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RE: [CALBIRDS] Probability Of “T rue” Yellow-Throated Warbler Sig hting By SF Chronicle Columnist Tom Stienstra (?)

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  • John Sterling
    Daniel, I didn’t read the article, but from what you have written, I have an entirely different perspective on this subject. If the observer had looked up
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 24, 2009

      I didn’t read the article, but from what you have written, I have an entirely different perspective on this subject. If the observer had looked up the bird in a field guide to identify it or had previous experience with Yellow-throated Warbler, then I’d feel that his record is probably valid. However, if he didn’t look up the bird in a field guide and had no experience with Yellow-throated Warbler, and little experience birding in general, then perhaps he jumped to the conclusion that a warbler with a yellow throat had to be a Yellow-throated Warbler instead of a male Audubon’s Warbler (Yellow-rumped). Without this information, I simply cannot judge this record.

      My personal attitude towards these records is to 1) take all of them seriously as many turn out to be correct, then 2) talk to the person directly to get a feel for his/her experience and comfort level in identifying the bird, and then 3) look for the bird myself or have someone else try to refind it. There have been many times when beginners or birders that I don’t know have made a claim on an outrageous sighting which turned out to be correct, much to my surprise (delight). One such record was the Black Vulture in Humboldt County. An undergrad student, whom none of the local birders knew, had claimed the sighting. So the following day, John Hunter, Tom Leskiw and I drove around looking for it even though it seemed to be such an outlandish sighting. Well, we refound the bird and the rest was history as many birders saw it over a period of weeks. If we didn’t attempt to look for the bird, it probably never would have been refound and documented. I know that many other birders have similar stories.

      As far as historical records are concerned, you neglected to add the additional 99 records in the CBRC book as well as the additional records since the book was published. There are many more fall records and a few more winter records of Yellow-throated Warblers from Humboldt County south to s. CA than you indicate below. Also, one was photographed in Benicia last Sunday! So, there is certainly a possibility that there is one in San Francisco right now. As Todd Easterla would probably say, “I guarantee that there is one in the region right now, it just needs to be found and documented”.

      The lack of a photograph also does not indicate the likelihood of the record being valid, it just indicates that photographic documentation does not yet exist. Whether the CBRC will accept the record or not will be based upon a written description and the observer’s experience if a photograph is still lacking when the record is reviewed. Plenty of records have passed the committee lacking photographic documentation, and the CBRC book documents a high 94% acceptance rate for the first 99 records—many of which lacked photographs.


      John Sterling


      26 Palm Ave

      Woodland, CA 95695

      cell 530 908-3836


      check out my photos at http://sterlingbirds.smugmug.com


      From: CALBIRDS@yahoogroups.com [mailto:CALBIRDS@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Daniel Edelstein
      Sent: Thursday, December 24, 2009 12:09 PM
      To: A CAL BIRDS
      Cc: tomstienstra@...; tstienstra@...
      Subject: [CALBIRDS] Probability Of “True” Yellow-Throated Warbler Sighting By SF Chronicle Columnist Tom Stienstra (?)

      Probability Of “True” Yellow-Throated Warbler Sighting By SF Chronicle Columnist Tom Stienstra (?)

      As some of you may have read, the outdoor section of last Sunday’s SF Chronicle contained a question from SF Chronicle Columnist Tom Stienstra as to whether his perceived sighting of a Yellow-Throated Warbler was possible.

      My opinion is “not likely,” based on the following reasoning:

      1. A common, arguably abundant, look-alike species to the Yellow-Throated Warbler for many folks (especially those new to watching wood-warber family/Parulidae family) is the Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Audubon subspecies: Dendroica coronata auduboni)

      Some individuals of this subspecies (that spends the non-breeding season/winter season in the Bay Area, but does not breed in most spots of the Bay Area, except, for example, some higher elevations, such as higher elevations amid Marin County’s Mt. Tamalpais area) already are wearing breeding/alternate plumage.

      Thus, perhaps the Yellow-Rumped Warbler is the species Mr. Stienstra saw (?)
      I opine with the opinion that the answer is "yes," Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Audubon's subspecies).

      2. According to “Rare Birds of California” (Western Field Ornithologists, 2007, Appendix H-32), among 14 accepted records for this species, 11 occurred in the spring. The three accepted autumn/winter/non-breeding season records were along the coast at Point Reyes (9/16 – 9/29/06); inland near Needles, San Bernadino Co. (11/14 – 11/17/05) and Costa Mesa, CA (11/12/06 – 3/11/07).

      Then again, it’s always good to “never say never.”

      I’m humble to that fact.

      But it’s my judgment that without a photograph to document his sighting, it’s unlikely Mr. Stienstra’s observation was a Yellow-Throated Warbler (like the ones I have seen multiple times in Maryland, Virginia, and Florida while living and/or birding on the East Coast).

      Regards and happy holidays, Daniel Edelstein

      Daniel Edelstein

      Novato, CA (Bay Area)


      Ellison Bay, WI


      My two blogs:

      (my blog devoted to wood-warblers)

      (my blog focused on classes I teach at
      Merritt College in Oakland, CA, including my next
      one that begins in 11/09)

      12 Kingfisher Court
      Novato, CA 94949-6628 USA
      415-382-1827 (voice & DSL fax)

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