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Posts Tagged ‘Birding’

Two people walking in the snow with a small dog

Getting outside is a wonderful thing to do any time of the year. The health benefits of spending time outdoors have been well documented and validated over the last four decades. For example, spending time in nature can improve your psychological wellbeing, lower your stress, and reduce your blood pressure. Although science shows all the positive ways being outside can benefit us, we also know that Americans spend 93% of their lives indoors. We challenge you to change this statistic and make plans to get outside this winter!

If you are looking for unique opportunities and ideas of what you can do outside during the colder months, consider these activities:

  • Go tubing, skiing, sledding, ice skating, and snowshoeing when there is snow on the ground. Of course, building snow forts and snowmen are also classic winter activities.
  • Find a safe place to have an outdoor fire. Invite friends and family over, bundle up, and sing or tell stories. Be sure to follow outdoor fire safety tips.
  • Watch the stars, planets, and moon during the dark winter months. Clear, cold nights are perfect for watching the night sky. Check out What’s Up: Skywatching Tips from NASA, an educational website full of great tips and resources.
  • Invite the birds into your yard. Providing bird seed and a heated water bath is sure to attract feather friends. If you enjoy birds and birdwatching, consider signing up for Project Feeder Watch and/or Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count.
  • Read a book about winter to the children in your life and then re-create the story in real life. To get ideas, check out The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats or Owl Moon by Jane Yolen.
  • Explore seasonal and holiday-themed opportunities. Many communities have light shows, ice rinks, and outdoor activities for you to enjoy during this time of the year. Check with your area parks, museums, zoos, and nature centers for events.

Before heading out, remember to follow these winter weather safety tips:

  • Monitor the weather and plan ahead.
  • Wear layers.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Protect your head, hands, and feet.
  • Wear sunglasses, apply sunscreen, and use a lip balm with sunscreen.

If you or someone you love has limited mobility or a difficult time getting outside, consider bringing nature closer to you and if possible, bring nature indoors. For example, if it snows, bring some snow inside in a plastic tub. You can also purchase a houseplant that has a seasonal scent, like rosemary or pine. A window bird feeder is another option. Each of these ideas is a way to enjoy the benefits of nature without leaving your house.

Every day is an opportunity to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer, even during these colder and darker months. Make it a priority to wonder and wander outdoors this winter!

Written by: Laura M. Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60.osu.edu  

Reviewed by: Shari Gallup, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Licking County, gallup.1@osu.edu

Sources:

Gallup, S. (2021, May 19). Falling in Love with Nature. https://livehealthyosu.com/2021/05/19/falling-in-love-with-nature

Harvard Health Publishing (2018, December 1). The Wonders of Winter Workouts.
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-wonders-of-winter-workouts

Kelpies, N. E., Nelson, W. C., Ott, W. R., Robinson, J. P., Tsang, A. M., Switzer, P., Behar, J. V., Hern, S. C., & Engelmann, W. H. (2001). The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants. Journal of exposure analysis and environmental epidemiology, 11(3), 231–252. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.jea.7500165

Stanton, L. M. (2021, April 19). Get Out! Celebrate Nature on Earth Day and Every Day. https://livehealthyosu.com/2021/04/19/get-out-celebrate-nature-on-earth-day-and-every-day

Photo Credit: Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

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Last year, I transformed into a self-proclaimed bird nerd. The change started in the spring of 2020 when I started working from home because of COVID. I placed my desk next to a window and in April, I noticed a robin building a nest. Watching the robin sit on her nest for hours upon hours was fascinating and I was quickly hooked.

In May, bluebirds visited my suburban backyard for the first time and after putting up a bluebird house, we hosted the pair of bluebirds and their 3 adorable babies several weeks later. I was fascinated by the whole process, from the nesting, feeding, and successful fledging (developing wing feathers that are large enough for flight). I cheered the first day the babies flew out of their box and also experienced sadness when they left their house for good. My sorrow was quickly replaced with joy when a pair of Baltimore orioles passed through for a couple of days. I was enthralled watching the colorful birds eat the grape jelly I set out. Summer brought ruby-throated hummingbirds and warblers. This winter, I am enjoying a barred owl who lives nearby and occasionally graces me with his majestic presence.

Picture of a Barred Owl by Laura Stanton.
Barred Owl
Photo by Laura M. Stanton

Although the joy of birding happens right outside my window most days, whenever possible, I safely visit different habitats to expand the variety of birds to watch. Whether I am inside or outside, I notice so much more than just the birds. I notice positive changes happening within.

The benefits I have experienced from watching our feathered friends have been confirmed by research. Why is birding good for your health? Watching birds:

  • Promotes mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the moment, and without judgment. Whether you are birding inside or out, you are in the “here and now” which has been shown to decrease stress, anxiety, and rumination, and improve attention, memory, and focus. In addition, mindfulness can reduce chronic pain.
  • Requires stealth and silence. Spending time in silence lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow, and enhances sleep. Silence can also be therapeutic for depression.
  • Encourages meditation. During meditation, you eliminate the “noise” in your mind, creating a sense of calm and peace that benefits your emotional well-being and your overall health.
  • Relies on your sense of sight and hearing. A study found that just listening to bird song contributes to perceived attention restoration and stress recovery. Click here to listen to a sample of common bird songs.
  • Prevents nature-deficit disorder, a phenomenon related to the growing disconnect between humans and the natural world. Americans, on average, spend approximately 90% of their time indoors.
  • Benefits your heart. Regular exposure to nature is associated with improvements in cardiovascular disease and longevity.
  • Stimulates a sense of gratitude, which is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.

Sources
Carter, S. (2016). Nature deficit disorder. Live Smart Ohio. Retrieved from https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/carter-413osu-edu/nature-deficit-disorder   

Louv, R. (2008). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Algonquin Books: Chapel Hill, NC.

Powers-Barker, P. (2016). Introduction to mindfulness. Ohioline. Retrieved from
https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

Stanton, L. M. (2020). Barred Owl. JPEG file.

Stanton, L. M. (2020). Noises off: The benefits of silence. Live Smart Ohio. Retrieved from
https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/stanton-60osu-edu/noises-off-the-benefit-of-silence

Written by Laura M. Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60.osu.edu

Reviewed by Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

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