The Benefits of Birdwatching

WATCH FOR FLASHES OF YELLOW as you wander the trails: Western tanagers, Bullock’s Oriole, black-headed grosbeaks and yellow warblers. PHOTOS: KEN HALL

Being a self taught nature nut, I present myself with homework assignments frequently. My latest is what happens to me after a day of wandering about , staring up into trees. It’s as close as I can imagine the release some feel after deep meditation. Since I don’t do meditation, I will guess. Relaxed, a clear mind, release of stress, and just an overall feeling of wellbeing. 

My wife has mentioned upon my returns home that I appear so relaxed and at peace. I can’t argue that. I feel it as well. 

So curious me decided to do some research, and find out if there’s more to birding than wandering around looking at birds. I was amazed at the amount of research that has been done on the benefits of bird watching. From numerous research sites, the conclusions are all quite consistent. One of the few things we can do that has no negative results. 

It is proven that Birdwatching is good for your body, and mind. In the late 1800’s birdwatching emerged as a recreational activity. Today it is more popular than ever. Not only is it good for you, it’s one of the most affordable and flexible forms of entertainment. You can birdwatch with an inexpensive set of binoculars, with a camera, or your eyes and a good bird identification book, or a journal. 

You can birdwatch year around. There are always birds to find. A local park, or greenbelt, to road trips across the state looking for that one rare migrating bird. It gets you outside. Away from life’s every day stresses. As more and more people become sedentary, working indoors, watching TV, social networking, and basically ignoring the great outdoors. Birdwatching is a wonderful reprieve. To regroup from the stresses of life. When I am birding it is typically by myself, and at times another tags along. I have very simple rules. No talk of humanities ills. It is a time to set that all aside. It will still be there tomorrow. It is a time to reset the brain and relax. 

It is proven that birdwatching brings tranquility. Even just a half hour a day will lower heart rate, and blood pressure, as well as stress levels and tension. It promotes good sleep, and a healthier optimistic outlook on life. And it involves little more than observation, silence, and an appreciation for nature. 

Again extensive research, not just my opinion. It feeds ones desire to learn. I never come home without having learned something new . And I’m not a young guy. Birdwatching is extremely healthy for your brain. Cognitive, and physiological studies over decades show birdwatching stimulates an active mind. You stay alert longer. It may hold the key to staving off degenerative illnesses. A curious mind is a healthy mind. 

Lastly, comes friendship. As we grow older we form interests and opinions that possibly no longer match up to friends of our past. Most birdwatchers I know, and have met are quite solitary much like myself. But when you meet someone on the trail staring up into the trees, an immediate bond occurs. I believe there are no greater stewards of the land than birdwatchers. You will carry on conversation like old friends. I have made many friends birding. Some I have gone birding , and have become close friends with. 

So for your own wellbeing why not give birdwatching a try. Hope to see you on the trail.  

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