I’ve been contemplating some of the ways nature on our doorstep can provide a wellbeing boost. I love hearing bird song at this time of year, more so due to the lockdown. The tree branches are somewhat bare and if I stay still I’ve a good chance of getting up close to a musical feathered friend. Urban nature can be surprising and beautiful. I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing a long-tailed tit or a song thrush.
Researchers have recently found that birdsong can transform our mental health. It’s all about the type of song we listen to and partly to do with our associations with the sounds. It won’t surprise you that melodic and pleasant sounds scored highly in the study whilst squawks and rough sounds were less well received. Think blackbird vs magpie. The melodic sounds were found to be restorative and relaxing.
Now consider associations. A friend once told me off for saying that a robin’s song was melancholic. I realised that hearing a robin reminded me of a place that I was missing. Now I love to hear a robin and they are firmly back in my top five musical heroes. If you think of an owl or a crow what do you associate with them?
Not only can the sounds of bird song be restorative, bird biodiversity can also increase happiness levels. Researchers say that birds are one of the best indicators for biological diversity such as plants and other wildlife. Experiencing a variety of birds in daily life was found to bring greater joy. Birdlife; good indicator for planetary health and for human health!
So next time you hear bird song take a moment to notice how it makes you feel, notice which bird sounds bring you joy. During the tougher days of lock-down we can seek out the bird sounds that we love or go to places where we know we will be around several kinds of birds, this can give us a natural mood boost.
Now that we have some freedoms back, it’s great to go in and listen to some bird song. However, as some of you are shielding or isolation, listening to a recording might be a helpful way to connect with nature and with us from your home.
This blog was originally written by Hannah Kenter in February 2021 for The Friends of Rowntree Park website.