If you feel shut in, go to the local park and enjoy the antics of seagulls, starlings and field birds, brave the cold,
When I lived alone for a while in Spain, I survived the first lockdown. In the region, the virus was rampant and the containment measures were draconian. I have basically lived in cramped quarters for nearly three months, with my only respite being the occasional outing to the corner store – my only opportunity to see people, except for the mailman’s rare visit. We have not even been allowed to play sports.
I was staying in Mérida, a southwestern city. Back on the terrace, the skyline was surrounded by smokestacks and satellite dishes – the front of my apartment overlooked an extremely hideous high school. To be found, there wasn’t a little grass.
As many would have experienced, it was a very stressful time.
The only thing that kept me out of my doldrums was nature: I watched the frequent flights of different birds of prey from my small terrace, including black vultures and griffon vultures, which fascinated me greatly.
So did the male star whose territory was on the surrounding roof of a TV antenna.
I watched him take his prized singing post, sing out his heart, draw a few women, mate with one of them, and finally carry his family back to the antenna where it all started. In everyday episodes, there was something really satisfying about seeing nature unfold.
I wasn’t the only one who found comfort in nature, and in birds in particular. People noted the abundance of songs and the sheer number of birds in their area, seeing this for the first time, sometimes really.
We perceived something of the nature that once surrounded us at home, without the omnipresent noise we make in our streets – car horns, people on the road.
We were also blessed back then, in April and May, with beautiful weather that made certain aspects of the lockdown a little more bearable.
This latest lockout process is maybe a little different. We are tired of the virus and weighed down by the prospect of shorter, darker, colder days trapped at home, far from any social life or interaction with relatives.
But now is the moment to turn to nature to pull us through – there is always plenty to see and hear out there. Make sure there are always birds to spot on your morning stroll.
Look for migrating flocks of titmice in an urban environment as you drive by bushes and trees in front yards and parks. Often great tits, nuthatches, treecreepers and chiffchaffs join the more familiar blue tits, big tits and long-tailed tits – these are usually summer tourists who winter in the UK in increasingly large numbers.
“Ignore their nickname, “flying rodent,” and instead think of them as magnificent flying machines, capable of surpassing the mighty peregrine falcon in horizontal flight – another new urban resident.” But a look at the feral pigeons that inhabit our streets can also be a treat.
Not many people living around Wormwood Scrubs, the paradise of my western London birdwatcher, seemed to venture into the holy ground before 2020. Now, for those who have recently discovered its understated wild beauty, it has become a mecca.
And they’re not just regular criminals, including dog walkers and joggers. The people I see in the park come from all walks of life: in the midst of tough pandemic days, they may have initially come here only to find some outdoor sanctuary, but they also enjoy wonderful bits of nature.
Across the country, identical scenes are playing out.
Over the next few months, the weather might not be especially warm, but it’s always worth wrapping up and getting outside.
Over the summer months, rediscover the parks you toured. Of course, they’ll look different now, but take the time to marvel at the seagulls that have gathered in the playgrounds as you stroll.
A quick glance may also reveal starlings, crows, and possibly winter thrushes such as redwings and tree swallows in their midst.
We all need to take care of ourselves during this new phase of lockdown, and I’ve found that engaging with the nature that surrounds us certainly helps.
All you need to do is get outside, take a deep breath and look up!
David Lindo is a broadcaster, author, speaker, and tour guide focusing on urban birds, urban conservation, and wildtie