The World Outdoors: Lots of festive season ideas for birdy friends and loved ones

A broad variety of new bird books and nature titles from 2019 could make gift giving easy this festive season. What could be cosier than curling up by the fire with a copy of Birds in Winter? PAUL NICHOLSON/SPECIAL TO POSTMEDIA NEWS

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If there are bird lovers on your “nice” list this festive season, there are some lovely gift ideas to consider.

Feed the Birds is Chris Earley’s most recent title. I love the scope of this book. It keys in on Ontario birds and has well-written sections about backyard habitat, feeders and nest boxes, how to engage kids, outsmart squirrels and identify 196 species. There are even tips on hand-feeding birds.

Just in time for the snow is an interesting new title from Princeton University Press. Birds in Winterby Roger Pasquier explores the many fascinating adaptive behaviours of birds around the world. It is assiduously underpinned with scientific references, but at the same time takes the reader on an accessible and fascinating tour.

Pasquier has filled in many gaps in my understanding of birds. Rather than creating a species by species account, he writes about birds’ preparations for winter, survival adaptations in the face of extreme weather, and how the amount of light each day governs birds’ behaviours. How does a rock ptarmigan survive 10 weeks of complete winter darkness on a remote Norwegian island? Now I know!

Frequent readers of this column know I’m a big fan of the Steve Burrows Birder Murder Mystery series from Dundurn Press. Inspector Domenic Jejeune, Lindy Hey and Danny Maik are all back this year in A Dance of Cranes. Burrows has created a sixth page-turner that has plot lines that pivot on birding references. This is a perfect read by the fire after you’re home from a Christmas bird count.

Mike and Ken Burrell’s Best Places to Bird in Ontario was published this spring by Greystone. The authors highlight 30 provincial birding hot spots. For each, a detailed “birding strategy” is described. Whether birding in your home region or exploring further afield, this is a useful reference from two pros.

If the person on your list is bird-curious but hasn’t yet taken the plunge, a field guide may be welcome. I have dozens, but my favourite go-to is the second edition of The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America.

You have lots of choices if you’re getting a nature-themed gift for a child. A particularly cute one is the Kids Look and Learn Nature Detective kit by Sarah Parvis. It’s a hands-on way for youngsters to enhance their understanding of the backyard and neighbourhood.

Other new bird-related titles that I’ve enjoyed this year include: Birds of the West Indies, a pocket photo guide from Bloomsbury Press; Dorling Kindersley Canada released a revised and image-rich edition of Birds of Eastern Canada; The Handbook of Bird Families by Jonathan Elphick is a beautiful book that would captivate international birders; and Off Track, a first fiction mystery by Southwestern Ontario author C.P. Avis, was fun to read since it features an intrepid small-town reporter who happens to be a birder.

I enjoyed Peter Wohlleben’s The Secret Wisdom of Nature, the third book in a trilogy from Greystone Books and the David Suzuki Institute. Southern Ontario’s National Parks is a beautiful new book by Glenn Perrett from Fitzhenry & Whiteside.

If your preferences tilt away from books, you could pick up a pack of handwarmers to keep your birding friends’ fingers toasty on those cold birding days. Bird seed for a bird feeder is often a welcome gift. Even if your loved ones aren’t extremely birdy they would likely enjoy Bird Friendly® shade-grown coffee from birdsandbeans.ca.

Nature notes

  • In late 2018, the Ontario government proposed that the double-crested cormorant be listed as a game bird and that hunters be allowed to kill 50 cormorants a day. The species is native to Ontario. Last month, the government took a further step towards establishing a hunting season. For more information, search on “proposal to establish a hunting season for double-crested cormorants in Ontario.”
  • While Christmas Bird Counts for Kids are slated for early December, the classic Christmas Bird Counts are set for the Dec. 14 to Jan. 5 window. Information about how to locate a count or join in as a field observer or by reporting birds at a feeder is at birdscanada.org/volunteer/cbc.

g.paul.nicholson@gmail.com

twitter.com/NicholsonNature

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