Guest Blog: Watch the Birdie!
Watching birds can be a great way of relaxing and letting the world slow down. Here I don’t mean being a twitcher – someone who rushes off around the country, tipped off by email or text, to see particularly rare birds who have stopped off by chance on migration. I mean the gentler sort of bird watching, visiting bird and nature reserves, estuaries and lakes, or even just a local country park.
You don’t need to be an expert, nor spend a lot of money to begin birdwatching. Invest in a decent bird book and some binoculars. You can often buy these second-hand and don’t need to spend a great deal when you start. Or why not hire some binoculars first to try them out. You can do this at some of the larger RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) reserves such as Leighton Moss in Lancashire or Minsmere in Suffolk. Usually 8 x 42 or 10 x 42 are a good size of magnification and lens to start with. Look out for eyepieces which work with glasses if you wear them and waterproof binoculars can prove useful too.
The great thing about birdwatching is that it can slow you right down, take you out in the fresh air and beautiful countryside and you get some exercise too. It can slow you down because you are focusing your attention on the birds and they do what they want. You are just hoping to see them and observe them. So you have to be patient. Going to a bird reserve and sitting in a hide can be a tranquil experience and you can easily lose sense of time. It’s a great flow activity. If you don’t know much there will often be other birdwatchers who will happily tell you what’s about.
A visit to a reserve such as those run by the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts or the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, can be a great place to start. Bigger reserves have visitor centres with lots of information and sometimes great cafes. For the novice they often run talks and walks to introduce people to the reserve or particular birds. If you get really involved you can even do some volunteering. Hides often have information with pictures on the birds you are likely to see at the reserve. Country parks often have visitor centres too with information about the local wildlife.
Bird watching can be an all year round activity and winter can be a great time to see visiting birds on our wonderful estuaries such as the Dee between the Wirral and Wales or in Morecambe Bay. In spring many places will be alive with breeding birds in woodlands, hedgerows and around our cliffs. There are some places you can get really close to nesting birds such as puffins and terns on the Farne Islands, owned by the National Trust, but be sure to take a hat as the terns can try to attack people’s heads as they protect their eggs!
So what does birdwatching offer for your wellbeing? Well here’s some of the key benefits:
- Gentle exercise
- Slows you down
- A different focus
- A flow activity
- A chance to learn about the natural world
About the author
Ros is a retired museum curator with a keen interest in nature, history and art. She’s discovered the joys and calming benefits of birdwatching through visiting bird reserves around the UK, as well as just pausing to watch the birds in her own back garden in which she’s cultivated a green haven for wildlife. She finds a strong social network supports her wellbeing, as well as taking time to relax being amidst the British countryside, pottering around her garden, or taking a stroll around an art exhibition.