Most of us will have happy memories of feeding the ducks when we were kids. Youngsters love visiting the local pond to see the wildlife, but sadly, not all trips to the park end well.
I am all too familiar with the perils of feeding wild birds. As a 12-year-old I experienced an unfortunate incident whilst holidaying in Dorset. Charged with looking after my 7-year-old cousin, I headed for the river to feed the ducks. There I was merrily throwing food scraps at the birds when the river bank gave way and I ended up in the wet stuff. My cousin was highly amused when I emerged from the water covered in weed looking like the creature from the black lagoon. His parents didn't find the situation quite so funny. They may have been contemplating what they would have said to my mother had I drowned. They were doubtless also slightly upset that the person who was minding their child had been stupid enough to fall into a river!
Girl Dies Feeding the Ducks
The episode has left me very wary of river banks which is probably a good thing. Rivers are dangerous places for small children as illustrated by a recent tragedy. A 2-year-old girl drowned in Peterborough when she fell into the river whilst feeding the ducks. She was with her mother at the time and was still alive when she was pulled from the water but later died in hospital. Kid's simply don't realise the dangers presented by water. They become distracted by the birds and tragedy can then strike in an instant. I was lucky when I ended up in the river because I was a strong swimmer and it was relatively easy to climb out of the water. Nonetheless I wouldn't welcome a repeat performance.
It is also important to remember that swans and geese are large birds which must seem truly enormous to small children. When you feed the ducks, the larger birds in the area will always try to get in on the act and this can be extremely scary for kids. I recall taking a friend's youngsters down to the Thames at Laleham to feed the ducks. Within seconds we were completely surrounded by dozens of geese and the kids were truly terrified. There was me feeling suitably chuffed because I had found a place where it would have been impossible to fall in the water. I hadn't given a moment's thought to the size of the birds and they weren't exactly backwards in coming forwards.
I should have known better having twice been attacked by swans. I wasn't carrying food on either occasion and just happened to encounter some very aggressive birds. It's great to feed the ducks and it is important that children learn to appreciate nature. But it is equally important to remember that nature in all of its forms can be extremely dangerous.