Birds and Blooms Blog

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Enjoying Owls on Halloween

Rob Ripma

Many people feel that owls are very spooky species – making them a perfect bird to associate with Halloween. Sure, some of the owls can make very strange sounds, and an owl would certainly startle you if it flew by you in the dark, but I myself never really thought of owls as spooky birds. Owls have actually long been one of my absolute favorite species of birds, and I go looking for them any chance that I get. My love of owls and continual searching for them has allowed me to photograph many species over the year.

I hope you enjoy the photos and see that owls aren’t nearly as spooky as they might seem!

Can you find the Great Horned Owl in this photo?

Can you find the Great Horned Owl in this photo?

The Eastern Screech-Owl has a couple of calls that couple be spooky if you didn't know what they were! Listen to them here.

The Eastern Screech-Owl has a couple of calls that couple be spooky if you didn’t know what they were! Listen to them here.

Spotted Owls are found in the Western United States. I photographed this pair in Miller Canyon outside of Sierra Vista, AZ.

Spotted Owls are found in the Western United States. I photographed this pair in Miller Canyon outside of Sierra Vista, AZ.

Of all the owls, I can see why the Barn Owl might be a bit scary. It's call is a terrifying screech and a big white bird flying by at night could be quite shocking!

Of all the owls, I can see why the Barn Owl might be a bit scary. It’s call is a terrifying screech, and a big white bird flying by at night could be quite shocking!

I don't think anyone could ever think the cute little Northern Saw-whet Owl is a spooky Halloween species!

I don’t think anyone could ever think the cute little Northern Saw-whet Owl is a spooky Halloween species!

Long-eared Owls like to stare down at you if you pass under a tree they are perching in.

Long-eared Owls like to stare down at you if you pass under a tree they are perching in.

Have you come across any owls recently? Tell us about it in the comments!

Shore Bird Watching on Sanibel Island

Jill Staake

Fall in Florida is like spring up north. Floridians slowly emerge from their air-conditioned cocoons, opening the windows and taking deep breaths of cool fresh air that has finally lost the seemingly-endless heat and humidity of the last few months. We recently took advantage of this beautiful fall weather with a trip to one of our favorite Florida getaways, Sanibel Island. In addition to the wonderful J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the beaches are famous for their shells, and shore birds gather there in the hundreds too. If you’re feeling a little lazy, you can just lie in your beach chair with a pair of binoculars and a camera and check out all the action while barely lifting a finger! Here are some of our favorite shore bird watching photos from our recent trip.

Shore Bird Watching - Brown Pelican

Jill Staake Brown Pelican

Shore Bird Watching - Royal Tern

Jill Staake Royal Tern

Shore Bird Watching - Ruddy Turnstone

Jill Staake Ruddy Turnstone

Shore Bird Watching - Ruddy Turnstone

Jill Staake Ruddy Turnstone

Shore Bird Watching - Sanderlings

Jill Staake Sanderlings

Shore Bird Watching - Sandwich Tern

Jill Staake Sandwich Tern

Shore Bird Watching - Sandwich Tern

Jill Staake Sandwich Tern

Shore Bird Watching - Sleepy Sanderling Trio

Jill Staake Some Sleepy Sanderlings

Shore Bird Watching - Sanderlings

Jill Staake Sanderlings at Rest

Shore Bird Watching - Willets

Jill Staake Willets

Planning a trip to Florida or other southern shores this winter? Get some Low Tide Beach Birding Tips to make the most of your bird watching time at the shore!

Drought Tolerant, Ornamental Grass for Fall Color

While the coming of fall is signalled by brightly colored trees, there is another type of plant that puts on a show when autumn arrives.

Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

Another plant that displays beautiful fall color is the ornamental grass, pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris), which produces burgundy plumes above the green foliage, signaling the arrival of autumn.

Also referred to as ‘gulf muhly’, this Texas native isn’t just beautiful – it’s also tough, thriving in drought tolerant gardens in both full sun and light shade and deer leave it alone.  It can grow in a wide range of climates including zone 5 – 11 gardens.  Now if that isn’t enough to make you want to go and plant some pink muhly in your garden, what if I told you that it displays three different colors throughout the year?

Pink muhly in spring and summer.

Pink muhly in spring and summer.

In spring and summer, the softly mounded green foliage of pink muhly adds both color and texture to the landscape.  It looks best when planted in groups of 3 – 5 in straight or staggered rows.  This lovely ornamental grass also looks great when paired next to boulders.

Pink muhly in the fall.

Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’ in the fall.

As the days begin to shorten and temperatures cool, pinkish/burgundy plumes begin to appear above the green foliage.  This mid-sized grass reaches 4 ft. tall when in flower.  The colorful flowers last for several weeks and add rich, fall color to the landscape.  The variety ‘Regal Mist’ has a darker colored plume that is more burgundy in color.

Pink muhly in winter

Pink muhly in winter

As fall wanes, the pinkish/burgundy plumes fade to an attractive wheat color, which adds a light golden color to the winter landscape. In zones 5 – 7, pink muhly will go dormant.

In early spring, prune back pink muhly back to 6″ and it will quickly grow back, displaying its attractive green foliage.  While drought tolerant, this ornamental grass looks best with regular irrigation during the summer months, although it will survive with very little water.  For best results, plant in full sun (or filtered shade) in well-drained soil.

Ornamental grasses add both texture and beauty to the garden throughout the year and pink muhly is no exception.  Try out this low-maintenance, drought tolerant grass to your garden throughout the year.

One of My Favorite Hummingbird Species

Rob Ripma

Recently, I’ve been traveling to many places that have some very incredible hummingbirds, and it’s made me think about what some of my favorite hummingbird species are. Although it would be almost impossible for me to pick just one, here in the United States, I’m always extremely excited to be in a spot to see Magnificent Hummingbirds. In the US, this species is mostly limited to Southeast Arizona and Southwest New Mexico. I’ve spent time watching and photographing this species at several locations when birding in Southeast Arizona. I was also very excited to see Magnificent Hummingbirds while birding along the Pan American Highway in Costa Rica!

The colors of the Magnificent Hummingbird are beautiful but look what happens when it turns just right in the next picture.

The colors of the Magnificent Hummingbird are always beautiful, but look how awesome they are when it turns just right in the next picture!

It's amazing how the feathers glow when the light hits them just right!

It’s amazing how the feathers glow when the light hits them just right!

Have you ever seen a Magnificent Hummingbird or been lucky enough to have one at your feeders?

Succulent Garden Halloween Decor

Jill Staake

Looking for an easy way to use plants in your Halloween decor? Pick up a collection of small succulents, available in the garden section of most home improvement stores, and pop them into small plastic cauldrons (I found these in the dollar bins at Target). Add a little Spanish moss and some holiday lights if you like, and you’ll have an easy Halloween display!

Succulent Garden Halloween Decor

 

Succulent Garden Halloween Decor

I used the following succulents in my display:

  • Pleiospilos nelii ‘Royal Flush’
  • Gymnocalycium mihanovichii ’Hibotan’
  • Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’
  • Euphora tirucalli
  • Graptosedum ‘California Sunset’

Succulent Garden Halloween Decor

Once Hallween is over, I’ll transfer these succuclents to a small rock garden in a dish, and continue to enjoy these interesting little plants all year long!

 

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