‘Tis the Season ‘ To Go To the Nature Shop

MOST OF US want to buy “special” holiday gifts for those family members and friends that have an interest in wildlife and the environment.

All of us seem to be busier than ever before and have limited time to spend on finding special gifts for special people.  That’s where WindStar Wildlife Institute can make your task easier.  Our staff has selected more than 300 specific items that we think our fellow conservationists will like and posted them in our Nature Shop. Here’s a quick look at some of them:

* Take your or your gift recipent’s interest in wildlife and native plants to new heights and achieve professional level expertise with WindStar’s computer-based courses that will certify individuals as Wildlife Habitat Naturalists or National Master Naturalists.
* Next we have six membership categories in WindStar Wildlife Institute which range from $30 to $500. Since WindStar is a national, non-profit  conservation organization, your membership gifts and donations are tax deductable. And, every penny goes towards our environmental education programs.
* Many of us are familiar with Michael Smith’s wonderful Mad Bluebird photograph. Now you can purchase a variety of different sized prints and framed or just matted.  Or, check out our selection of Mad Bluebird productsOnly WindStar has men’s and women’s watches with the colorful bluebird on the face. And, they are only $29.95. Other items are mugs, travel cups, garden flags, coasters, trays, magnets and memo pads.
* Plus, we have additional wildlife photographs by Michael Smith and Tim Flanigan, who also offers Giclée Canvas prints that are signed and numbered limited editions.

Or, perhaps you might find something on Scott Shalaway’s holiday list.This year he selects two great gadgets and a short shelf of books:

1. If 2008 is the year you plan to learn bird songs, your timing couldn’t be better. The iFlyer SongBird Scanning Wand ($99.95, www.identiflyer.com), made by the same company that makes the BirdSong Identiflier, consists of an optical scanner in a pen-sized Wand and a small spiral bound booklet containing the images of 206 birds and 10 frogs. Next to each image is a bar code. Scan the bar code with the Wand, and the voice of the illustrated species plays. It’s slick, simple, and it works. The Wand also comes with self-adhesive labels printed with each of the species’ bar code. It takes just a few minutes to apply each label next to the corresponding bird in your favorite field guide, and that book becomes a powerful audio learning system. If you use several different field guides, extra labels are available.

2. Another option for learning bird songs is the birdJam
(www.birdjam.com), an electronic encyclopedia of North American bird songs on an Apple iPod. With just a little practice, you can access any North American bird in less than 15 seconds. It took me about 20 minutes to master the technique. The play lists are from the “Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs CDs, Eastern and Western Regions,” and are organized by habitat or family. With earbuds or a small hand-held speaker, it works as well in the field as in the office. The price of a fully loaded birdJam iPod is $299.00, but if you already have an iPod and the Stokes CDs, you only need to purchase the birdJam software ($59.00 for eastern North America).

For those long winter nights, here are some great new books birders and nature lovers will enjoy:

3.  “The Birds of Peru” by Thomas S. Schulenberg, Douglas F. Stotz, Daniel F. Lane, John P. O’Neill and Theodore P. Parker III ($49.50, Princeton Field Guides). I probably won’t get to Peru and neither will many local birders, but this new release is a great book to leaf through and dream. Peru is home to some wonderful birds and interesting habitats, and this is a beautifully written and well-illustrated addition to any serious birder’s collection.

4.  “Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the State of our Planet”
by Seymour Garte ($24.95, 2007, Amacom) is a refreshing look at some of the progress we’ve made in protecting the environment. Garte is Professor of Environmental and Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh and calls upon more than 30 years of experience to tell his story.

5. “Birder’s Conservation Handbook: 100 North American Birds at Risk” by Jeffrey Wells ($35.00, 2007, Princeton University Press) examines the distribution, ecology, threats and conservation needs of 100 species from across the continent. Wells is senior scientist at the Boreal Songbird Initiative (www.borealbirds.org). This book is more for serious conservationists than casual birders……

6. “No Way Home: The Decline of the World’s Great Animal Migrations”
by David Wilcove ($24.95, 2007, Island Press) considers the mysteries and wonder of animal migrations around the word. The focus is how destructive environmental changes, from climate change to urban sprawl, endanger migratory species. This is a great book for anyone, especially students, with a developing conservation ethic.

7. “Ivorybill Hunters: The Search for the Proof in a Flooded Wilderness” by Geoffrey Hill ($24.95, 2007, Oxford University Press) is the latest book examining the status of the ivory-billed woodpecker. This time the location is the panhandle of Florida, where Hill and his students have made multiple observations in difficult-to-navigate river bottoms. Among the most fascinating parts of the story is how Hill dealt with the skepticism his findings unleashed.

8. “Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion: A Comprehensive Resource for Identifying North American Birds” ($29.95, 2006, Houghton Mifflin) is a long overdue effort that complements every birder’s favorite field guide to birds. Each of 691 accounts offers detailed descriptions of the bird’s status, distribution, habitat, migration, appearance, behavior, flight and voice. I get the feeling Dunne tells us everything he knows about each bird.