Bird woman of the Bure appeals for help to continue feeding the ducks, geese and swans of Hoveton

PUBLISHED: 07:18 06 January 2014 | UPDATED: 07:18 06 January 2014

Linny Smith feeding the birds at Wroxham.

Linny Smith feeding the birds at Wroxham. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2013

She is the bird woman of the Bure, but after a year getting up early to feed dozens of feathered friends she is calling for help to continue her life’s calling.

Tips from the RSPB website about feeding birds in your garden

The best bird seed mixtures contain plenty of flaked maize, sunflower seeds, and peanut granules.

Black sunflower seeds are an excellent year-round food.

Peanuts are popular with many birds but salted or dry roasted peanuts should not be used.

Fat balls and other fat-based food bars are excellent winter food, but remove any nylon mesh bags.

Mealworms are relished by robins and blue tits, but it is very important that any mealworms fed to birds are fresh.

Fat from cooking is bad for birds.

Polyunsaturated margarines or vegetable oils are unsuitable for birds.

Meaty tinned dog and cat food form an acceptable substitute to earthworms during the warm, dry part of the summer.

Never give milk to any bird.

Give fresh coconut only, in the shell. Desiccated coconut should never be used.

Cooked rice, brown or white (without salt added) is beneficial to all species during severe winter weather.

Porridge oats must never be cooked, but uncooked porridge oats are readily taken by a number of bird species.

Any breakfast cereal is acceptable birdfood, although you need to be careful only to put out small quantities at a time.

Linny Smith started giving bread and corn to ducks, swans and geese beside the bridge in Hoveton after a Swedish man who fed them on weekdays asked if she could do it at weekends.

The 64 year old soon found herself going to the site every day at 7.30am, come rain or shine, and she now not only feeds 20 loaves a day to her charges, but also checks on their welfare and contacts the RSPCA if any need treatment.

Despite moving away from the area, she still drives 15 miles to Hoveton every morning before work to feed the birds and spend 30 minutes with them.

She said: “I get such satisfaction out of it because I know that if I do not do it they will die. Who else would come out in bad weather like this? I would love a career helping animals but it’s all voluntary, and voluntary does not pay the bills.

“As I open the gate they follow me in. It’s such a picture. They need me and I need them.”

Ms Smith said she had seen swans with fish hooks in their throats, and holiday makers tucking into fish and chips on the river front who kick the birds to keep them away.

And she added there was a mystery in November when, for six days after she discovered a dead goose with its foot torn off, there were no birds, and when they came back on the seventh day they would not approach her as usual, and she had to throw them bread from the bridge.

Recently she won £25 on the lottery, and spent it on washing up bowls and brushes for a seal sanctuary, and said she also buys carrots to give to horses.

She said she wants to continue helping the birds at Hoveton forever, but added: “I’m finding it a struggle, and I’m doing extra hours [to pay for the food], but I would not begrudge them anything if I’m keeping them alive. If anyone could donate bread or corn on a regular basis, or a supermarket can help, I can pick it up.”

To help Ms Smith, call her on 07415 114708.

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