Birds and Blooms Blog

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

Looking for Bird Species on Lake Erie

Rob Ripma

Each year, Black Swamp Bird Observatory offers several boat trips on Lake Erie to see the various bird species that occur out on the lake. I’ve been a leader on these trips for a few years and was happy to be leading another trip on the lake this past weekend. Although the day started out with some freezing rain, once it cleared up we had a great time birding. We’re always looking for waterfowl and gulls on these trips and we found plenty of both of these families this year. Our highlights from the trip included Long-tailed Duck, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Red-necked Grebe, Surf Scoter, and many others!

One of our big highlights for the day was finding a group of 4 Surf Scoters.

One of our big highlights for the day was finding a group of 4 Surf Scoters.

The most common gull that we find during our boat trips is the Ring-billed Gull.

The most common gull that we find during our boat trips is the Ring-billed Gull.

There are also plenty of Bonaparte's Gulls to be found.

There are also plenty of Bonaparte’s Gulls to be found.

Backyard Birds DIY Christmas Countdown

Jill Staake

Counting down the days till Christmas is even more fun when you have a special calendar to help mark the days. There are plenty of countdown calendars available out there, but why not make your own featuring beautiful backyard bird photos from Birds & Blooms?

Backyard Birds DIY Christmas Countdown

Backyard Birds DIY Christmas Countdown Materials

  • Backyard Birds Photo Sheets
  • 25 wooden tags, about 3 inches by 2 inches
  • Red and green craft paint (or any two colors you prefer)
  • 2 Sponge brushes
  • Mod Podge decoupage glue
  • Metallic gold Sharpie or other paint marker
  • 25 miniature clothespins
  • Green twine
  • Scissors
  • Sandpaper (optional)

Backyard Birds DIY Christmas Countdown

Backyard Birds DIY Christmas Countdown Assembly

  1. If the edges of the wooden tags are rough, sand them lightly with sandpaper.
  2. Paint 12 tags red (or color of your choice) and 13 tags green (or color of your choice). Allow to dry.
  3. Print the Backyard Birds Photo Sheets on a color printer. (If using inkjet printer, allow the page to dry for several hours to avoid the ink smudging.) Cut out each bird photo, including the name underneath if you prefer. (I also trimmed the top two edges at a diagonal.)
  4. Spread a thin layer of Mod Podge onto a painted wooden tag. Center a bird image and press into place. Repeat with all bird images and tags. Allow to dry.
  5. Apply a second thin layer of Mod Podge over the top of the bird image on each tag to protect it. Allow to dry.
  6. Arrange the tags in the order you’d like them to appear on the countdown calendar. (I used the “Guess Who” squirrel image for day 25, but the order is entirely up to you.)
  7. Turn the tags over and use the gold Sharpie to write the numbers 1 to 25 on each as shown.
  8. Use the mini clothespins and green twine to hang your countdown calendar wherever you like, with the numbers facing out to start. I hung mine on our refrigerator in 5 even rows, but you can hang them in one long line, horizontal or vertical… whatever works for your space.
  9. Beginning on December 1, turn one tag around each day to reveal a new bird. For a fun family activity, take a few minutes to learn more about that bird species here on the Birds & Blooms website or on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds site.

Backyard Birds DIY Christmas Countdown

This activity would be fun to create together as a family on Thanksgiving after dinner, or during the long holiday weekend. If you prefer, you can clip your own photos from old issues of Birds & Blooms magazines instead, combining flowers with birds to create your own personalized DIY Christmas Countdown.

DIY Decor Project: Decorating For Thanksgiving

fall decor from the produce aisle

A kabocha squash, which looks like a small green pumpkin decorates the table alongside mini pumpkins and a small gourd.

Do you decorate your Thanksgiving table?  Often our attention is focused more on planning on what delicious food we will prepare for the fall holiday and decorating the table can often be an afterthought.  But, did you know that a beautifully table is as close as your supermarket’s produce aisle?

Every year I pull out my grandmother’s old tablecloth to spread over our dining room table, which is the only constant decoration on our table.  Then I have fun creating new arrangements for the table – it’s fun and easy to do and I don’t have to make an extra trip to the store – I just spend a little extra time in the produce aisle picking out fruit and vegetables while shopping for my other Thanksgiving ingredients.

fall decor from the produce aisle 2

A clear glass vase is transformed into tabletop decor with mini-pumpkins.

So, what type of produce are good for fall decor?  Pumpkins obviously, but apples, artichokes, citrus fruit, pomegranates, red onions and a variety of squash are also great choices for this DIY decor project.

Once you have selected your produce, then go into your dish cupboard and look for pieces like vases, serving platters, candlesticks, large bowls or even a cutting board on which to place your fruits and vegetables.

fall decor from the produce aisle 4

Serving bowl filled with acorn squash, artichoke, limes, red onion and small gourd.

There isn’t a right or wrong way to arrange your produce, but you can try starting with three larger produce items in a large bowl and them fill in the leftover spaces with smaller fruit or vegetables. You could also fill a clear vase with small limes or mini pumpkins.

A serving platter can easily fit several pieces of fruit and/or vegetables.  The shape, texture and color of your produce are what adds beauty to your Thanksgiving table.

fall decor from the produce aisle 3

If arranging different types of produce, is something that you don’t feel that you aren’t creative enough to do – it doesn’t get much easier than arranging mini pumpkins and a pinecone or two on a plate.

Decorating your Thanksgiving table is easy, inexpensive and you don’t have to make room to store your decorations from next year.

How do you decorate for Thanksgiving?


Friday Funny Photography: Brushing Squirrel


Friday Funny Photography: Brushing Squirrel

Birds & Blooms’ Friday Fun Photography snapshot for November 21, 2014: Brushing Squirrel by Tina Toews of Fork River, Manitoba.

Do you have a clever caption for this fun photo? We’d love to hear it!

Make Your Own Bird Seed Ornaments

Bird seed ornaments

A few years ago, we featured these bird seed ornaments in the magazine. This is such a wonderful project and idea that I wanted to share it again. This year, when I make Christmas cookies with my kids, I’m going to sneak in a few “bird cookie ornaments” like this as well. The trick with these is using a gelatin to hold everything together. Here’s the recipe we use, though you can definitely make modifications or bigger batches as you see fit.


  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 3 Tablespoons corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups bird seed (your choice!)


Heat water, gelatin and corn syrup together over a low heat. No need to boil. Mix flour and seed together and then slowly add to gelatin mixture. While cooling, put out parchment paper on our counter, and choose your favorite cookie cutters. Spray those cookie cutters with cooking spray. Next, fill the cutters with the gelatin mixture, pressing in the mixture tightly. Before you remove the ornament, use a straw or toothpick to poke a hole through the ornament (for hanging). Then remove from cookie cutters and let dry for several hours. Once dry, you can attach ribbon or string and hang for the birds!

Berry Ornament Place Card Holder

Use this craft as a place card holder on the Thanksgiving table. Guests can then take this berry ornament home to hang on the Christmas tree.

Berry Wreath Napkin Ring Ornament

Create a fast and simple berry wreath napkin ring for the Thanksgiving table. It doubles as a Christmas ornament that guests can take home and enjoy!

From Our Community

**~~** Welcome to Picture Post, Monday, November 24th, 2014 **~~**

  Welcome to your picture post for a rainy Monday morning...  I hope everyone had a good weekend..  
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Happy Birthday~ POSYNUT~ 11/24

Hope you have a great day {{hugs}}
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