Bird Watching Activities by Gillian Hesketh MA & Tips from Sean McMenemy

Bird Watch Activities by Gillian Hesketh MA – Happy Days Dementia Workshop & Design

Even though Covid19 restrictions are keeping everyone indoors more than usual, we need to remember our feathered friends – and this can become a delightful activity for people at home and in residential or dementia care homes.

Feeding and encouraging birds to your garden, space, balcony or care home can be easy. You don’t even need to visit the shops, just put out some cereals, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, bread or food scraps. Remember to wrap up warm, wear suitable footwear [not slippers], avoid icy patches, place or scatter your treats – and wait for your visitors to arrive.

Did you know that January 29th-31st January is the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch weekend? Simply record any birds in your garden, space, balcony or care home garden for one hour during the weekend and submit your results to rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

Gillian Hesketh of Happy Days Dementia Workshop always promotes bird watching activities in her Social Activity Manuals for care teams. ‘There’s something calming yet wonderfully uplifting about watching our feathered friends’ she says. ‘We always add bird watching activities to help care teams encourage residents and people living with dementia to continue to be active in everyday life. Activities can be as simple as feeding the birds, making fat balls, taking photographs and creating a display for everyone to see –  to asking a local joiner to demonstrate how to build a bird house.’ You can read more about Social Activity Manuals here www.dementiaworkshop.co.uk

There are clearly plenty of ways to look after our garden birds and prompt meaningful activity for our elders at the same time. When Gillian visits care homes with training resources or to create interactive displays, she often suggests placing bird feeder tables in the gardens – and grouping lounge chairs by windows so residents can enjoy watching the birds come and go. She adds, ‘Meanwhile, our younger carers are also learning how to look after our wildlife, so it’s a winning activity for everyone, including the birds.’

Leading expert on garden wildlife, Sean McMenemy, director of Ark Wildlife explains how bird watching can be beneficial to everyone’s mental health, especially during lockdown: ‘Keeping the mind stimulated whilst stuck inside is difficult, but there’s always room for learning more even in someone’s later years. Gazing through the window, or exploring the garden is a great way to engage the mind. Counting, recording, drawing, observing and identifying visiting birds are all valuable learning opportunities that are fun and engaging.’ 

We’ve all felt a connection with nature at times in our lives. Sean explains how this works: 

The sensory stimulation of sights and sounds can help maintain people’s physical and mental wellbeing, particularly those living with dementia. Spending time watching or walking in nature, sitting quietly in fresh air or walking in open spaces has shown benefits in calming the mind and body which helps balance our physiology and promote production of positive hormones.’

Birds are present in all our lives. Being in touch and time spending time with nature is never wasted – So here’s a checklist to get bird creative …

Feed our birds in the mornings [and early afternoon if time]

Create care & dementia activities based around birds and bird watching

Add bird tables to gardens, open spaces and care home gardens

Take part in RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Weekend 29-31 January

Visit Happy Days Dementia WorkshopSocial Activities Manuals and more.