Gigrin Farm plays host to hundreds of Red Kites and has ever since the early 90s when the RSPB learned that the farmer there was putting food out for the birds. Now the birds are fed every day at 2pm (they feed themselves when they wake in the morning, so they do not come to rely on the farm for their food by feeding them at this time). When they farm began feeding the kites there were only six roosting on the farm, now they attract over 400!
Before we went my Mum showed me an article about the farm in a magazine. It showed a photograph with innumerable birds swooping and flying; I studied it carefully, convinced that someone had done a nifty copy and paste job on the same three or four birds. They hadn't. Even seeing that photo didn't prepare me for what the kites feeding would actually look like.
When it was nearing the time for the birds to be fed, we strolled up to the bird hides and got ourselves comfortable. Although it wasn't particularly warm, it was a lovely dry and sunny day. The skies were lovely and blue and we could already see loads of kites flying around.
They brought out a tractor full of meat (kites are carrion eaters) and no sooner had it started to be shoveled onto the ground did the birds start swooping. And there really are no words to describe the numbers of birds that flew down. Think of the way that wasps sort of orbit a bin in the summer, the way they fly round and round without hitting one another; that's what the red kites are like, but a lot more graceful and with none of the risk of being stung!
It was incredible watching them swoop down on the food. Some of them would pick it up and pass it straight to their mouths without even pausing in flight. It was fantastic.
It was also very hard to photograph, as you can see from my slightly blurry photos. My main strategy was just to point the camera in the general direction of where the birds happened to be at that moment and then just keep on snapping. I got some good photos but I also got a hell of a lot of out of focus ones.
I'm not sure just how long we spent watching the Red Kites but although they thinned out a little there were still loads flying around when we decided to leave to do the farm trail walk. This took us right up the hill at the back of where the kites came to feed so at one point we were higher than them and able to look down at them still swooping there. They were still flying around there when we left.
It was definitely a brilliant experience and I'd wholly recommend it if you ever get a chance to go, whether it's to Gigrin Farm, or somewhere else similar.