Beatrice helps RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch get off to a flying start at Stansted care home

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Since she became the first resident to move into the Mountfitchet House in Stansted in October 2014, 97-year old Beatrice Pepperell has enjoyed many hours watching a variety of bird species come and go in the care home’s garden, as well as filling up the feeders and topping up the bird tables to help attract and nurture visiting wildlife.

Here, Beatrice, who is a lifelong member of the RSPB, explains how her interest in nature and birds has taken her from the Cumbrian coast to the Caribbean, and how she is now leading the preparations as residents at Mountfitchet House gear up to take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend.

“While I’ve always loved birds and wildlife, I first took an active interest in birds when my husband and I moved into a home in Cumbria. Together we planted many varieties of trees and shrubs to attract birds and to create a wildlife-friendly habitat. The likes of holly, rowan, mountain ash and buddleia all flourished in the garden and we were delighted to welcome a host of bird species such as blackbirds, robins and butterflies. A delightful little wren returned to the garden year after year, and she even built her nest in the garden wall. We named the wren ‘Jenny’ and I was so taken with her, I even wrote a poem about her.

“As well as planting to attract birds, I also regularly put food out for them, but I always made a point of stopping this when the summer months came, so the birds could forage naturally for their food sources.

“My husband and I were regular visitors to the RSPB nature reserve just a short drive away at Leighton Moss, and our love of birds and nature grew as we spent time in the superb parks and gardens close to our home in Cumbria. We also liked walking around the large lake in the centre of town, which was home to a variety of water birds.

“Our shared interest in birds also took my husband and I further afield. One year, while on holiday in Barbados, we enjoyed a three-day diversion to Trinidad where we visited one of the first nature centres to be established in the Caribbean. The As Wright Centre is a not for profit trust which was established in 1967 to protect part of the Arima Valley.

“Our trip to the centre was a real highlight of our time in the Caribbean and it was here we had the pleasure of seeing the beautiful nectar-feeding hummingbird. This stunning brightly-coloured bird is able to hover in mid-air at rapid wing flapping rates of around 50 times per second, and it can also fly at speeds of 34mph backwards – or even upside down!

“I really believe you can get far more from watching birds and enjoying their natural beauty than it costs you to look after them. And while I do love watching them from the window here during the winter months, myself and the other residents cannot wait to sit outside during the summer months to appreciate the birds even more.”

Beatrice will be leading the way at Mountfitchet House this weekend when residents at the care home take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. The largest wildlife survey in the world, the birdwatch encourages people throughout the UK to take a closer look at the nature on their doorsteps by counting the different birds which visit their garden in any one hour over the last weekend of January, as well as recording any non-bird species such as badgers and hedgehogs.

Home manager Allison Squires said: “Beatrice is a wonderful advocate for the joy we can all get from connecting with our outdoor space and observing and appreciating wildlife. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and we are all looking forward to Beatrice sharing her special interest with us when we take part in the Birdwatch this weekend.

“Taking the time to enjoy wildlife can have many advantages – not least because the quiet, calming nature of bird watching can help lower anxiety, while the colourful sights and distinctive sounds of our feathered friends provide plenty of sensory stimulation. 

“Bird watching can also be a valuable reminiscence activity for people living with dementia, with the appearance of certain species and the sounds of bird song evoking memories. We also find sitting and watching the birds come and go quickly becomes an enjoyable shared interest for residents which can help combat any feelings of isolation, while practical tasks such as helping to clean and fill bird feeders can also be very fulfilling.”

Family carers can get advice and support on how to incorporate practical activities such as bird watching into their daily routines by visiting careuk.com and requesting or downloading copies of ‘As Easy as ABC’ – a guide to activity based care – and ‘Listen, Talk, Connect’ – which helps overcome the challenges of connecting and communicating with loved ones who are living with dementia.

For more information, contact customer relations manager Sharon Butler by emailing sharon.butler@careuk.com or calling 01279 818230. For more information on which Care UK homes are taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, visit careuk.com/birdwatch.

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has taken place annually over the last 35 years, with the information collected each year helping the RSPB form a picture of bird populations across the country and highlighting any trends or changes. For more information, visit rspb.org.uk.

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