Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Holiday Gift Suggestions for Bird Lovers
November 26, 2016
By Steve Grinley

     We are in the midst of the busiest shopping weekend of the year. Between Black (bird) Friday, Small Business Saturday (ahem), and Cyber Monday, one can shop ‘til they drop during this official start to the holiday shopping season. As I do every year around this time, I will share with you, once again, some of my holiday gift suggestions for the bird enthusiasts on your holiday shopping list. 

     With snowy owls and bald eagles being seen recently, this might be a good year to give the gift of better sight – that is, though binoculars or a spotting scope. Optics have continually improved over the years such that you don’t have to spend a lot of money for clear and close-up views of a snowy owl in the marshes of Plum Island, or an eagle soaring over the river. The better the optics, the better the view, but good quality binoculars and scopes are within most people’s budgets today. 

     A general field guide is always a good gift to help identify the birds that are seen. Peterson, Sibley, and National Geographic are the best all-around guides. These guides all cover North America but each also have a smaller Eastern or Western field guides that is best if the recipient is a beginner or doesn’t travel much. If photographs are preferred, then the Stokes Field Guide to Birds is the way to go. Stokes also have a small, pocket size, beginner guide that includes most of the common birds, which is good for beginners.

     There are many other excellent books on birds and birding, including several from local authors. Local birder, Doug Chickering’s Reflections on a Golden-winged Warbler is a collection of short stories which draw you into the local birding experience. Neil Hayward of Cambridge wrote about his North American Big Year in Lost Among the Birds and intimately shares with readers the highs and lows of his quest. For children, Buzz, Ruby and Their Chicks is a true story about a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks that nested on an office building near Fresh Pond in Cambridge. Authors Wendy Drexler and Joan Fleiss Kaplan even include some discussion questions for children at the end of the story.

     The most amazing (in my opinion) beginner’s guide to birding is Look-Up, Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by local author Annette LeBlanc Cate. Written in “cartoon” fashion and geared for 8 to 13 year-olds, it is a fun way to learn all about birds and bird watching by all ages, while being thoroughly entertained.

     To help someone learn bird songs, there are many bird song CD’s and books with CD’s to choose from. Simple is the newly re-released Backyard Birdsong Guide that has seventy-five Eastern (or Western) birds illustrated with detailed descriptions, You can then dial-in the page number on the “player” and push the button to hear the song! There is also a new children’s Little Book of Backyard Bird Songs that is a board book with illustrations, brief descriptions and facts on twelve common birds and a child can play the song with just a push of the button.

     Also for children, the new Identiflyer Lyric is a portable player with song cards that identifies the more common birds with the push of a button. In one mode it plays just the song to test you. In the other mode, it plays the song, tells you its name, and gives you a phrase or description to help you remember the song or call. It is a great way to learn! 

     A bird feeder makes a great gift and can provide hours of entertainment for young and old alike. There are many types of feeders in all shapes and sizes. A simple tube feeder that holds sunflower or mixed seed is the most versatile. A tray can be added for cardinals or larger birds and the newest tube feeders have removable bases for easy cleaning. New hopper-type feeders and trays now come in recycled materials that are eco-friendly and outlast wood. For more specific feeding, a thistle feeder or suet feeder can add diversity to the birds to many yards.

     If squirrels are a problem, the Squirrel Buster line of feeders is still the best because they really work to keep squirrels at bay! Though the Squirrel Buster Plus is still the most popular because of its capacity and its effectiveness, Squirrel Buster has several smaller but equally effective versions for every budget. They even have a peanut feeder and thistle feeder available.

     Though we are months away from spring, a bird house is a welcome gift any time of year. They require little maintenance, and they come large or small, fancy (hand-painted, some with copper roofs!) or plain. Houses can be put up in winter as the birds will use houses to roost at night to get out of the elements. There are also specific winter roost houses that have the entrance hold near the bottom to retain heat and multiple perches inside for the birds to huddle together!

     For those who already have enough feeders and houses (if that is possible), perhaps a heated bird bath or a heater/deicer for an existing bird bath might make a welcome gift. Most are thermostatically controlled and run on pennies a day. Birds welcome open water, especially when natural fresh water sources are frozen. 

     For the nature lover that doesn’t have a yard for a feeder, house or bird bath, there are bird motifs on all kinds of gift items. From jewelry, clocks and thermometers, t-shirts, notepads, pot holders and hand towels, to holiday ornaments and 2017 calendars, there is sure to be one with bird image someone will enjoy. One of my favorites is the mugs that reveal different bird’s colorful plumage when hot liquids are added. 

     A gift membership to the Essex County Greenbelt or to Mass Audubon also makes a special gift. Our own Joppa Flats Audubon Center has so many excellent programs that you could give as a gift to anyone who likes nature. Especially popular are the Wednesday morning and Saturday morning bird walks, tickets for which can be purchased in advance – they make great stocking stuffers! 

     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! 
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