Birds and Blooms Blog

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rob Ripma

All of us here at Birds & Blooms hope that you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving! In honor of the holiday and all the turkey that will be eaten today, here’s a photo of a male Wild Turkey in full display.

This Wild Turkey was photographed by my friend Brian Zwiebel in Sierra Vista, Arizona several years ago. You can see more of Brian's amazing photos on his website.

This Wild Turkey was photographed by my friend Brian Zwiebel in Tucson, Arizona several years ago. You can see more of Brian’s amazing photos on his website.

Turkey Tales From Our Community

Jill Staake

Here comes Thanksgiving!  Tomorrow, 88% of Americans will dine on turkey, consuming more than 46 million of them along with all the fixings. To celebrate these beloved birds, I asked our Birds & Blooms Community members to share their favorite turkey tales, along with photos of backyard turkey visitors. Want to chime in? We’d love to hear your stories and see your photos too… join the conversation here.

Darlene shares, “I have lots of turkeys in my back yard all year long. I love spring when they bring all their little babies. This picture I took a few weeks ago. It was the week turkey [hunting] season opened. They must know that they are safe in my yard.”

Turkey Tales Darlene

Community member Steve had this turkey drop by the field next to his yard this past spring, where he thinks she may have had a nest.

Turkey Tales Steve

Member growinggranny_va_z7 made us chuckle: “When I lived in Alabama our property was above the lake and my sisters was on the lake next door. One afternoon she called me and told me there was a turkey swimming across the lake. I told her to quit drinking and headed outside. Not too long after that, up her driveway came a huge turkey, walked right past me, across the road and disappeared into the pasture there. I hated to admit that to her – but I did!”

Speaking of turkeys on the driveway, member Judy (fisheddyNYzn5A) snapped this photo.

Turkey Tales Judy

See more photos and turkey tales on our Community forums, and share your own as well. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Backyard Garden: What Are You Thankful For?

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of year that sometimes gets overshadowed by Christmas.  I must admit that this sometimes happens to me.  This year, I have decided to focus on things that I am thankful for in the garden.  I invite you to take a moment to think about what you are thankful for in your own garden.  It might be a new piece of garden art, or maybe you enjoyed a visit from a rare bird.  A new set of patio furniture or a fire pit can be reason to be thankful.  Maybe you tried out a new plant that has rapidly become your favorite.

In the midst of the busyness of this week and preparing all sorts of food for Thanksgiving, I took a few moments to write about what I am thankful for with a garden theme…

Gardens of Vizcaya

1. Visiting the Italian-themed gardens of Vizcaya in Miami, Florida earlier this year.  These lush tropical gardens surround a grand estate right on the water.  I always enjoy viewing gardens in other regions and seeing all of the plants that are so different from those that I grow at home.

New apples on tree

2. Making applesauce from our first ever crop of apples from our apple trees.  Usually, we pick our apples from my mother’s trees, but this year, our young apple trees produced their first crop!

Salvia microphylla 'Lipstick'

3. Discovering a new variety of a favorite plant.  This plant has a new home in my backyard garden.  I’ve been wanting this Salvia microphylla ‘Lipstick’ ever since I first saw a picture of it.  Imagine my delight when I found it for sale at our local botanical garden’s plant sale this fall.

Hardy to zone 7, this small, shrubby perennial produces tubular shapes flowers that are irresistible to the Anna’s hummingbirds in my garden.

Tuscan planters

4. The gift of three large Tuscan pots from a restaurant that decided to redecorate their exterior.  When I first laid eyes on these pots, they were resting off to the side of a patio.  When I commented on how beautiful they were, they offered them to me for free.  I could hardly believe my good fortune.  It did take a lot of work and muscle, courtesy of my husband and nephew to get them delivered to our house.  Right now, they are sitting in front of our shed, but I have big plans for them – I’m torn between planting a large succulent such as agave in them or maybe a flowering shrub like bougainvillea.

Olbrich Gardens

5. Traveling through the upper Midwest and touring many beautiful, botanic gardens.  This past summer, I took a road trip that led through Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Along the way, we made stops in Grand Rapids, Traverse City and Mackinaw Island before driving through the upper peninsula of Michigan.  Then we drove down through Green Bay and visited Door Country in Wisconsin before heading to Madison, where we spent an entire morning exploring Olbrich Botanical Gardens.  The peonies were in full bloom and this was definitely my favorite garden that we visited.

I am looking forward to what this coming year will bring in the garden and beyond!

What are you thankful for in the garden this year?

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.

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

Happy Thanksgiving in the VSR…November 27

Good Morning all...the weather seems to have settled down, the rain is gone, the winds have died down. We will have a "mini" Thanksgiving dinner today...and have to…
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A prayer please for Sherry's Charlie,

She is taking him to The ER,  she said something is not right, can hardly walk and this morning he seems like he's drunk and slow.
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