Wow! Aren’t scientists clever and extremely well paid for sometimes explaining the obvious to us lesser beings? According to ‘Psyschology Today’, 10th November 2015, “Gardening, hiking, bird watching, or just walking outdoors not only makes us feel better, it may keep our brains healthier.”
“Developing a close relationship with the natural world apparently offers something more: improving and sustaining our cognitive capacity. Studies have shown that interacting with nature relieves stress and restores our ability to concentrate. In fact, research on the practice of shinrin-yoku (or forest bathing) in Japan has found that people who simply sat in the forest for 15 minutes, then slowly walked around, taking in the site for another 15 minutes experienced a significant reduction in salivary cortisol. Research has shown that cortisol adversely affects our brains, damaging the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. A reduction in cortisol could help keep our brains healthier.
Just being out in nature helps us feel better and think better. Psychologists at Oberlin College USA randomly assigned 76 undergraduates to take a ten-minute walk in the woods beside a small river and to then spend five minutes contemplating the scene. The students then took a walk in an urban setting near buildings and concrete parking lots, and spent five minutes taking in that different scene. The ‘wood walk’ produced not only more positive emotions, but also demonstrated significantly greater attentional capacity and ability to reflect on life’s problems than the urban setting.
Finally, being out in nature may keep our brains healthier in later life. A longitudinal study of over 2000 Australian men and women over sixty found that daily gardening was linked to a 36 percent reduction in the risk of developing dementia.
If you’d like to begin experience these effects for yourself, try stepping outside. Look at the trees around you, the sky above and then listen to the birds. Pause for a few moments in your busy day to enjoy the healing and sustaining beauty of the natural world.”
So I followed the experts’ advice and went out to do a spot of birding, something I’ve been doing for half a lifetime.
At Fluke Hall I abandoned a planned walk because there was a shoot underway; there would be no birds to see while the shooters developed their close relationship with the natural world. I drove north where at Wrampool Brook a flock of 110+ Linnets circled a weedy set-aside plot. The birds flew around several times before eventually diving into the crop to feed, but apart from a handful of Curlews in an adjacent field there seemed to be no other birds just here.
At Braides Farm was a hovering Kestrel, a Buzzard along the sea wall and a single Little Egret wandering about the area of the midden. It was time to look at Glasson and Conder Green.
On the pool at Conder Green were 10 Little Grebe, 3 Goosander and 12 Wigeon with a Spotted Redshank, 4 Snipe and 60+ Teal in the creeks. There was another bird watcher here trying to get close to nature by walking directly towards the waders and wildfowl along the top of the creeks. Cue all the birds to panic and loudly depart the scene with much haste. Investing in a telescope, keeping a distance from wary species, or staying in a vehicle is often the only way to see birds, especially at Conder Green where the ever present Redshank is indeed the “sentinel of the marshes”.
There were few birds left so I drove around the Lanes of Dobbs, Marsh, Moss and Jeremy where a single Whooper Swan stood in a field with 6 Mute Swan, and beyond them 2 Buzzards near a line of trees. There are good numbers of Buzzards everywhere at the moment, numbers which probably represent an autumn/winter dispersal of Scottish and more northern birds.
Along Moss Lane I found a medium sized flock of Fieldfare, the birds alternating between feeding up in the hedgerows or down the fields according to the volume and noise of passing traffic. The Fieldfares were in the company of a good number of Starlings whereby I estimated 180 Fieldfare and 400 Starling.
It’s good to see 8 Goldeneye back at Glasson Dock. They are a little late after the mild but wet autumn but they will be with us now until March/April and will rarely leave the yacht basin where they mingle with Tufted Ducks - 44 today.
I made my way home wondering if being out in nature helped me both feel better and think better. Not sure, I may have to do it all again tomorrow to decide.