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It’s in your nature: Birding-related gift ideas

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    Decent optics and a good bird identification guide will enable you to distinguish a barn swallow, left, from a cliff swallow, right. BARRY REED/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    This cliff swallow sits out a rain shower at Beltzville Dam in late spring. Note its conspicuous head markings and short tail. BARRY REED/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published December 01. 2018 07:46AM


When I first started feeding and identifying birds as a youngster, a small pocket-size field guide was sufficient. As I became a more intense birder, I needed better resources and my birding library grew.

My plan with this week’s column is to offer a few suggestions/and or recommendations. I have nothing to gain except to hopefully be of some assistance. Some of these resources will take you from being familiar with the common birds in your backyard, to realizing you could possibly see 150 species or more each year in the Times News area alone. So as you approach the holiday season, maybe one or two of these items will help you with your gift list or to treat yourself.

Having good binoculars is most important. However, unless you plan on being a birding “addict,” you need to get to a sporting goods store of your choice and literally grab a few options and see how easy they are to use and assess their clarity. I will alert you that when you look at these optics, the very best ones will be over $1,000. You can find reasonably priced and a bit lower quality models at an affordable price.

If you will use them regularly, the big investment may be your best option. Binoculars can last a lifetime with the proper care. To avoid binoculars “thumping” against your chest as you hike, look for binocular harnesses, very reasonably priced, and available at most outdoor sport stores or online. The harness will replace the binocular strap. (Highly recommended)

My birding buddy Dave recommended a great birding resource, the “Crossley ID Guide, Eastern Birds.” It is a hardcover text and a terrific format of showing so many aspects of each of the bird species. If you would purchase ONE book for yourself or for another, this would be my recommendation.

Another book, “The Sibley Guide to Birds” isn’t far behind and was the text I had purchased before knowing of “Crossley ID Guide.” It too is excellent, but not quite as detailed. Neither of these is a backpack type of guide though. I purchased the “National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of North America” many years ago. I still use it. If you get afield often, this paperback guide would be my recommendation. It is small enough to fit in your car console and/or backpack and kept there for quick access when you need a bird ID. If your budget is smaller, it won’t disappoint you and costs less than the two previously mentioned books.

Another suggestion in gaining birding knowledge and as a gift idea is a bird song CD. (Go online for a variety of reasonably priced options.) If your vehicle still has a CD player, park your vehicle in a safe nature area and play a bird song repeatedly to “call in” that species and be thrilled when it flies in to investigate. (It can be used at home to listen to a few bird songs to familiarize you with them.)

If you have a real interest in birding, one book will allow you to log information on your birding sightings. The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology “Birder’s Life List and Diary” offers a great format to keep your life list or yearly/daily sighting notations. Go for it. A great gift for that birding friend or for you too.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: The American woodcock is also called a ________. A. snipe, B. timberdoodle, C. baldpate, D. bluebill.

Last Week’s Trivia Answer: White-nose syndrome may wipe out many of the nine species of bats found in Pennsylvania.

Contact Barry Reed at


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