Make a list: Gift suggestions for nature lovers


As the holidays approach, it’s time to think about gifts for nature lovers on your list. Here are some suggestions.

At 524 pages, Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology Since Darwin by Tim Birkhead, Jo Wimpenny, and Bob Montgomery (2014, $45, Princeton University Press), is much more than a history of ornithology. It is a thorough review of the people and science that make the study of birds so fascinating to non-professionals.

In fact, birders may appreciate this book as much or more than ornithologists.


If you got through high school or college by using flash cards and have since become a birder, David Sibley’s Backyard Birding Flash Cards: 100 Common Birds of Eastern and Western North America (2012, $14.99, Random House) is for you.

Learning birds from a field guide, can be tedious. Using flash cards can be fun and effective, especially when they are based on Sibley’s artwork. Perfect for curious adults, I think these flash cards might be irresistible to elementary-aged children.

Dealing with death

Chippy Chipmunk: Friends in the Garden by Kathy Miller (2014, $19.95, is Miller’s third book in a series about “Chippy.” Lavishly illustrated with Miller’s own photos, this book deals with how Chippy handles the loss of a friend.

Teachers of elementary school students asked her to write a book that would help younger children deal with death. Friends in the Garden is the result, and I think Miller nailed it.

Shaping the world

Fifty Minerals that Changed the Course of History by Eric Chaline (2012, $29.95, Firefly Books) features the metals, alloys, rocks, minerals, and gems that humans have used to shape the world.

Iron, clay, copper, diamonds, gold, marble, phosphorus, sand, sulfur, flint, and salt are just a few of the essential building blocks used to create our human civilization.

All about penguins

Who can resist charismatic, tuxedo-clad birds that waddle, slide, and fly through the water? Penguins: The Ultimate Guide by Tui Roy, Mark Jones, and Julie Cornthwaite (2014, $35, Princeton University Press) covers the natural history and conservation of all 18 species of the world’s penguins.

Traveling the world to see penguins in the wild is expensive and impractical. Penguins is the next best way to meet these fascinating birds.


Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur Evans (2014, $35, Princeton University Press) is a full-color guide to 1,406 species of eastern beetles. More than 1,500 color photos depict the species covered.

Despite the book’s comprehensive nature, each species is relatively common in the East. This is a terrific introduction to the most diverse group of animals on the planet.

To the extreme

From the smallest, deepest, shallowest, and oldest to fastest, longest, hottest, and coldest, The Extreme Life of the Sea by Stephen R. Palumbi and Anthony R. Palumbi (2014, $27.95, Princeton University Press) lives up to its title.

If you’re fascinated by all things marine, father Stephen (the biologist) and son Anthony (the writer), have teamed up to describe the largest and least understood part of planet Earth. This is a terrific book for the nightstand to be savored one chapter at a time.

Simple is good

Nectar-Aid™ gets my vote for best new product of the year ( It is an ingeniously simple, patented vessel for mixing sugar and water to make hummingbird (or oriole) nectar.

Nectar-Aid is a 48-ounce container constricted at one end like the number “8.” At the narrow point, slots accept a divider. Simply fill the smaller side with table sugar, and then add water to the same level on the other side. Remove the divider, and use it to stir for recommended “one part sugar, four parts water” nectar.

Even children can now be entrusted with making hummingbird nectar. No more pouring and measuring sugar, and no more sticky messes. Credit the genius of a man named Arnold Klein with the idea.

For hummer lovers

Speaking of hummingbirds, a gift membership in the International Hummingbird Society ($30 per year, 800-529-3699, includes the journal, The Hummingbird Connection, and would be appreciated by anyone who loves these tiny feathered jewels.


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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, or on the Tune-In radio app. Visit his website at or contact him directly at or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.



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