Wayne’s 2011 Holiday List: Great Gifts For Birders
May I assume, gentle reader, that you have at least a passing interest in birds? Or that you know someone who does? If you are in a quandary about what to give to the birders/naturalists in your life, fret no more. Here are my holiday gift suggestions for 2011.
Books. What birder doesn’t love getting books? There have been lots of great books published over the past year. The following suggestions will delight any birder without putting you in debt. These are my favorites:
Feathers. Thor Hanson, Basic Books, 2011: An entire book about feathers? Yes. Finally! This one explores every aspect of feathers from their evolutionary origins, to sexual selection, to maintenance requirements, to their role in the origin of bird flight. The author also explores the human uses of feathers for insulation and ornament, and the role that feathers played in the origins of the conservation movement. This one is a great read!
The Crossley ID Guide to Eastern Birds. Richard Crossley, Princeton University Press, 2011. The new Crossley guide is a major innovation in identification guides in that it is designed to teach you to see differently. If you follow the program, this book will make you a better birder. Following the British practice, the Crossley Guide is intended for study at home – not as a field guide. The book uses compound plates (plates made up of many images showing birds at varying distances and in different postures) to teach you to see holistically. The book’s aim is to teach you to look at all aspects of a bird – posture, field marks, habits, movements, etc., to quickly create a mental image that leads to identification. The author wants you to follow the English system of learning birds at home. Use your time in the field to look at birds (rather than at illustrations in books). He urges you to make notes and drawings and then resolve the id problems at home. The approach works. Invest a little time and gain a lot of skill. This is for anyone who wants to improve his or her birding skills.
Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, and Build. Peter Goodfellow, Princeton University Press, 2011. We don’t think of birds as architects because nest design and construction seems to be encoded in their DNA. But nests are, by any measure, architectural marvels. Goodfellow explores nest types and their design and construction. The text is excellent and the book is richly illustrated with drawings, photographs, and a selection of architectural blueprints for many nests.
The Atlas of Birds: Diversity, Behavior, and Conservation. Mike Unwin, Princeton University Press, 2011. This one is a beautifully illustrated quick bird fact guide which is organized by habitat, classification, life histories, birds and humans, and conservation. Lots of great illustrations and maps.
Optics: Is there a birder in your life who has been very very good all year? Someone you really want to impress with an extravagant gift? If so, you should know that there’s a new mid-sized binocular in town.
Swarovski 8x30CL. The folks at Swarovski have finally introduced a mid-priced (about $1,000) binocular and it is nearly perfect. The 8x30CL is small enough to take anywhere. It is extremely bright, has great resolution, and is extremely comfortable to use. You give up a little in comparison to full-sized bins, but you gain a lot in comfort and convenience. Give these and get a ton of points for being a great husband / wife / parent / boyfriend / girlfriend...
Nikon Monarch 8x42 Not ready to shell out $1,000 for binoculars. Have no fear. You can do very well for a lot less. The Nikon Monarch 8x42 is waterproof, serves up a very sharp, bright image with good color and sells for about $280. This is my perennial top pick in this price range.
Leupold Yosemite 6x30 This may be the best entry level binocular ever. The image is shockingly good and they weight next to nothing. The price? About $90.
Flashlight: If you spend time outdoors you need a good flashlight. You need it to keep from tripping over a log in the dark. For reading a map or a field guide. To find your car keys or even your car. Or to signal for help. Get a good one because the cheap ones never work when you need them.
Olight T20 R5 LED I have a drawer full of flashlights but this is the one I reach for most often because it is small, it has three brightness levels, and it is made of aircraft aluminum so it is very tough. The lowest level won't blow out your night vision. The highest will illuminate your path for a good hunderd feet. The LED emitter will last forever. Battery Junction (an internet retailer) offers it with a dozen batteries for about $53. Since this light requires a special battery, this is a very good deal.
Gifts are great, but most important is joy, love, and peace. I wish you all of these in abundance.