In December 2020, I had my first visit to this excellent hide, high on the Marlborough Downs near Swindon. It is bookable through Wildlife Photography Hides and is operated by David White a local farmer who is also a keen photographer. The hide, like the WPH hide at Bourne, is well equipped with a heater and a toilet in a side room. It even has unlimited WIFI!
Last year, I had very good session with multiple Buzzards close-up and even fighting when the food supply dwindled. Red Kites also showed briefly, but the weather could have been much better as it was heavily overcast all day, with light rain at times.
I was hoping for better conditions this year, but it is always pot luck on the day, as it is necessary to book many weeks in advance. In the event, the weather was only slightly better being marginally less heavily overcast, with one brief brighter spell around midday, and no appreciable rain. There was no chance of the hoped for early morning sun, which I was sure would produce spectacular photographic results.
As last year, I was required to be in the hide well before dawn (meet time is 1hr before) and to remain there until dusk or slightly earlier if all the birds had left the area. With the easing of Covid restrictions, I was spared the 600m walk in the dark up a track on arrival, as I was given a lift by David in his 4x4.
The first Buzzards came in around dawn, and were a constant presence until most of the food had been eaten around midday. Thereafter occasional birds put in an appearance at intervals through the afternoon, usually finding some scraps to pick over. Red Kites were more numerous than last year, and came in regularly to feed on the ground - a relatively unusual sight as they usually just dip down and grab small pieces without stopping.
At its peak, there were at least 5 raptors on the ground at once tucking into the food provided with others nearby on posts. Disappointingly this year there was little "activity" in the way of fighting, nor did anything bathe in the nice pool provided.
For larger versions of those shown below, click on the captions.
|A spectacular pale Buzzard © Stephen Burch|
|A crop of the photo above © Stephen Burch|
|A more normal plumaged Buzzard calling © Stephen Burch|
|Buzzard looking at the lens © Stephen Burch|
|Buzzard in flight © Stephen Burch|
|Frame filling Red Kite on a nearby post © Stephen Burch|
|Crop of the Red Kite photo above © Stephen Burch|
|Red Kite on the ground © Stephen Burch|
|Head on Red Kite © Stephen Burch|
|Red Kite in flight with the distant countryside behind © Stephen Burch|