Christmas Picks for 2010
Great Gifts for Birders
Since you are reading this I assume that you or someone in your life loves birds. May I also assume, dear reader, that you are in a quandary about what to buy this holiday season for your birding friends. Panic no more. Here are my suggestions for books, optics, and even a flashlight. A gift from this list will delight any birder.
My Favorite Books of 2010:
A Spicing of Birds: Poems By Emily Dickinson, Illustrations By Early Masters of Bird Art (Wesleyan Universtity Press, 2010) Emily Dickinson was one of America’s best poets. Her poems straddle classicism, romanticism, and modernism. Her idiosynchratic word order and grammar add layers of meaning and delight which make us want to read her poems over and over. Of the 1775 poems penned by Dickinson, over 200 are about birds. The editors of this collection have selected a number of Dickinson’s bird poems and paired them with paintings by a masters of bird art such as John James Audubon, Alexander Wilson, Louis Agisiz Fuertes, Allan Brooks, and Thomas Nuttall. The book is beautifully designed. A great gift!
The Nesting Season: Cuckoos, Cuckolds, And The Invention of Monogamy, Bernd Heinrich, (The Belknap Press at Harvard University Press, 2010) Perhaps the best natural history book of the year!. Heinrich illuminates one of the hottest topics in contemporary biology in a very accessible way. A great read. See the full review on this blog.
Bird Coloration: Geoffrey E. Hill (National Geographic, 2010) Although feathers are the most visible characteristic of birds most of us don’t give them much thought. Feathers are necessary for flight, for shape, and for insulation. They are also a basis of sexual attraction. They are marvels of engineering. Hill explores, in depth, this subject which, until recently, has been locked in the realm of academic ornithology. The text is engaging and thorough. The illustrations are beautiful. See the full review on this blog.
Bayshore Summer, Pete Dunne (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) Pete Dunne is one of our best birders and best teachers. He is also a terrific writer. Bayshore Summer is my favorite among Pete’s books, because it is about a place he knows intimately. It is about home. Bayshore Summer is one of the very best books about place. A delightful read.
The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs, Gregory S. Paul (Princeton University Press, 2010) Since dinosaurs are the most recent common ancestors of modern birds I can safely sneak this one onto my list. It is a lavishly illustrated and well written guide to all the known species of dinosaurs and an inventory of the best fossil remains. The excellent introduction gives us a great primer on dinosaur evolution and biology. This one is a great gift for children of any age. See a full review on this blog.
The Best Bird-Worthy Binoculars: For a full explanation of what you need to know about binoculars and what to buy see The Audubon Guide to Binoculars in AUDUBON, (Nov/Dec. 2009). If you just want to know what to buy for someone who has been especially nice during 2010, here’s my list:
If you are in the market for the state of the art and willing to spend a bit over $2,000 there are only three choices. The person receiving any of these will be thrilled, but he or she should look through all three before making a choice, so if you are planning a surprise be sure that you can exchange them.
Leica Ultravid HD 7x42
Swarovski Swarovision EL 8.5 x 42
Zeiss Victory FL 7x42
For less expensive bins, the following models provide great optics, brightness, and field of view. All of these will also work well with eyeglasses.
Vortex Fury 8x32 (on sale for $175 at www.eagleoptics.com as of the date of this posting)
Nikon Monarch 8x42 (about $280)
Leupold Yosemite 6x30 (about $80)
A Great Flashlight!
If you spend time outdoors you’re gonna need a flashlight. You’re gonna want one that works all the time. Why? You’re gonna use it to find your way into or out of the woods at dawn or dusk, for loading your pack, or for finding your car. The newest generation of flashlights use LED light sources rather than incandescent bulbs. LEDs are brighter, last longer, and are impervious to shock. The best flashlights were designed for law enforcement and for the military, so they are far more reliable than anything you may have owned before.
My top choice for an all around flashlight is the Olight T20 V2010. This thing fits in a pocket or the palm of your hand and has three brightness levels. It is made from hard-anodized aluminum, so it should last forever. At its highest setting (which you will use rarely) it is approximately ten times brighter than the giant D-cell flashlight that was once standard police issue. Use it at its lowest level to find your way around a parking lot or to consult your field guide without overwhelming your night vision. The medium setting is perfect for finding your way out of the woods without tripping on roots, falling in holes, or banging your head on low limbs. It sells for about $60 from www.batteryjunction.com. (Since this light uses a special lithium battery be sure to buy a half-dozen when you buy the light. They have a ten year shelf life so don’t worry about stocking up.)