Birds and Blooms Blog

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

5 Tips for Finding Birding Locations

Rob Ripma

I am often asked to help people find new birding locations to visit either when they are travelling or when they have moved to a new area. It usually is not super difficult to find places to go birding, but the trouble is sometimes knowing where to start. There are so many potential resources out there – some with really good information and some that are just not so good.

I found this awesome birding location when I visited Hawaii last year!

I found this awesome birding location when I visited Hawaii last year!

Here are my top 5 tips for finding new birding locations. I use all of these whenever I’m traveling somewhere new!

1. Look for local Audubon Societies – I always check to see if there is an Audubon Society in the area that has information about birding locations in their region posted online. This is a great way to get a feel for the best birding locations in a given area.

2. Check Birding Listservs – Almost every state has a listserv available, and some have multiple ones for different regions. Listservs are places where birders can go to report their sightings. Since they cover a large area, it’s best to have the names of some birding locations that you would like to look for reports from before heading to a listserv. You can find links to all of the listservs around the US and many from around the world on the American Birding Association website.

3. Find Facebook Groups – Facebook groups are a very fast growing reporting system for birders. Almost all states have a Facebook group now, and it’s a great place to ask questions and get information from local birders.

4. Look for eBird Hotspots – eBird can be used for more than just looking at recent sightings. It can also be used to help find new birding locations. You can see all eBird Hotspots on this map. It will also tell you how many species have been reported at each spot.

The eBird Hotspot Map is really easy to use!

The eBird Hotspot Map is really easy to use!

5. Look for more info on NuttyBirder.com – NuttyBirder.com is a website that my brother and I started several years ago. We have information on birding locations from around the US and several spots around the world. From the best spots to go birding within different locations to the specialty species of the area, we give you the information that you need to make the most of your birding time. We are always adding new locations, so be sure to check back often.

Garden Bugs: Ladybugs for Aphid Control

Jill Staake

I came across a welcome sight in the garden the other day: this no-spotted ladybug (Cycloneda sanguinea) preparing to dine on the aphids infesting my milkweed vine.

Ladybugs

Ladybugs (or ladybird beetles, as scientists prefer) are familiar sights to gardeners, though most of us first think of ladybugs as having black spots. However, there are many kinds of ladybugs, some without spots (learn more here), and most of them feast on smaller insects (like aphids or scale bugs), making them welcome in most gardens as a biological control of pest species. You can even purchase ladybugs at many garden centers or by mail order to add to your own garden, although there is some debate as to whether the ladybugs will actually stay around long enough to make this worth your while.

Want to attract ladybugs? Avoid broad use of chemical pesticides, even natural ones, as this will kill off ladybugs and other beneficial bugs too. Ladybugs also consume pollen, especially from plants with flat clusters of flowers – think dill, Queen Anne’s lace, and yarrow. Adding flower like these (click here for more) to your garden will invite ladybugs to visit, and once they’re there, they should be happy to dine on other insects. (An important note for butterfly gardeners: ladybugs will eat butterfly eggs and small caterpillars, so keep that in mind.)

Need more info on beneficial garden bugs? Click here!

Searching for Shorebirds in Northwest Ohio

Rob Ripma

While I was traveling in northwest Ohio this weekend, I was able to escape from meetings for a morning to do some birding with a friend. Since the shorebird habitat near my home hasn’t been very productive, we decided to focus on seeing if we could find some quality habitat and shorebirds up there.

I always enjoy watching Ospreys!

I always enjoy watching Ospreys! (Photo not taken this weekend)

We’d had gotten a tip from some  locals about an area where water had been drawn down and there were mudflats that were exposed. We weren’t really sure what to expect but as we drove up, we knew that we had found an awesome spot! Before we were even out of the car, we could tell that there were a couple hundred shorebirds feeding on the mudflats.

Our first bird wasn’t a shorebird but a beautiful Osprey perched up in a dead tree over the mudflats. As we got our spotting scopes set up and started to scan the mudflats, we quickly called out many species of shorebirds. I almost immediately found several Stilt Sandpipers mixed in with a group of Short-billed Dowitchers. Over the next 45 minutes, we found a total of 12 species including, 2 Wilson’s Phalaropes and about 275 Semipalmated Sandpipers!

There were several Lesser Yellowlegs mixed in with many more Great Yellowlegs.

There were several Lesser Yellowlegs mixed in with many more Great Yellowlegs. (Photo not taken this weekend)

We had expected to find Semipalmated Plovers but we were starting to think we might not find any after being at the location for about 20 minutes. I finally found about 6 individuals way out on the mudflat.

We had expected to find Semipalmated Plovers but we were starting to think we might not find any after being at the location for about 20 minutes. I finally found about 6 individuals way out on the mudflat. (Photo not take this weekend)

As we were getting in the car to leave, I noticed a couple of small birds moving through the marsh on the other side of the road. It turned out to be two Sedge Wrens, which is the species that I wrote about in my last blog post!

Have you been out looking for shorebirds recently?

Backyard Vegetable Garden: Time to Plant Fall Veggies

cauliflower-vegetable-garden

While you may be enjoying the warm temperatures of summer, it is hard to think of fall, changing leaves and cool temperatures.  But, fall isn’t far away, which means it is time to get ready to plant cool-season veggies in your backyard vegetable garden.  Those of you who live in cold climates need to start planting right away while gardeners in warmer climates have a broader planting window.

Before planting, you may want to add some compost and aged steer, horse or chicken manure to your garden soil to improve texture and add nutrients before planting.  Click here, for more information on different types of amendments.

I have broken down vegetable planting dates by zone along with the types of vegetables that can be planted – so let’s get started.

harvested carrots

Zones 3 & 4: 

August – kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, radish and spinach.

October – garlic

young-spinach-vegetable-garden

Zones 5 – 6:

August – beets, radish, spinach and turnips

September – beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce (plant the beginning of the month), onion sets, spinach and turnips

October – garlic

broccoli in vegetable garden

Zones 7 – 8:

August – bush beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards and kale

September – beets, cabbage, carrots (plant by the 15th), collards, leaf lettuce, onion sets, radish, spinach and turnips (plant by the 15th)

October – garlic, onion sets, radish and spinach (plant by the 15th)

November – asparagus and onion sets

December – asparagus

harvested garlic

Zones 9 – 10: (some warm season vegetables can be planted in these zones in fall)

August – broccoli, bush beans, pole beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, peppers, summer squash, winter squash, tomatoes and turnips

September – beets, broccoli, bush beans, pole beans, carrots, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, onions (seed & sets), radish, summer squash and turnips

October – beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, onion (seed & sets), radish, spinach, strawberry and turnips

November – beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collards, kale, kohlrabi, onions (seed & sets), radish, spinach and strawberry

December – beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, kale, onions (seed & sets) and radish

All of these recommended planting dates are approximate.  For more detailed information, check with your local cooperative extension office, which should be able to provide you with a vegetable planting calendar specific to your area.

So, what are you waiting for?  Fall will be here before you know it, so get your favorite cool season vegetables in the ground before time runs out :-)  For more information on cool-season vegetable gardening, click here.

 

Join the Conversation on Community!

Jill Staake

CommunityThe Birds & Blooms website is full of resources for birders and gardeners in addition to our daily blog posts. We have dozens of bird species profiles, articles about birding and gardening, and project ideas for every skill and taste. The site also hosts the Birds & Blooms Community, a place for readers and fans to chat about a variety of topics and share their experiences and photos. It’s free to join, so check out some of the topics our members have been chatting about recently, and then create an account to join in the fun!

  • Rabbit-Resistant Plants: One member could’t find a good comprehensive list of plants that rabbits won’t attack, so she started her own and invited others to add to it. See the list and add your own suggestions here.
  • Wildflower Identification:  Community member Stella recently posted photos of the wildflowers in her local woods, and asked for other members to help her ID them. See her photos and help her out here.
  • Mystery Monday: Test your skills by checking out our Mystery Monday posts, where each week the members try to identify the plant or other wildlife posted. Answers are provided by the end of the day. See all the Mystery Monday posts here.
  • Peach Farm Trip: One member’s photos of her trip to a peach farm to stock up for winter led others to share their own experiences with peaches and other summer garden harvests. See the discussion here.
  • “Volunteer Flowers”: Sometimes the best flowers are the ones you’re pretty sure you never even planted in your garden! Our members chatted about some of the “volunteer” flowers that appeared in their gardens this year here.
  • Hydrangea Colors: Community member Gayle knew she could change the colors of her hydrangea flowers to pink or blue depending on how she fertilized, but couldn’t remember just how to do it. Other members offered tips and tricks here.
  • Milkweed and Monarchs: The decline of monarchs is well-known to many, so our Community members have been trading information about where they’ve been spotted this year here.
  • Ask an Expert About Butterflies: Got a question about butterflies or butterfly gardening? I’m happy to answer! Drop by this forum to see what others have been asking, and ask a question of your own.

Planning to join our Community? Read our Community Guidelines and check out Frequently Asked Questions here. Then click “Join Us” in the top right corner of your screen to create an account, and head over to the Community Forums to start chatting. We can’t wait to hear from you!

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