New Year often inspires people to start a new hobby, so what better time to take a closer look at one of the main activities people visit the Dee Estuary reserve for; birdwatching.
Yes, I understand. To the outside world, the concept of birdwatching is often-maligned and looked upon as a bit, well not very cool really.
"Isn't it a bit like train spotting?"
"Don't you just run off to look at some boring new bird somewhere, whilst sitting somewhere muddy?"
"Why are you so mad?" - oh wait, that was about ME, not bird watching. Scratch that. Move along!
I often attempt to explain that people do it for different reasons and sometimes they overlap. Some do it because they like to see rarities and being able to cross it off their list gives the person a sense of accomplishment. Some do it because they are really interested in identifying different species, distinguishing bird calls and their patterns of migration, while others just like to have to have a nice walk out in nature and hopefully see some birds along the way.
I personally fall into the latter category, and if you read my post some time back, you would probably know I'm a hippy person who just really enjoys being outside, often whilst trying to figure out what the heck that bird call is again. I'm definitely not confident when it comes to identifying some birds, and I'm fine with that. The thing is, no matter how good your bird knowledge is, or your reasoning for birdwatching - it doesn't really matter. The choice to birdwatch is ALWAYS the right one. Here's why:
It gets you caught up in nature
I don't want to go on about this one too much as I already discussed the benefits of being a hippy out in nature in my post here, however, there's nothing better for clearing the mind than being out in nature. Turn off your phone and appreciate the great outdoors! Books can only teach you so much about identifying birds and understanding nature, however, it won't help you with being able to identify birdsong and you cannot appreciate the true beauty of what is around you until you are out there getting lost in nature.
A friendly robin at Burton Mere Wetlands (Image: Paul Jubb)
You are bound to see something cool
You've got to be in it to win it and if you're outside on a regular basis - either bird watching or just on a general nature walk - the chances that you'll see something really cool are in your favour. There are always sightings of rarities being reported in some part of the country and quite often these happen right here on the Dee Estuary. YOU may also be the first person to spot a rarity and report it - how cool is that?
It's amazing therapy for depression and stress
There's been a few interesting articles recently written about the benefits of birdwatching, particularly for those who struggle with mental health issues. Experience Life magazine provided a great (albeit brief) write-up on their website and the Bird Therapy website discusses the subject in-depth with many different articles dedicated solely to bird-therapy. Simply put, being outside in nature helps us to wind down and provide us with a relaxing outlet for our fast-paced lives.
It's much more interesting exercise than being on a treadmill
There really isn't much in the way of mental stimulation when on a treadmill. Imagine being able to combine your exercise with your nature walks or with birding? Perhaps it's difficult to bird while running or cycling and I certainly wouldn't recommend using binoculars whilst engaging in any of these activities - unless you plan on stopping first! Having said this, some birds are located in the trickiest locations and therefore require a good bit of walking (usually uphill) to get to.
It's better than being indoors watching the TV
Springwatch or one of David Attenborough's many television shows make absolutely great watching, however, nothing is as inspiring and rewarding as seeing nature's spectacles playing out right in front of you. So the British weather may not always comply; we have have four distinct seasons - yes, we do! Trust me, I used to live in Canada where there are two seasons: winter and roadworks! And we have spring and autumn migration, which means different birds making their temporary homes in good ol' Blighty! Unlike most outdoor hobbies, which are often restricted or abandoned during the colder winter months, birdwatching can be at its most spectacular during these dreary times.
Lapwings in the winter gloom (Image: Paul Jubb)
And this makes a nice segue to my final point:
It's one of the cheapest hobbies there is
Ok, so if you've ever seen the equipment some people lug around, you may not be inclined to agree with me, at first. However, to go birdwatching doesn't necessarily require tons of equipment - at least to begin with. The only thing you really need is a half decent pair of binoculars (the most popular size being the 8 x 40 or 8 x 42) and perhaps a book to help you with identification. Both of these can be found at the RSPB shop by the way.
Also, something else to consider: when you've decided to wake up at some unreasonable hour on a Saturday (or even New Year's Day!) to go out and do some birding and everyone else is just about to fall INTO bed after a night out on the town, think about all the money you've not had to spend, the hangover you haven't got, the exercise your body will get, and the amazing things you could potentially see that day. THIS, is what makes you super cool - man!
Just before I flap away, I wanted to keep you informed of what's happening at the always-interesting Burton Mere Wetlands this New Year. 2019 is a milestone year for the reserve, as it marks the fortieth anniversary since we bought Parkgate marsh in 1979 to first establish the reserve on the Dee. We're encouraging local people to help us celebrate with lots of exciting events throughout the year to witness the wildlife we've worked hard to give a home here.
During January, there are two fabulous events to look forward to, both with a Big Garden Birdwatch theme, which coincidentally also celebrates forty years this year; the Big Farmland Bird Walk is an opportunity to get off the beaten path and see a wilder part of Burton Mere Wetlands, whilst the always-popular Get Ready for the Big Garden Birdwatch encourages families to take part in the annual survey at home. So if you haven't been down recently, perhaps make it your New Year's resolution to visit us again - or even for the first time - soon.
Happy New Year!
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