It’s the first of December – advent calendar doors are being opened around the world. Tonight is Gala Night in the town I live in, where all the local shops put on a bit of an extravaganza for late night Christmas shopping and general jollity. If you’re in need of some inspiration for what to get the wildlife lover in your life, you might want to check out my previous posts on the subject:
- Top 10 Christmas Present Ideas for Wildlife Enthusiasts
- 10 more Christmas present ideas for wildlife enthusiasts
- Another 10 Christmas present ideas for wildlife enthusiasts
and some new ideas below.
- Window feeder for birds: these trans
parent bird feeders stick to your window, giving good views of whatever’s taking the food. We’ve had one for years, but never really used it until this year, when we started feeding live meal worms during spring. The robins loved it, and we got plenty of good views from the comfort of our own dining room. You can get them from various places, including the RSPB. If the person you’re shopping for isn’t too squeamish, you could even get them some mealworms to go in it. They’re ugly, but just about every bird and mammal that visits our garden loves them.
- Wildlife-related clothing: this one’s probably found its way near to the top of the list today as it’s so darned cold. I’ve got my eye on a badger jumper to keep the chill away. PTES have some good designs, as do Sussex Wildlife Trust.
- Solitary bee house: bees of all sorts have had a tough time over the last few decades, but they’re essential pollinators, so we need to help them out. We were given one last Christmas and have really enjoyed seeing the leafcutter bees make use of it. The charity BugLife have a selection. As do NHBS.
- A wildlife calendar: I’m a bit biased, as I sell calendars of my wildlife photography to raise money for charity, but I think calendars make great presents (as long as the person you’re buying for doesn’t have too many already). Mine have pretty much sold out this year, but there’s plenty of thers out there. Wildlife Photographer of the Year always produce great ones. The RSPB has a good choice as do WWF and the Wildlife Trusts calendar looks super.
- A good thermos: I’ve come to hot drinks quite late in life – I still don’t like coffee or normal tea. But having a flask of steaming hot drink to warm you up on a cold walk or wildlife survey (or football match) can really make a difference. Some are better than others – look at the details on how long it will keep a drink warm for before you buy.
- Membership of a wildlife organisation: I’m a member of many wildlife organisations, from huge international charities to local species-specific groups. There are loads out there, and many offer gift memberships. The benefits of membership will vary between organisations, but might include a regular newsletter or magazine (some of these are really good), access to events for members, and opportunities to get into the wild to help nature. And of course, the membership fee supports the work the organisation does. Some of the bigger ones offer special memberships for children as well – I remember being given membership of the children’s wing of Devon Wildlife Trust when I was growing up, and enjoying the activities that were part of that. If the person you’re buying for is particularly keen on a specific species or type of wildlife, see if there’s a group that matches. (Some that spring to mind that offer gift memberships include the Barn Owl Trust, the Wildlife Trusts, WWF, the Mammal Society, the National Trust, RSPB)
Something beautiful and handmade: One of the members of the dormouse group I’m part of makes fantastic wildlife-related ornaments, jewelry and decorations. I fell in love with her dormouse Christmas tree decorations, but she does wonderful birds, butterflies and other mammals as well.
- Books: Books are always on my list. Check out what natural history books your local bookshop has to offer. I quite fancy ‘That Natural Navigator’ by Tristan Gooley, as I like the thought of being able to navigate without a smart phone or GPS.
- A sea safari: In Britain nowhere is that far from the sea, which holds some of our most exciting wildlife. A holiday is not complete for me if it doesn’t include a boat trip, and you can’t beat the thrill of seeing dolphins race and play, or the leisurely trawling of a basking shark. Look out for your local operator, but make sure they’re members of the WISE scheme (which means they’re accredited to run their trips in a way that’s safe for wildlife). Dr C still hasn’t booked me on a whale watching cruise of the Bay of Biscay yet (see 2014’s post), but maybe I can persuade him to let me go for a day trip at least.
- Wildlife Gardening Information Pack: This was part of my prize for winning the small private garden category of the 2015 Surrey Wildlife Garden Awards, and I’ve found it packed full of ideas – highly recommended!
Breaking news: Christmas is coming. It’s kinda crept up on me, but I notice from the web stats that quite a few people have been looking at my previous posts on Christmas present ideas for wildlife lovers.
- Top 10 Christmas Present Ideas for Wildlife Enthusiasts
- 10 more Christmas present ideas for Wildlife enthusiasts
So I guess it’s time for the next installment.
The previous two lists cover some fairly broad ideas. This year I’m trying to give some specific ideas that fall under the categories mentioned in previous years.
- A Sting in the Tale: this is by far my favourite wildlife book that I’ve read this year. I’m not particularly into insects, but Dave Goulson’s evident passion for bumblebees, engaging writing style and fascinating facts held me entranced. I ended up underlining loads of sections that I knew I’d want to come back to again and again. I’d recommend this to anyone with an interest in wildlife.
- Trip to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition: I’ve not yet been to this year’s exhibition, but it’s always one of my highlights of the year. It’s on at the Natural History Museum in London until April.
- Wildlife Broadcasting on a Smartphone course: Surrey Wildlife Trust are putting on an intriguing course next year. Having recently been delving into filmmaking in my professional life, I’m keen to find out more about how I could apply it to wildlife. It doesn’t come cheap, but sounds fascinating.
- A monopod: having got myself a massive telephoto lens this year, and had to lug my tripod around, I can see the appeal of a lighter, sturdy monopod to take with me on walks.
- Some wildlife art: I’ve seen so much beautiful wildlife art this year – things I’d love to have around me at home to remind me of the wonders of nature. The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation has a good selection, with profits going to fund conservation. Try your local gallery as well.
- The New Wild: I bought this book because of its beautiful cover, and intriguing (and controversial) central argument: invasive species will be nature’s salvation. It’s certainly a thought-provoking read. (I’m planning a blog post on this soon, as there’s lots to mull over…)
- A subscription to Lynda.com: The Lynda.com website has a huge library of online courses, including hundreds of photography ones. I get access to this through my work, and have found the courses very informative. Useful for brushing up your skills during those long winter evenings…
- Wildlife photography courses: there’s a wide selection available. Local Wildlife Trusts or wildlife centres often run them. Birds, badgers, deer, fungi, reptiles, flowers – something to suit any wildlife photographer in your life! I’ve got my eye on David Plummer’s courses.
- Some sturdy wellies: I’ve really appreciated having comfortable, sturdy wellies this year, helping me through the muddier dormousing months and squelchy harvest mouse surveys.
- A good head torch can really make a difference for night-time wildlife surveys, camping or just walking back from a country pub. I’ve really appreciated my new one this year.
Happy Christmas everyone!
I hope you’re not flooded or without power due to the storms in the UK. Our area has been quite badly affected, but we’ve got off rather lightly.
My Christmas gift to you is another chance to watch the snoring dormouse, as while it’s not very Christmassy, it does bring me joy!
Christmas really must almost be here. This week we had our first Christmas card (thanks Aunty M!). It was a sweet image of two little birds, snuggled up to each other on a snow-covered branch. You can picture it, can’t you?
Except you’re wrong – it’s not two little robins, it’s two bluetits instead. This is a bit unusual for Christmas cards – robins really seem to have cornered the festive bird market (if you exclude turkeys!). But there’s no reason why bluetits (or other birds) shouldn’t get in on the act.
We see robins most of the year in our garden, although I don’t know if the one we see in winter is the same as the one we see in summer. It’s rare for us to see more than one, as they are quite territorial. Quite a lot of Christmas card artists seem unaware of that, and paint idyllic scenes with two or more happily perched in a tree. If that happened in real life there would either be breeding or fighting involved, which is less appropriate for a Christmas card.
We also see bluetits throughout the year, and are more likely to see several at once, so perhaps this card is more realistic than some of the robin ones I’ve seen.
Generally we see most of our birds more frequently and numerously in winter, when fewer other food sources are available, so Christmas card designers have plenty to choose from.
If you asked me which of our garden birds I associate most exclusively with winter, it would have to be the pied wagtail. Wagtails only tend to visit our garden when it’s very cold, and usually snowy. They’re not as colourful as robins (or bluetits), so perhaps that’s why they don’t feature on many cards.
Have you had any unusual bird Christmas cards? Which garden bird do you think would be best for a Christmas card?