Birdwatching for peace of mind and better health


(CNN) — Spring is almost here when millions of birds will begin to pass through our cities and towns on their trek back north – known as Spring migration. For me, the excitement about birds is year-round. Few things pull me out of a funk like the sudden appearance of a bluebird in my backyard, the vivid blue against a green magnolia tree like an exclamation point.

I scramble for binoculars to get a closer look, and as I turn the focus wheel, my cloudy, scattered mind refocuses, too. The tiny indigo beauty rewards me with a chest puff, a rust-colored breast popping against the brilliant blue.

The sound of bird song and rustling leaves lead me to take a deep sip of fresh air, and the tightness in my chest disappears. My spirits, low since my mother’s death, lift for now. I look skyward for the next flutter.

Birding to calm the mind

When you’re birding, “you’re almost in a different world,” said Heather Wolf, a bird guide for NYC Audubon in New York.

It’s a skill of fine-tuned observation, which rewards the birder with a new perspective.

“All of the things that might be weighing you down in your daily life, it’s an escape. You forget about them when you’re birding,” Wolf said.

Wolf leads a group through Brooklyn Bridge Park, a mini birding oasis, complete with a stunning backdrop.

She takes the binocular-wearing birders through a paved path surrounded by foliage. You can hear the tweeting as birds dash between bushes or hop up tree trunks.

Wolf excitedly points out species along the walk: “A phoebe just landed.” “Oh wow!! that’s a woodpecker. It’s a downy woodpecker. Everyone see that?”

Her excitement is infectious. There are more than 900 species of birds in the U.S. and Canada. Many of the birders on this walk are in their 30s, as birding increasingly draws a younger crowd [ . . . ]

Continue at CNN: Birdwatching for peace of mind and better health

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