This time of year is the toughest for many of us. The days are short. It’s chilly and it feels hard us to get out. The fun of Christmas seems a long way behind us with not much on the horizon to pull us forward. And we’re skint.
Which is why the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is so well placed. Just an hour at the end of January spent watching out for birds in the garden, park or just the space outside our home.
For a start it drags our attention outside, into the garden or park and into the weak winter sunshine. This watery light might not bear the glorious warmth that it does during the summer, but exposure to even winter light improves our sleep, boosts our immune system and fights off depression.
Then there’s the fact that we’re engaging with nature – looking out for birds in a space with some greenery. Numerous studies have shown that just looking at a green space is enough to improve both our mental and physical wellbeing in measurable ways.
Also related to mental wellbeing, there can be nothing more mindful than dragging ourselves out of our human world for an hour and instead focussing on the creatures of the natural world with which we share our space. It takes concentration and uses all our senses as we watch and listen and feel the sun on our faces.
And finally, it’s free.
So what’s in it for the birds? Shockingly, we’ve lost 38 million birds from UK skies in the just 50 years, so birds have never needed our help more than now. The Big Garden Birdwatch is a stick in the sand each year, highlighting problems that need more research, and giving us the chance to look for solutions. And the more of us that take part, the more complete the data we have and the better chance we have of intervening before it’s too late.
You can hear more about how to make the best of this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch from Dan Fletcher of St.Albans RSPB in this podcast
And all the details can be found on the RSPB website