Birds and Blooms Blog

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

The Beauty of Bird-Friendly Coffee

scarlettanagerbag

Bird-friendly coffee. Have you heard this term and wondered what it means? I know I didn’t the first time I heard it.

Let me explain it in a nutshell. Basically, bird-friendly coffee means that the coffee is grown in the shade. And by growing the coffee in shade, it helps to protect vital habitats that support bird populations. In fact, it helps support many of the birds that show up in our backyards every year. Baltimore orioles, summer tanagers, yellow warblers, barn swallows, indigo buntings, ruby-throated hummingbirds…these are just a few of the birds that you can help protect by buying and drinking coffee grown in the shade.

If you want to do your part by drinking bird-friendly coffee, then I would encourage you to check out the company Birds & Beans. They were our supporters this spring for our Bird Day Challenge. They have an outstanding reputation among birders as being a wonderful company with really great-tasting coffee. (Our staff has tasted it, and they agree.) Now we don’t go around endorsing just any product, but we really want people to know what a worthwhile concept shade-grown coffee is and what a good company this is.

Curious about shade-grown coffee? You can look for it at your local store (or ask a manager to start carrying Birds & Beans). Though an even easier way to try it is to order some coffee through the Birds & Beans online store. Be sure to come back and let us know what you think. Or if you’ve tried shade-grown coffee and have additional recommendations, leave them here!

 

 

 

 

Costa Rican Bird Species

Rob Ripma

I’ve been traveling in Costa Rica for the last week and have seen some incredible places and even more incredible bird species. So far, I’ve visited Rancho Naturalista and Savegre Mountain Lodge and today, I’m heading to the northern part of Costa Rica to a lodge called Laguna del Lagarto. The birding has been spectacular and through yesterday, my group had almost 300 bird species! The following photos are just a few of my favorites that I’ve taken so far.

We made a short stop on our drive to Rancho Naturalista at some ruins and were plesantly surprised to see a very cooperative Blue-crowned Motmot.

We made a short stop on our drive to Rancho Naturalista at some ruins and were plesantly surprised to see a very cooperative Blue-crowned Motmot.

Flame-colored Tanagers are extremely colorful birds! They were one of the stars of the show at Savegre Mountain Lodge.

Flame-colored Tanagers are extremely colorful birds! They were one of the stars of the show at Savegre Mountain Lodge.

Volcano Juncos can only be found above the treeline at the very top of the mountains.

Volcano Juncos can only be found above the treeline at the very top of the mountains.

Fiery-throated Hummingbirds are only found at high elevations. We stopped at some hummingbird feeders that had at least 20 of these coming in!

Fiery-throated Hummingbirds are only found at high elevations. We stopped at some hummingbird feeders that had at least 20 of these coming in!

 

Attracting Butterflies with Fruit

Jill Staake

Everyone knows that butterflies love flowers. Plant the right ones, and they’ll flock to your garden. This is certainly true, but not all butterflies use flower nectar as their primary diet. Some species are more likely to drop by to visit you if you offer some fruit instead, including Mourning Cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa). Others, like Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) and Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) enjoy both. Here’s the low-down on attracting butterflies with fruit.

Attracting butterflies with fruit.

Jill Staake A monarch butterfly enjoying an overripe banana.

Choose juicy fruits. Butterflies will use their proboscis to sip fruit juice just as they would flower nectar, as you can see in the photo of the monarch above. Fruits like strawberries, mangoes, oranges, and watermelon are ideal.

The riper, the better. We don’t think of bananas as “juicy”, but as they ripen, they become softer and easier for butterflies to ingest. Rather than throwing out those rotting bananas on your counter, slice them open and offer them to the butterflies in your garden.

Change fruit daily. Fruit left out overnight is likely to attract undesirable critters like raccoons, and soon becomes a smelly mess. Put fruit out in the mornings or afternoons when you’ll be around to watch – what’s the point of attracting butterflies with fruit if you’re not there to see the fun?

Use water to repel ants. Butterflies aren’t the only insects that will show interest in your fruit. Keep ants away by laying fruit in a shallow dish surrounded by water, which ants won’t cross. There’s no good way to keep off the wasps and bees, though, so keep kids and pets at a safe distance if you’re concerned about them.

Attracting Butterflies with Fruit

Jill Staake Mourning Cloaks appear in early spring, before fruit is available. They sip sap from trees then instead, but might visit your garden if you offer fruit.

Have you tried offering fruit to butterflies? What tips would you offer to others? Tell us in the comments below.

Help Us Reach—And Celebrate—500,000 likes on Facebook!

Mary Dolan

We’re so thrilled to have nearly reached 500,000 likes on Facebook. What a milestone! And it’s all because of our fantastic fans. To say thank you, we’re giving away a birding prize package from Wind & Weather. Learn more about them here, and be sure to enter our giveaway here. This prize package is perfect for those who love feeding birds!

Drought Tolerant Garden: Beauty in the City – Part 1

Mesquite tree and Aloe Vera

Mesquite tree, aloe vera and pink bougainvillea in spring.

What do you think of when someone mentions a ‘drought tolerant garden’? Do visions of a landscape filled with a few spiny cactus come to mind? Well, I am here to help dispel that perception.

As a native of California who now lives and gardens in the desert Southwest, drought tolerant gardening has always been second nature to me.  I know from personal experience, that drought tolerant gardens can be places filled with beauty.

Last spring, I discovered a jewel in the desert – in the middle of Arizona to be precise.  The Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden is a place filled with beautifully designed landscapes composed of drought tolerant plants and real life examples of water harvesting.

Gabion walls (wire cages filled with stone).

Gabion walls (wire cages filled with stone).

As its name suggests, this is a demonstration garden, whose goal is to ‘demonstrate’ to the public certain landscape concepts.  In the case of this desert garden, saving water is promoted throughout the garden with examples of drought tolerant plants, innovative water harvesting methods and educational signage.

Gabion walls are used to create terraces along the sides of the garden, which help to slow down the movement of runoff that result from rainfall.  The terraces help to capture the water to allow it to penetrate the soil to water plants.  Boulders are also used to help slow the advance of water.

Gabion walls and drought tolerant plants.

Gabion walls and drought tolerant plants.

As you walk through the 5-acre garden, you are in for a visual treat.  Pathways are lined with palo verde trees with their characteristic green trunks and flowering drought tolerant perennials such as white and pink globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), ‘Gold Mound’ lantana and the vibrant orange of flame honeysuckle (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii).  Gabion walls in this area help to enable the plants to soak up rainwater, decreasing the need for supplemental watering.

Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden-016

Toward the end of the garden, you encounter an artistic, terraced garden, which is truly stunning.  This creative design is made from curved walls of stacked stone and river rock.  Individual planting beds hold willow acacia (Acacia willardiana) trees, flowering desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata) and a variety of ornamental grasses, which are all drought tolerant.  *Note that there are no cactus present, further illustrating that a drought tolerant garden does not have to be filled with cacti.

Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden-012

Another view of the unique terracing.  This terraced garden is a work of environmental art called ‘Terraced Cascade’.  It is both ornamental and functional.  Rainwater is channeled toward the middle of the planting beds where it falls down a series of steps and then underneath two bridges until it comes to rest in a shallow basin that allow the water to slowly permeate, helping to replenish groundwater.  Even when it is dry, this terraced garden creates the illusion of cascading water.

These are just a few of the wonders that this beautiful drought tolerant garden holds.  Come back on Friday, to see Part 2, when I will show you some other examples of water harvesting, beautiful plants and a VERY effective example of the need to conserve water.

 

 

Low Tide Beach Birding Tips

Headed to the beach to check out the shore birds? Get birding tips to make the most of your time and protect our winged friends too.

Surprising Flowering Plants

From a cactus that produces a lily-like flower to what dogwood flowers really look like along with some other surprising flowering plants.

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