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:
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
This is my diary of the wildlife where I live in Oxfordshire, and sometimes the places I visit. I am a 16 year old young naturalist with a passion for British wildlife, especially Badgers and Hares. I have been blogging since May 2013 and you can read my old blog posts at www.appletonwildlifediary.blogspot.co.uk