Watching and listening to birds helps you relax, forget all your worries and connect with the world around you. What could be better for your mental health? 
See tits and chaffinches squabbling round the bird feeder, hear the frantically fluffing feathers of a “miscreant” pigeon lumbering off once it’s spotted, and catch the ethereal cry of a passing buzzard or throaty call of a raven. A month ago to the day I heard the first skein of wild geese embarking as ever on their long journey south – it’s part of life’s natural cycle. I can relax, safe in the knowledge I’m a small part of something so much greater.
Wherever we live, many of us experience a buzz when watching and listening to the birds in our garden. A garden planted up with birds in mind will attract a range of species and it is not just rarities that can give us a thrill. 
Understanding why birds behave in a particular way adds another dimension to our interest in them. For example, the robin’s seemingly wistful autumn song is actually a warning to other robins to keep off “my” patch.  
Especially after Covid, we’re coming to realise how gardening gives us the peace and satisfaction that’s critical for our mental health. Watching and listening to birds plays a vital role in this.
Researchers at the University of Derby wanted to explore how this affected our emotions. They conducted a study with 156 volunteers, dividing them into two groups: the “Joy” group  and the “Count” group. The Joys were asked to assess the joy they felt on seeing each bird species and the Counts tallied the numbers.
On a scale of one to 10, all 156 participants were asked to assess their well-being, anxiety, and connection with nature before and after each sighting. The results showed that both groups felt better in themselves, less anxious and much closer to their surroundings.
Research has also shown that people prefer small birds to larger ones and that the primary colours you see in blue tits or robins makes these species more appealing. But, whatever the species, birds are birds and overall the evidence highlights our positive reaction to them, so perhaps we should all make a point of opening our eyes and ears on a regular basis: after topping up the feeders, going out to the shed or simply looking out of the window. You could take this a step further and tally the birds you see in the garden at a particular time every day and even take part in the British Trust for Ornithology’s Garden Birdwatch survey.
Value the wonderful warmth and peace you feel when birds, all birds, bring you closer to the world around us. 

Plant of the week

BERBERIS WILSONIAE is a compact species of barberry with arching stems that only grow to about a metre. In autumn the foliage turns fiery orange and red and the translucent berries are in shades of coral and pink. It’s equally attractive in spring when the new, silvery green foliage sets off the racemes of pale yellow flowers.