In our modern, busy world we don’t often stop for long enough to put our phones down and simply watch and listen to our feathered friends. When we do we remember how wonderful it is, and how rewarding. Perhaps you get out with your camera to a local Nature Reserve or do the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch annually. Maybe you tick off birds you’ve seen in a spotters guide with your children. Do you feed the birds in your garden or have a nest box? Perhaps the closest you get to birdwatching is on the TV during BBC’s Springwatch. However you do it Birdwatching can bring you much joy and it has many associated health benefits. So if you don't, you should.
Watch The Birdie: For Health and Happiness.
A study undertaken by the University of Exeter, The University of Queensland and the British Ornithology Trust demonstrated that birdwatching is good for your mental health; reducing anxiety, stress and depression. It is not surprising when you consider the meditative quality of the activity, sitting quietly, patiently and clearing your mind of the jibber-jabber. ‘Twitching’ can also lower blood pressure and reduce pain (probably due to subjects focusing on something else). If you get out and about to do your birdwatching all the better. Fresh air, exercise, sunshine (if you’re lucky!) giving you a healthy dose of vitamin D, spending quality family time together in the great outdoors and/or becoming part of a community of fellow birdwatchers. You hardly need this study to tell you that will improve your health and wellbeing! There is also the feeling of great satisfaction and a release of dopamine – the feel-good chemical, from spotting birds. This is especially true if you able to identify them and/or are inclined to tick them off a list as you watch them.
So, dust off those binoculars and get a good bird spotting book. Second hand bookshops and charity shops are a trove of vintage and often beautifully illustrated examples (though sometimes they can be a bit outdated). Matt Sewell’s Spotting and Jotting Guide is charmingly illustrated and relatively cheap, the I-Spy series for children has both Birds and Garden Birds and allot different points for different species. You can’t go wrong with the RSPB Pocket Guide to British Birds by Simon Harrap or, for smaller pockets, the 'Collins Gem' Garden Birds. The RSPB Guide to Birdsong With CD can be listened to at home or in the car so you can then dazzle your fellow spotters with your ability to identify birds purely by ear. Who doesn’t love a chance to show off!
Bad News For Birds.
Sadly, as much as we love our birds, their numbers are in severe decline. This is largely due to intensive farming and modern farming methods. One example of detrimental and catastrophic farming methods is the Mediterranean olive harvest. During the olive harvest millions of birds are killed annually as they are sucked into the huge vacuum machines used to harvest the olives. The harvest season runs from October to January. This is the time when many birds from across Europe, including the UK, seek the warmer weather of the Mediterranean basins and in the evenings many roost in the olive trees. Harvesting takes place at night to increase the flavour and aroma of the olives so the resting birds; surprised, confused and scared by the bright lights are unable to escape these huge machines.
Oil Love You Spain!
Spain took the lead in October 2019 in preventing this annual massacre by placing a temporary ban on night-time machine harvesting in some of the largest areas of olive oil production in the world.
This will potentially save over 2.5 million birds in just one season. Over 90,000 birds meet the same fate in Portugal. The total numbers of birds killed in other olive production areas in unknown. But it can be assumed that wherever the practice of night-time harvesting is in place, up to 100 birds per machine, per night are being killed and that this could easily run into millions over the harvest period.
Hopefully, other Olive producing countries such as Italy, France and Portugal will follow Spain in banning this horrific practice. In the meantime, you can help by buying bird-friendly Olive oil. Love and Joy Home are now stocking Organic Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil, blended with rapeseed oil so you can cook and drizzle with a clear conscience.
The impact of the olive harvesting, as well as other intensive farming methods is enormous but habitat loss and climate change and use of pesticides also impacts heavily on bird numbers. There are many things that we can all to do help our birds.
10 Ways You Can Help Birds
Put up birdfeeders and keep them clean and filled year round (with some packaging free Peckamix bird food from Love and Joy Home naturally).
Start Birdwatching; Ornithological organisations and charities rely on data from volunteers and amateur birdwatchers to monitor bird numbers and they all agree that awareness is key to conservation. Also the more our birds are loved the more voices speak up for them and their welfare.
Put out clean, fresh water year round. This is not only for birds to drink but to bathe in. Bathing in clean water is essential for keeping feathers waterproof and for warmth throughout winter as well as cooling them down in our increasingly hot summers.
Keep your garden chemical free; pesticide use is cited by scientists as a major factor in bird decline.
Put up nest boxes.
Increase the amount of bird friendly plants in your garden; native shrubs and trees with berries and fruits that birds can eat and plants with dense foliage that will provide places to shelter and nest.
Garden less; wildlife prefers wild gardens; so give yourself and our wildlife a break and mow less, weed less and allow plenty of wild space to encourage biodiversity in your garden.
Consider putting in a pond; according to many wildlife gardening experts the single biggest thing you can do to encourage wildlife is have a pond in your garden.·
Lobby your local MP, local councils and the Government with emails and letters or by signing petitions in support of bird conservation and habitat protection as well as more general environmental concerns.
Shop ethically and buy organic. By supporting organic farms and farmers you are not only helping to reduce the use of pesticides but also supporting more ethical methods of production in general.
For more information on birds and birdwatching have a look at www.rspb.com or www.bto.org Or to learn about and see some spectacular native and non-native birds of prey visit the Hawk Conservancy Trust who are just down the road from us at Love and Joy Home in Weyhill.