Birds and Blooms Blog

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

Funny Things Kids Say About Nature

Baltimore oriole

Anitta Staats Baltimore oriole

Our 4-year-old granddaughter was visiting on Mother’s Day. We were watching the birds from our big picture window and a beautiful oriole landed on the feeder. She said, “Oh, look, Grandma. A Halloween bird!”
Janice Seebecker

While gardening with my grandchildren one morning, the 4-year-old excitedly announced that he had found a worm. His sister informed him that it is food for the robins. He was happy with this until someone announced that the worm’s mother was probably looking for it. In utter conflict, he though a moment, then turned around and tossed the worm over his shoulder and said, “Let them figure it out.’
Dolores Eisenbraun

My husband spotted a pigeon while out with my 2-year-old daughter and pointed it out to her. “Do you see that pigeon? It’s a kind of bird,” he said. A few days later she saw another pigeon and proclaimed, “Daddy, there’s a kindabird.”
Krista Frank

My grandson, Daniel (3 at the time), and I were watching a nature program about birds on television. A female mallard and her babies came on the screen. At that moment, Daniel yelled, “Look, Gramma, duck puppies!” He’s 21 now, but we still call ducklings “duck puppies.”
Debbie Hayes

For decades, we’ve been feeding raisins to the robins who visit our backyard. The same robin families return to us year after year, and I often assign them names based on their appearance or behavior. My niece (5 at the time) was visiting one day when Chester and Miss Hairdo appeared in the yard. I started telling her about their behaviors and instead of being impressed at my expertise in bird behavior, she looked at me with wide eye and said, “How do you know their names?”
Kathy Showen

BONUS: Adults say funny things, too…

Recently my mom and I were taking a walk near our neighborhood. While I was busy setting up my camera, Mom suddenly grabbed my arm and whispered urgently, “What IS that bird? It’s brown with a red head and it’s the size of a hawk!” Thinking she might be seeing a large woodpecker or young red-tailed hawk, I took the binoculars and after some effort, located the mystery bird. I began laughing. “Mom, that’s a house finch!” She said, “Well, the binoculars did something to magnify him!”
Alissa Pendorf

Have your children or grandchildren said funny things about nature? Share their quotes with us in the comments below!

Container Garden Soil Toppers

Jill Staake

Looking for an easy way to make your container garden more interesting? Consider adding some soil toppers around the base of your plant. This is especially effective for plants where the soil is exposed, like with my amaryllis bulbs shown below. These soil toppers will also help keep your soil moist longer, and can prevent curious house pets from digging around in your dirt.

Container Garden Soil Toppers

I used small pebbles and shells collected from local beaches in my pots, but there are plenty of options. Just remember to pile the toppers no more than half an inch to an inch thick, so you can still stick your finger down into the soil to check to see if it needs to be watered. Also make sure that the toppers you choose won’t leach any damaging chemicals into your soil, and give anything you choose a good rinse in a colander before adding them to your container garden. Here are some other soil toppers to try:

  • Spanish moss
  • Aquarium gravel
  • Glass or plastic gems
  • Sand
  • Marble chips
  • River rocks
  • Beads
  • Corks
  • Crushed shells
  • Wood chips

Container Garden Soil Toppers

Need help choosing a container for your plants? Try this handy chart!

Q&A with Vegetabowls

Cantaloupe-shaped bowl molded from a real cantaloupe.  (Find out how you can get your own here.)

Cantaloupe-shaped bowl molded from a real cantaloupe. (Find out how you can get your own here.)

Ever wanted to make the vegetable garden a more permanent fixture in your dining room? The team behind Vegetabowls has been doing exactly that with their cute veggie-shaped bowls and mugs. We fell in love with their quirky take on dishware and recently featured Vegetabowls in the May issue of Birds & Blooms Extra.

One half of the Vegetabowls duo, Melanie Mckenney, agreed to share the story and process behind these fun, veggie-inspired creations. Read to the end to find out how you can get a 15% discount on your next Vegetabowls order!

Birds & Blooms: Tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Melanie: Justin, a native of Marblehead, Massachusetts, and I, a true Buffalonian, met while teaching at a public access glass art studio in Boston. Early on in our relationship, we individually pursued our own artwork while working for other artists in the greater Boston area. But occasionally we were given opportunities to work on commissioned projects together. These projects became the foundation of us working together as a team and ultimately led to us co-founding our company, Vegetabowls, in 2010 (also the same year we got married).

B&B: How did you get started making Vegetabowls? Where did the idea and the name come from? (We love the play on words, by the way!)

Melanie: The idea came about during a ceramics class I was teaching. I used a cantaloupe to demonstrate the use of plaster molds to capture texture in clay. I finished the cantaloupe bowl and brought it home to use. Justin immediately saw the potential in the bowl to create a whole line of fruits and vegetable bowls. The next thing he said was, “Vegetabowls!” Since then we have expanded the line to over 20 different designs, and we are always adding more!

B&B: What’s the process like to make one Vegetabowl?

Melanie: The process to make a Vegetabowl begins with choosing the right fruit or vegetable from our garden or local farmers market. We then make a plaster mold directly from the veggie. Once the mold is set, we remove the actual veggie and allow the mold to dry. We are then able to pour liquid clay into the mold, which picks up the texture from the mold. Once the clay is dry, we remove it from the mold and trim and wipe it by hand. It is then fired in the kiln, glazed by hand, and fired in the kiln again to make it food safe.

B&B: Do you do a lot of gardening, then? (Non-pottery vegetables, of course!)

Melanie: In the warmer months, we do have a small vegetable garden at our house, which we are hoping to expand this year. We also harvest from my mother’s large garden and visit the local farmers market often!

B&B: Do you have any future Vegetabowls creations in mind?

Melanie: With the wide variety of fruits and veggies out there, we are constantly inspired to create new designs or improve on our current ones. Right now, we are working on offering complete dinner sets and refining our citrus set to be the perfect addition to any cocktail party!

Head over to or and use the coupon code “blooms” for a 15% discount on your next Vegetabowls order! Coupon code expires 6/1/15.

When Will Baltimore Orioles Arrive?

Rob Ripma

I’ve been getting many questions recently about when Baltimore Orioles will be arriving in certain areas of the country and when everyone should start putting out their oriole feeder to try to attract this beautiful bird to their backyards. This can be a tricky question to answer, as it depends on how migration progresses throughout the spring, but I can offer you the resources for you to keep track of migration so that you can see when the orioles will be arriving near you.

When Will Baltimore Orioles Arrive?

Are you hoping to attract one of these beautiful Baltimore Orioles to your yard this year?

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, eBird offers you the chance to see where birds are being reported. This allows you to see the most recent reports and to track where birds are moving if you check back frequently.

When Will Baltimore Orioles Arrive?

You can see that Baltimore Orioles are being seen in the Southeast as well as up most of the East Coast.

Use this link to see the interactive map for Baltimore Orioles. Check back frequently for new reports and put out your oriole feeders when the reports start to approach your area! For tips and tricks to help attract orioles, check out this awesome article!

Attract Indigo Buntings with White Proso Millet

Jill Staake

The bright blue flash of an Indigo Bunting in mating plumage is a sight every birder would welcome to their backyard. In summer, this beautiful bird is found throughout the eastern U.S. and into Canada (Floridians can look for them in the winter, although they won’t attain full mating plumage until early spring), and you might be able to attract Indigo Buntings your backyard by offering one of its favorite seeds – white millet.

Attract Indigo Buntings with Millet

Jill Staake Indigo Bunting enjoying white proso millet seed

Offer white proso millet seed in platform feeders or tube feeders like the one shown. If squirrels are a problem, try one of the tube feeders encased in a cage that allows birds through but keeps pesky squirrels out. Sprinkling a little millet on the ground may also attract doves, juncos, quail, and bobwhites. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that has Painted Buntings, you might find these colorful birds at the feeders too!

Attract Indigo Buntings Millet

Jill Staake Indigo Buntings (L), Female Painted Bunting (Top R) and Male Painted Bunting (Bottom R)

Here in Central Florida, I like to visit Indigo Buntings at Felts Audubon Preserve, where Painted Buntings can also be spotted. Both of these birds are routinely seen at feeders offering exclusively white proso millet seeds, making it clear that this is their favorite. Millet seeds are often part of bird seed mixtures, but you can also buy it on its own at specialty bird stores and online. (Avoid red millet and mixtures containing it – most birds don’t seem to care for it.)

Attract Indigo Buntings Millet

Jill Staake Indigo Bunting

With spring approaching and Indigo Buntings about to head north for the summer, now is a great time to add white proso millet seed to your feeders, so you’ll attract Indigo Buntings as soon as they arrive in your area. Learn more about Indigo Buntings, including a range map and song recordings, by clicking here.

How to Start Seeds Indoors

Starting seeds indoors can help you get a jump-start on spring! Learn what you need and get tips for successful seed starting here.

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