The Great Backyard Bird Count

This was a count for the ages. More than 60,000 checklists were submitted with 623 identified species. What am I talking about? I talking about North America’s Great Backyard Bird Count. During four days in February, bird watchers across Canada and the United States participate in Birding’s top annual event. How was Your Bird Count?

This is the fourth year I have participated in Bird Watching’s main event and while my input was trivial by itself, when combined with the results of thousands of fellow birders I am part of the largest survey team on the planet. The Great Backyard Bird Count is conducted by birders all over North America. Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology and Audubon team up to manage the results every year. This year over 7.5 million birds were counted all over North America. Does this sound crazy to you? What’s the big deal?

Each February, Ornithologists get a fresh look at bird populations across all habitats. In the birding world, this is simply priceless. Birds have always been our first indication of weather, ecological and developmental impacts on our environment. From studies like this, we are able to see trends quickly and act, when action is warranted. The Great Backyard Bird Count tells us about patterns as they emerge while there is still time to do something about it.

You may have missed this year’s count, but the next count will be here before you know it. Take time this spring, summer and fall to sharpen your birding skills so when the Great Backyard Bird Count returns next February, you’ll be right there next to me. This year I took the Great Backyard Bird Count very literal and never birded away from my home during the four days. I saw 23 species this year, down from 31 last year, and I’m sure our sustained drought in Arizona had much to do with the lower count.

Next time you are looking for a great family activity, right at home, don’t forget about Bird Watching. Even if you sit at your kitchen table and look through the sliding glass doors at birds in your backyard, you’ll never be disappointed. Birding gives you wings. Get Outdoors!

Chuck Fitzgerald, The Outdoor Guy, has written a beginner’s guide to bird watching call “Learning to Bird.” Visit [] to see just how easy and how much fun Bird Watching really is. Chuck is the owner of Arizona based BackCountry Toys, an online store helping you to have fun in the great outdoors. To get maximum enjoyment out of your outdoor life, visit where you’ll find great gear and the Tips & Tales e-newsletter, “FreshAir.” (800) 316-9055.

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Backyard Studio Plans

If you are thinking about building a shed in your backyard one of your first decisions will be to pick a shed plan style. The design of your shed will affect the way you can store things in it and how it compliments your property.


Most backyard shed plans can be considered a garden shed but the most common style to be considered garden shed are ones that have steeper roof pitches and detailed trim work. They often look like a cape cod cottage instead of a wood box with a sloped roof.

Lean To

Lean to shed plans are the simplest shed style to build. They have a single sloping roof plane that goes from one side of the shed to the other without a ridgeline. Lean to sheds can be built with or without walls depending on how you want to use it. The lean to shed is the basis for the modern shed.


The most popular style to be used as a home office is the modern shed plan. A modern shed is simply a lean to that has had windows and nicer finishes added so it can be used as a work space. The extra windows and door with glass on it give a modern shed the look and feel of a professional office space. The modern shed is also popular to be used as a work studio or workout room.


A barn shed is a great backyard shed plan. By building a mini barn you can have the look and usefulness of a country farm barn in your backyard. The gambrel barn has plenty of extra storage space in the loft area. Other barn sheds include the raised center aisle and the regular gambrel barn.


Large backyard shed plans are not for every yard because of their size but if you have the room and the need a large shed is a great way to get extra work or storage space. Larger sheds often have two doors, a large door to move equipment in and out of and a smaller door used to access the work area of the shed. Some large ones even have a garage door on them.

Garage Door

Having a garage door on a backyard shed is a great shed accessory that makes the interior very accessible. It will typically need to be a large shed so there is room for the door to roll up and have room to be stored when it is in the open position.


Having a backyard greenhouse is a great way to start plants for your yard or garden and to extend the growing season. Most greenhouses have at least half of the shed covered in a translucent polycarbonate roofing material that lets in lots of daylight. They also have wood tables and a floor that will let water drain out of the shed from the inside.


Seasoning and storing firewood should be done under the protection of a roof. The size of the storage building will determine how much firewood can be stored inside. The size you build should coincide with the amount of firewood you burn during a year and since it takes a year to season wood and then a year to burn it you may consider having storage capacity for two years. There are backyard shed plans for firewood storage of ½ cord to 3 cords. If you need larger than that you may consider building a open walled lean to shed.

Using these style guidelines should help you decide on the perfect backyard shed plan for your yard or garden. After you pick the style you will need to choose a size that fits your needs and budget.

Visit icreatables SHEDS to see and purchase backyard shed plans. Find resources to help you build all the different shed styles including the garden, lean to, modern, barn, large, shed with garage door, firewood shed and greenhouse.

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Backyard Dog Toys

If you want your dog to have a wonderful time, there is perhaps no better gift than interactive dog toys. It is a fact universally known that dogs not only have a great time with toys, they also help mental growth, and they help the dog understand the world around it better. There are so many options to choose from when it comes to interactive dog toys, so we have done some research and found some of the best choices anywhere online.

Kong Rubber Flyer: Give your dog a great time by giving him the wonderful Kong Rubber Flyer. These interactive dog toys are great while playing out in the open, for example, when out on a trip or picnic. At the same time, it is very useful to play with in the backyard, and it will ensure that your dog gets a good physical workout and stays active.

Its special design ensures a smooth, accurate flight, and this will actually be useful for the kids in learning about the principles of flying. The soft catch makes sure your hands are not injured in any way when you catch it – it grips smoothly and easily into your hand providing an enjoyable experience without pain. Just throw this flyer to your dog and watch him play with it enthusiastically.

These interactive dog toys are made from durable natural rubber, and consequently they are very soft for the teeth and gums of your dog. This is unlike other toys that do not consider this aspect and can end up hurting the gums of your canine friend!

Kyjen Hide-a-Squirrel: If you are concerned about the right mental development of your dog and want to ensure it grows to be very intelligent and aware, make sure you give it a lot of puzzles to work out. At the same time, it is always better if these interactive dog toys relate to the natural world it sees around itself and that it is curious about.

The Kyjen Hide-a-Squirrel is a perfect puzzle, combining the elements of attractive design, clever puzzle, soft touch and being a great companion to keep your dog occupied. Hours of perpetual fun in ensured as your dog tries to figure out the different ways of hiding a squirrel in this puzzle.

Also, this puzzle will teach it about the various properties of the natural world around it, especially about how squirrels live in the trees. This will help in making it evolve into a more loving animal, and will ensure that it is kind towards smaller animals. After all, there is nothing more irritating that owning a dog that keeps hunting down small animals and bringing them home. Its unique push system will help develop the dog’s intelligence giving it a good idea about how machines work in general; this can come very useful in certain situations.

Kyjen Puzzle Pup Intellibone: We all know just how much a dog loves bones. Just think what wonders can be achieved if the same design can be converted into a puzzle toy that not only provides endless fun but at the same time develops the dog’s intelligence! So, if you’re still thinking and wondering which interactive dog toys will be best for your dog, look no further!

This Kyjen Puzzle Pup Intellibone is soft to touch and hold. It is made of concentric rings that squeak when pressed hard enough! The challenge for your dog is to learn to remove and insert the rings. This makes the puzzle challenging and rewarding at the same time. No matter how much time it actually takes to master this puzzle, it will be always worth it. Your dog will have a good creative exercise working with this puzzle, and will thank you for as along as it lives!

It is very wrong to assume that dogs are just mere animals and can’t make use of puzzles. Dogs are faithful, curious, upbeat, fun-loving creatures who love to figure things out. Scientific experiments have shown that dogs that grow up with puzzles are more obedient, livelier, kinder, and happier. Having a happy dog around in the house adds to the joys of the household, and the company of an intelligent and fun-loving dog can greatly benefit the emotional development of your child. Dogs are a far better option than video games that do nothing but make the child unresponsive and impulsive!

I hope you have enjoyed this review of the best interactive dog toys. Be sure to search online to find the best deals on toys for your favorite pet.

Learn more about where to find the best Interactive Dog Toys [] online at my website [].

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Backyard Superstore

With so many choices, which trampoline to choose? There are several key factors to consider before purchasing a trampoline. The first of course is your budget. How much money do you want to invest in purchasing a trampoline? Do you want to buy a new or used one? Are you going to pay for the trampoline in full, with a credit card or do you need to find a store that will do financing.

If your budget dictates a used one there are several places you can look for used trampolines:

• Garage Sales
• Craigslist
• Newspaper

Once your budget and method of payment are worked out; next is to consider which features that are important to you. Take it from my experience, it’s a disappointment to buy the wrong sized trampoline, and not know it until it’s assembled and not able to be used.

Key factors to consider before purchasing a trampoline.

• Location where the trampoline will be used. This will help determine the size to purchase.

• Will you be using the trampoline indoors or outdoors? If outdoors is the location level? Can the trampoline be staked into the ground or tied town during strong winds? Is it allowed by the home owners association? Does your city or town require a permit?

• Who will assemble the trampoline? Even the super easy to assemble ones need two people when it comes time to pull the springs onto the frame.

• Ages of people that will use the trampoline

• How many people will be using the trampoline

• Size and weight of the people who will be using the trampoline

Popular trampoline brands and features:

Kid’s Trampoline with Handle Bar- recommended manufacturer age range 4-6, steel frame and handle that is covered with foam, easy to assemble, light weight, portable (can be move from room to room), can be used indoors or outdoors.

Bravo Sports 12 Foot Trampoline with safety enclosure- W shaped legs, rust resistant steel frame, easy to assemble, good size for young or single child active play, used outdoor, maximum weight 250lbs.

Sports Power My First Trampoline with Enclosure- ages 3-6 years, max weight 100 lbs, safety enclosure has padded poles, good for indoor or outdoor use.

Skywalker Trampolines- available in several models, sky walker 8 food round trampoline, Skywalker 12 foot round trampoline with safety enclosure, Skywalker 14 foot round trampoline, and Skywalker 15 foot trampoline with safety enclosure. Designed for use by people over age of 6, weight capacity 250, 16 gauge steel, zipper on safety enclosure.

With all the items that clutter up our garages and backyards, why add one more “toy”. Unlike many other exercise or “toys”, trampolines have been studied for years by researchers. Many of them are in the sports specialists for athletes and child behavoralists and psychologists. However the benefits are not just for children, adults can use trampolines too. Best of all while reaping all the benefits its fun not formal exercise or work, its fun entertainment!

Some of the main benefits of jumping in trampolines include:

• Helps to develop and improve balance. Because as people jump the center of gravity changes which requires their brain, muscles and senses to adjust.

• Improved coordination, muscle control, agility, rhythm. Because when we jump both the right and left sides of the brain to function together. Using the brain bilaterally improves timing and enhances motor skills that may be more difficult to “practice” in other ways.

• Keeps active children in an enclosed and safe environment. Best of all it keeps your kids close to home not out wandering neighborhood where trouble can find them.

• Builds self confidence for less active, athletic children.

• Can reduce stress, and promote weight loss

Ron Twain is a martial artist and a chef. He shops at the Zoo’s Trampoline Superstore and he bought his over at

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