Birds and Blooms Blog

Get the latest birding and gardening tips from our expert bloggers.

You Don’t Say: Having a Moment



In the April/May 2015 issue of Birds & Blooms, we published this charming photo. When a seal and a cormorant got together along the San Diego coast, Greg Tucker from California was around to capture it. Can you help us put words to this moment? Leave your suggestion in the caption section below. We’ll publish a few of our favorites in the June/July issue!

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds Have Started Spring Migration!

Rob Ripma

Although it may seem crazy to think about, especially for many of us in areas of the United States that are still very cold and snowy, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are already heading north and are being seen in parts of the Southeastern US.

A very popular site for tracking this hummingbird’s northward migration is, which I bet many of our readers are familiar with. They added the first hummingbird of this year’s migration to their map on February 22. You can follow all of the reports from here. This website will give you a good idea of how migration is progressing, but to see more reports and more detailed locations of where Ruby-throated Hummingbirds may be near you, check out eBird.

The first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to arrive are the males but it's wont be long until females (like this one) are seen as well.

The first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to arrive are the males, but it’s wont be long until females (like this one) are seen as well.

Using the simple “Species Maps” function on eBird, I made a map of all reports for Ruby-throated Hummingbird during 2015. (Learn more about these maps and how to use eBird in this previous post.)

This map shows all reports of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds during 2015. Use this link to follow along with migration on the interactive map on eBird.

This map shows all reports of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds during 2015. Use this link to follow along with migration on the interactive map on eBird. This map shows all reports of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds during 2015. Use this link to follow along with migration on the interactive map on eBird.

You can see that there have been many reports of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds already, including many that spent the winter in the Southeast. Keep an eye on this map as the spring progresses and you will see how the reports rapidly spread north!

Have any of you in the Southeast seen their first Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the year yet?

More Birds of Costa Rica

Jill Staake

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been sharing bird photos here from my recent trip to Costa Rica, including the Resplendent Quetzal and hummingbirds of Costa Rica. During our time there, we saw more than 140 species of birds, and had the chance to take photos of many of them. Here, I’m sharing a few more birds of Costa Rica that we enjoyed spotting and photographing during our trip in early February. These aren’t backyard birds for us here in the U.S. – but they are for the lucky folks who live down there!

Costa Rica Birds Aracari

Jill Staake Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus), Selva Verde Lodge

Costa Rica Birds Blue Gray Tanager

Jill Staake Blue-Gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus), Selva Verde Lodge

Costa Rica Birds Cacique

Scarlet-Rumped Cacique (Cacicus uropygialis), Selva Verde Lodge

Costa Rica Birds Golden Hooded Tanager

Jill Staake Golden-Hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata), Nature Pavilion, Chilamate

Costa Rica Birds Montezuma Oropendula

Jill Staake Montezuma Oropendola (Psarocolius montezuma), Selva Verde Lodge

Costa Rica Birds Motmot

Jill Staake Broad-Billed Motmot (Electron platyrhynchum), La Selva Biological Reserve

Costa Rica Birds Redstart

Jill Staake Collared Redstart (Myioborus torquatus), Savegre Lodge

Costa Rica Birds Silver Throated Tanager

Jill Staake Silver-Throated Tanager (Tangara icterocephala), Cinchona

Costa Rica Birds Toucan

Jill Staake Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus swainsonii) – AKA Black-Mandibled Toucan (see NOTE 1 below), Selva Verde Lodge

Costa Rica Birds Trogon

Jill Staake Gartered Trogon AKA Northern Violaceous Trogon (Trogon caligatus), La Selva Biological Reserve

NOTE 1: The Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan has recently been determined to be a sub-species of the Black-Mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus). Since many guidebooks and online references (including the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) still have these species listed separately, I’ve decided to leave both names here for reference going forward as both amateur birders and scientists get used to the change.

NOTE 2: The Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus) was recently split off as a separate species from the Violaceous Trogon (T. violaceous). Some still refer to it as the Northern Violaceous Trogon, so I have left both common names here for reference.

Be a Butterfly Hero


It’s no secret that monarchs are in trouble. These iconic butterflies can be found across the United States, but their numbers have declined by approximately 90 percent in recent years. This is mainly due to loss of habitat. Monarchs spend winters in Mexico or Central and Southern California, and then migrate north in spring. Along the way, they need places to rest their wings, sip on nectar and lay eggs on milkweed. Baby caterpillars then feed on the milkweed plants. Without milkweed and places for milkweed to grow, monarchs can’t survive.

So, what can you do? First and foremost, PLANT MILKWEED. Second, team up with the National Wildlife Federation and their new Butterfly Hero Campaign, launching March 4. Follow these steps to become a Butterfly Hero and attract butterflies.

1. Take a photo of yourself making the international sign language sign for “butterfly.”


2. Submit your photo to the Butterfly Heroes website and take the pledge to be a monarch butterfly hero.

3. People who take the pledge will be sent a free Butterfly Heroes Garden Kit from the NWF (while supplies last). Pledge by May 15 and you’ll be eligible for a chance to win a trip for four to Walt Disney World.


To learn more about monarch butterfly migration, check out this story, Diary of Monarch Migration.

Colorful Winter Gardens

While winter can be a dreary time for many gardeners, for those of us who are fortunate enough to live in areas that experience mild winters, we get to enjoy color in our winter gardens.

Today, I’d like to share with you some of the winter beauty that I see everyday where I live in the desert Southwest.

Colorful Southwestern Winter Landscape

It’s hard to believe that this photo was taken in February with the vibrant yellow and red flowering shrubs decorating the winter landscape.  Red-flowering Valentine bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) begins blooming in January and doesn’t quit until mid spring.  The fragrant, yellow blossoms of feathery cassia (Senna artemisioides) perfume the air in winter and spring.

Southwestern Winter Landscape 2

On a overcast February day, the winter landscape was showing some of its colors.  A stately saguaro cactus is surrounded by the pink feather duster flowers of pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla) and the yellow feathery cassia.

Winter Southwestern Landscape

The wispy branches of a blue palo verde tree (Parkinsonia florida) with its green trunk will wait until spring to burst into yellow blooms, but the landscape still has colorful purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis), spiky desert spoon (Dasyilirion wheeleri) and a spiky yucca that add both color and texture to the winter landscape.

Southwestern Winter Landscape 3

This winter landscape combines the shapes of columnar organ pipe cacti, Parry’s agave (Agave parryi) with flowering firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatoni), which blooms in winter and on into spring much to the delight of hummingbirds.  A palo brea tree (Parkinson praecox) with its green trunk and a mesquite tree (Prosopis species) in the background add height and shade to the garden in summer.  A bougainvillea shrub grows against the wall, which will produce magenta blossoms spring through fall.

Southwestern Winter Landscape 4

A semi-deciduous mesquite tree stands over a garden filled with red-flowering chuparosa (Justicia californica) attracting hummingbirds from near and far in this area that enjoys them all year round.  A prickly pear cactus (Opuntia sp.) add contrasting texture with its flat, paddle shaped pads.

The desert Southwest is filled with color year round much to the delight of those of us fortunate enough to live here.

Do you have winter blooms out in your garden, or perhaps blooming indoors?  Please share them with us!

Monarch Update: Winter 2014-15

Learn whether monarch butterflies are recovering from record low numbers and what plans are being made to help them with this monarch update.

Hummingbirds of Costa Rica

With more than 50 species found in this small country, the hummingbirds of Costa Rica put on an amazing show wherever you are.

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