Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Gifts That Last Beyond the Season
November 23, 2019
By Steve Grinley
It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving (a.k.a. Turkey Day) is this week. Following Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping weekend of the year. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday kick off the holiday shopping season. So now is an appropriate time for my annual gift suggestions for the bird lovers on your holiday list.
Almost everyone enjoys birds, whether they enjoy seeing eagles and snowy owls on Plum Island, or simply appreciate the birds in the backyard. Others may appreciate their soothing sounds or their vivid colors. Birds can also stimulate interest in nature for children, tearing them away, if only momentarily, from the electronic world.
A bird feeder is a simple way to bring birds within reach. Even if someone has a bird feeder, they can always use another. The most popular feeders today are the Squirrel Busters. They come in all sizes and price ranges, but they are the most effective feeders on the market for keeping squirrels at bay. The squirrel’s weight shuts off the food supply, frustrating them to the point of giving up.
New this year is the Squirrel Buster Suet. Up until now, one had to resort to serving hot pepper suet or just pure suet to keep the squirrels away. The Squirrel Buster Suet allows birds to feed on two of the birds’ favorite suet cakes while a squirrels weight will close off the suet to them. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice and more will enjoy more suet and squirrels will not.
The latest tube feeders have been redesigned for easier cleaning. We like the Quick-Clean Feeders from Aspects that allow the bottom of the feeder to pop off with the simple push of a button. It makes it so much easier to keep the feeders clean, thus making them healthier for the birds.
If you want to keep it even more simple, seed wreaths, seed bells and ornaments and holiday seed wreath, are very popular low cost holiday gifts. They can be just hung outside and enjoyed by the birds. The bird seed houses provide nourishment for the birds and, when finished, they can move into the core wooden house in the spring!
For nature lovers on your list that don’t want the task of filling a feeder, a bird house is relatively maintenance free. Houses come plain or fancy, some hand-painted and decorated with copper or shingled roofs. Birds will also use bird houses in the winter to keep warm and get out of the elements.
A field guide is a helpful gift for identifying birds. Peterson, Sibley, and Stokes Guides provide for easy reference and there are specific guides for beginners. For general reading, there is a new book on the Massachusetts birding experience, Flight Calls, by local author John Nelson of Gloucester. Reflections on a Golden-winged Warbler by Newburyport’s Doug Chickering is a favorite collection of short stories that draws you into the local Newburyport birding experience.
To help someone learn bird songs, the portable Identiflyer Lyric with song cards identify the more common birds with the push of a button. Also simple is the Birdsong Guide that has 250 birds illustrated with detailed descriptions. You can then dial-in the page number on the attached “player” and push the button to hear the song! There is also a children’s version that is a board book with descriptions and facts on twelve common birds and a child can play the song with just a push of the button.
You can bring nature closer for someone with a new pair of binoculars or perhaps a spotting scope. Today’s optics are now very affordable, and they provide a crisp, clear and close-up view of birds in the backyard or warblers in the woods. For those that have binoculars, a spotting scope would provide a closer view of that snowy owl on Plum Island or ducks on the Merrimack River. The better the optics, the better the view, but quality binoculars and scopes are available in most everyone’s price range today.
For general bird-related gifts, there are T-shirts, hats, socks, jewelry, kitchen towels, pot holders, jig-saw puzzles, wall decor and a wide array of other gifts with birds on them. If someone you know has a favorite bird, you may find a useful gift with their specific bird on it.
If you wish to give a gift that helps birds, how about a bag of Birds & Beans shade-grown coffee and a coffee mug with birds on it. This delicious coffee is grown on farms in Central and South America that don’t clear cut their trees, but leave them for many of our neotropical migrants, such as warblers, orioles, scarlet tanagers and thrushes, to enjoy during our winter.
A gift membership to a local conservation group would benefit the recipient and the organization’s efforts as well. Memberships in the Massachusetts Audubon Society Essex County Greenbelt Association, Trustees of Reservations, or Parker River Clean Water Association would be appreciated by anyone interested in local nature conservation.
Any gift that helps someone enjoy birds and nature is one that will surely be appreciated this holiday season and, likely, for seasons to come.