Hobby finds for the earl, and the show closes with a finale as the sky fills with 20 kites, three hooded vultures and an Egyptian vulture.

The performance uses some creative licence – several of the birds including the condor would not have been found in medieval Europe, apparently – but this doesn’t seem to get in the way of things.

And although it’s clear the birds have probably lived their whole lives in captivity, it feels like a unique opportunity to see some of the most powerful creatures in the world up close.

This is an edited version of a piece commissioned by The Sun and written as part of my work as an SWNS reporter