Mann Lake, east of Lewiston Orchards in Nez Perce County
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
Dense grass (I'm not sure what it is- a tall grass that grows in and around the margins of emergent marshes around here). One bird was in a near monoculture of the stuff (and some other weeds) at the margin of a dry (but muddy) settling pond adjacent to a second with a bit of water. Second individual was in an area of the same grass mixed with "sandbar" type (i.e., Praetorian shrub) willows and a few cattails.
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
I first heard one calling on and off for up to 10 minutes before I finally saw one. I watched it on and off for 10-15 minutes and then watched the second one for a few minutes. I heard one call very occasionally over the remainder of my 4+ hour visit.
DID YOU TAKE NOTES?
Yes, later the same day
DID YOU CONSULT A FIELD GUIDE OR OTHER REFERENCE WORK?
No, not at all
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD(s)
Verbatim notes describing the birds and their discovery, from my eBird checklist prepared the same afternoon:
"Parked before settling ponds, was scoping lake, and almost immediately heard distinctive high "Tsip" notes coming from settling pond area. As I approached, the calling stopped. I walked from the east along the berm running north of the settling ponds and then heard the calling from the lake side, as I was watching the swamp sparrow, I heard another one calling behind me, still in the settling basin south of the berm. I could hear both calling at once (Tsip) and could hear #2 calling behind be while watching #1 in front of me. After securing photos of #1, I turned around and went and successfully pursued photos of individual #2.
Both with reddish wings and mantle, heavy dark streaks on mantles, gray faces with dark triangular post-ocular lines, white throats contrasting with dusky gray breasts with sparse blurry streaks and central spots."
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
Fairly secretive even at their best. Individual #1 foraged in the open on and off for quite a while (10 minutes), but was rarely fully in the open and never far from dense cover. This individual was loosely associating with a large flock of dark-eyed juncos that were obviously feasting on something in the marsh, and it was also foraging quite frenetically. The second individual was staying hunkered down alone and in the grass lining the settling pond. After getting photos of the first, I walked over to near where I could hear the second calling, broadcast just a couple of calls, and individual #2 popped up for the 2 pictures.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
Discussion above. I had gotten out to scope the waterfowl and again heard the distinctive "Tsip" notes and ran off in search of what I felt was a Swamp Sparrow (I was sure surprised when it turned out to be 2. And accompanied by a Palm Warbler. And a Dusky Flycatcher.....)
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
Fairly extensive experience. These wintered regularly in small numbers near my previous homes in Arizona and New Mexico, and I early-on learned the distinctive phoebe-like call note.
DESCRIBE YOUR GENERAL BIRDING EXPERIENCE
~17 years birding for fun and professionally as a wildlife biologist and now a Ph.D. Candidate studying avian ecology at the University of Idaho. Term-limited former member of the Nevada Bird Records Committee and eBird reviewer for Nevada and Idaho.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (If any)
Please see photos and video (for audio purposes) in eBird checklist.