Tag Archives: birdwatching

Early Spring is in the Air

Mid-February can be a time for Valentine’s Day dinner dates, a time to enjoy cross country skiing, or days to plan a spring garden. Depending on where someone lives, it can also mark a time when we feel the first warm breezes of spring. While folks living in the north still need to shovel snow and drink hot chocolate while watching winter birds in the backyard, a lot of people living further south might already be enjoying a warm day or two. They are feeling the change in the weather and some of the early spring birds have already come back.

When we hear the songs of robins and mockingbirds in the garden, we know that winter is finally giving way to spring. Soon, the snow will melt, the frozen ground will soften and show fresh green grass, and we can venture back outside. In a short matter of time, we can enjoy the renewed beauty of the backyard once more, and get our favorite garden decor out of storage and back into action.

Regarding decor, the new season also acts as a perfect excuse to shop for new garden sculptures, angel statues, garden gnomes, and other items destined for the garden. Whether spring is already happening, or is on its way, now is the best time to begin new plans for the backyard. Start the planning now and we will still have plenty of time to figure out exactly how we would like to decorate the backyard and save money doing it. Wait for a month and we might miss sales on unique garden statuary, resort to using the statues we already have, or regret how we end up decorating the backyard.

There are too many ideas to mention in just one post but we can start with a few suggestions for garden fairies. Whether some of these exquisite statues are already in storage or have never seen the light of the backyard, spring is the best opportunity to buy another sculpture or two of the wee folk. Since spring is a time for renewal, the fresh, new look of beautiful fairies helps them fit right in with our first annual display of garden decor. Lovely sculptures like the Poppy and Meadow the Windforest Fairies Statue Collection: Set of Two are ideal for showing this fresh, new cheerful look. They might work best when placed near equally beautiful, fresh spring flowers and other exquisite garden fairy statues.

Cheerful gnome statues are another good choice for spring because they sport bright colors and lend personality to a “new” garden. In addition to classic, smiling gnomes, it’s also fun to decorate with unique “action” gnome statues like the Nuttin But Net Gnome Statue, and the Hawaiian Hank Grass Skirt Gnome Statue. In a few months, these gnome sculptures can also act as fun conversation pieces during summer garden parties.

New animal garden statues are another good option for spring. The ones we choose depend on how we want to decorate the new garden and can take the form of detailed, realistic sculptures of wild animals to funny and cute animal statues like Buckets the Garden Frog Statue and the Monkey Mantra Zen Animal Statue.

While picking out new garden decor, it would also be a shame to neglect a few new decor items for the interior of the home. New, colorful furniture like the Staverden Castle Peacock Sculptural Glass-Topped Table, and accents like Faberge-Style enameled eggs are excellent spring additions because they lend a breath of fresh air to the home.

Find a fantastic selection of new, high quality garden statues and decor for every season at Design Toscano.

Tips to Help Backyard Birds During the Winter

The garden is a place to work the soil, coax vegetables and other plants out of the ground, and relax in the shade. It’s also a place to go for a swim, host outdoor parties, and decorate as we see fit. While we enjoy the beauty of a summer backyard, we can’t help but notice the songs of robins, cardinals, and other birds that make use of our green space. Keep an eye on the backyard, and we can watch those same birds along with woodpeckers, doves, chickadees, and other species, especially if we have bird feeders and bird baths.

When the leaves fall and the temperature begins to drop, orioles, vireos, wood-warblers, and other summer birds leave for warmer climes. They are, in turn, replaced by sparrows, juncos, and other species that breed far to the north. Although the winter can be harsh in the northern United States and southern Canada, the snow and ice is still a far cry from the Arctic conditions of the boreal zone. Many of our winter birds breed in those vast spruce and pine forests of the northern wilderness and this makes them somewhat adapted to cold weather. Nevertheless, grosbeaks, redpolls, nuthatches, other boreal species, and our resident garden birds could still use help as they ride out the cold months.

There are a number of things we can do to make things a bit easier for the birds that visit a snow-covered backyard. Try these tips to see more action at the winter feeder, and enjoy the beauty of birds during the next two or three months:

Keep the feeder stocked: The easiest way to keep birds coming to a winter backyard is by providing them with plenty of food. As we might imagine, winter isn’t the easiest time of the year for birds to find something to eat. Resources are scarce and although woodpeckers and most other species are adept at finding seeds, nuts, and insects hidden beneath the bark, this doesn’t mean that survival is easy during cold weather. Some birds make it and some don’t but the ones that do may have to forage over a large area to find enough food.

When we put a feeder in the backyard, and keep it stocked on a daily basis, this acts as a constant, reliable food source, and in doing so, probably helps several birds make it through the winter. They don’t waste as much energy because they don’t need to move as far, they have enough food for survival, and we can be entertained by their cheerful colors and sounds on the bleakest of winter days.

Try suet: “Suet” is basically pork fat and some winter birds love it. It acts as an excellent source of much needed energy and is eaten by woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, and jays. Since suet is a byproduct, it’s also cheap and easy to obtain from butcher shops. Bacon fat can act as an alternative to suet and is just as relished by the birds as it is by many people. Suet can be offered to birds by placing it in a small wire cage or on a small wooden platform. Make sure to put it where it is visible so we can watch the birds from the warmth of the home.

Shelter for the birds: Our avian friends don’t just need food to make it through the winter. They also need a place to take shelter from the snow as well as from hawks and other predators. Adequate shelter can come in the form of a brush pile, thick bushes, or even an old Christmas tree.

What about squirrels?: Many people have tried many solutions, some work, some don’t, and squirrels seem to eventually always find a way to get to that seed. To make things easier, we might just want to feed them too. If not, start with a squirrel baffle below the feeder.

Find the best selection of animal garden statues and decor for every season at Design Toscano.

Unique Gifts and Decor for Folks who Love the Outdoors

December is here and the calendar is on a quick run to the holidays. This can be an anxious time for folks who are still looking for gifts but we shouldn’t worry too much because there are still several days left to find everything on our lists. Although it would certainly be better to shop sooner rather than later, preferably today, the reason why we still need to buy those final presents might be more related to knowing what to buy. If we don’t know what to give, we can have all the time in the world and it still won’t matter.

However, there might be easier ways that we realize to pick out the right gift. If that special person has a hobby, or loves certain activities, all we need to do is focus on that interest to find an excellent, much appreciated present. Whether they love birdwatching, knitting quilts, or just going for walks in the park, it’s actually pretty easy to find the right gift. The same goes for anybody seriously interested in the outdoors.

If that person in question loves to go hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, or doing other activities that make use of national parks, forests, and other wild areas, we are in luck because there are plenty of gift options. In fact, the high number of possibilities might even make it difficult to settle on the right gift. Since they love to spend time in the outdoors, they very likely already have many objects, gear, and apparel associated with their hobby. They certainly have favorite fishing rods, hats, and footwear, and might also be members of outdoor organizations, and have subscriptions to magazines that focus on their hobbies.

However, no matter what sort of things aficionados of the outdoors may or may not already have, there are still more unique options to choose from than we realize. We just have to know where to look and that means not going to the same stores where they have gone shopping because, in all likelihood, they have gone there on many occasions and bought the things they want. Sure, there should still be some good gifts ideas but to avoid giving them what they already have, we need to think outside the box.

Instead of browsing a big box fishing or camping store, we can save time by shopping for outdoor-themed accents and decor online. If he or she loves the outdoors, they probably also spend a fair amount time in their own backyard or garden and might do more with it than we realize. Whether they actually plant vegetables and flowers in the garden or not, folks who love the outdoors are going to be pretty happy with unique animal garden sculptures like a hanging bear cub statue, the Fishing for Trouble Bear Statue, and decor like the Agitated Alligator Swamp Gator Statue. This is because such detailed, high quality animal statues represent the wild, untamed places enjoyed by folks who love the outdoors.

We can also go with a variety of beautiful, detailed wall decor options, including the Freedom’s Pride American Eagle Wall Sculpture. This majestic wall decor item captures the fierce beauty and power of the Bald Eagle and immediately captivates with life-like, grasping talons that extend a full eight inches out from the wall. This and other quality outdoor-themed wall decor like the American Buffalo Wall Trophy make bold statements in a den, living room, furnished basement, or office, and will be much appreciated by folks who love the great outdoors.

See the best selection of high quality decor and gifts for every season at Design Toscano.

Penguins in the Garden

Penguins are one of the more unique types of birds. In fact, it’s hard for many to accept that they are birds in the first place. After all, they can’t fly, their wings look more like flippers than the flapping, soaring appendages of eagles, storks, and bluebirds, and they have a distinctive way of walking not demonstrated by other members of the avian lineage. But, a closer look shows that penguins are indeed birds, they are just highly adapted to aquatic life in a very cold environment. They have small, close fitting feathers that help keep them warm and aerodynamic in the waters they call home. They have stout, webbed feet that work well in places with more ice, snow, and rocks than vegetation, and they have beaks that are adapted to snatching and eating small fish and other sea creatures.

Although they can’t fly in the air, penguins are very adept at “flying” under the water. They use their wings to move with incredible speed and grace when beneath the cold waves, and often float on the surface, looking a bit like odd ducks in the process. They do prefer cold places but could we really see penguins in the garden?

Although we can pay homage to penguins in any backyard or place of business with life-like sculptures like the Antarctic King Penguin Statue, and the fun Rock Hopper Penguin Statue, no, we are not going to see a live, wild penguin at the bird feeder or garden pond. We might see visits from wild ducks and herons, but even if we live on the cold, northern coasts of Alaska, Maine, or Newfoundland, live penguins are impossible. The habitat isn’t too far off, but the hemisphere is. Penguins only live south of the equator, although there actually is one species that resides right on the equator in the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Penguin can live there because the waters around the islands have nutrient-rich, deep, cold currents. The same goes for a couple species that live off the coasts of Peru, South Africa, and southern Australia but the rest are birds of colder, southern oceans.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have penguin-like birds in the north. Several small species of aquatic birds that share the same black and white formal attire of penguins actually do live in the cold waters of the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. Known as “auks”, these small birds breed on sea cliffs and islands, and forage for small fish in the open ocean. This family of birds includes the puffins, murres, guillemots, and auklets, and can be seen in the waters of Alaska, Washington state, California, Maine, and eastern Canada. Unlike penguins, they can fly and do so with quick, buzzing wing beats, but would still be a rare sight in any garden unless the backyard was right at the edge of a steep ocean cliff.

Back in the southern hemisphere, though, some people might actually have penguins in their backyards. The cute Little Penguin lives in burrows on offshore islands in southern Australia, and in coastal areas of New Zealand. In some places, nocturnal tours are held to see the penguins come back to their burrows, and in some areas of New Zealand, the penguins live in urbanized areas. Other areas where live penguins might conceivably pay a visit to coastal gardens include the Falkland Islands, the Cape Town region of South Africa, and perhaps some places in southern Chile.

Find the best selection of beautiful garden decor and animal garden statues at Design Toscano.

The Beauty of Dancing Cranes

There are around 10,000 species of birds that share this planet with us, but very few of them are known to the general public. For example, most people know what a penguin is, are familiar with robins, pigeons, sparrows, and other backyard birds, and would recognize an owl if they saw one. There are also lesser known birds that have been famous and venerated by various cultures at different times during human history. Cranes fall into that category.

Although many people in North America might believe that they are indeed familiar with cranes, they might be thinking about the Great Blue Heron, a commonly seen, large wading bird that occurs on streams, lakes, rivers, and other wetland habitats. Although it is as tall as some crane species, and has long legs and a long neck, it actually belongs to a very different family of birds, the herons and egrets. These large, graceful wading birds might be elegant and deserving of praise in their own right (although folks with Koi ponds might feel otherwise), but they don’t quite reach the same degree of fame as the true cranes.

Both herons and cranes can use similar habitats and have somewhat similar dimensions but the similarities stop there. Cranes differ in some key ways from any of the herons and egrets. For starters, they are more social, and most species form long-term pair bonds with a mate. As opposed to the harsh croaking sounds made by herons, they also have more musical, distinctive vocalizations. Their bills also tend to be shorter and many species have a patch of red on their heads. But, most of all, cranes dance.

Few birds dance and that should really come as no surprise, but the cranes seem to do so, and the show can be nothing short of spectacular. All 15 species of cranes appear to take part in behavior that is best described as dancing and do so from a young age. The reason why the term “dancing” is particularly relevant for cranes is because they may actually do it for fun. Unlike most other birds that perform elaborate courtship displays, it isn’t just male cranes that dance with each other when forming bonds with a mate, females dance too, and cranes of all ages can dance in any circumstance, even when alone. However, they do seem to dance more when socializing in a relaxed, stress-free environment and this may be the best evidence to show that cranes dance just for fun.

The dances of cranes typically involve extending the neck and calling, and lowering the neck and raising it while jumping in the air. They can also spread their wings and kick out their legs. They do this over and over and seem to inspire other cranes to do the same. They have also inspired many people for thousands of years, something noted in various folk dances from unrelated cultures that mimic the movements of the crane. Other artists have also paid homage to these beautiful, long-lived birds with paintings, sculptures, and verse. This is especially the case in China and Japan, two countries that are home to several species of cranes, including large, impressive flocks that dance in the snow.  From these countries, we find many examples of beautiful paintings that depict stunning Red-crowned, Siberian, and other crane species dancing in snow and next to forested lakes. Statues of cranes have also been a popular art form in these countries as well as in Europe, and continue to be a regal addition to modern day gardens, including beautiful sets of bronze crane statues that depict these majestic birds in dancing postures.

Find high quality animal garden sculptures and other unique decor at Design Toscano.

How to See More Hummingbirds with Garden Decor

It’s June and it’s a wonderful time of year to enjoy the outdoors. We take advantage of the warm, summer weather by spending more time in local parks, going camping, and doing other, fun outdoor activities. Although we often take vacations at this time of year, we don’t really need to travel very far to savor these beautiful summer days. All we need to do is step out the back door and we can relax by the pool, work in the garden, host fun, outdoor dinner parties, or just admire the natural and sculpted beauty of backyard garden statuary and decor.

Although we all love a classic angel statue, and beautifully detailed sculptures of deer or other wild animals, the natural, green factor is just as important. Trees, flowering bushes, and other vegetation help turn the garden into a private green oasis, especially when they attract beautiful goldfinches, woodpeckers, robins, and other wild birds. One of the most interesting types of birds that can visit the garden is so unique; it hardly seems to be a bird at all. This special avian animal is the hummingbird, and there are things we can do to attract more of these miniature beauties to the garden.

With quickly beating wings and flashing colors, hummingbirds are probably the closest thing to real garden fairies any of us will ever see. Although just one species lives in the east, it’s pretty common and can occur in any garden close enough to woodlands or other natural vegetation. Out west, there are more species, especially in the deserts and mountain forests of southern Arizona and New Mexico. However, no matter where a garden happens to be situated, there are certain things we can do to bring more of these feathered dynamos into the backyard. These are a few tips to see more hummingbirds in the garden:

Red decor: Since hummingbirds feed on brightly colored flowers, they are often attracted to bright red decor. They will also check out orange, or yellow decor in search of nectar. Put out a statue or two of a gnome, and we might see a hummingbird come to investigate. As soon as it realizes that it cannot feed from that garden gnome or other colorful sculpture, it will leave but we might be able to keep it around with other aspects of the garden.

Outdoor garden fountains: Just about every small bird is attracted to water, including hummingbirds. Since they are so small, they will probably wait until other birds have left, but once they see their chance, hummingbirds will come in and bathe. They do so by hovering and dipping into the water as well as sitting on a surface that is washed with a very shallow stream of water. This is why although they will come to classic fountains like the Lovers Under Umbrella Sculptural Fountain, hummingbirds seem to prefer ceramic fountains like the Burnt Umbra Ceramic Jar Garden Fountain, or the Ceramic Rippling Jar Garden Fountain.

Planters: While hummingbirds love to visit feeders with sugar water, they also love feeding from a variety of small flowers, including sage and honeysuckle. These and other suitable flowering plants can be planted in various parts of the backyard, but they look even better when placed in a sculptural planter. Hang that planter next to the back door and we might be greeted by hummingbirds every time we step into the backyard.

Find the best selection of unique garden statues and fine decor for every need at Design Toscano.

How to See an Owl Near Home

Most people like to watch animals. Even folks who live in the middle of the city might enjoy feeding pigeons or watching finches and other birds that come to the feeder. Out in rural areas, more than a few people spotlight deer and other wildlife at night, and look for birds and other animals that visit the backyard. Birds are especially popular when it comes to wildlife watching because they are easier to see than other animals, have nice songs, and many show beautiful yellow, blue, and red feathers. Since they fly and most are diurnal, they are the easiest animals to notice, and much more easy to study than mammals.

However, there is one type of bird that has fascinated folks for centuries yet often goes unnoticed. That special bird is the owl, an animal that has been both admired and despised by different cultures throughout the world. It has been a symbol of wisdom, knowledge, and good luck to some, and a sign of black magic, or an omen of death to others. Fortunately for owls, more people like and appreciate them than despise them. However, whether someone likes owls or not, most are typically very difficult to see.

The problem with owls is that most species only come out at night. When people are most active, owls sleep in a secure spot and are naturally hidden by highly camouflaged plumage. Even when folks are out and about at night, it’s very difficult to see owls in the dark of the night. That said, even if you have never seen an owl, they are much more common than most people realize and there is probably more than one species that lives in the neighborhood.

Yes, some owl species live in urban neighborhoods. Although they are much more common in wooded areas, chances are, one or more may even visit the backyard. To see owls in the garden and near the home, here are some tips:

Look in big, thick trees: During the day, most owls are asleep. Since they don’t want to be disturbed or caught by a hawk or eagle, they only roost in places that help hide them from sight. Such coveted sleeping spots tend to be large trees with a lot of foliage, especially, big, dense conifers. If a few trees that fit this description are found in the backyard, there might be an owl or two that uses the garden. It might sleep in one of those trees from time to time and the best way to find one is by patiently checking every branch. If a suspicious blob is noticed when looking up into a conifer, check it from different angles because it might be a roosting owl. It’s also important to remember that they can hide extremely well!

Look on the ground: No, the owl won’t be on the ground (unless it’s a diurnal Burrowing Owl), but signs that an owl is or was present are often seen on the ground. When an owl roosts, its white droppings are sometimes seen on branches and the ground below its sleeping spot. If several white droppings are found below a conifer, check the branches above to see if an owl is hiding up there. Pellets can also reveal the presence of an owl. These are small, oval objects are the undigested remains of prey items coughed up by an owl, and are composed of hair and small bones. If these are seen in the backyard, there’s a good chance that an owl has or is using the garden on a regular basis.

Look in the nearest big park or cemetery: If there are no signs of an owl in the garden, try looking for them using these same techniques in the nearest large park or cemetery.

Find the best selection of owl sculptures and other animal garden statues at Design Toscano.