Red Kites are a very distinctive bird of prey because of their tails, which often, from below, appear to be forked. They are a beautiful bright chestnut colour and have a wing span of nearly two metres, but with a relatively small body weight of around 2-3lbs. A few years ago red kites were incredibly rare in the UK. A couple of places were then set up to try and reintroduce a healthy population. I am extremely lucky to live pretty close to one such centre,
In the early 90's the Powells were approached by the RSPB and asked to be an official kite centre and to open to the public. The Powells, thankfully, agreed and the result is an amazing place where we can all go to get a better look at these beautiful birds.
I visited Gigrin Farm back in August, the weather was fine and as I arrived the anticipation was huge. When you first get there, there are a series of buildings containing displays and lots of information. You then walk down a short track to the purpose built hides. There are four public hides and a couple of specialised hides for photographers and film makers. Get there early to ensure you get a good view, but I have to admit all of the hides give you an amazing view anyway. A tractor comes out with meat, which is beef, all fit for human consumption. It is spread out over the area just a few metres from the hides.
You need a little patience as the birds will not come in to feed until they know it is safe. First the crows come. Because Kites are such a small bodied bird, they do not have the strength to lift large pieces of meat, the crows help to break it up a bit, and also show the kites it is safe to feed. Kites don't land to feed as a buzzard might, they swoop down and snatch meat from the ground.
They then head up to clear airspace and feed on the wing. The sight from the hide is amazing. Even if you are not a kite fan you cannot fail to be impressed by the birds swooping just in front of you.
In the winter months around 400 kites visit Gigrin Farm every day, they come down to feed in groups. While one group feeds another circles waiting for their turn. Just driving passed the feeding centre at the right time of day, provides the amazing spectacle of clouds of Red Kites in the sky above the road. If you do get the opportunity to visit, please go along, the money we pay to see these amazing birds ensures that the Powells can keep affording the meat to feed them and keep these birds from dying out.