Consider a nature-themed holiday gift

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With only a few weeks until Christmas, here are a few suggestions for some less familiar nature-themed holiday gifts.

The U.S. Postal Service has some beautiful winter bird First Class forever stamps. “Songbirds in Snow” includes images of cardinals, kinglets, waxwings, and red-breasted nuthatches in books of 20 ($9.40).

Going simple

Everyone can use a book of stamps at this time of year. And by shopping online, you’ll never stand in line at the local post office again. Duck stamps are a great investment in miniature collectible art.

A pair of ruddy ducks is depicted on the current duck stamp ($25). Ninety-eight cents of every duck stamp dollar goes to the National Wildlife Refuge System to buy or lease wetland habitat.

For anyone who feeds backyard birds, consider a bag of black-oil sunflower seeds. Fancy it up with a red bow.

Wildflower seeds

For butterfly lovers who like to think spring, try a gift of native wildflower seeds from Meadville, Pennsylvania-based Ernst Seeds for an impressive selection of species.

These seeds are quite expensive, so know that a half-ounce goes a long way.

Surprise nature-loving family and friends with gift memberships to conservation organizations. Local nature centers always welcome new members, and most provide programing you can enjoy all year long.

Nature centers are also great places to meet new, like-minded friends. Organizations that protect and conserve land are my favorite conservation organizations.

Without land, there will be no wildlife to enjoy.

The Nature Conservancy is a national organization that I have supported for years. Most states have eponymous chapters if you prefer to keep your dollars closer to home.

For more information, visit www.nature.org, where you can access details about state chapters. Another option is to explore local and regional land trusts and conservancies.

To find these organizations, search online for “land trusts” or “land conservancies” for your state. If you’ve got a budding marine biologist in the family, a gift membership to Oceana could spark a career.

This is the organization that actor Ted Danson champions. One of the organization’s featured campaigns is “Save the Oceans, Feed the World.”

Ending world hunger

For children or grandchildren of any age, consider a contribution in their names to Heifer International. Heifer International offers a hand up rather than a hand out.

Its mission is to work with communities to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. Instead of simply giving food or money to people in need, Heifer gives them actual animals that provide food and income.

From honeybees to chickens, goats, and water buffalo, people in need learn how to provide food for themselves, and then they pass along what they’ve learned to others. This year my wife and I have donated a flock of chickens and a flock of ducks in our grandsons’ names.

For folks who prefer to focus on more specific organizations, there are lots of options. The American Bird Conservancy tackles bird conservation throughout the Americas.

Other ideas

Bat Conservation International documents and publicizes the value of bats around the world.

Whale lovers would appreciate the American Cetacean Society to learn about marine mammal conservation. Patient conservationists waiting for the return of the chestnut, would enjoy learning about the progress of the return of this iconic America tree from the American Chestnut Foundation.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology promotes citizen science such as Project FeederWatch, in which anyone can participate. The Izaak Walton League of America is a grassroots organization dedicated to the wise use of natural resources.

In addition to being a world class bird zoo, Pittsburgh’s National Aviary promotes the conservation and appreciation of birds around the world. The Wilderness Society is dedicated to protecting America’s wilderness and wildlife through science, public education, and advocacy.

Finally, the Xerces Society is dedicated to preserving biodiversity through conservation of invertebrates and their habitats.

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Scott Shalaway, who holds a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from Michigan State University, writes from his home in rural West Virginia. A former faculty member at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Biological Station, he has been writing a weekly nature column for newspapers and freelancing for magazines since 1986. He can be heard on Birds & Nature from 3-4 p.m. Sunday afternoons on 620 KHB Radio, Pittsburgh, or live online anywhere at www.khbradio.com, or on the Tune-In radio app. Visit his website at www.drshalaway.com or contact him directly at sshalaway@aol.com or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.

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