AS a man of kindly disposition towards most of the creatures that walk, crawl or fly around this earth, I like to do my bit to help those which have fallen on hard times.

Only last week, I discovered a newly-fledged sparrow flapping helplessly in the water trough of one of my equine charges, while its parents flapped and fluttered hysterically around the stables.

I scooped up the little mite, and threw it high in the air, and had the satisfaction of seeing it make a crash landing on the shed roof, apparently not the worse for its untimely dunking.

Similarly, when bees enter our conservatory and blunder noisily against the windows, I go and find a glass, and coaster, and effect their escape with well practised sleight of hand.

Once, when fishing at dusk in the River Rede, I felt an unusual jerk on my back cast, and realised I had managed to come into contact with one of the resident bats, which was floundering in the water.

I scooped it out with my landing net, left it on a rock to dry out a little, and then cast it heavenwards, where it rejoined its leathery-winged mates in their squeaky quest for insects.

Many of you may have noticed a marked absence this year of swifts, which used to fill the air on summer nights with their spectacular aerobatics.

They live their entire lives on the wing, but one got its radar in a tangle some years ago, when it flew in through an open upstairs window of the Courant office.

It swooped round the office for a while, giving several pairs of Tena Ladies a major workout, before crashing into a wall and hitting the deck.

It was me who bent down to pick up the feathery corpse, believing it to be dead, but then I saw it was still moving.

Closer examination revealed the bird itself was not moving – the movement was generated by the hundreds of fleas shuffling round under its feathers. No wonder they scream so much!

Thankfully, the bird was only stunned not dead, and after a few moments, I was able to release it through the window, where it was soon soaring around with its myriad of passengers.

Not all my acts of altruism have a happy ending, for I was once sitting in a ghyll in Cumberland watching a dozen rabbits nibbling at the turf.

Then a sinuous shape emerged from the heather, and one rabbit made a bolt for it. The fleeing rodent was sent rolling over squealing piteously, with a large stoat attached to its neck.

I stood up from my hidey hole, and all the rabbits but one scattered, while the stoat gave me a baleful glare that went well beyond hatred, before melting back into the undergrowth.

I genuinely believed I had saved the rabbit’s life with my timely intervention, and it looked into my eyes with what I took to be gratitude for several moments before breathing its last.

I considered burying it, but took it back to the farmhouse instead – and very tasty it was too.

Kind as I am to the vast majority of creatures, I draw the line at performing good deeds for things that can cause you and others harm.

I took issue with an ex-colleague the other day, when he was bemoaning the difficulty of persuading a fly to exit a room via an open window.

I was obliged to point out that the fly had probably hatched out as a maggot in a dead rat, feasted on a vomit slick and made free with a steaming pile of doggy doos before buzzing into his life, and once turned loose, would spread plague and pestilence throughout Haydon Bridge.

I hate flies with a passion, fueled by an occasion when I was seriously mobbed by a cloud of bluebotttles of biblical proportions when out fishing.

They appeared out of a cloudless sky with a chainsaw buzz and endeavoured to enter my body via my ears, nostrils, mouth and every other orifice.

It was genuinely scary, and I had to take refuge face down on the grass with my Barbour coat pulled completely over my head until nightfall.

For that reason, I always keep a can of fly spray in the conservatory, I have to wait until Mrs Hextol has left the room and then endure her complaints that she has to hoover up endless windrows of little blue corpses the next morning.