Battle of the Titans

Tom V and I decided to take Guy McCaske’s advice and bird off Kitchen Creek road for the Belding’s subspecies of Sage Sparrow.  That way I could bank it just in case it was ever split off.  No luck but we did get into a small mixed flock that included Black-throated Gray Warbler, Spotted Towhee, Bushtits and White-crowned Sparrows.  I thought I had an Orange-crowned Warbler.  Suddenly the combination of California, Guy and Orange-crowned Warbler caused me to flash on an event from seventeen years ago:

It’s an Orange-crowned Warbler. What birder doesn’t know that!  But Guy McCaskie turns to us and asks….”Don’t you agree?”  Larry Rosche wisely said nothing, I said (thinking quickly on my feet), “Uh…I didn’t get a good look”…even though the bird was 20 feet in front of me unobscured by any foliage. Now I was, smack dab in the middle of a battle of the Titans!

It was Sept of 1994, Larry Rosche, Jeff Wert and I had flown from Cleveland to San Diego for a birding trip to celebrate Larry’s 50th birthday.  We’d driven/birded San Diego, north through the San Bernadino Mts. and met up with Jon Dunn and Guy to bird Galilejo Hills, California City, CA.  An oasis in the Mojave Desert, during migration you never know what could turn up there. Yellow-green Vireo? Arctic Warbler?  The action was pretty slow this day, but there were a lot of Orange-crowned Warblers around and one of them had Guy and Jon arguing about which sub species it was…the duller celata vs the brighter lutescens.  The argument continued- Guy McCaskie , the Dean of California birders versus Jon “Mister Subspecies” Dunn, who, by the way, was very close to completing his Peterson Field Guide, Warblers of North America….. and Guy was wanting me to settle it?  That was an intimidating moment.  I don’t remember the outcome, I think they agreed to disagree, but it taught me one thing. If I was going to collaborate with Jon Dunn on the Advanced Birding Video Series, I’d have to step up my game!

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4 Responses to Battle of the Titans

  1. John says:

    FWIW, I’ve heard that some believe you can’t count future splits on a big year. Not saying that’s the absolute truth, but there you go.

  2. Bill Kaempfer says:

    Should Ruff be coded yellow?

  3. fred says:

    Love these stories. When the Big Boys start arguing over minute details, it’s best to
    take a bathroom break.

  4. Jim Vanderpoel says:

    Happy Birthday John,

    did you identify the desert rodent?


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