Where to see red kites in Scotland | Wildlife Photography Vlog #12

I’m, ehm, I’m excited but I’m also getting
a little bit nervous because I hope that I don’t just kind of like, miss the opportunity. [camera clicking] Hi everyone! If you’re just joining us, my name is Meg – nice to
meet you – and I’m a somewhat beginner wildlife photographer documenting it all here
on my channel. I’m also just a wildlife and nature stan so I make content all about
that – if that interests you then feel free to subscribe! I know what you’re thinking,
“hey Meg, how can this be a wildlife photography vlog when you’re sitting in your kitchen
– not much wildlife in there” [awkward laugh]. But I’m actually not long back from the
Argaty Red Kite Viewing Centre – I’ll explain what that is and what red kites are
in a moment. But the reason I’m talking about this from my kitchen is because I wasn’t
the only one there photographing, so out of respect and courtesy for them and y’know out
of wanting to keep the atmosphere quiet and peaceful – y’know I’m sure they weren’t
up for listening to me yammering away. So I didn’t film [much] – I vlogged a little.
So this video will be half vlog, half “story time” I’ll be talking all about my experience,
all about red kites and all about how I got the shots that I did. So, if you’re interested
in that then stick around. So! The Argaty Red Kite Viewing Centre is in a borough called
Done, near the city of Stirling. And it is one of the red kite feeding stations dotted
up and down Britain. So I booked into the red kite photography hide – and just in
case there are people watching who don’t know what a hide is, it is a purpose built
shed-kind-of-thing that is designed to allow wildlife photographers and wildlife watchers
get close to wildlife without the wildlife knowing that they’re there and getting spooked.
I said the word wildlife quite a lot there… They usually have windows or hatches so that
you can look out, at the wildlife, safe in the assumption that they most likely can’t
see you. So, yeah, I booked into the photography hide at Argaty Red Kites which is different
to the more general hide where they have ranger-led talks every day – the photography hide is
smaller and closer – a bit closer – to where the red kites are going to be. So it’s slightly
more expensive, the general hide is £7 per adult where as the photography hide is £15.
It was really easy to book, I emailed on the Sunday asking what availability they had for
the week and I was booked in for the next day. The photography hide only has space for
3 people so it’s often fully booked, if you’re wanting to book it for a specific
day it’s best to check what availability they have as soon as you can. So after I booked
all I had to do was turn up in the car park by 1pm. I’m in the car and just about to head
to Argaty Red Kites, and it is only quarter past 11, I’ve to be there by one at the latest.
And – oh my god you can hear the rain – it’s only about a 45 minute drive but I have, like,
I wouldn’t say “phobia” I think that’s going too far, but just the absolute fear of being
late for anything so I always leave so early – which is a good quality I think! Yeah, as
you can hear it’s started to rain, which souldn’t be – oh my god it’s pouring – which shouldn’t
be too terrible because I’ll be in a hide so I will be in doors. But, it will undoubtedly
affect the quality of the pictures. But like I said, it’s only quarter past 11, it could
brighten up by one, and it could be different weather over there. So… Fingers crossed
for that. But yeah, I’ll just get heading and I will see you when I get there. I arrived
alive! And early! As was expected but… I’m glad I left early because my SATNAV just had
no clue where it was going so I was just like “uhh”, driving along like this kind of dirt,
rock path that my car is not designed for to say the least. And I was like I’ll just…
maybe it’s this way? And it was, so that was good. I’m just gonna get all my camera ready,
change into my boots in case it’s a bit muddy and then go and announce my arrival I guess. So, I’m now in the hide and I was expecting there to be other people because it takes
three but I’m by myself, so, this is it and there’s lots of space and three individual
windows. The feeding of the red kites is just gonna be there so I’ve got actually a very,
very good view. And yeah, I’ll quickly show you. Y’know, even got a little seat to get
comfortable. And just out here and to the left, there’s feeders where there’s some really
cute long-tailed tits just… flying away. So, what are red kites I hear you ask. [They
are] the 4th largest bird of prey in Britain, with a wingspan of 5ft. Which is weird to
me because I’m 5’5”, 5’6” at an absolute push and if I have a generous tape
measure. So the thought of this bird having wings like the length, or nearly the length
of me is, like it’s a lot. Raptor persecution in Scotland is an issue that I feel very passionate
about, and in fact, I’ve spoken about it on my channel in the past, and red kites were
persecuted to very near extinction, and in fact, they did go extinct in Scotland and
England. By the 20th century only a handful of breeding pairs were left in Wales. But! Thanks
to organisations such as the RSPB, red kites have been re-introduced to several sites across
Britain and their populations have been growing, so much so that the RSPB no longer can annually
survey the amount of breeding pairs because there’s so many and they are now a green listed
species. They really are a prime example of what conservation can do. Part of conservation
is ensuring that wildlife, particularly reintroduced wildlife, have a source of food. But that’s
not completely what the feeding stations are for; they’re more like a light afternoon
snack. Because obviously we want the red kites to be able to hunt for themselves, and we
want the populations to move away from the reintroduction sites so that the population
can spread over a larger area. But like I said, they know that they can get a snack
from Argaty. And this also offers an amazing opportunity for us to see them and yes, photograph
them. Finally I’m going to talk about my camera, and show you guys the shots that I
got. As always I was using my Canon EOS 80D with my Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens.
As far as settings go, since I knew that I was going to be photographing birds in flight,
since red kites don’t land to feed, I knew it was all about shutter speed and making
sure that it was high. I think I pretty much exclusively used 1/2500, and set my camera to auto-ISO
and high speed continuous shots. It just meant that I had all the tools to help me come away
with at least some in-focus, sharp shots. And then all I had to do was wait for the
red kites. I’m so excited! The feeding starts at half one, it’s 13:19 just now. I’m excited
but I’m also getting a little bit nervous because I hope that I don’t just kind of like
miss the opportunity, and just like can’t get any good shots. Ah well, it’s the experience
that counts. [slow music begins] The first time that they came down to feed, I was honestly
useless at photographing them. I knew they would be quick but I don’t think I fully appreciated
just how quick they would be… like don’t get me wrong it was really, really fun and
it was amazing to see them, but oh my god was it stressful. I wish I could show you
just how fast they were, I did try to get footage because I thought wouldn’t this be
amazing for the video but [laughs] any footage that I did try to get was just blurry, and
all over the place and just awful. Like it was just…I struggled and it got to the point
where I was like, y’know what, scrap the idea of filming them I’m just gonna try and get
pictures ’cause that’s hard enough without adding on the pressure of trying to get footage
as well. I think on the first round of them diving down my shots were blurry, and if they
were in focus it was just like a wing poking into the shot, or it was a red kite half-in
the frame, half-out. And I just was like… I really hope that they come again because
I cannot come away with just these. The second time I was more prepared I was more, y’know,
I understood what was gonna happen but unfortunately, the lighting had other plans for me, clouds
had rolled in and any kind of shots that I did get were really dark and it was maybe
just a silhouette of the red kite against the sky and they weren’t that sharp and I
was just like, oh my god, I did not think this was gonna be this hard. But thankfully,
by the third time I had kind of sussed it. [cameras clicking] When I arrived and when
I was shown the hide, the woman who was called Lynn and was lovely, met me and she was telling
me all about how they’ve been fighting and squabbling with each other and she was like
“if you get a shot of that I’m gonna hate you because I’ve been trying so hard” and
I was like “Lynn, I just wanna get one of them in focus [laughs] That’s my goal! To
come away with at least one picture that is in-focus and, like, is framed nicely. I just
want one picture of a red kite. That’s all.” But, thankfully, I did manage to get a couple
of those and I knew I had a couple so I was like, OK I’m gonna try and start thinking
about action now, I wanna try and tell a story, and I thought, y’know, getting two of them
fighting I think is unrealistic for me just now because it was so fast it was happening,
y’know, you would see one coming from this direction, it would just be like [weird noise].
And that was it. So, what I wanted – other than just the ones in focus – was to come
away with a shot or two of the red kite ‘eating on the wing’ which basically red kites eat
as they fly, so that was a shot that I wanted and I think I got a few which I’m really happy
with. By the third time that they came down there was this one individual, who was just
a born showman I think. He would… or she! Would fly down to where the food was and would
do like a circle right above the hide so we were getting like really close shots of it
and then it would just go down again it would do the same and it was just doing that over
and over. So I think the majority of the shots that I’ve shown you guys are all that one
individual because he was just like “yous can take a nice picture of me! Like, I’m here!” I’m actually pretty proud of some of my shots, which very rarely happens for me, I’m my own
worst critic, believe me. Y’know, I’ve had criticism in the comments of my videos but
believe me, they’re nothing compared to what I say to myself after I look at my shots.
But, yeah, I’m quite proud of them. I think I can definitely improve by just going y’know
regular- regularly… it’s £15… I’m not rich [laughs] Going and familiarising myself with
their behaviour and just getting used to finding them through the end of the lens ’cause that
was a challenge when they were so fast. But yeah I think if I get to go back soon then
I can familiarise myself with their flight patterns, with their behaviour, which is just
an important aspect of wildlife photography that so many people don’t talk about as much,
y’know, you can have all the right settings on your camera but your biggest and most effective
tool in your arsenal is knowing the animal’s behaviour, so that you can, almost predict
what they’re going to do, y’know if you see a bird for example that’s perched and you
can see the tell-tale signs that it’s gonna take off that would make for a great bird
in flight picture or a great take-off picture. So, yeah, that would definitely be my goal
just to get used to the red kites and how damn fast they are. But just seeing it must’ve
been about 20, 25, of them, y’know, the 4th largest bird of prey in Britain just circling
and diving and squabbling with each other, it was just such, y’know, even if I go home
and none of my shots are useable, the experience was worth it anyway. So I would 100% recommend
it, I will be coming back as soon as possible. It was so good! Yeah, I hope you enjoyed this
kind of different format of video, like I said just out of respect for the other photographers
there I didn’t vlog but I thought this would still make for an interesting video. As always
you can also let me know what you thought of my shots, if you have any pointers or advice
then please let me know. Just, y’know, keep it kind and encouraging, that would be appreciated!
You can also follow me on my social media, you can follow me on Instagram where I post
wildlife photography shots and I also post some personal pictures if for whatever reason
you wanna see more of me. You can also follow me on Twitter. And all that’s left to say
is; thank you so much for watching, I hope you enjoyed and I’ll maybe see you next time.

17 Replies to “Where to see red kites in Scotland | Wildlife Photography Vlog #12”

  1. Congrats, Meg. You succeeded admirably. Plus you did get your shots and you took them while looking through a small glassed window. I enjoy your videos. I is nice to see a female that enjoys getting outside, even in inclement weather and to be photographing wildlife. I do know that may sound a bit sexist as there are not many guys that are willing to do so. Plus you are doing this in the midst of winter. Keep up the good work. JRS

  2. I should have added to the previous comment that you are doing your photography with a very unwieldy 120 – 600 lens and no tripod. JRS

  3. Have to say I think you did a cracking job there and also a thankyou, I want a 600mm lens and had the 150-600m on the list so you helped there to make up my mind.

  4. Plus your equipment of preference is a tiny bit larger then a cell phone. Ha Ha. That alone would defer many folks from even attempting the task. JRS

  5. Great video. I am only 4.5ft (4.6ft at a push) so you are a giant compared to me, hence my name the JuicyVeganDwarf lol

    All silliness aside liked the video. My new Canon EOS-R is arriving tomorrow after selling all my photography gear a few years back I am so excited to be getting back into it again. Especially as I have now moved from London back up to Scotland. I have SO many photo trips planned already. 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 πŸ“Έ

  6. You did a grand job using the 150-600mm hand held. Life might be easier for you if you invest in a reasonable tripod and an inexpensive gimbal head. This combination properly set up supports the full weight of camera and lens leaving you free to concentrate on framing your shots. Once again well done on getting some nice shots and thank you for the video.

  7. If you see a farmer haymaking or grain harvest, then you have good chance to see some birds of prey. On a mowed field the mice can't hide and it becomes a buffet for birds. I had that luck on a hike. There have been about 12 red kites and a few buzzards. So majestic πŸ™‚

  8. Practice makes perfect Meg! The more you shoot, you'll come away learning something (even if it's something small) each time! Your shots were great

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *