Birds Of A Feather, Get Healthy Together

Over the past few months, our blog has talked about A LOT of different aspects for health and wellness. With so much information, and so little time (and—let’s be honest—energy), it’s hard to know where to get started… much less take action. So today, I want to tie a few of those elements together in one activity: BIRDING!

No? Not exciting? Hear me out first!

Birding is a great activity if you are just starting to exercise (and aren’t exactly excited by the idea of sweating) or if you’re a parent who struggles to get outside with the kids. Birding naturally gets you moving outside, relieves stress, and provides an opportunity for family playtime. I mean, that’s three birds with one… errrr, never mind.

Janet Bogue, a volunteer for the Audubon Naturalist Society, says the 1-mile Beginner Bird Walk at the Woodend Sanctuary, located in Chevy Chase, is not strenuous. “The walk takes an hour and we stop a lot to look at birds. It’s not an aerobic activity.”

If you’ve been telling yourself that you need to get moving, and still haven’t managed to do anything, then finding a local bird walk may be a great start. While you may not reach the doctor-recommended intensity levels, a guided walk will give you a fun, social, and educational way to get moving. And sometimes, just moving is a good start to creating a more active lifestyle.

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The walk may not get your heart racing, but watching a Pileated Woodpecker hammer at a tree may.

Birding also doesn’t require much, other than a pair of shoes with good traction. You may want hiking boots for muddy conditions, but sneakers often work just fine. Binoculars are also handy, but if you don’t have them, check if the guide will provide extras. ANS always has a few for the Beginner Bird Walks.

If you have kids, find a guided walk at a nearby nature center or just start at the bird feeders. You’ll see lots of birds at the feeders, which keeps it fun for the kids. Let your kids take the lead and watch their self-confidence grow. Janet loves having kids on walks because of their keen eyesight. “I need their eyes! They can spot things immediately! And when they do, they feel like they are really helping.”

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Fall and winter are surprisingly great seasons to start birding. A lot of the flashy birds that spend summers in Maryland begin migrating south, but you may still be able to spot more northerly birds as they fly through on their way to warmer areas. According to Janet, “In the fall, we get more hawks than usual. And since they ride the thermals, you can see them in the middle of the day. And in the winter, the leaves are off the tree, so it’s much easier to find birds.”

Getting started is as easy as visiting your local nature center. A lot of nature centers host guided bird walks or similarly easy nature hikes. You can also check out the local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society. If you’re ready to go now, check out some of Maryland’s top birding spots, grab your binoculars and identification list, and get walking… and stopping… and looking… and walking… and looking.

 

Editor’s Note: The Audubon Nature Society (ANS) holds free Beginner Bird Walks almost every Saturday of the year at the Woodend Sanctuary, from 8:00-9:00am. On October 20, ANS will hold two Beginner Bird Walks, one in English, and one in Spanish. While ANS’s Beginner Bird Walks are for adults only, they also host Family Nature Walks every first Saturday of the month at 9:00. Check out their Events Page to find the walk for you.

ANS is also a host organization for the University of Maryland Extension’s Master Naturalist volunteer program. If you’re interested in volunteering for an environmental organization, Master Naturalists will provide you with 60 hours of training and, once certified, you can help with a wide variety of support opportunities, including restoration projects, research, and public awareness and education.

 

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