Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Nature-Birding-Meditation Connection.

The human mind is amazing when it comes to creativity and problem solving. Trying to quiet our minds so that we can relax is a bigger challenge. 

 I recognized at a young age that a walk through the woods can be an effective way to unwind. The sound of the water traveling over rocks in a stream, the chorus of birds singing at dawn in the spring   or even the sound of our own footsteps have a soothing, hypnotic effect. I didn't realize it at the time but nature walks are a form of meditation.

As I grew older I started bringing along binoculars and bird-watching during my hikes. It requires you to concentrate on identifying birds while observing behavior and appreciating their beauty. That focus required for bird-watching is another way to unwind the overactive mind. It's difficult to be stressed out when you're marveling at the sight of 2 Bald Eagles perched out in the open on the branch of a dead tree! (I know that birding is a cooler term than bird-watching but I feel more like a bird-watcher than a birder). 

It would be nice if I could go hiking or bird-watching any time that I wanted but that just isn't practical. More recently,  I learned about meditation. There are many forms of meditation which I won't go into here. I use a simple method which requires sitting in a quiet area, closing your eyes, and listening to the sound of your own breathing. When the mind starts to wander, just return your attention to the sound of your breathing. It sounds too easy to be true but it works well for me (most of the time). I've found that playing the sound of rain or a waterfall through my laptop speakers makes the process a little easier and it brings me right back to nature again.

There is another interesting connection between birding and meditation. Years ago, birding was an activity considered to be a nerdy type of activity that very few people had interest in. These days it has become much more mainstream. The same can be said for meditation. Today I think most people know someone who is into yoga, meditation, or birding. 

So it was my walks in the woods as a youngster that it eventually led to interests in birding and meditation. It seems to me there is a natural connection between them and I'm glad that I don't have to choose between the 3.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Fresh Snow Is A Perfect Backdrop For Birds

There's nothing like freshly fallen snow and blue skies to bring out the beauty in birds like this Eastern Bluebird.
It's worth trudging through the woods to take in the scenery after a snowstorm.
 I didn't see a whole lot of birds but the ones I did see seemed as if they were in a 3 dimensional painting. I can't remember the last time I saw a goldfinch and bluebird side by side on a snow-covered branch. If that was the only thing that I saw then it would have still been worth the effort.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Foggy Day Ends With A Down To Earth Harrier

I started February with a search through Hammonasset Park but the fog put a damper on things. There were no Snowy Owls to be found and visibility was poor.
I've been trying to get a better sense of what the new Canon can do but birds seem to be avoiding the camera lately. This Yellow-rumped Warbler resorted to hiding its face in the bark of a tree!
House finches were originally transported from western North America and sold under the name "Hollywood Finches" at pet shops here in the east. When the sale of House Finches became illegal in the 1940's pet stores started releasing them and they started reproducing in the wild. We have lots of them now.
"Nothing could be finer than to see a Carolina (Wren) in the morning". It's hard to resist pishing these birds to call them in because they almost always respond.
High in a tree is where most hawks are found.......
 ......but the down-to-earth Harrier stays close to the ground....
Here it is showing off the white rump patch that is a helpful field mark that many birders use as a field mark in helping to identify the Northern Harrier.