Birds and Blooms Blog

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

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!

Bird Species Profile: White-throated Sparrow

Rob Ripma

One of the bird species that I always enjoy seeing as winter approaches is White-throated Sparrow. White-throated Sparrows are short distance migrants that breed in the very northern parts of the United States as well as parts of Canada (Click here to see summer reports on eBird). They travel south just a short distance and winter over a widespread area with the highest concentrations being in the southeastern US (Click here to see winter reports on eBird).

I think that White-throated Sparrows are one of our most beautiful sparrows.

I think that White-throated Sparrows are one of our most beautiful sparrows.

White-throated Sparrows have a very memorable song that they can be heard singing throughout the year and there are a couple of mnemonics that birders use to remember and describe the song. Some people hear the song as Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody while others think this birds is longing for is summer home in Canada by singing Oh-sweet-Canada-Canada. Listen to the song here and let us know which mnemonic you prefer.

Here's another view of the White-throated Sparrow. Notice how tan the stripes are on the head, these stripes can also be bright white. These stripes do not indicate age or sex and are just different forms of the same species.

Here’s another view of the White-throated Sparrow. Notice how tan the stripes are on the head. These stripes can also be bright white. These stripes do not indicate age or sex and are just different forms of the same species.


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

What's cooking tonight – 11/22/14?

Macaroni/tunafish salad and hamburgers, applesauce.  Cherry pie/coffee for dessert.
Read more >

Lock n lock style storage containers dont work

half the time for me!  I spent some good money for some <p style="display: inline !important;">new containers recently.  Half those kind of lids dont work!  They are pretty…
Read more >