Nature–Is The Best Gift!

By Tom Patrick
NO PLACE to park.  Huge crowds of pushing and shoving people.  Traffic is a nightmare.

If you are happy dealing with these conditions–good for you.  But, they aren’t my cup of tea.  I do my Christmas shopping on the Internet on websites I can trust such as WindStar Wildlife Institute’s Nature Shop where all proceeds go to support WindStar’s Environmental Education Programs–not overhead.

I happen to think the “Mad Bluebird” made by photographer Michael Smith is one of the best nature photos ever.  So we have made a number of products available to you featuring this expressive bird:

  • 11 oz. mugs that are microwave-safe
  • Memo padsGarden Flags, two sizes
  • Framed and unframed prints ranging from 5×7 to 16×20
  • Thermal travel mugs
  • Coasters
  • Magnets

In addition, we offer Michael’s Smith’s Osprey, owl and other bird photos in a variety of sizes.  And we have…

  • Individual and family Memberships in WindStar Wildlife Institute
  • Certified Wildlife Habitat Naturalist e-learning course
  • Certified National Master Naturalist e-learning course
  • Certify your own wildlife habitat
  • Other colorful garden flags
  • Complete line of metal mesh bird feeders

Click on the new WindStar Apparel Store for beautiful, embroidered, high quality clothing with the WindStar Logo. Currently we have polo, twill, denim and cotton shirts; caps; jackets; tote bags; vests; and T-shirts.

Thanks to a seemingly endless supply of new books and gadgets, giving gifts to wildlife watchers gets easier every year. Here are some suggestions from Scott Shalaway:

  • “The Songs of Wild Birds” by Lang Elliot (2006, Houghton Mifflin, $19.95) is a book/CD combination. Elliot covers 50 favorite birds, each illustrated with a gorgeous photograph and discussed in a one-page essay. The CD features the voice of all 50 species, including the ivory-billed woodpecker.
  • Unsafe Harbor” (2006, Avon, $6.99) is Jessica Speart’s 10th wildlife mystery thriller featuring intrepid U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Agent Rachel Porter. This time Porter is back in her native New York battling wildlife crimes in Port Elizabeth, N.J. I love these books because they’re great reads, and I always find something new about wildlife law enforcement.
  • “Letters from Eden: A Year at Home, in the Woods” by Julie Zickafoose (2006, Houghton Mifflin, $26) is a collection of illustrated essays that describes the natural world that lies just beyond the author’s doorstep. What makes this book particularly appealing is that Zickafoose provides the words and the artwork.
  • Ten years after Roger Tory Peterson’s death, “All Things Reconsidered: My Birding Adventures” (2006, Houghton Mifflin, $30.00), assembles 42 of his columns from BirdWatcher’s Digest. Each essay is illustrated with his own photographs. I can’t imagine a better way to get to know the father of American birdwatching.

    After oil, coffee is the most traded commodity on earth. That’s why it’s important to growers, traders, wholesalers, retailers, environmentalists and birders. “Birdsong & Coffee: A Wakeup Call” (2006, $30.00, DVD, explains the economic and environmental implications of the coffee industry. Then perhaps you’ll be inspired to switch to shade-grown coffee, which is available at many wild bird stores and nature centers.

    “An Inconvenient Truth: A Global Warning” (2006, DVD now in stores; $29.99) is Al Gore’s take on global warming. Regardless of your political bent, this documentary pulls together a body of information that everyone should hear.

    If you’re looking for something lighter and bit more entertaining, “Hoot” and “Duma” are two PG-rated films. “Hoot” (DVD, $19.98) tells the story of a group of kids determined to save a local population of burrowing owls. “Duma” (DVD, $14.98), set in South Africa, is the tale of a 12-year-old boy’s determination to return a captive-reared cheetah to the wild.

    Many state wildlife agencies sell calendars, embroidered patches, magazines, videos, artwork and conservation stamps, but curiously, finding these items on agency Web sites can be a challenge. The best and most user-friendly agency Web site I’ve found is the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s, Just click on “The Outdoor Shop.”

    Celestron’s SkyScout ($398, is a bit pricey for my budget, but it seems the ultimate gadget for star gazers. I’ve never recommended something I haven’t used, but the SkyScout sounds too good to ignore. Basically, you find a star, planet or constellation in the viewfinder, press a button, and the SkyScout identifies the object. The Celestron Web site indicates that demand is high, so delivery by Christmas may be a problem.

    Finally, if you’ve been thinking about switching to a digital camera, “Digital Nature Photography, From Capture to Output” ($29.95, McDonald Wildlife Photography, Inc., 73 Loht Road, McClure, Pa. 17841, 717- 543-6423;, is a book on a CD that addresses virtually everything you need to know to use digital imagery.

    Written by two professional wildlife photographers, Joe and Mary Ann McDonald, and an Adobe certified expert, Rick Holt, this book describes in easy to understand terms all facets of digital photography.

    The text is written on a CD in a PDF format, readable by any computer, and can be easily downloaded onto your laptop. For a hard copy, the book can also be printed from any home computer printer, or from any office supply store.