Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Gifts of Nature Last Beyond the Season
December 06, 2008
Steve Grinley

     We are in the midst of the holiday shopping season, so it is time for my annual gift suggestions for the bird lovers on your holiday list. Given the troubled economy, now might also be the perfect time to spark an interest in birds for the non-birders on your list. Bird watching is still a relatively inexpensive hobby and it can provide comfort and serenity during these challenging 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 right on the window. If squirrels are a problem, there are many new feeders on the market that are very effective at keeping squirrels off and allowing birds to feed.

     In addition to a feeder, a bird bath with built-in heater would draw more visitors to anyone’s backyard, especially on the frigid days ahead. Bird baths can sit on the ground, 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.

     Though spring seems so far away, bird houses make super gifts, especially for those on your list that may want bird activity without the “chore” of filling a feeder. Bird houses come plain or fancy, and can often match the personality of the recipient. There are also roosting boxes and also roosting pockets made of straw that birds will use for nighttime shelter. Wrens, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and even bluebirds may use roosting pockets and bird houses for shelter during the winter nights, and they may nest in them come spring.

     To help identify the birds in the backyard or in the field, identification guides are appreciated gifts. There are field guides for the beginner and also for the more experienced birder, including new Peterson and National Geographic Field Guides. DVD’s and CD-ROM’s also help with identification skills while CD’s are available for learning bird songs. For general reading, there are several new books for both the serious and casual birder. “Of a Feather” by Scott Weidensaul and “Flights Against the Sunset” by Kenn Kaufman are both new releases. For the more serious birder, “Fifty Places to go Birding Before You Die” by Chris Santella is recommended.

     You can bring nature closer to someone by giving them a new pair of binoculars or perhaps a spotting scope. Today’s binoculars have improved greatly from the old World War II hand-me-downs. They are now lightweight, very affordable, and they provide a crisp, clear and close-up view of beautiful birds in the backyard or warblers 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, leather purses and wallets, jewelry 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.

     A gift membership to a local conservation group would benefit the recipient and the organization alike. The Massachusetts Audubon Society is offering specials on their membership right now, so someone you know could enjoy all of the Audubon sanctuaries throughout the state and receive numerous other benefits including discounts on programs and Audubon store purchases. Likewise, gift memberships to the Essex County Greenbelt Association, Trustees of Reservations, or Parker River Clean Water Association are thoughtful gifts that would be appreciated by anyone interested in local conservation.

     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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