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2017 Birders’ Gift Guide

It’s that time of year: the final countdown to the holidays. If you have put off gift buying, don’t worry–there’s still time to find that perfect something for the birder on your list. I’ve put together some ideas, all things that I either own myself or would love to receive (you know, just in case you want to buy the perfect something for the Jennie in your life).

For coffee and tea drinkers

It’s true. Bird is a verb.

I’m a runner as well as a birder. It’s no coincidence that the company that makes my favorite running clothes is called Oiselle (French for ‘bird’). (If you’re looking for some technical clothing with birds on it for the female birder-runner in your life, check them out). And just in time for the holidays they’ve released an awesome new “Bird Is A Verb” insulated mug.

If you buy your birder an insulated mug, don’t forget that they’ll need something to put in it. The ABA’s Songbird Coffee is fair trade, shade-grown, certified bird-friendly, and most important, tastes amazing (or so I’m told. Full disclosure: I am not a coffee drinker.) This mug also does an excellent job keeping cold things cold, so keep it in mind for your summer iced coffee and tea needs!

For adventure seekers

For the last twenty years I have spent all or part of every summer at bird camp, usually in Colorado and Arizona, occasionally in other locations. Bird camp is the very best part of the year for me as a leader, and a positive, life changing experience for everyone involved. If your birder is 18 or younger, consider giving the gift of registration to the ABA’s Camp Colorado or Camp Avocet or VENT’s Camp Chiricahua or Camp Cascades. For the grown-up birders in your life, check out the amazing lineup of programs at Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine (they also have excellent young birder and family programs).

Camp Colorado

For book lovers

It is hard to know where to start when recommending books–there are so many fantastic options. I’m going to narrow my recommendations down to three this year:

  • The Sky Painter: This wonderful picture book by Newbery Honor-winning author Margarita Engel and illustrator Aliona Bereghici tells the life of bird artist Louis Agassiz Fuertes. The Sky Painter starts with Louis’ childhood in Ithaca, New York, where his engineer father wants Louis to follow in his footsteps. Instead, Louis dreams of becoming a bird artist. The gorgeous illustrations complement the simple, poetic text, showing Louis as a child, a teenager, a college student, a young man, a conservationist, a husband, and as a father, not just to his own children, but to modern bird art. Appropriate for ages 5 and up, this book is lovely for all ages (for example, I’m just a teensy a little bit older than 5 and I loved it). Published by Two Lions.
  • Good Birders Still Don’t Wear White: This follow-up to the 2007 Good Birders Don’t Wear White was published in March 2017. Edited by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Lisa A. White and ABA President Jeffrey Gordon, this new volume includes essays by thirty-six birders (including yours truly) on why they love birding. It’s a fun, fast read that can be digested in bits or consumed in a single gulp. Each short essay ends with tips from the author for growing your birding skills and enjoyment, and light-hearted illustrations by Robert A. Braunfield tie the essays together. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • Birding Without Borders: In 2015 Noah Strycker set out to see half of the world’s 10,000 species of birds in a single calendar year. Birding Without Borders recounts his World Big Year, exhilarating and exhausting, epic and emotional, entrancing and extraordinary. Noah’s writing makes you feel like you are in the field with him as we get to know now only the birds he sees, but the people, places, and situations he encounters along the way to his record-breaking 6,042 species. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

For those in need of wall decor

An advert for Pop Lab’s Birds of North American poster keeps coming up in my news feed on social media. I tend to ignore sponsored ads as a rule, but I was recently in a friend’s office and got to see this in person. Setting aside the fact that Mexico IS, in fact, part of North America, this poster is spectacular. It includes gorgeous illustrations of 740 species of North America’s birds, drawn to scale and generally sorted by taxonomy.

740 species, one poster!

For technology lovers

Does your birder like making field recordings of bird songs? There are some great, reasonably priced microphone options that plug directly into your phone. Check out Edutige or the RODE Video Mic Me. (And read more about tools and tips for making and editing field recordings, including free software, here and here.)

Birds are cool, of course, but what about BATS!? For under $200 you can purchase the Echo Meter 2 Bat Detector. This device plugs into your smartphone or tablet (both iOS and Android are supported) and allows you to record bat calls that would otherwise be inaudible to the human ear. The integrated app transforms the data into audio that you can hear – in real-time. It shows you the bat calls on an interactive spectrogram, and it employs classifiers that instantly identify the most likely species of bat being detected. The Pro version is a bit more expensive but comes with added functionality for professional bat researchers.

Photo: Wildlife Acoustics

For photographers

Does your birder want to take great pictures but doesn’t want to carry around a camera with a giant lens? Me too! Enter digiscoping: the art of taking a picture with your phone camera through your spotting scope. With some practice and cooperative birds, a cell phone, an adapter, and your favorite spotting scope, you can take some amazing photos. I have been using a PhoneSkope adapter for the past few years in combination with my Leica APO-Televid 65 spotting scope and iPhone 5s and can’t recommend it enough.

And as their gift to you, use the code “AMERICANBIRDING” for 10% off of your PhoneSkope purchase.

White-tailed Ptarmigan in Rocky Mountain National Park. Digiscoped with PhoneSkope adapter + Leica APO-Televid 65 spotting scope + iPhone 5s (Photo: Jennie Duberstein)

For knitters

I used to be the kind of knitter that made impulse purchase of beautiful yarn that would then sit in my stash for years, waiting for the right project. It became enough of an issue that I finally had to put a moratorium on purchasing new yarn for which I didn’t have a specific (and imminent) project in mind. But when I saw the yarn created by Round Mountain Fibers, all of my resolve went out the window. Their gorgeous Ornithology Collection showcases the colors of over twenty species of birds in hand dyed 100% superwash merino, grown and spun in the United States in fingering and worsted weights. (Nature loving knitters will also want to check out their Entomology Collection and their Botany Collection).

Black Rosy-Finch yarn, people! (Photo: Round Mountain Fibers)

For community-seekers

There are so many fantastic organizations out there doing great work to support birders, birds, and conservation. Why not give a gift membership to your favorite birder? American Birding Association memberships range from $25/year for young birders to $56/year for a household. All memberships include year-long subscriptions to both Birding and Birder’s Guide magazines (digital or print), access to members-only material on the ABA website, and ABA event opportunities.

What other ideas do you have for gifts for the birder in your life? Share your best suggestions in the comments!

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Jennie Duberstein
Jennie Duberstein has lived in southeastern Arizona since 2001, where she coordinates the Sonoran Joint Venture, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program that works to conserve the unique birds and habitats of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. She is the ABA's Young Birder Liaison, managing The Eyrie (the ABA’s young birder blog) and ABA Young Birders Facebook page and providing support to other young birder programs. She has worked with young birders through the ABA and other organizations since the late 1990s, directing summer camps, leading field courses, organizing conferences, and editing young birder publications. Jennie directs the ABA's Camp Colorado, co-leads VENT's Camp Chiricahua, and is a proud member of the Leica Birding Team.
Jennie Duberstein

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