March 23rd, 2010

Wanaka tree

Red kites at Gigrin Farm, Rhayader, mid-Wales

I've recently come back from a long week-end staying with my aunt in mid-Wales. It's an area I've come to know fairly well, but there are still places I haven't been to and things I have never seen. I managed to put a few of those things right this time round, and one of them was to go to near the small town of Rhayader to see red kites. Red kites are birds of prey and there are now quite a lot in this area of Wales. It hasn't always been like that. Their numbers actually dropped so low that in the 1930s there were only two breeding pairs in the whole of Wales. It is thanks to places like Gigrin Farm that the numbers have risen steadily and the birds are not endangered anymore.

Basically, what happens is, at a set time a man drives a tractor out into a field and shovels out lots of scraps of meat. The birds are used to this happening and begin to gather in the surrounding trees for about an hour before. As soon as the food is out, they pounce. They fly in low over the field, then drop onto the food, pick it up with their beaks and then transfer it to their claws in flight. They then go up to a safe height and eat what they have managed to get. This all happens in less time than it takes to tell. The kites are so fast and unpredictable in their flight, and I had a really hard job to get any decent pictures at all. The ones I did get were more down to luck than skill. But I still hope you like what I managed to come away with. 

And I just have to point out, these are all wild birds. Some of them have been tagged so that their movements can be tracked, but they are all totally wild.

The first kite in, accompanied by hopeful crows.
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