Mann Lake, east of Lewiston Orchards, Nez Perce County
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
Tall (2-3 feet) dry weeds including a tall spindly composite (probably a Lactuca/Prickly Lettuce), Fuller's Teasel, and bunch grasses, a good 100-150 meters from the water in the lake, with some dense brunch in-between. These birds were really just foraging in the dry annual weeds, however.
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
Observed on and off for about 15-20 minutes, under overcast skies, calm weather, dull lighting, through Bushnell Elite 10X43 binoculars.
DID YOU TAKE NOTES?
No, not at all
DID YOU CONSULT A FIELD GUIDE OR OTHER REFERENCE WORK?
No, not at all
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD(s)
Written from memory on 11/15/2018: Medium sized sparrows. Structure/proportions very like the Song Sparrows they were feeding with, but these were maybe 10% smaller and intermediate in size between Song and Lincoln's Sparrow. Breasts were lightly marked with only very light blurry streaking and blurry central breast spots. The faces were gray with contrasting pale throats and dark brown to black "triangular" stripe behind the eyes. Both birds were reddish on the wings and mantle with coarse dark streaks on the mantle. One of them was noticeably brighter than the other one, including the brightness of the red on the wings and mantle, and overall bright/boldness of the face pattern.
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
Foraging with a large group (15+) of song sparrows in the dense tall weeds. Would occasionally pop up and perch in view, including in response to pishing, and then drop back down. At one point a red-tailed hawk flew over, and all the sparrows dropped down and stayed down for longer (and in greater solidarity) than previously. Unusually quiet, but after I finally walked away from watching them, I heard a few of the characteristic "tsip" notes behind me (plus one single call while I was there watching them).
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
Highly distinctive birds, based on breast and face pattern. I knew immediately.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
Extensive experience with Swamp Sparrow, a low density regular wintering species in former homes of AZ and NM, and lately during fall in Idaho. Extensive experience with other sparrows of the western U.S. including other Melospiza and White-throated. I instantly recognize Swamp Sparrows, by sight and by winter call note.
DESCRIBE YOUR GENERAL BIRDING EXPERIENCE
~18 years of birding almost every day, eBird reviewer in 2 states and term-limited from Nevada Bird Records Committee. Professional avian ecologist, nearing completion on PhD in that subject.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (If any)
I kept seeing Swamp Sparrows in multiple parts of the weed patch, and long suspected there were 2. Eventually I had them both in view at the same time, one very close in front of me and one queued up in the weeds 25 meters to my left/northeast. I still think there might have been 2 right in front of me, plus the more distant ones, so there could have been up to 3.
This sighting was about 1.3 Km east of where I sighted 1 Swamp Sparrow in early October. Feel free to combine this record of 2 with that record, if deemed appropriate, or keep them separate.