With everything that’s happening at the moment it’s worth taking a moment to assess what to do next. We all want to be safe and keep each other safe to get through the next few weeks or months. Does this mean we have to give up doing our hobby of birding and wildlife watching? My answer would be no, and I’m putting my thoughts into action and getting out even more at the moment!
Recently there have been studies, like one at The University of East Anglia (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118303323), that show that being out in the countryside actually has health benefits. So during this time of increased stress, what better than slinging your bins round your neck and on with the wellies to go for a walk in the wide open spaces of the British countryside. Studies show that this can act akin to meditation and mindfulness techniques and release natural endorphins to calm us down and reduce stress levels. Our hobby can be done alone or with just a few folk so avoiding the mass gatherings that we are encouraged to stay away from at the moment. Birding can be done on a walk, we don’t have to frequent hides and reserves, we can be as isolated as we want and still pursue our nature watching.
As an example, today I visited Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, a huge area where folk are spread thinly, and wandering around for a few hours I only came across about half a dozen people who I spoke to. A couple of local birders shared their knowledge with me and a few dog walkers greeted me with a cheery hello as we passed each other. I lost myself in birding, the troubles of the world were put to the back of my mind as I really enjoyed my hobby. I found my target bird, a stunning, ghostly Great Grey Shrike, which gave me a real buzz as I watched and photographed this UK scarcity atop lone trees in a large clearfell area. Later I searched and found 4 Woodlarks, several Stonechats, a Yellowhammer, huge Ravens and minute Goldcrests. For a few hours I wandered the heath watching birds, common and scarce, and I know that it did me good. This fed my mind and exercised my body, keeping both fit has to be the best way forward.
So get out into the wild, if you only ever usually bird on formal reserves try open space birding as a change. Don’t pack away your optics at this current time, get them out even more, remember Wildlife is our Therapy and does us all good. I have written a poem about this, which will be read by me on the Focalpoint Social Media platforms very soon....... watch this space !!