I was very disappointed a couple of weeks ago when I had to call off my planned trip to see the Black Kite in Wales. Fortunately though it's still there ( why wouldn't it be) and yesterday I was finally able to make the much anticipated journey to Gigrin Farm. The weather forecast had been very unfavourable predicting heavy snow showers for southern and central Wales, but I just couldn't put it off any longer and decided to risk it. Even though Bun had already been once he kindly agreed to accompany me, which was nice! :-)
Having got all the way into mid-Wales without so much as a sniff of snow we started to get a bit smug, and tempted fate by saying such stupid things as " Ooh look at all this terrible snow everywhere!" With thirty minutes of the journey left it started to snow, and it just got heavier and heavier, the gritted roads were even beginning to get a covering and progress became rather slow. It was the heaviest snow I've ever witnessed and the largest snowflakes too, they were huge! "As big as Greenfinches" Bun was heard to say, a very strange analogy that. How does his mind work? They were definitely the size of Goldcrests though., definitely! ;-)
We were very relieved to reach the driveway to Gigrin Farm but it was covered in several inches of snow and was all uphill. We slipped and skidded along as far as the carpark of the Brynafon Country House Hotel where we parked and walked the last one hundred metres or so to the farm itself. This proved to be even more dangerous than trying to drive as we had to leap out of the way of of a couple of out of control vehicles! The amount of people who insisted on driving all the way up to the farm was staggering, most of them had to reverse back of course. It's not as if it was that far to walk.
The snowy scene at Gigrin Farm, looking toward Brynafon Country House.
We had arrived about an hour before the Farm officially opened but were welcomed and were able to have a look around. A few Red Kites were already loitering in nearby trees. At one o'clock we were allowed to go into the hides where we spent the next two and a half hours, although the time seemed to just fly by with so much to see, Crows, Rooks Ravens, Buzzards, Kites and Grey Herons all increased in numbers as the two o'clock feeding time approached. Once the meat was scattered in the field in front of the hides and the tractor had left Kites just flooded in, seemingly from everywhere, it was mayhem. After about fifteen minutes the Black Kite put in a brief appearance, it was surprisingly easy to pick out amongst the reds. It left empty taloned after being robbed by one of the Red Kites only to return several minutes later, whereupon it gave a superb display of aerobatics before leaving with a morsel of food. What a stunning bird it was, a lifer for me too! ;-) The very striking leucistic Red Kite also showed briefly but I fluffed my one attempt at a photo of it. The Red Kites were just breathtaking, much, much better than I'd imagined they'd be, a lot closer too. If you were lucky enough to own a digital SLR camera and long lens there would be absolutely no excuse for not getting great photos, as can be seen from all the stunning shots of the Black Kite all over the internet at the minute. I haven't got any such luxury myself, still I was able to get some 'quite pleasant' results with the old point and shoot superzoom, I had great fun trying anyway! All in all I can state that it was without a shadow of a doubt the best £4 I've ever spent! If you haven't been, go, you wont be disappointed.
The gourmet meal is dished up by the shovelful.
The eager diners arrive 'en masse'.
Some ( well okay, lots of) Red Kite shots.
They never actually land, they just swoop down and pick up the meat with their talons to eat either on the wing or elsewhere
Not the clearest shot but I like the composition with the 'little' Kite in the background.
A few were tatty looking.
Quite a few were wing tagged too.
This was my sharpest Red Kite shot.
That's him dive-bombing on the left.
An awful photo but you can see why we didn't see him again.
He's managed to grab a fair sized chunk of meat.
Black Kite - What a bird!
There were plenty of Buzzards feeding too.
You don't often get this close to a Buzzard.
Black and Red; my favourite shot of the day.
I took some video footage too which gives a better idea of the 'feel' of the place. The second portion of the clip was shot when very dark storm clouds were gathering, making the Red Kites look even more stunning I think.
Finally here's a photo of the feeding field and the hides from the top of the hill.You can see three of the five hides in the distance and a few Kites still knocking about.. You'll notice Bun is looking particularly cheery, I have a suspicion it's because he assumed that I was taking a photo of him just to gratuitously stick it on my blog at a later date...... I mean..... as if?