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Feeling stressed? Find solace in nature

There is a lot happening these days, much of which is not good. It’s taking a toll on our mental health.
The weird but wonderful black oystercatcher is but one of the amazing bird species you can see around Campbell River. Photo by Sean Feagan / Campbell River Mirror

There is a lot happening these days, much of which is not good. It’s taking a toll on our mental health.

So now is the perfect time to stop “doom scrolling” for a while and get back into nature.

We certainly have a lot of opportunities to do so here in Campbell River.

Shout out to all the hikers, bikers, botanists, foragers, birders, fishermen (and women) and everyone else who has found passion in the great outdoors. Maybe now is the time to share the solace of nature with our friends or family members.

Getting back in touch with nature was one of my resolutions for 2022. I’ve always been a nature nut, but this year I’ve been trying to take my efforts as a birder, nature photographer, and all-around naturalist (not to be confused with nudist) a bit more seriously.

Specifically, I am conducting a “big year.” That means a year-long effort to see as many bird species as possible.

It’s been fun. I even started a YouTube channel, “Sean the Bio Bro,” to tell the story.

So far, I’ve seen 90 species. But to me, the most important result of my “big year” is not a number.

It’s the many personal benefits connecting to nature (generally) and birding (more specifically) has to offer.

First, it has helped me learn my B.C. birds — many of which are spectacular. Black oystercatcher, surf scoter, and long-tailed duck are some of my favorites I’ve seen so far.

I even saw a yellow-billed loon, a rare-ish species, on a trip up to Port McNeil. It was a “lifer” for me — which means seeing a bird for the first time. It is one of many birds that breed far away but overwinter in the Pacific.

That makes the ocean a “grab bag” of dozens of interesting species. Next time you are walking on the Sea Walk or checking out the pier, have a look around for anything weird and unique. You might be surprised by what is out there.

But the biggest benefit of my “big year” is that it has helped me digitally disconnect and help me get in touch with something that really matters — the beauty and wonder around us. Forget watching television or scrolling social media when you can see a peregrine falcon fly and hunt.

The beautiful thing about birding is it really only takes a pair of binoculars — or just your ears if you want to be even more minimalistic (though birding-by-ear takes practice). There are endless resources for identification online and amazing communities of passionate people.

Even if you are not inclined to go full bird-nerd, I challenge you to bring a pair of “bins” on your next walk to see what you can see. Even familiar, common species show some fascinating behaviours.

For those wanting to get a bit more serious with their birding, I recommend trying eBird, an app provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to know where to go and find different species. You can also record your sightings with the app, which not only allows you to track what birds you have seen, but also provides data helping bird conservation.

I’m not saying learning about news and events is not important. I obviously think so, or I wouldn’t be in this job. But we all can benefit from a little time outside to learn, explore, and relax. Happy birding y’all.