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Let winter help you hatch a bird hobby
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Gift ideas for birders

Feeders: No better way to start bird watching than to add a backyard feeder or bath, available at retail homeware shops or online at The Backyard Bird Co. Suet baskets are a good option for those who have feeders; they are available at Birdfeeders.com. Many items also are available in the Elachee Nature Science Center Nature Shop.
Books: Every bird watcher needs books to help identify species. One recommended is "The Bird Watching Answer Book," by Laura Erickson available the gift shop of the Cornell Lab or Ornithology, SapsuckerWoods.com.
BirdCam: This innovative camera takes photos and videos of backyard birds while you're away. It's available at Wingscapes.
Online course: "Investigating Behavior — Courtship and Rivalry in Birds" is a five-week, instructor-guided course packed with multimedia and interactive activities available from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Audio, video: Sound and visual guides help birders identify species more accurately. Audio guides are available at the Cornell Lab or Ornithology.
Binoculars: Birders need a good pair of extra eyes to spot birds; available at local outdoor shops or bird sites online.
Gifts, memberships: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society offer memberships that help fund research, education and citizen-science projects.

Keith Albertson

Yes it is chilly out, but those willing to bundle up against the early frost of winter might find a new hobby to carry into the new year.

As it so happens, winter is a good time to begin bird watching, said Peter Gordon, education director at Elachee Nature Science Center at 2125 Elachee Drive in Gainesville.

"It's as good a time as any with winter here and the leaves off the trees, Gordon said. "A lot of resident birds are here and love coming to feeders in winter. There also are quite a few northern birds that migrate south ... before going back north, short-range migrants that come through and spend winters here. The trees are without the cover, they're hungry, and the feeders are a great place for them to hang out."

And a holiday gift of a bird feeder, book, video or audio CD might help someone with a passing fancy in birds nurture their interest into a pastime.

"There are lot of different things you can do to enhance a love of birding," Gordon said. "You can plant certain plants that birds love. It's a great thing to do and a potential gift as a food source or nesting site that will attract birds in general."

Elachee's nature trails are great spots for birding, Gordon says, along with most area parks, particularly those around Lake Lanier.

"Even at schools, around ballfields and rec areas, you can see bluebirds, and killdeer are common. Hawks and crows will be around and can be seen as well," Gordon said. "Even in your neighborhoods, at the feeders. It's amazing what might show up."

One way to get started is taking part in the Christmas Bird Count sponsored by the National Audubon Society, running through Jan. 5. Data compiled during this count and the Great Backyard Birdcount on Feb. 12-15 helps the Audubon Society and its co-sponsor, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, conduct a census on the health of bird populations nationwide. Both offer a way for amateur bird watchers to develop their interest.

For the Christmas count, watchers can join local Count Circles in specific areas, led by experienced bird watchers.

In North Georgia, upcoming outings are scheduled around Athens on Saturday. You can e-mail eroberthom@bellsouth.net or mecase@uga.edu for more information. And an outing is scheduled for Sunday in the Chattahoochee National Forest. E-mail ringgold_birdchaser@juno.com for more information. For those joining a count, there is a $5 fee, free for those younger than 18.

Those whose home is within the boundaries of a Count Circle are invited to report the birds that visit their yard feeders at no cost.

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