Eco Junk Food

Many of us would have first been introduced to the joys of the wildfowl world by feeding ducks bread at a local park or pond. It’s long been a favourite family pastime that dates back to the 19th century and gives children the chance to connect with nature. However it is now thought that we are doing more harm than good, especially for the Eco-system.

It’s long been known that processed white bread fed to wildfowl on a large scale can cause them to become very ill and, in some cases, deformed. But now we are becoming increasingly warned that the harmless act of feeding bread to ducks is not only damaging the species health but the whole ecosystem. Ecosystems are very important, even if it is in an urban area. By one change within the ecosystem, everything else can be changed and, in some cases, destroyed.

Ducks Health

Many think that they’re doing a lovely thing by feeding the ducks some bread. But they forget that they could be one of twenty people doing the same thing that day. Not only can bread be fattening to ducks and make it harder for them to fly and otherwise escape predators, feeding ducks bread can also lead to other problems. Here are three reasons why the ducks health is affected.

Firstly, Duckling malnutrition. In an area where ducks are regularly fed, ducklings will not receive the proper nutrition for proper growth and development. Also, because ducks will naturally seek out an easy source such as human handouts, ducklings will not learn to forage for natural foods easily. This can lead to them starving to death.

Secondly, overcrowding. When an easy food source is abundant, ducks and other wildfowl will lay more eggs and the pond or lake will become overcrowded. This can lead to a number of problems including birds then find it much more difficult to seek out healthier food sources which increases the likelihood of things like territorial aggression.

Third but not least, Disease. There are several diseases that feeding ducks bread can increase the spread of. First, a carbohydrate-rich diet leads to greater defecation, and bird faeces easily harbour bacteria responsible for numerous diseases, including avian botulism. Another is aspergillosis. By eating mouldy bread it can cause a fatal lung infection that can decimate entire duck and wildfowl flocks. One last disease is something known as Angel Wing. This is deformed wing growth which stops birds from flying. This is more obvious and you often see it with Canadian Geese when feathers on their wings are sticking right out.

Damage to the entire ecosystem

Every year we feed six million loaves of bread to ducks in England and Wales. Obviously not all of this bread is eaten by ducks and therefore it falls to the waters bottom and causes wider havoc. This is when algae and bacteria blooms resulting in poisoning other species as well as attracting unwanted vermin. It can also trigger noxious odours and fuel algae that can eventually eradicate fish, and other underwater species, from the area.

Rotting bread exacerbates naturally occurring surface algae which can give off toxins damaging to fish populations and create a stench for humans. It also denies sunlight to underwater plants, and the bread eaten by birds creates more faeces which has the same effect.

The nutrients can also encourage filmentous algae, which grows upwards from the bottom in chains and threads. The algae can slow down river flows, further deadening the environment.

As the ducks are opting for the easy meal they aren’t eating the natural things that they should, not only does this mean that they’re getting a bad diet but also they’re not keeping the local ecosystem in check.

In areas where there is an abundance of people feeding breed to ducks other wildfowl, species which prefer not to eat bread, can suffer too. Due to the bottom of the pool, river, canal etc is affected by the build up of bread and bacteria this can obviously affect plant growth and fish populations. These plants normally eaten by other species are disturbed and the species that eat them are pushed elsewhere.

It isn’t fair to say that bread is the main problem but it has a massive effect on not only the health of wildfowl but also other species and the ecosystem in these areas.

Attraction of unwanted species

In some areas, especially urban areas, vermin such as rats are unwanted as they can cause further problems. Decomposing bread can attract rats whose urine transmits Weil’s Disease which can be deadly to humans.

The joy of feeding the ducks

As you can see feeding ducks bread has a profound effect on their health and the environment. However I remember going out when I was younger and feeding the ducks, it was always a magical moment and a great way to interact with the natural world. This is something that SHOULDN’T stop. In some towns the council has started fining people if they’re caught feeding the ducks, I don’t agree with this. Instead of this we should make the simple change of not feeding them bread but other food. It seems as though feeding ducks bread has become a fashionable thing and people feel as though they’re doing a good thing but they’re not. Changing the food they offer though can make all the difference. Also it’s vital that children carry on interacting with the natural world from a young age.

Below are a list of foods that are much better to offer to wildfowl then bread:

  • Bird seed
  • Oats
  • Mealworms
  • Chopped vegetable trimmings or peels
  • Defrosted frozen peas.

 Arguments against

Obviously this is a controversial subject as it affects a lot of different people and since I had an article published in my local paper this week about it I’ve had a lot of comments. Some include:

But I’ve been feeding the ducks all my life – Yes, feeding the ducks is a tradition that has been going since the 19th century. But all because we’ve been doing it for this long doesn’t mean that we were right and can’t stop. Perhaps if we were to stop feeding bread to ducks it would make them healthier, improve water quality, and,especially in urban areas,make areas more wildlife rich which young children would be able to enjoy even more, along with still being able to feed the ducks. But as I stated before, there is more to do than stop feeding ducks bread.

Other food isn’t as fun – Well you may think this but the main reason behind this is that it’s something that has gone on for a long time. Food like chopped up carrots, frozen peas and bird seed are just as convenient to buy as bread and I’m sure the ducks will be just as happy, if not more so!

I’ve got better things to worry about within the natural world then feeding ducks bread – You may think this but all of us can help change the environment by doing little things. Like feeding the wildfowl different foods.

You can read the online article that I had in my local newspaper here –


United Against Wildlife Crime

The wildlife you see whilst out and about is without a doubt our real national treasure. These species were here a long time before us or any of our man-made national treasure and this is an important reason why we need to preserve them and stop them suffering due to wildlife crime.

This was illustrated with the first talk of the day by Broadcaster and Naturalist, Chris Packham. He destroyed a copy of a George Constable painting by attacking it with spray paint and tearing it apart. A painting by the artist George Constable is considered a national treasure and if someone was to destroy the original painting they’d be considered to have destroyed a national treasure. Due to this there would be all sorts of havoc. It would most definitely be top headlines on the news, in newspapers, online and the offender would get into serious trouble. But what about those people who go out and destroy the British countryside by killing species within it, surely they should be getting the same punishment however this isn’t the case.



Yesterday I attended the Birders Against Wildlife Crime ‘Eyes in the Field’ conference in Buxton, Derbyshire. I arrived at about 8.20 and straight away I was able to engage with like minded people. This theme carried on throughout the day as I spoke to plenty of fantastic people and listened to a variety of inspirational and interesting talks. To pick a favourite talk would be impossible as they were all very good and including a range of important topics, from policing and the public engagement to investigations and politics.

After the talk by Chris Packham it was then onto the next one from CEO Badger Trust and Policy Advisor Care for the Wild, Dominic Dyer. He spoke about the badger cull and his recent meeting with the Environmental Secretary, Liz Truss which was very interesting and you can read more about it by clicking here. I found his talk very interesting as I feel very passionate about badgers and I am strongly against the suffering they put up with including the cull. I’m really looking forward to helping out with badger vaccinating soon. Next it was a talk about bats, how they suffer from wildlife crime and the laws to do with them. This talk was given by Malcom Hopton from Derbyshire Bat Conservation. Again I found this talk very enjoyable, as in the past I have done conservation work for bats which included going out with the East Staffordshire Bat Group and monitoring the bats at one of my local patches, Cannock Chase.

After the morning coffee break the day resumed with talks from two different investigation officers. One was Bob Elliot who is Head of Investigations for the RSPB and the other was Paul Tillsley who is Head of Investigations for the League Against Cruel Sports. These two talks were a real eye opener about wildlife crime as they made me realise how serious it is and how some people can be so evil against our national treasures. They both spoke about different case studies along with methods wildlife criminals use and how both organisations help to stop and solve wildlife crimes. They also gave an important message about how we all must remember to report wildlife crimes as if it wasn’t for people like you and me reporting them then they wouldn’t be able to stop the criminals committing their crimes.

It was then time for lunch and during the lunch break all the people who had attended, including the speakers all made their way to the front of the hotel to have a photo with the new Birders Against Wildlife Crime Hen Harrier Day banner. The Hen Harrier is a bird that has suffered incredibly from wildlife crime and due to this they have been pushed to near extinction in England. There are a number of different things that you can do to help our hen harriers, one of them is by voting for it for the National Bird and you can do so by clicking here.


Here’s the photo and there you can see Henry the Hen Harrier!

After lunch, the afternoon started off with three different talks about wildlife crime and the police. As you can imagine this was a very important and interesting start to the afternoon. Obviously without the police we wouldn’t be able to punish the criminals who commit crimes against wildlife. The first talk was by Craig Fellows and he spoke about police wildlife crime training which was very interesting and similar to the local meetings that I attend about wildlife crime and strategies they undertake in my area to deal with wildlife crime. The next talk went against this slightly as Ruth Tingay spoke about the failure of wildlife crime enforcement in Scotland. The final talk of this part was by Alan Charles who was the Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner. Like the others, his talk was very interesting and he spoke about how his force is dealing with wildlife crime.

It was then onto the last group of talks for the day which were about politics and public engagement. It consisted of two talks, one from Chris Williamson who is the North Derbyshire Labour MP and the other from conservationist Mark Avery. These talks were both very engaging and between them they spoke about a range of subjects from the Badger Cull to Hen Harrier Day 2015. Chris Williamson was another passionate speaker who shared some great stories about his times out with the hunt saboteurs. So was Mark Avery who spoke about Hen Harrier Day 2015, which I’m very much looking forward to!

As you can see Saturday was a very inspirational day for me, it was also very important. As I stated at the start we need to preserve and stop our real national treasures from being destroyed. With help from enough people like those who I met on Saturday we can do that. After the conference I realised how those wildlife criminals, pro-hunting politicians etc have no chance and we will win.

Adopt a Sett

I’m always hearing about crimes against badgers, especially at badger setts. But in the last few weeks I’ve heard about more then usual, one of which was in my local area.

A badger sett is what a badger calls home. It is usually situated in or near small clearings in woodland. A simple sett is made up of a single tunnel, with a sleeping chamber at the end. However, most setts have several entrance holes, and lots of tunnels which link up with each other. The tunnels also link up with sleeping and nursery chambers.

There are numerous horrific crimes which people commit against badgers. For centuries badgers have been victims of persecution by man, and in the old days, badger baiting was a popular spectator sport. It was made illegal in 1835, but never completely died out and has become more common in the last 20 years. Badger diggers use dogs and digging equipment to take badgers from their setts. The captured badgers are then attacked by dogs for sport, whilst the spectators gamble on the performance of the dogs. Badger baiting is extremely cruel and the badgers suffer severe injuries before they are killed. The dogs are often badly injured as well.

It is estimated that 10,000 badgers are killed in this way every year.

Along with these disgusting offences against badgers, they are also victims of crimes such as disturbance, damage and destruction of their setts. A recent example of destruction and damage at a badgers sett was at Stevenage, Hertfordshire. The sett was bricked in and scorched which prevented the badgers getting out to find food and would of caused unnecessary suffering. Another example of a horrible act of cruelty against a badger was at a sett not far from where I live. A snare was set up on a badger sett. One of the badgers got caught in the snare and slowly strangled to death as it tried to escape. These are just two examples of sick acts of cruelty against badgers.

Adopting a sett

By adopting a local sett or a sett on your local patch, where you might go and watch badgers there regularly, you can keep an eye on the sett. What I mean by this is making sure there hasn’t been any recent disturbance or there isn’t anyone about that looks suspicious. Now, this isn’t a formal thing. It’s just doing something of your own back to look out for badgers and help prevent crimes against them. I have my own example of this as last year I went to a sett that I set my camera up at regularly and I noticed that some of the wholes had been filled in, trees had been cut back by the sett and overall, the sett had been disturbed. Due to this I got in touch with my local wildlife crime officer and the Staffordshire Badger Group. Even though though this was not as serious as something as terrible as badger baiting etc, it was still important to have it dealt with in case the problem progressed. Fortunately it was dealt with.

Of course badgers aren’t the only species that suffer from such horrible acts of cruelty.

I’m also very much looking forward to a Wildlife Crime conference that I am going to on Saturday, it’s run by BAWC (Birders Against Wildlife Crime) and should be a very interesting day!


My Wild Life

A few weeks back I heard about The Wildlife Trusts ‘My Wild Life’ campaign. The aim is to show how much nature matters to our lives. They’re doing this by showcasing stories of hundreds of peoples daily experiences with nature and how it is helping us all. The more people who add their story and make nature part of their life, the bigger the voice for wildlife, and it’s really important that we do this. As I’ve mentioned numerous times, over the last 40 years Earth has lost half of its wildlife. People need to realise this, how scary this decline is and that we all need to do something to reverse it.

I decided to do a blog about it as I think it’s fantastic a campaign. I’ve seen the stories everywhere, lots of different people have been getting involved and their stories are really heartwarming. Here is a link to the My Wild Life website where you can read more about it and some of the stories, where you can also add your own  –