38-B-2016 Chestnut-collared Longspur

STATUS
Accepted
DATE VOTING COMPLETED
1ST ROUND
5-2
2ND ROUND
5-2
HOW MANY OBSERVED?
Basic Plumage
DATE SIGHTING OCCURRED
DATE REPORT PREPARED
REPORTER
Steve Butterworth
OTHER OBSERVERS
None
LOCALITY OF OBSERVATION
Exit 26 of I-15 near Virginia, Idaho
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
Grasslands and Marsh of Marsh Valley
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
Mostly Cloudy and Temperature around sighting was around 65°
DID YOU TAKE NOTES?
No, not at all
DID YOU CONSULT A FIELD GUIDE OR OTHER REFERENCE WORK?
Yes, during the observation
WHICH GUIDE(S) OR REFERENCE(S): DID YOU CONSULT?
Sibley's App on I-touch
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD(s)
As the birds flushed I noted the mostly dark tails of the Horned Larks with one individual having a more striped back and a black triangle pattern in the tail with distinct white edging to it. The bird also appeared to somewhat smaller in size in flight. Since this area was in a road construction area the speed on my vehicle had been slowed down when taking the exit and since the small flock was just ahead of the stop sign I had slowed down to almost a stop when they flushed. I completed my stop as I watch the flock fly away into a grassy field on the other side of the freeway so I could not pursue them to obtain pictures.
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
Actively feeding along the road right at the top of the ramp just before the stop sign with several horned larks. The flock flushed from the road just as my vehicle was almost next to them. The flock flushed away from the vehicle on my side and as it lifted and then landed again showed the tail pattern of a Chestnut-collared Longspur.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
I recognized the distinct tail pattern of a longspur since I have observed both McCown’s and Chestnut-collared in Montana on several occasions. I immediately thought it was a Chestnut-collared because of the black triangle pattern and the white edges to the upper tail are diagnostic to this species.
HOW DID YOU ELIMINATE SIMILAR SPECIES? WHAT WERE THEY?
After the observation I checked to the tail pattern to make sure I was correct on my Sibley app which eliminated McCown’s which can have similar tail pattern but resembles more of a black T in the tail rather than the triangle. Also eliminated the more expected Lapland Longspur by the amount of white showing in the tail and this species does not exhibit the classic Black Triangle of the Chestnut -collared. A Meadowlark which can also show a lot of white to the tail was eliminated by size as well as the more distinct black triangle shape of the Chestnut-collared tail. A Snow Bunting has a very similar patterned tail and would be more expected but the individual lacked the bold white wing patches and black-tipped wings of the Snow Bunting.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
Second observation of a fall (basic plumage) Chestnut-collared Longspur the other being in Arizona in the winter. I have had some experience with both McCown’s and Chestnut-collared in Montana on several occasions.
DESCRIBE YOUR GENERAL BIRDING EXPERIENCE
Actively birded over the last 14 years with numerous trips to Montana, Florida, Texas and Arizona.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (If any)
No pictures were taken as the flock flush away from me and could not be pursued.
WERE PHOTO(S), VIDEO, AND/OR AUDIO OBTAINED FROM THIS SIGHTING?
None

FIRST ROUND VOTING:

Cliff Weisse
Reject, specific identification not established

Description and brevity of observation aren't quite enough for me to feel comfortable endorsing this record.

Shirley Sturts
Accept

good description eliminating similar species

Dave Trochlell
Accept

I decided to accept this record with some reservations. I can't think of any other bird species that would have the described black triangle tail pattern, but the description doesn't go beyond the tail; most of the bird was not described. Should we or shouldn't we accept a record of a truly rare bird species solely on the basis of a brief observation and only a very basic description of its tail?

Jay Carlisle
Accept

Tail pattern well described

Darren Clark
Accept

Although the sighting was brief. The distinctive field marks of Chestnut-collared Longspur was described well.

Doug Ward
Reject, specific identification not established

While the observer is correct in noting this species has a distinctive tail pattern, and they noted specifically this mark, I’m not comfortable in this first round accepting on such a fleeting, unaided observation. I would like to read other committee member comments, particularly any related to observer experience, before reconsidering.

Charles Swift
Accept

It would have been nice to have a longer observation and of more than just a dorsal view but this certainly sounds like a longspur and the tail pattern is pretty diagnostic so I'm voting to accept.

SECOND ROUND VOTING:

Doug Ward
Reject, specific identification not established

I am going to stick with my original “reject” vote. This observation was just too fleeting and unaided at that; we can all see initial flashes of pattern or color that turn out to be wrong on further inspection.

Cliff Weisse
Reject, specific identification not established

I still have the same reservations about accepting this record.

Dave Trochlell
Accept

I'm still convinced, but with some reservations.

Jay Carlisle
Accept

no change from round 1 vote

Shirley
Accept

I read the report again and I am still convinced because of the description of the distinctive tail pattern.

Darren Clark
Accept

See previous comments

Charles Swift
Accept

Same comments as round 1.