Birds and Blooms Blog

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

Backyard Project: DIY Pumpkin Bird Feeder

DIY Pumpkin Bird Feeder 4

Abert’s Towhee enjoying sunflower seeds from a pumpkin bird feeder

Halloween has arrived and pumpkins can be seen everywhere – some carved into ghoulish faces or others left uncarved where their bright colors add great fall color.

Halloween Pumpkins

But, what do you do with your pumpkin when Halloween is over?  Do you throw them in the compost pile or trash bin?

What if you could get more use out of your pumpkin and benefit wildlife at the same time?  Creating a bird feeder from pumpkins is a fun and easy backyard project and you most likely already have all you need to get started – a pumpkin!

heirloom pumpkin

Heirloom pumpkin

You can use a carved pumpkin or one that is uncarved.  I used the heirloom pumpkin that had been decorating my home for the fall holidays to make my DIY pumpkin bird feeder.

DIY Pumpkin Bird Feeder

1. Cut your pumpkin in half.  If your pumpkin still has seeds inside, scoop them out and roast them OR save a few to plant pumpkins in your garden next year (I grew a pumpkin from last year’s heirloom pumpkin).

DIY Pumpkin Bird Feeder 2

2. Carve four small trenches in which to rest perches for your feathered visitors.  You can put in wooden dowels or small branches as perches.

DIY Pumpkin Bird Feeder 5

3. Fill the pumpkin with bird seed and set out.  I placed our pumpkin on an old tree stump so that I could more easily see it from the house.  You could also use sturdy twine to hang it up – simply knot two lenghts of twine together in the middle and set the pumpkin on the knotted section and bring up the ends and hang from your favorite place.

DIY Pumpkin Bird Feeder 6

Needless to say, it didn’t take long to attract visitors.  A pair of Abert’s Towhees (Melozone aberti), who are mostly found in Arizona and who make their home in my garden, were the first visitors.

Now, pumpkin bird feeders won’t last forever, but I like the idea of getting more use out of my pumpkins before I throw them into my compost pile.  How about you?  Have you ever made a bird feeder out of a pumpkin?  Maybe, this year will be your first time!

My fellow blogger, Jill, wrote a great blog post about little known facts about pumpkins and different ways to use them, which I encourage you to check out.

Friday Funny Photography: Cats & Plants

Lorie

Friday Funny Photography: Cats & Plants

Birds & Blooms’ Friday Fun Photography snapshot for October 31, 2014: Cats & Plants by Kay Brown of Tillamook, Oregon. Now there’s a smart way to save houseplants from cat attacks!

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

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.

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