image from Michelle Matthews
Bob Gorcik volunteers in Arlington Garden when his work schedule allows him to do so and has been a birder since he was in middle school. As an undergraduate, he had multiple opportunities to as a wildlife research assistant, where he got to study birds up close.
Arlington Garden in Pasadena is a local birding hotspot. The native California and Mediterranean flora found throughout the garden provide food sources for a great diversity of bird species. The fact that the garden is made up of smaller sections representing the many ecosystems that can be found in our region also contributes to the diversity of birds that can be found in it. Throughout 2021, I will be sharing a short segment on different subgroups of birds that can be found throughout Garden and in backyards around Pasadena.
The Garden can be a great spot for birdwatching anytime of the year, but the winter months from December through March are particularly productive. In order to escape the cold weather, many birds who spend their summers and breeding seasons in the mountains and northern conifer forests overwinter here in coastal California. Below is a summary of some of the winter residents one may find in Arlington Garden and surrounding areas of Pasadena.
Birds that can be frequently seen in the garden include Hermit Thrushes (Catharus guttatus), Golden-crowned Kinglets (Regulus satrapa), and Western Tanagers (Piranga ludoviciana). The Hermit Thrush has one of the most beautiful flute-like songs of any bird, evoking forested wilderness, however they do not sing this song in the winter. The oak grove and conifer grove on the northwest side of the garden are perhaps the best places to spot these birds. Another bird that is commonly found here in the winter is the Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum), a bird with a great slick-back crest with dark marks around the eye and a spot of red and yellow on the tail. These birds are major fruit and berry eaters. They fly around in flocks and can be quite common, although they tend to stay high up in the canopy of trees, so that it can be difficult to observe them.
Some additional species that are commonly seen here in the winter months—including in smaller parks, yards, and lawns with little-to-no natural landscaping to speak of—include White-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys), Oregon Dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis oreganus), and Yellow-rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronate). There are also two species of warblers (small songbirds that usually have at least some yellow plumage) that can be found in the Garden in winter. The Townsend’s Warbler (Setophaga townsendi), which can land and perch surprisingly close to a person, and the more common, Orange-crowned Warbler (Vermivora celata) which is a year-round resident.