I’ve just been restocking the bird feeders in my garden in preparation for this weekend’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch here in the UK. It’s a simple concept: you simply record how many species of each bird lands in your garden (or wherever you are counting the birds) in one hour and report the findings back to the RSPB. The survey helps to provide an insight into how different types of birds are faring in these changing environmental times.
Feeding the birds in my garden has been a habit of mine for years now, since shortly after my diagnosis with fibromyalgia. As I’ve always loved nature and the great outdoors, feeding the birds allows me to connect with nature even on days when I am too ill to go out for a walk. I can simply pull up a chair by the window and immerse myself in the antics of my garden friends.
At first, there were some species coming to the garden, such as greenfinches, coal tits and nuthatches, that I wasn’t familiar with, so I had to look them up in a book to identify them. Over time, the characteristics of different birds emerge. There are the dunnocks, hopping inconspicuously around in the borders picking up whatever the other birds have dropped from the feeders. The happy gang of long tailed tits who fly in together with their non-stop chatter, feed on the suet balls and then leave. And the male blackbird who, when he isn’t feeding, will perch atop a dwarf tree, like a bouncer – any other type of bird coming into ‘his’ garden is just fine, but woe betide any other blackbird daring to enter his territory. They will be chased away by an attacking low flight accompanied by furious chattering.
When I’m watching the birds in my garden, I find their behaviours utterly absorbing and that’s important to me as there aren’t too many things that can truly stop the whirring of my overly anxious mind and divert my focus away from pain on bad days.
Research does back up these positive effects of being able to watch birds, such as in this 2017 study from he University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland which concluded that being able to watch birds near where you live was found to be associated with lower levels of reported depression and anxiety.
When I am well enough to go for a walk, I enjoy looking out for birds more commonly associated with farmland, woodland or open space such as yellowhammers, buzzards, woodpeckers, fieldfare and redwings (the latter two being winter migrants to the UK).
Alongside watching birds, I’ve also been trying to learn to identify birds by their song with the help of the BirdNET app on my phone. You can record the sound of a bird when out and about, submit it and the app will make suggestions as to what the bird could be. Although I still frequently get muddled up, I can now identify some of the more common birds by their sound alone. Being able to do this does help make a walk in a woodland for example, a richer experience.
So as I prepare my feeders for the weekend birdwatch and look forward to a mindful, peaceful hour of counting, I feel very grateful to have these birds in my garden. However much I may help them by providing food, water and shelter, I’m convinced that they help me just as much by simply being there.
If you are interested in taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, you don’t need to have a garden as you can observe birds in a park or open space – full details can be found here.
4 thoughts on “My Feathered Friends and the Big Garden Birdwatch 2022”
Aww I read about the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch coming up but I wasn’t sure when it was. I can see why you love to see the birdies and feed them. If we didn’t have a feline hunter in our midst, we would still have a bird feeder. We can no longer feed and encourage them here, but I do love to listen to them singing, chirping away, dancing along the fence. Nature has a beautiful way of refreshing us and grounding us, doesn’t it? I find it forces me to slow down, even if just for a little. It makes sense that reports suggest lower levels of depression and anxiety for those watching birds near where they live.
You definitely know way more than me about birdie names. I just think they look pretty but I couldn’t tell you what’s what. As for what they sound like, we have some around here that are very distinctive but I’d never thought of an app to try to figure out what they are. Great idea.
Enjoy your weekend and time engaging with nature 🐦
Thanks Caz :-). Yep I do find that nature slows my overactive mind down and definitely helps my mental health too by putting things into perspective. I can understand why you don’t feed the birds any more with a feline around though!
Yes the app is great especially for distinctive sounding birds. It’s not always right but over time you do get to recognise certain songs.
Looking forward to an hour in a comfy chair with a brew watching the birds tomorrow.
Have a lovely weekend too
Ive enjoyed watching each bird species’ little quirks too. You’re right – watching them encompasses attention which is so calming. I love the way blackbirds dash. Like theyre shopping in our gardens, but theyre late, and dashing up the aisles!
So glad that watching the birds brings you joy as well. Yes blackbirds are so funny, and now that you say it, I can well imagine them dashing around a shop!
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