Animals, Birds, Current Issues, Lotti, Wildlife

Bird watching and mindfulness

According to the mental health charity Mind, about 1 in 4 people people will experience a mental health problem each year. Across the world, there’s a growing effort to find better ways of providing support for people who struggle with their mental health. Mindfulness entered the general consciousness several years ago and has since only grown in popularity: even the NHS has a whole webpage dedicated to the act of mindfulness with tricks and tips to achieving this possibly enigmatic state of mind. Mindfulness-Based therapies have been found to be effective at treating depression, anxiety and stress.

Becoming mindful isn’t an overnight event. You can’t wake up one morning, look out the window at the growing light and say to yourself – this is it. Today I am mindful. Like any skill, it requires practice and perseverance. By actively engaging with mindful practices, we can start to become more relaxed in our day-to-day lives and be less prone to the effects of stress and anxiety. So how can we incorporate mindful practice into our everyday lives?

Why not look to the skies?

No – I’m not talking about parachuting.

Last year a group of scientists published research showing that watching birds had a positive impact on your mental health. Focusing on office workers, the researchers showed that people reported lower levels of depression, stress and anxiety when they could see more birds in the afternoon. To reap the benefits of local wildlife, participants didn’t even need to actively interact with the birds in their lives: simply watching the birds was enough to register an improvement in people’s mental health. In fact, lots of research shows people’s mental wellness can be improved by watching birds.

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

Emily Dickinson

How do we start? First, you need to set aside time to practice mindfulness – in this case, by watching birds. Trying to engage in mindful practice while you’re otherwise preoccupied isn’t likely to be very successful – this isn’t something you can do when driving the kids to school or staring out of the window at work. You don’t need hours and hours – just five minutes every day, or every other day, which you set aside purely for watching the birds in your garden.

You can be outside, with them, or if you can’t face the chill then a window is just as good. There is never a “must”, never “you have to”. You can’t watch birds in the wrong way. If on Monday you feel up to sitting in the garden then that’s great, but if on Wednesday you just want to curl up inside then that’s fine too.

Woodpecker

Focus on beginning to notice the birds in your garden. Even if you live in the UK where the most exciting thing you’ll ever see in your garden is a woodpecker, you need to remember that this isn’t about seeing the “best” or rarest birds. This isn’t birdwatching how you might imagine it with a pair of heavy binoculars and a long list of birds which need to be meticulously ticked off. This is probably one of the most important things to remember: This is not a competition.

It’s not about categorising the birds in your garden – chances are you can already list the birds you see every day anyway. In my garden live a couple of robins, blackbirds, some pigeons. If you stand on my driveway and look out towards the Thames you’ll see at least three Red Kites, their pointy tails steering them as they battle the wind. If you wait for long enough, the birds will come to you. The hopping robins perched next to your trowel to look for worms, the blackbird watching you from the fence, the big fat pigeon who doesn’t care whether you’re there at all.

Next, you listen to their calls, to their tweeting. Even if there aren’t any birds in your garden right at that moment, what can you hear from far away? A pair of robins, perhaps, at opposite ends of a garden twittering at each other. An angry blackbird chirruping at a cat in your neighbour’s garden. Even a seagull who’s flown too far from the ocean. If you’re lucky to live somewhere with a high number of birds of prey, you may even be able to hear one of them screech across the sky. Try to really focus not just on the noises themselves, but how they rise and fall, their pitch, how far away the song is and if it’s getting closer or moving further away.

Now focus on what you can see. Focus on the birds’ wings, their eating, their beaks, their playing together. Focus on the young ones. Now the old ones. Look closer at the patterns on their wings. Even the most boring pigeon is beautiful if you look at him the right way. And I should know: I love pigeons.

Pigeon

Pick a bird, any bird. Focus on it. Follow its path around your garden, into the sky, until it disappears. Pick another one. And another. The point, of course, is not to observe the bird but rather to focus your mind. You’re aiming for what psychologists call “flow”: a sense of feeling at one with the world, of having such strong focus on a task that you’ve let go of your own feelings and worries without even really realising it.

Achieving a state of “flow” can also be described as “being in the zone” – Imagine trying to perfect a new physical skill like roller-skating or rock climbing, or maybe even doing something as simple as watching a movie in the cinema or the final episode of a season of your favourite TV show. You are so engaged, so engrossed, that the thoughts which can often plague us go unnoticed. There’s no room for negative thoughts when your mind is focused on keeping your balance, which hold to grab next or figuring out who’s just killed your favourite character. Finding yourself in a place of “flow” leaves you feeling more relaxed and content. By knowing how to enter a state of flow and making sure we regularly do, we can make this feeling of contentment a more prominent presence in our everyday lives. It’s virtually impossible to feel happy all the time, but we can all strive to feel content and secure more often.

By watching the birds in your garden, it’s possible to get in the zone and engage in mindful behaviour without even realising you’re doing it. By taking time out of our busy, hectic days to reconnect with nature we can feel more relaxed and at ease with the world around us. There’s endless research showing how interacting with wildlife and spending time outside is beneficial for both our mental and physical health, yet we’re all lingering inside more than ever before. Perhaps as spring rolls around again, it’s time we all ignore the typical British weather and spend a little more time in our gardens.

For more information on garden birds and how to attract (and keep!) birds in your garden, check out our other blog posts:

Jenny at PrimroseLotti works with the Primrose Product Loading team, creating product descriptions and newsletter headers.

When not writing, Lotti enjoys watching (and over-analyzing) indie movies with a pint from the local craft brewery or cosplaying at London Comic Con.

Lotti is learning to roller skate, with limited success.

See all of Lotti’s posts.

Animals, Bird Baths, How To, Wildlife, Zoe

The long awaited Big Garden Birdwatch has finally arrived this weekend – hooray! With this handy guide we will teach you how to make an irresistible bird feeder no sparrow could refuse!

Many of us may notice our little visitors in the garden, but do we really know what kind of bird it is? Luckily for you, our beautifully illustrated infographic may help you identify even the most exotic of species! Top marks if you manage to spot a Chabert Vanga…

The best way to entice any guests is of course with a free buffet, and in this blog we suggest a fantastic range of treats and scrummy dishes no bird could refuse.

Dangerous Food for Birds

However if you want to feed wild birds be careful that it is safe, the following cannot be used to feed wild birds:

  • Spoiled seed – make sure the seeds you put out have not started rot. It should be dry without any strong odour.
  • Large quantities of bread – although filling, bread does not contain any of the lovely goodness that wild birds need in their diet.
  • Milk – Avoid leaving out milk for your birds, many experts claim this will make them ill.
  • Cooking fat, margarine & vegetable oil – These are all unsuitable for birds.

Ingredients Needed for Your Bird Feeder

Now for the fun stuff!

It is SUPER easy to make your own bird feede, and it’s a fantastic activity to get the whole family involved and share in the joy when you spot a red breast in the garden.

Firstly, you will need to get your hands on some lard. This is a great glue that will bond all your ingredients. You want one part lard to two parts of your bird seed.

Next, you can pick and choose what treats you want to include for your birds. We suggest the following, with a brief description of what birds love this treat the most:

  • Millet – sparrows, dunnocks, finches, reed buntings and collared doves
  • Flaked maize – blackbirds
  • Peanuts & Sunflower seeds – Tits and greenfinches
  • Pinhead oatmeal – All birds love this!
  • Nyjer seeds – goldfinches and siskins.
  • Cooked rice – All birds lap this up
  • Mealworms – excellent protein source for many birds

You can also add some grated cheese, dried fruit and much other variation of seed in your unique mix!

Now you have binded the lard and your bird seed you will be able to mould this into a variety of different shapes to catch the eye of birds or as a interesting activity for your children. This is a great alternative to shop bought fat balls that often come in nylon bags that are very harmful to birds that get their beaks or feet trapped in them!

Coconut Shell Bird Feeder

Mould Ideas for Your Bird Feeder

  • You can use a halved coconut shell to fill with your bird food; make sure there is no traces of coconut milk left in this shell however.
  • Orange peel! Remove the fruit from the skin of the orange and, like the coconut, fill to the top with the food for a vibrant feeder.
  • Pine cone – roll the pine cone in your lard and seeds for a more decorative feeding treat.
  • Toilet roll – yes really! Once you’re left with the toilet paper roll you can roll this in the seeds for an innovative feeder for the birds. (Be careful in wet weather as the cardboard will begin to disintegrate)
  • Cooker cutters – fill your cookie cutters with the mix and leave them to harden in the fridge.
  • Or be creative and create a shape of your own!

Once you’ve made your treats place them in different areas around your garden to attract a range of birds, and remember to consider the little birds that will need low hanging treats.

Have fun this weekend, and be sure to send us your photographs to photos@primrose.co.uk, we’d love to see them!

Zoe at PrimroseZoë works in the Marketing team at Primrose, and is passionate about all things social media.

After travelling across Europe and Asia, Zoë is intrigued by different cultures and learning more about the world around her. If she’s not jet setting, Zoë loves nothing more than curling up with a good book and a large glass of red wine!

She is an amateur gardener but keen to learn more and get stuck in!

See all of Zoë’s posts.

Gardening, Guest Posts, Nicole, Ponds

Mini meadow for creepy crawlies‘Tis a strange thing, this gardening bug: I find myself constantly thinking about the garden and what needs done in it, what plants I could add to the collection, as well as spending hours pottering about when the weather gives me the chance to get outside. I’ve also found that I frequently stand at my window looking out to the garden contemplating which project to undertake next.

It was during one of these ‘window gardening’ sessions that I saw a little drama unfolding by the mini pond. As mentioned in previous blog posts, our mini pond is frequently used by the birds in our garden and yesterday must’ve been bathing day because they all wanted a go at the same time! The larger female blackbirds chased the little ones away every time they landed to have a drink/wash until eventually the blackbirds just gave up and carried on bathing regardless of the little onlookers.
Birds at mini pond
It was a complete delight to watch the blue tits flutter to and fro the archway with honeysuckle on it, to the escallonia then sneaking their way to the pond. I’m sure I spotted a little wren amongst them but unfortunately the zoom on my camera didn’t capture it in time. It seemed to be enjoying itself, getting lost amongst the tall plants in our mini meadow which is bursting into bloom. The house sparrows kept their distance from the drama sitting happily on the fence observing what was going on.

I was so engrossed watching all this happen that my husband ended up looking for me and finding me gazing out of the bedroom window onto the garden. He just walked away shaking his head. I reckon he needs to be bitten by the gardening bug too, but then again he does do the hard graft so maybe he has it a little. I was pleased to see that the seeds recently sown in the willow planters for veg have germinated so I’ll be thinning them out soon. I noticed one of the female blackbirds eyeing up my runner beans then making herself comfortable on our bench looking up to the window feigning complete innocence so if any of the runner beans vanish before I get the chance to pick any I’ve got a pretty good idea who the culprit could be.
Bird on bench in garden
Do you have any ‘window gardening’ sessions where you witness little dramas unfolding in the garden? I can guarantee that I’ll be having more and will be investing in a better camera to share what I find with you all.

Happy gardening!

Nicole 🙂

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