Part of the charm of a garden are the birds and other wildlife you find there. We’ve put together a list of birds seen in the garden of our bed & breakfast for your enjoyment. Many of the species seen are seasonal, with the greatest variety during the fall and winter months. See if you can add other species to our list!
Nuttall’s Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii)
I’ve heard Nuttall’s Woodpeckers near the inn and finally saw one tapping and making his way up the Monterey Pine tree in our garden. Actually this winter I’ve both heard and seen a few of them here in Carmel. Lately I’ve actually seen a pair of them and wonder if they might be setting up housekeeping somewhere..?? Did you know that unlike most birds with three forward toes and one hind toe that woodpeckers have two forward and two hind toes (one exception…the three-toed woodpecker!). Much easier to hang on with!
You always know when these little guys (and girls) are around because of their yank, yank call. It’s unmistakable. They are constantly moving in branches and tree trunks traveling both up and down branches and trunks. They arrive with so many other migratory birds usually during the end of November and tend to stay all winter. Found as singles or pairs only, unlike the Pygmy Nuthatches which like to travel in small flocks of 6 or more. Males are easily distinguished by the redder breast than females. They are a delight to have in our garden.
Okay, I know these pictures were not taken at the Carmel Garden Inn but they were taken close by! They were taken by Susan and Julian this September at the Coast Gallery lookout in Big Sur, just a little over an hour from our inn! These birds are so rare that I had to upload them to my page! I consider myself a pretty good birder but have never seen California Condors in the wild (except when I was a child). Susan told me that morning they were thinking of going down to Big Sur and I told them to go down to Coast Gallery and keep an eye out for condors. Well, they sure did! Good job Susan and Julian!!!
What a surprise to see this sparrow! It was a beautiful, warm day on Friday, February 13th and I sat on the bench for a bit of a rest after working in the garden. I saw quite a few Golden-crowned Sparrows on the bird feeder and in the branches of the oak and then all of a sudden I saw another sparrow I knew wasn’t a Golden-crowned! I saw it for only a moment before it flew behind the trunk of the pine tree in the garden. I knew if I got up to see if I could find it that it would fly away. I sat quietly on the garden bench and all of a sudden it flew in front of me and sat on a garden fence about 10 feet from me. I didn’t know what kind of sparrow it was since I had never seen one before. I looked in my Audubon app and found what looked similar and played back their vocalizations…but no reaction. Then I found what definitely looked like an immature White-throated Sparrow and played its vocalization. It immediately responded and sat for quite a while so I could be sure of identifying it correctly. It was very distinguishable with its white throat boardered by darker markings. I have since discovered that they are sometimes winter residents in our area. Needless to say I was delighted to find another new species not only at our inn but also for me! Winter months are great for new discoveries!
Season: Apparently these are found year-round in our area however I did not see one until the day after Thanksgiving 2014.
Notes: You couldn’t miss the “raspberry” colored male at the feeder I have in the garden. To my surprise I saw him feeding with some Lesser Goldfinches and Pine Siskins. Larger than either of the two species and even slightly larger than the House Finch which they are often confused with. The winter months are great for birding on our coast!
Season: Late fall and winter months.
Notes: I saw a flock of about a dozen of these little guys on the end of the branches on both the oak and pine we have up our walkway. As with many birds, I first became aware of them by their calls. Busy jumping from end branch to end branch with a wonderful little twitters. The fall of 2014 was the first time I’ve seen them here at our inn. A nice surprise the day after Thanksgiving! And they’re back at Thanksgiving time 2015!
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)
Season: Late fall through early spring in our area.
Notes: I knew winter was coming when I saw this little kinglet scampering through the branches of the oak tree on our grounds. Before I saw her (no red crown or it was an immature male..??) I could hear her calls. I have the Audubon app on my iPhone so I played the voice recording to attract her closer. It worked! She came very close, looking for the kinglet and all she found was me! Hopping around on the branches, calling and curious. These are very small birds with a big dark eye encircled by an ivory colored ring and a white stripe on their folded wings. A delight to see at our inn. The female is the photo on the right.
Season: These cute little guys are year-round residents of our area.
Notes: Mature males and females are easily distinguished, however juveniles can be a bit more difficult to sex. Always charming with their almost canary-like call and “light” undulating flight. We never saw any lesser goldfinches inn our garden until I hung a thistle bird feeder. Now they are the most common and abundant birds at the feeder.
Season: Late fall and winter visitors.
Notes: In November I saw the first Hermit Thrush at our inn. They are winter visitors, arriving Alaska, Canada and the higher Sierra Nevadas. Always seen as solitary birds and somewhat shy. Standing tall and alert with their well-dressed suit of brown feathers and dark dotted chests. They seldom vocalize and tend to appear to be somewhat secretive. Always checking out the neighborhood for both good things to eat and watching out for danger.
Season: These little guys can be found year-round in the hills and mountains of the Monterey Peninsula as well as the Sierra Nevada.
Notes: This past September I first heard then saw a small flock of these wonderful little guys hopping through the oaks and pines here at the inn. They have a wonderful, cute little call as they forage the branches of the trees. They are so active that they didn’t stay long. A delight to have them here and add them to my list!
Season: Late fall through early/mid-spring.
Notes: These charming little birds definitely help take the cold days of winter go away. They are a delight to watch as they constantly jump from perch to perch in the oaks and pines as well as potted plants. I was delighted to see a pair of them scouring a Brugmansia (our Angel Trumpet logo flower) of aphids and whatever else they were finding among the tight leaves. And the wonderful thing about these warblers is they seem to have no fear of people. They are happily eating every little bug (nature’s natural insecticide) they could find and not more than 3 feet away from me! After mid-spring they return to the coniferous forests from Oregon to Alaska where they raise their young.
Season: Late fall through late spring.
Notes: These little guys are a delight to see in the oak and pine trees, constantly hopping from twig to twig searching for small insects, both above and below the leaves. They have a delightful call and are often seen in trees with bushtits and warblers. There are three races of the Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and the one seen in our area is Poecile rufescens barlowi, with almost no rufous color on its flanks. Not only to they eat insects but also will feed on the seeds in our bird feeder. After spring they return
Season: Fall through early spring.
Notes: Golden-crowned sparrows migrate to our area from Alaska and western Canada at the beginning of fall, followed a few weeks later by White-crowned Sparrows. I saw the first one October 19 of 2013. They are normally found in scrubby areas, both foraging on the ground as well as thickets. When they are alarmed by anything they fly to the always near thick shrubs. They have a very nice, quiet little song that you can often hear during early spring months.
Notes: Many people call these curious birds Blue Jays. Yes, they are blue, however Blue Jays are found commonly found in eastern and central North America. Blue Jays also have crests which Scrub Jays do not. They are intelligent birds, always on the lookout for an easy meal. They will even learn to take a tasty morsel from your hand if you quietly coax them. And on occasion, if you listen carefully during breeding season, you can hear the male sing a very soft, melodious song, very unlike the majority of their noisy calls. Scrub Jays are notorious for burying peanuts and acorns just about everywhere. Many times I’ve repotted some of my plants and find peanuts in them which they’ve stored for the winter. Usually seen in pairs, with the male being more brilliantly colored than the female. They are also seen in family groups after the nestlings have fledged, learning lessons from their parents and begging for tasty insects and grubs.
These woodpeckers are the only member of woodpeckers that are gregarious. Like their name implies, they eat mainly acorns and also store them in selected trees referred to as “granaries” or “acorn trees” by drilling holes in dead trees, dead branches, poles or even wooden buildings. As acorns dry out, they are moved to smaller holes and granary maintenance requires a significant amount of the bird’s time. They also feed on insects, sap and fruit. Acorn Woodpeckers may nest in the fall to take advantage of the fall acorn crop, a rare behavior in birds. They are common in the Carmel area and you always know they are around by their distinctive call. Did you know that woodpeckers have their toes arranged the same as parrots…with two toes forward and two toes backwards? This, as with parrots, helps them to climb easier than with three forward toes and one hind toe as with most birds.
Notes: Hummingbirds are indigenous to the Western Hemisphere. Over 350 species are found from southern Alaska to the southern tip of Chile. The Anna’s Hummingbird is a resident of the Pacific coast and measures about 2 inches from head to tail. Sexes are easily determined with the male shimmering in brilliant magenta reflective feathers. The male Anna’s has a thrilling courtship display, climbing up to 130 feet into the air and then swooping to the ground with a curious burst of noise that they produce through their tail feathers. We also have hummingbird feeders in our patio courtyards as well as our main garden. Hopefully you will get a chance to see these spectacular birds.
Notes: These little guys are normally the first migratory birds to appear in the late summer/early fall. They actively forage on the ground, searching for seeds and grubs. They even raise young while here in the Carmel area, however are very uncommon during summer months. Often not seen until they fly away in a shrub, but easily identified with a flash of white outer tail feathers. Their colors are subdued, yet they still possess the beauty and charm of a welcomed backyard bird. Their call is a a series of high chip notes. One thing I find unusual about these Juncos is that they nest primarily in Western Canada, Washington and Oregon however a few seem to remain in our area and nest here as well. Then by the beginning of summer they have left!
Notes: During my younger years, this bird was called the Plain Titmouse. Yes, the coloration is plain but the bird itself is beautiful in its charming ways. You can hear them calling in the oak trees throughout the coastline. Their crest gives them a wonderful personality, along with their curious hoping and thorough inspection of the oak leaves and branches, looking for some tasty morsels not discovered by previous visitors. Normally found as a solitary bird, however also in pairs during the springtime breeding season. Their call is easily distinguishable. I would be happy to point them out if we find any during your stay.
Notes: These cute little guys are usually heard before they are seen. They scour the smaller branches of the oaks and other trees and bushes searching for aphids and other small insects and worms. They are constantly calling (in the bird world referred to as sequestration notes) as they jump from branch, keeping in contact with each other. They travel in flocks of a dozen or so, inspecting not only the upright tiny branches but also the undersides of leaves and branches. They stay for only a few moments they fly to the next tree or bush. Never seen on the ground, always preferring the safety of the trees and shrubs.
Notes: Parrots are known to be the most intelligent birds, however rivaling parrots is the crow. These cunning characters are masters in figuring out where to find food. They learn by watching others, even humans! There seems to be a contest each morning whether it’s the crow or the gulls who makes the first calls to greet the rising sun. And it’s not just one crow that calls…but all of them! At times they seem to begin just down the street, and within a minute the entire flock has flown just across the street and again telling each of us it’s time to get up! Comical to watch and listen to their wide array of vocalization. Did you know a flock of crows is called a murder of crows?
Notes: Not a very common bird in the Carmel area, however not rare in the Pacific coast. They forage on seeds, nuts and fruits in both the trees and the ground. They typically travel in small flocks, however here in Carmel they are usually seen in two’s or three’s. Slightly larger than their relative the Rock Dove (common pigeon), which they are sometimes confused with. Their call is a one or two syllable soft coo.
Notes: This subdued, yet energetic and cute bird is always found foraging on the ground in scrubby habitats with lots of leaf litter. They have an interesting way of uncovering leaf litter by quickly jumping on leaves then hopping them backwards, hopefully exposing tasty seeds and insects. These little guys are highly territorial and will often battle their own reflections.
Season: Generally late spring through summer.
Notes: These beautiful swallows can occasionally be seen flying just above the trees at the inn catching flying insects. Sometimes confused with the Tree Swallow which is also seen in our area, however the Tree Swallow has the white on the head coming to just below the eyes. Swallows are very beneficial to their environment helping to keep flying insect populations in balance. Unlike some swallows which build mud nests, Violet Green Swallows nest in tree cavities or rock crevices.