On several occasions during my Bird Therapy musings, I have written about how much I enjoy mentally exploring a map to try and seek out new birding and nature sites – and I have learnt so much about my local area through doing this. When I see my surroundings laid out in front of me ordered in a grid, I feel safe and reassured. My eyes are drawn to blue and green smudges and blotches -representing open water, woods and grassland. I love the familiarity of a map of the local area and these smudges of colour. I love the thrill and anticipation that each prospective new site brings. A greater thrill is found in visiting these sites, exploring them and unlocking their potential.

On a map, these smudges are just blocks of two-dimensional colour, but on the ground and in the field, they transform as they become three-dimensional. Each of these areas represents a pocket of habitat, a source of life which will invariably contain several smaller, concentrated habitats. A perfect example of this is the humble bramble patch that we are all familiar with, perhaps along a country lane or deep within some woodland -often found smothered in a shaft of sunlight in a darkened glade. If you look closer you can see the dazzling array of life that one plant can support. Bees busy collecting pollen, nectar-supping Butterflies, a myriad of flies and other insects will be present. Avert your eyes to the canopy above. A family of Blue Tits is busy roving through, led by the inquisitive and yellow-washed young. The Wood Pigeon looks on -bemused or confused- it’s impossible to tell.

The way that nature and life itself are intrinsically connected becomes clearer when you spend more time immersed in nature. One soon realises that they are an inconsequential part of this grand scheme. No matter how bad you think things are -the connections within nature are strong and ever-present. My desire to find out more about all these interconnected habitats, often referred to as wildlife corridors, only adds to the benefits of bird-watching in a wider context. The more biodiversity found in one location raises the chances of it meeting the criteria for a restorative environment that I have also written about before.

All this means that I have learned where the best places are to seek out certain bird species at certain times of the year. I understand the birds in my garden, at my local gravel pits, the fen-land heath -the list goes on. This all stems from experiences and observations and only serves to reinforce the experiential qualities of bird-watching. Yes, my explorations often throw up a duff site or a missed bird but this is all part of the learning experience. By sticking with the basics and my local area I have been able to start with a nucleated approach and then expand my range outwards as I feel more balance and stability in my life. If I feel like I need reassurance and comfort I tend to stay local and use the familiar sites as my safety net. I enjoy my forays outside of my comfort zone and love birding in new places and with different people, but I will always feel the magnetic pull of the places I know and love.

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