Country Diary: Let all wildlife use their natural instincts to feed

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Do you like peanut butter sandwiches? Then join the queue with a pair of badgers and their two cubs at supper-time. Badgers seem more common in wooded areas than is generally realised. These local badgers are near woodland, yet only a stone’s throw away from the busy A171 Scalby Road!

Our pal Martin, and his neighbour Norman frequently see them in their gardens. Badger-watching is an increasingly popular pastime, and as badgers are more or less omnivorous, is there any harm in feeding them?

Personally, I feel all wildlife should be left to forage its preferred natural food, unless conditions become so harsh that it cannot find sufficient to sustain life. On the other hand, by feeding them they become quite tame, and one may observe at close quarters and so gain considerable knowledge.

A similar situation has arisen this summer with regard to bird tables, and the feeding of wild birds throughout the year. Pet shops and super-markets are heaving with bird seed of many kinds, along with ever-popular fat balls.

We’ve had a good supply kindly given to us, which I’m saving until October or maybe later. However, Michael is feeding the birds at Montrosa’s Residential Home all the year round.

We both feel it’s a great interest for the elderly residents to sit in the conservatory and observe the local bird-life. There was great excitement when the first goldfinch arrived and enjoyed its special seed. After a while, a pair were regularly visiting, and now four may be seen most days.

How rewarding, as enthusiasm mounts and birds’ individual habits emerge.

Here at home, only two goldfinches dropped in at the ‘bar’ for a drop of water during the drought. Birds need water to drink and bathe in at all times.

What is the RSPB’s policy though on feeding birds? They state emphatically that you should only provide food between October and April. After that there’s usually sufficient natural food for birds to find.

The danger is, tired parent birds may be tempted to feed their young indigestible peanuts which could kill them. The best times to put out food are early in the morning and late afternoon.

Remember, birds feet and beaks are specifically adapted for their obtaining natural food whether this be caterpillars, insects, worms, fruit, nuts, seeds or fish. Birds need to rely on their natural instincts, or over the decades they may rely solely on home help!

Now I love seeking oddly-shaped pieces of wood, like roots, small branches and drift wood. Yesterday was a lucky find – a root resembling a griffin with an eagle-shaped head!

Tigger’s trots have been carpeted with nature’s harvest of nuts and fruit. Acorns, beech mast and conkers pave the way to autumn. Goodbye summer!