When I started researching for my project, I kept coming across the term ‘ecotherapy’. I soon found that this was an initiative delivered by the mental health charity Mind and was used to group together a range of activities and programmes that promoted good mental health through engaging in outdoor activity in a ‘green’ environment. As I looked into it further another recurring theme was the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’, a concept I had come across before in previous research and my own experience.

The 5 ways to wellbeing are a nice little framework of evidence-based actions that we can implement to maintain our wellbeing. I challenge any birder to consider the 5 ways and not see how they transcend our wonderful pastime in so many ways. Rather than list them here, I am going to explore them one at a time through individual blog posts.

The first of the five ways is known only as ‘connect’. In the Oxford dictionary the definition of connect is; “To join together so as to provide access and communication” and, connect – “form a relationship or feel an affinity”.

When I first started birding I had a negative experience where I asked some elderly gentlemen in a hide at Cley Marshes NWT for some help Identifying a bird. They laughed at me and told me to ‘buy myself some better equipment and I wouldn’t need to ask them’. I knew relatively little in the way of birding at all and this experience was quite disheartening, so I changed my tact a little. I put some feelers out on the internet, started looking at Bird Forum and reinstated a defunct Twitter account so I could ‘follow’ a few bird/birding organisations.

This led me to join a local RSPB group, but this turned out to be a mistake as the existing clientele did not do a lot to promote integration. A bit of research and I had found the Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society and I’ve been a member for nearly 2 years. It was also through initial contact on Bird Forum and Twitter that I made friends with some of the local birders in my age group in the area. They have been incredibly helpful in sharing their knowledge with me and helping me to develop my own skills, as well as becoming proper friends too.

The project itself has also enabled me to connect with even more likeminded people who share similar experiences to me. I think it’s fantastic that I’ve been able to connect with people in this way and all from sharing the same interest – birding. This is just a snippet of my experiences of connecting with people and in my writing for the book I hope to one day complete, I have further explored connecting with nature,; especially in a mindful and meaningful way.

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