2-A-2018 Louisiana Waterthrush

STATUS
Accepted
DATE VOTING COMPLETED
1ST ROUND
7-0
DATE SIGHTING OCCURRED
DATE REPORT PREPARED
REPORTER
Tempe Regan
OTHER OBSERVERS
I (Tempe Regan) found the bird while conducting a yellow-billed cuckoo survey. After confirming it was a Louisiana waterthrush, many others visited the site and saw the bird including Jeremy Halka, Jay Carlisle, Heidi Ware Carlisle, Poo-Wright Pulliam, Cheryl Huzinga, Erik Schoenborn, Kathleen Cameron and others whose names I do not recall.
LOCALITY OF OBSERVATION
The bird was located north of Ketchum, Idaho, about 400 m north of the Hulen Meadows parking area off of West Sage Road. I first observed the bird at 43.720747, -114.381076. However, it was relocated and re-sighted moving up and down the entire side-channel to the Big Wood River.
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
The Louisiana waterthrush was observed feeding, preening, sleeping and using a riparian corridor side-channel to the Big Wood River. The overstory is cottonwood and understory is willow. Surrounding habitat was sage and grasses.
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
I first observed the bird when it flew into a tree about 2 m away, making its "chink" calls in response to the yellow-billed cuckoo vocalizations I was broadcasting. I was able to get digi-bin photos at this time. The bird stayed around for about 8 minutes before flying up-channel. After my survey was complete, I returned to the location and briefly played a LOWA call/song on my phone and the bird immediately appeared in a nearby tree. It performed some behavior I have seen birds do when soliciting copulation or begging to be fed and then proceeded to preen. It never sang, I and all others only every heard it make the "chink" call. I revisited the site later that day and observed the bird for about fifteen minutes. I revisited the next two days and observed the bird for about twenty minutes each of those days.

On the day I detected the bird, the time was 800 am, the skies were clear, it was about 58 degrees, there was a very light breeze(1 on the Beaufort scale), the sun was still rising in the east and mostly blocked by the steep hills of Sun Valley. I was using Nikon Monarch 7 binocs; 8x42.
DID YOU TAKE NOTES?
Yes, during the observation
Yes, later the same day
Yes, another day after the observation
DID YOU CONSULT A FIELD GUIDE OR OTHER REFERENCE WORK?
Yes, during the observation
Yes, later the same day
Yes, another day after the observation
WHICH GUIDE(S) OR REFERENCE(S): DID YOU CONSULT?
Ibird pro on my cell phone. Mitch Waite Group, 2018
Sibley Field Guide to Birds of the East, David A. Sibley, 2000.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD(s)
Family Parulidae. It is a large-bodied, ground-feeding warbler (wood warbler) characterized by frequent tail-bobbing. It is brown above and pale below with light black streaking on the breast and sometimes-buffy flanks and undertail. It has longish pink legs. This bird can be discerned from the similar, Northern Waterthrush, by a heavy supercillium (eye-brow), that is wider just after the eye and a clean white throat (as opposed to spots like on the NOWA).
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
I first heard the bird making its distinctive "chink" calls before it flew into a tree nearby. It seemed to be agitated by/responding to the broadcast of yellow-billed cuckoo vocalizations that I was playing while on an USFWS-permitted survey. It flew in a direct, fast, looping-flight straight down the channel.

While observing the bird on subsequent days, a pattern was revealed. It would be out feeding, bobbing its tail and eating large invertebrates from the dwindling pools for about 5 to ten minutes until it got tired or got spooked. Then it would retreat to the underbrush/dense willows lining the channel and proceed to preen for five or ten minutes interspersed with sleeping. Then it would again, venture out to feed...repeat. Rarely did it spook and fly away. I never saw it interact with other birds.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
My instinct was initially LOWA, and then I knew it could potential be a NOWA, but something about how white the breast was and light the streaks were and the wide supercillium (Sibley, 2000), made me really think it was a LOWA. The fieldmark that clinched it for me was the supercillium that flared after the eye and the white throat. Also, the bird did respond to LOWA songs/calls by flying into a nearby tree and performing begging behavior so that made me certain.

For verification/confirmation, I texted photos to Jay Carlisle, Jeremy Halka, and Bryce Robinson all excellent birders who are friends of mine. One by one they all got back to me confirming my suspicion of a LOWA.
HOW DID YOU ELIMINATE SIMILAR SPECIES? WHAT WERE THEY?
The most similar species is the Northern Waterthrush. I eliminated it by the flaring supercillium (Sibley 2000) and whiter throat. A NOWA has a straight/linear supercillium and markings on its throat. Also, this LOWA had a lighter-steaked breast which normally a NOWA has heavier/bolder streaking.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
I am not familiar at all. I have observed one other LOWA in Georgia five years ago or so. This was the second one I have ever seen in my life. I have observed a handful of NOWA, and identified them by song/call much more during my work conducting point counts in Montana. As I have become more and more immersed in the world of birds and I have excellent instincts when it comes to bird ID. My instincts were going off at LOWA and I trusted that and confirmed my suspicions.
DESCRIBE YOUR GENERAL BIRDING EXPERIENCE
I have been working with birds for about eight years. Initially focusing on raptors but in the last three years becoming more into songbirds, both for work and pleasure. I work at the Intermountain Bird Observatory as a research biologist. I run a point-count project and this has REALLY tightened up and expanded my bird ID skills both by sound and sight. I bird almost every day throughout the summer for work and sometimes go out for fun. I have always loved birds since I was young. I would rate my self as an novice-expert (meaning I know birds well but when you compare me to the Jay Carlisle's of the world, I have along way to go) and still learning!
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (If any)
Other's obtained video/recordings and better photos. I've attached two digi-bin photos that I took of the bird.
WERE PHOTO(S), VIDEO, AND/OR AUDIO OBTAINED FROM THIS SIGHTING?
Photo
SUPPORTING IMAGES

FIRST ROUND VOTING:

Cliff Weisse
Accept

Description and photos support the identification of Louisiana Waterthrush.

Shirley Sturts
Accept

Well documented - several observers

Jay Carlisle
Accept

Diagnostic photos & key fieldmarks described

Darren Clark
Accept

Photos are diagnostic. The bird was seen and documented by a lot of people.

Dave Trochlell
Accept

This was a totally convincing report. Well done!

Doug Ward
Accept

Other than the unnecessary wind blown up Jay’s butt, this is a good report, with supporting photos – enough for me to accept as a first State record of Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla). Description only lacked mention of the relatively larger bill, but this key does show up in the diagnostic photos…good bird! With respect to mid-Summer timing, vagrant warblers often spend an entire season once typical migration timing passes; wouldn’t be surprised if this guy (or gal) had been at this location for sometime previously and stayed until Fall.

Carl Lundblad
Accept

Extensively documented by Tempe and others. Key ID points include the supercillium shape (wide and obviously flared towards the rear), generally white underparts, the contrast between buffy rear flanks and clean white breast and supercillium, heavy bill structure, clean white throat, and brighter legs.

I was somewhat confused by the description that the flanks were "sometimes buffy". It sounded more like the observer was describing what a LOWA should look like rather than what was observed in the field. The photo and other details, however, leave no doubt. Timing is good for LOWA, which migrate early and may go under-detected as a migrant due to coverage not yet ramping up for fall migration. No provenance issues.

Extraordinarily awesome find by Tempe, which I missed by one day.

Additional photos in eBird are better, less washed out, and better illustrate the overall plumage coloration (buffy flanks contrasting with breast and supercillia). We should probably do a better job encouraging multiple/all observers of these rare birds to submit their documentation rather than simply one or two people (usually the original finder), whose documentation may not be the best available (as an aside).