Free as a bird through lockdown
As the days get shorter and contact with friends is still limited, it’s more important than ever to do things we enjoy. I know my hobby of bird watching and volunteering for BTO helped me during lockdown; providing the chance to notice and lose myself in nature. I am passionate about sharing this experience and inspiring other young people to try it too.
I told her to keep looking up at the sky for birds flying through the city.
I am writing this blog where I am currently at my best! That is in my garden sat watching my feeders breathing the fresh air, while the Blue Tits make my suet balls disappear. This is the place I spent most of my time during lock down. It helped me through those hard months of isolation.
For me, I like to be outdoors soaking up the sunshine while exploring nature, so being at home all those months was hard on my mental health. Through the period of lockdown at home, I began to lose track of my day-to-day routine. Starting to feel low and negative, I knew I needed to look forward to something… so I topped my feeders up and watched. Watching my feeders gave me a purpose and joy, waking up every morning to record what birds had visited. It was great to see a Great Spotted Woodpecker visiting my coconut feeder; I'd never seen this before in four years of living here! This experience helped me reframe my thoughts and think positively; treating my current situation as back garden birding as opposed to lockdown. Normally I would be at work missing out on my garden visitors.
Unfortunately, my friend Sophie was having an even tougher time. She had recently moved to Bradford to pursue her career and was completely isolated with no friends or family in this new city, desperately relying on Zoom meetings and phone calls. During one of these calls Sophie confided in me how depressed she felt. I shared with her what had kept me motivated, suggesting she should put some feeders up. She sounded sceptical, not knowing where to place the feeders as she lives in a second-floor apartment with no garden, and she knows very little about birds. So I was surprised when three days later she sent me a picture, with the question: “What is this bird?”
Sophie had eventually got round to putting up two feeders and had been visited by a male Bullfinch on her balcony. One Saturday morning I received another message from her: she had now seen two Bullfinches, one Great Tit and one Blue Tit! Fantastic! She began learning to identify what she was looking at, gaining an interest in these new friendly visitors. Weeks went by and, as we were chatting, already I could tell from her voice her spark was almost back!
I told her to keep looking up at the sky for birds flying through the city; some advice somebody had once said to me. A month had gone by and a catch-up was in order. During our FaceTime, Sophie went on to boast how she keeps on seeing Peregrine Falcons! For me, that said it all. Knowing you are in a city living in an apartment with very little vegetation, but still being fortunate enough to see this ultimate falcon of speed proves you do not need a garden, or to live in the country side to encounter incredible birds.
I hope this inspires you as much as it has me. I discovered in my lockdown that I didn't have to go anywhere to see such fascinating birds; the birds came to me.
How have you been coping during lockdown? Tell us in the comments.
Harriet’s friends name was changed to protect her privacy.
Stop to watch for mental health
BTO has produced a downloadable podcast narrated by actor Martin Shaw, aimed at improving wellbeing through mindful birdwatching.
Doses of neighborhood nature: the benefits for mental health of living with nature
Experiences of nature provide many mental-health benefits, particularly for people living in urban areas.