“Birds are reliable, in a way that people rarely are,” says Joe Harkness. Having found himself contemplating suicide amid a downward spiral of poor mental health and alcohol abuse, Harkness first found solace in birdwatching in 2013.

“My partner and I started going walking to try and do something positive together, and that was when I began noticing birds,” he says. “I had a particular experience, where I saw a couple of common buzzards displaying the behaviour they show during breeding season. I remembered my grandad introducing birds to me as a kid, and all these memories came flooding back.”

Medication helped, counselling was useful and mindfulness made him feel more grounded, but nothing helped like being in nature – particularly watching birds. After the buzzards came a dunnock, “parading on the lawn in front of me – how had I never noticed such beauty before?”, he wrote on his blog. “Soon, every birdwatching experience made me feel more connected and grounded.”

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