The best place I have found to photograph red kites at close quarters is Harewood in Leeds. I have spent many a happy hour watching the kites diving and flying low overhead. Red kites were almost made extinct towards the end of the 1800s in England and Scotland. In 1999, a number of red kites were released on the Harewood Estate to reintroduce these birds to the Yorkshire lowlands and the population has been steadily increasing ever since. There are now over 300 in the area¹. You therefore have a good chance of capturing some great photographs.
The Muddy Boots Café is my favourite place in Harewood to photograph these birds. Outside the café are a number of picnic tables where you can sit and watch them. The café also does excellent food and their cakes are delicious. So you can be very comfortable and well-fed whilst taking your photos!
I have had the most success photographing in the late afternoon. The café owners put food out onto the garage roofs for the kites at around 2pm. If you are lucky, the kites will dive past you to take the food off the roof. I’ve not managed to capture this moment, but just having these magnificent birds diving within a few feet of you is an amazing experience on its own. Late afternoon is also a good time as the sun is behind you. On a sunny day you can then get the beautiful colours of the kites against a (hopefully) blue sky. My photos here were on a sunny/cloudy day, so not much blue sky!
There is also the opportunity to photograph other birds at this location. There was a sparrowhawk flying overhead on my visit, although I did not get a good photograph. As I was about to pack up, a couple of shags also flew overhead.
I would highly recommend this place not just for photography but also just for watching the kites whilst enjoying a tasty lunch.
Here are some of the photos I took on my latest visit (click on a photo to enlarge):
|Approximate post code (for sat nav)||LS17 9LJ|
|Parking||There is a small car park at Harewood Village Hall. The Muddy Boots Café is behind the village hall. The car park operates an honesty box system. There are also a small number of spaces on the street.|
Location of the Muddy Boots Café:
The café and best place to watch the red kites is behind this building:
Notes for next time
- Aim for a bright sunny afternoon – blue skies in the background and lower ISOs needed
¹ Red Kites, Harewood House website [accessed 23 October 2016] http://harewood.org/explore/bird-garden/bird/red-kites/