Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Give the Gift of Nature This Season
November 19, 2021
By Steve Grinley
With the holiday shopping season upon us, it is time for my annual gift suggestions for the bird lovers on your holiday list. The pandemic is still lingering and we encourage you to “shop small” again this holiday season. Support your local businesses and avoid the crowds at the big box store and malls. Like many other area businesses, we continue to source more of our products locally to support local crafts people and small manufacturers closer to home.
With more people staying and working from home, more are continuing to enjoy the birds and the natural world around us. It provides us some tranquility to help us cope with all that is going on. This holiday season might also be the perfect time to give an appropriate gift to those just becoming aware of the birds and other wildlife around them. Bird watching is still a relatively inexpensive hobby and it can provide comfort and serenity during these challenging times.
A bird feeder always makes a great gift, providing hours of entertainment for the young and old, and it is a great way to introduce most anyone to nature. There are all kinds of feeders available today – for sunflower, thistle or suet. Even if someone already has a bird feeder, they can always enjoy another one. Feeders can be hung, some come with poles, while others can be mounted on a deck or right on the window. If squirrels are a problem, there are many quality feeders on the market that are very effective at keeping squirrels off, allowing only birds to feed.
In addition to a feeder, a bird bath with a heater would draw more birds to anyone’s backyard, especially on the frigid days ahead. Bird baths can sit on the ground, be pole mounted, or be mounted on a deck railing for closer viewing. For those with a bird bath already, there are separate deicers that can be added to the bath to keep the water open all winter.
For folks on your list that don’t want the maintenance of filling a feeder or bird bath, a bird house is relatively maintenance free. Houses can be put up in winter, as the birds will use them to roost in at night to stay warm and to get out of the elements. The house will then be up and available for spring nesting. Houses come in all shapes and sizes, from simple pine or cedar wood to cleverly painted ones with copper or shingled roofs. There are also specific winter roost pockets and houses that have the entrance hole near the bottom to retain heat. Multiple birds will huddle together in these during cold winter nights
You can bring nature closer to someone by giving him or her a new pair of binoculars or perhaps a spotting scope. Today’s binoculars are lightweight, affordable, and they provide a crisp, clear and close-up view of beautiful birds in the backyard or songbirds in the woods. For those that have binoculars, a spotting scope would provide a closer view of that snowy owl on Plum Island or the bald eagles in the trees across the Merrimack River. The better the optics, the better the view, but good quality binoculars and scopes are available within everyone’s price range today.
A field guide is always a good gift to help identify the birds that are seen. The Peterson, Sibley, and Stokes Field Guides provide for easy reference and there are a couple of other guides specific to Massachusetts or New England. Other excellent books on birds and birding include one from local birder, Doug Chickering who’s “Reflections on a Golden-winged Warbler” is a collection of short stories that draw you into the local birding experience. New England author Sy Montgomery has a new book, The Hummingbird’s Gift, which tells the story of a wildlife rehabber that nurses one of our smallest birds back to health. It is a great read.
Other new books include Bird Families by Pete Dunne and Kevin Karlson that shows us how focusing on families and their shared traits makes bird identification easier than ever. A new edition of Mary Holland’s Naturally Curious, a photographic guide takes us through a year of discovery of the birds and nature of New England.
For more general gifts, there are T-shirts, coffee mugs (and bird-friendly coffee), jewelry, wallets, scarves, totes, towels, potholders, wall décor, wind chimes 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 – maybe an ornament for the tree, or a suncatcher for their window.
Any gift that helps someone enjoy birds and nature will be especially appreciated this holiday season and, likely, for years to come.