Connect with Nature: Find Your Sit Spot

I’m currently reading the book, What the Robin Knows:  How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World, by Jon Young, which is about awakening our awareness of the behavior of birds in order to deepen our connection with all the wildlife surrounding us.  Ultimately, the author is helping us to reconnect with our own animal senses, teaching us to be one with wildlife instead of being a disturbing presence.  Through learning to be more animal-like ourselves and tuning into the messages the birds are constantly sending, we’ll begin to see more of the wildlife that typically eludes us.

The concept from the book that is speaking to me the loudest at this point is the idea of finding a “sit spot”.  This is a place near your home, ideally in the backyard, that you visit daily at the same time for at least twenty minutes or longer. The sit spot doesn’t need to be in your backyard, but needs to be somewhere convenient, nearby, and easy to get to.  The author suggests it shouldn’t be more than a two minute walk from home.  A nearby park could easily work.  I also suspect the balcony of an apartment would be sufficient, as long as there are feeders set up to attract the birds.  The key is to visit this spot daily, so the birds will become used to your presence and begin to act naturally around you.

This is something that my 5-year-old and I have already been doing, but we’re now learning, through this book, to take our bird watching to an entirely new level.  My son already asks to sit in the backyard every day for anywhere between 10 to 30-minutes at a time.  For anyone who knows my super-active kid, this is pretty amazing in itself.  But he sits there quietly, not saying a word, being as still as he possible can, so the birds will go about their normal activity while he watches.  Daily, he tells me about the cool animals and behavior he’s witnessing in our backyard.  I regularly hear things like, “There’s a new bird in our backyard today.  It has a black head, a reddish back and brown body, and white stripes on the tail.”  This was a new bird he spotted this past week,  now a regular visitor to our yard.

My son pointed out that it was acting just like the towhees that hang out in our yard, hopping around on the ground and in the shrubs.  I had no idea what it was, but we’ve since learned it’s a Dark-Eyed Junco (or Oregon Junco).  We’re learning together, which is a cool thing. In the future, I’m going to join him or have my own solitary sit spot time.  So far, I’ve been sitting in the yard watching the birds a few times a week.  I love it when I do make the time for it.  Making it a daily habit sounds even better… meditative, even.  It’s a practice in being completely present, opening all the senses to be aware of all that’s going on in the environment.

So, how does a sit spot work?  In addition to sitting there watching what the birds are doing, you have to open your ears, too.  We tend to only notice the loudest bird call or the loudest noise in the neighborhood.  There’s usually a lot more going on than what we tend to focus on.  Listen closer.  Listen to the quieter birdsong or the scratching noises in the shrubs.  Notice how the birds are communicating with each other.  It’s pretty cool once you begin to notice the intricacies of their language.  Also observe how they react to other sounds, such as the garbage truck driving down the street or a plane flying overhead.  What did the birds do when you heard the call of a hawk overhead?  And, is that hawk call really a hawk?  The stellar jays do a great impersonation!  Pay special attention when the birds go completely quiet.  Something’s happening.  Birds communicate when predators are near… fox, coyote, hawk, bobcat, etc.  Once we understand bird language better, we may begin to see more of these stealthy creatures.

But first, we need to learn a “routine of invisibility” and “fox walking”.  The book teaches the skills necessary to blend in with the other animals and not act like a noisy, intrusive human.  I’m not going to delve into that here, but it’s fun to read about.  I look forward to practicing these behaviors on future walks.

For now, we’re focusing on improving our sit spot and our observation skills.  We’ve set a couple chairs in a corner of the yard, so we’ll be less intrusive.  We’re working on our “fox walking” so we won’t create such a huge disturbance while walking from our backdoor to the sit spot.  And, most importantly, we’re learning to open our ears and widen our sight to include the entire view and chorus surrounding us.  Try it!  It’s fascinating.

29 thoughts on “Connect with Nature: Find Your Sit Spot

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  4. Thanks for this post and the recommendation of what sounds like a very interesting book. My ‘sit spot’ is my conservatory where I work. I think the birds think of it as the ‘glass nest’ which contains the food-bearer. They happily ignore me as they go about their business, except for the robin who is quick to remind me when the food needs replenishing!

  5. What wonderful advice! I really enjoyed reading this, and I will definitely be getting this book! We have our sit spot under a large oak in our backyard. I see more interesting things from that vantage point! I am teaching my granddaughters to be aware also, and there is nothing more rewarding, as you are finding out, than passing this love of nature on to a child! This was a great post! Debra

  6. Behind my old house in Maine I had a large vegetable garden, and in one corner I put out a raggedy wooden rocker next to a patch of day lilies. Every morning I would take a cup of coffee out to the garden, sit in the rocker, and watch ruby-throated hummingbirds come to the lilies. In the background the catbird that nested in the woodshed would be mewing away. Now I sit on my terrace in Budapest, and watch tits resting on my cucumber trellis, a middle-spotted woodpecker work the maple tree in front of me, and black-caps and firecrests flit about the pine trees. Occasionally I’ll hear the high-pitched weeeeep of a sparrow hawk, and the local songbirds will go berserk. Two very different worlds, but each with a pretty great sit spot.

    • Love your stories and images! I can’t imagine a better way to start the day than to enjoy a cup of coffee in the backyard, feeling the fresh air, observing the wildlife.

  7. I read your wonderful posts every morning and this is definitely one of many favorites. Being in the present moment is very hard, especially around kids, but it is very important, especially around kids. Thank you for sharing the great idea. Can’t wait to try it out!

    • Glad you enjoyed this one, Sohee! Yes, as a parent, it is VERY difficult to be in the present. We’re constantly being interrupted and multitasking. It’s also difficult to teach our kids to be still and observant (I believe they naturally live in the “present”). I’ve tried to nurture calming, meditative elements into my son’s life from a young age, and this activity is a nice extension. I’m hoping he’ll take these skills into adulthood.

  8. This sounds like a wonderful book… Definitely investigating! We partake in “fox walking” (love that term) on our many hikes, to ensure we don’t frighten the wildlife. And I try to find a little sit-spot each day, or I find I’m cranky otherwise. Everyone should try to find a few minutes to commune with nature… We’re all here together.

    • This is definitely a book that would resonate with you, though I’m sure you’re already aware of many of the teachings. Half the book is about bird communication and how to learn from what they are saying. Very cool!

      • That’s what I would find so interesting about it, I think… In fact, my aunt loves birds, and NEEDS to find her peaceful sit-spot in her garden *right now*. I may buy this for her upcoming birthday, so THANKS!!

    • I lived and worked in Europe for a couple years… I completely understand the rainy weather. I never left home without an umbrella, even when the day appeared to be sunny and warm! There are so many lovely parks in London… even in the rain.

  9. I have a birdfeeder right outside my window, so everytime I walk by I see what is going on. At night I even shine a flashlight – sometimes I see an opossum, raccoon, or rabbit. Once years ago I saw a flying squirrel!

    • Window wildlife watching is fun. We do a lot of that, too. Sometimes when my son is upstairs playing, he’ll get really quiet. That’s usually a concern, so I’ll go up and check on him. Frequently, I’ll find him at the window, entranced by the bird activity at the feeder.

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