Monday, December 17, 2007

Holiday gifts to help people connect with the natural world

Holiday gifts to help people connect with the natural world

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With all of the hype devoted to electronic entertainment, it can be difficult to remember that holiday gift giving need not involve batteries, or even a trip to the mall. Here are some suggestions for how to avoid those things and get gifts that can help people you care about connect with the natural world.

Start with field guides from the Illinois Natural History Survey, which you can order by phone (217-244-2161) or purchase at Survey headquarters, 1816 South Oak Street in Champaign. The field guides published by the Natural History Survey are similar to the national guides you may be more familiar with, but they’re written and photographed by scientists from Illinois, and they contain more detailed information about ranges and habitats in our state.

For people who appreciate the beauties of butterflies and moths, there are three guides to help distinguish among the many colorful species of these insects that inhabit our state for at least part of the year.

If you’re shopping for someone who’s interested in more down-to-earth critters, you can’t go wrong with the Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Illinois. Like other guides, this book helps to answer that most important question in the field, “what is it?” But it’s also an eye-opener. People who browse the photographs of some of the fascinating snakes, frogs, toads, lizards, and salamanders that can be found right here in Illinois might also be inclined to go looking for them.

Are there people on your list who enjoy kayaking or canoeing? Help them learn the difference between a rabbitsfoot and a pistolgrip with the Field Guide to Freshwater Mussels of the Midwest.

If you’d prefer to give a gift to be enjoyed inside, consider a year’s subscription to the Illinois Steward magazine, which is published by University of Illinois Extension (by phone, 217-333-5900). The Steward introduces readers to wildlife, natural areas, and important issues in conservation with captivating photographs and in-depth articles. It’s a quarterly reminder of the many natural treasures that are ours to enjoy and protect. The publishers of the Illinois Steward also produce a set of note cards featuring scenes from around the state that makes an excellent gift.

Another subscription possibility is, Outdoor Illinois, a monthly magazine published by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (217-782-7454). As a DNR publication, Outdoor Illinois may hold special appeal for the hunters and anglers on you list.

If you’re buying for birders, stop by the Audubon gift shop at the Urbana Park District’s Anita Purves Nature Center. There you can pick up Birds of Illinois (Lone Pine Publishing) a field guide with state-specific range maps and more detailed accounts of life history and conservation topics than you’ll find in bird guides with a wider focus. If you want a gift for someone who would like to bird more, but doesn’t know where to go, give them the book Birding Illinois (Falcon), which describes how to get around and what you can expect to see at more than 110 locations throughout the state.

With a little luck, you’ll be finished shopping early, and have some time to get out for yourself.

On the web

Illinois Natural History Survey Manuals

Illinois Steward Subscription

Outdoor Illinois Subscription

Information for Audubon Nature Shop at Anita Purves Nature Center: