Hannah, 18, @hannahgraceslim
For me birding began as, and still is, a form of escapism; a way to immerse myself in a world different to my own. In 2019, I was going through a particularly bad time with my mental health, and what started off as a simple observation on a field-trip to Norfolk led to learning the language of birdsong, having goals of wanting to see certain birds, ad eventually building up knowledge and a social media platform.
With encouragement from certain people around me, birding gave me life, a focus and a career path. I hope to encourage and inspire others to see how amazing and healing birds are.
Ewa Cieniek, 32
I've always been interested in birds. When I was a child I was fascinated about the many varieties of colours , species, shapes, sounds and sizes. I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but definitely a huge bird enthusiast.
These days I like to identify the different birds present in UK, but I can’t track them in my family city in Poland. I usually go to the nearby forest for an early morning walk with my dog. I challenge myself to spot birds I haven’t seen before. When I go on a trip with my partner, we always look for new birds specific to that area.
In my garden I have a regular visitor: a pied wagtail. I gave him the name “Hunter” as his walking style reminds me of a soldier. Hunter is so fearsome and he couriers himself around our garden, exploring his surroundings. If I am lucky enough, I can catch him looking at his reflection in our glass door. Once he brought a friend, a female yellow wagtail - which makes me wonder just how many more birds I'm still yet to discover in my neighbourhood!
Jenny, 14, @birdnerdjenny
I was 7 years old when I got my first animal encyclopaedia; this sparked a love for animals like anacondas and bears. My love for bird watching and British wildlife was sparked 4 years later when I first watched BBC Springwatch. I remember sitting watching Chris Packham and the other presenters identifying species on the feeders and talking about evolution; I was hooked on British wildlife from that point. Two years later, in October 2019, I first visited Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory and went on my first guided walk. That day I saw my first chiffchaff singing high above in the elm trees and my first lapwing spiralling and “pee-witt-ing” above my head. This further sparked my love, fascination, passion and a special interest in birds.
These experiences created a love for nature; birds in particular, and for many reasons, each reason stretching to every genus of bird and corner of the animal kingdom. Sometimes it’s the joy that can pluck you from the darkest of places, the fascination that keeps me happy and occupied for hours, and the escape to a world where every problem melts away like a fulmar flying away over the horizon.
Birds epitomise freedom. They see the world from horizon to horizon, holding the sky beneath their wings. An example of perfect evolution, they have ruled the air since time forgotten and ask nothing more of it than to keep holding them up.
My love of our avian friends has always been present, especially for raptors. Lockdown has, as for many others, provided me with time to truly indulge this passion and expand upon my knowledge. I learn best when actively making notes, and so have created a bird diary to document both online research and in-the-field discoveries.
The last few years I have felt somewhat lost and without passion. Now, upon seeing the flashing ray of a yellowhammer, the beautifully sharp outline of a red kite, or hearing the rasping crex crex of the elusive corncrake, my heart fills with such a rush of happiness. It’s a tangible feeling, and one I owe to the birds.
I encourage anyone who loves nature to enter the world of birds. The pleasure at successfully identifying a species from its song is inexplicably satisfying. Thank you, birds, and thank you to the RSPB for continually striving to protect them.
Jamey, @jredway95 (Twitter) @jameydraws (Instagram)
I have been lucky to have grown up surrounded by nature, and parents who have encouraged this enthusiasm and love for wildlife. For me, nature is my home, and the inspiration for all my artwork. It is hard to image a life without its influence. I remember seeing a barn owl for the first time and thinking it was the most beautiful thing I had ever beheld.
My favourite subjects to draw are birds, just because of their variety, and their individual characters. I like to walk in my local countryside, and draw what I see, but sometimes my best models are the Blackbirds that visit my back garden, or the swifts that screech and race around above my house.
Being a black woman in the world of birding often made me ask ‘Do I fit in?” and “Is this love for nature meant for me?” Well, I have come to realise that we all experience nature in many different ways and it really is for everyone. For me, I find solace in watching the birds, escaping from everyday life. When I sit down to paint, I transfer their movement, grace and individual characters onto paper, to capture their beauty and create that same solace in my artwork.
Katy, 31, @katyinky (Twitter) @katybowman (Instagram)
When we moved to our house a couple of years ago the previous owners left a note telling us about all the birds nesting in the house – House Martins in the eaves and blue tits in the bricks. The House Martin nest fell down the following year so I bought some artificial nest cups to give them a permanent home, which they have happily occupied ever since and this is really what started my love for these amazing birds. I am a graphic designer and during lockdown I had extra time on my hands. I wanted to try and do something positive with my skills and spread awareness about the birds I love. I designed leaflets and posters about our migratory birds for the local village newsletter and message boards. I then joined a group for called “SOSSSH - Save Our Swifts Swallows Sand martins and House Martins” on Facebook where I shared the artwork, which went down so well it was shared and retweeted all over the place! Since then, I joined forces with a team of other passionate volunteers who saw my artwork and we have formed a new charity called House Martin Conservation UK & Ireland (which is currently live on Facebook) of which I am part of the Creative Arts team along with artist Jonathan Pomroy. I have designed the website which is currently in the process of being built by a developer which we hope will spread information and awareness of House Martins and what we can all do to help them. It made me feel fantastic that I had helped these lovely birds using my skills in a positive way and I hope I can spread this in my community – and one day internationally.
During lockdown, I was sitting at my kitchen table working from home and a little robin would come every day and hop around my garden. My youngest son is called Robin so it brought me much joy to see him every day. I decided to put up some bird feeders for him, so did some research and put some food out. I had read that it could take days or weeks for birds to come to the feeders but within two days I was starting to get traffic in my garden.
It has been really pleasurable to see all the different varieties of birds visiting my garden and has given me something to enjoy from my home during lockdown. I have been unable to return to work as I am diabetic and so this has given me something to focus on when not actually working at home. I have progressed from one feeder to four feeding stations and a bird bath. My friend gifted me a bird spotter’s handbook so I can identify the species and next on my list is a better camera and some binoculars.
I have been lucky to have seen blue tits, collared doves, greenfinches, goldfinches, sparrows, starlings, blackbirds, great tits, robins....and I even have a pair of squirrels who come every day performing all sorts of acrobatics to get to the feeders (they now have their own little nut bowl!). My own children aged five and seven have been enjoying looking for different wildlife in the garden and this has now extended to searching for wildlife on our daily walk, we have found all sorts of birds and insects.
Lydia, 18, @LydiaEve_H
Taking a book of British birds to RSPB Marshside on walks during lockdown started as an 'on the off chance' notion; now it’s like habit. I began noting down what I saw- lapwings, avocets, shelducks-followed by some research on the RSPB website to find out more about what I had seen. Now, largely without intent, I find myself as a very new self-proclaimed birdwatcher. Of course, the birds have been there all along, which makes it even stranger to say I feel I have gained new insight into the world around me, simply by being able to put a name to the birds I see.
Birdwatching has also allowed me to connect to my environment regardless of the location, which has been very welcome in my first few months away from home at University. Goldfinches on the roof aerial, a grey heron on the adjacent chimney pot, swooping herring gulls: this richer awareness of the day to day has been the wonderful addition of birdwatching and engaging with the amazing diversity of birds that are to be found all around.
Above and header image: Illustration by Jamey Redway
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