Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Many Gift Choices Available for Bird Enthusiasts
December 3, 2011
By 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 watching birds 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 you know more interested in birds.

     A gift membership to a conservation organization would benefit the recipient and the organization alike. On a local level, the Mass Audubon Society, Essex County Greenbelt, or Trustees of Reservations are all worthwhile investments in the future of local bird life. Mass Audubon Joppa Flats runs many programs and field trips, such as Wednesday and Saturday morning birding, which would make unique gifts for the beginner or the seasoned birder on your list.

     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 while allowing birds to feed. If you know someone who has had become obsessed with keeping squirrels away, The Squirrel Boss Feeder would allow them to press a button on a remote control to give the squirrel gentle jolt. For less hands-on, DrollYankee’s Yankee Flipper will spin the squirrel off but allows birds to feed at will.

     The Squirrel Buster series of feeders, some of the most successful against the squirrels, have added a new peanut feeder to their line. The weight of the squirrel closed off the peanut supply whereas woodpeckers, nuthatches and titmice can feed at will.

     There are several brands of feeders that have made improvements to allow for easier cleaning. A feeder with an easy release bottom would be a welcome gift to anyone who struggles to keep their feeders clean. The new Droll Yankees Ring Pull series has a center rod that, when removed, allows all the ports and the bottom to fall away from the tube for easy cleaning.

     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 sea grass 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 who 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, field guides are appreciated gifts. One can always use another field guide. There is a new edition of National Geographic Guide just released and, along with Peterson’s, Sibley’s, and Stoke’s field guides, are among the most popular. There are also tapes or CD’s to learn bird songs and for the computer, CD- ROM identification guides provide pictures, songs and more.

     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, The Big Year is the story based on the recent movie – a good read. For children, there are the award winning books and DVD “Stranger in the Woods” and the follow-up “First Snow in Winter.” Who doesn’t like a snowman with a French accent?

     For more general gifts, there are some cool gifts to help children and beginners to learn bird songs. The Bird Song Identiflyer, with cards different bird groups and habitats, remains popular. The same company has reissued its Singing Alarm Clock that allows you to wake up to the sound of your favorite bird. There is always jewelry, mugs, t-shirts, wall hangings, leather goods, and holiday ornaments with a bird theme. Jigsaw puzzles are still popular and many have bird themes including the new Birds of Joppa Flats puzzle – just released.

     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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