Red Kite Feeding

Beez Neez
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Thu 27 May 2010 22:59
The Red Kite Feeding
 
 
 
 
We arrived to set up in the high hide and watched as the feeding area was mown in readiness for three o'clock
 
 
 
 
 
The highest hide was twenty pounds with limited numbers. When it was just the two of us left we went and tried out all the others
 
 
 
 
 
About forty people watched the first day and twenty the second day - in hides or on the field next to the feeding area. Simon all set on my Wimberley Gimbal
 
 
 
 
At three the noise of the crows and the activity in the air rose as the meat wagon arrived
We could smell the meat from the hide. This 'fit for human consumption' beef bought in anything upward of a quarter of a tonne per week depending on the time of the year.
 
 
 
 
 
 
How to Identify Red Kites
 

When viewed at distance red kites can usually be distinguished from buzzards by their pattern of flight, a buzzard will often put in a succession of three short flaps as if thinking itself in danger of falling from the sky. Red kites will more often glide for long distances and even when action becomes inevitable their deep wing beat can look quite lethargic. The red kite wings turn back at the end while those of a buzzard are held slightly forward and are shorter. The tail of a kite will also look longer that of the buzzards when in flight. The fork of a kites tail is not that pronounced at all times, as the tail is often broadened to facilitate the rudder like movements that allow the bird so much agility in the air. The fork is most often seen when the kite is flying in a relaxed manner and in a straight line.

 

 

 

 

The Red Kite Feeding Station

 

Wild Red Kites are fed at Gigrin Farm every day of the year. With breathtaking feats of aerial piracy red kites compete with buzzards and ravens for choice pickings. Feeding takes place at 3pm British Summer Time and 2pm winter - no-one tells the kites that the clocks change. The crows are first to turn up in trees around the feeding area and make it quite a noisy affair with the calls of jackdaws and carrion crows and the deep 'cronking' of ravens. Buzzards and red kites circle overhead; buzzards are far more vocal than kites, their powerful 'mewing' carrying a long way.

 
 
 
 
 



As soon as the meat has been put out the crow family start emerging from the surrounding trees. As the first crows land amongst the meat the kites go on the offensive. Kites watch and wait their chance to furl their wings and dive in, skimming the ground to snatch a scrap before rising suddenly to escape the beaks of the angry crows. Many kites appear to miss their target by a wide margin but are actually intent on flushing meat laden crows into the air from where they can be mugged by the very best in the business.

 
 



With the meat clutched in its talons the kite will make for clear airspace where it can feel secure enough to feed. With its six foot wings spread out for stability the head turns down to meet with its forward lifted legs. Now the kite can feed, but must still keep an eye out for other marauding kites. The number of kites using the feeding station can vary anything from a few dozen to five hundred or more depending on weather and time of year. With the onset of bad weather numbers can increase dramatically, but on blue sky days in spring or summer they may well take their time in coming for their lunch.

 
 
 


While seeing large numbers of kites is an amazing sight some of the better photographic opportunities present themselves when there are fewer kites as they are far more leisurely in their approach to feeding and frequently float around the area in front of the hides for some time before taking their morsel of choice. This was the case for us on our second day, the sky was a beautiful blue, sun high in the sky and less crows.

 

 
 
One of my favourite moments was watching a buzzard feasting and suddenly being 'swooped' by a hungry red kite, two raptors next to each other in the same picture, wow
 
 
 
 
 
Next it was time for the teenagers who spent a long time playing, diving and bombing each other before the serious game of feeding. There is a definite  "pecking order" as the older kites are frequently the first to come in, while other red kites will arrive in growing groups as the afternoon unfolds. After most visitors had left we found many more species arrive - magpie, blackbird, even a redstart. Larger numbers and more leisurely red kites arrived around 5pm and as we left at 6 there were still birds to watch but Bear's knee was playing up and it was getting really cold, so off we went to the Brynafon Hotel opposite.
 
 
 
 
The spectacular flying skills and the speed was breathtaking to watch
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I "pinged" to this lady who answered me, then we watched until she took off to soar high above us
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
ALL IN ALL WHAT AN INCREDIBLE COUPLE OF DAYS
                     AMAZING TO WATCH