Bird Watching While Self-Isolating
For most of us, what we’re seeing in the UK right now is unlike anything we’ve experienced before. With the panic-buying of toilet rolls and pasta, facemasks and gloves as necessary accessories, and the suspension of the football season when Liverpool were about to win the league for the first time in 30 years, it’s a surreal time to be alive.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has officially classed the outbreak of COVID-19 as a pandemic which means governments and other bodies are taking draconian measures to try and spread the halt of the virus. As we write there are currently 159,623 confirmed cases worldwide with 1,140 in the UK. We suspect that number is really much higher as people with mild symptoms aren’t getting tested.
If you’ve been asked to self-isolate or have taken it upon yourself to do so to mitigate your risk of catching coronavirus then you’re going to need to find things to do to keep yourself occupied. And the novelty of guilt-free marathon Netflix sessions is going to wear off pretty quickly.
Keeping a distance
We don’t want to make it seem as though we’re making light or taking advantage of a very serious situation, but we think that this could be the perfect time to encourage people to get into bird watching.
There is some confusion about what self-isolation actually entails and at the moment unless you’ve been specifically asked to stay in your home because you have the virus or symptoms of the virus then it is ok to social-distance rather than self-isolate as long as you are not putting yourself or other people at risk.
This means you can go into your garden or take a walk around your local park, countryside, or nature reserve provided you avoid close contact with other people.
Scientific research has found that green spaces can help reduce loneliness and anxiety., so if you’ve got the coronavirus blues then getting outside and closer to nature could help combat some of those negative feelings.
Of course, at the moment you shouldn’t go bird watching with a group of friends or your local birding club but the peace and solitude of bird watching alone can bring its own joy. It will give you time to think and observe birds more closely. And without anyone else to point out or identify new species, every discovery you make will be your own.
Armchair bird watching
If you don’t feel comfortable going outside or you live in an area with a dense population then it’s just as much fun to watch birds in your garden.
Hang up a couple of bird feeders and provide a bird bath and soon your garden should be filled with plenty of visitors who will delight you with their antics as they feed and bathe. With breeding season in full swing, you may be lucky enough to see some courtship behaviours or nest-building and in a few weeks the arrival of chicks will keep parent birds busy.
Now might also be the time to brush up on your photography skills. You don’t need a fancy camera to get started; as can be seen by the photos over on our Facebook group a phone will do just fine.
If snapping pictures isn’t your thing then how about drawing birds? There are plenty of online tutorials and improving your skills will mean that when you’re ready to go out into the field again you’ll be able to add sketches to your notes.
As always keep safe bird watching particularly if you are not used to going it alone. Do not go to unfamiliar or very remote areas and be extra careful if you’re going out looking for birds after dark.
Practise good hygiene if you’re feeding the birds in your garden. There is little research on the transmission of the coronaviruses from humans to animals and vice versa, but always wash your hands after handling bird food and bird feeders, and thoroughly clean and disinfect your feeders once a week to prevent the spread of disease.
It’s uncertain how the next few months are going to pan out and of course it’s important to always follow the advice of health professionals.
But if you need something to do to occupy the extra time you have on your hands while keeping your mind healthy, stock up on bird food, wrap up well and go for a walk, or pick up a camera or a pencil. Check in on loved ones and vulnerable neighbours and look after yourself and each other.
We have compiled a list of bird and wildlife resources to help keep you occupied while you’re stuck at home.
If you have any more suggestions on how to keep active and healthy while self-isolating or social-distancing please let us know in the comments below.