Ms Gale isn’t the only one who has started birdwatching during the pandemic.

There has been a tenfold surge in bird sightings in recent months, as Melburnians take solace in nature amid the uncertainty of COVID-19.

It helps that it’s one of the few activities that can be done within five kilometres of home, particularly as the spring weather means more birds for people to spot during their daily exercise.

“It’s the feeling of doing something purposeful outside — for those of us who aren’t joggers, who are using the hour for a walk,” said Ms Gale.

“I don’t know that much about mindfulness but there is something therapeutic in going for a walk and listening and noticing rather than anything else.”

The Spotted Pardalote is one species seen near Merri Creek.

Part of the thrill for many new birdwatchers is being able to name as many varieties as they can. Apps like Merlin Bird ID have made it easier to identify birds by answering questions about size and colour.

Birds that can be seen along the Merri Creek trail include the chestnut teal, dusky moorhen, red-rumped parrot, grey butcherbird, Pacific black duck and spotted pardalote.

“In terms of completely new, there’s probably 10 that I’ve seen just in this lockdown. Most of them are really tiny,” Ms Gale said.

“But I do know which bushes to stand next to and stay very still and a small bird appears.”

Having more people out looking for birds could help when it comes to citizen science. Birdlife Australia has reported a tenfold increase in responses to its quarterly Birds in Backyards survey compared to last year.

There is also the upcoming annual Aussie Backyard Bird Count, a one-off snapshot that offers an insight into large-scale biodiversity trends.

While some people may think there are more birds around than usual, Birdlife Australia spokesman Sean Dooley said it was more that human behaviour had changed because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“We’re living more sedentary lives and we have the opportunity to notice what is going on around us,” he said.

Sean Dooley from Birdlife Australia says there has been a big increase in interest in birdwatching.Credit:Eddie Jim

“I think it’s a thing about connecting with nature in your neighbourhood and seeing it afresh. Through that prism of birds, people are noticing things they didn’t notice before.”

Being restricted to a local area doesn’t necessarily mean missing out on the best birdlife either.

“People think of the suburbs as a real dead zone for nature; they are pleasantly surprised at how much diversity there is,” Mr Dooley said.

Paying attention to birds can also offer a little bit of much-needed certainty about the world when everything is unpredictable.

“It’s this assurance that things are still going on, the sun’s rising every day, the world’s turning, as long as the birds are singing you know things will go on,” he said.

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Tom Cowie is a journalist at The Age covering general news.


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