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How Birdwatching Can Bring You Joy

by Holly Wilkins about a year ago in Nature

Get a new appreciation of your surroundings

How Birdwatching Can Bring You Joy
Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash

Birds are the easiest way for us to observe and connect with nature, no matter where you live. Whether it’s the humble pigeon in a city or a red-crested robin singing its heart out in the countryside, birds are everywhere.

Growing up in the British countryside, you would think that bird watching would come more naturally, but it was only until adulthood that I really came to appreciate birds. Maybe it was something to do with the fact that a stereotypical bird watcher is an old man who wears one of those green waistcoats with way too many pockets, hiding in bushes or creepily stalking a rare species.

Before we start...I think I should point out that birds are living relatives of dinosaurs, who could not get excited about that?!

It gives purpose to my daily walks. I am lucky enough to have a large park near where I live so I am able to spot common UK garden birds quite easily.

Top: Goldfinch, Sparrow, Great Tit. Bottom: Blackbird, Blue Tit, Robin. via Getty.

I’ve learnt to appreciate the pigeon. Yes, they are EVERYWHERE and are described as sky rats, but if you observe them closer, you’ll see the variety in their plumage and the funny dance males do to try to woo females. In fact, they are incredibly smart and played a huge part as messengers in both World Wars. So next time you are out and about, channel Pigeon Lady.

It's easy to make it into a game. I challenge myself to spot 'lifers' (bird watching term for first seen and positively identified by an individual birder). It is such a thrill! Last year I went to Patagonia and was able to add many lifers:

Top: King penguins, Chucao tapaculo. Bottom: Black-faced ibis, Crested caracara

There is so much to learn. From behaviour to bird song to the colour of their eggs, it really is never-ending! I am currently focusing on birdsong which is surprisingly hard as some species have very similar calls but using the app BirdNET has really helped to identify ones I'm not sure about. The time is now! As Spring settles in (for some of us), birds are jumping into action looking for mates and defending their territory.

I've been lucky enough to travel and see birds from all around the world. When I go somewhere new, I like to study birds that I can potentially spot. In the last couple of years, I have spent time in New Zealand and Patagonia where I spotted many lifers. New Zealand is amazing for unique birds, from the iconic Kiwi to the cheeky Kākāpō (see below!).

You don't even have to be there to witness them, check out these live cams to see birds from all around the world. I'm also a frequent visitor of r/whatsthisbird and r/birding, these are great communities if you need help identifying a bird or just to browse some amazing bird photography. They also have great guides to get you started.

The most important thing, bird watching promotes habitat conservation. The more you learn about birds, their needs and their challenges, it could lead to encouraging you to support species restoration and local habitat conservation. It can be as simple as putting out bird feeders in your garden/balcony/window or volunteering with local groups to help sustain habitats. You might be able to make friends, once upon a time, I managed to befriend a robin who would eat mealworms from my hand.

Trust me, once you've started, you'll never look back! You'll become more aware of your surroundings and even say to yourself, "that's a robin that just flew past!" or "that's the song of a thrush!" You might even find a crew of fellow birders...


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Holly Wilkins

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