A weekend with my girlfriend in Shropshire and finally an opportunity to drive the short distance across the border and onwards into Wales to visit the very well known Gigrin Farm Red Kite feeding station. Having never been before, and having listened to my parents & sisters tales of the wondrous sight of such a large number of visiting Kites, I had to admit I was quite excited.
A light flurry of over night snow didn't dampen the spirits as we left a fairly bright Craven Arms and headed towards Rhayader. The 40 miles or so through some quite stunning scenery soon passed and a quick look around the Elan Valley dams prior to the 2 o'clock feed. A few Red Kites & Buzzards were spotted roadside, as well as a pair of Treecreeper on the walk to the Pen-y-garreg dam.
As usual when entering Wales there is always a chance of rain, and it wasn't long before the fairly bright sky turned grey and overcast, the temperature also dropping quite rapidly. Arriving first at Gigrin we headed straight down to pick our spot in the hides, already cursing the ever diminishing light for my photography. With 5 minutes to go till feeding time we were still the only people in the hides, enjoying some spec sized Kites soaring in from the mountain beyond.
The rumble of the tractor seemed to spring the place to action, with 30 or so Ravens descending from the trees in the hope of a free meal. The nearby trees surrounding the adjoining fields seemed to unload with Red Kites erupting from every branch. If I had to guess I would have said around 120 circled high above the feeding ground. With the rumble of the tractor the hide doors started to open on quite a frequent basis and we were soon joined by a lot of screaming snotty nosed kids. Perfect, just what I like in a Bird hide.
As I am sure for anybody that has visited Gigrin or another similar feeding station, the sight of hundreds of Red Kites descending from above to ground level is truly unforgettable. Joined by 15 or so Buzzards numbers estimated at around 450 Kites joined the party, circling and dropping constantly for a good half and hour before the numbers thinned out.
Luckily half an hour in a cold frosty hide soon thinned out spectators, with only a few left to witness the second coming, as the Kites dropped in again upon the remaining meat of-cuts. Below are a few shots I managed in some ridiculously poor light. I must admit photographing such a big bird at such close quarters was a lot harder than I thought, the movement, speed and distraction of other birds making it really hard to follow through the lens.
About an hour later I had to give up, Nat was froze and my teeth were chattering, I don't think I've ever let myself get that cold whilst out and about. The Kites continued to drop in on a now bare feeding ground. Joined by a flock or Rooks, and oddly 50 + Pied Wagtails.
So definitely worth the trip, and I would recommend to anyone for such a small entrance fee, a wonderful place to experience the joys of the Red Kite in its hundreds.
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