Lockdown has motivated many of us to try out new hobbies like yoga, gardening and baking. They help keep our minds and bodies busy as we focus on being creative. It need not be complicated, profound or time-consuming – simply find something that you enjoy.

One such hobby that is both convenient and exciting is birdwatching. All you need is a field guide, a sunhat (if you’re going outside) and a pair of binoculars. It provides a welcome change of scenery to help break the endless cycle of Covid days in addition to a host of other mental and physical benefits.

1. Calms your mind

Birdwatching is a great way to carve out time for yourself where you can relax. By focusing on different smells, sights and sounds, it will help unclutter your mind and distract from constant anxiety.

An African hoopoe

The African Hoopoe is widely distributed throughout South Africa and can be observed in many nature reserves, parks and gardens.

2. Replenishes your energy

Birdwatching is a wonderful leisure activity for people of all ages and abilities. Mix up your walking route or workout routine with birdwatching to keep things interesting.

The lilac-breasted roller is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa and prefers open woodland and savanna.

The lilac-breasted Roller is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa and prefers open woodland and savanna.

3. Lifts your mood

Lack of variety in our lives can lead to boredom and a general sense of fatigue. Adding a new activity can make us feel more energised and positive, as it gives us something to look forward to.

The Southern Masked Weaver is common throughout southern Africa and varies habitats from wetlands to woodlands and semi-desert areas.

The Southern Masked Weaver is common throughout southern Africa and varies habitats from wetlands to woodlands and semi-desert areas.

4. Builds confidence

Creating or learning something new has the power to add new richness to our identities, plus it will give you something tangible you can point to as a measure of personal progress during the pandemic.

The Southern Red-billed Hornbill native to the savannas and dryer bushlands of southern Africa.

The Southern Red-billed Hornbill is native to the savannas and dryer bushlands of southern Africa.

5. Boosts productivity

Intense focus induces a flow state of mind that makes us perform better as we are better able to face challenges with renewed courage and perspective.

Southern Double-Collared Sunbird

The Southern Double-collared Sunbird is a migratory bird, commonly found in gardens, fynbos, forests and coastal scrub, that breeds in southern Africa from April to December, depending on the region.

6. Keeps our brains sharp

Looking for and identifying birds improves concentration and memory, which protects our brains against general fatigue as we age.

A Bearded Woodpecker in the South African bushveld.

The Bearded Woodpecker occurs from the Central African Republic to Senegal and South Africa; and prefers thornveld, deciduous and broad-leaved woodlands.

7. Keeps our bodies active

Whether you watch birds at home or embark on a more invigorating outing to a nearby nature reserve, birding keeps you mobile and is a good source of Vitamin D.

The Dark-capped Bulbul is found in the eastern regions of South Africa.

The Dark-capped Bulbul is found in urban gardens, parks and moist woodlands in the  eastern regions of South Africa.

8. Connects us with nature

Staying close to nature has been proven to improve physical and emotional well-being and alleviate feelings of social isolation. You can even extend your hobby to planting a small garden to attract native birds (and bees).

Brown-hooded Kingfisher photographed in East London, South Africa

A Brown-hooded Kingfisher photographed in East London, South Africa.

Before the pandemic, maintaining a work-life balance seemed like an elusive goal. Now, despite its challenges, is the best time to reclaim your time and take up a new hobby.

It will make your days more memorable and give you something positive to look back on. Hobbies don’t just keep us busy; they offer a welcome escape that let is create something purely because it makes us happy.

There is no reason that social distancing should prevent you from trying something new – birdwatching caters to people of different ages and levels of fitness, is relatively inexpensive and convenient.

If this article hit home and you’re keen to find out if birding is your thing, have a look at these user-friendly bird guides (available in both English and Afrikaans):

Pocket Guide to Birds of Southern Africa 5th Edition
BUY NOW
Sakgids tot Voëls van Suider-Afrika
KOOP NOU

This pocket guide (for both beginner and experienced birdwatchers) will prove as indispensable as binoculars. It includes precise information on over 400 species of birds, distribution maps and excellent colour photographs to aid in identification.

Faansie’s Bird Book For Kids
BUY NOW
Faansie se Voëlboek vir Kinders
KOOP NOU

With minimal text, Faansie’s Bird Book is ideal for children. It covers every single bird that occurs regularly in South Africa.