Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Gifts of Nature Last All Year Long
December 08, 2018
By 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. The holiday season might also be the perfect time to give an appropriate gift to bird enthusiasts, and 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 high-tech 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 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 avian visitors to anyone’s backyard, especially on the frigid days ahead. Bird baths can sit on the ground, 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 plain pine or cedar wood to cleverly painted ones with copper or shingled roofs. There are also specific winter roost houses that have the entrance hole near the bottom to retain heat and multiple perches inside for the birds to huddle together during cold winter nights.
A general 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. Doug’s Reflections on a Golden-winged Warbler is a collection of short stories that draw you into the local birding experience.
To help someone learn bird songs, there are many bird song CD’s and books with CD’s to choose from. Simple is the Birdsong Guide that has 250 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 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 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!
You can bring nature closer to someone by giving a new pair of binoculars or perhaps a spotting scope. Today’s binoculars have improved greatly from the World War II hand-me-downs you may be using. 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, jewelry, towels, pot holders, wine totes, wall decor 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. Seasonal gifts of bird seed wreaths, ornaments and houses, holidays cards and calendars are always appreciated.
A gift membership to a local conservation group would benefit the recipient and the organization alike. The Massachusetts Audubon Society membership would allow the recipient to 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 nature 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.
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