Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Gifts That Bring Solace This Season
November 28, 2020
By Steve Grinley
We are in the midst of the pandemic, and also the holiday shopping season, so it is time for my annual gift suggestions for the bird lovers on your holiday list. This year especially, I encourage you to “shop small” this holiday season, support your local businesses and avoid the crowds at the big box store and malls. We continue to source more of our products locally to support crafts people and small manufacturers closer to home.
With more of us staying and working from home, more are learning to enjoy the birds and the natural world around us. It provides us some tranquility and a kind of therapy 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 trying times.
A bird feeder always makes great gift. A bird feeder can provide hours of entertainment for the young and old, and it is a great way to introduce most anyone to nature. Even if someone already has a bird feeder, they can always enjoy another one. There are all kinds of feeders available today – for sunflower, thistle or suet. Some 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 built-in 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 task 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 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
A field guide is always a good gift to help identify the birds that are seen. Peterson, Sibley, and Stokes Guides provide for easy reference and there are a couple specific to Massachusetts. Other excellent books on birds and birding include one from local birder, Doug Chickering whose “Reflections on a Golden-winged Warbler” is a collection of short stories that draw you into the local birding experience.
You can bring nature closer to someone by giving 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.
For general gifts, there are T-shirts, coffee mugs, 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. Please stay safe, and try to enjoy this holiday season as best we can.