I have been asked several times lately to recommend holiday gifts for people interested in bird watching. First, recommendations for adults – children next week:
Everyone needs a bird book, or maybe more than one. I understand that most of us now use those convenient bird ID apps, but there’s nothing like a book for reading about bird details or faraway birds that you might encounter when visiting those “back east” relatives. My personal favorite is the Sibley Guide. It has accounts of all North American birds, excellent illustrations, and informative text about how to go about bird watching – great for evening reading. And, because it’s been around for a long time, you likely can get a used copy very cheaply.
But it’s not exactly pocket-sized. For a book to carry around locally, you cannot do better than Birds of the Puget Sound Region, by local author Bob Morse and others.
These and many other bird books are available for inspection (and purchase) at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge gift shop. There is a huge selection, including Birds of Washington books, each version with a similar title. One of these might be useful for birding in Washington east of the Cascades.
And, of course, everyone watching birds sooner or later will want binoculars. I have written about binoculars in several previous columns. One major issue about binoculars is their weight. Some of the larger types can give you a great enlarged view but are uncomfortable to have in hand for any length of time. Best to save them for keeping around the house.
My favorite size is 8 x 42 (8 mm being the magnification and 42 mm being the size of the larger light-catching end). I must not be alone in this preference, as I recently came across this online article about 8 x 42 options. The site has multiple pictures and other details.
Many of these are quite expensive. The cost for binoculars generally is reflected in the quality of the lenses and the overall design of the binoculars, and you likely will want to peg your search to your pocketbook and the amount of time you will be using your new binoculars, understanding that you can always upgrade in future years. There is a very wide range of cost options for binoculars and a good place to check them out is at our local Wild Birds Unlimited store, located at 1108 Cooper Point Rd SW on the west side of Olympia.
Both Wild Birds and the refuge gift shop also have a range of other potential gifts for birders, from binocular straps (good binoculars deserve a comfortable strap, yet they never seem to come with one) to tee shirts and caps to mugs to art of various types. There likely will be something for every budget.
A final category of gift possibilities are bird feeders and bird food. There is much written about this subject, but my view is that the birds themselves don’t much care. If you place the feeder in a good location and fill it with good food, the birds will be more than satisfied.
Your local Fred Meyer store is a good place to shop for bird feeders, including hummingbird feeders. (Yes, we have hummingbirds staying in our area for the winter). Take a look at what’s available and consider your possible feeder locations. And please keep in mind that feeders must be protected from roaming cats – otherwise, you may be just creating a cat entertainment center.
If your neighborhood is plagued by outdoor cats, perhaps the best way for you to feed birds might be to buy a bag of sunflower seeds and plan to throw out a cupful early in the morning. Once the birds notice your contribution, they may well add your driveway to their daily morning routine; having a reliable source of early a.m. nutrition can be really important on cold winter days.
Local Bird News: I’m told that Brown Pelicans are visiting Puget Sound this autumn, including our own inner Budd Inlet. Watching these huge birds feed by diving for fish can be a treat for anyone, even the most casual of bird watchers.
This week our column photographer, Liam Hutcheson, tied the Washington Big Year record of 375 species. His latest additional sightings are Hooded Warbler, Brown Booby, and Great-tailed Grackle (see your convenient bird book for details on these species). The Grackle was hanging around the Moses Lake Walmart parking lot. A rare bird in a rare location!
George Walter is environmental program manager at the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s natural resources department; he also has a 40+ year interest in bird watching. He may be reached at george@theJOLTnews.com
Photos for this column are provided by Liam Hutcheson, a talented 16-year-old Olympia area birder and avid photographer.
1 comment on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here
Friday, November 17 Report this