Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Gifts can enhance enjoyment of birds
November 24, 2007
Steve Grinley

The holiday shopping season has begun, so it must be time for my annual gift suggestions for the birders in your life. Now that bird watching is so popular, it is likely that there are some bird enthusiasts on your holiday list. Or perhaps now is the perfect time to get someone close to you more interested in birds.

     A gift membership to a conservation organization would benefit the recipient and the organization alike. On a local level, the Massachusetts Audubon SocietyEssex County Greenbelt AssociationTrustees of Reservations, or Parker River Clean Water Association are all worthwhile investments in the future of local bird life. Mass Audubon runs many programs and field trips, such as Wednesday morning birding, which would make unique gifts for the birder on your list.

     For those that might prefer more tangible gifts, a bird feeder is always a great gift. A bird feeder can provide hours of entertainment for young and old alike and it is a great way to introduce most anyone to nature. Feeders come in all shapes and sizes, from simple to elegant, from window feeders to complete with pole and squirrel baffle. Even if someone has a bird feeder, they can always enjoy another one. Perhaps a thistle or suet feeder will expand the number of feathered visitors to their backyard. If they have had experience with squirrels, there are many new feeders on the market that are very successful at keeping squirrels off and allowing birds to feed. If you know someone who has had become obsessed with keeping squirrels away, they would surely get a laugh from one of those comical shirts or coffee mugs that have a 
“squirrel wanted” poster on them.

     Though spring seems so far away, bird houses help bring it a little closer. They make super gifts, especially for those that want bird activity 
without the “chore” of filling a feeder. Birds will nest in spring and summer and may also use houses in winter for roosting, getting out of the cold and inclement weather at night. There are also cute roosting pockets made of straw, sea grass and other materials, that birds will use for nighttime roosting. Wrens, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and other birds will use roosting pockets and bird houses and may nest in them come spring.

     Perhaps it is time to bring nature closer to someone by giving them a new pair of binoculars or perhaps a spotting scope. Optics have improved so much in recent years that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a crisp, clear and close-up view of beautiful birds in the backyard or the ones in the marshes of Plum Island. A quality pair of binoculars will enhance the experience of watching a cardinal at the feeder. or a red-tailed hawk soaring overhead. For those that have good binoculars, a spotting scope would provide a closer view of that distant snowy owl on a distant knoll or the eagles in the trees across the Merrimack River. The better the optics, the better the view, but good quality binoculars and scopes are within most people’s budgets today.

     To help identify the birds at the feeders or through binoculars or scopes, identification guides are appreciated gifts. One can always use another field guide. Peterson’s, Sibley’s and the National Geographic guides are the most popular. There are also tapes or CD’s to learn bird songs and for the computer, identification guides with pictures and songs on CD-ROM. If you know someone who is taking a trip soon, you may consider getting them a guide to the birds of that region or country, or a guide on where to find birds in that area. For general reading, Good Birder’s Don’t Wear White, Why Woodpeckers Don’t Get Headaches and All Things Remembered are recent releases that are sure to please. Any of Pete Dunne’s stories of birds or birding are both informative and entertaining. For children, classics like Owl Babies and Stella Luna are always popular, and the more recent The Boy Who Drew Birds tells the story of John James Audubon.

     For more general gifts, there are some cool gifts to help learn bird songs. The Bird Song Identiflyer, with cards for learning groups of birds, remains popular with a newly released woodpeckers card. The same company has released the iFlyer, which is a wand that will play more than 200 bird songs via bar code. Extra bar code stickers are available for your field guide so you can now also hear the bird that you are trying to identify. The popular Bird Songs book has a built in player that plays the songs of the birds detailed in this coffee table book. If you are looking for a more high-tech gift, there is software that adds bird songs to an iPod and field guide software for a palm pilot.

     Any gift that helps someone enjoy birds and nature is one that will surely be appreciated this holiday season and, likely, for years to come.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 2
4 years of service to the birding community! 
Like us on Facebook! www.facebook.com/birdwatcherssupply