If you're thinking I've been a bit quiet on the comments front lately, it's because I've been on holiday. I went with a couple of my best girlfriends for a week of walking and relaxing on the Welsh coast. I've never done anything quite like that before and we had a brilliant time.
It's a very long drive from here to our holiday apartment (near Cardigan) - and I was driving! So we made sure to have several rest stops. There aren't actually all that many good places to stop in deepest mid-Wales but we aimed for a nature reserve and visitor centre near Aberystwyth with a good Welsh name: Bwlch Nant yr Arian. One of its claims to fame is that there are many red kites in the area and they feed them every day at 3pm. Amazingly, without planning or trying, we arrived at exactly 5 minutes to 3! We couldn't have done that if we had planned it, I don't think!
We didn't have time to get to the hide but were able to watch from across a small lake - and what a spectacle it was. On a very dull, grey day, my camera, hand-held, even with my new telephoto lens, wasn't really up to the job so I'm not pretending these photos are great but they give an idea of what we saw. So thrilling.
It perhaps helps to know that red kites were once so common they were considered to be vermin, so that they were hunted almost to extinction by the end of the 18th century in Britain. A few breeding pairs survived in rural mid-Wales and were unofficially protected by some far-sighted landowners. An extensive conservation, protection and reintroduction programme over the last 30 years has seen the numbers soar, so that they are now a common sight again in many parts of the country - and a magnificent sight too. I have never seen them in the numbers we saw here. We noticed that only a few of the kites were actually taking the food put out for them. Many just seemed to be enjoying the camaraderie, soaring about in the sky. They come in from about a ten mile radius, apparently.