Watching at a wildlife window
I have got a confession to make…...I spend hours every week staring out of my kitchen window. I do it whilst I am eating breakfast, preparing lunch or dinner, having a quick tea break, washing up, or just rebooting my brain. Some people might say I am wasting time, but for me it is therapeutic, and science increasingly backs this up.
The thing is, I have bird feeders in my garden and from dawn until dusk a frenzy of activity takes place that is full of drama and very difficult to resist, far better than any TV soap opera. With all of us currently restricted in where we can go and what we can do, the accessibility of birds give us the opportunity to connect with nature and to lift our mental and physical wellbeing with very little effort on our part.
I am fortunate to live on the League’s Baronsdown wildlife sanctuary and so the variety of birds that visit my garden is staggering, but it doesn’t matter where you live in the UK there will always be birds around. I may have siskins, marsh tits, nuthatch and goldfinch on my feeders, and a cheeky robin, but I am quite envious of other people who have house sparrows and starlings on theirs. The antics of these gregarious birds are brilliant to watch and something that we usually overlook in our normally hectic lives.
Part of the enjoyment of watching birds in your local patch is you never quite know what is going to turn up. I regularly get pheasants and red-legged partridge in the garden that have escaped from the local shoots, but last year a spectacular Lady Amherst’s pheasant arrived from somewhere and then hung around for a few weeks. At this time of year, as migrant birds are returning to the UK, just about anything could drop by on its way to its breeding grounds.
When you are out for your daily exercise it is an ideal opportunity to take note of the birds around you. If you are lucky enough to live near water, the birds you encounter there are likely to be very different to the birds you see from your window. The great thing about birds is they don’t need to be rare to be exciting. Mallards are found throughout the world, but it is still difficult to beat the endearing charm of a mother duck followed by her recently hatched ducklings.
If you want to do something more than just watching birds, why not get artistic and try drawing or painting different species and notice the adaptations that each has to suit their lifestyles. Or if you are competitive, try listing the bird species you see and compare your list with the birds your friends and relatives see. Many of the birds outside your home will have made incredible journeys across the world to get to you and with a bit of research you could retrace their path and see the countries they have likely flown over on-route. The cuckoo you hear has flown more than 10,000 miles since he left the UK in June to spend the winter in West Africa.
While the current situation is a tragedy, it also gives us the chance to take stock of our lives and to enjoy the nature that is all around us. Unlike electronic gadgets or gym subscriptions, nature is free to all and the benefits to our health are without question.
- Paul Tillsley, Head of Education & Conservation