|Volume 8, Issue 3||
Molt, Migration and Mindfulness
Mindfulness practices are a definite boon to good health. Some recent scientific studies show how being mindful is good for your immune system to function optimally and good for your brain in terms of emotional health and creativity. Birdwatching is an engrossing and fun way to get more mindfulness into everyday life—all that is required is to look outside or go outside and be fully present looking to see what you might see.
So many people rush through their days and miss the lovely white crowned sparrow that was singing on the lamp post mid-day outside of our Safeway store. I stood for a minute and listened to that beautiful song and even commented to passersby who said “what birdsong?”
Yesterday I went outside in my back yard and saw two flickers doing something I had never seen—bobbing their heads up and down at each other and then gently touching bills over and over for about 15 minutes. No vocalizing at all. Spring is coming! And soon those very same flickers will be drumming for mates and in fact you will hear loud sounds all around Cedar Mill as they stake out their territory.
Another thing I saw in my own back yard when I bothered to really look was that many birds have already started to change into their breeding plumage. Feathers are not alive, so to change colors birds have to lose one set and replace them with a new set—a process called molting. Different birds do this in varying ways. You might have noted for example the mottled starlings are starting to get their glossy dark black breeding plumage with their yellow beak color. All this requires a lot of energy as they lose one set of feathers and grow in a new set. Our most striking example of changes in breeding plumage are the male mallard ducks with their bright green heads in the spring and the goldfinches who change our of their drab olive winter feathers to the typical incredibly bright yellow of the breeding male.
Really focusing on what you can see changes your walks and visions out of your window from the mundane to the very interesting and is probably good for your health. Take a real look outside.
Lauretta Young is a retired MD who now teaches stress management courses at PSU and has a custom Birdwatching tour business in Cedar Mill—read more of her blog and look at the pictures at www.portlandbirdwatching.com
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Portland, Oregon 97291