Grumpy Old Birder

Bo Be­olens on how bird­watch­ing as a hobby has a pos­i­tive ef­fect on mind and body

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents -

Bo ex­tols the virtues of bird­watch­ing for a healthy mind and body

MIND­FUL­NESS SEEMS to be the buz­zword of the last year or so… it’s a ther­a­peu­tic tech­nique, the idea be­ing that you achieve a de­sired men­tal state by fo­cus­ing your aware­ness on the present mo­ment, while calmly ac­knowl­edg­ing and ac­cept­ing your feel­ings, thoughts, and bod­ily sen­sa­tions etc. It’s not a new idea of course, just a re­cast­ing of an old one. Hin­dus were med­i­tat­ing 3,500 years ago! Our pas­times are not all adrenaline rich ac­tiv­ity, some are very much in the mind­ful mode. Isaac Wal­ton wrote in The Com­plete An­gler (1653) “God never did make a more calm, quiet, in­no­cent recre­ation than an­gling.” He also re­ported Sir Henry Wot­ton say­ing “…an­gling was an em­ploy­ment for his idle time, which was then not idly spent, a rest to his mind, a cheerer of his spir­its, a di­verter of sad­ness, a calmer of un­quiet thoughts, a moder­a­tor of pas­sions, a pro­curer of con­tent­ed­ness;” and “that it be­gat habits of peace and pa­tience in those that pro­fessed and prac­tised it.” To my mind, every­thing th­ese guys said about fish­ing I can say about bird­ing, but in Spades! I have main­tained for many years that a day spent bird­ing is a day added to

The more we adopt this mind­ful way of be­ing, the more we will do for birds

your life. But like other pas­times some of us are more mind­ful than oth­ers. Just as there are an­glers who trudge the banks spin­ning lures or whip­ping flies across rush­ing streams, so there are bird­ers who want to rush through the coun­try­side adding ticks. Any long-term reader of this col­umn will know that I be­lieve we “also serve who only stand and wait”. You will also know that more and more pun­dits are declar­ing the need for wilder­ness, not for the sake of the planet, or even its wildlife, but be­cause it im­pinges on our own men­tal health. Sure, we need green and un­pol­luted spa­ces to act as the world’s lungs and reser­voirs of wildlife, but, even if that was not the case, they would be needed to keep our souls in fine fet­tle. Why is this im­por­tant to more than the in­di­vid­ual birder’s well­be­ing? Sim­ply, be­cause the more we adopt this mind­ful way of be­ing, the more we will in­ci­den­tally do for the good of birds. Man­ning the con­ser­va­tion bar­ri­cades al­ways leaves one open to the ac­cu­sa­tion that we are just tree-hug­ging, woolly-minded, lib­eral do-good­ers putting the needs of Hawfinches above that of hu­mans. Have you ever sat on a bird re­serve bench with the sun on your face, Swifts wheeling over the reed-beds, war­blers chat­ter­ing in the bushes and frogs croak­ing in the stream; drift­ing be­tween sleep and wake­ful­ness rev­el­ling in the world as it once was and could and should be once again? We bird­ers can leave the rat race’s ex­is­ten­tial­ist night­mare and show oth­ers how to join the hu­man race again. Bo Be­olens runs fat­birder.com and other web­sites. He has writ­ten a num­ber of books

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.