Brace yourself…I’m currently a VERY unhappy, racked with guilt, gardener! I’d plead ignorance but quite frankly I’m not allowing myself an excuse. You see in a bid to protect my precious produce I’ve become a ‘net user’. I’ve worked hard all year to produce healthy fruit laden trees and bushes on my allotment so I’ve been protecting my ‘fruits’ with netting. Not the cheap plastic ‘fishing line’ net you understand. I’ve seen the damage that can do to wildlife. No. I like to think that I’m environmentally aware… so I’ve chosen to use quality netting made of jute or soft knitted nylon.
(Above is a young female blackbird found with plastic (monofilament) netting wrapped tightly around her neck. The netting was protecting a neighbouring allotmenteer’s gooseberries. I managed to cut her free and fed her water but she was incredibly weak. I hid her near some food and water under my currant trees. She wasn’t there the following day so I like to think that she survived!)
This year I’ve released ten or more, young birds caught or trapped in all types of netting on the allotment site. Is this a common problem, I wonder?
Vegetable / fruit netting is readily available in any shop or online. It’s available in black, green and white. It is also available in a variety of ‘GAP ‘sizes depending on the bug, beast or bird that you are trying to keep off your food.
My fruit cage came complete with netting plus assembly instructions, however the cage kit lacked ‘best use of net advice’, never-the-less I pulled the netting as tightly as possible across my fruit cage. I cable tied the net to the frame paying particular attention to the bottom and I ensured that there weren’t any gaps! I secured all the ‘surplus’ netting carefully to the corners (once again using cable ties to prevent ‘flapping’. The net is of small-gauge mesh, 15–20mm (1⁄2–3⁄4in), which should exclude even the smallest birds. Perfect or so I thought!
Year one…spot on…no issues…no accidental trapping…no fatalities. This year, year two…multiple trappings (and releases) and two fatalities!!! Two female blackbirds. Both while we were on trips away. I’m devastated! I’ve no idea how they managed to get into the cage…
I decided to read up… ‘every year thousands of animals are injured in inappropriate netting of back yard fruit trees, or discarded netting. It entangles birds, lizards, snakes, bats….. The netting cuts their mouths to ribbons as they try to bite themselves free, and wraps so tightly around them that circulation is cut off and tissue dies, days or even weeks later. The animals die of thirst, starvation, strangulation or outright pain and fear in the nets. Many of those ‘rescued’ die later as a result of secondary infection, or are euthanasised because they are releasable.’ Quote and photographs of suggested alternatives to netting can be found on http://www.wildlifefriendlyfencing.com/WFF/Netting.html
(WARNING: some of the photographs could be distressing to some readers).
Basically, if you can push your finger through the mesh or net then wildlife could be harmed. All types of netting has the potential to kill wildlife, monofilament or knitted!
It seems that a fine mesh draped over the tree or bush is better for birds and wildlife.
Another suggested structure made of very fine mesh.
Other suggestions are:
- Fruit bags (jewellery mesh bags are ideal).
- Shade cover / netting.
- Adapting a plant pot to cover the fruit like a bell.
I’m not sure how feasible these wildlife friendly constructions / ideas are…I’ll give them a try…if I can find some wide enough mesh! Do you have any creative ideas?
Many of us have fruit cages and netted areas on the plot to keep the pilfering birds off our crops. However sometimes a determined bird can get inside and then is unable to find a way out.
So my point is that whenever you are on the plot, please check fruit cages and nets for any trapped birds, set them free and perhaps try a few alternative wildlife friendly protection methods.