I recently watched a short video about Robert Bateman, one of Canada’s renowned artists and naturalists. While describing his love of nature he said, “The world would be a better place if everybody was a birdwatcher.” This made me smile.
Of course, with a name like Sparrow, it is no wonder that I have a love of birds. My family knows that the world stops when an oriole visits our yard. We must all watch intently as he delicately consumes the grape jelly from the feeder. He doesn’t stay long, but for that moment in time, we are still, all of us absorbed in the miracle of this perfectly orange bird.
What I love about birds is how they make me feel: present. Bird watching, or bird listening, is a truly mindful practice when we do it with intention and can be easy to do pretty much anywhere. The first step is finding a spot where you can pause for several uninterrupted minutes to take in birdsong, watch birds in flight, or simply observe the day-to-day bustling of your neighbourhood feathered friends. Then, when you have your spot, just allow yourself to observe with curiosity and without expectations. Paying close attention to the birds guides your mind into the present moment, and it also helps build your connection to your environment. You can add this grounding practice to any part of your day, be it a morning walk in the woods or sitting on your porch in the evening.
In my own experience, I have learned a few basic things about birds, too. I can recognize the cooing of the doves, who seem to like roof peeks and hydro wires. Redwing blackbirds are fierce and will fight you if you come near their nest. And cardinals seem to also enjoy grape jelly from time to time.
Mr. Bateman believes that bird watching can deepen our understanding and love of nature. I believe it can also help us deepen our connection to ourselves by creating an opportunity to practice mindfulness. I invite you to try it and see for yourself. Perhaps you, too, will find a little joy and comfort in the engaging lives of birds.