Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Gift Suggestions for Bird and Nature Lovers
November 24, 2023
By Steve Grinley
The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is upon us with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. This year, we encourage you to “shop big” at small local shops this holiday season. Every town in this circulation area has small local businesses. Small businesses continually source more products locally and help support local crafts people and small manufacturers closer to home. Avoid the crowds at the big box stores and at the malls, and stop staring at your computers. Support the local economy by shopping local. We all need your support.
With the holiday shopping season upon us, it is time for my annual gift suggestions for the bird and nature lovers on your holiday list:
Bird feeders are always my first suggestion. A bird feeder can provide hours of entertainment for anyone, young and old. It is also a great way to introduce anyone to nature. Even if someone already has a bird feeder, they can always enjoy another one. There are all kinds of seed and suet feeders available today. There are decorative ones that “dress up” the yard, and functional ones that attract a variety of birds. Some can be hung, some come with poles, while others can be mounted right on (or in) the window. Many are made of wood, usually cedar. Others now come in longer lasting, easy to clean poly-board, or in chew-proof metal.
If squirrels are problem number one, the Squirrel Buster line of high-quality feeders are the most effective at keeping squirrels off, allowing only birds to feed. They are guaranteed with warranty support that will keep your feeder functional for years to come. They come in small, medium and large sizes and include specialty feeders for thistle and finch food, shelled peanuts (very popular in our yard,) and a suet feeder.
Most tube-type feeders today are simple to use, designed for easy filling and easy cleaning. The best ones have lifetime warranties as well. Open tray feeders attract a variety of birds while hopper feeders provide a reservoir of sed for less filling. Thinking ahead for spring, there are specific feeders for hummingbirds, bluebirds, and orioles which also make unique gifts.
More simple and little maintenance come with seed cylinders, seed bells and seed wreaths, as well as clever holiday shaped seed ornaments. They can just be hung and left for the birds to feed. No filling and little clean up afterward!
Though spring seems far away, bird houses make great gifts for those who want bird activity without the “chore” of a bird feeder. Bird houses can be simple plain wood, or elegant with painted exteriors and copper or patina roofs. Birds will nest in spring and summer and birds may also use houses in winter for roosting and getting out of the cold and inclement weather at night. Wrens, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, bluebirds and others will all use nest boxes, as well as roosting pockets and roosting boxes in the winter.
Screech owl boxes are the new rage. Screech owls are everywhere and will roost and nest in boxes. What a thrill for the hosting family to see the owl sunning itself in the hole during the day! A new book by local owl box builder Scott Weston is the Screech Owl Companion, packed with everything you wanted to know about screech owls and even has plans to build your own box.
If you wish to give a gift that helps birds, how about a bag of Birds & Beans shade-grown coffee. 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 bag of coffee coupled with a mug featuring a favorite bird makes a great gift!
Perhaps it is time to bring nature closer by gifting a new pair of binoculars or a spotting scope. Optics have improved so much in recent years that you don’t need to spend a lot to get a crisp, clear view of beautiful birds in the backyard or the ones in the marshes of Plum Island. Today’s binoculars will enhance the experience of watching a cardinal at the feeder or a red-tailed hawk soaring overhead. For those who have good binoculars, a spotting scope would provide a closer view of that snowy owl on a distant dune or an eagle in the trees across the Merrimack River. The better the optics, the better the view, but good quality binoculars and scopes are within everyone’s budget today.
For those who enjoy reading, the late Doug Chickering’s Reflections on a Golden-winged Warbler brings you into the local birding scene. Any of Pete Dunne’s stories of birds or birding are both informative and entertaining. New Hampshire author Sy Montgomery’s recent book, The Hawk’s Way, and her Hummingbirds’ Gift continue to be popular. For children, classics like Owl Babies or Make Way for Ducklings along with a plush bird are always popular, and the more recent Bird Love and On Bird Hill by Massachusetts author Jane Yolens always make excellent gifts.
For more general gifts, there are calendars, ornaments, notecards, kitchen towels and potholders, t-shirts, hats and socks, key rings, wallets, earrings and pins – all with motifs of favorite birds. Bird jig-saw puzzles come in all shapes and sizes, from easy to difficult. Charley Harper and Madd Cap shaped puzzles are particularly popular. Children enjoy bird bingo and memory games.
A gift membership to a local conservation group will benefit both the recipient and the organization. I used to recommend the Mass Audubon Society and the Trustees of Reservation but they are now supporting the breaching of the impoundments and the destruction of the fresh water pools on Parker River NWR. The refuge wants to destroy habitats for several State Endangered and Threatened species, as well as for thousands of shorebirds and ducks, and other waterbirds that migrate through the area. Even Ducks Unlimited support this evil plan, and have lost my support and endorsement.
Essex County Greenbelt gets my full support and endorsement for continually preserving local properties through acquisition or conservation restriction, for the protection and preservation of resident and migrating birds and animals. All of their properties are well maintained and most are accessible for wildlife watching, hiking, and other passive use. A gift membership to Greenbelt will help preserve more land, not destroy it.
Remember that any gift that helps someone enjoy birds and nature is one that will surely be appreciated this holiday season and for years to come.