The UW Arboretum Bookstore is a small, tranquil haven tucked in the back of the Arboretum's Visitor Center. With spring in the air, it seemed the perfect destination, one-stop shopping for anyone interested in the outdoors, gardening and natural history, from serious researchers to daypack dabblers.
You'll find books on prairie plantings, Wisconsin geology, swamps and bogs, naturalist biographies, as well as lots (and lots) of identifiers. Winter berry finder? Check. Birdsong identifier? Check. Fern finder? Check. There's even a handy collection of Northwoods Animal Scat Tags, on a keychain, no less (a steal at $7). Never know when you might stumble across scat that simply defies identification.
Garden lovers will find a fine selection of books, as well as beguiling ceramic birdhouses and "toad abodes" ($45) by Cambridge artist Carol Wibralski.
Among the most delightful offerings are those geared toward the budding naturalist, everything from pint-size binoculars to star finders to glittery bug tattoos. Nifty extra-large cotton scarves called Fundanas, with nature games printed on them such as Wildlife Bird Bingo, are sure to add to the enjoyment of a family walk in the woods.
My favorite find? Propped in the middle of a table dedicated to frogs, toads and other amphibians was a small tome titled Blinky: A Special Gray Tree Frog, by Wisconsin naturalist Randy Korb. This charming yet somewhat gruesome book relates the true story of Blinky, an unassuming eastern gray tree frog who, after getting hit by a car (yes, there are photos), is rescued by a young boy. While Blinky loses an eye - thus her name - she finds a loving family and lives a productive life as a froggy goodwill ambassador, traveling to classrooms and nature talks with author Korb. Book plus Wisconsin frog-call DVD? $25. Photo of Blinky cradled in her rescuer's hands? Priceless.