Do you see red kites in or from your garden?

For some time, I’ve been drawn to understanding the survival of raptors in the UK, and elsewhere. Whether that’s birds that are illegally persecuted or those making a presence in urban areas. Their relationship and meaning to us is complex. They’re appreciated and seen as a joy to some but also perceived as a nuisance and a pest.

Arguably, one of the most successful re-introduction programmes in the UK is that of the Red Kite. By the late 19th century, following high levels of persecution, only a small, isolated population persisted in the UK. It wasn’t until 1989 that a programme set out to re-introduce kites back into areas of the UK. This saw birds being flown in from natural populations in Spain and Sweden, along with existing UK populations in Wales and released across seven sites in England and Scotland.

It has been almost four years since I moved from the midlands to Yorkshire to study at university. Now living in North Yorkshire, near to one of the original release sites at Harewood House, I see kites daily, and often in abundance. Although there are some birds in the (west) midlands, I rarely saw kites near to where I went birding. 

As scavengers, red kites aren’t afraid to make the most of a free meal. As a kid, I vividly remember a trip to Gigrin Farm in Wales where kites were fed every day. Members of the public can still sit in a hide and watch hundreds of kites swooping down to grab a chunk of meat. Kites are also present in urban areas and were historically considered as an urban species. Perhaps, as a result, this explains the increasing interest of supplementary feeding in gardens.

Now in my final year at university, I am focusing my research project on the distribution of red kites across urban and rural gardens in the UK. I am also aiming to gain an understanding of the impacts of supplementary feeding on kite distribution and survival. My findings will also be useful in evaluating the success of the reintroduction programme.

I would highly appreciate some help with my research by completing this short survey that I have created (click here). It takes a matter of minutes to complete and will immeasurably benefit my project and help produce some interesting results. All comments on whether you feed or see kites in your garden, or about the survey itself are more than welcome. Feel free to drop me a tweet (@georgialocock), put a message below or email me (

Red Kite in flight. Copyright Walter Baxter. Licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Hunting Act: 15 years on

On this day in 2005, the Hunting Act was enforced across England and Wales. Over the last fifteen years, there has been lobbying from both those wanting to repeal or strengthen the ban. It has created widespread interest and even been among the center points of political party manifestos. However, interestingly, the Conservative parties manifesto for the most recent 2019 General Election did not indicate an intention to reverse the ban. This is the first time since the ban was enforced. Perhaps a sign of moving times and recognition of the overwhelming public opposition.

But why 15 years on do campaign groups, NGOs and other individuals continue to lobby for change? Quite simply, the Hunting Act isn’t enough. Flaws across the legislation itself, policing and prosecutions have meant hunting of mammals with dogs continues, both illegally and legally. In a campaign launched today by the League Against Cruel Sports marking the fifteenth anniversary of the Hunting Act, they’ve published a map of the 299 hunts that still operate in the British countryside.

The interactive map encourages people to enter their postcode and see where hunts of foxes, hares and deer still operate near them. The ‘Map of Cruel Sports’ aims to highlight and create awareness about wide scale hunts that still operate. Whilst exploring the map this morning, I was quite shocked by how many hunts still operate. We can’t deem all these hunts to be carrying out the illegal activity, but the pure principle remains barbaric and doesn’t belong in modern society.


As part of their campaign, the League is encouraging members of the public to contact their local council and ask them to ban hunting on public land. Simply stated on their website: ‘If there is no land, there is no hunting’. This is very important as many hunts still operate on public land or use public land to gather and receive support. This sends firm signals that the hunts aren’t welcome.

This sort of action is vital in eliminating hunting from the British countryside. Just a few weeks ago I read a report of a hunt losing control of their hounds on Bodmin Moor. The pack had discovered a fox which was then chased through a nearby public car park. On the contrary, lobbying councils has been very successful. A recent success last year was when Nottinghamshire County Council passed a motion calling for an end to trail hunting, exempt hunting and exercising packs of hounds on County Council land.

The fox hunting season runs from November to March. Although the hunting of foxes with dogs is illegal under the Hunting Act, trail hunting has taken its place. This is when dogs follow a pre-laid trail and, if lawful, no foxes are killed. However, despite this, many illegal activities and incidences are reported each year. Also, as already mentioned, it isn’t just foxes, the Hunting Act protects hares and deer. But other mammals are also reported to be affected, including badgers with reports of setts being blocked.

Some of the most recent data produced by the League stated that by 2018, 497 convictions had been obtained for all offences under the Hunting Act. Along with 47 people who have received cautions for hunting offences. Numerous examples and case studies demonstrate how the law is also exploited and abused, making policing and prosecution very difficult. Fortunately, the work of groups and individuals out in the field who are monitoring and recording means some incidents are reported. But when it comes to wildlife crime, we all know how difficult this is. These figures and case studies could just be the tip of the iceberg.

The issues here are deeply rooted in the legislation, policing and prosecutions. There is currently no offence under the ban that carries a custodial sentence and, as mentioned, there are several exemptions that hunts can use to avoid prosecution. But how effective are the prosecutions? A recent Hunting Act conviction before Christmas involved two members of the Meynell and South Staffordshire hunt who pleaded guilty to hunting fox cubs with dogs. They were fined a mere £350 each.

Despite being a very important piece of legislation, many aspects are seemingly flawed. Fifteen years on, there is still a desperate need for change to outright ban this barbaric past time. I believe today’s campaign by the League will open people’s eyes and encourage them that we still need to act. Whether it’s writing to your local council, MP or supporting the League and related organisations.

I can’t help but think what does this say about us as a nation? Where such traditions still exist, and the law is defied for the benefit and enjoyment of a few. Such abuse in other areas of society would have much stronger consequences, but as seen across many areas of our environment, things are not taken seriously. An occurring theme at a worrying and unstable time globally.

What about the next 15 years then? The Hunting Act needs to be strengthened quickly to further protect our countryside and mammals from such practices. With public support against hunting strengthening, by 2036 let’s ensure that this past time and cruelty has completely diminished.

14/02/2020: Hull’s youth climate march

Yesterday morning, before an afternoon of laboratory practical’s at university, I jumped on the bus and headed down to the climate march in Hull city centre. Since the climate marches and school strikes began, I’ve been to quite a few but never one in my university city so this was exciting as I wondered what to expect.

Of course, what I found was what is present at all marches that took place across the UK and the globe yesterday: raw determination and boldness. Young people defying all stereotypes and knowing exactly what is at stake here. A type of force which I have never seen from a group of people before. From attending such events on issues including the badger cull, foxing hunting or climate change when I was much younger, these are very different. Perhaps partly because it doesn’t have that feeling of being ‘organised’. It’s been assembled by young people who have come along with school friends to exercise their rights for a healthy planet. Of course a few adults turned up to, and altogether it was a very exciting atmosphere.

The march in Hull was organised by the Youth Strike for Climate group for Hull, which I’m very proud to be a part of. The march went through the town, passing the City Council offices and arrived at Queen Victoria Square where some young people spoke. As I mentioned, there were young people and adults of all ages, some were perhaps as young as primary school age. It’s quite a contrast to those marches I went on when I was younger, where the age bracket was more around 30 to 60.

Nevertheless, all were very involved. Bringing homemade signs, chalk and even taking it upon themselves to give a speech or say a few words in front of the other protesters and the public that had gathered to watch. This was incredibly brave, but it was plain to see that this didn’t faze them, and they’d do anything to make the most of using their voices. A common theme we’ve seen across the world over the past few years.

The Youth Strike for Climate events took place across the UK yesterday, as did other Fridays for Future events across the world. My Twitter feed was packed with locations from across the globe, although this is nothing new and hasn’t been for a while now. But this growth of collaborations and movements doesn’t seem to be dwindling. Many of the climate strikes and marches have been happening across the UK for over a year now, some much more, but none seem to have lost any attention. Quite the opposite.

Here are some photos which I took on the day. If you’d like to see more or follow some of the events which took place across the UK (and the world) yesterday and find out about future events, then I recommend visiting these social media platforms:

YouthStrike4Climate – @Strike4Youth

FridaysForFuture – @Fridays4future


COP25: some thoughts

COP25 is underway in Madrid. It’s the last gathering of the COP group before the Paris Agreement comes into effect next year. Hearing and reading about it on social media and in the news has encouraged me to write a blog, like the one I wrote in 2015 on COP21.

COP21 took place in Paris and was where the Paris agreement was formed. Although it doesn’t reach the level of action needed to tackle climate change, it exceeds other talks on tackling climate change of this time. Back in 2015, when I had just started my A-Levels, I remember reading about this and getting involved via social media and writing a blog. I also joined 50,000 others on a climate march in London. Such events took place across the UK and the world as they watched the proceedings of COP21. At the time, it was the largest march that I’d attended, and I remember it fondly, which is evident from the blog I wrote.

For me, on a personal level, there in London, it was just mind-blowing. I joined around 50,000 others in the streets of London as we marched through giving out a strong message of how we not only care about the future of this planet but want it to be a safe and sustainable place for everything which lives on it. Now, along with in many, many years to come. All through my body, I felt hope. The smile on my face was beaming as I was surrounded by so many passionate people who are fighting for what they believe in. That’s the thing with climate change, everyone has different stories and reasons why they’re so provoked to act. – A day to remember

It was an overwhelming day! I also wrote in context to the volume of people attending and how ‘this can’t be ignored’. Evidently, I was quite naïve at the time. But, since, the protesting and people power continues in its masses. Just since COP21, we have seen a surge of young people and school climate strikes, and a definite change in public perception. When I attended this event, it was hard to find others from school who wanted to attend, but how things have changed.

The fight grows and as stated by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week, this summit marks the “point of no return” in our fight against climate change. We’re all too aware of figures reporting temperature rising, sea level rising, melting sea ice and its inflicting consequences. We don’t need to be reminded how 2019 is on course to be among the top three warmest years on record. But I believe perhaps things are being taken more seriously here in the UK with ‘climate emergencies’ being announced across local councils, the British Government, large organisations, universities and so on but as we’ve asked all along, how far will this get us.

That’s the thing with climate change, everyone has different stories and reasons why they’re so provoked to act. – A day to remember

I like this line from my blog on COP21, it hits the spot. Young people reacting and acting are putting their education on the line, proving that disasters caused by climate change are going to affect their lives much more than their education. This receives mainly positive responses, including from those in power. It’s more than positive responses we need though. These strikes, event and fights are action, not showing we care. We do care but caring isn’t enough when it comes to climate change. It’s going to be very interesting looking back at this time in years to come.

Of course, it’s not just young people, those of all ages and backgrounds are making their stand. It’s become a big part of the upcoming general election. Most party leaders know that’s what the public will be considering when they vote.

Anyway, my first blog in a while but hopefully not the last. As Greta Thunberg recently said: “People are underestimating the force of angry kids.”