Tired of being stuck inside? Looking for a way to get into nature that’s both relaxing and easy to start? Birding might be just what you need. You can social distance and find a new hobby that helps your mental health.
According to Harvard, a growing scientific field called ecotherapy shows a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced anxiety, depression and stress.
Birding, or bird watching, involves looking for and identifying birds by sight or sound. You don’t need much to get started: an interest in nature, an ID guide, and some binoculars will do the trick. Bird guides are available online or for purchase in many different formats. The simplest kind is an ID card that folds up and is waterproof. It lists a few of the most common species and is easy to tote around on hikes.
Other guides come in book form. Beginner guides showcase birds by color, while intermediate guides organize them by shape. The most advanced guides have birds arranged taxonomically, by their scientific names. There are also birding mobile apps, which can help you track the birds you see and identify them by bird call. You might already have a pair of binoculars. If not, the most important feature for birding is the magnification. Weight is also something to consider.
You have your tools. But how do you actually bird?
Build up your knowledge. Get to know the birds that live near you. Spotting their coloring and listening to their calls will help you begin to notice when more unusual birds show up.
Pick your spot. You can visit a trail, drive through a wildlife area, or even set up in your backyard! One tip is to find where two habitats meet, like the edge of a forest and a meadow. Places where birds can find food and water are more likely to hold interesting species.
Be patient (and quiet!) Keeping quiet and still and wearing inconspicuous colors can help keep birds near you. Some birds are quiet and blend in more, so it may take some time for them to emerge. Settle in and enjoy being outside!
Birding can be a fun and easy way to get out into nature. Just remember to leave birds be – they are wild animals! Clean up after yourself – leaving litter disrupts birds’ natural habitats. Don’t get too close – leave any nests or eggs undisturbed. And do your research – feeding birds needs to be done with the right seed.
Content by Lockton Dunning Benefits with content from https://www.nps.gov/articles/birding-for-beginners.htm and https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/sour-mood-getting-you-down-get-back-to-nature