Gifts for birders. Gifts for bird watchers. Gifts for people interested in nature.
Well, it's that time of year when I round up interesting books and gift ideas for the bird person in your life. In the past, I have organized this into something along the lines of beginners, intermediate, hard-core, etc. But many of the items fall into more than one category. I'll make notations if something is especially right for a particular type of birder. For the record, I have not been asked or paid to endorse any of the products on the list, these are just items that are new or a little different from last year that I think are nifty. If there is something that you have found that is not on this list, feel free to add to it in the comments section (complete with link).
There was a post earlier this year about all my bird stuff that I have and socks were of particular interest. Two great companies to check out for fun bird socks are For Bare Feet and Wheelhouse Designs. Many of the designs can be found at your local wild bird specialty store, but if there isn't one in your area, you can try their websites.
Bamboo Jewelry make some great birds and other wildlife necklaces. Now, here is the weird part, it's called Bamboo Jewelry, but not of the items are made from bamboo...they just come in bamboo boxes. The make earrings, pendants, and necklaces of birds, butterflies, moths, koi (the koi really is spectacular), dragonflies, and other wildlife. Some of my favorites include the luna moth necklace, the mourning cloak necklace, and the puffins and pelicans. But really, it's all pretty cool.
Non Birding Bill just picked up a really cool bracelet for me from a Twin Cities store called Heavenly Soles by company called Hotcakes Design. He got the bright birds in the large bracelet, but the company makes some really cool necklaces and rings.
BIRD: The Definitive Visual Guide--This is a large pictorial book from Audubon. It's not what I would call the end all be all of field guides, but for a general over view of the world species--it's not bad. It doesn't have every possible species, but if you're curious about what a honeycreeper looks like, you'll find it in this book. I would recommend this book for a beginner or intermediate birder or someone who is mildly interested in birds. I would even give this to a kid who has a growing interest in birds, the information is presented with lots of photos, and not in bites as opposed to overwhelming and boring text. I would not get this book for someone who is fanatical about birding or very hardcore into research. One puzzling thing...it features over 1000 species in the book and comes with an audio CD of about 60 birds. There doesn't appear to be any rhyme or reason to the CD, it's almost as if one of the editors discovered about 60 bird calls they didn't have to pay the rights to, so it's not clear how to use the CD with the book--but a minor criticism for an overall ok book.
Oology & Ralph's Talking Eggs by Carrol Henderson--This is a fun little book that starts with the author's visit to a neighbor's boarded up farmhouse that is full of old wildlife mounts and cabinets of eggs from around the world. It was an egg collection started in the early 1900s, back when it was legal and all the eggs were documented from what species and location they were collected. Henderson goes back to document and photograph the eggs and begins a study of oology (egg collecting) and how it figured into modern conservation and bird watching. Photos of eggs and early birding material, fascinating information along with an easy to read narrative makes this a great gift for any birder at any skill level. One of my favorite books of the year.
Of A Feather by Scott Weidensaul--Along the lines of Henderson's book we have a brief history of bird watching in North America from the days when birds were observed when they were properly shot to now with listing and big years almost the norm for a North American birder. If you wonder who was the Bendire behind Bendire's thrasher was or funny story about the first time Jeff Bouton met Roger Tory Peterson (or see a photo of Kenn Kaufman looking like an uber-hippy), this is it. Weidensaul books are always high on my list to read and this one does not disappoint. This is another book with an easy to read writing style and I would recommend it for beginner, intermediate, or hardcore birder.
National Geographic Birding Essentials--When I first saw this book, I thought, "Oh please, do we really need another book to tell someone how to watch birds?" In the past, they had been text heavy, poorly illustrated, and boring. I gotta say, this one isn't bad at all. First, they use photos to point out things like primaries and secondaries (if you read that and though "Huh?" you need this book). It's an easy to read structure and format. It covers most topics that someone new to birding might have and be too afraid to ask on a listserv or a field trip leader. I would give this to a beginner, even kids and possibly an intermediate birder. I would also give this as a gag gift to a hardcore birder, just for pure amusement to watch their face contort in consternation when they unwrap it.
birdJam has some fun new stuff going on, even if you already have it on your iPod. birdJam is software for your iPod that organizes your Stokes bird call CDs. If you already have it, do keep in mind that there have been some upgrades in the last year. They've added photos and new playlists which should be free if you've already purchased the software for your iPod--I discovered in November that I didn't pay attention to the updates and was missing out on some fun playlists an photo. Also, birdJam now supports—on Windows—the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "Bird Songs of Southeastern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico" and there are plans to add Costa Rica and Ecuador soon.
Subscriptions and Memberships
There are so many bird clubs and publications out there, that I for one just cannot keep up. Someone was on my case the other day about letting a membership lapse and I mentioned all the memberships I have and how it adds up:
That's $164.93! And this really is just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many other obscure birding publications that I like to get that it can easily get past $200 a year (and this doesn't include my non bird related reading--Cosmo Quiz anyone?). I would totally love it, if someone paid a subscription or membership for a year. So consider the memberships above for the birder in your life--even if you suspect they may already get that publication, getting a bonus year is always a great thing.
Another great membership is Birds of North America Online--this is so much for a bird enthusiast of any age--so long as they can read and surf the net. It's an online account of every species in North America. Each species is written by the expert in that field and because the information is online, new and updated data is added regularly. Got a question about black-capped chickadee egg incubation--check BNA. You can sign someone up for a yearly membership or just for a few months. It's an in depth online field guide with photo, audio, and in some cases video. A fantastic resource!
And there is also the idea of getting someone a Duck Stamp (aka Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps). The money from purchase of the stamps is used to acquire habitat for waterfowl but that benefits many species of birds including warblers, sparrows, herons, grebes, and shorebirds.
I figured it was a matter of time until someone had it and sure enough, Duncraft is offering a Seed by the Month Subscription...the gift that keeps on giving!
Squirrel-Off is offering a solar powered squirrel zapping bird feeder. It gives a mild shock to squirrels, but does not bother the birds. We've had one hanging out at Carpenter Nature Center, the birds love it and the squirrels have been properly zapped.
What else are people seeing out there?