When John Wilkinson told his fellow prisoners he was in jail for feeding pigeons, they burst out laughing.
“Some of them were in for murder or robbery with violence, and they couldn’t believe I was in for feeding birds,” he said.
“They thought I was winding them up.
“Then they came to me a week later and said they realised I was telling the truth, because they’d seen me on TV.”
Mr Wilkinson, known as the Morecambe Birdman, was sent to prison for breaching an ASBO restricting his love of feeding pigeons, after years of complaints by neighbours.
He was jailed for six weeks and served just under half the sentence.
Hundreds of thousands flocked to social media to support the pensioner, many complaining that his punishment did not fit the crime.
The Visitor also began a campaign to Free the Morecambe Birdman.
Mr Wilkinson, 65, said being sent to prison will not stop him from feeding birds in Morecambe in future.
“I regard being sent to prison as excessive and unjust,” he said.
“I don’t think I should have been given an ASBO. I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong.
“ASBOS are given too liberally, for something and nothing.
“If you’ve done something for years and it’s never been a crime, why is it a crime now?
“After I was sentenced I was asked has it come as a shock. I said no, I was expecting it.
“I’d taken my toothbrush and toothpaste to court with me.
“If the sentence was to teach me a lesson then it hasn’t had the slightest effect as a deterrent. First opportunity I got upon my release, I fed the birds.”
Mr Wilkinson admitted he’d been caught feeding birds suet cake in February, which contravened his ASBO, as he is only allowed to feed them bird seed.
But he denied many other accusations that have been levelled against him.
“I’ve been blamed for a lot of things I haven’t done. The council was determined to nail me.
“They said I’d fed birds pizza and pasta. I’ve never done that. I haven’t fed birds at my house since 2012.
“People say pigeons carry disease. There’s no disease. I was checked out while I was in prison and they found nothing wrong with me.
“Under the terms of my ASBO I am allowed to feed the birds at the breakwater car park at The Battery in the morning and opposite the Alhambra buildings in the afternoon. I have continued to do that.
“I enjoy feeding birds. It relaxes me mentally. It improves my powers of concentration.” When asked about complaints from his neighbours about the nuisance and smell of pigeons, Mr Wilkinson said: “I don’t do it to annoy my neighbours.
“I wouldn’t deliberately bother anyone. I’m not a troublemaker.”
Mr Wilkinson spent two weeks and six days in HM Preston prison, from Friday May 23 until his release on Thursday June 12.
He said he was “very well looked after” and got on well with the other prisoners.
“Prison wasn’t unpleasant,” he said.
“I have no bad memories of being in there. It was a nice place, very clean, easy going. You read stories about brutal wardens but there was nothing like that. The staff and other prisoners were kindness itself.
“Each cell has a colour TV and an electric kettle. The food was good but there’s not a lot of it. I shared a cell with a member of a drugs gang. Nice chap. He’s written to me twice since I’ve been out.”
Mr Wilkinson, who used to run a hotel in Morecambe, said he intended to continue to live at his home on Cavendish Road in the West End, despite being offered a new council house by Lancaster City Council.
His home is boarded up, after continuous attacks on the house by vandals, he claimed.
“But why should I move? I’ve lived there for 50 years.”
He also thanked everybody who has supported him.
“I am extremely grateful and never knew I had so many friends.”
See www.thevisitor.co.uk for our exclusive video interview with John Wilkinson.