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Robin eating blackberries

Why do I sell bird food?

By

18th October 2011

As a lad I’d spend all my (out of school) time exploring the local hedgerows and woods and trying to earn a few bob doing odd jobs for local farmers. Whether my parents thought I was sensible enough to be trusted out on my own at a young age (doubtful), or that bad people didn’t exist in the early 70’s (untrue) or I was just luckily enough to be raised in a tiny village with wide open countryside (true), I was given the freedom rarely enjoyed by youngsters these days.

Back then, I’d happily sit for hours at a time watching a shrew hunting worms and if I was very lucky a kestrel hunting the shrew! Mobiles, games consoles and social media were not even conceived of and TV held little interest to me. I liked the real life action adventure to be found at the local pond, barn or hedgerow. These were the happiest days of my life and even now, with all my adult responsibilities, family, house and a business to run, I’ll leave them behind to get outdoors and watch the wonders of nature every chance I get.

In those days, no matter the time of year or the weather, birds were my ever present companions. So much so, I never gave them much thought. They were so numerous that farmers considered them pests, nests appearing on any piece of machinery that didn’t get moved in a week. Sparrows, finches and swallows abounded in such numbers there was hot competition for any nesting real estate. The hedgerows were the same, in springtime I’d expect to spot and count eggs in nests every few yards, if I didn’t, I’d assume it was me, not a lack of birds!

You may consider I’m viewing the world through rose tinted bifocals but the facts back up my personal experience. BTO figures show bird species declining by up to 70% during my lifetime and quite frankly I miss them. What I once took for granted, being woken by the overpowering volume of the dawn chorus, is no longer the norm and I wonder what I can do to reverse this.

Looking a little deeper at the BTO research revealed that birds commonly associated with gardens appeared to be doing better than birds from farms and open country. Could food be an issue? Modern farming techniques have certainly changed the landscape and a visit to a 21st Century farmyard (doesn’t that sound old fashioned!) reveals spotless yards with no grain spillage, no pond and nothing like the stagnant pools I remember buzzing with midges and insects. Could I offer an alternative? Maybe if I looked more closely at what birds need, rather than what’s easy to do, I could sell better bird food that would help more species. Now I don’t live in such a daydream world to think I can single-handedly reverse the trend but as a cause, I think it’s worth having a damn good go!