June 27 • 05:06 AM

In touch with gifts of nature

Seven Ponds Nature Center hosts gift shop, used book sales this weekend

Seven Ponds Nature Center naturalist Layne Hillman is ready to help shoppers at ‘The Rookery,’ the center’s popular gift shop. Many items offered will be marked down this weekend in conjunction with the center’s used book sale. photo by Catherine Minolli.

March 05, 2008
"Mother Nature sings its ode,

In a symphony of light,

And it echoes through my soul,

Giving reason to this life."

—From 'Ballad of The Forest,' by David Cannon

Sometimes it gets difficult to hear the music. Mother Nature's ode gets muffled under her well-worn cloak of snow. It vanishes like a frosty puff of breath into the frozen air.

But there's a place just around the corner, just up the street or just down the road where the sights and sounds of nature rise like a symphony, spill into the soul and light up the heart with renewed wonder.

That place is Seven Ponds Nature Center, where all things natural and wild to the area are harbored, studied, celebrated and taught. It's also a place for unique gifts, interesting books, one-of-a-kind greeting cards and nature-themed jewelry.

Those are just some of the items available at the Rookery, the nature center's popular gift shop.

This weekend, many of the items offered will be marked down during a clearance sale.

What's the draw? According to naturalist Layne Hillman, it's all about learning and the wonder and awe that learning about nature inspires.

"The first thing that comes to mind is books," Hillman says. "We have books for kids and books for adults. From field guides to a cute story to read with your kids at night."

Hillman says shoppers enjoy browsing through the shop's selection, especially those interested in learning more about what's going on in their own back yards.

"It's really handy when people come to us and they ask 'what's this bird?' or whatever, and they get out a field guide and say 'that's a handy book,'" Hillman says. "We try to stick with books that identify the local flora and fauna and wildlife. People appreciate that they're useful to identify things and they buy them. It's a nice form of education, which is what the gift shop is all about."

And just because things are educational doesn't mean they can't be fun, Hillman adds.

The Rookery stocks puzzles and games for kids, sticker books, building blocks, magnets and the like.

"We have fun things like cute little animal pins and things like that," Hillman says. "We have things that are entertaining but still pertain to nature and natural history."

For those who'd like to keep Mother Nature's feathered friends in their own yards all year long, the Rookery offers a wide variety of bird feeders and bird seed, bird nesting boxes, bat houses, wood duck boxes and more. Coupled with the fact that naturalist Hillman runs the gift shop, the Rookery seems a natural choice for making a purchase that would work best for the shopper's nature-related goal.

CDs are also available, many of which help with wildlife identification through sound. Some center around the soothing sounds of nature for peaceful relaxation.

Nature-lovers can also wear their passion on their sleeves through a wide variety of t-shirts, sweatshirts, caps and bags in men's, women's and children's sizes. There are also nature themed necklaces, bracelets and earrings as well as field bags available at the shop.

"If you want to go outside and do activities like pond dipping, we have the stuff you need," Hillman says.

The weekend sale coincides with Seven Pond's Used Book Sale, which features gently used garden and nature books and even a few treasures.

"We have a lot of supporters who've donated nature and garden books," Seven Ponds Director Mike Champagne says. "People can come out and pick up an old field guide, a bird guide, gardening books or a wildlife book they've always wanted."

Champagne views the used book sale as more than a simple fundraiser.

"Basically we're finding homes for good books," he jokes.

That's an apt viewpoint, as the sale is conducted on a donation basis only—no pricetags are affixed to the books.

Seven Ponds Nature Center is a nonprofit organization, Champagne says, and as such their programs are self-funded. Gift shop sales and proceeds from other fundraisers like Heritage Harvest Days and the annual Stingers Rummage Sale help keep those programs operating.

As an added bonus, visitors who turn out for the weekend sales will have a premier view of the center's wildlife activity.

"We've got a nice, big block of wild turkeys," Champagne says. "It's hard not to see a turkey when you visit the center."

There's also a chance to see a rare sight at the center's bird feeding station.

"It's been an exciting winter for bird watchers," Champagne explains. "Northern finches have migrated down into Lapeer County and that doesn't happen every year. This is a good year for a lot of different finches."

Champagne says common redpoll, goldfinch-sized birds with red-hued foreheads, have been visiting the center, and that's been a treat for everyone.

"We're also expecting any day now redwing black birds to appear," he says.

The gift shop sale and used book sale at the nature center will take place from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday.

The center offers a wide variety of activities for adults and children, including an astronomy club, a birding club, beekeeper's club and 'Friends of Herbs.'

Seven Ponds Nature Center is located at 3854 Crawford Road. Call 810-796-3200 or visit the Web site for more information.

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