Wednesday, 1 October 2008

ABC Wednesday - K

I promised a lighter ABC Wednesday after my heavy duty 'I', unfortunately I missed J all together so here is this week's contribution;

K is for Red Kite

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, Gigrin Farm. Other red kite centres imported the birds from Europe but Wales is home to the only native birds in the UK. It was all started by the late Mr Powell who would feed the kites that nested on his farm when he had spare rabbit meat.

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.


Eliane said...

Lovely pictures. They are such beautiful birds. There's a pair living somewhere near us and they occasionally fly over the house. Always exciting to see them.

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing the early introductions around Ystradffin back in the 1960s. Lovely bird.
And now 400 at that one point ?! Amazing.
The bird I really miss though is the buzzard.
Excellent pictures.

Greyscale Territory said...

Brilliant pics! These red kites look fantastic! It is the first I have heard of them!

Dragonstar said...

How wonderful to be able to see Red Kites on a regular basis! You are so lucky.

'JoAnn's-D-Eyes'NL said...

wow BertDU,
this is very informative KITE post, and very interesting information, I loved reading the story, the photo's are great too. it cannot be heavy enough for me, I love it all , haha!

watch my ABC's K for "Kinderdijk" 19 dutch mills/legend here:

Greetings JoAnn

Heidi the Hick said...

Wow! the photo of the kite with wings outspread is breathtaking! I had no idea they'd feed while flying.

They are such regal and gorgeous birds.

We have red tailed hawks in Ontario. They don't look quite like this.

Kim from Hiraeth said...

Oh, what a majestic bird! How interesting that they feed on the wing after the crows have feasted!

: D

babooshka said...

These are simply maganificent birds, magnificent captures.

blogthatmama said...

Fabulous pictures, how brilliant to see them so close.

Bear Naked said...

Two metre wing span!!
That is one big bird.
Your photos are fantastic.
Great shots.

Bear((( )))

dulce said...

Lovely photos. You have captured them well.
(.. and I love yous cats and dog too :-)

mrsnesbitt said...

WOW! Amazing photographs, capturing the action so so well!
Thanks for sharing!


Berthddu Suit said...

Thanks all for your comments. Unfortunately I can't take credit for the photos. I wish I could but sadly not. Apologies, I should have made it clear in my post. Slapped wrist for me.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures. I make an annual pilgrimage to Gigrin to watch the kites each summer and I don't think I'll ever tire of seeing them. They're such beautiful creatures.