Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
We spent the first week of this month (January) in Costa Rica. Hummingbirds were the feature for us, as we didn't hike or tour with a guide. We chose lodges where good birding was available on site. Feeders brought birds to us. Interesting was the food used to lure orioles, tanagers, and a few warblers -- bananas. No other food was offered. Bananas were opened by removing one strip of peel, then stuck on nails that had been pounded into feeding posts or simply laid on flat surfaces. Come spring we're going to leave the grape jelly in the frig, and try bananas. Below, a male Baltimore Oriole eating banana.
Holiday gift ideas from birding consultant Paul Baicich, an experienced birder and educator (with over 800 species on his North American life list):
Shade-grown Coffee — This is a wonderful gift, ideal to bring along to a holiday party. It should start up a conversation about shade-coffee vs. sun-coffee and the ways that certified arabica shade coffee helps sustain our Neotropical migrants in coffee country throughout much of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp — The "Duck Stamp" is a fine gift, and a great conservation-supporting item. Since almost all the funds collected from the stamp go to building wetland and grassland habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System, it sends a great message, too. Besides, you will probably be at the Post Office anyhow, so picking up a $15-stamp or two should be easy. You can also download a free and unique stamp-related certificate describing just how much one stamp secures in habitat, attach the stamp, put it in a frame, and you're set!
Bird Art — Speaking of frames, how about some bird art? No, not an original piece of expensive artwork, but a quality print. Whether your recipient favors waterfowl, gamebirds, raptors, shorebirds, hummingbirds, orioles, or warblers, the options are vast. Just search online!
Bird t-shirt — Yes, lovely bird t-shirts are often perfect gifts. In fact, you can combine the previous two suggestions — the "Duck Stamp" and bird art — in one t-shirt purchase. Buy a t-shirt with a Duck Stamp design on it! You can find one here: http://www.friendsofthestamp.org
Bird Feeder - Few backyards are so full of bird feeders that another one
wouldn't help. Another tube feeder? A suet feeder? A hopper feeder?
Bird Seed — And there should be quality feed to fill those feeders. A large bag or two of high-quality bird seed can go a long way. Think especially about getting black-oil sunflower or Nyjer.
Window Protection — Birdseed and feeders are great gifts, but they can also attract birds to potentially dangerous windows, a situation with creates unfortunate collisions. Short of retrofitting entire windows, some outdoor hanging bird-screens or large "one-way-view" stickers or films can alleviate the situation. These are fine gifts for the season.
Catio — Also in the realm of backyard bird protection, there is the opportunity to address the issue of outdoor cats. There are an estimated 84 million pet cats in the U.S., and perhaps 36 million of them are let outside to roam. This is deadly for our wild birds. Now cat owners who wish to allow their cats outdoors have a bird-safe alternative. These are called a "catios," and they come in a variety of configurations available in various sizes and finishes. Check out these two sources for catio ideas: Catio Spaces and Catio Showcase.
Optics Gear — No, it doesn't necessarily have to be new binoculars, but it could be associated optic gear. How about a new binocular strap-harness? A traveling case? A quality cleaning kit?
Field Guide — There are so many excellent field guides out today that it may be hard to choose. But pick one that fits the individual recipient. For kids? Try a Thompson guide. Otherwise, you might consider a National Geographic, a Kaufman, a Sibley, a Crossley, a Stokes, or even a classic and ever-reliable Peterson. They all have their own individual advantages.
American-grown Rice — A festively-wrapped bag of fine American-grown rice is another great gift that sends a message about habitat for our wetland-associated birds (waterfowl, shorebirds, long-legged waders, and more). No other mass-produced U.S. crop can claim to have such benefits for our birds.
Gift Membership or Subscription — There are a number of bird, nature, and conservation organizations or magazines that offer special annual gift memberships or subscriptions at this time of year. This is sometimes an ideal quick solution to your shopping problems, and the recipient is often contacted directly about your thoughtful gift.
Fifty pounds of black oil sunflower seed for $16.95. That's the current price at Krause Feeds in Hope, Minnesota, an hour's dash down I-35 if you are a southern suburber. That's just a twitch above cost.
Fifty pounds of black oil sunflower seeds for $15.49 at Ace Hardware in Maple Plain, price good until the end of the month. The store in on your left as you enter town on Highway 12.
Prices for black oil sunflower seed, the common and successful seed for bird feeding, are all over the place, as usual.
I checked on-line and by phone with six Minneapolis and suburban retail stores, plus one rural source. Highest price I found was $1.35 per pound.
Several stores are charging about $1 per pound, give or take a penny. In at least one case, a customer membership will cut prices by 15 percent
However: You can buy buy black oil sunflower for 37 cents per pound at Gerten’s Greenhouse and Garden Center in Inver Grove Heights. You’ll pay 38 cents a pound at the UFC Ace Hardware stores in Maple Plain and Waconia. And, an hour's drive (give or take) down I-35 to Hope, Minnesota, will drop the price another penny, 36 cents per pound. That's what Krause Feeds in Hope is charging. Krause almost always has the lowest price.
Fifty pounds of seed at $1.35 per pound costs you $64.47. A dollar a pound is $50. The same amount of seed for 37 cents a pound costs you $18.50. That's a savings of $46 because at that price you are buying a 50-pound bag. Bags weighing 20 or 30 pounds cost more per pound. The higher prices come with a lifting convenience if getting the seed out of your trunk is an issue.
I have a friend in Golden Valley who was so pleased with the price at UFC in Maple Plain that he bought 250 pounds of sunflower seed. Hey, he saved $230 (compared to $1.35 per pound), and is set for the winter.
An aside on butter
Hope is 61 miles south of Apple Valley. Down there you're saving at least 64 cents a pound on sunflower seed, AND, Krause sells the incredibly good Hope butter from the Hope creamery for $5.29 a pound, way, way better than the $7.99 Lund’s is charging today. (Why is a farm-supply store selling butter? Who cares?) The friendly folks at Krause (Jane or Jim) will sell you a case of butter, 32 pounds fresh from the creamery just down the street, for $159.95. That brings the price to $5 per pound, $2.99 under Lund's. Team up with friends and family, take orders, then a short road trip. Freeze what you can’t use right away. Well wrapped, it will keep for nine months. That butter for five bucks is worth the drive. We love it. It’s the secret ingredient for for almost anything you bake, as well as great chocolate frosting.
|Movies (2)||Weather (1)|
|Animals (3)||Photos (2)|
|Holiday shopping (2)||Bird biology (313)|
|Bird books (99)||Bird conservation (186)|
|Bird feeding (90)||Bird identification (165)|
|Bird interactions (55)||Bird migration (157)|
|Bird personalities (24)||Bird sightings (165)|
|Bird travels (115)||Birds in the backyard (114)|
|Minnesota birding sites (53)||Nesting (76)|
|Problem birds (2)||Art (1)|
|Photography (2)||Events (1)|
|Birding equipment (32)|