So a few months ago me, my brother and our friend decided to take a trip to Wales. We had recently started a You Tube channel which aimed to cover everything about the outdoors. But we needed content.
Seeing as there is only so much you can do in Bognor Regis when it comes to outdoor activity, we chose to go for a long weekend in Wales with the main goal of visiting a small place called Gigrin Farm.
Wales is quite rightly known as one of the top places to visit for walks, fantastic views and diverse wildlife. As well as terrible weather. So, it was no surprise to us that, when making our way through wales we saw amazing views of valleys calved by distant rivers. As well as birds of all kinds darting through the woodlands and soaring over mountains. Of course, as I alluded to earlier, this comes at a price. We arrived to the wake of a hurricane. I can assure you this is not an exaggeration.
When we arrived at our very remote (but amazingly situated) accommodation the internet was out and we were told the entire day had been spent clearing the 2 mile track of fallen trees just so we could get through. Still, the next morning we packed out bags and headed out to Gigrin Farm which was about an hour away.
When we arrived it was clear that I was the one who would be getting the most out of the day as the other two didn’t seem keen on paying to sit in a hide. However, the day was cold, wet and windy. This meant that we were the only people at Gigrin farm that day. We had the place to ourselves. To my surprise this meant that my brother, Lewis and our friend, Adam were able to join me in the hide I had pre-booked for the purpose of photography.
The wait began. We were there to see what must be one of the biggest gatherings of this particular species in the UK. After about 20 minutes we saw a few silhouetted shapes gliding around a tree on the horizon. Soon, there was a shout, “guys”! We spun round to see what could only be described as a cloud of raptors sweeping in from hills to the left of the hide. They were following the approaching meat trailer.
The meat trailer pulled up by the hide, by this time the tension was mounting. The kites’s frenzied state resulted in the clashing of wings and screeches of authority ringing out around us. The sky was full (and I cannot emphasise the word “full” enough at this point) with Red Kites, England’s largest bird of prey. And what a site it was.
The first spade full of meat was flung from the trailer and madness erupted amongst the red sky. Birds dived erratically, scooping up pieces of meat from the ground without landing and eating them on the wing.
I took a moment to watch and really take in what I was seeing. This is a bird of prey that until very recently was a birder’s prize sighting, something you would rarely see with your own eyes. Now thanks to projects like this one in Wales they are recovering, arguably thriving ! There is a lot of controversy though. Some say that sites like this are bad for the British ecosystem. These raptors in Gigrin farm are almost dependant on the meat provided. And there is some evidence to suggest that they are not getting enough variety in their diet which can lead to health problems.
This controversy is well founded and I have given a lot of thought to which side of the fence I would fall on in the debate. Personally, I think that the future of wildlife, in the British isles especially, is a very fragile thing at the moment. As always, its security can help to be ensured by the next generation. How many people nature enthusiasts would say they found a love for wildlife through a trip to a zoo or an aquarium. If there are ways of providing arguably more memorable experiences, without the fences or glass. As well as showing native wildlife instead of flagship species from countries that people may never get the chance to visit, then I say we need to have places like Gigrin Farm.
If you ever get the chance i would highly recommend you visit. I can promise you a sighting that you will never forget. For more photos or to see the red sky from another perspective feel free to watch the YouTube video below. Thank you for reading :).
Red Kites and Gigrin Farm: Video
I really don’t think many people appreciate our wildlife and take an interest in preservation UNLESS they are introduced and exposed in nature reserves, zoos and places like Gilgrin Farm.
Personally, Melbourne’s main Zoo was the start of my love of bird photography, although my teenage years spent on walking/hiking with my family in the hills and mountains made me appreciate natural landscapes.
Once you see these majestic Red Kites (Condors and Eagles etc) you are filled with awe.
Shame the Red Kites are becoming dependant on human handouts though.
I am glad you agree ! Exposure at a young age to experiences like this really can affect actions in later life.
And though they are dependent in that area, kites are moving out of the area and becoming fully independent in other parts of the UK :).