Birding—also known as birdwatching—is filled with soft wonder. My own start was quite unexpected: last summer, my dog and I were amazed to see a giant hawk resting on a telephone pole in my boyfriend’s front yard, making a call so loud that it muffled the scurrying sounds of bush dwellers nearby. After seeing this creature—which I later identified as a red-shouldered hawk—at the same time everyday during our walk, I became inspired by how similar we were in our love of routines. The next thing I knew, a pair of binoculars sat atop my holiday wishlist.
While birdwatchers such as myself start looking to the skies for different reasons, we all reap similar restorative benefits from the hobby. Olivia Sanderfoot, a postdoctoral scholar at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), for example, started birding during her senior year in college. “My family was going through a very tough and challenging time,” she explains. While she’d tried yoga, therapy, and meditation to make her feel better, nothing seemed to work. “But I always felt better when I went birding. It became this self-imposed therapeutic practice that took me out of my grief and helped me connect with the environment.”