Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, Boundary County
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
Cattail wetland, fringed in brush, in a mosaic of wetland and upland habitat on the interface between the Kootenai River floodplain and the Selkirk Mountains.
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
It was a calm day with mostly clear skies (earlier fog had just burned off). I pulled up to the NW corner of the Auto Tour, got out of the car, and soon head the distinctive calls coming from the center of the marsh, 150-200m southwest. It called on and off for about 10 minutes, but my attempts to see it were in vain, and recordings from that position didn't turn out. After completing the Auto Tour, I drove up Westside Road to the Cascade Pond Overlook From there, I could again here the Swamp Sparrow calling intermittently and was albo to secure a usable audio recording with my iPhone.
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)
Identified by distinctive loud sharp "Tsip" calls, very similar to but a bit weaker than a Black Phoebe, and coming from emergent marsh, unlike a Black Phoebe.
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
Calling frequently fro m deep in the center of the marsh
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
I recognized the call immediately. I've located numerous Swamp Sparrows in North Idaho in the past 2 autumns, and most if not all of them I correctly identified by call before seeing them. I confirmed by comparing the sonogram of my recording to those of other Swamp Sparrows.
HOW DID YOU ELIMINATE SIMILAR SPECIES? WHAT WERE THEY?
The only other species in the western U.S. that makes a similar call is the Black Phoebe, but Black Phoebe calls are even louder and more emphatic. Furthermore a calling Black Phoebe is almost always easy to locate and wouldn't be calling from dense cattail marsh, as would Swamp Sparrow.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
I have extensive experience with Swamp Sparrow from southwestern winters, and have recognized their distinctive "Tsip" calls for 10-15 years.
DESCRIBE YOUR GENERAL BIRDING EXPERIENCE
~18 years of birding, and consider myself a fairly advanced birder, term-limited Nevada BRC member, eBird reviewer in 2 states, near completion of PhD in avian ecology.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (If any)
Recording should be diagnostic, crank up the volume!
WERE PHOTO(S), VIDEO, AND/OR AUDIO OBTAINED FROM THIS SIGHTING?
FIRST ROUND VOTING:
Audio file sounds good for Swamp Sparrow.
Observer is very familiar with the call
I agree that this was a Swamp Sparrow calling.
convincing description of call & diagnostic audio recording
Recording, though faint, does support the identification of Swamp Sparrow.
Hard to hear very much on the recording but the report looks pretty good and given the non-scarcity of this species last fall have no problem confirming this report.
Not sure where we as a committee have landed relative to “heard only” records, but this one is a good example. Combination of habitat description, written description of call, observer experience, and a “cranked up” recording all point to this being a Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana).