Early in October the weather forecasters were saying how warm it would get, and that Wednesday would be the best day for bright weather. In a last minute decision, on the morning, I decided to book one of the photography hides at Gigrin Farm in Rhayader, Powys, in mid-Wales. I have visited the site several times before, and love the sight of all the kites coming in to feed.
I arrived in the area at about midday, and drove on to the Elan Valley first, found a spot high on the hills, and parked up to enjoy my lunch. Plenty of raptors around, with some red kites and buzzards drifting back and forth near the hilltops, and a kestrel, expertly hovering, hoping to drop down on prey moving below.
By 2pm I was parked at Gigrin Farm, and enjoyed a chat with one of their friendly staff, who had guided me into a parking spot. He was saying that they were seeing up to 500 kites visiting the site at times, and that thanks to the great weather this summer, they had experienced higher numbers of (human) visitors than usual.
As well as catering for the kites, the farm has a small area set aside for donkeys, and several small bird feeding stations, attracting typical garden birds, and a few less common ones, that can be found in the area, finches mainly.
On previous visits to the site during spring and early summer, I have explored the site more, and have watched spotted flycatchers, redstarts and treecreepers, all nesting only a short way from the hides. But this was early autumn, so I wandered straight over to the Tower Hide, and set up my tripod. Already there were dozens of red kites circling over the hills nearby, as well as buzzards and plenty of corvids.
I've seen this spectacle before, but made the snap decision, mainly because of how lovely the weather was, to grab a short video clip on my phone. Just a 15 second clip, using the slow-motion setting would equate to something like 45 seconds of footage.
Often, you have to pre-empt when the kites are going to dive, so you burst off some shots, and only later can you check if you captured the action. Sometimes I did, and others I'd just have a tail showing in the bottom of the frame!
And to add something else to the mix, there was a pale, leucistic red kite circling for food, and it certainly stood out from the rest.
Then there is a lull, and it appears the kites have hoovered up all the food, and left. A lot of visitors choose to leave now, but they miss out on several encores from the kites, when the younger or less dominant birds arrive, and pick up smaller bits of meat that have been missed.
Red Kites. Feeding time at #Gigrin Farm yesterday. Up to 500 birds visit each day. Incredible sight. #iphone #slowmo @visitwales @Natures_Voice @BirdWatchingMag @WildlifeTrusts @BBCSpringwatch @BBCEarth pic.twitter.com/C7wqaXlvGN— Pete Walkden (@PeteWalkden1973) October 11, 2018
After trying to answer the many, oft repeated questions on Twitter, I chose to create a post on my webpage to handle them all, and it can be seen here: Click Here.