Your Holiday Guide to Sky Island Gifts

What should you get that special wildlife enthusiast or environmentalist in your life? 

Maybe you want to give the perfect gift this year but aren’t the best at coming up with ideas. Or maybe you already have most of your gift picked out and want to add some finishing touches. (And if you’ve been persuaded to join some kind of gift exchange, oof. We empathize with the last-minute scramble to find something fun and under the budget limit.) 

No matter where you’re at in your gift huntSIA staff want to help. Together, we’ve curated some Sky Island-themed recommendations to make this holiday specialwhether you’re able to see loved ones in person or just over a video call.

A white-tailed deer wandering through the snow.

If the recipient is fashionable: 

Agave Garden Ultraband 

Our community science manager Zoe Fullem recommends this buff from the Arizona Trail Association as the perfect gift for friends and family who want to be fashionable and warm. “Although it’s not truly a COVID mask,” she says, “when you’re hiking it can be used in a pinch. Plus, I love them for sun protection on the neck and also when it gets a little chilly.” 

Columbia Global Adventure Packable Hat II 

Want to look as stylish as SIA staff when out hiking, camping, or searching for springs? This packable hat with adjustable chin strap will keep the wearer protected from our strong Sky Island sunlight, no matter the season. 

If the recipient loves photography: 

Backyard Wildlife Camera 

A remote camera is a great gift for anyone who wants to observe the wildlife that passes through their yard. (Plus, the resulting photos can be contributed monthly to our Sky Island FotoFauna network!) 

There are many remote cameras on the market. Here’s a guide on how to choose the right one, and then you can send your gift recipient these instructions on how to set their new camera up. 

P.S. Want to send a complete camera care package? Add batteries and an SD/storage card to get them started! 

If the recipient is a bookworm: 

Borderland Jaguars: Tigres de la Frontera 

Published in 2001 by David E. Brown, “Borderland Jaguars documents the [history of] human-jaguar contact in the Southwest and presents jaguar folklore from both sides of the border.” Our communications manager Anna Sofia says this book is perfect for anyone interested in the history of our Sky Island jaguars. 

Bird of Southeastern Arizona 

Our wildlife specialist Meagan Bethel recommends this book for all wildlife lovers! Published in 2010 by Rick Taylor, Birds of Southeastern Arizona is “a compact, photographic field guide for southeastern Arizona, a birding mecca for rare and vagrant birds from Mexico.” The book includes details on over 410 Arizona bird species, including Mexican rarities. 

A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona 

Published in 2006 by Thomas C. Brennan and Andrew T. Holycross, this field guide is packed with descriptions, photographs, illustrations, and maps for all 141 amphibian and reptile species in Arizona. (Wow!) Our executive director Louise Misztal recommends bringing this book along for quick identification aid when out and about in the Sky Islands. 

The Sonoran DesertA Literary Field Guide 

Our program director Emily Burns highly recommends this book for anyone who enjoys a unique blend of art, science, and literature. Published in 2016, The Sonoran Desert “is a groundbreaking book that … captures the stunning biodiversity of the world’s most verdant desert through words and images. More than fifty poets and writers … have composed responses to key species of this striking desert.” 

If the recipient is a beverage connoisseur: 

EXO Coffee 

We all know at least one person who prefers receiving food and drinks over material gifts. If you have one of those people on your holiday gift listsomeone who lives and dies by the strength of their morning brewour coffee friends at EXO Roast Co have just what you need. Not only are they local, they’ve also been great supporters of the work we do in the Sky Islands. And, frankly, their coffee is delicious.

Puffin Beverage Parka 

Forget the old, boring beverage koozies out there. Zoe recommends this cute, outdoorsy beverage parka as a perfect way for keeping all manner of drinks cold while camping or visiting friends. 

If the recipient loves the great outdoors: 

Tracking Cards & Rulers 

Meagan suggests everyone bring a tracking ruler when out hiking, even if they’re not a trained wildlife tracker! These rulers and accompanying track cards are great for educational moments with family or kids and provide ample opportunity to connect with this region’s amazing species. 

Morakniv Eldris Fixed-Blade Pocket-Sized Knife 

A must-have when hiking, camping, or doing pretty much any outdoor activity. You never know when you’ll need to cut free a piece of litter or trim some brush around a wildlife camera. 

America the Beautiful National Park Pass 

There are more than 2,000 national parks in the U.S.—think of all the travel opportunities that presents! Emily suggests gifting a park pass to anyone who enjoys exploring the various landscapes and ecosystems this country has to offer. 

P.S. Staying local in 2021? The Arizona State Parks & Trails Pass is a great pass alternative. 

If the recipient has a green thumb: 

Desert Bloom Mix 

Fill your garden this coming spring with this beautiful wildflower seed mix from Native Seeds SEARCH. According to the description, this seed packet contains: “California Poppy (26%), Desert Marigold (17%), Cassia Covesii (8%), Desert Lupine (26%), Blue Bells (17%), & Penstemon Eatonii (4%).” 

Spadefoot Nursery 

The Spadefoot Nursery in Tucson sells a wonderfully large assortment of native plants, including fruit trees, pollinator plants, cacti and succulents, and “plants for nerds”—a category that fills us with joy. They also offer yard art, soil conditioners and plant foods, hummingbird nectar, and seed packets. If you have a plant nerd in your life, then Spadefoot Nursery is where it’s at. 

The Wild Bird Store 

This Tucson-local store has a little bit of everything for the avid birder in your life. From hand-crafted feeders to bird seed mixes, their gifts are sure to tempt extra wildlife into their backyard—creating a well-rounded garden atmosphere. 

If the recipient loves arts and crafts: 

DIY White-Nosed Coatimundi Mask 

Earlier this year, Meagan put together an awesome DIY guide about making a coati mask. The mask can fit a child or an adult! If you’re looking for a gift to do together with a child or simply want to gift the materials and instructions, check out this blog for detailsCoati Felt Mask DIY Tutorial 

Sonoran Desert-Themed Shirts Other Items 

If the person in your life loves art, Sonoran Witch Boy’s Etsy shop is the place to find Sonoran Desert-themed shirts, prints, stickers, pins, and more. Plus, by purchasing from this artist you are supporting local, which is always a great choice.

Desert Greeting Cards 

Louise loves these cute greeting cards from Carolyn Schmitz (Desert Dada), another local artist. The website says, “Greeting cards are 5×7 and blank inside. The back of each card lists the native plants used in the painting. Envelopes are included.” 

If the recipient doesn’t like gifts: 

Support a Sky Island FotoFauna Wildlife Camera 

Not everyone loves receiving gifts. If this is true for someone in your life but you still want to make them feel recognized and appreciated over the holiday, consider supporting a FotoFauna wildlife camera in their name! This donation will enablSIA staff and interns to build a strong wildlife monitoring network in the US and Mexico, train new participants in the field, and support continued efforts to protect and preserve habitat in the Sky Islands.

Happy Holidays!