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10 more Christmas present ideas for wildlife enthusiasts

Go into any shop these days and you’ll see that Christmas is sneaking up on us. Last year I posted my Top 10 Christmas Present Ideas for Wildlife Enthusiasts. Since I’m sure you went out and bought all of my suggestions, here’s a few more ideas for this year (hint, hint, Dr C!), ranging from £3 to as much as you want to spend.

  1. Extension tubes for macro photography: Some of our most fascinating, beautiful and weird-looking wildlife is pretty small. The best way to photograph it is with a macro lens, but these cost hundreds of pounds. Extension tubes are a cheaper way of taking macro photographs, ranging in price from around £30-150. You fit them between your camera and your lens. I’ve never used them, so can’t provide advice on which ones to go for, but they’re on my Christmas list.
  2. Bat detector: I’ve had lots of fun this year trying out my bat detector. It opens up a whole new sonic world. I also have to admit I’ve had a bit of frustration as well, not being able to distinguish between some bat species. A basic heterodyne model like mine will set you back around £60, but you can get fancy ones with software that will help you tell which bats you’ve found if you’re willing to spend a bit more.
  3. Wildlife courses: I love learning more about wildlife, so a place on a course run by the Mammal Society, local wildlife trusts, Field Studies Council etc. would be a great present. There are so many to choose from. I quite fancy one of the Field Studies Council courses on Bushcraft. I could also benefit from learning a bit more about identifying bats (see previous suggestion).
  4. Go Pro Hero camera: Go Pro cameras have a reputation for robustness and portability. They make waterproof, dustproof cameras that can be mounted on headbands, helmets, harnesses or bikes. I’m hoping to go snorkelling with seals next year, so would love to be able to take some better quality photos than with the disposable waterproof camera I used last time. The Hero is their basic model, and you can get it from around £100.
  5. Field guides: The Field Studies Council produce an excellent range of laminated guides to help you identify different types of animals and plants. These can be carried easily (unlike a book), and you don’t need to worry about getting them wet. Most of them cost around £3, and there’s a huge range to choose from.
  6. Wildlife art: a thing of beauty is a joy for ever. Why not buy your loved one a piece of art featuring their favourite wildlife? It needn’t cost a fortune – if you’re a photographer, enlargements can be very reasonable, and if you mount it yourself the end result can look good at little cost. If you’ve got a bit more budget, there’s a huge amount of choice. I’m very pleased with the barn owl sculpture we recently bought. The National Trust gift shops have some beautiful bronze otters and hares – I’ve been dropping hints about the otters for several years. Jean Haines’ watercolours are stuningly beautiful as well.
  7. Books: as an otter fan, Otters of the World is on my Christmas list. I am also intrigued by The Hunt for the Golden Mole. The Bird Atlas is pricey, but could make a keen ornithologist’s Christmas. And Wildlife Photographer of the Year have published a 50th anniversary book.
  8. Whale-watching cruise: if you feel like pushing the boat out, why not treat your loved one to a mini dolphin and whale spotting cruise round the Bay of Biscay?
  9. Birdy plates & glasses: I’m rather a fan of these birdy plates, mugs, glasses and other homeware. I think they brighten up breakfast on a dull winter’s morning.
  10. Binoculars: a good pair of binoculars really helps with wildlife watching. Compact pairs can be surprisingly good, and easier to carry around.
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Top 10 Christmas Present Ideas for Wildlife Enthusiasts

The wonderful Transition Dorking’s Golden Ticket event has got me thinking about Christmas shopping. Here’s a list of my top 10 present ideas for the wildlife enthusiast in your life. Some of them I already have, so can vouch for their brilliance. Others are things I’ve had an eye on for a while, hint, hint!

1) Swiss Army Champ knife: no nature explorer should be without a Swiss Army knife, and this one is all singing, all dancing. I’ve had mine for a couple of years, and can vouch for its robustness and versatility. My one has sawn off tree branches, cut wire to repair nest boxes, removed a tick from a dormouse, prised open paint tins, helped identify which small creatures have opened hazel nuts and performed numerous other essential tasks. My superhero name would be Swiss Army Wife. The only thing that could improve it would be a torch (which I’ve added to mine via the ring). It’s comforting knowing that, should I ever have to remove a stone from a horses hoof, I’m well equipped. Don’t just take my word for it – Simon King swears by his too!

2) Motion-triggered infrared trail camera – this one’s a bit pricier, but very exciting. We didn’t know we had hedgehogs or foxes visiting our garden until we got one of these. Most can be set to take stills or film, and should have a way of adjusting the focus.

3) Animal tracks kit – this is marketed as a stocking filler for kids, but who doesn’t secretly yearn to be a wildlife Sherlock Holmes? It’s on my Christmas list!

4) Camera bird box – give your loved one the tools to run their own Springwatch. We’ve been very impressed with the quality of the camera on ours, and while our bluetits have yet to get their youngsters as far as fledging, it’s still been fascinating to follow their progress each day. Plus when the nest box is not in use you can use the camera for other projects.

5) Mammal tunnel – more wildlife detective gear! Following on the theme of number 3, this simple set-up can help reveal which mammals make use of your garden. I think it would be a good project to do with a child (although don’t expect to find hedgehogs in winter!) or the young at heart. I enjoyed trying ours out, and if your loved one already has a bird box camera it can easily be rigged up (using gaffer tape) in the tunnel.

6) Paramo waterproof trousers – another expensive one, I’m afraid. But for anyone who spends a lot of time out in the Great British weather, these are an excellent choice. Not only do they keep the water out, but they are breathable and well ventilated, so you don’t end up with steamy legs. And they are comfortable enough to wear as normal trousers (rather than over-trousers), so you can just put them on before you set off, and not have to wrestle to get them on over your boots half way up a cliff when it starts raining. Having dry legs makes the outdoors a lot pleasanter on a rainy day.

7) Wildlife books – For the stormy days when not even good waterproofs are enough to persuade you away from the fire, a good selection of wildlife books is essential. General guides are useful for identifying animals, or working out where to see them. As a good, concise guide with plenty of pictures I would recommend the Collins Complete Guide to British Animals For a more weighty tome filled with high quality scholarship Mammals of the British Isles can’t be beaten. Hugh Warwick’s The Beauty in the Beast is an inspiring read, and the British Natural History series is good. On my Christmas list this year is Badgerlands by Patrick Barkham and the new edition of Otters by Paul Chanin.

8) Camera bird feeding station – If your loved one already has a bird box camera, this feeding station can make use of the camera when it’s not spring. I haven’t tried it, but it’s on my list.

9) A hand lens (or magnifying glass) – Hand lenses are very useful for examining things close up. It can help you distinguish what sort of mouse has been nibbling a nut, whose fur has been caught on barbed wire, and give you a better view into the world of insects. Another important tool in the wildlife detective’s kit. Just the pipe and deerstalker hat to go!

10) Courses – there’s so much to learn about wildlife, and good as books and films may be, they can’t rival getting out in the wild with an expert. I’ve been on lots run by Surrey Wildlife Trust and can recommend them. I’ve also had a couple of very enjoyable photography days at the British Wildlife Centre. Other Wildlife Trusts, the PTES, the Mammal Society and the Field Studies Council all run a selection as well – have a look to see if there are any that might inform and inspire your loved one.

I hope this list provides a bit of inspiration. What would you have on your list of gift ideas for wildlife lovers?