Filming kites at Gigrin
The weather was definitely against us as we drove into dark clouds and torrential rain on our way down to Gigrin Farm, so not ideal kite flying weather! Around an hour and half later we arrived at the farm and the skies were beginning to clear.
The farm is fantastic initiative set up by the Powell family who had already developed a nature trail here, but were approached in 1994 by the Kite Country Project with a proposal for a feeding station.
Since then the site has not only grown in kite numbers but also in visitor numbers as more and more people come here to gaze in awe at the hundreds of kites that now visit each day at 3pm on the dot.
After a quick recce of the hides and deciding where the cameras should be set up, we were good to go. Simon had had a 'crash' course in driving the farm's tractor courtesy of Chris the owner and was also given one of Chris' trademark bushman/cowboy hats.
Change is never good and kites are smart birds so with any luck, a carefully placed hat would keep the birds in blissful ignorance as to who was actually feeding them.
First things first - MEAT.
These birds eat a staggering £60 of meat per day, which is carefully stored in a giant fridge, big enough to park a small family car in. Once loaded, there's enough Aberdeen Angus beef on the tractor trailer to keep a student digs in full bbq mode for at least a week.
To give you an idea of how many birds there were, we spotted around 15 initially. The birds were obviously watching us like hawks, as by the time the meat was loaded, the numbers had already swelled to around 30, 40, 100, then 200...
Apparently in winter time, there can be as many as 500 kites here feeding.
The high speed slo-mo cam was making another appearance and we also recorded the action on two other cameras so the footage will be amazing, with all angles covered.
The tractor drove down and came to a halt in the feeding zone while Simon began to shovel the meat out into three key areas.
The scene before us was quite staggering - imagine Hitchcock's The Birds and multiply it by 100 and you're gettng close.
If you half closed your eyes, you'd be forgiven for mistaking them for crows following a farmer's newly ploughed field. But these crows were tinged with red and grey and had forked tails, lining up their targets with astonishing accuracy.
Each kite would make a quick fly by before swooping into a high speed vertical drop, corkscrewing at the last second to make minor adjustments before snatching the meat up on the wing and disappearing.
Interestingly, not one kite landed on the ground to devour its dinner. In stark contrast, buzzards, rooks and ravens hopped greedily along the ground, keen to share in the free buffet.
Some of the ravens were enormous, and actually bullied the buzzards for their share of the spoils.
The kites appeared to have definite feeding cycles with the older, more mature birds feeding first, eventually giving way to the younger birds, further down the pecking order (no pun intended).
Some of these birds have flown from as far afield as Scotland for this event and tagged birds from all over the UK have turned up here in the past, so word has defintely got out about Chris' chicken... it must be his marinade.
How do they know to arrive each day at 3pm? Chris seemed to think it was something to do with the how high the sun was in the sky. If anyone has any other ideas, feel free to leave a comment.
As the meat supply dwindled, the competition grew more fierce as kite fought kite in aerial combat over the remaining scraps.
Considering how short a normal wild encounter lasts with one of these magnificent creatures, it was lovely to be able to spend some quality time watching so many of them at close quarters in their natural environment.
The only difficulty was knowing which one to watch!