A blue bird on a branch covered in flower buds
Categories: The Parish Column

Setting Your Soul Aloft: Birdwatching as a Solace During COVID-19

by Tom Kerr, Eco-Action Team

I have always sought out nature to find peace. When I enter a wooded path, contemplate an ocean horizon, or peer up at the spectacle of a mountain peak, I am reminded that I am just a very small part of a much larger whole. On a walk outdoors, it’s remarkable how the small annoyances and frustrations from the day quickly fade away as body and mind re-calibrate.

This time of the year is special as birds migrate north as they have for millenniums. The earth turns and birds follow the rhythm of daily and yearly cycles. Now that the weather is warming up, my wife Carol and I enjoy cracking the window and hearing the dawn chorus of songbirds kicking into gear as early as 5:00 am, reminding us that a new day is here, full of hope and possibility.

I highly recommend birdwatching as a solace during these challenging times. In a time when we cannot travel far from home, birds come to us. You can watch the same tree and see many different species. The most important thing is to be purposeful; take the time to sit, watch, and enjoy. With a little practice, you’ll be amazed at the diversity of bird life that you can see. Look at the highest branches and at the edges of forests and lawns where they like to perch.

The practice of birdwatching is misnamed, because the other joy that birds bring us is their song. Make birdlistening a daily practice. We all know a few bird sounds – the rasp of the blue jay, the quick chirp of the cardinal – but with some time and attention, you’ll begin to notice many other wonderful songs and find new favorites.

Be curious. Pick a bird and follow its path. Is it carrying something in its beak? Does it go back and forth to a particular area? It may be feeding its young or building a nest. And I’ve noticed sometimes with a smile that birds engage in antics that I can only assume is play.

I hope this has inspired you to take a moment to sit outside and enjoy the spectacle of birds – a reminder that we are not alone but a part of a wonderful, greater whole. The Eco-Action Team at St. John’s is committed to helping us emerge from this crisis with a renewed connection to the earth. Stay tuned for future articles on this theme.

If you’re interested in further reading, I highly recommend David Sibley’s What it’s Like to Be a Bird and Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk. And please join the Eco-Action Team for our next virtual meeting, Wednesday, June 3 at 7:30 pm; contact office@stjohnsnorwood.org for an invite.