Birds and Blooms Blog

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

Birding Hotspots for Spring Sandhill Crane Migration

Rob Ripma

Most birders are familiar with the sounds of a passing flock of Sandhill Cranes during migration and many of us have seen them fly right over our house. Unfortunately, they are typically high up and the view isn’t great. There are birding hotspots, however, where you can find thousands of Sandhill Cranes staging before and during their migration back the the breeding grounds in the spring. Here are some of the best!

You can find Sandhill Cranes in large numbers at these birding hotspots.

You can find Sandhill Cranes in large numbers at these birding hotspots.

1. Platte River, Nebraska

The Platte River is famous for their incredible concentrations of Sandhill Cranes. During 5-weeks each spring about 500,000 Sandhill Cranes pass through the area! For more information on this areas, visit The Nebraska Game and Parks website.

This is just a small sample of the type of flocks you might find at these birding hotspots.

This is just a small sample of the type of flocks you might find at these birding hotspots.

2. Goose Pond FWA, Indiana

Goose Pond FWA in southern Indiana hosts a large numbers of Sandhill Cranes each spring as well as a festival to celebrate them, Marsh Madness, during early March. Don’t worry if you miss the festival, plenty of cranes will still be around through the middle of March.

3. Bosque del Apache NWR. New Mexico

This National Wildlife Refuge is well-known for its wintering population of Sandhill Cranes and host a great birding festival to celebrate them, Festival of the Cranes. In addition to thousands of Sandhill Cranes, there are amazing numbers of Snow Geese in the area.

Have you been out birding in search of Sandhill Cranes yet this year?


Best Online Plant Retailers

This is Tangerine Dream, a coneflower from Great Garden Plants

This is Tangerine Dream, a coneflower from Great Garden Plants

People often ask me for recommendations on where to buy plants. I’m a huge supporter of local nurseries and garden centers. I also like to support my area garden groups and plant sales. (We have a fantastic Master Gardeners plant sale every year as well as a native plants sale at our local nature center.)

But as any plant geek knows, you can’t get all of your needs met in one place. Therefore, it’s good to know about the best online retailers. I pulled together my list of companies that I’ve personally bought from, so I can definitely vouch for them and recommend them to you. I like them for all different reasons, and I hope they help meet some of your needs as well.

What about you? What plant companies do you really like? Please share your suggestions with me. And tell me why you like them. Because if there’s one thing a gardener needs, it’s definitely more plants!

Great Garden Plants

Most of their plants are in big pots, and they are very healthy. They have many plant options available, but they are especially fantastic for unique coneflower varieties.

Bluestone Perennials

The garden in the front of my house was started with one of Bluestone Perennial’s pre-planned gardens. Don’t be afraid to try one of these kits. They are awesome, focusing on plants that are easy and low-maintenance. Then you can fill in as needed.

Annie’s Annuals

They have great selection. I once bought my mother-in-law some unique sunflowers from Annie’s. (It’s not always easy to find plants instead of seeds.) They have some really cool varieties.


They specialize in fruiting, rare, and tropical plants. I bought my mom a lemon tree from Logee’s one year, and I have my eye on an avocado next. Check them out for unique options of all kinds.


They are still one of my go-to sources for veggie plants and seeds. If you’re looking for something specific for your vegetable garden, they probably have it.

Butterfly Bushes (Rose Franklin’s Perennials)

They have the best selection of milkweed that I’ve ever seen. Milkweed is surprisingly hard to find as plants, and they offer many great varieties.

Terroir Seeds (Underwood Gardens)

The couple that own Terroir Seeds are just delightful. We featured them a couple of years ago because they were one of the only places we could find that carried cucamelon seeds. Cucamelons are these adorable little veggie/fruits like a cross between a cucumber and a tiny little watermelon. Seriously, check them out.

Rainbow Seed Tube DIY Garden Gift

Jill Staake

I really do love giving seeds as gifts, and coming up with creative ways to present them. While browsing my local dollar store today, I came across a multi-colored container meant to be used as a daily pill organizer, and immediately knew it would make a fun way to present a rainbow of flower seeds this spring. This DIY garden gift is fast and easy, and you can choose any seeds you like to match the colors of the container.

Rainbow Seed Tube DIY Garden Gift

Rainbow Seed Tube Materials

  • Tube-shaped pill organizer, multicolored (The organizer shown screws apart into different sections. Each section serves as the lid for the section beneath, with a real lid on the top clear container.)
  • 7 packets of seeds, one for each color of the tube (I used white flowers for the clear section, along with red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet)
  • Ribbon in color of choice
  • Cardstock for card (4 X 6 inches shown)
  • Paper punches in butterfly and flower shapes (optional)
  • Multicolored pens
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors

Rainbow Seed Tube DIY Garden Gift

Rainbow Seed Tube Directions

  • Unscrew the sections of the tube.
  • Carefully open each seed packet and pour the seeds into the appropriate colored portions of the tube. Work from the bottom up, since each section serves as the lid for the section beneath it, and screw the tube back together as you go.
  • Tie a ribbon around the tube as shown.
  • To create the card, use the paper punches to cut shapes from the fronts of the seed packets showing the flowers. (If you don’t have paper punches, you can just cut around the shapes of the flowers instead, or cut any free-form shapes you like.)
  • Glue the shapes to the cardstock in the pattern of your choice using the glue stick. Use pens to label each flower so the recipient will know what the seed types are.
  • If desired, write “Plant a Rainbow!” across the top of the card.

Rainbow Seed Tube DIY Garden Gift

Looking for more DIY garden gifts? Try these DIY Gift Basket Ideas for Nature Lovers.

Bird Day Challenge: Kirsten’s Team


Meet Team Kirsten! We’re birding for Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the Birds & Blooms 2015 Bird Day Challenge at The Biggest Week in American Birding on May 9. Donate and show your support for Team Kirsten at our Crowdrise campaign page. We’re raising money for Cornell, a world leader in the study and conservation of birds.

Kirsten is the senior editor of Birds & Blooms, and she’s been with the magazine for almost 8 years. This will be her fourth time at The Biggest Week in American Birding. It’s quite possibly her favorite bird event of the entire year! Even though her team came in second in last year’s challenge with 79 species in 3 hours, it was an absolute blast. It’ll be even better this year with an amazing team, birding for a great cause.

Ken is a naturalist, author and environmental educator, currently living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He used to call northwest Ohio home, so he’s familiar with the area where we’ll be birding. So not only will he be sharing his mad birding skills with the team, he’ll be our navigator. You might know Ken from his frequent articles published in Birds & Blooms magazine.

Ashli grew up on the south shores of Lake Erie in Ohio and began her studies of the natural world at an early age. She now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She currently serves as the secretary for Rio Grande Bird Research, Inc., is a licensed bird bander, and is the project lead for her Black-throated Gray Warbler research project. Ashli is also the secretary of the New Mexico Ornithological Society and sits on the Steering Committee of the New Mexico Burrowing Owl Working Group.

Paul and his wife Rachel moved from Toronto to the country, where they spend time growing their own food and watching birds with their boy-girl twins. He has a love for birds and punk music, so he combined his two loves and created PRBY Apparel. The creative duo make and sell apparel designed specifically for bird-watchers. It’s seriously cool stuff, so check out his online store.

Please support Team Kirsten and Cornell’s bird research now. Even just $10 can make a huge difference!

Bird Day Challenge: Stacy’s Team


I am so proud to introduce you to my team for the Birds & Blooms 2015 Bird Day Challenge! Don’t forget to support my team in our Crowdrise campaign to raise money for the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. This is a very worthwhile organization, and they’ve been pioneers in getting kids active in birding.


Stacy Tornio is the editor of Birds & Blooms, and she’s been with the magazine for 10 years. She loves Biggest Week in American Birding, and her favorite warbler is the black-and-white warbler. Last year, her team won the Big Day Challenge with 88 bird species in just 3 hours. This year, she expects to take home the title again, and she’s hoping to make it to 90 species.

RAYMOND (Stops at Nothing) VANBUSKIRK  

Raymond VanBuskirk has lived in New Mexico his entire life. His infatuation with birds started at the young age of 7, and since then, he’s been studying, banding and watching birds all around the world. He is one of the owners and guides of BRANT, a tour guide company created in 2012. You can find Raymond on one of his company’s tours or sporting Leica Optics at birding events and festivals throughout the country.


Douglas Gray was introduced to birding by his grandfather while growing up on the family farm near Clarksville, Tennessee. He currently resides in Franklin, Indiana and works as a senior engineering specialist…but his passion is birding. Doug leads bird hikes throughout Indiana and beyond, and is known for introducing people of color to the world of birding. However, Doug’s favorite hikes are with children, as he loves engaging with the upcoming generations of birdwatchers.

ROB (Smooth Operator) RIPMA

Rob Ripma, a life-long Indiana resident, is owner and creator of, the place to go to find birds. He is also a partner in Sabrewing Nature Tours leading birding and photography trips in the US and Central and South America. Rob currently sits on the Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s Board of Directors as Secretary. Rob is also a blogger for Birds & Blooms, and you can read his blog posts online.

Go support Team Stacy right now. Just a small contribution of $10 can really help!


Be a Butterfly Hero

Join the National Wildlife Federation in their new campaign to help save monarchs and attract butterflies.

Colorful Winter Gardens

It may be winter, but not all gardens are covered in snow. Enjoy these colorful Southwestern winter gardens.

From Our Community

Picture Of the beautiful Moon last night :)

Was lucky enough to get a shot of the moon last night was it ever bright ...
Read more >

– THE POTTING SHED – Thursday 05:03:15 – 10:am

– THE POTTING SHED – Thursday 05:03:15 – 10:am – Good Morning Friends — It shows you when you are not too well you make mistakes. Yesterday I…
Read more >