Connecting with animals

Animals are living creative beings that helps you reconnect with nature.

I have been watching over and feeding these Colchester cygnets and their parents since 2012.

I have been watching over and feeding these Colchester cygnets and their parents since 2012.

When you are a stakeholder in something you participate in it, benefit from it and have a say in it.  The problem of beautiful experiences in nature such as a singing bird, a rainbow or a colourful sunset is that I am the spectator in something I have no involvement in, thus the impact upon my intellectualised mind is minimal.  What impacts me the most is that which I can participate in, which is where animals help in opening a connection to nature for me.

Weekend morning I was walking across Abbeyfields Colchester when I came across a young black retriever dog running free.  Dogs can mind read you by looking at your eyes and face, this giving me the ability to convey things to dogs without the owner being aware.  The dog looked intently at me, I gave my face “come on then” and it ran towards me, I rewarded it with such a fuss that it sat there its eyes giving the look it was in doggy heaven.  Those are happy moments for me where I can connect with an animal just for the fun of it.

I had overdone the purchase of reduced price brown bread that filled my fridge, so I emptied the fridge of all the bread, heading down to the Colchester river to feed the swans.  First up was a lone swan backed up by a few ducks. Six brown rolls was the reward for the swan, it plodded out of the water right next to me and I ended up hand feeding it, bitten in the cold my fingers hurt.

Time was moving on, it was getting dark, I abandoned the swan to go looking for more swans to get rid of my burden of bread faster.  I came across five swans, three young swans, mum and dad at a lake adjacent to the river.  Two swans straight out of the water, three stayed in the water, which I hand fed.  More pain to my fingers in the cold from hungry beaks.  Last was six rolls that had turned rock hard, I tried to crush them as best I could and then threw them in the lake for the swans hoping the water would soften them.  I left the swans working at breaking those rolls up.  Thus ended my adventures with animals that allowed me to participate with a living creative aspect of nature.

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15 responses to “Connecting with animals

  1. Would love to see your “come on then” face! I used to feed bread to ducks and swans a lot, but then I read on the RSPB website that bread is not great food for them. This article about swan feeding suggests lettuce or potatoes: http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/m/muteswan/feeding.aspx

  2. You should never feed bread to swans. It ferments in their guts and is not digested.

    • Brown wholemeal bread is fine, especially the type which has seed and bran within it. It should be broken up and ideally thrown into the water unless there is hand feeding where small easy to swallow amounts are offered, but be prepared for being bitten by beaks. White bread is to be avoided, and mouldy bread is poison to birds.

  3. I was going to make a similar warning comment about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ kinds of bread for waterfowl but I see you’ve already beaten me to it.

    As a Canadian who has lived where Nature in all its wild glory and danger is right outside your door, I know that interacting with wild creatures through offering food from your hand to their mouth is usually something to be avoided for a host of good reasons. If the intention is to provide food for critters in need, then respect is shown for them by having no personal contact (like using a feeder or drop zone) to avoid creating tolerances and dependencies; if the intention is to have personal contact that reduces the tendency to avoid humans and turn to them as welfare recipients, then whose benefit is being served?

    I think it’s a hard sell to suggest personal contact is good for critters and much compelling evidence against it. When personal contact and offering food occurs with wild carnivores, we can usually predict just how that will turn out. Not simply one fewer person feeding the bears or cougars but an increase in local predation of livestock and pets, as well as property damage from these charming nocturnal visitors. Ballooning deer and antelope populations lay waste to gardens and young trees as well as injure and sometimes kill those who dare interfere with their new-found grazing domain. I think we respecting nature best when we respect the self-regulating population controls within it.

    • Important advice that adds to a thoughtful post from Alex.

    • You make some good points Tildeb, and it is wise to avoid dependency upon the part of animals, as well as discouraging them from adopting behaviour that puts them and human beings in danger.

      In this case I am feeding swans not human-eating predators. It is good to look out for wildlife in times of winter, it remains winter here in UK with snow that fell last week and a threat of more snow coming in. Wisdom needs to be applied in all interactions with nature with view to the likely consequences of actions.

  4. I had a bad experience with swans as a result they are one of the very few animals I try admire from a distance.

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