For some time, I’ve been considering a visit to Gigrin Farm, in mid Wales. It’s one of the feeding stations (and was the first), that have been set up for red kites and as a result, it has become a bit of a honeypot site. Of course, the downside of it being so popular, is that everyone now can get photographs of red kites, which makes it harder to get something different. Also it makes it less of a challenge, as no fieldcraft is needed to get close. However, against that, you have the chance to try out different ideas, without having to wait months or even years for the opportunity and it is very good for practicing panning and other techniques necessary for bird photography. I finally visited a couple of weeks ago and was entranced by the the sheer spectacle. Seeing 100+ red kites swooping and gliding is a sight everyone should experience. It is certainly a sight I won’t forget for a while.
I’ve seen red kites before, up in the Black Isle and near Inverness and also while travelling by train towards London, but never as close as the views at Gigrin Farm. They’d always been soaring, not dissimilar to a buzzard, so I assumed they also fed like a buzzard, by landing next to the “prey”. After all, they are both carrion eaters in the main. However, that is where the similarity ends. The red kite is a much more acrobatic flyer, preferring not to land and swoops instead, collecting the prepared meat, before eating in mid-air, much like a hobby does with dragonflies. I wasn’t therefore prepared for the high speed panning. There are a number of hides available, from the general purpose public hides to some specially designed photography hides. It was unfortunate the day we went, that a coach party had been booked, so two of the public hides had been block booked and there was also a photography workshop, meaning that the photography hides were also unavailable. As a result, I ended up seated on the child benches, which was extremely uncomfortable, due to the low position. It did enable me to get a couple of low angle shots that wouldn’t have been possible from the photography hides though, as they are raised above the public hides, which are at ground level. The photography hides would make panning a lot easier though and experimentation would also be more possible, plus the dorsal colours would also be more obvious.
Definitely a place I would recommend and I will visit again some time in the future, perhaps in the winter.