I recently came across a print ad by the US Fish and Wildlife Service showing beautiful snow-capped mountains against an orange sky and a foreground of wetlands filled with what look like hundreds of snow geese resting on the water.  The ad reads “There is no wi-fi out here, but we promise you will find a better connection.” It made me start thinking about something new, ornitherapy.

I have been thinking a lot lately about that ad; about what it really means to be “connected” and what things in this life are truly worth “connecting” to. On the surface, we, as a society tend to form fleeting connections that do little to feed us emotionally or nurture us physically. Even we birders are often so connected to our life lists that we sometimes forget about the birds themselves.

How do we conduct birding mindfully?

How often have we seen a new species only to immediately check it off the list and move on to the next one, without taking the time to really marvel at the beauty of its feathers, or the grace of its flight? When was the last time you immersed yourself, if only for a moment, in the secret lives of birds – watching them forage for food, preen, or simply perch quietly in the shade? Do we truly “connect” with the species we are watching? Even when we learn their calls it is usually for purposes of identification, and not to enjoy the unique melodious music that deserves as much appreciation as a fine aria.

I can’t help but wonder… as a society, have we lost our connectedness, our mindfulness, our ability to be in present in each moment as it occurs and experience all the joy, beauty, sorrow or disappointment that moment brings? While Yoga and meditation strive to teach us how to do just that, those new to these practices might find them overwhelming and out of their realm or interest. But the truth is that neither Yoga nor meditation has to be done on a mat, sitting quietly in a room. In fact, our best moments of mindfulness are achieved off the mat.  One way to accomplish this is by immersing ourselves in nature. Yes, even while birding, we can achieve a feeling of peacefulness, tranquility, and joy.

Practicing Yoga in Belize. Photo courtesy of Hidden Valley Inn

Whitehawk and Ornitherapy

We at Whitehawk are hoping to offer our clients just such an experience. Through our ornitherapy tours we will practice birding in a mindful way. We engage in learning about the natural history of the species and spending time with each bird that we see. In addition, these tours also provide other optional mindful and relaxation activities such as yoga and meditation both for beginners and for those who have been practicing for years. Our first ornitherapy tour will bring us to the beautiful forests and colorful coral reefs of Belize.  Won’t you join us?

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