Birding – An Activity As We Age

Seabrookers are active residents when you consider the average age. Being active and engaged is important physically and mentally. Many residents (full and part time) are involved with golf, tennis, cycling, swimming, fitness classes at the Lake House, running, walking with or without a dog, pickle ball, or a combination of the above. However, there may come a point, either for a period of time or permanently, when these more physical activities are not an option.  Birding should be considered as an activity that can accommodate almost any level of participation.  Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) can add to your enjoyment of that activity.

Aching bodies and reduced mobility are common complaints among Seniors.  Birding often is thought to involve long walks but birding can also be adapted for someone with reduced mobility.   SIB includes activities that recognize members’s limitations while still being enjoyable to all. One of the favorite activities is Birding on the Golf Course. Most months this “Learning Together” activity is scheduled on a Monday when one of the Seabrook Island Club’s golf courses is closed.  The Club allows SIB to use the club’s golf carts to tour the closed course looking for birds.  More experienced birders lead the walks where all participants spot birds and work together to identify and count them.  Since the activity is done in golf carts, this activity can be enjoyed by all, even those usually confined to a wheel chair.  On April 22, SIB’s Learning Together will be held at 9:00am on Ocean Winds Golf Course.  Our last visit to this location resulted in 51 species being seen including a beautiful Coopers Hawk, Great Egrets, and plentiful Eastern Bluebirds.   

Sometimes SIB has activities that are done primarily by car with stops along the route to get out, stretch and see the birds up close.  On February 23, 12 members visited Bear Island Wildlife Management Area and Donnelly Wildlife Management Area and observed 89 species in the course of the day.  On Thursday, April 18, SIB will have this type of activity as we car pool around Kiawah River Development to explore this new neighbor while enjoying their diverse environments and birds.  We should expect to see Wild Turkeys, Roseate Spoonbills, Bald Eagles, Ospreys and some warblers.

A Roseate Spoonbills 2 - Robert Mercer
Roseate Spoonbill, Bear Island – Bob Mercer

Another off island excursion is planned for April 11 to Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest for a “walk” along their boardwalk.  Prothonotary Warblers should have returned and Barred Owls are among species that may be seen.  Since the entire route is on a boardwalk, it can be traversed by someone in a wheelchair. 

Backyard Birding is also enjoyable with minimal mobility required.  SIB has a monthly scheduled activity at someone’s home where the host opens their deck to members to sit and watch the birds that visit their backyard.  The hosts get help identifying their frequent visitors and members get to enjoy birding with friends in a comfortable environment.  Sign up for April’s Backyard Birding on April 4.

Mobility may not be the only perceived limitation to birding as we age.  Memory also may not be as strong as when younger.  SIB activities are often called “Learning Together” as no participant can remember the identity of all species seen.  Extra eyes means more birds are seen and the group helps each other identify the birds.  

Audubon, assisted living facilities, and other organizations have developed programs to encourage birding.  The Institute on Aging published a blog citing a case study on how an individual, bedridden for weeks after a fall, became engaged and was encouraged to work through the rehabilitation issues by watching and listening to birds outside her window, studying, and eventually taking short walks out in nature to observe the birds.  The article ( Birdwatching Helps Older Adults Reconnect with Nature and Their Health ) also offered points for caregivers regarding configuring a comfortable birding environment for bedridden and recovering patients.  The calming aspect of nature was a documented benefit. Birdwatching offers a range of sensory stimulation and memory exercises for older adults. Observing small visual details, noticing patterns in animal behavior, and listening closely to bird songs all help to engage your loved one’s brain. These memory-related tasks enhance older adults’ reflex skills, mental alertness, and can even benefit dementia.

Birding can be an activity shared with your younger relatives.  Seeing the awe of a young child learning to identify a Northern Cardinal can be very rewarding.  There are various books available targeted towards a younger audience.  Cornell Labs also has educational programs for K through 12.

An updated schedule of all SIB activities can be found on SIB’s web page; SeabrookIslandBirders.org/bird-walks/.  If a group activity isn’t your thing, consider the SIB Ambassador Program.  This program can make you more comfortable birding in your own home.  A few members of SIB can schedule a time to come to your home and mentor your own birding activities.  Locations for feeders and types of bird food can be discussed. SIB members can also show you books and/or smart phone applications that can help you in your bird identification.  More information on this program can be found at https://seabrookislandbirders.org/sib-ambassador-program/.

Submitted by Judy Morr

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